Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Filipino Roast Monkey Christmas?

Merry Christmas everyone!

My friend Andrew asked me the other day what kind of roast Monkey I had had for my Filipino Christmas dinner. He was joking of course, but it got me reflecting on the Christmas cultural experience I've been experiencing this last Holiday week. I've completely stopped working and have left Sagada for the Holidays.

I've been here in Manila for the last week with my lover. Although Sarah is Filipina, she is also vegetarian, so, alas no roast monkey! And no, they don't eat monkey here-- that's just a figment of Andrew's rampant imagination!

However, they do have a tradition here that they call Noche Buena. That means a midnight on the 24th they have a big feast (A big ham or roast chicken). We spent the last few days and Christmas eve evening with her family and had a really really nice time.

Christmas Eve we went to an absolutely packed Christmas Mass. The country is very Catholic and that means everyone goes to Church this day. We had to stand way at the back by the door for an hour-- as long as we could endure!

Back at the family home, we were treated to a really nice Christmas meal. Various plates of tofu, rice, fish and shrimp were served. Then their special chocolate cake desert. They even cracked a bottle of Champagne for me! They don't normally do this, but after hearing how a Christmas Eve bottle of sherry is part of my tradition-- well, champagne was the closest thing to sherry that they had! That was very nice. A touch of home for me.

At midnight, the family said a prayer, then the kids excitedly opened their presents. After the gift giving we said goodbye and returned to our place. The streets were full if singing and firecrackers and people celebrating.

I am however not a vegetarian. The next night, I was compelled by a primitive carnivorous Christmas urge. I snuck off from Sarah and bought one of the remaining roast chickens at the roaster across the street and treated myself to a private feast. Of course, I got in a little trouble when I showed up late and full to her apartment for dinner!

Fortunately it's Christmas.

Forgiveness is the the spirit of the season.

Ummm... Right Sarah?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Ancients Smile - II

These woman are the pillars of culture and wisdom in the village.  They have lived.  The evidence of the generations they have supported is written on their faces.  Despite this, they can give the most dazzling smiles.  

Now that the portraits are officially delivered, here is a second photo taken of the old women of the village of Mainit.  I was asked to take this photo, only if I brought a copy back to the ladies.  They were laughing about how tall I was and how much difficulty I was having with eating the rice with my hands!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Yesterday I received this handwritten note. It was from my friends who I sent deep into the mountains to deliver photos-- to the family's and old ladies mentioned in my last post.

The note is clear. As I promised them... They had quite the adventure! The expedition took them waaayyyy off the beaten tourist and even backpacker track. I am sincerely proud of them. Their note describes the perils of the journey-- lost, running out of water, and being hosted the night in the furtherthest village.

Despite the arduous adventure, I detect in between the lines that it was well worth it. A rare and special experience-- they're going to have some great stories to tell!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Ancients

In the remote villages here in the Northern Philipines, you see the most amazing faces and smiles. It's like that in rural and traditional communities around the world. Especially with the young and the elderly. The faces of the elderly tell the stories of ages long past.

Perhaps never in human history has the disparity between the generations been so great. The elderly here in the remote villages remember an era before the missionaries had arrived, when loin cloths were the normal attire and the houses were made of grass.

The other day, on a dirt road, I passed an old bent man wearing a loin cloth and carrying a spear. His passing was like touching a shadow. A last flickering shadow of an ancient way of life .

Its next to impossible to get photos of the old people. The young people here are shy enough! The old folks so much more-- Especially of white people and technology. Yet, I've been here a while now and the people know me. There's a remote village I have visited three or four times now. At a wedding I was invited to, my limited Kankanue got me talking with the old women. And, to my immense surprise-- they asked me if I could take their photo!

What an honor.

But there was one condition. They asked me if I could bring them copies of the photos. I gladly and solemnly consented. In the dusk and firelight, I snapped a few precious shots the best I could.

I haven't been able to return to the village and fulfill my promise-- til this past weekend. I set some backpackers up with a journey into the mountains to make portrait deliveries. You can read about that in my last post. In the meantime, I am honored to share these portraits of these amazing beings with you.

More portraits to come...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Blessing Delivery

My three new friends sit on top of the local Jeepney holding three envelopes full of blessings. I met the three travelers the other day on their visit to Sagada. They seemed like an adventurous bunch capable of handling a route off the beaten path.

I have three sets of portraits that I have been meaning to deliver to three villages in the area. It's a fairly rigorous hike out there, so I've been bidding my time to return. However, these guys were eager for some adventure, so I told them about the delivery mission. They were keen, so I drew them a map and taught them some basic Kankanue. After some printing problems were vanquished, they were off after a nice brunch together.

This is a photo of them heading off photos in hand! We'll see if they make it back!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Co-Creating the Guina'ang Elementary Library & Mandala / Oneness in Action

The final movie is now launched! I really excited about this project. Anyone can help make it happen. Co-Create a library and mandala with us in a remote elementary school in the Northern Philippines. We're doing it 1 simple and small action, donation and book at a time. Together we co-create a beautiful blessing! Read the full project brief here:

Working hard on 1Actions

We're almost ready to post the final version of the Guina'ang project video.  We'll be using this one to gather momentum for manifesting a mandala and library and mandala for the school.  It will be a full out social media experiment in connecting people 1 to 1.  Folks will mail their books right to the students and 1 Book at a time we'll co-create the library.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Co-Creating the Guina'Ang 1Book Movie

We're getting a movie ready for our Guina'Ang social 1Action. Here's a little clip on how you can help us make the movie-- by sending me a photo of a book and you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"One!" -- from the students of Xijen IT College, in Bontoc, Philippines after a presentation by 1Mandala artist on our systems

I was delighted to make the trip this morning into Bontoc to meet with Joel and his students at Xijen IT college.  This college runs independently of the government, yet manages to have vibrant bunch of students-- even if they were a little shy!  I've never had to encourage students so much just to hold up their hands to make a comment!

I gave them a little overview of the emerging word of social media and the various web technologies that I see at the forefront-- HTML5, Open source SMSs, Facebook Pages, etc.  Of course, the 1Mandala is using all these, so I gave them a tour of our backend systems, a philosophical brief on the concept of Oneness, a crash course in sacred geometry, and a short dissertation on Jungian Collective Consciousness.  I was really impressed when at the end I asked some random summary question-- and they had not only been listening, but understanding!

And of course, I invited them to take a peace portrait.


Holding up 1 finger and saying "Peace!" the students of Xijen Information Technolgy College and Russell pose for a peace portrait. The students and college are collaborating to translate the 1Mandala site into Tagalog (the Filippino language) over the next weeks as Russell introduces them to the latest applications of social media, CMS and translation technology.

Monday, November 22, 2010

6 Months of Full-Out-Off-The-Cliff-Hard-Relentness-Work

This is a photo of about 50 pages of charts, spreadsheets, prose and point form.  This is the 1Mandala Intention Map.  This is what I, nay, WE have been working on for the last six months.  My team and I have coalesced about 200 pages of google docs into this 50 page equivalent of a business plan.  We call it an 'Intention Map'.  It takes our meticulously crafted statement of Intention and lays out the two year plan to make it happen.

I printed it out just yesterday.  What a feeling to hold the document in my hands for the first time!   The six of us in the 1Mandala core team have been pouring over it for the last couple weeks now.  We're at version 0.9.8.  We're almost at the point where we will release it!

You can't put together an intention as crystal clear and co-creatively shared as this without the Universe taking note.  Already, we have a line-up of business persons eager to see what we have put together.  We're applying cutting edge consciousness principles into an incredibly innovative and beautiful endeavour.

Many you have followed my tumultuous six months here in Sagada.  At times, with resources at a bare minimum, I have questioned my sanity and soul to dedicate so much on this plan without any secure funding, salaries or rewards.  I felt like I was jumping of a cliff.  Yet, I held fast and persevered.  Now, as we emerged with this document, this map and this intention firmly in hand, I am not just getting excited... I am seeing with gratitude my last four months in this small village.

To compose and refine a document like this, you gotta be focused.  Yet this is a classic Catch 21-- the impossible predicament that faces any entrepreneur.  In order to survive with one's work/business/organization/project it needs to be running, and you need to be running it-- not waxing philosophical about principles and intentions!  Yet to be successful, you need a solid plan.  This is why so few start-ups ever get going and get successful.

Yet, being able to live in this isolated place without any distracting opportunities, lovers, or money... I have had an unbelievably amazing and unique moment to mine the requisite clarity.  I mean... living expenses are so low here and the people so kind and trusting, its actually been possible.  It's little short of a miracle.

I am grateful.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

After Work Smiles

I met Floyd and his mum on my walk from one town to another yesterday. A little rain started to fall and so I took shelter with them as they were coming out of the mountains from working their rice fields all day.

Despite a long day in the fields Floyd was full of energy and playful joy. I guess thats what happens when your outside all day working your land surrounded by green mountains. Floyd was dancing around, jumping off rocks, drawing on the walls and driving his Mum crazy. I had to laugh. And so did they.

They had both such amazing smiles! I had to ask them if I could take their portrait to share with the world. Their response was to give us this great mother and son pose!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Oneness Delivery to Delican

This is my journey to Delican, a remote village in the Filipino mountains, to deliver a portrait of a family that I met on my last pass through their village. The village is 12 hours bus from Manila. One hour by rough dirt road. Three hours hike on a winding foot path. There's no road access, let alone phones, computers, printers or cameras.

I filmed this a few weeks ago. It's a real rough movie shot entirely with first takes. I have been a little ashamed to put it up, not just because it is so rough, but because so much effort went into gifting so little.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Book of Job

I was talking to a friend the other day. She listed off the various things that have happened to me in the last few months-- being hit by a massive Typhpon, landslides isolating my village, getting deathly sick, running out of food, having no connection to the outside world, forsaken by a lover, being stripped of all my wealth, etc. It reminded me of the Book of Job in the Bible-- you know the one where God decides to test his faithful servant Job by besetting him with every possible calamity.

So the other day I took the afternoon off work, picked up the Gideon Bible in my hotel, and read the Book of Job. Reading out loud some of the passages where Job speaks, it was as if I was speaking what I had to say.

So anyway, I just give up.

I think that's gotta be one of the messages of the book. If God can be so frivolous and do all that nasty stuff to his best servant, and no matter what Job says or does, he can't make it better-- then what's the point in trying anyway?

I don't mean give up, give up. Job may have wished he was dead, but he kept going. I mean, I am just going to give up fighting the current.

The current took Job from being a wealthy man, to a diseased and impoverished nobody who's most trusted and loved friends forsook him with judgement, then back again to his former stature.

Job had a great life until the demise of his success. I've had the most amazing life ever, almost like multiple lives within a life. I've been like a father with a log cabin house in the countryside with a a wife and two kids. I've lived amazing lives in central America, the middle east, Europe, a loft in Paris and heck I've even been a farmer in Iceland. Now I am a missionary embedded in a remote Philipino village.

That's where the current has taken me.

So rather than resist, I am going to just let it be. And in the meanwhile be as massively generous as I can be with what I happen to have.

So, whatever. Now that I think of it, now that I release the dire grip on my expectations and wants, I actually have lots to give still, and many people I can bless.

So, I am just going to keep going with that current.

The Flower

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Yelling, Cursing and Screaming are Good

Have you ever just yelled and cursed at the top of your lungs?

I don't think I have have. Not til this afternoon on my walk back to Sagada, anyway. I am too mild mannered and come from a culture where politeness and reason reign.

I've been cooped up in bed for a long time being sick. Thankfully, I think I am finally on the mend. Returning to normal. So, I choose to walk the relatively easy part of the road back from Bontoc to Sagada today-- to get some fresh air and exercise. I've barely eaten in five days nor left the hotel. The walk home to Sagada is a gorgeous winding and lonely road through the towering green mountains. Just what I need.

In this fever time, I have also been getting really angry-- at myself, my situation, the universe, my conservative brother, my lover who abandoned me through silence, my geographic plight, the fates, the gods, money, etc. In fact, my intense feelings probably went a long way to making me sick and attracting my situation.

Haha... "Probably"... Of course they did. Its nobody's doing to me. Judging and blaming only make one sick. It is just how it works. I guess, best just to laugh at what I already know too well.

So there on the road I realized that there was no one else around! The road workers and rice harvesters seemed to have gone home, no trucks were coming, and I had this vast and silent and imposing landscape to look out upon from the perched highway. That's when the idea overcame me.

YELL. Let it all out.

I stood on the embankment and yelled and yelled and yelled. All the profanities and curses and anger and emotion and frustration and shit. I just yelled it all out.


Did that feel good. I highly recommend it.

I felt alot of weight lifted. Purged. That seems to be the theme of this crazy last week were anything I ate would flow right out of me. It was like a seven day fast with a full system flush concluded with an emotional purge.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Five Days of Fever

This will be what I call a Vaughn post-- where I write about bad stuff. Bad stuff, sickness, accidents, anger, frustration are so much harder to write about. My good friend Vaughn urged me once after two months of golden sunshine posts that I needed to make it real. Life's got its ups and downs and I can't be visiting school children everyday.

I write with a fever. This should be interesting.

Just before I was about to leave the remote village of Mainit I got sick. I had been out delivering portraits and toys to an even more remote village. Maybe it was the food there. I felt Real bad. Fever. chills. diarrhea. It sucked because their was no Internet or cell access and no pharmacy. My good friend/angel Sarah helped me get the medicine I needed.

I got back to town and felt beter. Then it got worse. And worse. Now five days later I am back at square one with a fever. Shitty. I feel like I am going to slowly wither and weaken away into meaningless nothingness. Satre would smile and say I've made a great existential revelation.

My friend points out that everything is connected. So my last blog commented on the challenges and obstacles with my art project. It's at that crazy stage where it is collapsing and exploding at the same time. My finances just ran out to see it through over the gap. The hosting and domain all expire in a two days. The crazy thing is we have a great sponsor lead and just today I was going to talk to a business man that I have been preparing a doc to show him for over a year (well, and show others too). It's agonizing... After so much work and the doc is so strong now.... Facebook would friggin commission us...

Ok... Too tired to type now. I rest. No happy ending here folks. It's insane really...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Steady, steady...

So, for those of you who have been following the 1Mandala project you have been getting our updates each week. Each update is the culmination of months of work by our team. Each newsletter reveals a component of the project that we've co-created over the last eight months. Each newsletter is a piece of our Intention Map, new website content and a series of pre-planned blasts to bring our 3000 followers up to speed with the new project.

Of course, now that the momentum is going again, all sorts of temptations are arising. Getting back to my journey, starting the project movie, contacting investors, etc. At the same time things are getting immensely challenging-- my resources are dwindling and yet cost and bills and debts threaten to strangle this critical stage.

I feel a little bit like Luke Skywalker as he flies his X-Wing fighter into the Death Star to take it out. As he approaches his target he is bombarded by fire on a sides. The target is small and requires steadiness and focus.

It's hard! It requires not just trust but humility and faith. Trust in the process, the universe and the unfolding of the intention. Humility to let go of expectations and of pride. Working with a team in the cocreative way means fluiding accepting all the ideas that come. Faith that when you follow your dreams, calling and heart the universe conspires with you.

However, one is still the creator. Your humility (or ego) either thwarts or enables. The most challenging consequence is when it comes time for asking for and accepting help. Is the work important? Are you important? Then asking for help is often part of the process.

"Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be open-end to you". Of course, if you don't knock, seek or ask, Well... Yep. Exactly.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oneness and Mandalas in at Ginayan Elementary School, Philippines

On my way to visit some friends in a remote village in the mountains, my trail literally took me through the school yard of the Ginayan elementary school-- a not so remote, but still pretty remote village in the mountains of the Philippine Cordilleras.  As I walked through the school yard and all the kids excitedly pointed and gleefully exclaimed 'Americano! Americano!' 

On my way through the yard I made the acquaintance of Manuella and Celestina-- one a teacher and the other the headmistress.  I asked them if on my way back through, they might like me to talk a little about Canada.

So, later that afternoon, on my way back, I dropped by again and was kindly invited in for coffee.  The next day, I was invited to talk to the kids about Canada and why I am in the Philippines.

I had a lot of fun.  There's about 300 kids in the school (and only 7 teachers!).  I made the rounds to each classroom and spoke in my now slightly functional Kakana'e dialect.  It felt important to talk to the kids.

 You have to understand that this village is roughly 12 hours by bus from Manila, then another 1.5 hours by really really rough road into the mountains.  There is only one computer in the school.  None of the kids have ever been out of the country.  Most probably never out of the village or province.  The English books date from the 1960's and the class sizes are 30-50.  There is no administration.  Those 7 teachers do all the work.  To have any visitor at all is remarkable.  To have a white guy who speaks English fluently and their language-- no matter what the details of who I am-- is a rare connection and glimpse of the social web on Earth.

The passing of Dr. Robert Muller was still on my mind (see my last blog post).  One of Dr. Muller big ideas and initiatives was to teach a universal educational foundation to all kids.  He emphasizing teaching to the kids their place in the web of life, and how we are all apart of it irrespective of borders or ethnicity.  His foundation (which fits on one page) teaches first the solar system, the place of earth in it, then our place on Earth.  And so, before I introduced them to Canada, I drew the solar system and I explained I was from planet Earth-- a corner called Canada.  I explained I was collecting smiles from all over the planet to share with people from all over the planet.  I asked if I could take a portrait of their smile to share with my friends around the world.

They gleefully obliged. 

Here you are!  (I had trouble up loading the photos to my blog so here is the Facebook Gallery link)

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Passing of Robert Müller

Eight years ago, I climbed to the top of a mountain in Costa Rica.  There, in a humble wooden home, I met Dr. Robert Muller.  

For those that don't know the work of Dr. Muller, he was a pioneer for world peace and global education. Dr. Muller was the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for 40 years; Recipient of the UNESCO Peace Education Prize; Co-Founder and Chancellor Emeritus of the University for Peace in Costa Rica; and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation World Citizen honoree for 2002.  In 2003 he was awarded the Goi Peace Award. (from AOND).

It was a sunny, golden and green Costa Rican afternoon.  I had walked three hours up a mountain road to get there.  The smiling old man, put in his hearing aid, apologized for talking loudly, then invited me to join him for coffee.  I had heared rumours about Dr. Muller in my time living in Costa Rica and I was brimming with curiosity.  I asked him many questions. 

One of the most fascinating conversations of my life ensued.  Dr. Mueller truly and deeply "thought" of the world in a way that transcended borders and nations.  

Long before twitter, blogs and Facebook, he would sit-down and write out an idea for world peace every day.  His assistants would send it out on email lists. A book was being compilled.  I still remember several of the ideas he brought up:

-  Corporate executives should by be compelled to meet and make decisions in places surrounded by nature.  This way, in making their big decisions they would remember the beauty and interconnectedness of the ecosystems their decisions would inevitably draw upon and effect.

-  Government foreign ministries should be abolished and renamed-- "foreign" ministries imply a nation's separation from the rest of world.  Better: 'Ministry of Global Affairs'.

That's two of hundreds of peace sparkling gems.

It's amazing how much I remember from the brief encounter.  It was as if he had crucial ideas that he had to pass on to me.  He cut right to the chase.  He even pulled out a tape recorder to record the conversation-- for me!

The most memorable moment however, was something else all together.  After sharing his ideas on peace and international political reform he looked off wistfully off into the horizon.  The sun glinted behind a cloud in the brilliant blue sky.  It was almost as if he was talking to himself at this point.

He sighed. In his Alsace German accent, the sun glinting off his metal framed spectacles, the lush green tropical trees wavering lazily in the breeze, he spoke.  I paraphrase:

"There are so few humans on the planet who truly think beyond the man-made, antiquated constructs of borders, nations and geopolitical lines.  Yet 'think' is the wrong word.  I mean, to truly know, operate, live and be in a way that acknowledges we're all on a planet.  I am one of only a couple hundred who are thinking this way now.  This must change".

For some time afterwards, his statement struck me as slightly arrogant.  Surely, there were alot more people who thought of the world on a global level!  Like me for example.  Surely.

As the years have gone by I have reflected on this statement.  And, I have seen the truth in it.  To truly transcend the cumbersome ideas of a world divided into nations  that we are born into in this civilizational moment is truly no easy task.  If you have a chance to read about Robert's amazing birth, childhood and life during the second world war do so.  Robert was brought up amazingly citizenless-- being born in the contested and at the time nationless area of Alsace-Lauren.  This upbringing gave him a remarkable boost to being able to think beyond borders and propelled the small town boy into his amazing career with the United Nations.

And this led him to found the Universidad por la Paz in Costa Rica.  And for him to settle on the top of the mountain beside it in his 'retirement'.  Some one would argue this has been his most consequential time.  Like me.  The Canadian expatriate who was in the foreign country of Costa Rica and who walked up the mountain to meet him that fateful and infinitely inspiring day.  That day, I began to climb a new mountain, to steadily become, truly and deeply, a citizen of Planet Earth.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Peace from a Waterfall

A little meditative journey to a little waterfall in the International Day of Peace to get a little wet and to reflect. Bomatoc Falls, Philippines.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Apple Expedition

Today I made a beautiful 8km hike into Fedilisan. Thanks to 1Mandala donations by Sarah and Andrew I was equipped with a bushel of apples and some family portrait printed from my last visit.

The only way to get to Fedelisan is a winding, precarious mountain foot path that takes a good 20 minutes down and 30 minutes up. It is a humble village of small tin houses perched on the side of a dazzling verdent valley of rice terraces.

From my last visit I had learned that many of the kids had never tried apples before! It seems they grow everything here in the Philippines-- except apples. They are eight times the cost of the local bananas and you can only get them in the larger towns and cities. I picked up some in my pass through Sagada and brought them with me.

They also don't have cameras or printers in Fedelisan! The family I had met on my last visit had no photos of their kids. I had snapped some of her family and her really shy son on my last visit. You should have seen the mother's smile when she opened up the envelope with the pics!

I was invited into the community hall for coffee. There I met Dawanee and Douane. Douane is 15 days old! Dawnee asked if I could take some photos of her newborn. Her first baby photos! Can you imagine not having photos of your newborn? I'll be sure she gets some prints too.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

250m below: Subteraean Inspiration

The other day, chance led Sarah and I to join a caving expedition here in Sagada. I've been meaning to visit the local caves for a while now. They are one of the main attractions of the area-- but I keep putting it off-- they are a serious spelunk that require a guide and a professional lanttern. I have been patiently waiting for the right moment.

And then a guide and two mexicans walked by us and invited us to join them. This was the moment! I am so glad to have had Sarah with me. What a beautiful moment and adventure.

The two hour voyage takes you 250 meters below ground into the dazzling sculpture studio of Mother Earth. There, for the last hundred of thousand of years, she has been diligently at work. Here her water has had it's way with the limestone-- hewing it into the must surreal shapes-- smooth, curved, bulbuos, undulating forms that would inspire the most abstract sculptor. Curtains, elephants, and crocodiles emerge in the curvaceous stone formations. Water trickles everywhere, forming endless streams, pools and cascades of water over the subterranean playground. My limited and flashless iPhone photos doesn't do it an iota of justice.

You'll just have to take my words and imagine. All I can say is that it was very, very, very cool.

The sheer monstrosity of the time involved in the making of these wonders is deeply humbling. One drop of water at time made all this. It is a grand testimony to the inevitable creativity and beauty of persistence, consistency and determination.

Thanks Mother Earth.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

She is Light

My good friend Sarah is visiting me in Sagada from Manila. We have been experimenting with a new way to do 1Mandala portraits using mudras-- symbolic hand gestures with ancient meanings. Here is one great shot. This mudra is associated with the statement "I am light".

Location:Halsema Hwy,Bontoc,Philippines

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rejection - A good Sign!

I read this today and was inspired!

"If you aren't getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren't ambitious enough"

Friday, September 10, 2010

A video intro to Sagada and 1Mandala Strategy

"Russell in Sagada leads the 1Mandala team through a circular flow chart that integrates each social element of the 1Mandala project into a contagious cocreative circle that can inspire and sustain viral growth."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

1Baby Cloths

As I make my through different countries and some of the most disadvantages places, I have the unique opportunity to direct the good energy of the advantaged into creative blessings to those who aren't asking asking, but sure are happy to receive.

Here in the village where I am now staying, I eat out at the local restaurants. There I was served by an incredibly dour and grumpy waitress. I verged on judgement and condemnation. Fortunately, circumstances conspired for me to find out a little more.

I discovered the story. She's 18, pregnant and alone from her family. Her boyfriend had just run away to leave her on her own 7 months in. It is sadly a common phenomenon here in Catholic Philipines, where womans reproductive rights, education and birth control is virtually non-existent. She had been having a rough day.

As the French say, "Tout comprendre c'est tout pardoner". To understand all is to be able to forgive all.

Andrew and Susie have both just donated to the 1Mandala. I used their $ to buy baby cloths, which I heard from a colleague she was in need of. The girl makes less than a $100 a month so this kind of thing is hard to afford, yet, important!

She was totally surprised and really happy-- but a little shy! Here's a photo taken to pass on the thanks to Andrew and Susie.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

What the *@#$ are we doing?!

Oh my... I wrote this a month ago when I was down and out in Sagada here... but it never posted!  I am reposting it now.


I am pissed off.

A confluence of factors-- notably going hungry and watching just the right wrong movies have got me angry.

I downloaded the iTunes movie of the week last night. Mainly because it was only 99 cents, and partly because it was based on a comic book I read when I was a kid. The Punisher. To add to it, the last two nights I've watched some other movies in my hotel room. Taken and the one before that Never Back Down.

WHAT THE @#$@#?

What am I doing? What are we doing? What are we thinking? I am talking not just about myself here but about Humanity.

Each of these movies is a full out celebration of violence, vengeance and even torture. And we're not talking the bad guys in the movie doing it-- we're talking the good guys. Half the movie is composed of human beings hurting and killing each other. Millions of dollars goes into making these Hollywood movies. Millions of people watch them and get ideas.

Don't we realize that by celebrating stories, characters and mode of being like this we are simply perpetuating this in the real world? Don't the directors know that by showing some innovative way of torturing someone, someone, somewhere is going to be inspired and do the same thing. Don't the actors-- the artists-- making these creations realize that their wonderful performances means that others, in real life, will imitate? Don't they realize that they make it just a little bit easier and more readily having seen it sanctified on the silver screen.

Imagine if you were an alien. No really-- Imagine.

Imagine you came down to Earth and you saw what type of stuff we watch and pay money to make and see. You'd shake your tentacled head. What are these humans doing? What are these artists and creators doing? Are they not conscious?

Like those movie directors, like those actors, I am an artist.

And here I am, doing my work, my movies and my art. I am working hard. I am putting all my skills and education and talents to use into another mode of art. And I am just barely surviving. I am struggling here to make money and keep myself eating while millions of dollars go to these other insane creations.

Yes... I am intensely aware that I have put myself in this place and predicament. I've been reflecting on this for the last few weeks in this peaceful village. I am reflecting on how my deep rooted patterns, values and ideologies-- many of which are ancient cultural relics-- hold me back from prosperously doing what I am doing. A big part of it is simply being convinced that my work and calling is worthy of asking sustenance for. It is simple as that, but, when you grow up in a world drenched in these values (like having read the Punisher comic books when I was a kid) it is hard to attain that particular confidence in a completely opposing way of doing things.

But no more.

Here we are doing this project-- the 1Mandala-- it is motivated not by violence, vengeance, profit, or anything else fear based. It is loved based-- the motivation is to find harmony, beauty and symphony. It doesn't protest conflict or war. It simply trascends it. It is the type of process and activity that simply is peace. No matter how convincing the special effects, you can't be fighting or warring to peace. There is no way around it.

And it all starts with art and ideas.

A good friend sent me a quotation the other day. She said it reminded her of my art:

"Art during the middle ages was communal, unindividualistic; it came out of a group consciousness. It was without the driving painful individuality of the art of the bourgeouis era. And one day we will leave behind the driving egotism of individual art. We will return to an art which will express not man's self-divisions and separateness from his fellows, but his responsibility for his fellows and his brotherhood."

Time for the shift. Support my work here:


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Return of the Artist

I am working hard to fundraise for my return to Paris and Italy. Above is one of the paintings that I am putting up for sale from my catalogue. 'Smithers Cows' - 24"x32". Acrylic on canvas

The 1Mandala relaunch has begun! One element of the foundation that our core team has concurred on is my role as the artist. Our team has now formally incorporated my journey around the world into the plan.

And so, I am relaunching too!

A year ago I was just this crazy artist with a bike and a dream. Now I am still a crazy artist with a bike and a shared dream. The dream, the intention is shared, and vastly open to being even more shared. Now it is a co-creative journey with a well laid out plan, team, objectives, budget and artist.

My role as the artist and the journey are thus now formal elements of our project budget and Intention Map. Our team is 100% behind me as I seek to raise the funds and sponsorship to return to my bike and the road. What a better way to create! What a great feeling!

Here in the mountains of the Philipines, I have come to the deep knowledge that this is important work we are doing and I must see it through sustainably and harmoniously.

And so, I ask for help.

To start my fund raising I am approaching the choir-- those who know my passion, dedication and the importance of this work.

To see the depth of intention and the transformative benefits of a planetary artistic co-creation, feel free to view the various documents we've co-created. The links are below.

Know also, that as I travel and meet some of the most humble folks and community's on the planet, I have a chance to use my funding to bring great blessing with only a few dollars here and there-- the funding of my project is for both the lofty Oneness ideas and the on the field real world Oneness opportunities I meet.

I have a collection of paintings of all shapes and sizes back in Canada. I am putting them up for sale specifically to fund-raise for the project. They range in price for a 200 to 2000$ as listed in my catalogue. Or let me know what you like and you can afford and we can connect the two.

According to my 1Mandala Co-Creative Journey Financing I aim to raise 1539$ this month to enable my return to my bike, which awaits me in Assisi Italy. From there I cycle from Italy, to Bulgaria, to Bucharest where we have events planned on 10/10/10 and 10/28/10 with HT Romania.

Ok... there it is.  Would you like a beautiful painting?  See the full catalogue

Artist Co-Creative Journey Links:

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Lonely Road of the Artist

Me on top of the mountain for the sunrise this morning.  Not alone.

The artist way has always been a lonely path. There is this idea that you need to toil away in deep solitude to find the gems of insight that are then laboriously lugged to the surface. It is a very individualistic idea. It connects to the concept of steady linear development of the self or of a body of artistic work.

It is bull shit really. Look at the great Artists of this old way of doing art: Picasso, Van Goh, Degas and more. Picasso was a terrible guy. Most of the others go insane. Their art and lives are plagued by loneliness, ego and co-dependence..

Sure they made great paintings-- but at the vast neglect of the canvas of life.

Frankly, it's all a symptom of the over idealization of the masculine that I alluded to in my last post. This over indulgence of one type of masculine creativity over the feminine. Truly, a balanced life can't be created with an exclusively masculine system of power based on control, analysis and logical, linear thinking, nor can it be achieved or executed with a strategic plan. What about love, intimacy, connection, belonging, creativity, self-expression, aliveness, meaningful community, purpose within the collective, and belonging? These would be the principles of the long neglected and all but discarded feminine. Do any of those concepts connect to what you know about Picasso? Van Goh? Nope.

There is a big shift going on in the way we do art. I see it in the work and new cooperation consciousness of my fellow artists. There are some amazingly exciting collaborative projects beginning out there. Art that inspires others to be artists, to create together, to use our differences to make beauty. Art that downplays the individual and puts everyone on equal creative footing. It is beautiful!

Yep. Toiling all alone as an illustrious artist it is silly. So much better to do things together. As a team, collective, community. To do things co-creatively. There this lots of place for being an individual, but you go about it knowing the depth of your interconnectedness, and that you cant do things on your own.

My artistic practice has been a reflection of this development of my own consciousness. All I can say is... Hurray! As my good friends know, I began trying to do it all alone. Then, I graduated to leading through employment. Then through charm and charisma. In all these modes, I was still really lone wolfing it. The ego-driven individualistic way was so deeply ingrained in me and western culture.

But now... The times are a changin'! As Sheryl Crow sings 'I am leaving Las Vegas!"

More on co-creation to follow...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thoughts on The Sexual Problems of our World

That title should get some attention! But, that is indeed the topic. This post was originally written as a letter to the 1Mandala team on a paragraph we are developing on 'What is Co-Creation?'. I've edited it to post on the general issue and experience.


Two weeks ago, here in Sagada, I had the pleasure of entertaining two amazing women from Manila who both work with NGO's focued on women's rights. One has been representing women in court who have been abused. The other works at and lobbies for women's reproductive rights in the Philipines.

When I first met them, they had the tensest vibe going on. Me, all chill here in Sagada, almost elected not to hang with them.

But, I did... and I learned fast why they were so stressed-- they are doing incredibly important and difficult work with women and girls who have faced the worst types of abuse and injustice and the social systems that permit it.

They told the story of girls from a countryside province here in the Philipines who were tricked into prostitution in the city. Forced to swallow heroin capsules they were used to smuggle drugs across borders here, and used as sexual bribery for customs officials. Fucking terrible.

How can men do this to women? How can humans do this to humans? It's not just a few bad people, there are many people involved in such schemes. This was the worst example of a pattern of exploitation broadly endemic that to legally deal with all the cases is overwhelmingly impossible.

My other new friend works with women's and reproductive rights lobbying. Her organization pressures the government for change, publishes examples of abuse and brings attention to the issues in the media. She lamented that despite the importance of the ideas that she is working with, they are so abstract and lofty that they are inaccessible to the women and men in the villages that really need to hear them and understand them most. Most don't read that much and are busy just making ends meet-- they don't have much opportunity to explore abstracts like gender roles and equality. And yet, for all the legislation, the change has to happen here and in these people's hearts first.

And so, the patterns continue and horrendous situations like this continue to manifest. We talked that it's not just the Philipines, it is a dynamic around the world. Sex tourism is a major problem here too-- and this is Americans and Canadians who are the ones perpetuating it. Then there's the massive pornography industry. Then there's the women/human trafficking business that is now bigger than the arms trade. This exploitative dynamic goes deep worldwide.

Despite their important work representing and bringing these issues to the fore, they expressed a feeling of not being able to tackle the root. They were dealing with the symptoms on a the top, whereas the fundamental dis-ease, dis-harmony was not being addresses.

We agreed that it is something deep in the human collective unconscious that has caused a power imbalance of the masculine and feminine, in such a way that one has come to dominate the other.

And so what is the root? Where do these skewed values that enable the dominating and exploitation of the feminine come from? And how to heal it?

There is clearly a religious dimension to it. The religions if the world have a definitive over-valuation of the masculine over feminine. This imbalance that developed over the last mellenia has then effected Western philosophy-- almost all the major philosophers of the last five hundred years have been male. The ideas and energetic social contribution of females has been repressed, banned and outright demonized. And thus we find ourselves in an age where the values and contributions of the feminine principle are sorely lacking in our civilization, communities and ourselves.

I am still reflecting on this: where do you think the imbalance comes from?

I will follow up on this in a second post. I'd like to share what we are writing for the 1Mandala. Let me leave off with this quotation:

"The things we most yearn for can't be created with an exclusively masculine system of power based on control, analysis and logical, linear thinking, nor can they be executed with a strategic plan.

Feminine Power on the other hand, is a magnetic, co-creative power that gives us access to create those things we most deeply desire as humans--such as love, intimacy, connection, belonging, creativity, self-expression, aliveness, meaning, purpose, contribution and a brighter future for generations to come."

-- Katherine Zammit


Friday, August 27, 2010


Morning dawns in Sagada: should I leave today for Bontoc?

There were so many times on my bike journey that I would come to an intersection and just have no clue whether to go left or right. After many agonizing moments and forced decisions, I learned that indeed if things weren't clear, that it was the moment to just chill. Maybe to pump some air in my tires or something. That's when the local with helpful advice would walk by, I'd see a hidden sign post, or maybe a butterfly would just flutter off in a particular direction.

And then I'd continue. My tires a little fuller, my ride a little smoother, my smile... intact!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Drinking Blood from a Dog with a Straw

So, I noticed yesterday that my blog about fresh peanuts got as much attention as some of my most profound existential posts. Maybe I ought to mix it up a little more often!

Well, do I ever have a lot more local stories to share as I weave through lands!

Take yesterday for example. I went up the mountain with two of my priest friends to visit the old parish Bishop. Over coffee we got talking about some of the indigenous foods and medicines.

They told me what they do with dogs. I almost fell out of my freaking chair!

You see, there are alot of dogs in the village. There always has been. And, when people get sick, or need an extra boost of health or energy, they take one of these dogs and bring it into the house.

Then, they tie them up, take a little knife and make an incision in it's jugular and insert a straw.

And then they sip!!!

I am totally serious here folks. These weren't some guys kidding around at the bar-- these were the local Anglican priests and Bishop-- some of the most well educated and cultured in the village. All three in fact have taken the drink. One of their priest colleagues is an avid... er... what shall we say... Dog Sipper, and proponent of the cure. I've checked around with other villagers, it is a rare but actual ongoing traditional practice in the village. They use it in cases of heavy fever or after transfusions.

The bishop explained that although he had given it a shot, er... sip, he hadn't been able to swallow. Apparenttly, the dog gets a little agitated and the pulsating flow and warmth of it through the straw all was too much to take.

I can't say I blame him!

Ok... Next I'll share what they do with live cobras.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Unbeleivable Fresh Peanuts

I must have eaten millions of peanuts in my life. I love 'em. However, it was only in the last week that I tried my first fresh peanut. I discovered that they grow them here in Sagada and sell them in the market.

Unbeleivable. Really! Fresh peanuts are so amazingly tasty. So much so that the revelational experience warranted is own dedicated blog post.

You see, a fresh peanut is still wet and moist from coming out of the ground. The peanut inside the shell, likewise. The hard ones you buy at the store are dried out-- my misconception was that I thought that is how they grew! But fresh, they are a little mushy, purple in colour and FULL of flavor.

Unbelievable. You haven't lived until you have had a fresh peanut.


Drawing Circles

Have you seen the movie '10,000 BC'? Many critics dismissed it as rather superficial. And maybe it was, but there were a few things about it I found deeply intriguing.

There was the reference to Atlantis and the Atlanteans that was so brief that I had to pause the movie and go frame by frame over a shot of a map in the movie. The movie dared not say it outright but it's historical background was in fact a post-Atlantis recreation decidedly based on the work of many non-traditional historians.

But that is not why I am blogging here. There was a line in the movie that totally caught me. Again, I paused and rewound the movie in order to write it out. Here it is:

"A good man draws a circle around himself and cares for those within-- his women, his children. Other men draw a larger circle and bring within their brothers and sisters. But some men have a great destiny. They must draw around themselves a circle that includes many many more. Your father was one of those men. You must decide for yourself if you are as well."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Help Me, Help Them

So as many of you know, I travel Jesus style without much $ to throw around. However, as a direct consequence, I also connect deeply with some of the most humble folks and communities on Earth. In these places I encounter simple ways to leave enormous blessings. Blessings to people who aren't asking, yet who's joy I can so easily imagine. Despite my limited funds, I do my best and I am proud of the generosity that I can muster to bless and bring light to the places I pass through.

But this week, my wallet was just a tad too barren, despite all these great openings to shine light.

Take for example Evelyn from Sagada-- her tooth causes her great pain but she doesn't have the 8$ for the dentist appointment. Or there is the family that I met the other day in the remote village of Fedelisan. Their two boys have never had apples before-- as they thrice the price of other fruit (a bag = 4$). Then, there's Jeffrey's family from Delican. Their village has no road access, the only way to it is a one hour walk over a deep valley. His wife, two, kids and parents live in a small wooden home in this amazingly beautiful village, yet without things like electriciy or cameras. Imagine never having a family portrait! I would love to develop and gift them with their family portrait above (3$)! Then there's Jhane, a beautiful 23 year old from Baguio who has a cataract in one eye. Just 20$ to see an optometrist.

Blogging today, it struck me that maybe you can help me help them!

1Mandala prints are now on sale. Funds go partly to me. Although there are no banks here in these villages that take my card, if you contact me directly, and you can send the money via Western Union.

I can guarantee, not only will you get an amazing mandala made of beautiful peace portraits.... I be able to make some deliveries and send you and the 1Mandala three or four other awesome photos.


Check out the 1Mandala Print prices here:

Again don't buy using paypal there, it will take too long for the money to get to me. Instead drop me a line at russ (at)

Carnivorous Plants on Remote Filipino Mountaintop

Hiking from Sagada to Mainit village over a remote mountain pass in the Northern Philippines, I came across these beautiful specimens of the carnivorous 'Pitcher' plant. The plant uses sweet liquid at the bottom of it's pitcher shaped appendage to lure, capture and digest bugs as a mechanism to compensate for the low nitrogen soil content. Wow. What a wonderful world!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lost and Found

The other day, as I mentioned in my last post, I arrived from an epic two day hike from one village to another over an obscure and remote mountain trail. It was a experience rich in adventure and life lessons.

On my hike there was a moment where I was completely lost in the thick forest as my path turned into a dozen smaller versions. Only after climbing up through the bush to the mountain ridge did I finally find a main trail. However, I didn't know which way to go! Right or Left? I sat down in despair. I just couldnt decide which way! I pondered everything I knew about my current position, the guidance I had been given, what I could see from the top-- but still, it was a complete draw. Left or Right?

Alas, my normally trusty intuition was no help either. When I asked it which way to go, all I had in return was a bad feeling at the very question.

Restless, I decided I had to keep moving. I forced myself to choose a way. I hiked right. The ridge trail took me up the mountain higher and higher two kilometers. Then, not spying anything promising, I decided it was the wrong way. So, I hiked back to the point where I had begun. Then, I hiked left, a steep, downwards and perilous kilometer.

That's when I met the three bushmen.

They were quietly making their way up the mountain trail towards me with steady, knowing steps. They had carved walking sticks, straw hats and one of them a blade of grass in his mouth. I've learned a fair bit of the local dialect, so after some pleasantries, I discovered I was headed back to the village I had left that morning! How embarrassing! They offered to show me the way. With only a few words, they had me follow them back the way I had come.

To my vast chagrin we hiked back up the one kilometer, then, alllllll the @&$!; way back up the two kilometers that I had hiked first. Here we stopped and they showed me the turn to make that I had missed the first time round.

All in all I did 6 kms when all I really had to do was 2kms!

Trully, it would have been better if I had just done nothing, chilled out, and taken a nap! I had a bad feeling and I should have just waited until things were clear. This was actually one of my thoughts when I first came to the trail. And it would have been sooo nice to have taken a snooze! Sometimes we can be vastly more productive doing 'no thing'.

So there's two lessons here. First, chill if things arent clear.
The second, is a little less obvious, and much more profound.

You cant find your way by yourself.

It's a lesson I needed a good reminder on. It's true not just in the mountain, but in the rest of life. The individualistic concept of a lone journey of self discovery is fundamentally flawed.

You can't become yourself by yourself.

I'd like to quote here an exigesis of this powerful statement. It is from two women who are exploring the concept of co-creation.

"Even though we have friends and cheerleaders, our approach to changing our lives, realizing our potentials and even transforming our world has been largely inside a masculine power system that celebrates the power of the individual.

In this power system we assume that we don't really need each other's partnership to create the things we most long for (we can find the path on our own!).

Most of us have been working on ourselves by ourselves for decades, struggling in isolation to breakthrough old patterns and bring forth our gifts and talents into the world (or to climb a mountain!).

Even though we may have supportive friends, or may even belong to supportive communities, we still emotionally feel like we are alone and lacking in the kind of support that we sense is critical to being able to flourish and thrive in ways that would represent the true realization of our potentials.

And what's even worse, we pathologize ourselves for not being able to do it alone. (boy, was I frustrated at myself!)

We tell ourselves that we are weak, inadequate or that there's something wrong with us because we can't gain mastery over our lives without support.

We need to recognize that we are relational beings and actually need each other's partnership to access the power that we need to thrive.

So, we want to validate the deeper knowing that you may already sense:

You were not designed to be alone!

You need much more support to bring forward the fullness of your gifts.

And it's only by coming together that we have access to the power to take on something as big and overwhelming as responding to the challenges of our world."


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Digging Deep

The 1Mandala team and I have been busy writing.  We have come up with a series of newsletters that will shortly be going out.  I am quite proud of them Here's the first!  


When you build big, you gotta dig deep.  Your foundation has to be rock

Alas when you're deep underground no one see can see you-- even if you're
working real hard!  The last few months we've been working hard and laying deep the 1Mandala's foundation.  Yet despite all our hard work-- there
hasn't been much to see!

Until now.

We are emerging into the light!  Over the next few weeks we'll be
introducing you to the new project-- from our new intention, our new core
team, our new project invite, our new co-creative engine, and... a
thousand-strong new build of the 1Mandala.

We dream of building a mandala with tens of thousands of people.  This is
a big!  And when your building something big, the likes of which has never been seen before, it requires not only a strong foundation, but doing
things a whole new way.

Oh boy... are we excited to share our new foundation with you and the gold
nuggets of co-creative insight we've found underground!

Stay tuned folks as we roll out our new pillars one by one over the next
few weeks.

Because we are all One,

Russell & the New 1Mandala 1Team

The New Global 1Team of the 1Mandala Project:

Russell Maier - Sagada, Earth
Helen Layton - BC, Canada
Dan Millstein - California, USA
Yorlene Vega - Jaco, Costa Rica
John Edwards - Hamilton, Canada
Catalina Sursilov - Bucharest,Romania
Vero Ciz - Buenos Aires, Argentina
Jarrett Krentzel - NYC, America
Sarah Queblatin - Manila, Philippines