Archive for February, 2011

Storytelling—a poem on the storytelling process

February 27, 2011


Telling a story is speaking out anew
what you always knew you knew
but didn’t know you knew it
until you heard yourself saying it
and in the telling of it, you,
the teller, become the listener too.

The teller and the listener
together both discover
the process of finding out
what the story is all about
as one draws the story out of the other
and the story tells itself from cover to cover.

© Ken Chawkin


Documentary shines a new light on rural energy

February 24, 2011

‘Sustain Angoon’ documentary shines a new light on rural energy

By Richard Radford | Capital City Weekly
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

“December and the Meter’s Spinning Backwards,” Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Energy Coordinator Dan Lesh wrote on the Sustain Angoon blog. He included photographs of the frozen landscape surrounding the demonstration house – the home of Angoon elders Peggy and Kelly Williams – and a video that indeed showed the electric meter rotating counterclockwise.

This is no small feat for a community which has energy costs that can add up to as high as $1,200 a household a month, about 6 to 8 times more expensive than in the Lower 48. Angoon is heavily dependent on non-renewable resources, and combined with a shrinking population and high unemployment, keeping up with the bills can prove to be a challenge.

What sent the wheel of progress spinning forward and the meter backwards? The Sustain Angoon Project, which tackled the problem of energy usage from several angles, involving a combination of weatherization, energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. The efforts of the project have culminated in a film, which will be shown this week at a special screening in Juneau.

The project has combined the collective efforts of several organizations including the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, SEACC, the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority (THRHA), Angoon Business Center, and the Maharishi University of Management of Iowa.

The Williams’ house was fitted out with new insulation and siding, caulking and sealing and duct repair. Improved high-efficiency lighting and Energy Star appliances were installed, monitored by The Energy Detective, or TED 5000, system. Solar panels were put up, including a solar hot water system.

Solar power is not the first thing one might think of when talking about energy in Southeast Alaska, but Lesh said that the system appears to be operational and effective.

“When you’re talking about a place that pays five times as much for energy, it doesn’t matter if you get one sixth of the sun,” he said.

The meter actually does run backwards on sunny days, Lesh said, though of course in the winter there are few hours of daylight, so at least during this time of year the new equipment doesn’t cancel out all energy usage.

There have been a few issues working out all the details of monitoring the solar hot water system, though there is anecdotal evidence from the Williams family who noticed that their boiler doesn’t kick on during sunny days.

They also put up a wind tower and hooked it up to the local school, which charges batteries that can run the washing machines. They have yet to set up a monitoring system for that, but so far it seems to be working.

Lesh said that the problem of high energy bills can’t be solved by just turning the lights out before leaving a room. On average citizens in places like Angoon, served by the Inside Passage Electrical Cooperative, use far less energy than residents of places like Juneau.

“So they turn the lights off, they use everything sparingly, but they may have something that’s on that’s draining power or leaky windows,” he said. “But they are head and shoulders above us [who live in cities] in terms of a lot of types of behavior in terms of energy efficiency.”

Renewable energy systems and weatherization are expensive, and Lesh said it will take time to work out how cost effective their implementations are.

“Not to say that our project should be replicated, but the kinds of discussions we’ve been generating should lead to more action along those lines,” he said. “Energy efficiency is low-hanging fruit that would make big differences in the villages.”

Newer to the project is Carrie Sykes, who started her position as the Business & Economic Development manager at Central Council in October. Sykes said she has worked with the THRHA on a joint application to expand similar ideas being explored in Angoon for other communities in Southeast with high energy costs like Kake and Hoonah.

Another project on the drawing board is a training program for local people in weatherization, which could help cut energy costs and provide jobs.

“When you put in this kind of stuff, you’ll need people who will be familiar in case something goes wrong,” she said.

Teaching and learning are the most important things to take away from the project as it progresses, Sykes said. The documentary will hopefully be a good tool to spark interest, especially with the younger generation.

“You really have to start educating, and start educating young,” she said. “We’re going to be getting the documentary to the schools, science teachers and all the tribes. We want to get it out there about all that can be done.”

Robert Gongwer, co-founder of the Iowa-based socially and environmentally conscious consulting firm Tidal Wave Group, said that there some in Angoon who doubted that the project would get pulled off, who were later “blown away when the electric meter started running backwards.”

“It was a big turning point, when it became real,” he said.

Gongwer co-directed the documentary, working on pre-production in Angoon in September of last year when the project was building up steam, and has recently put the final polish on the film. Coming from the outside, he was nervous about being able to give the best description of what was going on in Angoon. The goal was to be totally honest about the people, the community, and the energy providers.

He and his team wanted to make sure that the community was receptive to the project before getting involved. He was taken aback by the amount of hospitality shown to them by the residents of Angoon, regardless of any reservations they had about the potential of the project.

“We went to the [ANB Hall], and everyone was just so, so happy,” he said.

There is a respect for older people in Angoon, Gongwer said, and they are not only cared for, they are looked to for answers.

“It just really struck me as something that is really broken in the culture I’m from,” he said.

The concerns voiced by the elders of Angoon were first and foremost on Gongwer’s mind while working on the project.

“[An elder] told us her worst fear is to fly over Angoon with her grandchildren and tell them, ‘that’s where we used to live,'” he said.

The Sustain Angoon Project has shown the kinds of things that can be accomplished, Gongwer said, though there is still a lot more exploration to be done. The project isn’t the solution, but rather a demonstration of one take on a larger set of solutions. Maharishi University of Management Professor Lonnie Gamble, who also worked on the project, explained the situation as, “We don’t need a silver bullet, we need silver buckshot.”

“We’ve made some progress, that’s great,” Gongwer said, “but really the issue is how can we sustain progress? We just need to keep after it…maybe this [project] will help to change some laws, change some policies.”

“Sustain Angoon” will be shown at the Silverbow (120 Second Street) back room Thursday, Feb. 24 at 5:30 p.m. There will also be a discussion with members of the project. For more information or to follow new developments of the project, go online at

Richard Radford may be reached at

There are additional photos for viewing at the top right of the article. Go to: Click Thumbnails to View. Click on a photo, then click on it again for a larger view.  Here are the descriptions to go with some of those photos: Work on the house got underway in early fall of 2010. During sunny days, the electric meter actually runs backwards now. The community of Angoon came together to work on the energy project. The Williams’ house was fitted out with new insulation and siding, caulking and sealing and duct repair. Improved high-efficiency lighting and Energy Star appliances were installed, monitored by The Energy Detective, or TED 5000, system. Solar panels were put up, including a solar hot water system.

This article was also published in The Washington Examiner
Film looks at energy-saving efforts in Angoon

In this September 2010 photo provided by Tlingit and Haida Central Council, workers with the Sustain Angoon Project talk in the southeast Alaska village of Angoon. The Sustain Angoon Project tackled the problem of energy usage in the village from several angles, involving a combination of weatherization, energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. The efforts of the project have culminated in a film.

Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers

February 24, 2011

Writers on Writing

Below are a few of many quotes by famous writers on writing found in Learning by Teaching, Selected Articles on Writing and Teaching, by Donald M. Murray. When I volunteered to become a writing facilitator at MIU in the mid-80s, this was our bible. It had a huge transformational effect on me. I used these writing principles when I helped young students write at the Sylvan Learning Center in North Vancouver, BC, Canada. I also learned writing techniques from Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, and shared them with my students, and later in other writing workshops with older animation students, and friends.

The whole idea is to facilitate the writing process, to see what it would reveal to the writer, rather than focus on producing a specific piece of writing. I remember reading what Donald Graves had to say about teaching writing, something like: “If you take care of the writer, the writing will take care of itself.” Donald Graves studied with Donald Murray, and went on to conduct research in the classroom on how to teach children to becoming writers. His seminal book, Writing: Teachers & Children at Work, has become a classic and revolutionized the teaching of writing in schools.

Here’s what some famous writers, poets, and playwrights have to say about their writing process.

Edward Albee: Writing has got to be an act of discovery. . . .I write to find out what I’m thinking about.

C. Day Lewis: First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it….we do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.

William Faulkner: It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.

E. M. Forster: Think before you speak, is criticism’s motto; speak before you think is creation’s.

Donald Hall: A good writer uses words to discover, and to bring that discovery to other people. He rewrites so that his prose is a pleasure that carries knowledge with it. That pleasure-carrying knowledge comes from self-understanding, and creates understanding in the minds of other people.

William Stafford: I don’t see writing as a communication of something already discovered, as “truths” already known. Rather, I see writing as a job of experiment. It’s like any discovery job; you don’t know what’s going to happen until you try it.

Speaking of William Stafford, you’ll enjoy this poem, William Stafford—A Course in Creative Writing, and others posted on my blog. Also see one of my first poems, Writing—a poem on the writing process.

And you’ll especially enjoy reading New York Times best-selling author (Eat, Pray, Love) Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing, as well as What Rainer Maria Rilke inscribed on the copy of The Duino Elegies he gave his Polish translator, mentioned in Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, Essays by Jane Hirshfield. Also check out: Words of Wisdom on Writing from Literary Lights.

Here’s a good resource of timeless advice on writing from famous authors posted on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova@brainpicker. I liked what Andrea R Huelsenbeck posted: 14 Authors Share Their Writing Wisdom…by the staff of Writer’s Relief. You may also enjoy Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say. Later added: The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice.

Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing

February 24, 2011

by Elizabeth Gilbert
New York Times bestselling author, Eat Pray Love and Committed

Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It’s all I know.

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

I took a few writing classes when I was at NYU, but, aside from an excellent workshop taught by Helen Schulman, I found that I didn’t really want to be practicing this work in a classroom. I wasn’t convinced that a workshop full of 13 other young writers trying to find their voices was the best place for me to find my voice. So I wrote on my own, as well. I showed my work to friends and family whose opinions I trusted. I was always writing, always showing. After I graduated from NYU, I decided not to pursue an MFA in creative writing. Instead, I created my own post-graduate writing program, which entailed several years spent traveling around the country and world, taking jobs at bars and restaurants and ranches, listening to how people spoke, collecting experiences and writing constantly. My life probably looked disordered to observers (not that anyone was observing it that closely) but my travels were a very deliberate effort to learn as much as I could about life, expressly so that I could write about it.

Back around the age of 19, I had started sending my short stories out for publication. My goal was to publish something (anything, anywhere) before I died. I collected only massive piles of rejection notes for years. I cannot explain exactly why I had the confidence to be sending off my short stories at the age of 19 to, say, The New Yorker, or why it did not destroy me when I was inevitably rejected. I sort of figured I’d be rejected. But I also thought: “Hey – somebody has to write all those stories: why not me?” I didn’t love being rejected, but my expectations were low and my patience was high. (Again – the goal was to get published before death. And I was young and healthy.) It has never been easy for me to understand why people work so hard to create something beautiful, but then refuse to share it with anyone, for fear of criticism. Wasn’t that the point of the creation – to communicate something to the world? So PUT IT OUT THERE. Send your work off to editors and agents as much as possible, show it to your neighbors, plaster it on the walls of the bus stops – just don’t sit on your work and suffocate it. At least try. And when the powers-that-be send you back your manuscript (and they will), take a deep breath and try again. I often hear people say, “I’m not good enough yet to be published.” That’s quite possible. Probable, even. All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

I have a friend who’s an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility. After years of struggling to get his films made, he sent an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog. My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste…etc, etc. Herzog wrote back a personal letter to my friend that essentially ran along these lines: “Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.” I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.”  Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place.

Here’s another thing to consider. If you always wanted to write, and now you are A Certain Age, and you never got around to it, and you think it’s too late…do please think again. I watched Julia Glass win the National Book Award for her first novel, “The Three Junes”, which she began writing in her late 30’s. I listened to her give her moving acceptance speech, in which she told how she used to lie awake at night, tormented as she worked on her book, asking herself, “Who do you think you are, trying to write a first novel at your age?” But she wrote it. And as she held up her National Book Award, she said, “This is for all the late-bloomers in the world.” Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age. At least try.

There are heaps of books out there on How To Get Published. Often people find the information in these books contradictory. My feeling is — of COURSE the information is contradictory. Because, frankly, nobody knows anything. Nobody can tell you how to succeed at writing (even if they write a book called “How To Succeed At Writing”) because there is no WAY; there are, instead, many ways. Everyone I know who managed to become a writer did it differently – sometimes radically differently. Try all the ways, I guess. Becoming a published writer is sort of like trying to find a cheap apartment in New York City: it’s impossible. And yet…every single day, somebody manages to find a cheap apartment in New York City. I can’t tell you how to do it. I’m still not even entirely sure how I did it. I can only tell you – through my own example – that it can be done. I once found a cheap apartment in Manhattan. And I also became a writer.

In the end, I love this work. I have always loved this work. My suggestion is that you start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results. Cast out your will, and then cut the line. Please try, also, not to go totally freaking insane in the process. Insanity is a very tempting path for artists, but we don’t need any more of that in the world at the moment, so please resist your call to insanity. We need more creation, not more destruction. We need our artists more than ever, and we need them to be stable, steadfast, honorable and brave – they are our soldiers, our hope. If you decide to write, then you must do it, as Balzac said, “like a miner buried under a fallen roof.” Become a knight, a force of diligence and faith. I don’t know how else to do it except that way. As the great poet Jack Gilbert said once to young writer, when she asked him for advice about her own poems: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say YES.”

Good luck.

You may also enjoy reading A Conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert.

Watch this great TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius as she muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

Related entries you may also enjoy: Writers on Writing—What Writing Means To WritersWords of Wisdom on Writing from Literary Lights, and one of my first poems, Writing—a poem on the writing process. And, What Rainer Maria Rilke inscribed on the copy of The Duino Elegies he gave his Polish translator, where I also link to an excellent interview with Jane Hirshfield on poetic craft.

Here’s a good resource of Writers on writing – an updated reading list of 70 notable meditations by Bradbury, Didion, Sontag, Hemingway & more posted by Maria Popova @brainpicker.

You may also enjoy Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say.

THE WEEK: Getting the flavor of Iowa’s aura

February 23, 2011

The Chicago Tribune article, which came out a few months ago on Fairfield, TM, MUM, and The Raj, continues to be published in major papers throughout the country, and now around the world. The current issue of The Week, a very prestigious weekly magazine, included a synopsis of that story. The Week takes the best of international media and publishes it in their US, UK, and AU editions. So American, British, and Australian subscribers are now reading about us! It is also available online at their websites, but you have to be a subscriber to access it. Here is a shortened link to the article for subscribers: Below is the text copied from a jpg of that page someone sent me. The column, Getting the flavor of…Iowa’s aura, is in the middle of the bottom right corner of a page in the Travel section of the Arts+Life section in this week’s issue: THE WEEK February 25, 2011.

Getting the flavor of…
lowa’s aura

Fairfield is “not just any Iowa town,” said Josh
Noel in the Chicago Tribune. Though “hemmed
in by farms” and rich in traditional Midwestern
charm, this small county seat does double
duty as a mecca for transcendental meditation,
or TM. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who began
the TM movement in the late 1950s, moved
his Maharishi International University from
California to Fairfield in 1974. The town got
caught up in the phenomenon, and today “a
quarter to a third of the population” practices
meditation. Twice a day, hundreds of locals,
including the mayor, meditate at precisely the
same time. Visitors are welcome, and can book
tours of various TM sites. I made an appointment
for shirodhara, a treatment that involves
“pouring a steady stream of oil on the forehead”
to balance the mind. “Life’s busy thoughts faded
as the oil rhythmically fell.”

Also see Chicago Tribune—The Iowa aura

Jerry Yellin discusses Operation Warrior Wellness

February 21, 2011

War is an addiction; it’s a curse. We have not learned one thing since David, 5000 years ago, slung a pebble at a guy and killed a giant. All we’ve done is invent better pebbles and better slingshots, human to human. — Jerry Yellin

Listen to CBS radio broadcaster Beecher Martin interview author and decorated WW II veteran fighter pilot Jerry Yellin: Jerry Yellin discusses Operation Warrior Wellness.

Mr. Yellin, co-director of Operation Warrior Wellness, a division of the David Lynch Foundation, discusses his wartime experiences, his difficult transition suffering from PTSD, then unknown, and how TM, Transcendental Meditation transformed his life. This ½ hour radio interview was broadcast February 20, 2011, on 5 CBS radio stations in the Tampa Bay area in Florida.

Besides the tragedies of war, the tremendous stresses today’s soldiers and their families are under, and their very difficult transition to civilian life, Jerry also speaks about his goals: to not wait for the government to act but to start treating the soldiers themselves with PTSD, to help the families of war veterans, get warriors to learn TM as part of their basic training, and save government $15 billion a year.

Jerry mentions the inauguration of Operation Warrior Wellness in New York City at a press conference and evening gala event last December. Watch highlights of both events: the press conference and the second annual Change Begins Within benefit gala.

Also see WW II veteran publishes The Resilient Warrior: Healing the Hidden Wounds of War and PTSD and Transcendental Meditation mentioned in Military Times publications.

Pathways Magazine: Taking Care Of The Student – The Forgotten Element In Education

February 18, 2011

Taking Care Of The Student – The Forgotten Element In Education

The surgeon general said that America is swimming in an ocean of stress. If this is true, our children are drowning in it. ~ Robert Roth, Vice President of the David Lynch Foundation

A teacher of a Montgomery County high school describes the 7:30 AM morning: kids with hoods pulled over their eyes, practically sleepwalking. At their desks, students are slumped over, exhausted – sleep deprived.

A school counselor describes a student whose deep anxiety constricts her ability to understand a basic math concept, and another student whose pressure to succeed is so intense that anxiety escalates into insomnia, depression, and feelings of suicide.

In most schools in our country, the student himself, and his instrument of learning – his physiology – are being ignored. We are experiencing – possibly promoting – epidemics of sleep deprivation and stress in our schools, and in the general public. Not only do we not pay attention to students’ physical health, we do the opposite: impose physical and mental strain – sometimes to the breaking point – often with serious, long-term results for both physical and emotional health.

In this article, we look at some recommendations and programs addressing this problem. We begin with refreshing our understanding of the goal of ideal education. Next we look at sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety, and related problems of ADHD and depression, and the impact on student health and learning. Next, advice by professionals who work in this field of stress and adolescence will be presented. Finally, we look at promising examples where recommendations are successfully implemented: a school in D.C., the Ideal Academy Public Charter School, experiencing remarkable results by incorporating “Quiet Time” into the daily routine; and breakthrough research on ADHD and “Quiet Time” from several middle schools.


All that lies before us and all that lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. ~ Emerson.

Education comes from the Latin root ‘educere’, meaning to ‘draw out from within’ or to ‘lead forth’. ‘Education’ means something other than filling up the mind with information. Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” It involves cultivating the
student’s inner genius, innate intelligence, creativity, consciousness.

Quite clearly the two great things for which we aim are the improvement of intelligence and the deepening and the extension of the feeling of friendliness and love. ~ Aldous Huxley

A student truly being educated is not merely learning information. He is cultivating the quality of his awareness: becoming more awake, clear, creative. He is developing his character: virtues of friendliness, helpfulness, compassion. And cultivating a love of learning and sense of vitality: feeling interested, enthusiastic, capable, confident.

The qualities we often find in great people – flexibility, curiosity, energy, receptivity to new ideas, and lovingness – are first found in children and then maintained through adulthood. ~ Dr. Melanie Brown, Attaining Personal Greatness: One Book for Life

But what are we doing to cultivate these qualities in our students? It seems clear that we often forget the meaning and goal of education.

Click on the above title for a Google docs quick view of the entire article, including photos, and/or download the PDF of Taking Care Of The Student – The Forgotten Element In Education, originally printed in the Winter 2009 issue of Pathways Magazine, Washington, DC.

Obstacle Illusions: Transforming Adversity into Success by Stephen J. Hopson

February 16, 2011

If you enjoy reading inspiring true life stories, Obstacle Illusions: Transforming Adversity into Success is for you. And if you’re a journalist, here’s an amazing human-interest story you may want to cover!

Born profoundly deaf, Stephen J. Hopson didn’t let that stand in the way of fulfilling his dreams. His mother taught him to speak at home and sent him to public school. He attended college and got his first job working in a bank. He eventually left this secure position to further his career as an award-winning Wall Street stockbroker.

At five years old, he told his parents he would become a pilot and was dismissed as being foolish, but as an adult he made aviation history by becoming the world’s first deaf instrument-rated pilot.

Stephen credits his grade 5 teacher for transforming his young life, which gave him the confidence to do anything he set his mind on. “One of the stories includes the three words that forever changed my life as a skinny, bucktoothed kid who wore monstrous hearing aids, and although appeared happy-go-lucky on the outside, had low self-esteem because I was having a very difficult time in school.”

As you will see, Stephen is a risk-taker. A personal experience made him realize that his real purpose and passion at this stage of his life was to become a global transformational speaker and author. In the late 1990’s, he left his lucrative Wall Street job, and after learning how to fly, decided to go back to college. He graduated from MUM in 2010 and continued writing his life story.

Because he wanted to inspire others to overcome their shortcomings, usually imaginary, the way Stephen had experienced his life; he turned his life’s journey into a book entitled, Obstacle Illusions: Transforming Adversity into Success. Through his writings and speeches Stephen is inspiring thousands of people worldwide to believe in themselves and achieve the impossible.

His book contains 25 stories from his life and the lessons he learned from them. Each chapter ends with exercises that ask readers to reflect on their own lives and see beyond their obstacles. His publisher says this is the greatest self-help book ever. “I absolutely recommend it to anyone needing inspiration to get back in the game and win big time!” Read a sample, Chapter 11, from Obstacle Illusions: Harry the Arrogant Bank Boss.

Obstacle Illusions is available from 1st World Publishing, on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and can also be ordered from Stephen’s website. Mr. Hopson will host a book signing at Revelations in Fairfield on Saturday, March 5, 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Besides in-person interviews, Stephen can also communicate using online video relay services where he and the interviewer speak on the phone while a live operator signs to him on his laptop in real time. Let me know if you’d like to speak with Stephen and I’d be happy to arrange an interview for you. Visit Stephen’s website for more information and a video:


Amazon Book Review: Learning Life’s Lessons posted by Famous in Fairfield

I enjoyed reading Stephen Hopson’s book Obstacle Illusions: Transforming Adversity into Success. He comes across as a very sincere hard-working risk-taker who wants to keep changing and evolving, learning from each experience—something that hopefully will inspire others to do the same and get out of the rut they’ve allowed themselves to wallow in. Stephen’s transparency will allow readers to see themselves more clearly.

I mention this because Stephen innocently shares his realizations of all that happened to him in his life. He sees it was all for him, and not to him; he’s not a victim. Those incidents and people allowed him to learn, grow, and evolve as a human being. They were there to help him fulfill his life’s ambitions, whether he knew it or not at the time.

Read the book in chronological order. If you don’t you could be missing out on a very special experience. The last chapter is very powerful. It’s the climax of the book. I was literally shaking with excitement as tears were rolling down my cheeks. Even though this chapter is out of chronology, Mr. Hopson was wise to have placed it at the end of the book.

Stephen’s story also demonstrates the power of gratitude when we lovingly, unselfishly want to thank those for whom we are grateful. Events move in our favor to fulfill such a pure desire in ways we never would have imagined, bringing great joy to everyone involved.

Enjoy reading Obstacle Illusions. I know I did!

Visit Stephen’s website for more information and a video:

Link to order book:

Read this great book review by someone who’s known Stephen from some time—life coach and author, Corinne Edwards.

Here’s a fun Interview with Stephen Hopson posted on The Speaker Point.

Recent posts: Exciting video promo for Stephen Hopson’s book Obstacle Illusions”, Listen to Stephen Hopson on Speaking Freely, KMCD Spotlights Stephen Hopson and his book “Obstacle Illusions”, and Stephen Hopson holds book signing at Revelations for “Obstacle Illusions”.

Roger Pelizzari—The Beginning Of Real Time

February 13, 2011

THIS ENDURING GIFT – A Flowering of Fairfield Poetry


February 12, 2011 | Category: Poem of the Day | 7 Comments


Almost morning,
somewhere along the edge of March,
I woke to a moment so still,
I heard the ice cracking
on the frozen waters of the world.
Rising from the valley
between night and day,
I opened my eyes and saw my watch
sleeping on the table,
stopped at midnight.
It was a signal for the beginning
of real time.

Here and now the world is new.
We see by the light of the sun
that shines in the middle of the head,
while invisible winds
blow everything false away.
Who will miss the shadows of our old lives?
This is how we enter the future,
through the door of the present.
This is where we find the place
we have longed for,
where no one needs to ask,
“Where am I? Which way should I go?”
We are made of green earth and gold fire.
The blue sea flows through us,
and the sweet, silver air.
The stars flash from the mind
to the sky,
growing brighter as we look.
Soon, we will not even remember
the time when we were asleep,
dreaming that this would happen.

© 2007 Roger Pelizzari

Published in This Enduring Gift, 2010


1. Bob Ferguson
February 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm
Beautiful poem Freddy. It lifted my spirits!

2. K. Kelly
February 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm
Bravo Roger!

3. Bill Graeser
February 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm
a very fine poem-thanks

4. Ken Chawkin
February 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm
A dazzling poem, written from the silent gap, where true renewal is possible. Thank you for this brilliant contribution, Roger. You make us all shine!

5. Michelle Bliss
February 14, 2011 at 9:33 am
This one goes in my pocket for everyday reading. It is certainly what I was supposed to hear today. Thank you Roger.

6. Leah Waller
February 14, 2011 at 11:29 am
really love the first few lines, “Almost morning, somewhere along the edge of March” beautiful!

7. Robin Burkhardt
January 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm
Roger, I enjoyed the poem. I see the Hudson Highlands in it.
Best, Robin B

San Francisco Bay Area News: From time-out to quiet time: meditation comes to SF schools

February 12, 2011


From time-out to quiet time: meditation comes to SF schools

By Natalie Jones on February 10, 2011 – 5:01pm

Innovative ideas are often born in California. This is the home of Silicon Valley, after all. But, that spirit of innovation isn’t limited to finding more ways to plug in to the world of high tech. Innovation also means finding ways to disconnect from it all. This kind of innovation is taking place in three San Francisco public schools that have started school-wide meditation programs. The hope is that a little quiet time and mindfulness will help facilitate learning.

It’s all paid for with private money, and one school says it’s seeing results. Natalie Jones reports on how it works.

*     *     *

NATALIE JONES: Middle schools do not tend to be quiet places. For many people, middle school is hard enough in the best of circumstances. For students growing up in rough neighborhoods or dealing with difficult family issues, it can be especially stressful.

That’s why four years ago, James Dierke, principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School in San Francisco, decided to implement a meditation program for the entire school to see if it would help students and teachers deal with stress and focus on schoolwork.

JAMES DIERKE: There’s individual stresses of just being a teenager, there’s family stress, there’s community stress, and all those things multiply within a person. So this is something that everyone can do and doesn’t require a tremendous amount of effort on their part but has great results.

The program is called Quiet Time, and it teachers students the practice of Transcendental Meditation.

PA SYSTEM ANNOUNCEMENT: Please excuse this interruption, teachers and students, please prepare for Quiet Time, please prepare for Quiet Time.

Mr. Tagaloa’s homeroom is getting ready for the morning meditation session – they do fifteen minutes at the beginning of their school day, and fifteen minutes at the end.

VAO TAGALOA: Going to start our Quiet Time, let’s start by sitting up straight…close the eyes….let’s enjoy.

The dozen or so 8th graders in the room turn to face front, shut their eyes, and stay that way for a full fifteen minutes, without breaking the silence or fidgeting.

Visitacion Valley is one of the more challenged schools in the district – about two thirds of its students were getting free or reduced lunch last year, and the percentage of students proficient in basic subjects is lower than both the district-wide and the state-wide percentage.

In the last three months alone, there have been two homicides and more than a hundred assaults within just a mile radius of the school. Principal Dierke compares growing up in the neighborhood to living a war zone.

DIERKE: A lot of our kids come down with post-traumatic stress, just like you would if you lived in Iraq. So it’s hard to turn that off when you come in the school building when you sit down and try to study.

Post-traumatic stress is a hard thing to combat, but there are signs that Quiet Time is effective. Since the program started, test scores have gone up a little bit, attendance rates have gone up a little bit, and suspension rates have gone down, although the changes are only by a few percentage points. Most of the evidence of the program is anecdotal. Students and teachers participate willingly and say it’s helpful for them, and surveys that school has done return positive feedback. Though not everyone was enthusiastic at the beginning.

TRISTAN: Well, when they first took me in to train, I wasn’t so sure about the program…

Tristan is an 8th-grader, and has been doing meditation at school since 6th grade.

TRISTAN: But when I started to get into it and started to do it every day I noticed that it really helped me because I was sort of a trouble child, and then when I started to meditate I started to become a leader, I got good grades, so it was really helpful.

Students do have the option of doing something else quiet, such as reading, but Principal Dierke says only a few have chosen to do that. He’s also had strong support from parents.

DIERKE: In the last four years that we’ve been involved in this, I haven’t had one negative parent complaint.

The program, which for this school year costs about $175,000, is funded almost exclusively by the David Lynch Foundation, an organization set up by the filmmaker David Lynch, who’s known for surreal films such as Mulholland Drive and the TV series Twin Peaks. The organization’s goal is to provide Transcendental Meditation in schools and communities that could benefit from stress reduction. The rest of the funds come from private donations, which pay for 3.5 full time staff members who are trained to teach meditation. They spend their time teaching new students, helping returning students remember how to use the method, and training the teachers.

Two other schools in San Francisco are also trying the program – Everett Middle School and John O’Connell High School. They haven’t been doing it as long as Visitacion Valley, but they’re all hoping that meditation can create a refuge for students who wouldn’t otherwise have one.

For Crosscurrents, I’m Natalie Jones.

Natalie Jones is a reporter with the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

So, what do you think about meditation for school kids? Would you be behind that? Let us know at 415-264-7106, or send us an email.

Related Tags

Also mentioned on sfist: David Lynch Helps S.F. Schools Meditate, and in SCOPE, Stanford School of Medicine, under Alternative Medicine: Meditation in the classroom: Program helps at-risk kids.

Also see: The San Francisco Examiner—Meditation program mends troubled Visitacion Valley Middle School

And: New research shows Transcendental Meditation improves standardized academic achievement

And the TM Blog report with video: “Meditation mends troubled school in San Francisco” – SF Examiner

And here’s a wonderful report from the The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF): Edutopia: SF School Uses TM to Overcome Problems.

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