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From the Editor: May/June 2018

Credit Michael Drummond

A note from our editor in chief, Stephen Kiesling.

My grandfather once explained to me why we shouldn’t grow popcorn in Texas. “The problem, Steve,” he said gravely, “is the heat: It gets so hot in Texas that the popcorn pops right on the stalks. …” He gave a drumroll with his fingertips: “So—the chickens think it’s snowing, and freeze to death.”

That’s now a very old joke, but here’s what sounds like a new version: The molecules in antidepressants are so small that water treatment plants can’t catch them, so they accumulate in the brains of fish, which become happier, less risk averse, and easier to catch—and researchers at Penn State now worry that these changes could trigger the collapse of an entire fish population in the Great Lakes. So—“To pee, or not to pee, that is the question.”

Sorry about that. But seriously, the search for happiness-without-harm has gotten so complicated that the best path may be to go to healing school—not to become an energy healer but to find a group that has your back. I suspect these schools are much more effective than taking antidepressants, and I really appreciate what anthropologist/shaman Alberto Villoldo has to say about the goal of his groups:

If you’re not a little anxious at the reality of the world today, you’re out of touch. But that anxiety cannot be paralyzing you. It becomes a summons to the mission we came here to fulfill. It’s a depressing situation politically, economically, and in how humanity is raping and looting the earth. But that becomes a call to action for us. How do we become agents of transformation? How do we become involved in the creative change and not victims of it?

And that is also what Villoldo’s “Discover Your Sacred Dream” is about.

Another path to happiness-without-harm is in the garden. Before reading “A Garden for Enlightenment” I hadn’t thought of designing a garden to be a healing school. Martin Mosko, the abbot of the Buddhist Hakubai Temple in Boulder, Colorado, and founder of Marpa, a landscape architecture firm, says the goal is “synchronizing yourself to the natural flow of the energy that surrounds you. … Sounds, sights, textures, smells, and tastes beckon to us from every direction. They call out for our attention, one after the other, so that we are continually drawn out of our self-absorption.” Great stuff!

This issue led to another awakening, thanks to Josh Tickell, author of the new book and documentary Kiss the Ground: “Much as we now realize that antibiotics kill our gut bacteria and damage our digestion and health, we now know that pesticides lead to dead or dormant soil microbes, which leads to weaker plants above ground, which leads to more weeds and pests, which generally leads to using more chemicals.” And just as we can improve our own health and happiness with gut cures like kombucha and kefir, we can improve the health and happiness of our soil—and thus the planet—with worms and Mycorrhizal fungi. Kiss the Ground details how “regenerative farming” on a massive scale could reverse climate change. Meanwhile, each of us can help “Be the Change” one healthy lawn/garden at a time.

In this issue, Shivali Bhammer also helped me find a goddess worth worshipping: Khodiyar Ma, who is “never not broken.” Writes Bhammer, “Don’t moan that you are broken—be happy that you can break so that you can continually remake yourself.” You have to love a goddess who, when faced with a crocodile, steps aboard and says, “Surf’s up!”

— Stephen Kiesling, [email protected]