Sharks and Butterflies

By Chris L.

The analogy of the menacing and the majestic is a common theme throughout the observation of nature – be it human or animal kingdom. A convicted felon is labeled as a “menace to society,” but a butterfly can also be a prisoner, when trapped inside a caterpillar.

The allegory of a cell being a cocoon of evolution can easily get overlooked – especially when popular thought is to keep a shiv sharp…or get shiv’d by a shiver of sharks. A room full of incarcerated men were asked if they’d rather be a shark or a butterfly. These hardened criminals reacted in a mini uproar of tangible sighs, razzberries, and dismissive hand waves with disdain and disbelief that they were even asked such a preposterous question.

Their collective mind fixated on the thin fin cutting thru the water – and that extra row of teeth revealing itself when they’re about to sink into the flesh of their prey. It was unanimous that the guys saw themselves as sharks. It was then explained that those big fish go stir crazy after they’ve been in confinement, and they can’t even swim straight upon release.

Butterflies on the other hand…they are better for their confinement. They went into it as crawling caterpillars and came out with wings and flying colors. The activity within a chrysalis is a programmed mix of destruction and growth. Some cells die, and body parts atrophy. The same is true for a cellhouse in the penitentiary.

Nevertheless, there are certain cells in this majestic creature in the making – as well as the rare diamond in the rough residing in a cell – that have been in place since birth, ready to rapidly expand.

The butterfly reveals itself as completely transformed, with the ability to fly over the limitations of its past. Setting its own standard for newfound freedom.

5 Things to do in Indy for Earth Day 2019


1.) 30th Annual Earth Day Indiana Festival hosted by Earth Day Indiana
Celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at one of the largest and most successful Earth Day festivals in the U.S. At the 30th Annual Earth Day Indiana Festival, you can explore over 125 exhibitor tables, listen to live music, grab lunch from local food trucks or vendors, visit the Children’s tent, and much more, all right downtown at the historic Military Park! Learn more about the festival, and find a list of exhibitors by visiting Earth Day Indiana’s website.

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2.) Spring Refresh: Earth Day hosted by Newfields
Get out of the house and enjoy everything nature has to offer with Newfields! The Earth Day Spring Refresh event on Saturday, April 27 is about appreciating our planet with all things green and earthy – from flowers to plants to fabrics and paints. Join other participants from 5 – 8 p.m. in experimenting with sustainable materials, and pick up a few tricks on how to shrink your carbon footprint! This event is free with admission to the Newfields Gardens and includes snacks and music.

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3.) Earth Day Recycle Run hosted by Earth Day Indiana
Are you looking to help the environment and get a good workout in this Earth Day? Then both the Earth Day Recycle Run and the Earth Day Virtual 5K or 10K are for you! The Recycle Run is part of the Earth Day Indiana Festival on Saturday, April 20, and offers a 5K run/walk, or a one-mile walk starting and ending at Military Park at White River State Park. All races start at noon, with courses that take you along the scenic White River. This run is focused on generating as little waste as possible, and participants are strongly encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles. Register to run or walk here!


4.) Indianapolis Sustainability Summit hosted by Sustain Indy and IUPUI Sustainability
On Wednesday, April 17, the second annual Sustainability Summit will bring together hundreds of leaders within Indianapolis’s business, nonprofit and civic communities to develop a roadmap for meeting our city’s sustainability goals. The 2019 event is designed to start discussions on how Indianapolis residents can contribute on individual levels to help the city meet its climate goals. Experts within the sustainability field will speak, 16 workshops will be set up to engage all participants, and sustainability scholarships and awards will be given throughout the day. Register and learn more about this groundbreaking event hosted at the IUPUI Campus Center here.

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5.) April Great Indy Cleanup hosted by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

Join Keep Indianapolis Beautiful on Saturday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to noon for the annual April Great Indy Cleanup, focusing this year on the Christian Park neighborhood. This year, volunteers can take their pick of three projects: to “keep it clean” by participating in street and alleyway cleanup, to “keep it beautiful” by installing new mulch around the park’s playground, community buildings, entrances and mural, or to “keep it green” by helping with a large-scale native plant installation of 87 new trees to line the park’s waterway. Breakfast and free T-shirts will be provided. Sign up here.

In 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson organized the first Earth Day to bring attention to conservation issues. Since then, the holiday has grown into an international movement to help conserve, sustain and rebuild local, national and global environments. Today, Indianapolis is a leading city in this movement, and there are many ways you can participate in this year’s 49th celebration of Earth Day on April 22.

New Year, New Books

Now that the 2019 is upon us, you may need some new books to add to your list. Here, we’ve compiled a few of our favorites.


Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work that Reconnects

Authors: Joanna Macy and Molly Brown

This book is often referred to as a “timeless map for Earth healers” as they offer a guide for connecting with our suffering so we can discover and release our actionable compassion for the world.

Recommended by: Pam Blevins Hinkle, Director at Spirit & Place


The Hate U Give 

Author: Angie Thomas

This is a young adult book that was recently turned into a movie in late 2018. It explores how a teen girl’s life is changed when she witnessed the fatal shooting of a childhood friend by the police. More about the movie here.

Recommended by: LaShawnda Crowe Storm, Spirit & Place Community Engagement Director


1947: Where Now Begins

Author: Elisabeth Asbrink

1947 is a memoir not of a person but of a year. Elisabeth Asbrink divides the book into months and recalled the happenings connected to specific people and places. The brilliance of 1947 lies within the comparison of the past and future. We can study the past, but not change it. We’d like to believe we can shape the future, but we cannot control what it will ultimately be. This book is a great read for history lovers.


Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition 

Author: Charles Eisenstein

This book traces the history of money revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition and scarcity. It follows these trends through to today as society may find great opportunity in the wake of their collapse. Sacred Economics is offered on a “pay what you want” basis and also as a hardcover.

Recommended by: Pam Blevins Hinkle, Director at Spirit & Place

Indianapolis selected to pilot first Community Innovation Lab of its kind

National EmcArts’ program to focus on creating inclusive economies for Hoosiers

INDIANAPOLIS – After a rigorous national search process, Indianapolis has been selected as the first U.S. city to pilot EmcArts’ first Community Innovation Lab focused on economic inclusion. The winning proposal, submitted by Spirit & Place, Groundwork Indy, and Kheprw Institute, is aimed at creating inclusive and sustainable economies for formerly incarcerated individuals, youth aging out of the foster care system, and others who are too frequently pushed aside by traditional economic systems. Core funding is being provided by MetLife Foundation. A minimum of $100,000 in matching funds will need to be raised by June 30 to finalize Indianapolis’s eligibility.

“In the midst of growing poverty and inequity in Indianapolis, we hope that our involvement with this project can contribute to creative ideas and solutions,” said Imhotep Adisa, executive director of Kheprw Institute. “The current social and economic crisis requires cross-sector communication, collaboration, and engaging the community in ‘from-the-ground-up’ solutions and decision-making.”

The Community Innovation Lab’s 20-month process represents an unconventional approach that brings cross-sector viewpoints together to address complex social challenges in new ways. The Lab will use artistic processes to build trust, curiosity and persistence; to explore new possibilities; to test experimental approaches; to build local capacity to address self-determined challenges, and to prompt systemic change. Other local project partners currently include the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Edna Martin Christian Center, IUPUI Office of Community Engagement, New Life Development Ministries, Marian University, and Recycle Force, among others.

“We are deeply honored to be selected by EmcArts for this amazing initiative,” said Pam Blevins Hinkle, director of Spirit & Place. “It’s a testament to Indianapolis’s successful history of private-public partnerships, collective impact projects, and creative place-making efforts, as well as the ingenuity and tenacity of community-centric organizations such as Groundwork Indy, Kheprw Institute, and Spirit & Place. We look forward to working together to make a tangible difference in the lives of people who face challenges that are, quite frankly, unimaginable and invisible to many of us.”

For more information about this initiative or to contribute by the June 30 deadline, visit or contact Spirit & Place Director Pam Blevins Hinkle at To learn more about the EmcArts Community Innovation Lab, visit

Celebrating the theme of POWER in 2017, Spirit & Place honors the role the arts, humanities, and religion play in shaping individual and community life. Through its November festival, people-centered community engagement, trainings, and year-round activities, Spirit & Place encourages radical collaboration, catalyzes civic innovation, and reveals invisible stories. Spirit & Place is a legacy project The Polis Center, part of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Major partners include Lilly Endowment Inc.; Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, Inc.; Bohlsen Group; The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate; IUPUI; IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI; The Polis Center at IUPUI; WFYI Public Media; and more than 200 other community partners and donors. For more information, call The Polis Center at (317) 274-2455 or visit

Kheprw Institute is a community organization run by a diverse staff of young adults and seniors who are innovative, passionate and dedicated to creating a more just, equitable, human-centered, environmentally sustainable world. They are community members, artist, engineers, activists, entrepreneurs, critical thinkers, leaders, students, parents, and youth. They believe in community empowerment through self-mastery. Self-Mastery — a commitment to self to continually develop attitudes and behaviors that allow one to positively impact self and community. KI and Spirit & Place are in their third year of collaborative programming.

Groundwork Indy’s mission is to bring about the sustained regeneration, improvement and management of the physical environment by developing community-based partnerships which empower people, businesses and organizations to promote environmental, economic and social well-being. Groundwork Indy engages in community-based strategies for revitalizing neighborhoods with initiatives in youth development, greenways and parks, brownfields and vacant land, and healthy communities.

Inspired by the arts, driven by a world in transition, EmcArts works alongside people, organizations, and communities as they take on their most complex challenges. Through advancing practices of innovation and adaptive change, EmcArts strengthens the resilience of individuals and organizations in the arts and social sectors. Through rigorously designed and facilitated workshops, coaching, and labs, we create space and conditions to navigate uncertainty, test innovative strategies, and build adaptive cultures. Our current programs are: Community Innovation Labs, New Pathways, Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators (ALACI), tailored Services for Single Organizations, and our resource-sharing and storytelling web platform, ArtsFwd. To learn more, visit

MetLife was founded on a simple, powerful insight: Everyone needs access to the right financial tools to achieve their goals. In 2013, this understanding inspired MetLife Foundation to refocus its grantmaking toward financial inclusion. To support its vision and mission, the Foundation has committed $200 million over five years to help low-income individuals and families get access to safe and affordable financial products and services. As we enter the second half of our five-year strategic plan, MetLife Foundation is right on track, disbursing more than $100 million against that goal. Since its creation in 1976, MetLife Foundation has provided more than $700 million in grants to make a positive difference for the people, families and communities we serve.


Connecting with the Earth

by Benjamin Leslie

When we talk about taking care of the earth, we often refer to our connection to the basic elements and to basic natural processes, including the seasons and the natural cycles of life and death. The ways that this connection often looks in our society are familiar to us: We strive to be ‘in touch’ with nature by way of spending more minutes outdoors, planting more trees, or composting the kitchen scraps. Or we may have a more wholesale approach, that involves giving up certain comforts, learning how to camp, or hiking the Appalachian Trail. We find value in these activities, but at times they don’t seem to do the trick. They leave us wondering how to connect more – how to recycle more or to spend more time camping in isolation. The ‘Survivor’ method of giving up our comforts can end up being quite aggressive, yet the contrary – racking up points for being ‘green’ – somehow doesn’t go far enough.

In the Buddhist tradition, taking care of the earth starts with ourselves – our own persons and bodies. The ways we handle our waste as a society and the ways we connect (or don’t) to the elements are a direct result of our very personal and intimate habitual patterns. And our habitual patterns are based on, what we call in the Buddhist tradition, ‘mind.’

Working with one’s mind is one of the most direct ways to take responsibility for caring for the earth. Our ideas about how to care for the earth may be grounded in good logic or good morals, but if we don’t work with them personally, they might become a hollow crusade. Consider the common example of committing to a special diet. Many become vegan or vegetarian due to legitimate environmental concerns. Yet often those who have attempted a special diet will express that success is based far more on working with everyday habitual patterns than on moral, ethical, or logical consideration of the environment.

In Buddhism, the sitting practice of meditation is used to work with our minds. Rather than being a technique for contemplating a certain concept or improving one’s concentration, the unique approach of sitting meditation involves acknowledging our thoughts simply and precisely. The meditator identifies with the outbreath and has their eyes open so that gentleness and awareness are cultivated toward themselves and their situations. The gentleness that can develop from consistently and precisely touching-in with our thoughts without manipulation is often referred to as ‘making friends with oneself.’ Gradually, the practice, including that gentleness, is extended toward our everyday situations – our habitual patterns, our relationships, our households, and maybe even our compost piles.

Relating to our world with gentleness can be vulnerable. Courage is the result of our willingness to remain soft and gentle in the midst of this vulnerability. When we apply this type of courage and awareness to our situations directly, it becomes possible to see them more directly. There is no need to turn away from the intensity of challenging everyday situations, or hotspots. When our garden fails, we might not see it as a reflection of ourselves, but as fertile ground. When we decide to compost or raise chickens, we can commit to working directly with our habitual patterns in a gentler way. When we are confronted by the natural processes of life and death, of the seasons, and of the elements, we may recognize the opportunity to connect with that situation and through that gentleness, to care for the earth.

Benjamin Leslie is currently on staff at Center for Interfaith Cooperation as Program Director for the Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps.