Thursday, 28 November 2013

My little mud pie

Sometimes I feel like everything I make is just a little mud pie. 

You can spend all the time you want trying to understand the meaning of life, the universe and your reason for being alive.

At the end of the day what matters most is how you treat other people, how you feel about yourself and the thoughts, words and actions you take and use, in your own life.

I practice Buddhism because I believe that the reality of cause and effect is reality.

You can study history, people, science and physics all you like, if you don't have those basic principles down then you won't get very far in my opinion.

I try very hard not to overcomplicate my Buddhist practice, I focus on the simple and small things.

I try very hard not to patronise or come from a condescending view point and I am always happy to admit where I am wrong or misinformed.

To some of you that seems overly simplistic, but I feel that we can become so bogged down with information that we lose sight of what is really important in our VERY short lives.

I try to focus all my energies on Love, Friendship, Gratitude, Encouragement, paying it forward as much as I can.

When I die I want to feel like I lived a life of respect.

I wont ever stop studying and growing as a person.

Nam myoho renge kyo

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Power of Words

By Daisaku Ikeda

I have vivid memories of encounters with people whose voices or words have moved me over the years. One which springs to mind happened during a visit to the Guilin region of China, a beautiful land of craggy mountains, mists and rivers.

Walking along, we met two young girls, no older than 15 or 16, selling medicinal herbs near a river. They carried a large basket filled with herbs, inviting passersby to buy their goods with vibrant voices.

“Ni hao!” [Hello] I called to them. “Ni hao!” They smiled back: “We offer every kind of medicine: choose the one you want.”

I smiled at their high spirits and asked, “Do you have anything to make me smarter?” They seemed taken aback, but only for an instant. “I’m sorry,” one of them replied in a clear, firm voice, “We just sold out of that one.”

Our group burst into laughter at this witty reply, and we felt as warm inside as if a gentle spring breeze had touched us. As a Chinese saying puts it, “Even a single word uttered out of goodness can warm the heart in the bitterest winter.”

I fondly recall that my wife and I ended up buying some herbs as souvenirs, and I sometimes wonder how the girls and their families are doing.

I believe that sincere one-to-one conversation can soften and melt even hearts that are completely frozen. By talking with someone face-to-face, you can actually change that person’s life and your own.

Today we live in the midst of a flood of soulless information. And the more we rely on one-way communication, like radio or TV, or static and unmoving words in print, the more I feel the need to stress the value of the sound of the human voice: The simple but precious interaction of voice and voice, person and person; the exchange of life with life.

In a face-to-face conversation, the listener can ask questions or disagree, and this in turn may make the speaker rethink his or her own views. The process is dynamic and multifaceted, creating mutual joy and understanding.

For myself, I love talking with a wide range of people from all over the world. I always learn something new and I find it inspiring to be exposed to different ways of thinking.  This is a kind of spiritual nutrition for me.

My experience is that no matter how strong the initial uncertainty, or even hostility another person may feel toward you, if you approach them with complete sincerity and speak the truth, they will invariably respond in kind.

Face-to-face conversation may seem like something very ordinary, but it is in fact the most powerful tool for positive change we possess. We can exchange ideas on a very human, personal level, with a basis of respect and faith in each other’s essential goodness. Everyone involved is equal; there is neither superior or inferior.

The French thinker Montaigne loved discussion, and he always kept an open mind, saying,  “No proposition astounds me, no belief offends me, however much opposed it may be to my own. Contradictions of opinion only arouse and exercise my mind.” To him, dialogue was the search for truth, and he claimed that he welcomed and embraced the truth, in whoever’s hands he found it.

As we have two ears and one mouth, maybe we should listen twice as much as we speak. Certainly if we are self-righteous or prejudiced, no one will approach us with an open heart.

Sometimes our attempts to start a discussion or talk things over may be slighted or ignored. Then we should remember that rejection and disappointment are inevitable in life, and just keep on trying. Maintaining dialogue takes great patience and perseverance. We need to develop a strong sense of self, so that although we can clearly see the emotions of the other person, we keep on calmly and steadily “rowing” closer to their heart.

The biggest obstacle to successful dialogue is usually excessive attachment to one’s own point of view. For instance, a rift between a parent and child will not be easily healed as long as the parent only sees things as a parent, and the child only from his or her own viewpoint.

In a genuine discussion, it is best if we can see any confrontations that arise as just another form of our connectedness. If both parent and child can see themselves as sharing common ground—making up a family together—things can take a surprisingly easy turn for the better. The deeper the common feeling that binds us, the more we can embrace those who differ from us and ensure that dialogue will lead to a fruitful outcome.

Whether the problem is that of a single family, or international in scope, if those involved can view things from a higher perspective, with a sense of shared purpose, the gears of dialogue will always start to turn in a positive direction.

If more people were to pursue dialogue in an equally broad-minded and persistent manner, I am sure that the inevitable conflicts of human life would find easier resolution.  Prejudice would give way to understanding, and war to peace. Genuine dialogue results in the transformation of opposing viewpoints, changing them from wedges that drive people apart into bridges that link them together.

Daisaku Ikeda is president of Sōka Gakkai International (SGI), a Nichiren Buddhist lay association with more than 12 million members in 192 countries and territories, and recognized by the United Nations as a nongovernmental organization for its activities promoting nuclear disarmament and human security.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

If you want to be free - Annekei

If you Wanna Be Free by Annekei

Video Produced by SGI-USA
Featuring members of the Future Division

If you Wanna be Free

What're you crying for lady
can't you see you got the world right on the floor
maybe you just have to turn your head so you can see
and then turn those dreams into a vast reality
it is easier said than done, but it is possible
You worked so hard your whole life on putting up the walls
now it's time to tear them down, one by one
what makes you think you need something or someone
when all it takes is you, and...

If you wanna be free
free from worries
if you wanna be free
summon up the courage

What is going on with me?
I can't seem to see my path that very clearly
wondering when will all the efforts start to show
all the causes and the seeds I plant, when will they grow?
it is easier said than done, but it's your destiny
You've chosen not to follow blindly through their lottery
You've chosen to take a stand and face the enemy
there is no easy way to see through all the glory
and float into the light

If you wanna be free
free from worries
if you wanna be free
summon up the courage

There is no way I'd rather spend my time than tryin' to guide you through this phase
that's because I know it is the only way for you to fully grasp your grace

SGI is an organization of engaged Buddhist practicing the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism which teaches that each person has the vast inner resources of courage, wisdom, and compassion to overcome any of life's difficulties.

The Moneyless Man

That we need money to live – like it or not – is a self-evident truism. Right? Not anymore.

Drawing on almost three years of experience as The Moneyless Man, Mark Boyle not only demystifies money and the system that binds us to it, he also explains how liberating, easy and enjoyable it is to live with less of it.

In this book, Mark takes us on an exploration that goes deeper into the thinking that pushed him to make the decision to go moneyless, and the philosophy he developed along the way. Bursting with radical new perspectives on some of the vital, yet often unquestioned, pillars of economic theory and what it really means to be ‘sustainable’ – as well as creative and practical solutions for how we can live more with less – Boyle offers us one of the world’s most thought-provoking voices on economic and ecological ideas.

Mark’s original, witty style will help simplify and diversify your personal economy, freeing you from the invisible ties that limit you and making you more resilient to financial shocks.

The Moneyless Manifesto explores why making the transition beyond monetary economics is becoming the zeitgeist of the Occupy generation, and how you can participate in the world’s only booming economy – the gift economy.

Mark Boyle has lived completely without money in England for two and a half years, an experience which formed the basis for his first book, The Moneyless Man. He is also the founder of Freeconomy, an alternative economy with local groups across 171 countries.

Mark BoyleHe holds a degree in Business and for most of his professional career was involved in the management of organic food companies.

He gives talks internationally (but doesn’t fly which makes it difficult for him to go very far very often!) and writes intermittently for various international newspapers and magazines, such as the Guardian and Permaculture Magazine.

He is currently in the process of creating a fully localised, land-based gift economy in Éire which will demonstrate how all the ideas and practical solutions described in The Moneyless Manifesto can be integrated into one holistic system design.

Find out more about Mark :

Follow Mark on Facebook:

The Moneyless Manifesto
Get a copy of his book

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Monday, 7 October 2013

The conscious guide to meditation.


‘A Daily practice of Meditation can Transform a Life’

There is a pandemic of thinking in Western Society.   If there is one complaint that I hear more than any other when clients approach me for coaching or to learn meditation, it is that they are physically unable to find any respite from mental activity or thought.  Even when sleeping, the brain is in overdrive and the client is, unsurprisingly, in overwhelm.

Meditation is commonly prescribed as an antidote to the stress caused by this inability to stop thinking and to become quiet within our own being.  However, whilst many clients try to meditate, they quickly give up because of a simple mistake – they think something incredible is going to ‘happen’ almost immediately.  They also expect to reach stage 2 (the expansive discovery state) without going through stage 1 (the boring mind-bilge wait-out)…and as they weren’t expecting stage 1 to be so hard and so dull, they often give up within a week or less.  By managing expectations and preparing for the difficulties, meditation can become part of your daily routine with minimal fuss.

Stop Doing : Be

The first thing to get past is any expectation that something is going to ‘happen’ because you are ‘doing’ something different.  The thing to bear in mind is that the ‘happening’ that you are after is exactly that which you couldn’t stop if you wanted to.  The ‘happening’ you are looking for is simply the natural state of you.  At its heart, meditation is not about ‘doing’ anything, it is about noticing something that is already ‘happening’, whether you intend it or not.

Now, if meditation is just sitting still and noticing something that is already happening, why is it that we find it so challenging?  What is the tricky bit?

Well, apart from our hesitation in making a commitment to set aside time in our hectic lives, the tricky bit is letting all the stuff which isn’t quite so natural simmer down for long enough that we actually get a good whiff of what has been happening all along…ie the self.   YOU.  You have been happening all along – and by that I mean humming along in quite an incredible way.

This pure place of ‘being’ which we will speak more of later, is the foundation of all meditation.

Learning to Meditate the Conscious Way

I like to teach meditation in 2 stages.

Stage 1 – Welcoming Silence.
Stage 2 – Discovery.

Stage 1 is the most difficult and the least interesting, it is where most meditators dabble and then give up.  It is a practice of simply allowing the mind to become silent through witnessing.  The second stage is only available once stage 1 has been achieved.  Stage 2 is the gift.  It is far more exciting and expansive.  The possibilities for discovery in stage 2 are limitless but include self-exploration, contemplation and opening to wisdom.

Stage 1: How To Meditate – Welcoming Stillness

Stop whatever it is that you are doing.  Turn anything that pings or buzzes off.  Gift yourself 5 or 10 minutes of unadulterated technological disconnection.  Find a comfy place to sit.  It doesn’t matter if it is on the floor, on a cushion or on a chair.

Ok, so there’s you.  You are now seated and comfortable.  Your spine should be erect and tall, your body centred and relaxed, without being on the edge of a snooze.

Body Awareness

Close your eyes and just notice yourself.  Using your focus, feel through the body.  Take your focus into an arm and simply listen and discover.  How does it feel?  Is it comfortable?  What are the characteristics of that arm being alive? Feel for temperature, movement, sensations of being.  Move through other parts of the body at random.  Check in.  Listen.  Feel.  ‘Be’ in your body.

Are certain parts of your body calling for your attention?  An itch, a scratch?  A shift of body weight?  Pay attention and attend to the body’s needs until the body is quietly resting at peace.

Breath Awareness

Now bring the attention to the breath.  Count 10 breaths in and 10 breaths out then let the counting stop but the breathing continue.   With your focus follow the breath into the body and follow it out again.  Notice that there is an exchange going on inside of you.  Witness the life that flows in and out and all around you.

Notice that your breath is both voluntary and involuntary.  You can slow the breath, pause the breath but you cannot stop it.  Your breath (your life) is a beautiful and effortless collaboration with the Universe.

Emotional Awareness

Now listen to your emotions.  What do you feel right now?  Attend to each emotion with welcoming compassion.  Don’t bring any meaning to the emotions, simply acknowledge them and witness them neutrally.  Allow each emotion a place within your being to rest and expand. Whether you would characterise your emotions as positive or negative, just for now, allow each to feel equally at home within your body.

Thought Awareness

Whilst this is all happening you should be experiencing the mind chattering away.  The chatter will be about all sorts of useless information.  The mind will be shouting for your attention justifying its importance with time-keeping reminders and bilge.  Just watch or listen to the chatter.

Remember this: YOU are the awareness of this chatter.  The chatter is NOT you.  So observe it.  Remark to yourself, ‘This chatter is quite a peculiar happening.  It is coasting along without me.  I will sit calmly here and watch it, and see where it goes.’

The one thing not to do here is to give any energy to any particular thought that travels through.  Simply let them come and go.  Know that if there was a useful reminder about something important that it will still be available to you in 5 minutes time when you come out of your practice.


With repetition of this exercise and time, the chatter will give way to growing periods of silence or stillness as the mind releases its grip on the internal window and gains confidence to be without content for longer periods.  This silence is intensely nourishing for the soul.  Meditating for 10 minutes where 9 minutes are spent watching the chatter and 1 minute is spent witnessing the silence is a great achievement.

Even if you don’t find silence on your first attempts (and you probably will not) acknowledge your commitment and your intention.  Keep the attitude clean and positive.  Every time you are sitting down to practice, you are closer to finding the silence.  Every step is crucial for the journey.

Once you can reach the point of silence or emptiness and maintain it for a few minutes, you are ready to move on to stage 2.   You have become the neutral witness of your thoughts.  You have learned through experience that you and your thoughts are separate.  You now know yourself to be the awareness in which thought arises.

This is a huge lesson.  It changes everything.

Neil leads a beginner meditation class on Monday evenings at The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, WC2A 1PL. 6.30-7.30pm.  All are welcome.  £10.

Further info: 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mind Valley Academy - One mind at a time.

I am very excited to share this with you.

Firstly, I am sharing this because technology inspires me with hope for our future and secondly because Vishen's vision for the future is completely aligned with all my beliefs and my own vision for humanity.

Our world and societies will change and shift when more people have access to wisdom and the potential to become happy. Happy people do not kill each other, happy people do not bomb each other. 

I stand by Vishen when he says that we must empower people.

All this works in perfect harmony with my teacher Daisaku Ikeda the president of the Buddhist organisation I am a member of the Sokka Gakkai International (See for more information) of whom I have immense gratitude, for he is the one who gave me the opportunity to practice this Buddhism, as well as be a part of this great movement of people. Without him, it would have never reached my country.

The Sokka Gakkai is a movement of peace, education and culture, for the betterment and happiness of all of humanity.

MindValley's platform is an exciting beginning for something incredible. I really cant wait to see what Vishen creates.

He has created him self a very bold and brave vision, but as they say fortune favours the brave and I am 10 000% behind him.

Have a look at his organisation, and how they are planning to fill the gap in education, in helping people find real happiness and fulfilment.

Mind Valley Team

Introducing Mind Valley

We’re an international group of 100+ individuals from 30+ countries led by Founder & CEO Vishen Lakhiani, doing our part to change the world.

From outdated societal beliefs and education models that hold people back to restrictive work cultures that hinder creativity and innovation–we at Mindvalley are ambitiously, ridiculously, and irreverently determined to help change all of that to help explode our full human potential and move the planet forward.

While many look at global problems like brain drain and broken educational systems and focus their time and energy fixing the problem, we take a different approach.

How? By embodying the philosophy of the great scientist and awesome futurist, Buckminster Fuller who once said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Building new better models that make today’s problematic models obsolete, and at the heart of our approach is “culture hacking.

What is Culture Hacking?

cul·ture [kuhl-cher] noun, verb,

The quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.

A particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek culture.
Development or improvement of the mind by education or training.
The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture.

hack, verb
To cut to the core. To dismantle systems apart. To rebuild. To recode.
Thus, “culture hacking” is the art of bringing in technology and education in smart effective ways to rapidly “recode” and advance culture, altering in the process the behaviors of everyday individuals to make them adopt smarter practices that elevate their lives.
And so far, the results have been phenomenal.

Making the world a better place by touching 1 billion lives by 2050.

Learn more about MindValley here:

Mindvalley was founded by Vishen Lakhiani, a computer engineer who developed a fascination with the human mind. Vishen is driven by 3 things: hacking the global education system by spreading enlightened ideas, creating entrepreneurs who push the human race forward and contributing $1 billion to charitable causes via the Mindvalley Foundation in his lifetime. More on Vishen here.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

My Gohonzon is better then YOUR Gohonzon! (A letter)

Dear Robby

First off, thank you for the series of videos on YouTube, as a new pupil of Nichiren Buddhism your clear explanations are very helpful to me. I noticed that some of them were recorded in 2009.

My name is Marcel Berkien, from Rotterdam the Netherlands. Not entirely new to buddhism (mainly Tibetan forms and later also embraced Zen practice). A long time ago, I came across Nichiren Shoshu buddhism and learned about the chanting practice. More recently, I joined a SGI group in Rotterdam and have a sturdy confidence about being on the right track.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Venus Project - A CLEAR VISION for the future.

Tomorrow's cities: How the Venus Project is redesigning the future

Is it possible to create a radically different society? One where material possessions are unnecessary, where buildings are created in factories, where mundane jobs are automated?

Would you want to live in a city where the main aim of daily life is to improve personal knowledge, enjoy hobbies, or solve problems that could be common to all people in order to improve the standard of living for everyone?

Some may think it is idealistic, but 97-year old architect Jacque Fresco is convinced his vision of the future is far better than how we live today.

The Venus Project proposes an alternative vision of what the future can be if we apply what we already know in order to achieve a sustainable new world civilization. It calls for a straightforward redesign of our culture in which the age-old inadequacies of war, poverty, hunger, debt and unnecessary human suffering are viewed not only as avoidable, but as totally unacceptable. Anything less will result in a continuation of the same catalogue of problems inherent in today's world. Today many people believe what is needed is a higher sense of ethical standards and the enactment of international laws to assure a sustainable global society.

Find out more about the VENUS project

As featured on BBC Technology 

Are we prejudice and don't even realise it?

By Daisaku Ikeda 

Much of the information that floods our world has been selected and tailored to fit preconceived notions and stereotypes.

It is vital that we each ask ourselves some important questions. For example: Do I accept without question the images provided to me? Do I believe unconfirmed reports without first examining them? Have I unwittingly allowed myself to become prejudiced? Do I really have a grasp of the facts of the matter? Have I confirmed things for myself? Have I gone to the scene? Have I met the people involved? Have I listened to what they have to say? Am I being swayed by malicious rumours?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A Piece of Mirror: Wartime Memories

I have a mirror. I always keep it with me. Actually, it's nothing more than a piece of broken glass about the size of my palm. A piece of broken mirror, somewhat on the thick side, the kind you could probably find on any trash heap.

But to me, it's anything but trash. When my mother married, she brought as part of her trousseau a mirror stand fitted with a very nice mirror. How many times it must have clearly reflected her face as a young bride! Twenty years later however, the mirror somehow got broken. My eldest brother Kiichi and I sorted over the fragments and picked out two of the larger ones to keep.



and we must keep talking until every single weapon has been put down.

That is not a lofty ideal, it could be a reality if enough of us believe in the possibility of a peaceful future.


Saturday, 31 August 2013

Eye of the Beholder

"Words reduce reality to something the human mind can grasp, which isn’t very much. Language consists of five basic sounds produced by the vocal cords. They are the vowels a, e, i, o, u. The other sounds are consonants produced by air pressure: s, f, g, and so forth. Do you believe some combination of such basic sounds could ever explain who you are, or the ultimate purpose of the universe, or even what a tree or stone is in its depth?" - Eckhart Tolle

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Climate Change Name

Since 1954, the World Meteorological Organization has been naming extreme storms after people. But we propose a new naming system. One that names extreme storms caused by climate change, after the policy makers who deny climate change and obstruct climate policy. If you agree, sign the petition at

The science is clear: global warming is happening faster than ever and humans are responsible. This is a major problem because global warming destabilizes the delicate balance that makes life on this planet possible. Just a few degrees in temperature can completely change the world as we know it, and threaten the lives of millions of people around the world.

2012 was the hottest year on record in the United States, and 10 of the past 15 years have been the hottest on record globally. And as the planet heats up, our weather is becoming more extreme and less predictable. Scientists are expecting a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit increase in global ocean temperature in the next century. Globally, sea levels have already risen 4 inches since 1950, and in the North East U.S., the sea level has risen four times faster than the global average.

The combination of hotter oceans and higher sea levels is the perfect recipe for extreme storms. Storms will likely become more intense as seawater warms. In fact, insurance companies say severe weather of all kinds is on the rise with expensive results. Meanwhile, climate change is steadily raising sea levels, which makes storms more devastating to the cities they hit.


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

When people perceive their lives as being at one with nature and the planet, their views of society, nationality and race will naturally be transformed. As long as the window of the human heart remains battened closed, no great future lies in store for humanity. People have to throw open the window of the heart. When they do so, there will be no more hindrance to peace. - Daisaku Ikeda

I have something important for you to tell your children....

We all loose our innocence at some point in our lives, but when it is served up on a plate for the enjoyment of all for money and advertising, we loose a part of our selves. 

You are beautiful. You are enough. The world we live in is twisted and broken and for your entire life you will be subjected to all kinds of lies that tell you that you are not enough. You are not thin enough. You are not tanned enough. You are not smooth, soft, shiny, firm, tight, fit, silky, blonde, hairless enough. Your teeth are not white enough. Your legs are not long enough. Your clothes are not stylish enough. You are not educated enough. You don’t have enough experience. You are not creative enough.

There is a beauty industry, a fashion industry, a television industry, (and most unfortunately) a pornography industry: and all of these have unique ways of communicating to bright young women: you are not beautiful, sexy, smart or valuable enough.

You must have the clarity and common sense to know that none of that is true. None of it.

You were created for a purpose, exactly so. You have innate value. You are loved more than you could ever comprehend; it is mind-boggling how much you are adored. There has never been, and there will never be another you. Therefore, you have unique thoughts to offer the world. They are only yours, and we all lose out if you are too fearful to share them.
You are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

Kate Conner

Kate Conner is a wife to Dan and momma to Madeline, Sam, and Henry. A writer, speaker, and apparently, a blogger. She writes about the Funny, serious, good, hard, embarrassing, inspiring stuff.

Please find out more about Kate here:

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


It is senseless to blame others or your environment for your miseries. Change begins from the moment you muster the courage to act. When you change, the environment will change. The power to change the world is found nowhere but within our own life. - Daisaku Ikeda

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

In HIROSHIMA 140,000 Lives vanished on Aug. 6, 1945

Atomic weapons are the manifestation of the darkest part of the human spirit: TODAY in HIROSHIMA, Japan -- Japan marked the 68th anniversary Tuesday of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima with a somber ceremony to honour the dead and pledges to seek to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Some 50,000 people stood for a minute of silence in Hiroshima's peace park near the epicenter of the early morning blast on Aug. 6, 1945, that killed up to 140,000 people. The bombing of Nagasaki three days later killed tens of thousands more, prompting Japan's surrender to the World War II Allies.

140,000 people killed by a bomb, men, women, children and innocent bystanders in a bitter war between two powerful countries.

140,000 lives gone in an instant.

When I think about how many people who have lost their lives because of aggressive governments, and war, I weep.

Please spare a thought for the many thousands of people who lost their lives in these wars, all over the earth.

Being a part of the SGI, one of our visions is the abolition of all nuclear weapons on earth. You can find out more about the work the SGI does here:

Learn more about an exhibition that is currently on tour,  you can download the PDF with the panels from the exhibit here:

The aim of the People's Decade is to increase the number of people who reject nuclear weapons. Ordinary citizens and civil society must be the protagonists, creating a groundswell of demand for nuclear abolition that will influence decision makers.



Saturday, 27 July 2013

Lion of Freedom by Daisaku Ikeda

There is something very special about Nelson Mandela’s smile. It is honest and pure, full of gentle composure. There isn’t a single line on his face that would suggest anything cold or harsh. And yet it embodies the convictions and strength of character of a man who has led his people to freedom.
He was brimming with confidence when we met in Tokyo on a July afternoon in 1995. It was our second meeting, a little over a year since he had been elected president of South Africa. He seemed to have grown stronger and wiser with the passage of time, as a mighty, deep-rooted tree continues its ceaseless growth. His bearing offered living proof of the saying that high positions, which make small people smaller, make great people greater.
The “dangerous criminal” who had been imprisoned for 27 years for high treason had emerged from that prison to become president of his country. He symbolized the fact that justice, which had been locked away for so many decades, had finally begun to reign again in South Africa.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Cause and Effect by Daisaku Ikeda

Photo Credit:

As life undergoes the eternal repetitions of birth and death, it expands in a free and dynamic fashion, always charged with limitless potential for self-improvement. This view of eternal life accords with the Buddhist philosophy of causality.

Living organisms eternally go back and forth between life and death, which
are themselves but two phases of existence. The causes formed by a person in the present become manifest as effects in the future.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Kūmāré - The True Story of a false prophet

I recently had the absolute pleasure watching this film, created by a young film maker Vikram Gandhi.

Vikram grew up in a very religious family and experienced much of what it was to be a Hindu through prayer and ritual. 

When he was at college he lost himself to a degree in the temptations of what life often has to offer young people his age.

He always felt that religion was something people did to make them selves feel better, that the myriad of gurus and self help practitioners were only kidding themselves.

What was so incredible about Vikram's story is that he became a victim of his own success, because what he was pretending to be, he became.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Happiness Revealed with Louie Schwartzberg

When I graduated UCLA, I moved to northern California, and I lived in a little town called Elk on the Mendocino coast, and I didn't have a phone or TV, but I had U.S. mail, and life was good back then, if you could remember it. I'd go to the general store for a cup of coffee and a brownie, and I'd ship my film to San Francisco, and lo and behold, two days later, it would end up on my front door, which was way better than having to fight the traffic of Hollywood. (Music) I didn't have much money, but I had time and a sense of wonder. (Music)

Friday, 5 July 2013

Pollination by hand in China

Photo Credit: Eric Tourneret
In China, in the world's pear capital, it is the farmers who carry out the pollination of the trees: costly and painstaking work that replaces the bees killed by pesticides, Neonicotinoids specifically.

The city of Hanyuan, dressed in the finery of the white blossoms on the pear trees, could make us believe in the eternal China with its red and black brick roofs and the grandeur of its foggy landscapes. But don't let yourself be misled. It was agricultural reform instituted by the "Great Helmsman" that made the city the pear capital of Sichuan at the beginning of the 1980s. Perched at 1600 metres altitude, Hanyuan transformed its rice paddies into orchards. At the time, pears sold for 4 to 5 times the price of rice because China had to feed its population, which had tripled in ten years, going from 400 million to 1.2 billion. Today, with 7% of the world's cultivated land, the country has to feed 22% of the world's population.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Walking across America with Andrew Forsthoefel #humanrevolution



About Walking Across America: Advice for a Young Man
I decided to walk across the country for several reasons. Producing an hour-long radio essay about it was not one of them. When I left home, I had no idea what would become of the tape I hoped to record.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Goldie Blox - helping little girls be more then princesses.

GoldieBlox, is a toy company founded in 2012 by Debbie Sterling, a female engineer from Stanford University. Engineers are solving some of the biggest challenges our society faces. They are critical to the world economy, earn higher salaries and have greater job security. And they are 89% male. We believe engineers can’t responsibly build our world’s future without the female perspective.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Hope for a better future, and you are part of the solution.

Daisaku Ikeda
Many dont realise just what a prolific writer Daisaku Ikeda really is. Reading articles like this. Well, listening in my case as I find listening much better for me on the account of my dislexia.

Still, when I listen and read his articles and hear his passion for people who create change, it inspires me so much to continue doing the work that I do, to help and encourage others accomplish their dreams.

I used to feel a little resentful of myself and of others achieving, I often felt like all I ever did was help other people achieve their dreams.

When I realised that that was my gift, helping other people see just how amazing they really are. I have been blessed with a gift to help others draw out their potential.

Through my own inner transformation, my own seeking spirit, I was able to find what I was looking for.

The crazy thing is that its a very simple concept, so simple that people refuse to believe its possible.

A Message of Hope by Daisaku Ikeda

Listen to the audio track here:

Click here to listen to the Message of Hope by Daisaku Ikeda on Hazel Henderson

Dr. Hazel Henderson describes her wide-ranging activities as an environmentalist, an author and an economist—as those of a “futurist.” She also insists that her ideal is to be a complete person. I find her approach deeply inspiring. Only humans envisage a better, more valuable future and make efforts toward its realization. To believe in the future is to believe in humanity. A futurist is engaged in the scholarship of hope.

Traditional economics is based on a very pessimistic view of human nature; it is assumed that people are essentially selfish, that our actions are motivated solely by the urge to maximize profit. But, Dr. Henderson questions, what about all the things people do without any thought of gain, the acts of “caring and sharing” that she has witnessed time and again? Traditional economics focuses only on competitive activities in which currency is exchanged. But what about spontaneous acts of collaboration and cooperation, the work of volunteers and citizens groups that enhance the quality of life for people? What about the gifts of nature itself? What about the energy generated by the sun, without whose warmth and light, life on Earth would be unthinkable? Shouldn’t these also be accorded value?

Friday, 28 June 2013

Inspiring Blog Award

Thank you to Vanessa Gobes at Bringing Up Buddhas for awarding me with this.

Please visit her page, This is fanastic page where Vanessa writes about life and bringing up children as Buddhists.

These are the requests of award recipients:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. Nominate a few other bloggers for this award and link to them.
4. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

1.  Vanessa Gobes - This is a space where buddhist and peace-seeking parents can connect with and learn with each other.

2. Davey Wavey Davey Wavey is a YouTube personality with more than 100 million video views in more than 160 countries around the world. Using his platform to spread a message of love, acceptance and the occasional penis joke, Davey has become one of the leading online voices for the gay and lesbian community. Famous for his authentic and often irreverent approach, some of Davey’s 600+ videos include What Gay Guys Think About Vaginas, Straight Guy Sexy Underwear Crisis, Coming Out to Siri and Naked in New York.

3. A Buddhist Podcast - A blog about the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. Jason and Karen Jarrett

4. Ralph Smart - Ralph Smart is a Psychologist. Author. Counsellor. Life Coach. Relationship Guide. Alchemist. Researcher. Radio Host. Musician. Graphic Designer. Cinematographer. & Infinite Being.

5. Seleus Blelis - My SGI Lotus Flower Blog: Spreading the wonders and joy of Nichiren Buddhism through articles, experiences, art, music, film, comedy and pop culture. For beginners to long time members, I hope this blog serves you well. Like the Lotus Flower we can bloom right where we are.

6. Michael N  is a project dedicated to an independent exploration of the philosophy and practice of Nichiren Buddhism.

Thanks again Vanessa!

Love and Gratitude

Modern Day Slavery by Lisa Kristine.

I am 150 feet down an illegal mineshaft in Ghana. The air is thick with dust and heat. The lack of oxygen makes it hard to breathe. The brush of sweaty bodies passing me in the darkness reveals the activity in the shaft. I can hear soft murmurs of miners talking, but mostly the shaft is a cacophony of men coughing and stone being broken with primitive tools.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

do you believe you’re perfect?

Is perfection a Myth?
Self work (that’s Self with a capital “S”) is something that we all experience over the course of a lifetime.  This work begins with our very first breath, when we start figuring out how to survive on earth, how to use what we learn to create new experiences.  Some make choices that lead to hardship and struggle.  Others experience hardship and struggle that lead to better choices.

I’ve gone both ways – creating messes and surviving them.  And I’ve found that both ways of living are equally valuable.  I can especially see this now, after several years of active awakening.  Though I fail at tasks, though I say the wrong things, though I fall short in my domestic responsibilities and sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotion, I trust that my Self is perfection and I don’t feel embarrassed or egotistical for saying it.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Male or Female or Both, does it really matter?

Alice Dreger works with people at the edge of anatomy, such as conjoined twins and intersexed people. In her observation, it's often a fuzzy line between male and female, among other anatomical distinctions. Which brings up a huge question: Why do we let our anatomy determine our fate?

Sunday, 9 June 2013

How Buddhism Saved my life

One of the first videos I ever watched. Which really inspired me to practice.

A young man talks about how practicing Buddhism changed his life, and saved him.

The Importance of Suffering

Suffering is sometimes part of our transformation. 

If you do not like something about your society, change it.

If you feel you have no courage to change it, embody what it is you wish to see in others. You really only have power if you are within the system. This is vital.

For most of us, it is easy to complain, to moan, about our struggles but what this does is denegate our Buddha-nature. We have to have a fighting spirit to stand tall and speak with conviction about our ideals.

I believe with all my heart and body that the mystic law is the secret to happiness for all humanity, the simply idea that you are 'it', is all you need. The daily practice of self realisation is the key to freeing your self and your community from the confines of fear.

Fear is what paralyses our society, it is the overriding force which holds back the progression of what we wish to become.

Sensi Ikeda often says "Prayer is battle" and those words couldn't be more true. Every-time we sit down and face the Gohonzon we are battling it out with the internal forces that exist to hold us back.

But naturally without them we would not be the people we are today, so they do serve a purpose. As awful as the negative forces in our lives can sometimes be, they have a function.

I remember a story from when I was a child about a man who saw a butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon, he sat and watched at the butterfly struggled and squirm.

Overwhelmed with compassion for the poor insect he produced a blade and cut open the cocoon, to allow the butterfly to be free.

But instead of being free, it flopped to the ground and slowly dragged itself along on its tiny black legs, quivering in the wind.

What the young man did not realise is that the actual painful process of bursting through the chrysalis does for the butterfly is to force fluids in to the wings which gives it its incredible ability of flight.

Unbeknown to him, he had removed the butterflys struggle and it was unable to fly, it soon died.

This simply story illustrates the importance of struggle in our lives to purify our spirit in such a way that we live lives of real gratitude.

Every day I learn more and more about the importance of this gratitude to really see the benefit in every situation and try to transform negativity in to value.

I want to learn how to chant nam myoho renge kyo?

So you want to learn how to chant nam myoho renge kyo?

A short film created by the SGI a Buddhist Peace movement of which I am a member.

A great introduction video which simply explains what you need to do to learn how to chant nam myoho renge kyo,

Nichiren Said:

"It is the same with a Buddha and an ordinary being. When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished. it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."


Thursday, 6 June 2013


Holi from Variable on Vimeo.

The world is fascinating. People and cultures inspire us. Sadly, the fast paced lifestyles of our generation result in many not taking the necessary step back to soak in the existing world around us. Our goal with this film is to help viewers further appreciate and take notice of the beauty in life & culture that lies within our world... the next time you notice something that strikes you as interesting, stop for a second, start powering on your camera, think about why it's unique, and snap the shot before you miss it. Life is extraordinary. Embrace it.

Production Company: Variable
Creative: Variable
Post Production/Editorial: The Mill
Directors/Cinematographers: Jonathan Bregel & Khalid Mohtaseb @ Variable
Executive Producers: John Rule & Mike Sutton (@MNS1974)
Producer: Tyler Ginter @ Variable
Line Producer: Viraj Velinker
Phantom Tech: Nick Midwig
The Mill: New York City
Post Production Producers: Dee Allen & Alex Maxwell
Editor: Ryan McKenna
Colourist: Sal Malfitano
Original Score/Sound Design: Salomon Ligthelm -
Special thanks to the risk takers who helped make this job possible:
Rule Boston Camera - for trusting us with their Phantom Flex -
Angenieux - for trusting us with their prototype glass -

Thursday, 23 May 2013

I sit and look out

I sit and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.

- Walt Whitman

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

You dont have to find out that you are dying to start living - Zach Sobiech

You dont have to find out that you are dying to start living - Zach Sobiech

Zach Sobiech, at the age of 14, found out he had a rare form of terminal cancer. So he became a rock star, and millions of people got to see his music before he passed away on May 20, 2013. This is his beautiful story.

You never know what to expect until you lose someone dear to your heart. If you wouldn't mind sharing this so more people hear Zach's story, I'd love it. His family has requested that anyone who is interested in helping change the fate for future children like Zach donate to the research fund set up on his behalf.

You can purchase Zach's album here:

If you like this work, please like SoulPancake they are beyond AWESOME =

Please also follow Upworthy, they are sharing great stuff and good news about people and life:

Thank you

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Marriage is not a failed institution. The problem is with you, not with marriage.

People always say "Marriage is a failed insituation, what is the point in getting married? Why do you gays want to become part of something that is so out dated and pointless?"

Well what I would say is that there is nothing wrong with marriage, it isn't failed, it functions perfectly fine.

What has failed is communication between people. More marriages fail because the man or woman involved dont know how to speak to their partner, because as children they were never given the training by their parents in how to share their feelings.

The problem with marriage is our parents, and our parents parents and our parents parents parents.

We have to break this cycle, we have to train our children in compassion, in openness and in understanding.

We must teach our children that its ok to talk about our feelings that in doing this, we are not weak, but strong people.

A relationship survives as long as the other person knows without a shadow of a doubt that they still have a place in your life, a function.

If you hide it from them, if you lie to them, if you cheat on them you destroy everything you have built and created.

Though saying that, the biggest lies we tell are to our selves, so the change must begin within you.

Stop lying to your self, face the facts and be true to who you are, in the long run you will save your self and your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend a lot of pain.

I know from my years of Buddhist practice that the hardest thing in the world to do is look at your self, to really look. To see the faults and to be aware of them, to know that they need to change.

Its so easy to be single, to sit with your self and never every confront your issues, your "stuff".

Being in a marriage or a relationship is an opportunity to really confront these issues, as most of the time the other person will reflect back to you the things you dislike most about yourself. It is a unique opportunity to become more, to transform, or do your human revolution as we call it in Nichiren Buddhism.

Life is about choices, every single interaction with another person involves choices, how you choose to react to them, how you choose to behave. It is all a conscious choice.

So when you hear someone talking down about marriage, remind them that a marriage is just a place you go, its a space.

It is up to you what you do with it.

Trust, Openness and Honesty that is all we need to succeed.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

1 Hour Daimoku Live Recording London

Click to view the flyer.

Some time ago, after many requests I created a 1 hour daimoku video. This was done with love as many people had asked about creating something on Youtube that they could use to chant with their friends and at their meetings.

Due to a rather strange legal battle, it was removed. After many many letters and requests I fought this battle and won! Since then I have decided that I wanted us to record our own audio and share that with the world.

Ideally we would all chant together regularly, not only is it an inspirational and uplifting experience but it enlivens our practice and reminds us about why we chant.

Unity, is an essential part of our organisation, "many in body and one in mind" is the principle that we are all working together to bring change to the world. This doesn't mean we are mindless drones following a far away leader, but working together to make a difference, with the same vision in our hearts.

For me the principle function of the SGI is preserve the teachings for Nichiren Buddhism, but also to empower individual people to become more, to stand up and have the courage to make powerful changes in their lives, their communities and the world.

The chanting of Daimoku (nam myoho renge kyo), is a enigmatic and profound process of actualising the inner self-worth and resolve that builds a strength, allowing a person to become a truly great human being.

Now greatness isn't about money, or material possessions, but instead about potential within our humanity.

There are many examples of people from all walks of life, from the every corner of the Earth who have stood up, within their communities and changed the impossible.

This has happend because of self belief, hope and vision.

The worlds people need more hope, vision and self belief and I am certain that the more us who begin to find the true nature of our being, the closer we will get to a peaceful Earth.

Join me and many others on June 8th 2013 at the London Ikeda Peace Center at 12pm - 3pm for a live 1 hour recording of Daimoku, as a gift for the world. It will be given its own page on the internet and will be our way of sharing our voices and prayers with the millions of other Buddhists and non-Buddhists across the globe.

"Awaken to the vast power you possess! Chant Daimoku with the firm belief that you will achieve a life of great fulfilment. This itself is the true heritage" - Daisaku Ikeda

Hope to see you there.


Monday, 13 May 2013

What will you do today to make the world AWESOME?

What will you do to make the world awesome?

Now you won't make it awesome if you keep sitting there.

We were made to be awesome!

- Kid President

Why World Peace Is Not Possible and That’s Okay

By Vanessa Gobes

I love writing about my spiritual awakening. And I love reading about other people’s spiritual awakenings. What tickles me most about it all, is how we all seem to feel as if we’ve just discovered uncharted insight or invented a revolutionary technique that can help not only us, but anyone who is willing to try to think like us or act like us or serve the world like us.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Violence against women must end...

I bet you're worried.


I was worried. That's why I began this piece. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don't think about them. I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context, a culture, a community of other vaginas. There is so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them. Like the Bermuda Triangle, nobody ever reports back from there.


In the first place, it's not so easy to even find your vagina. Women go days, weeks, months, without looking at it. I interviewed a high-powered businesswoman; she told me she didn't have time. "Looking at your vagina," she said, "is a full day's work."


"You've got to get down there on your back, in front of a mirror, full-length preferred. You've got to get in the perfect position, with the perfect light, which then becomes shadowed by the angle you're at. You're twisting your head up, arching your back, it's exhausting." She was busy; she didn't have time. So I decided to talk to women about their vaginas. They began as casual vagina interviews, and they turned into vagina monologues. I talked with over 200 women. I talked to older women, younger women, married women, lesbians, single women; I talked to corporate professionals, college professors, actors, sex workers; I talked to African-American women, Asian-American women, Native-American women, Caucasian women, Jewish women. OK, at first women were a little shy, a little reluctant to talk. Once they got going, you couldn't stop them. Women love to talk about their vaginas -- they do. Mainly because no one's ever asked them before.


Let's just start with the word "vagina" -- vagina, vagina. It sounds like an infection at best. Maybe a medical instrument. "Hurry, nurse, bring the vagina."


Vagina, vagina, vagina. It doesn't matter how many times you say the word, it never sounds like a word you want to say. It's a completely ridiculous, totally un-sexy word. If you use it during sex, trying to be politically correct, "Darling, would you stroke my vagina," you kill the act right there.


I'm worried what we call them and don't call them. In Great Neck, New York, they call it a "pussy-cat." A woman told me there, her mother used to tell her, "Don't wear panties, dear, underneath your pajamas. You need to air out your pussy-cat."


In Westchester they call it a "pooky," in New Jersey a "twat." There's powder-box, derriere, a pooky, a poochy, a poopy, a poopaloo, a pooninana, a padepachetchki, a pow, and a peach.


There's toadie, dee dee, nishi, dignity, coochie snorcher, cooter, labi, gladis siegelman, va, wee-wee, whore-spot, nappy dugout, mungo, ghoulie, powder-box, a "mimi" in Miami, a "split knish" in Philadelphia, and a "schmende" in the Bronx.


I am worried about vaginas. This is how the "Vagina Monologues" begins. But it really didn't begin there; it began with a conversation with a woman. We were having a conversation about menopause, and we got onto the subject of her vagina -- which you'll do if you're talking about menopause. And she said things that really shocked me about her vagina -- that it was dried-up and finished and dead -- and I was kind of shocked. And so I said to a friend casually, "Well, what do you think about your vagina?" And that woman said something more amazing, and then the next woman said something more amazing, and before I knew it, every woman was telling me I had to talk to somebody about their vagina because they had an amazing story, and I was sucked down the vagina trail.


And I really haven't gotten off it. I think if you had told me when I was younger that I was going to grow up, and be in shoe stores, and people were going to scream out, "There she is, the Vagina Lady!" I don't know that that would have been my life ambition.


But I want to talk a little bit about happiness and the relationship to this whole vagina journey because it has been an extraordinary journey that began eight years ago. I think before I did the "Vagina Monologues" I didn't really believe in happiness. I thought that only idiots were happy, to be honest. I remember when I started practicing Buddhism 14 years ago, and I was told that the end of this practice was to be happy, I said, "How could you be happy and live in this world of suffering and live in this world of pain?" I mistook happiness for a lot of other things, like numbness or decadence or selfishness. And what happened through the course of the "Vagina Monologues" and this journey is I think I have come to understand a little bit more about happiness.

There're three qualities I want to talk about. One is seeing what's right in front of you, and talking about it, and stating it. I think what I learned from talking about the vagina, and speaking about the vagina, is it was the most obvious thing -- it was right in the center of my body and the center of the world -- and yet it was the one thing nobody talked about. The second thing is that what talking about the vagina did is it opened this door which allowed me to see that there was a way to serve the world to make it better. And that's where the deepest happiness has actually come from. And the third principle of happiness, which I've realized recently.

Eight years ago, this momentum and this energy, this "V-wave" started -- and I can only describe it as a "V-wave" because, to be honest, I really don't understand it completely; I feel at the service of it. But this wave started, and if I question the wave, or try to stop the wave or look back at the wave, I often have the experience of whiplash or the potential of my neck breaking. But if I go with the wave, and I trust the wave and I move with the wave, I go to the next place, and it happens logically and organically and truthfully. And I started this piece, particularly with stories and narratives, and I was talking to one woman and that led to another woman and that led to another woman, and then I wrote those stories down and I put them out in front of other people.

And every single time I did the show at the beginning, women would literally line up after the show because they wanted to tell me their stories. And at first I thought, "Oh great, I'll hear about wonderful orgasms, and great sex lives, and how women love their vaginas." But in fact, that's not what women lined up to tell me. What women lined up to tell me was how they were raped, and how they were battered, and how they were beaten, and how they were gang-raped in parking lots, and how they were incested by their uncles. And I wanted to stop doing the "Vagina Monologues" because it felt too daunting. I felt like a war photographer who takes pictures of terrible events, but doesn't intervene on their behalf.

And so in 1997, I said, "Let's get women together. What could we do with this information that all these women are being violated?" And it turned out, after thinking and investigating, that I discovered -- and the UN has actually said this recently -- that one out of every three women on this planet will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. That's essentially a gender; that's essentially a resource of the planet, which is women. So in 1997 we got all these incredible women together and we said, "How can we use the play, this energy, to stop violence against women?" And we put on one event in New York City, in the theater, and all these great actors came -- from Susan Sarandon, to Glenn Close, to Whoopi Goldberg -- and we did one performance on one evening, and that catalyzed this wave, this energy.

And within five years, this extraordinary thing began to happen. One woman took that energy and she said, "I want to bring this wave, this energy, to college campuses," and so she took the play and she said, "Let's use the play and have performances of the play once a year, where we can raise money to stop violence against women in local communities all around the world." And in one year, it went to 50 colleges, and then it expanded. And over the course of the last six years, it's spread and it's spread and it's spread and it's spread around the world.

What I have learned is two things. One: that the epidemic of violence towards women is shocking; it's global; it is so profound and it is so devastating, and it is so in every little pocket of every little crater, of every little society, that we don't even recognize it because it's become ordinary. This journey has taken me to Afghanistan, where I had the extraordinary honor and privilege to go into parts of Afghanistan under the Taliban -- I was dressed in a burqa -- and I went in with an extraordinary group called the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, and I saw firsthand how women had been stripped of every single right that was possible to strip women of -- from being educated, to being employed, to being actually allowed to eat ice cream. For those of you who don't know it, it was illegal to eat ice cream under the Taliban. And I actually saw and met women who had been flogged by being caught eating vanilla ice cream. And I was taken to the secret ice cream-eating place in a little town, where we went to a back room, and women were seated and a curtain was pulled around us, and they were served vanilla ice cream. And women lifted their burqas and ate this ice cream, and I don't think I ever understood pleasure until that moment, and how women have found a way to keep their pleasure alive.

It has taken me, this journey, to Islamabad, where I have witnessed and met women with their faces melted off. It has taken me to Juarez, Mexico, where I was a week ago, where I have literally been there in parking lots where bones of women have washed up and been dumped next to Coca-Cola bottles. It has taken me to universities all over this country where girls are date-raped and drugged. I have seen terrible, terrible, terrible violence. But I have also recognized, in the course of seeing that violence, that being in the face of things and seeing actually what's in front of us is the antidote to depression and to a feeling that one is worthless and has no value. Because before the "Vagina Monologues," I will say that 80 percent of my consciousness was closed off to what was really going on in this reality. And that closing-off closed off my vitality and my life energy. What has also happened is in the course of these travels -- and it's been an extraordinary thing -- is that every single place that I have gone to in the world, I have met a new species. And I really love hearing about all these species at the bottom of the sea. And I was thinking about how being with these extraordinary people on this particular panel that it's beneath, beyond, and between, and the vagina kind of fits into all those categories.


But one of the things I've seen is this species -- and it is a species, and it is a new paradigm, and it doesn't get reported in the press or in the media because I don't think good news ever is news, and I don't think people who are transforming the planet are what gets the ratings on TV shows. But every single country I have been to -- and in the last six years I've been to about 45 countries, and many tiny little villages and cities and towns -- I have seen something what I've come to call "vagina warriors." A "vagina warrior" is a woman, or a vagina-friendly man, who has witnessed incredible violence or suffered it, and rather than getting an AK-47 or a weapon of mass destruction or a machete, they hold the violence in their bodies; they grieve it; they experience it; and then they go out and devote their lives to making sure it doesn't happen to anybody else.

I have met these women everywhere on the planet. And I want to tell a few stories because I believe that stories are the way that we transmit information, where it goes into our bodies. And I think that one of the things about being at TED that's been very interesting is that I live in my body a lot, and I don't live in my head very much anymore. And this is a very heady place. And it's been really interesting to be in my head for the last two days; I've been very disoriented -- (Laughter) because I think the world, the V-world, is very much in your body. It's a body world, and the species really exists in the body, and I think there's a real significance in us attaching our bodies to our heads -- that that separation has created a divide that is often separating purpose from intent. And the connection between body and head often brings those things into union.

I want to talk about three particular people that I've met, vagina warriors, who really transformed my understanding of this whole principle and species, and one is a woman named Marsha Lopez. Marsha Lopez was a woman I met in Guatemala. She was 14 years old, and she was in a marriage and her husband was beating her on a regular basis, and she couldn't get out because she was addicted to the relationship and she had no money. Her sister was younger than her and she applied -- we had a "stop rape" contest a few years ago in New York -- and she applied, hoping that she would become a finalist and she could bring her sister. She did become a finalist; she brought Marsha to New York. And at that time we did this extraordinary V-Day at Madison Square Garden where we sold out the entire testosterone-filled dome, 18,000 people standing up to say "yes" to vaginas, which was really a pretty incredible transformation. And she came, and she witnessed this, and she decided that she would go back and leave her husband, and that she would bring V-Day to Guatemala. She was 21 years old. I went to Guatemala and she had sold out the National Theater of Guatemala. And I watched her walk up on stage in her red short dress, and high heels, and she stood there and she said, "My name is Marsha. I was beaten by my husband for five years. He almost murdered me. I left and you can too." And the entire 2,000 people went absolutely crazy.

There's a woman named Esther Chavez who I met in Juarez, Mexico. And Esther Chavez was a brilliant accountant in Mexico City; she was 72 years old; and she was planning to retire. She went to Juarez to take care of an ailing aunt, and over the course of it, she began to discover what was happening to the murdered and disappeared women of Juarez. She gave up her life; she moved to Juarez; she started to write the stories which documented the disappeared women. 300 women have disappeared in a border town because they're brown and poor. There has been no response to the disappearance, and not one person has been held accountable. She began to document it; she opened a center called Casa Amiga; and in six years, she has literally brought this to the consciousness of the world. We were there a week ago, when there were 7,000 people on the street, and it was truly a miracle. And as we walked through the streets, the people of Juarez, who normally don't even come into the streets because the streets are so dangerous, literally stood there and wept to see that other people from the world had showed up for that particular community.

There's another woman named Agnes. And Agnes, for me, epitomizes what a vagina warrior is. I met her three years ago in Kenya. And Agnes was mutilated as a little girl, she was circumcised against her will when she was 10 years old, and she really made a decision that she didn't want this practice to continue anymore in her community. So when she got older she created this incredible thing: it's an anatomical sculpture of a woman's body; it's half a woman's body. And she walked through the Rift Valley, and she had vagina and vagina replacement parts where she would teach girls and parents and boys and girls what a healthy vagina looks like, and what a mutilated vagina looks like. And in the course of her travel she walked literally for eight years through the Rift Valley, through dust, through sleeping on the ground -- because the Masais are nomads, and she would literally have to find them, and they would move, and she would find them again. She saved 1,500 girls from being cut. And in that time she created an alternative ritual which involved girls coming of age without the cut. When we met her three years ago, we said, "What could V-Day do for you?" And she said, "Well, if you got me a Jeep, I could get around a lot faster."


So we bought her a Jeep. And in the year that she had the Jeep, she saved 4,500 girls from being cut. So then we said to her, "Agnes, well, what else could we do for you?" And she said, "Well, Eve, you know, if you gave me some money, I could open a house and girls could run away and they could be saved." And I want to tell this little story about my own beginnings because it's very interrelated to happiness and Agnes.

When I was a little girl -- and I grew up in a wealthy community; it was an upper-middle class white community, and it had all the trappings and the looks of a perfectly nice, wonderful, great life. And everyone was supposed to be happy in that community and, in fact, my life was hell. I lived with an alcoholic father who beat me and molested me, and it was all inside that. And always as a child I had this fantasy that somebody would come and rescue me. And I actually made up a little character whose name was Mr. Alligator, and I would call him up when things got really bad, and I would say it was time to come and pick me up. And I would go and pack a little bag and I would wait for Mr. Alligator to come. Now, Mr. Alligator never did come, but the idea of Mr. Alligator coming actually saved my sanity and made it OK for me to keep going because I believed, in the distance, there would be someone coming to rescue me.

Cut to 40-some-odd years later, we go to Kenya, and we're walking, we arrive at the opening of this house -- and Agnes hadn't let me come to the house for days because they were preparing this whole ritual. And I want to tell you a great story. When Agnes first started fighting to stop female genital mutilation in her community, she had become an outcast, and she was exiled and she was slandered, and the whole community turned against her. But, being a vagina warrior, she kept going, and she kept committing herself to transforming consciousness. And in the Masai community, goats and cows are the most valued possession. They're like the Mercedes-Benz of the Rift Valley. And she said, two days before the house opened, two different people arrived to give her a goat each, and she said to me, "I knew then that female genital mutilation would end one day in Africa."

Anyway, we arrived, and when we arrived, there were hundreds of girls dressed in red, homemade dresses -- which is the color of the Masai and the color of V-Day -- and they greeted us, and they had made up these songs that they were singing about the end of suffering, and the end of mutilation, and they walked us down the path. And it was a gorgeous day in the African sun, and the dust was flying and the girls were dancing, and there was this house, and it said, "V-Day Safe House for the Girls."

And it hit me in that moment that it had taken 47 years, but that Mr. Alligator had finally shown up. And he'd show up obviously in a form that it took me a long time to understand, which is that when we give in the world what we want the most, we heal the broken part inside each of us. And I feel, in the last eight years, that this journey, this miraculous vagina journey, has taught me this really simple thing, which is that happiness exists in action; it exists in telling the truth and saying what your truth is; and it exists in giving away what you want the most. And I feel that knowledge and that journey has been an extraordinary privilege, and I feel really blessed to have been here today to communicate that to you. Thank you very much.



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