Paris Lockdown: Fallow Time/Dreamtime

Australian Artist Regina Karadada/Wandjinas

Screenshot 2020-04-30 at 13.28.36

Day 47-ish?

Confinement sleep roller coaster? Out like a light, then bizarre vivid dreams? You’re not the only one.

My latest crazy crop:

(Any ressemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental)

-Bought a penthouse with a swimming pool, fitness room, luxurious dining room with chandeliers.  Excited until I looked up at the sliding roofing and saw rusted iron fittings that needed a lot of (expensive) work.

-Having an affair with a friend’s husband (not!) stole all her jewellery (not!).

-In a new apartment with a window garden. Picked up a plant that was part cactus and part caterpillar, very alive and affectionate. It showed me where it wanted to be, a larger planter, more earth more space.

-Moving and all my possessions in a large red trunk that had to be transported up a steep hill. Husband drove off in a van without me, leaving me only a rickety bike.

-Hired to play the lead in a musical, but had only 24 hours to learn all songs and text before run through with producers.

-Went to China, staying in a Chinese hotel and eating local food. Noticed some bumps in my nose. Doctor examined me and said it was some kind of larvae. He showed me horrifying pictures of how it would develop: living creatures with fat bodies and appendages of all colours. No known cure. All of a sudden he put his mouth over my face and breathed antibodies into my lungs. Blew my nose and it was full of green stuff. I was all better.

Just writing this down is exhausting and disorienting.

Sometimes I feel like those poor chronobiology guinea pigs living in caves for months in the name of science. Deprived of sunlight, their circadian rhythms slide into oblivion.

Trying to stay on track with work, homeschooling, volunteering, communicating with distant family, but fewer deadlines, fewer interruptions, reprieve from transportation hassles and disrupted sleep put me in a fallow state, like the city parks that used to be packed with people, now returned to their own natural cycles. Between jolts of stress about the future, deeper resources are resetting and replenishing inside me. My mind and body are quieter, like the city streets with no traffic, where you can suddenly hear birdsong and human voices.


(Buttes Chaumont, freed from people, April 2020)

Beyond my current dream circus, there are other dimensions of dreaming. The word Dreamtime echoes in my thoughts.

“The Dreamtime is a commonly used term for describing important features of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and existence. It is not generally well understood by non-indigenous people.

The Australian aborigines believed that the land they occupied was once not in existence like it is today. It was free from form or life, vacuous – empty.

….the land, mountains, hills, rivers, plants, lifeforms both animal and human and sky above were formed by the actions of mysterious and supernatural spirits.

During the Dreamtime the creators made men women and animals…gave them their totems and their Dreaming…declared the laws of the land and how people were to behave to one another, the customs of food supply and distribution, the rituals of initiation, the ceremonies of death which are required to be performed so that the spirit of the dead travels peacefully to his or her spirit-place, and the laws of marriage….

Aboriginal people understood the Dreamtime as a beginning that never ended. They held the belief that the Dreamtime is a period on a continuum of past, present and future.”

More information and an energizing dip into in the realm of these people and their art:

What if confinement fallow moments are our Dreamtime?

Can we be the ancestors dreaming a better future into being?


Climate activist and social change visionary David Gershon believes humanity can use this unique moment in history as a chrysalis to create Peace On Earth in 2030:

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Entrepreneurial Soul Coach Rha Goddess calls the pandemic a Sacred Pause. Check out her FB live with best selling author and Green Pioneer Queen Afua about healing ourselves and the world:

Can we be Cathedral Thinkers?


(Rose window, Notre Dame de Paris)

“The concept of Cathedral Thinking stretches back through the centuries to medieval times, when architects, stonemasons and artisans laid plans and began construction of the soaring, cavernous structures that served as places of worship, community gathering spaces and safe havens.

Since then, the concept has been applied to space exploration, city planning and other long-term goals that require decades of foresight and planning so future generations can enjoy their full realization.”

Listen to Ian Sansom interview Dr. Simon Beard as he “meets the people daring to dream beyond their own lifespans and wonders how he might go about doing so himself. As he explores contemporary cathedral projects with the potential to shape the future of science, technology and environmental protection, Ian asks what we can learn from the original medieval cathedral thinkers and if cathedral projects are all voyages of discovery into uncharted territory.”

Let there be dreaming…

xxxxx Aliss


Pool of Thought

IMG_1125This oasis was unexpectedly entrusted to my sole care this week. Ice cold turquoise water, partially shaded morning and evening, full sun at midday.

My job: cover it at night, scoop out unfortunate bees, dragonflies, the occasional frog, ants, spiders, debris…and swim between T-storms.

First time ever to have a pool all to myself. 

No need to do laps…just play in the water, any stroke or combination of moves that feels good, watching clouds and flowers mirror in ripples across the surface along with endless random mental reflections.

This is when answers to lingering questions bubble up from my deep…how to dance within certain tricky social circumstances, a better way to phrase that sentence in my writing, a thank you note to send, wishes, intuitions about future stages of my life… Unscheduled, unstructured moments are when I receive what I can only describe as signals. As if my being needed an opening in my chatter with the world to synthesize and report back, the way information sometimes comes in dreams…

To be continued

xxxxxx Aliss

Noticing (updated 11/11/17)

DSC03876 (1)Funny sidewalk face, Place des Vosges, on a recent autumn day…

Blog has been in slomo for several days, busy busy with other writing projects and life…

As promised, thoughts about noticing:

Since the Paris attacks two years ago, I’ve been meditating every day to stay calm and raise my vibes, in various ways. Tibetan compassion mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum:


Also the Oprah/Chopra (W&D) meditation series, which I highly recommend. It’s freeeee (and there are lots of free sample meditations to try out), and you can subscribe if you want to redo, which I do:

Then there’s the On Being site, with (not too shabby!) meditations by Sylvia Boorstein, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn and others:

And last but not least, Krista Tippet’s On Being interview with Ellen Langer, who says we don’t have to meditate to get the same and better results. To be mindful (instead of mindless) all we have to do is NOTICE. Notice 5 new things about our significant other, about our job, about our neighborhood on our daily walks (see above, that’s what photography does for me):

…and question all our assumptions and received ideas… Her outlook reminds me of climate activist David Gershon’s minute-to-minute life question, “What’s possible?”

And Empowerment activist Gail Straub putting on “John Lennon’s glasses”

Noticing noticing noticing…

To be continued… xxxxx Aliss

Stayin’ Alive


This July Paris is opening it’s first “Live Water” swimming area on the canal in my neighborhood, the result of decades of work by city governments and local activists who’ve brought the river water that feeds the canal back to life. Particularly relevant as summer returns and I’m coming back to life myself after terror episodes and two exhausting presidential elections…also  inspiring and galvanizing, as Trump withdraws the US from the Paris Climate Accords. Many of us are dedicated to keeping the planet alive and imagining a better future. He can’t stop us! xxxxx Aliss

My Interview with Gail Straub @ The Antidote:

A New Era of Creative Change


My interview with Gail Straub, co-founder and Executive Director of Empowerment Institute and the Imagine Global Initiative for the Empowerment of Women

The election aftermath: existential disorientation, radical creativity, fierce unstoppable action, the Beloved Community, grass roots activism, climate change, compassionate engagement, her article “John Lennon Lends Me His Glasses,”… and where we go from here:

“Many were blindsided by the presidential election results. Our correspondent, Aliss Valerie Terrell, spoke with Gail Straub , Executive Director of Empowerment Institute and Imagine Global Initiative for the Empowerment of Women, about where we go from here.

All content, Copyright 2016, The Trump Antidote.
You say you observed “existential disorientation” after the election. How do we make sense of what happened?

A lot of people, about half the country, are disoriented, the other half are ecstatic. I’ve spoken to scores and scores of people since the election and what strikes me is how everyone is going through their own individual inquiry regarding what this means to them. If you’re a person of color, it means something radically different than it does for a white woman, and if you’re a Muslim it means something even more radically different. So I think it’s really important to say that anything I share is just one human being’s opinion, one who did vote for Hillary and was deeply disappointed.

I wrote “John Lennon Lends Me His Glasses” a few days after the election. I had a dream and John Lennon came and he took off my reading glasses and put on his iconic wire rims and he said, “You need to see things through different lenses.” And that’s become a kind of guiding principle for me. After the election, at first there was a kind of radical disorientation. One asks: who am I, what country do I live in, what does this ask of me, what do I do next, what happens next? All those humongous existential questions. In all spiritual traditions, radical disorientation can be used to deepen spiritual practice. In fact, this profound disorientation actually is a very fruitful spiritual opportunity, whatever people’s practices are, to deepen in practice, because practice tells us there is no ground anyway, and so the way we’re feeling is, in a very deep spiritual sense, a true part of the human condition. So, for me, it happened to be meditation and time in the natural world, which were extremely helpful during this period of radical disorientation. It helped me accept that I didn’t have answers, because there are no answers yet, we don’t know what’s going to happen, we’re waiting.

For many of us, and I’m part of a tribe of grassroots activists, we’re all more dedicated than ever to what we’re doing. We’re all feeling this is not a time to back off, whatever our activism is, it’s a time to do it in deeper and more dedicated ways. It’s a time to speak out, stand up, march. All kinds of things are going on. My husband David [Gershon] just got back last night from California. He was there for three weeks. He’s a leader in climate change. He was there during the election and all the climate change activists are coming together and saying: we have to rededicate ourselves.

So there’s the spiritual part, there’s the action part, and the third quality is what I call radical creativity, which is the John Lennon thing. We can’t do things the way we’ve done them before and everyone’s realized that. We have to think outside the box, there has to be all kinds of mash-ups and mix-ups and collaborations across sectors. There has to be solidarity, consolidation, collaboration. Again, David found a lot of that out in California these past weeks.

And then there is Martin Luther King’s concept of the Beloved Community, where the earth is safe for all. We have to keep fighting for this idea. Though people are threatened, they’re afraid, they’re disoriented, simultaneously there is a profound rededication. All the women’s groups I speak to, all of us are getting 40 emails a day from people taking on further actions. So I think that there’s perhaps a paradoxical combination of disorientation but also a deepened and passionate commitment to the actions we all believe in.

How does your methodology of personal empowerment foster compassionate engagement?

Our Empowerment Institute turned 35 years old in October, so we’ve been at it for a while, but empowerment for us was always about community engagement. I mean the only reason a person becomes empowered is so they can contribute to their family or their neighborhood, their community or their country, otherwise it’s narcissism and to me that’s the antithesis of empowerment. There’s a lot of narcissism in the New Age, but the true definition of empowerment is that we gain a sense of self so we can become change agents. In twelve countries — including Africa, the Middle East, and India — our organization is working to enable the heads of NGOs to become leaders in their communities. For me, I can’t think about empowerment without thinking about action.

Millions of people are newly radicalized following the American election, wanting to stand up for freedom and democracy. Tell me about your concept of the “growing edge” and how it might be in play.

So the growing edge, for your readers, is simply the concept of what might be the next place, or point, of empowerment. The principle we use is that true empowerment can’t take place if we’re beyond the growing edge or we’re behind the growing edge. For all these people who are newly dedicated to making a difference, I think one potential trap, perhaps, is taking on too much too fast. They burn out and then say, well, it doesn’t make any difference anyway. That’s the whole cycle of burn out and compassion fatigue so familiar to activists.

So, people need to work in solidarity. They need to join with those who have been there before. If they’re going into climate change, for example, they join up with some of the activists and the organizations who have been around the block a few times and know what they’re doing. They don’t want to recreate the wheel. If I was just starting out, first I’d identify what’s the greatest place of passion for me. In climate change, women’s rights, or whatever they choose, start with that. Then do research. Who are the best organizations doing this and what can I learn from them? Can I start out as a volunteer or do I want to be a social entrepreneur and start up my own thing? They have to join in community and educate themselves and not take on too much too fast.

What do you see as the “growing edge” for our country? What second-order social change is needed?

There’s a lot on our websites about that. All the things we do are second-order change. That’s really David’s work and I can suggest a chapter from his book. It’s in PDF and it has all you need.

The Imagine Program works with NGOs in the developing world, empowering impoverished women by fostering gender equality and individual “agency.” As a result of the recent election, deep divisions have come to light in the United States. Although we live in the richest country on the planet, there is extreme poverty. What is your program doing in the U.S.?

It’s been in our country for 35 years. It started here, it’s still going on, it’s never stopped. We’ve done this work in prisons, with the homeless, any population you can imagine. For example, along with our Imagine Practitioners from the global south who are coming to our Empowerment Institute in Amman, Jordan, in 2017, there will also be leaders from inner city Chicago, inner city Baltimore, and inner city Atlanta. They’ll all be working next to their colleagues from the Middle East, India, and Africa, because it’s the same work. And they’ll be looking at how to bring agency to the most disenfranchised populations here, and looking at how that leads to community leadership, to actions.

There is David’s Livable Neighborhood Program, an extraordinary program that’s been created for inner city neighborhoods in America. So the first step is with neighborhood leaders, we call them block leaders, who go out and begin making their neighborhoods safer and more livable.

And then they’re joined by activists who are working in climate change. In this case, our pilots are in California because that’s our most progressive place for climate change.

What happens at the Institute is we have a person from Kabul, Afghanistan, sitting next to a person from Palo Alto, California, sitting next to a person from the inner city of Chicago, and next to them someone from Lebanon. It goes on — Tunisia, India, and so on — and those conversations are a form of radical creativity, global exchanges of best practices, about what sustains hope, about what allows compassion in the face of tremendous difficulty.

So someone working in Rajasthan to stop forced early marriage talks to the person working in inner city Chicago, and they have this amazing exchange and they begin to teach each other and exchange how they sustain their own hope in the face of great difficulty. We have to all be in this together, that’s clear.

How can we best heal the divisions in our country, find more balance, a shared vision? What limiting beliefs do we need to clear? What new beliefs do we need to create or affirm?

Well, you know, we’re just starting. I wish I could answer that. The path ahead is how do we heal the divisions? How do we find a shared vision? There’s all kinds of analysis going on now, political, spiritual, but I think we don’t know exactly the path ahead yet, we’re in a new situation in our country. We all feel that.

Again, I can only answer, personally. I agree with what’s been said about the bubble and the disenfranchised, but that also can become overly simplistic. Because if I’ve learned anything in 35 years, it’s that disenfranchisement takes an infinite variety of forms.

The suicide rate among adolescents in America is so high that it’s at a crisis now. And that’s often amongst the most privileged — often white kids. So something is disenfranchised for them, too, if they’re killing themselves in record numbers. So if I could step back and take a spiritual perspective on this, because I can’t really answer it from a political point of view, I think we need a lot more time. I would say that what we’re trying to learn is who is suffering and why — not just this bubble vs. the disenfranchised.

Someone asked the Dalai Lama, of all the prayers you do — and the guy really prays a lot — of all the prayers, what is the most important prayer that you do every day? And he said, that’s really easy. The prayer that’s most important is the simple mantra: “Every person I meet, just like me is suffering and is trying to find the way to alleviate that suffering.” That is something that is unitive. Again I speak for myself. One of the things the election did is ask me to look more deeply at the roots of suffering of those who voted for Trump. Also. it asks me to look at the roots of my own suffering more deeply. I’m a bit of a Buddhist so I’m taking it from that perspective. I think that at the heart of difference is suffering. What is the cause of the suffering, why do we demonize the other because they’re different than us? We all do this. Why do we have trouble with the person who’s different?

Certain things are being asked of us in terms of actions. That’s the outer life, but also what is being asked of our inner life? What sort of development is being asked of us now as humans? I think this is a political opportunity, a spiritual opportunity, an emotional opportunity, and an opportunity for communities. If you ask me this really great question in a year I could say more, but right now it’s too fresh.

Empowerment Institute has worked with the Clinton Global Initiative. How do you see Secretary Clinton continuing her advocacy?

We don’t know, none of us know. We’ve worked with her and President Clinton and Chelsea in our participation in the CGI, which was one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve ever had. You couldn’t join it unless you made a ferocious, audacious commitment to making the world a better place, and they would only accept you if you stretched your own vision to work harder and do more. And so when you went to those meetings you were surrounded by people from all over the world, all of whom were addressing the most dire challenges in the world we live in.

No one knows what she’ll do. I’m a tremendous fan of hers. I’ve seen her work first-hand. All the women I work with in the deepest poverty in Kenya, in India, in Lebanon, you name it, they know her. She has changed the way women are viewed, she has changed the landscape of women’s empowerment. So my hope is she’ll continue with what she’s been doing her whole life, which is advocate for the disenfranchised, for kids, for women. No one thinks that this extraordinary human being is just going to be sitting around. I think she’s taking a pause and she’s going to come out and continue to do visionary, important work.”

Gail Straub: John Lennon Lends Me His Glasses



(Église Saint Roch, near the Tuileries, on a recent afternoon)

“…this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire… What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world…” Hamlet (Act II, scene 2, p. 13)

Woke up Wednesday morning, realizing Brussels explosions were not a bad dream and I still didn’t have news of friends there. From the kitchen, I heard my husband’s voice saying, “3rd century BC, Rome wins the Punic Wars…” Right, he’s helping our son study for a history test. I hear the word “Carthage”…My semi-conscious brain forms pictures of Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants to invade what is now Italy. My God, elephants in the Alps! Then I jolt awake. Carthage! That’s in North Africa, but where?  My thoughts start spinning back to an article I read after the Paris attacks, “What  Isis Really Wants..”* Wasn’t there something about “destroying the Army of Rome in Dabiq (Syria), to bring on the Apocalypse?” At the time, I dismissed it as fanatical delirium. Run to the computer: Carthage, present day Tunisia… Didn’t the Roman army raze the city and plough salt into the land so no crops would ever grow there? When I was my son’s age, that sounded so cruel, my mind couldn’t fathom it… “Roman Army”… Is this some kind of indelible ancestral memory North Africans still carry 2300 years later? Are these the roots of the conflict with Daesh today? If so the struggle for economic and military power predates Islam and Christianity… Centuries later religion became the rallying cry for both sides: Charles Martel at Poitiers, The Crusades, The Janissaries, the Moguls…More recently, the war in Yugoslavia began with an anit-Muslim speech by Slobodan Milosevic on the exact date of the 600th anniversary of Serbia’s conquest by Ottoman Turks.  If all of this is buried so deeply in our collective unconscious but still activates revenge strategies, how long will it go on? How will we ever get beyond it?

The complete quote from Hamlet is much darker than what I selected above:

“I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me.”

And yet… there are signs of hope, people protecting themselves, but responding to barbarity with love. All three Abrahamic religions teach us that forgiveness opens the way to grace. Some say grace can break the chains of karma (call it the weight of history if you prefer). Tomorrow is Easter for Christians. Renewal. Can we believe in noble reason, infinite faculties, expressiveness, angelic actions, divine understanding, for the beauty of the earth, this goodly frame, under this brave firmament?

I hope so.

Much more to say about this week….xxxx Aliss

*Article in the Atlantic:

Dreaming on the Sky


Looking up, projecting inner visions on the sky, our infinite screen, opens imagination.  What do we want to take with us into the New Year?  What do we want to leave behind?  What bridges do we want to cross?  What do we love so much that we can’t not do it?  When we put our hearts fully into a dream, it changes us and our “reality.” Most people hate the word commitment, but here’s another way to look at it:

“As long as we are not committed, doubt reigns, the ability to withdraw remains and inefficiency always prevails. Concerning all acts of initiative and creativity, there is an elementary truth,the ignorance of which has countless consequences and aborts splendid projects. At the moment we fully commit, Providence also goes into motion. To help us, all sorts of things take shape, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. An entire chain of events, of situations and decisions create in our favor all manner of unplanned incidents, meetings, and material support that we would never have dreamed of encountering on our path…Everything you can do or dream of doing, you can venture. Audacity contains genius, power, and magic.”  W.H. Murray, The Power of Commitment

Let’s throw our big dreams for ourselves and the world into the sky: health, happiness, creativity, abundance. No dream too big to come true.

Happy New Year! xxxx Aliss


Love Forever True

DSC02401I’m inspired by these two creatures living on the canal around the corner from my building. Year in year out I see them swimming together, cob and pen, raising their cygnets, feeding, flying over the water.

If there’s one thing I wish everyone for the New Year, it’s love.

xxxx Aliss


Yet In Thy Dark Street Shineth


Joyeuses Fêtes=Merry Christmas and Happy New Year=Happy Holidays

The waters of life continue to flow in tears of sorrow and tears of joy. My friend Marilyn lost her young daughter this week and yet in darkness she was a source of light, giving thanks for the years they had together and allowing her child’s life to give life to others. Thank you to everyone in distant countries holding her in their thoughts. I believe the love we send out is never lost and maybe even saves the world. As we start another trip around our sun, our moon reflecting its light, I’m grateful for my family, friends, and home. Wishing you all radiance….

Christmas Countdown


This is our advent calendar, one of my favorite Christmas rituals 🙂
Every night from December 1st to 24th, I put a china figurine
(collected from years of Epiphany king cakes) into one of the little drawers with a tiny chocolate. I start out with toys and animals and gradually
switch to the Nativity theme so that a tiny baby Jesus in the manger is in
the last drawer. It’s pretty intense, like being the Tooth Fairy every night for three and a half weeks, but my son loves it, of course. Sometimes I forget to do it before I fall asleep and have to run frantically to my secret figurine and chocolate hiding places, and sneak them into the calendar before he sees me! When my daughter was at home, I was doing double
duty with her calendar, a big felt hanging Christmas tree
with numbered pockets. Traditionally, the treat is just a piece of chocolate, but one year in a commercial calendar I bought, there were little plastic
gumball machine toys in the windows as well. I could never find one of
those again but saved the toys and put them in the next year’s
calendar compartments with a chocolate. It was always really fun seeing
how the kids reacted to a tiny plastic hotdog, a roulette wheel, or a pair of
dice. Then I got the idea to use the king cake “fèves” (“beans”) 🙂
Trying to keep journaling, something I’ve done since childhood. Unstructured-blowing-off-steam-not-meant-for-prime-time, it helps me stay focused and make sense of non-stop barrages of information we all get every day. When I look back over the last month’s notes, I see changes, more fear, but also more love. If you have thoughts, please let me know.
Thank you everyone for checking in and liking or following my blog! It’s really carried me these past few weeks since November 13th. I love doing it and love your feedback!