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Showing posts from June, 2011

Im Gonna Need You to Fight Me On This: How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD

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Photo by je@n It was my research editor who told me it was completely nuts to willingly get fucked at gunpoint. Thats what she called me when I told her the story. Mac McClelland recounts her battle with PTSD after covering sexual violence in Haiti, and the experience that finally helped her push it out of her system. Its honest writing at its most raw.

Delinquents of a Hasidic underground

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Photo: kk+ In which Robert Hirschfield says no to drugs and observes a conversation in Jerusalem. I ENTER Chaims living room thinking this cant be. The old Hasid in his long black coat has invited over a friend for Torah study and a toke. Chaim extends his roach to me. I refuse. Seems too much like a bribe. If I take it, I will feel obligated to study with him. Maybe I should. To get high and delve into Jewish holy books in Jerusalem may be the antidote to my childhood memories of being entombed in a dusty yeshiva classroom while spring rubbed its green head against the window. I see Chaim, once a San Francisco lawyer for Rolling Stone Magazine, as a branch cut off from his worldly tree and self-smuggled into the arbor of God. I am caught in the crossfire of a learned debate about this Talmudic rabbi and that Talmudic rabbi. My own life, by comparison, seems so straightjacketed. I wanted to be a writer when I was sixteen, and I still want to be one. Maybe if Id aired out my mind in Chaim…

Selectively compassionate and rarely altruistic

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Photo: Rishi O - capturing inner beauty Jed Purses ponders love and compassion toward others, then realizes he forgot one thing. Himself. WAKE UP, meditate, do yoga. Shower, dress, leave. Cravings arise for a parantha from the street vendor next to my favorite juice stall. The juice stall is suffering from a power outage. I feel disappointment. I remember the principles of a recently completed vipassana meditation course equanimity in the face of impermanence the craving for the juice subsides, but not for the parantha.Sitting at the food stall while the boy makes the parantha, daydreams ensue about how a lazy Saturday will be spent. Granola at the cafe and hopefully running into the woman I have a crush on. Read, write, nap. Let the day dictate the action. The truth experienced is much more powerful than any intellectual understanding. My daydreams are interrupted as my eyes catch the ankle of a man sitting on the street across the way. Im curious as his ankle seems to be in a physic…

Understanding the war in Kachin

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KIA Vice Chief of Staff Gen. listens to views on the renewed fighting in the Kachin State (Photos by Ryan Libre) After almost two decades of uneasy peace, war has returned to Kachin, a resource rich region in the far north of Burma. KACHIN BORDERS CHINA, and the current fighting broke out near controversial Chinese hydropower projects. The Burmese government approved these projects and promised to provide security around the dam sites, but the dams are opposed by most Kachin people, whose homelands will be impacted by the flooding and who will not see much of the money or power produced by the dams.In December, 2008 I spent one month in Kachin working as a journalist alongside the photographer, Ryan Libre. Ryan and I were guests of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) whose military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), is now at war. Ryan is back in Kachin now, making photos of the Kachin war council. He is working hard and barely sleeping typical behavior for him and on Ju…

Finding my spiritual home

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Photos by author Rebecca Ashton found home in a place shed never visited before. How does that happen? NOTHING PREPARED ME for the overwhelming feeling I had when I stepped off the plane in Cairo. A sense of relief ran through my body. I was back where I belonged. I was safe again. I thought this strange, though, seeing as I had never stepped foot in Egypt before. Why did this foreign land feel like home? It was 1994, a few years since I finished school. I had always loved my ancient history lessons so I was thrilled to be seeing the pyramids and Sphinx up close. But this feeling was something else.The rocks under my bare feet feel as familiar as an old friend; the air I breathe, warm and calming; the silence is my teacher. Since then, the Middle East has been a magnet to me. Is it the air? Is it the light? The colour of the earth perhaps? Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Qatar, and Jordan all followed. The Wadi Rum was when it hit me the hardest. This is a place that feels like my own pe…

Vancouver riots: The dark before the light

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Volunteers help clean up the city. Photos: With permission by Sylvain Martel (Facebook) In which I try to make sense of something that doesnt seem to make much sense at all. the more it becomes clear that to be is to quarrel and pursue your self-interest, the more you are compelled to recognize your need for enemies to support you. ~ Alan WattsIVE BEEN READING The Book by Alan Watts lately. Its one of those books (for me, anyway) that needs to be read over and over again for the message to sink in. Its not easy to penetrate but when one starts to get the overall sense of what he is saying it becomes quite profound. What I am getting out of it is that, despite us thinking that we are these individuals that exist as separate beings from each other and the world, we are actually defined by our surrounding environment (and, hence, part of the whole).It brings to light how necessary even enemies are in order to identify ourselves. I cant be a nice guy if there are no jerks around. With this …

How a fly reminded me its never personal

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Photo: junCTionS Our perception is our reality. No one and nothing can force it upon us. [Note: I originally posted this at my personal blog, but got such a positive response that I wanted to share it here.]I WAS MEDITATING in my parents living room (Im here because I am in Vancouver for TBEX 11). Id just finished doing a bit of yoga so it didnt take much effort to get into a meditative state. I noticed, however, a single fly buzzing around the room. The low drone would go from one ear to the other as it criss-crossed the space. At times it made its way between the window and the horizontal blinds, then did that thing that all flies do in that position: smack themselves silly between the two, trying to find a way out. My first instinct was to get annoyed one of those frustrated annoyances, because you know there isnt much you can do about it (other than kill it, but that was out of the question).So my thought process changed. It kinda went like this:That fly is just being a fly. It doe…