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An Article on Time Banking for the Shambhala Community from ShambhalaTimes.org

Jul. 10th, 2013 | 10:09 pm

http://shambhalatimes.org/2012/06/18/natures-hospital-peru/

Time Banking: The Nuts and Bolts of Building the Shambhala Village Around the School

by Brian Landever

In the recent leadership gathering at Shambhala Mountain Center this June, considerable discussion was given to the overall theme of creating enlightened society. Topics included how we experience basic goodness and wealth, what will increase membership, and what might be required to develop our Shambhala centers into a “village that includes a school.” Many wise and skillful observations and suggestions were made by center directors, teachers, and most notably, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. Contemplating all that occurred has been encouraging, and leaves me with the desire to present a skillful community building program that promotes ongoing reciprocity of appreciation and generosity using an exchange of services. It’s called Time Banking and, no, no ordinary money is involved. In this article, I offer my understanding of what it is, why it should matter to Shambhala centers, and the promise it holds to develop our sense of community, enrich our cultural engagement, and lay the basis for a kindness-based economy.

Time Banking is based on the view that everyone can share services that will be valuable to others. From an opera singer who can offer voice lessons, to a 10 year old boy who can read to an elderly man whose eyesight has diminished. This enormous amount of social capital is organized in a centralized network. A coordinator in a given community lists all the services that members would like to share, as well as receive. They then identify the matches available, and contact both members to invite a meeting. As members give one hour of their time, they earn one time dollar, a virtual credit stored in the coordinator’s computer. This is then spent when members receive a service from anyone else in the network.

For example, Fernando spends two hours cooking dinner for Mary’s family one night when she is tired, and then receives two time dollars. The following week he uses these credits to send his son to John’s violin lesson for two hours. John then uses one credit to have his friend’s 13-year old son cut his lawn for one hour, and the other he donates to his elderly mother who needs someone to bring her groceries. The cycle continues, and as it does, a beautiful support network blossoms.

At the leadership gathering, many responses were shared as to how wealth is experienced. They ranged from feeling fear about making enough money, to the rich feelings that result from having community to rely on. When there are others around us that are happy to support us and appreciate what we offer them, a sense of solidarity is developed. When Fernando was able to relieve Mary of having to prepare dinner one night, she was grateful to be able to relax, and delighted to learn he could cook so deliciously. Fernando was happy to offer something that helped Mary through her busy week, and appreciated her compliments on his culinary skill.

At our Shambhala centers, this model could be used as a core piece of creating the Shambhala village around the school, or creating community outside of the center. It could give us important reasons to spend time with one another, allowing us to get to know what specialty we each offer. With each exchange made, we put generosity and appreciation into action while deepening our relationships with fellow members. The result is a steady growth of trust and inclusion.

The Time Banking system is becoming popular across the globe. A brief search for, “Time Bank,” in Facebook will lead to dozens of group pages in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. The largest, and most successful in the world, is right in New York City, run by Ana Miyares (the mother of Time Banking) and Mashi Blech. They currently have over 3,000 members (up from 1,000 in 2010), all of whom make at least one exchange per month. Their members include people from all walks of life – retired grandmothers, five-year-old children, company executives, politicians, plumbers, and more.

There are so many ways that Time Banking could support the Center Leadership: Trading services such as calligraphy or music lessons would expand and enrich our cultural body of wisdom. It would allow people to allocate their financial resources more creatively. Including Time Banking in a Center’s membership package could create a magnetizing aspect to membership, and would lead to a greater fabric of “Society.”

Time Banking is meant to be supplementary to our common income, and we can individually choose the number of weekly hours we contribute to the system. This allows it to be less intrusive and more enriching to our personal lives. It also prevents it from becoming threatening to businesses or the larger economic establishment. Goods are generally excluded from Time Banking, and businesses tend not to see any decline in revenue. If they do, they are typically members offering a portion of their services, and therefore receiving time dollars as payment. Thus, Time Banking is able to remain a friendly way of creating exchanges. Thinking larger, at the level of building a vision, each exchange made offers us the opportunity to reflect on having a world that constantly fosters, and incentivizes, kindness, generosity, and cooperation. It allows us to see a way that an economic system can prioritize social goals, increasing prosperity while building community bonds.

In Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s book, The Shambhala Principle, he refers to societal norms as ceremonies. Normally, we assume rampant accumulation, hoarding and a mentality of “defend me and mine” to be inevitable aspects of this society’s ceremony. Time Banking shows us that something very different is possible, something that fosters feelings of genuine wealth and encourages us to thrive. The ceremony encouraged here, then, is one of appreciating others unique abilities, sharing our particular abilities, and gradually developing a sense of “us.” As this becomes the norm over time, this uplifted ceremony form could create a culture in and of itself. Members may be heard saying, “I Time Bank,” so as to say, “I like being part of a supportive community.”

For me, Time Banking’s fundamental presumptions reflect basic goodness. We all have something valuable to offer because we are all valuable. It will never be otherwise. Creating a system that celebrates and highlights this is one way we can proclaim basic goodness, furthering the heart essence of Shambhala throughout the world.


http://shambhalatimes.org/2012/06/18/natures-hospital-peru/

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Considering the Shipibo Amazonian healing system with a naturopathic way

Jan. 17th, 2012 | 06:48 pm
location: Iquitos, Peru
mood: energeticenergetic
music: Om Mani Padme Hum

I recently returned to Iquitos after 3 productive weeks of networking in Lima. I'll share more about that soon, as many interesting events occurred. As I waited for my luggage in the Iquitos airport, I ran into someone who has challenged the rationale behind my project in a way worth contemplating. In the end, everything is working out well, and the interesting timing of his criticism only reinforced that the needed pieces for this project to succeed are coming together. Still, his remarks deserve contemplation.

His interest in the project sparked when I mentioned that the type of medical examination needed during our treatment process will be oncological. His facial expression changed a second time when I explained that we will be using the ancient Shipibo methods of working with Amazonian plants along with specific diets. He expressed disapproval, first claiming that the diet is essentially a period of fasting, and that the treatment process lacks an inundation of nutrition. He explained that the lack of awareness of physiology handicaps the ability of the medicine men. His perspective was one of nutrition therapy in which any illness can be dealt with by flooding the body with raw fruits and veggies, and deep cleaning with enemas and liver flushes. He of course mentioned Gerson Therapy, and was a fan of the liver flushes offered in Iquitos by David Slocum.

All that he said was fine, and I agree with the importance of cleansing and nutrition. I take issue, however, with the criticism of the Shipibo healing method. This native use of plant medicine indeed is not based on classroom study of plants and bodily systems, but it is based on another form of knowledge, and the overall intention is solely functionality, rather than investigative.

In ancient texts amongst Indian meditation traditions, there are drawn images akin to DNA. These images are also common visualizations during ayahuasca ceremonies. It seems that in both cases, careful, subtle observation of one's own body reveals the building blocks. Certainly, this is but a mere indication into the depth of insight into how the body works that can be revealed with these meditative techniques. Furthermore, a similar occurrence is frequently reported amongst shamans when they have a difficult case at hand. During their ayahuasca ceremonies, or their subsequent dreams, they envision themselves walking through the jungle as if being guided by an invisible hand. When they arrive at their destination, there is a plant before them, and a rush of realization as to how to prepare and administer the plant. Oddly enough, this is how many plants have been initially recognized and put to use.

In the Shipibo system, a general feel for how things work suffices the ends of functionality. Dreams and visions that guide their intuition to the right answer are good enough, so long as it works. Science may indeed be left out, but science certainly has not proven perfect in treating difficult disease. What is needed is cooperation, if anything. Science should look into the details of the effectiveness of the plants, and the shamans could be well served by anatomy classes. But we should avoid the arrogance of thinking that the Shipibo healing way is inadequate due to their lack of exposure to our particularities. They may not study books and memorize facts, but the knowledge they need always becomes available when they understand how to look.

As for the lack of physiological understandings handicapping their ability to help find optimal health, it is hard to say. I personally am not sure I have seen enough Shipibos to say, certainly not in their native environment. How healthy were they on a day to day basis? Were they strong? Fit? If we can't know, then the answer may lie in the plants. During treatments, assuming it works, and assuming nutrition is actually key, then perhaps the selected Amazonian plants are providing the nutrients needed, along with all kinds of enzymes and antibodies that attack the specific problem. This way, as with a mega veggie raw diet, could be giving the body what is needed to allow the body to heal itself. The testimonies I have read give account to this, as they frequently comment increased energy during treatment- quite different from feelings of malnutrition. The diet, which is really a specific meal instruction set, and not actually a fast, could be acting as the cleansing portion of the treatment simply by excluding all the crap we typically consume. Giving the body a rest from high sugar level intake and hydrogenated oil could allow the energy of the body go from dealing with all the toxins to dealing with the deeper problem of the illness.

The other way the Shipibo system helps a healing occur is by facilitating spiritual intervention. How this could be proven lies only in the minds of Einstein and other scientists who explore the metaphysical connections between spiritual and mundane levels of existence. Many report that, during their healing process, they are visited by beings that do an operation. Perhaps in a dream, or perhaps during an ayahuasca ceremony, something visits them, focuses on the problematic area on their body, and, without any pain at all, removes the problem. The next morning, everything appears normal enough, as though nothing had happened, but then things begin to change... for the better. The symptoms begin dissolving, and the health rapidly improves.

One woman who had a tumor in her lung had such a visit during her sleep after 7 weeks of plant medicine treatment under Alfredo. In her dream, small beings descended and cut open her lungs and removed something. She awoke feeling as though the dream were quite vivid, but didn't make too much of it. Three days later, she began a normal coughing fit that lasted for about five minutes, only this time it accomplished something. Whereas normally the coughing would end in gagging with no purging, this time she coughed up an inch wide ball of bloody thickness. She was exhausted after it left, but over the following days her coughing went away, she breathed easier, and her posture improved.

Perhaps such accounts occur whenever someone's nutrition is boosted due to interacting so heavily with plants. But perhaps this is reported so frequently in the Shipibo system due to mixing plants with prayer. During a treatment, many ayahuasca ceremonies are performed in which the patient simply sits quietly while the healer sings songs that quite literally request for the wellbeing and healing of their patient. At the spiritual level, perhaps kind beings of another dimension hear the requests and decide to visit. If that is bogus, than perhaps the frequently related stories are more a result of subconscious processing, catharsis, and patterns that can be found in all humans. But that theory would go against the Freud-Jung evolution, which basically moved our thought from dreams as having direct interpretations to dreams as having relative interpretations. I wonder what Jung said about collectively similar dreams?

Overall, I suspect that there are many pleasant surprising lying unknown in the use of the plants, their combinations, and their impact while on specific diets. The majority of Shipibos may never have taken nutrition classes or studied anatomy, but they do have a strong paradigm that allows them a form to perceive when the body is balanced and healthy, and what it needs to return to that state when it is unbalanced. Sure, there are accounts of Shipibo healers failing, as there are many accounts of doctors failing their patients, and Gerson Therapy failing its patients, but track records talk. I am impassioned to bring Alfredo's strong experience to the modern world. He has helped so many, some of which were destined to die in the conventional medical system. He knows hundreds of plants, knows how to apply them, knows the diets that are associated with them, and also knows what to avoid mixing. In a world of chemotherapy use with its horrific effects, the Amazonian plant system is God-send. There are certainly pros and cons for each side when comparing something like Gerson Therapy with the Amazonian system, but considering the physical and spiritual impact of the Amazonian/Shipibo system, not to mention the unintended strong emotional impact of working with plants, this system is, at the minimum, strong enough to make it available to the world.


Thank you for reading. Your responses are welcome and important.

Kindly,
Brian Landever
Nature's Hospital
www.natureshospital.org

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Peacefully Building in The Amazon Jungle

Nov. 26th, 2011 | 05:50 pm
location: Iquitos, Peru

Constructing cabins has been both fun and challenging. It's exciting to be able to design anything one can imagine; it's almost childlike in a Lincoln Log kind of way. Bring that into a meeting of different interests and concerns, and things get hairy.


Yesterday, we went out to the land to identify where exactly the first cabin would be built. I had my personal idea of building directly in front of a creek nearby the existing cabins. Having water pass nearby allows a nice flow of energy, and provides nice white sound for retreatants. Structurally speaking, I planned on using concrete in the holes to strengthen the base, and assumed that would be sufficient. When we got out there, the area where I had thought of had been cleaned up, meaning the vines and brush had been cleared away, removing the effect of having a home absorbed into the forest. This wasn't a problem, per se. The cleaning allowed a path to beautiful, old trees, but it gave my plans a curve ball.


The three constructors were ready to measure a spot and clean it up. But we now needed a spot. We met with Master Alfredo and Vanessa, the majority land owner, and began trekking through the jungle. It's amazing to me that I'm actually becoming accustomed to trekking, and occasionally getting lost for brief periods of time, in the Amazon Jungle. I certainly never saw this coming. It's thrilling to take the leap into something new, slowly shedding fears and reservations, and gradually gain the ability to run, literally and figuratively.


As we moved through the jungle, I was shown the areas where Alfredo and Vanessa had thought would be ideal. Alfredo explained that his idea arrived during a vision he had in the previous night's ayahuasca ceremony. Vanessa was mainly focused on encouraging us to respect the forest. She wanted us to build in an area that had been cleared within the recent past and had only young growth, and, she adamantly added, she wanted us to limit our octagonal building plans to 6 square meters rather than 8. She felt as though we were being disrespectful by building something too large, and that a more humble structure would capture the essence of requesting permission from the forest. It was frustrating to have to rethink my plans, but the point was taken. We should respect that the forest overall is a living breathing, whole organism. Taking chunks out of this form of being may not hurt it terribly, but we should limit the size of such chunks.


The constructors took out the measuring tape, identified the 6 by 6 meter space, and cleaned up. The area that was ultimately chosen was in an area of old growth, and we were able to fit the cabin, and a one meter walking space around it, within the large trees. The only trees that will be cut down are less than 8 years old. This preserves the forest, obviously, and our initial intention of building directly in the forest, under the canopy of old growth. It will be only 2.5 meters from an active creek, and the brush around the cabin give a feel of very much being in the forest. The feel and sounds will be a rich absorption into the jungle.


The day ended well with food and pineapple drink. We came to a conclusion on how to deal with stray dogs, which had become an issue, and made plans on using fallen trees for timber before buying any additional material. Getting back to Iquitos, which is about one hour away, was a bit of a challenge since we relied on public transportation that becomes sparse after 6pm, but by 10:30PM, we were back in town, planning the next steps.


Things are happening here! Ideas are manifesting, and we will soon be tripling our power of spreading the word that we are treating cancer with plant medicine, offering ayahuasca ceremonies, and training people to become healers. Stay tuned for more exciting adventures!

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The Birth of Nature's Hospital: Part I

Nov. 21st, 2011 | 04:15 pm
location: Iquitos, Peru
mood: pleasedpleased
music: Alison Krauss and Union Station

A tremendous thing is occurring. I am building a plant medicine hospital in the Peruvian Amazon Jungle. Odd, perhaps, at face value. But big decisions are always a result of long history of previous events, shapings, and interests. In my case, this story includes long meditation retreats, jungle shamans, and even a stint in a New York City University. The journey has been a winding road of dreams, hope, impatience, and finally, leaping. And the result is a beautiful jungle center which houses a trustworthy healer who is ready to heal people's serious illness using only the power of plants. This story begins in 2006, in an $8/night Costa Rican backpacker’s hotel.



The Beginning

I had just been fired. The boss didn't like that I took the high school kids gambling. While I didn't really mind, I needed to get my bearings. That night of gambling on the Costa Rican beach was a load of fun. Everyone was gathered together cheering, consolidating money, and super exuberant. It was painful to walk away from the table solely because the high was so enjoyable. Money may have been lost, but the kids were talking about the night for days.

On my end, I was suffocating in the job. There was never any space to be alone and think, and the perks of beautiful, isolated beaches and day cruises were beginning to wear thin. When they broke the news, my ego may have been a bit hurt, but it was mainly relieving. I checked into the hostel, got a private room with a view, and locked myself inside for two days to regain my ground and figure out my next steps.

My first call was to Sid Jordan, an older friend of mine from the Ananda Marga spiritual group. I knew they had groups all over the world, but I didn't know his suggestions would shape the next several years of my life. We spoke, I told him what happened, and asked him if there were community in San Jose, the capital. He put me in touch with the local nun, Didi Ananda Sadhana, and several days later I found myself at their Sunday gathering listening to fantastic stories of the practitioners' interactions with their guru, P.R. Sarkar, and singing songs with the repetitive phrase, "Baba Nam Kevalam." Despite the awkwardness of it all, the facilities were beautiful, and I was shocked by the healing facilities in the back of the building.

After a group lunch where everyone pleasantly sat on the floor eating, a member of the group began giving me a tour of the building. When he showed me the headphones which played music designed to increase particular brainwaves, I was curious, but when he showed me the oxygen generator that connected to an injectable needle, I was stunned. I asked him the obvious, "Doesn't air in the veins cause a heart attack?" He smirked, and told me that that does occur if rapid amounts enter the blood stream quickly, but small amounts over extended periods have healing effects. I felt skeptical, but figured that they hadn't killed anyone yet. Perhaps there was something I didn't know.

We returned to lunch, and as relationships were formed, I received various invitations, one of which was to move into the guest house temporarily. We went to visit the house, and it was a beautiful two story condo with a courtyard in the back which overlooked a forested river. I happily thanked them and accepted, and began making myself at home. They even stocked the cabinets with food for me. I was overjoyed.

For several weeks I stayed there, trying to show appreciation by cooking amazing meals for their Sunday gatherings and studying their humanistically-oriented philosophies on education. After three weeks, a monk flew to Costa Rica to receive treatment from Didi's clinic. He immediately began listening to the relaxing music and receiving daily O2 injections... and he didn't die. He would return each day feeling a little dizzy, but several hours later he was always fine. I decided to give it a try, and I too did not die. At the same time Didi took her time to explain the various ways that oxygen injected in this way cleans the blood and encourages the body's own healing processes to activate. It didn't go further past that session, but a seed of interest was buried in my mind towards the world of alternative healing.



Nicaragua

Another week passed, and Didi let me know she wanted to visit the group of Ananda Margi’s in Managua, Nicaragua. I told her I'd like to join, and several days later we were on a bus with three others to Nicaragua. The first night we comfortably stayed in a nice hotel, and shared stories of the dangers of this city and their scarily high unemployment rate. We were warned carefully to take precautions but not worry too much, which we did, and therefore never had problems.

The first full day in the city we met the nun of Managua, a cheerful Chilean young woman who ran an elementary school during the day and taught meditation in the evenings. We had a nice vegetarian lunch, meditated as a group, and then drove out to a site outside of the city where they were building something. I wasn't sure what to expect, but was surprised to be introduced to a steel building skeleton of two stories. This, they explained, was the future sight of an alternative healing clinic. They intended to utilize Neem extracts heavily to treat diseases of the Nicaraguans, and teach healthy eating habits using Nicaragua's nutrient rich black salt and noni fruit. Their intention was to heal and improve lives, they had saved enough to begin construction, and they were beginning to plan out where various rooms would be placed within the structure. Observing their dream being built was a kind of transmission of state of mind I had never before tasted. They knew what they wanted, and were doing it, and above all it was soaked in the positive pride of serving others. They were building their reality, and it was wonderfully motivating.

The next day we met a monk who lived in a poorer area of town, and over lunch learned of his situation with another private school which he was struggling to run. When I began to give him ideas on how to create better programs and organize the teachers, he excitedly offered to house me in exchange for my consulting work. I accepted with a smile, excited for the new adventure, and the next day we began preparing an intensive English teaching program that would develop discipline amongst the students. My ideas for the program came from Carl Peterson, director of Accelerated Schools in Denver, Colorado, where I had previously worked for about a year. Carl had been a retired successful businessman, and now was in search of ways to be an effective philanthropist. He chose education as his focus, and searched tirelessly for the fastest way to educate people. It was this system that I introduced to the Nicaraguan school, and when we let Carl know what we were doing, he was ecstatic. His system was spreading, and he wanted it to continue. He put together a nice grant for the school of money, computers, and supplies, and sent it down.

We got the program rolling, got the kids to love it, and got the teachers to respect it. It turned out the group nature of the education style worked well with the culture. As a result, I became a popular figure in the community in a matter of weeks, and always had children running up to greet me at each corner. Girls around the area took notice too, and always had nice smiles to share with me. I had become a classical hero figure on a small scale, and was loving it. But aside from the fun with the spotlight, I was learning that programs could be built anywhere with a little bit of planning and enthusiasm. Creation manifested from intention, work, and materials. Realizing this experientially was an important step.

During my stay, two visiting Ananda Marga monks and I talked for several hours on classic topics of health, diet, and meditation. I explained what I was doing there, sharing my enthusiasm. It was a nice conversation, but I didn't think much of it at the time until they ended up giving me an unsolicited job reference that led to a five month stint in Venezuela.



Venezuela

Years earlier, in 2004, I had stayed with a kind man of the Ananda Marga community in North Carolina, USA. He took the time to explain their community's meditation style to me, and housed me for several nights in his environmentally friendly home. While I was there, a monk visited by the name of Dada Maheshvarananda, and gave me his book. His work focused on Prout, a social economic system that envisioned decentralized, bottom up, participative, economic democracy. It largely utilized cooperatives and community planning, and specifically avoided extremes of communism or oligarchical capitalism. I had slowly read the book and gradually became curious.

As I was planning the next pieces of my travels, I learned that Dada Maheshvarananda had opened a research institute in Venezuela. Interested, I sent him an email, and quickly received a reply instructing me to send my resume, writing sample, and references. I did so, but it isn't clear that it was ever read. I called several minutes after emailing it to confirm receipt, and was asked if I was the Brian Landever who had been in Nicaragua recently. I confirmed, and was excitedly asked when I could arrive. The traveling monks who I had met had casually been talking about me to the people in Venezuela, and when they realized that they both knew me, everything fell into place.

The experience in Venezuela was politically inspiring, and very eye opening by way of showing me how money influences the world's decisions. Once we follow the money trails, we can realize that few hands are pulling many strings, and that when better options become available, such as in the case of health, if they do not support the business interests of big Pharma, they will either not become known, or receive harsh criticism. This becomes heart breaking when successful therapies, such as Gerson Therapy, are developed yet have difficulty becoming a common option for every household with a person in need.



Peru

Knowledge and experience should be well balanced. Each supports the other, and after the Venezuelan experience, I was seeking equally intense experience. I found it in Peru. It first came on lightly. Trekking through the jungle on the way up to Macchu Picchu was exhilarating and curious. I felt such tremendous sense of history below my feet and all around me. My intuitive sirens were screaming. Something extra-ordinary had happened here, at least in comparison to how we live today. They had significant residential and religious structures, and water systems built into the rock of the buildings. The way they built was designed to last millions of years, and always keep a view, lest an earthquake or meteor interrupt things. The buildings were designed with nature, in accordance with its laws. The only upkeep was needed for thatch roofs. In contrast with wooden structures, or in our case, steel and dry wall, theirs subsisted, and reflected a mentality that was deeply aware of sustainability, to say the least.

After the hike, all kinds of information began popping up before me in regards to ancient Peruvian history, but it was mainly just being in this place of tremendous historical background that felt inspiring. When I returned to Cuzco, I learned of various medicine ceremonies designed to give a kind of transcendental experience, providing an intense mirror of oneself. In the process was supposedly a way of cleaning one's heart so that, in the end, it would be free to shine brighter. I did some research and learned that while the process had difficult aspects, the whole could be very visionary, but most importantly, connecting. I wanted to know to what I would be connected.

I found a shaman that I liked for his practice of meditation, and arranged a ceremony. I and one other returned to our comfortable reclining seats, and rested. About an hour passed before something happened. Waves of energy felt as if they were passing over and through my body from my feet upwards. I relaxed into it, reminded myself of the question I had developed before entering the 20 foot diameter hut, and let my thoughts roam. Tons of information began to be processed at incredible speed, and it was if I could visually see different qualities of my thoughts. The same occurs in heavily concentrated periods of meditation, but this was happening so quickly that there was no time to be distracted by one particular line of inquiry. It was more liken to seeing how one cerebral synapse fires the next, and seeing the map of a portion of my own mind, perhaps my own brain, or perhaps larger. And during all of it, I was simply resting comfortably. As the thoughts continued to expand outwards, each leaving a slight echo as it connected to the next, an image arose. The calm meditator in the center of a world of light, a world of activity, seeing all, but resting in his own heart.

The next morning, I awoke in the hut, and walked out to nearby ruins just above Cuzco. It felt amazingly fresh, and the fact that I had fasted the day before was surprisingly not bothering me. I caught a bus down to town, had a big bowl of yogurt, fresh fruit, and raw honey, and sat back to think about what my present experience was having come out of such a unique evening. I felt a calm that was similar to the expanded feeling after a full month of meditation retreat. My forehead and heart felt warm, and I felt pleasant. Just pleasant. Centered, peaceful, and good. Things around me appeared radiant, and I felt malleable, as if any personal problem could be transcended, and any challenge adapted to. It made me smile. This was life, life energy, and it was somehow vividly apparent that I was that- thriving life energy. I laughed a brief note of glory, got up, paid, smiled kindly to the owner, and set off down the stone lined streets.



New York

I had come to a point in my travels where I was just being, albeit thinking of plans of my own, but mainly just allowing myself to take doors as they appeared. When I received an invitation to start a social entrepreneurial project in New York, I decided that I had responsibilities in the US to attend to, and I should return. But when I got back, I felt utterly uncomfortable. The potent sense of earth that I had become accustomed to in Cuzco through its smell of saint wood and feel of open-air homes was gone. There was just congestion, pollution, busyness, disconnection, pride, conceit, and small apartments. The sharp contrast pushed me to noticing the transformation I had been experiencing by becoming absorbed into a culture that has slightly stronger sense of connection to the natural elements and therefore nature. In New York I felt a lack, I felt cut off from earth, from myself, and it hurt.

Deciding what to do about the situation, I wanted to return to Peru, but felt I needed to persevere through the challenge. I felt I needed to realize my connection to nature by realizing my own creation as nature. I stopped cutting my hair, got an apartment, dropped the business idea, and enrolled in a Master's economics program at The New School.

Assisting the process was Shambhala Buddhism, led by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. The meditation practices and life style guidance I received pushed me to recognizing that the sense of connection could be manifested just as it could be received. Considering perception, the two could, possibly, be the same by radiating a sense of connection to earth below and sky above. The feeling could be equally empowering as remaining in the mountains or jungle. But at the end of the day, I wanted to mix both the ability to project such comforting power and be visually surrounded by the source. After receiving my master's degree, I moved away from New York for the next significant phase of my life.



Brian Landever
www.natureshospital.org

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The Birth of Nature's Hospital: Part II

Nov. 21st, 2011 | 04:13 pm
location: Iquitos, Peru
mood: pleasedpleased
music: Alison Krauss and Union Station

...Continued



Maryland and Mom

In 2010, my mother, Marcy Hankin, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After her first round of chemo, she was over it. My family had a nice party for her to celebrate her being part of our lives, and we thought that was that. Then the cancer came back, and her pain intensified. She promised me she had been doing all the research she wanted to do, so I didn't insert too many of my ideas, but I knew she was losing hope. Over several short months, her body withered away due to chemotherapy. She needed a cane to walk, and her hopes of returning to her international bike tours dissolved.

I returned to Maryland in February of 2011 to be with her, thinking she had approximately 6 - 12 months left to live. I just wanted to be there by her, and when I saw that chemo was no longer helping, I began to look for alternative therapies. I was too late. The next day when I walked into her room she was signing release forms to be taken into hospice. She said she didn't want to be a financial burden on my brother and me, her cancer was only spreading, she was too weak for more chemo, and she was tired of living in pain around the clock. She wanted to rest, and end her circumstance.

I felt lost. My mind felt cloudy, it was painful to see my mom so uncomfortable, and the hospice people always seemed as though they were not sharing what they knew. I suspected they knew of all the treatment modalities, even for this late stage, but all they were legally permitted to do was administer morphine and other pain killers. I searched for what they could be hiding, found some questionable sources of information, but had no confident idea of what to do. I read about Ormus, or monoatomic elements, asked people to pray, and solicited support from my family to use new treatments. Everyone around me gave me a frown at hearing the story, and I began to realize that my search had begun too late.
Several days later, we brought my mother home in an ambulance, managed to get her upstairs into her bedroom, and watched her take a deep breath. Something about that deep breath unlocked a wave of energy in her, and she began moaning as if she was witnessing and feeling a different level of reality. It continued for two hours, and her writhing gradually subsided along with her breath. My brother and I were there right beside her, along with her two close friends, and we all held hands in a circle around her, appreciating her.

As she left, as her energy went out, lots of energy came into the house; company filled the house for the next week until the funeral. And then it was silent, but not entirely in a lonely sense. It felt as though she was right behind all the time, and it continued like this for about 7 weeks.

During the time, I had a burning desire to understand what I missed. What else could have been done? I spent hours online reviewing alternative healing methods, reviewing success rates, watching documentaries on cancer, healing, food, medicine, and overall health. I found promising solutions such as Gerson Therapy, an antibody being administered in Beth Israel Cancer center of New York City, and even online compilations of every cancer therapy available. In one sense, I certainly wanted to know what could have happened differently, but more importantly, I wanted to prevent others from having to experience such treachery. I wanted people to know there are options that are viable, and should be considered just as heavily as chemo, options that do not necessarily waste the body away to skin and bones. Perhaps I was reacting to seeing such pain, but so be it. If that what was needed to get me to serve others, I accept it as a successful motivational factor.

Leaving the house was seldom. One such occasion was a lunch with my brother and an uncle of mine, Murray. When I argued with my brother for the merits of therapies other than chemo, Murray stopped me and asked more about Gerson Therapy. I explained that it was an intensive juicing therapy that aimed to remind the body that nature knows how to regenerate itself. He was neutral in his response, and focused more on me. He suggested that I pursue a position offering such a therapy to others. I considered the idea, researched it, and when I learned that I needed a medical degree first, I even looked into a four year naturopathic medicine degree. But that intention was soon to take a different form.



The return

Wanting to do something dramatic, I looked into returning to Peru to go into an intensive, month long retreat led by a shaman who would lead many ayahuasca ceremonies. Everything worked out beautifully on the logistics front, and many coincidences came together to bring me to a safe, private piece of land that had not been developed at all. There were about three acres that had been converted to farm, out of a total 500 acres, and the only buildings there were the ones I and another participant had built to house our retreat.

This 500 acres was in the Amazon Jungle, and it was mainly thick, dense jungle that looked the same everywhere to my untrained eye. Getting lost could happen in 30 seconds. It was very humid, and the heat on a cloudless day at noon was intense. At first, I felt as though I was suffocating, and wondered if I should remain. Sweating was irritating my skin, I found it difficult to rouse much energy to sit up and meditate during the day, let alone hike through the jungle. But this was only the first 4 days.

During the first ayahuasca ceremony, clarity poured over me as if cleaning away mud from clear glass. I had come to learn about shamanism, but my deeper desire was to continue practicing Shambhala Buddhist meditations. Acknowledging this finally got me to sit up straight and take some responsibility for my wellbeing. I've spent years training to be a Shambhalian, and I wanted to continue, regardless of my settings. I respectfully backed out of most of the subsequent ayahuasca ceremonies, focused on my practices, but still spent considerable time with the shaman, Master Healer Alfredo Cairuna.

As time continued, I began accepting the weather conditions, and not really noticing them when I wasn't in direct sunlight. This made it more possible to accept Alfredo's invitations to walk with him in the forest, and during our hikes, he would tell me about dozens of plants' healing properties. He matched this with his stories of healing. Hundreds of patients had been treated by him throughout Peru, including those with severe diseases. I began to realize that this Shaman was well deserved of his title, master, and my earlier inquiry into a natural treatment modality returned forcefully. His success rate was tremendous. While many other therapies I had learned of had good success rates, and ways of healing naturally that made sense, his was amazing. He was combining energy treatments with plant medicine treatments, and seeing excellent results.

We spent a total of four weeks together, two of which were just him, his wife, and me. It was at the two week mark that I realized I should personally look into a healing for a skin condition I had. I explained that I had had chronic eczema since I was a child, and no steroidal cream ever helped for longer than one day. He frowned, expressed disapproval of using pills to calm a symptom while ignoring the cause, and took several days to think about how to treat my situation. When he came back, he said he wanted to clean my blood and liver. Hoping he didn't mean with soap, I was relieved when we took a walk into the jungle to gather bark from particular trees. We spent the afternoon bashing the bark with clubs and tearing it apart, and then stuffing it into bottles of cane juice liqueur. Three days later, the liqueur had extracted enough of the bark to make the initially clear liquid quite brownish red, and the flavor was dangerously nice.

I was instructed to eat only specific fish, plantains, beans, and rice, and had to leave out all forms of condiments. It wasn't particularly easy, but I gave it a try, figuring that two weeks of mediocre food was well worth the opportunity to heal a chronic disease. I drank 4 ounces of the extract at dawn and dusk, bathed in the river after each drink, and then covered my body with the liquid, making me mildly sticky. There were no fireworks, and my skin did not immediately improve. I asked Alfredo about this, and he said the plants work at their own pace, always surely, but normally not producing immediate miracles. I continued the treatment as instructed, and was also given sangre de grado liquid on the irritated areas in the evenings.

Four weeks after the beginning of the treatment, my skin looked normal, without a trace of any previous problem. For the first time in my life, I was eating anything, and I was fine. No breakout whatsoever. This was the last piece of encouragement I needed to begin talking with Alfredo about making his services available to the modern world. Typically, he served his neighbors and the occasional tourist, but he had no way of being widely accessible. We sat down, and he told me that what I referred to has always been his dream. Above all, he felt rich by serving others, and having access to more populations would make him all the more satisfied. He acknowledged that the healing methods he knew of were unique, and began explaining ways to help spread the tradition, and encourage other people's understanding of it. That night, on Sunday, August 14th, 2011, an idea was born.

We spent the next several weeks in the city of Iquitos planning, organizing, designing, and recruiting help. We met with his son in Pucallpa to request he join us administrator, and we began the process of interacting with banks, immigrations, accountants, lawyers, and web developers. The power of the openness that I developed during my month of meditation allowed many pieces of my life to join together as a cohesive element of activity, and for my private goal of combining work and service, to manifest.

Much has happened over the past several months, and we have had had plenty of confused moments as well as magical, jaw-dropping ones. All the same, I love the challenge. I'm doing work that has tremendous value for the world; that can help so many. This is my dream. As time goes on, I would like to share with you the proceeding moments of our creation. Everyday has a new adventure, and it makes us feel more connected to you by offering this blog. As you like, please read with us, and also stay tuned to our facebook account for photos. All will be available soon.

Brian Landever
www.natureshospital.org

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Clarifying the purpose of Occupy Wall Street

Oct. 18th, 2011 | 12:11 am
location: Mexico City, Mexico
music: Handel, "The Cuckoo and the Nightingale"

The Occupy Wall Street protest is a classic example of a decentralized organization. There is no leader, no central organizing committee, and no established list of needs. It is more of a growing mass of various perspectives on why our current economic system does not include everyone, and what could be done about it. The solidarity against something that is not serving our needs is powerful and wonderful, and there are substantial, favorable arguments to maintain improvisational decentralization, but there are drawbacks that need to be considered. This inquiry should ultimately help us develop a decision and find a balance.

Improvised decentralization certainly has its merits. For one, it brings people of different beliefs together. They may disagree about the solution, or have different desires, but they agree that the common cause is oligarchical capitalism. Coming together creates a strong sense of camaraderie and solidarity that represents the kind of daily attentiveness and mutual support needed inside our communities. It's a world of difference when one is constantly giving and being taken care of. And yes, one’s independence is acknowledged and respected during this.

This approach also makes it an authentic people's movement. It removes the possibility of one individual selling out, and it exists wherever the people are gathered together. There is no way to eliminate or superficially meet demands when everyone collectively holds the message. If someone is removed in this case, the movement as a whole would simply grow a new limb as a plant does. And this plant has no trunk to cut. Wherever it is challenged it improvises with the given people present to overcome the obstacle, while others in different areas focus on their distinct matters.

Colin Powell said in his autobiography in regards to the Civil Rights Movement that "a movement requires many faces." This makes no particular activity in the movement wrong, per se. Rather, different approaches only add momentum. They can be used concurrently to reach more ears, or during select times to overcome select challenges.

Planning, having specific goals, and defining demands (if not an overall vision), is focused on getting results. It lets people know what this movement is specifically achieving, and why. It encourages politicians to seek ways to create this vision at the level of policy, and it pushes big corporations to replace business as usual with value-led decisions and planning. When this movement shouts dissatisfaction at those in places of power, it is left up to those in power to make the recommendation on what to do. But when the movement determines a common vision, specific desires, and a road map of how to transition into this vision, it is the movement that decides what to do and whether or not each move made is genuine or besides the real point. The mayor not kicking people out to clean the park, for example, is beside the real point.

This approach also gathers people's energy towards specific destinations, creating powerful momentum. Collective thrust is critical, and when it is concentrated in one direction, the chances of arriving increase intensely.

Articulating appropriately will be important in accurately representing and communicating people's true concern and vision. The ideas need to be expressed clearly and in a way that the lay public can understand. Wording should be pithy and direct. Big ideas should be broken down simply, and the way these are explained should be considerate of the audience. For monetary reform, this could be, “We stand for government control of the creation and dispense of money. This can drastically increase the amount of money continually flowing in the economy, and increase the money supply when the economy is ready to grow. And it can all be done without paying interest.” Or, “Imagine a world where all the money collected on interests from loans became the budget for public infrastructure. We want our government to be the main provider of loans, not the Federal Reserve.” Or even, “We want government encouragement of community projects like time building to reduce our costs and build cooperation amongst neighbors.”

For my part, I can recommend several ideological systems that may help define the vision. Based on the biggest themes that I observed in the park, 99% vs. 1%, and monetary reform, I suggest using the following established systems as the ideology behind selected pith statements:

NESARA (National Economic Security and Recovery Act):
http://nesara.org/bill/executive_summary.htm

Monetary Reform:
http://www.monetary.org/intro-to-monetary-reform/faqs

A comparison of NESARA and Monetary reform:
http://nesara.org/comparisons/monetary_comparison_chart.htm

PROUT:
http://www.prout.org/Summary.html

Time Banking:
http://samericatravels.livejournal.com/32061.html

Overall, when we live as if the vision has arrived, the vision arises. If we excessively focus on what we don't want by staying angry, we will only get more reasons to be angry. Being a community throughout this process is crucial, but in order to create the world where this solidarity is part of our everyday experience, we need to take the required steps. Creating requires intention.

May the Golden age dawn.
Brian Landever

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Relaxing and learning at the Occupy Wall Street Protest

Oct. 15th, 2011 | 10:24 pm
location: United States, New York, Rockaway Park
mood: excitedexcited

This protest has strong camaraderie, great organization, tons of awareness building projects, and even free meals around the clock. And there's not even a central leader; this is a decentralized project of group cooperation and consensus.

Walking around the central square where everyone is located is motivating and exciting. Everyone is surprisingly kind, generous, and socially comfortable spontaneously chatting. For the New York environment where it is, it's like walking into one's family. Very familiar, yet all the faces are new. Different groups are forming circles all over the park where they have events ranging from kirtan to excited lectures explaining what the federal reserve is to meditation groups to banner holders having discussions with passer-bys. The place is buzzing with activity, and despite the media messages of violence, it feels incredibly safe. Even the police seem kind of bored. The heaviest police responsibility I witnessed was them moving passer-bys along the sidewalk when they began to gather to take pictures of all the signs and art.

I arrived with my good friend Edwin and his partner, Jenny, and we at first sheepishly walked through the first layer of people holding signs to get into the park. Everyone pleasantly let us pass, Jenny acted as tour guide of the different areas. There were areas for sleeping, eating, child daycare, laptop recharging stations, art creation, discussion areas, reiki healing, classes from professors, and more. As we looked around, we began to realize the way that circles were formed. Someone would simply call out, "Mic Check!" and everyone nearby would call out the same in response. This call and shouted response would continue for the entire announcement someone would make, and by the end, the word spread large enough amidst the loud area that 10 to 30 people would go down to the particular event.

The first stop we made was with an artist who had made palm size boxes wrapped in paper with images on it. Commenting on the illusory nature of money creation in our debt-based monetary system, each box was valued above $50,000, and she was giving them out free. If money is created from ten percent reserve on a the deposit of loaned money, if stocks are valued by so many forces it becomes esoteric, why not apply the same creative approach to one's art?

Our next stop was the meditation group, where changing the world from the inside out was the focus. This was certainly my crowd. The degree of concern, reasonability, and inclusiveness in our society can only reflect the degree of this that we have developed in ourselves. When we care about others, our decisions towards them reflect it. When we care about the environment around us, we seek more sustainable sources and goods.

We visited several other stations before leaving, and certainly received a lesson about Monetary reform (www.monetary.org) and it's potential to heavily fund public services and infrastructure, but the general feel impressed me most. People were cooperating, getting along, eager to support those around, generally motivated to be surrounded by others with similar interests, happy, and impassioned. There was a strong message of the need to have an economy that prioritizes including everyone and seeing to their personal development, that dissolves elements of top down control and replaces them with bottom up community organizing and community owning, and of the need to have metal backed money that is spent into existence at a rate that matches the potential for the economy to grow. This was engaging and intellectually stimulating, but the cherry on top was the communal feel that represented how our society could feel when we collectively decide to focus on us rather than I. I should also mention that there were many rants of dislike towards communism and socialism, and that what they were focused on would be more in line with Proutist economics (http://www.prout.org/) that avoids extremes of greed and self sacrifice. If this supportive environment is the feel of the world that would result from these kinds of non-violent protests, I hope this one and future ones continue as long as they need to. May the golden age dawn.

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Behind synchronicity

Jun. 12th, 2011 | 10:32 pm
location: United States, Reisterstown,
music: energy builder on you tube (piano music)

Causing realization of magic
is like watering seeds
in a barren land.

Growing trees helps us breathe again.





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Responsibility of sight

May. 26th, 2011 | 11:39 pm
mood: Expanded
music: Deva Premal

I have come to recognize the sun! I now know it's there. In my awareness, I dare not try to grab it, but also dare not turn away from its warmth.

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Time Banking is Peace Building

Oct. 29th, 2010 | 12:26 pm
location: United States, New York, New York

Time Banking is about peace building. It engages everyone involved by making people feel useful. All exchanges are appreciated, and the more that occur, the more people feel they have an important place in their community. When an entire community begins to feel this way, solidarity is fostered, and cooperation becomes common. And this is only the beginning. What seeds are being planted by providing an experience of growing mutual support? Could this spark a deep seeded desire for societal harmony?

At the personal level, time banking saves people money and builds self esteem. Many of the services received would have otherwise been paid for. If they’re not, they’re most likely enriching the life of the recipients through cultural lessons, healing sessions, or social company. Either way, the recipients enrich their lives, and those offering the services do too. With no money exchanged, people know that the reason they offer a service is to give a favor. This dissolves the tendency to feel a sense of obligation, replacing it with the feeling of generosity. As we all know, generous activity is somehow similar to having the warm sunshine on our face on a cool autumn day.

At the community level, time banking promotes cooperation, trust, and mutual support. Increasing exchanges in a time bank network amplify the appreciation that is expressed. Members in turn feel motivated, develop the understanding that their skills are valued, and take confidence that they are an integral part of the whole. This constructs a community wide sense of social belonging which perpetuates the excitement to offer more. As people become accustomed to giving and receiving, there develops trust that neighbors will support neighbors in times of need. Alienation and separation dissolve, and familiarity and solidarity grow.

The societal impact is what could occur over time. Time banking provides an example of an economic system that causes a simultaneous expansion in trust, cooperation, and economic exchange. It does not attempt to replace the market economy, and it would most likely not be able to due to its intentionally simplistic valuation theory and applicability only to family, friends, and neighbors. It humbly attempts to bring people together in the process of meeting one another’s needs. As it does so, it gently constructs a paradigm in the back of people’s minds that is based on cooperation rather than individualism, generosity rather than greed, and familiarity rather than isolation. When time banking becomes sufficiently popular that its existence is common knowledge, we will be approaching the times when democratic economic systems that prioritize community empowerment can flourish.

Time banking can have massive impacts, and it will happen in the gentlest way. There is no attacking capitalism or the current power structure, but there is an underlying desire for a safer, happier, kinder world. When people are interested in tying together social development and economics, they will be ready to join a time bank. The result will be a glimpse of our inherent interconnectedness, and the inescapable nature of caring for people and planet. We will begin to embody the understanding that one can truly be well only when all life shares our wellness.

-Brian Landever

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