It has been a while since I have brought words to this space. Much has shifted in my life and the world in which, Harness Your Breath was born is now an incredible piece of my history.
For those of you that do not know, Harness Your Breath started in the summer of 2011 when I was 19 years old. The world then felt brand new to me in so many ways, and I was testing my own capacity to carry myself by traveling on the road for 3 months. Those 3 months are still embedded in my memory. Up and down the west coast of North America I went, with a touch down in New York city and then a month in Greece. While on that trip something began to breathe fire into the pit of my belly. I felt so alive and in love with our world, yet I didn't understand much of what was going on. I started asking big questions about war, about politics, about the earth. I wanted to understand my place in it all, and I was frustrated by how little I knew. For that month I spent in Greece, most of my nights were restless, researching until the sun came up on what my next step should be. I was looking for support and guidance into this next chapter of my life. As a part of this process I decided to reach out to girlfriends of mine who inspired me. I wrote a handful of little notes with an invitation to create an online space where we could keep in touch about the deeper topics that moved our hearts. I was thirsty for quality dialogue as my feed on Facebook at that time was not generating conversations that created points of connection for me. I wanted something more than just the day-to-day moments, I wanted to deconstruct, inquire and hopefully one day contribute.
Harness Your Breath first came into being on one of those hot sleepless nights. It started out as a tumblr account and a year later I built it this online container that you see today. Over the past 6 years the space that Harness Your Breath has offered me has been tremendous. It has been a platform for all of my exploration. From homesteading on Maui, to a year in Sweden while studying at The International Youth Initiative Program, to my first steps into grassroots organizing and my exploration into photography. I have created and found my own home here again and again while moving around the world.
As some of you may know, last summer I started a program called The Spiritual Ecology Fellowship.
One of the main aims of this program was to support youth like myself in further developing a project forward. Over the past 9 months I have been working on my project, Earth Is `Ohana (EIO), which is an adaptable environmental curriculum. I have just returned home after 12 days of teaching a portion of it at women's gathering called Spirit Weavers. These last days have been absolute dream for me. After holding a project so close it felt like a giant release to finally be able to ground it in tangible action. Earth Is `Ohana finally feels ready to grow and bloom. A part of this growth has been the creation of a new website that is solely dedicated to moving this vision outward. You can find it at earthisohana.com. That being said Harness Your Breath will be in a place of active rest for the time being. I will keep this site live, because there is still so much goodness here, but please do accept my invitation in moving your active support over to Earth Is `Ohana. There is a blog space there where reflections will be shared, an opportunity to sign up for my new newsletter and even a book club you can join. As always my intention for any of my online spaces are too support education and nurturance on the topics that I hold close in my heart.
Thank you again for tuning in, I look forward to continuing the conversation with you for years to come.
Meduh // Mahalo
Kailea // earthisohana.com
Photo: Koa Kalish
I woke up to December 1st. Everything a hush in the air out side of my friends apartment. I've been in Switzerland for the past days acquainting myself again with normal bed times and waking up slowly. I move my toes and I turn on my side, while wondering where all of our chaos is leading us. This is where I am sourcing my energy from these days, and it makes me get up and out of bed. I make coffee and write letters to all of my loved ones that I have overlooked in these last frenzied months of non stop movement. My little sister sends me a picture of her newly shaved head, I gasp over her beauty. Every day it seems someone is sharing a new type of courage with me. I spend whole afternoons by myself while my friend is at work. I can't place a memory to the last time that I have kept my own company, and sometimes the most delicious thing I can do is stare out the window at these trees. It is covered fully in frost today for the first time since I've arrived. Another layer of stillness. I read the words of Åsmund Seip, a modern Norwegian man who gives a gentle voice to our inner conflicts and desires. Sometimes its a poem, sometimes a paragraph, always though he brings my mind back down again into the cracks of my own heart. "I have sent you nothing but angels" he says, and I believe him.
... And The Purpose Of It All
It came to me while circumambulating the Tilokpur Nunnery on the outskirts of Dharamsala, that I would like to openly address and share my internal dialogue that is now many years in process on the topic of Social Media.
I have technically been on a form of Social Media since I was 12 years old. I am now 25. It all began with Xanga, a form of open space that was all word centered with very little images. A public diary that many of my classmates and myself all had at the time. My public narrative around the story of self began there. Over the years Xanga turned into Myspace and then Facebook, which morphed into Instagram, and then Twitter and now Snapchat. These became the spaces that hosted my coming of age and a few of them continue on in real time as I grapple with the complexity of our modern world. About 5 years ago I began to deeply question the purpose of these spaces and how exactly I wanted to participate or not participate in them. I have worked my way through the spectrum of this exploration, at times taking long breaks from posts, shifting my privacy settings, becoming upset with lack of etiquette and in other moments feeling supremely grateful for what is offered and made possible.
Here is one of the main points as to why I have kept a continual conversation going online over these many years. It doesn’t seem to matter where I go, or what theme of a project I might be working with. Time and again when I ask groups of people to name how it is they would like to show up and support the many topics on hand it always seems to come back to these spaces, especially with younger generations. When I was in Sweden for the first time I took a strong vow to myself that I would only utilize Social Media to nurture topics of urgency and to share the joy that I feel from engaging in the type of work that I do. I specifically remember wanting to give people the feeling of such inspiration that they would feel compelled to move away from the screen and go and do something! This vow has only grown and deepened over the past few years, so much so that in all honesty you should know that I do think about every single post that I choose to share. My spaces online are closely and critically curated, especially as the conversation around extractive story telling continues to evolve and unfold beneath every project that I participate in. I am always asking myself how to best engage my own creativity with an issue of interest in hopes that it will spark an opening thought, or help continue the dialogue on matters that rest heavily on my own heart.
I decided that I wanted to openly share about this after this last week where I had the pleasure of spending 5 days at the Tilopkur Nunnery in India. After living out these days in such close daily contact with a group of nuns that were in fact my peers in terms of age, I started to question how I might like to better show up to the world and to my work. The nuns were always punctual and incredibly sharp minded, articulating detailed thoughts when posed with any question. They made me feel a bit sloppy in comparison. At one point it was clearly stated to me that their way of life was really about creating a stronger light in oneself in order to better share and spread this light to others. In this moment I thought to myself, "Why do we not do more of this? Why are we not stating our true reason and purpose for walking in this world? Why am I not taking the time to reflect on how I can best show up every day?"
I have thought up and heard many of the arguments against Social Media in the 13 years that I have been actively using it. I have also seen movements made possible through these platforms during crucial moments in my own history and made many connections with individuals that have realized themselves in real time and space. At this point in my current daily life I am living and working very decentralized. This mode of life has been greatly made possible by the ability to work online with others and there has not been a single day in these past months that I have not been completely humbled by the individuals that I have been able to collaborate with because of these online mediums. Taking this into account for myself in these last weeks in which I have taken a break from screens, I feel more than willing to come back and participate even more diligently in these spaces and with a strong conviction for incorporating these words of transparency over to you. If you sometimes follow my journey or click ‘like’ to some of my words please note this: These spaces (FB, IG, my website) are only one sliver of what makes up Kailea. I am a conscious steward over what I share on these platforms always aiming for my posts to be informative, dynamic and beautiful. These spaces are part story of self, part story of the world and I am continuously assessing and shifting how much of the story of self I should share here. Aside from the family post every now and then you should be aware that all of my online spaces are dedicated to sharing the beauty and pain of our earth today. These are the types of dialogues that I wish to perpetuate. I also actively choose to show up here in support of those that also feel a deep dedication to engage in the good work which can at times feel like really hard work. Lastly, I always value conversations in person. Online etiquette is crucial to me. If you have something you wish to share in a strong way please know that I am an open and curious human being with real feelings. I always respond to honest and respectful feedback. That being said I am wishing to generate conversation on strong themes so do respond. It is always a call to practice new ways of communicating that allow for broader perspectives to be held. System change after all is multi faceted and takes a variety of human beings all interacting at the same time to be made possible.
- Onwards Dear Friends –
With a fond heart from somewhere high above the vastness of the Pacific Ocean,
July 20, 2016.
The First Day of the Fellowship:
The Spiritual Ecology Fellowship has begun today as I turn 25 and I am told that we are here to change the four pillars of: Story, Leadership, Action and Education... I could cry. I am so ready.
We are so ready.
There is so much joy to be had in the responses we are bringing forward.
Our sleeping tents are situated in a small grove of high grass interspersed with shade from a ring of surrounding trees. There are 11 of us here on a farm just off the road on Whideby Island. I have had this feeling only once before when meeting a group of people. The nearly surreal knowing that each person in the room with you is going to become one of your life long allies before you know everyone’s full name. To add to the oddity of this feeling it also happens to be my 25th birthday and after I walk into the room of hugs and greetings a berry crisp with candles is ushered towards me and this room of nearly strangers burst into “Happy Birthday” surrounding me with their warmth and newness. This is the first in- person day of the Spiritual Ecology Youth Fellowship, an entirely emergent 9- month program that has gathered myself and 10 other young adults from across our country onto this forest bordered farm off the coast of Washington. In the whirlwind of arriving and the richness of our beginning I feel a sudden bout of my childhood shyness began to overcome me. The entirety of what has lead me to this moment has been largely based on trust as we are the first cohort and what is being offered to our group is nothing short of revolutionary. In one of the warmest welcomes that I have ever experienced I feel self conscious and almost confused at the fact that I am sitting in a kitchen beginning my 25th year with what already seems to be shaping up to be an incredible adventure.
Later that evening we find ourselves in a beautiful old barn that has been remodeled into a spacious meditation room with an adjoining small kitchen space. Here we sit in the first of many circles, politeness and awe biting at the air as we move around each other still feeling into our surroundings. We are told again and again by our hosts to make ourselves comfortable, to grab a blanket from the shelf if we are cold. There is a pitcher of water in the small kitchen space and cups and spoons for tea. In this first circle we are more formerly welcomed to the property and to the Fellowship. We do a round here where we each share a bit of our story, how it came to be that we found ourselves in this room. We are a medley of students, storytellers, activists, educators, gardeners and artists. At one point, Charlotte one of the Fellows shares token words that were given to her on her own journey. “Three words” she says as she holds up three fingers, “Find The Others,” at which through all of our uncertainty a collective smile spreads warmth through our circle. Yes, this is why we are here, to find the others, to find each other. Through what may be initially perceived as differences in each of our work and the way we choose to apply ourselves, for me this is the moment in which I began to feel into the sweetness of this particular collection of individuals. For the past 3 years I have been largely orientated on collecting the story of what it means to come into adulthood today. I have had the pleasure of helping to create spaces to host this question and the opportunity of posing this query to youth from around our world, curious to understand in myself just a bit better the overwhelm that at times sweeps through the entirety of my being. “What does it mean to be a ‘Digital Native’ in the age of information? How does it feel to be so critically aware of ones own position within the many tiers of privilege, while simultaneously witnessing injustice spread on every level? How does one continue to walk through feelings of helplessness and where does this all root from? How do I relate the feeling of being so madly in love with our earth that a life of dedication seems hardly enough?” These are some of the questions that have brought me to this group and lead me on my personal quest to “find the others,” to find out who else is yearning to understand within their own beings what their contribution might be.
Below is just a small harvest of our initial 7 days together.
A few images and notes from the quest.
One morning I am lured to the ground beneath a giant bright yellow flowering tree. The sky above is the most fantastic contrast of clear blue, creating an electric current from heaven to earth. I lie below and look up past the tree. I close my eyes, I open my eyes. I adjust my spine along the ground. It is becoming more and more rare these moments alone. I speak out loud to myself, "Will my children know you? Will they understand you?" A few days later as I sit aboard a small plane headed to Alaska I write these words recalling these long precious minutes.
As we inherit this earth
We must be brave enough to reinvent our fear
We must learn how to dance
And most importantly while trees fall.
we must learn to conquer the idea
That our children will only know you through story
And their children through lore.
One of the Spiritual Ecology Practitioners that comes to share with us is a woman named Dekila Chungyalpa.
Dekila gives a lot of herself to us in a short amount of time and I am completely awed by the scope of her work. Among her many drops of wisdom was her sharing on activism and burnout. I learn that many activists showcase signs of PTSD through personal harm such as alcoholism, other substance abuse and un-safe sex. Learning this made me re-question some of my own behaviors and how I continuously push my own boundaries around what I say "yes" to. How it has become too easy to undervalue quality time with my family and quality time with myself. Terminology like 'self flagellation' was helpful for me here in order to bring a more urgent focus to how I spend my time.
I must love my human form and take care of myself in order to continue doing this work.
"The duty of privilege is absolute integrity," says Sophie one afternoon. I am thinking these words before Sophie speaks them. Sometimes while sitting together here in this room there is the image that I can almost see the thoughts and words before they are spoken. It is just a matter of who picks them first. The idea of ownership is quickly falling away as we build upon each others ideas and offer over what seems a never ending string of resources. Within our small room it seems we touch the whole of the United States and beyond. Just in this thought there is a little more space to breathe.
I am not alone.
Zilong, one of the Fellows shares with us about his life and project. It is all intertwined into one.
He is on a pilgrimage which involves his bike, a journey, incredible distances and the desire to "be in service to the ecological and spiritual awakening." He tells us, "I'm trying to cultivate a mind that won't burn out." I find myself thinking, "Thank you Zilong for doing this so that I don't have to. Thank you for being a pilgrim and journeying way into the unknown, beyond discomfort, beyond certainty." It scares me somehow, his words and his actions because they ring so true into my deepest sense of what service means. I ask myself, "Could I be in service without it being scary?" I want the answer to be yes but I know I'm just kidding myself. I tuck the thought away a bit afraid of the answer below my contrived one.
A few days ago I surprisingly realized that I am moving along in a similar direction as Zilong. I am getting rid of my possessions while I simultaneously let go of my home for the past 6 years. I am leaving Maui with no promise of a date to return. I am stepping into the unknown with only one prayer and it has to do with service. Somewhere in the past weeks since our time on Whideby, I have stopped thinking about my orientation with this world within the confines of a "contribution." "What could it mean to give without the idea that you are giving, but instead to live within the giving?" I feel curious. Dekila at one point said aloud to our group, "the sacred is fluid," and we all put our pens to paper, entirely aware that we had been gifted with a fundamental truth. Within that statement lies the beginning of a new thought structure for me. I want to journey a bit to Zilong's questioning. I want to know for myself what is possible here. What would happen if I were to hand myself over to the sacred? What could it feel like to live within absolute fluidity, while still keeping focused on one's purpose? Could it be possible that within the continued practice of service there is reprieve?
Tonight I still find myself tucked away into the comfort and warmth of my bed. I will wake up here tomorrow, I will go to work and on my way home I will look up at the Mountain and let my eyes roll across the ridges. I know them all so well and there is a deep pleasure and resonance in that. There are other feelings there now as well. I would not call them new, but instead buried. Buried thoughts on what might be possible that make me feel tingly and excited. Most days I carry questions with me. The idea is not to create or even to find the answers but more so to have them serve as guiding points along the path. Up ahead I can see quite a bit beyond my initial departure and then there is a rounding that only my feet can know.
"What could it mean to hand myself over to the service of the sacred?"
I feel ready to walk.
Re-imagining Education Within the Climate Justice Movement:
For the past year and a half, Nia Fitzpatrick has been studying dance at Mills College in Oakland, CA. Nia has been dancing all their life and has trained in many styles, including dances of the African Diaspora. Recently at Mills, Nia has been working mainly on Modern Dance, Improv Techniques and Choreography.
Below are three Poems to accompany the chosen themes that participants will be exploring in the coming days; The Feminine, Our Earth & Inequality.
On The Feminine.
'Seeds' By Viva Wittman
We all wound up cutting our hair off,
Maybe because everyone told us not to
And it sure is something to run my fingers through the short curls which end
just as my skull turns into my neck.
I dream of seeing my reflection with a long, wild mane
And for the first time, I just sort of miss it.
We all wound up liking the same boys
One after another,
Even though I thought I was too young,
too far behind to ever catch up.
This one falls for me, too:
the youngest, the fairest; girl in the clouds.
I begin to feel as if I’m not as free a thinker as I thought.
We pass along clothes like wine at a ritual,
each of our lips receiving the same glass.
We bring them to our own distant corners of the world,
judge our own closets by what the others would think.
I wrap my body in the styles of my sisters,
Stories which never get old
When we come home, the fire is lit beneath the kettle
Cups filled again, stories revered,
stories which float as ghosts
by and by the window
Laugh so hard your stomach aches,
remember…? The time where…
We would up dancers and writers
Slipping through the world as artists, holding on sometimes,
when we can
Reading for a future
where we can
I try to escape to the tarot, my palms,
the voice of an elder in my ear
Can you hear?
We all wound up cutting our hair off,
cut back the branches to see what remained
We were beauties with hair they said not to cut,
well we did, so what?
I begin to see myself in the eyes of my sisters
See them in my like seeds,
On Our Earth.
'Lost' by David Wagoner
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand Still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
On Ancestors & Inequality.
Below is a poem by Dennis Brutus, Nia's maternal grandfather. Brutus was a South African activist, educator, journalist and poet who gave his life's energy towards the fight against apartheid. It seems that sometimes our paths are given to us by our ancestors. As we grow more into ourselves I can see more and more how my sisters work has been informed in this way.
of the universe
the great spirit
enters my being:
where the great spirit
the divinity within me
aspires to reunion,
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