Some words as 2018 wraps up.

Every now and then I'd get a notification from Google Photos or Facebook showing me a moment from X years ago, and more often than not it's a (hugely) pleasant surprise. They represent so much more than simply the where/who/what. They also bring back memories, emotions, sensations not depicted in the pixels. It's one of the reasons why I love my work so much. I get to observe, (sometimes facilitate), capture, and preserve these memories that could last forever.

2018 has been a tremendous year once more for me. One of incredible growth and expansion. I spent much time being in and exploring a few new places, made some really radical new friends, made peace with people I had disagreements with, made mistakes, failed and rebounded, made and rescued quite a lot of food, discovered and tried new things, had very little diarrhea, and rekindled a number of old connections as well as reconnecting with family.

Sometime in mid 2017 I committed myself to take photography and videography full-on and sustain myself with my craft. I had spent the summer doing a complete makeover of my website, and putting it out there that here I am, a poor artist with bright eyes, able hands, and open mind, ready to attract more than just a financial means of livelihood. Not long after I had finished revamping the site, I landed in New Zealand.

Just over a year ago at a solstice/holidays gathering in Christchurch, I remember being surrounded by a group of friends and stating my intention to continue to attract the good work and financial abundance for the incoming year. I wanted to not only have the passion, but capital too. There's been this mindset of scarcity that I feel has kept me from reaching my full potential. I welcomed the challenges that come with the commitment. I've devoted myself to my craft, and am happy to say that though there are slumps and unmotivated days, each week overall I DO feel closer to my vision of what a life of abundance could look and feel like.

New Zealand was in countless ways multiple lessons that keep teaching, a land that has kept giving, an incubator for new ideas to be born and explored, and a meeting point for all the teachers I came across. While I don't believe I had taken full advantage of my time there, but that in itself is a lesson that will keep paying dividends. Aotearoa-New Zealand, you are truly a wonderful place. I long to return.

I am grateful for many things, but most importantly are the humans. I have gratitude for Peter in getting me down under in the first place, Erica and Preston in their friendship and immense drive that made me run harder faster stronger while remembering to slow down and have fun, Kit for your openness and hospitality in your home, the whole Ministry of Awesome team in putting up with me at your coworking space, Michael Reynolds in being an all-star human, friend, and collaborator, Franca for your beauty, patience, and honesty, AJ & Allison in being absolute gems of humans and deep discussions that really move me cosmically, the Guido-Henry-Milena trio for our short but truly memorable time together AND in rescuing me in the final hours in NZ. Rieki in his visionary projections on what our future could be, and acting upon it.

I am forever grateful to Sue & Tony Angles for their love and hospitality in Sydney, for the Enspiral and Digital Storytellers team to have showed me what immense power we hold when we run for-purpose instead of for-profit. For Zana and her family in hosting me in Byron Bay, Ibaia on the Gold Coast, all whilst I was working on the launch of my Patreon.

Gratitude also to Utsav in being a teacher, friend, and host in Kolkata, Kristine who put me up (and put up with me) throughout Vietnam, Carina in traveling with me in Sikkim, and my friends-"clients" Elizabeth & Anup, Christina & Kevin for your truly wonderful weddings that brought me (back) to places I really enjoy to do what I really like - capturing moments while making a living out of it. It's pretty rad.

Beyond grateful for Conscious Impact, and every human that's taken part in its creation and ongoing devotions to the land and one another. Returning to the Himalayas this year was invigorating for deeper parts of my soul. A piece of my heart is always there, awaiting its missing pieces for a reunion.

Deeply thankful for friends and communities back on the west coast of the US & Canada. California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, thank you for (re)inviting me back and welcoming me always. I feel at home here.

And especially for the Seattle/Beacon Food Forest crew - wow. Nothing but love. Michael Guenther, Caroline, Allen, Steph, y'all are just wonderful.

And to my father, my sisters, their spouses, nephews, and of course, my mother - oh my brave, strong mother - here I am, because of them, typing this unexpectedly in California while looking out the window of the last morning of yet another momentous year.

Onwards!

I'm back in California!

I'm back and ready to take your photograph, video, or tell your story!

I recently returned to California from my 5th trip to Nepal. This time I spent 7 weeks in the Himalayan country, and all but 3 days were with the Conscious Impact community continuing our natural building, agriculture, and youth empowerment projects.

This community that I've mentioned so often encompasses the locals it serves, locals who work alongside us, the volunteers - both Nepali & foreigners, and our supporters spanning the globe. To date, we've had about 500 volunteers representing ~40 countries from every continent except Antarctica. It's extraordinary.

Together we've (re)built 32 homes, 2 community centers, an orphanage, a school, a business building, and many micro structures on the land where we dwell, cook, live, play, and share stories, craft, and practices with one another. We've stuck to our principles of earth stewardship, natural building, and selfless service to the community by listening to and responding to their needs while holding firm on our permaculture (systems thinking and design for coexistence and abundance for all living beings and the earth) roots.

This trip back was important and special for a number of reasons, some of which I've written in recent posts and on Patreon where I share (and will continue to) more with my amazing supporters.

Meanwhile, I'd be delighted to connect for the photoshoot idea that's been on your mind, with your recently engaged friend who seeks a photo/videographer, or other documentation/visual storytelling needs that you or someone you know could benefit from. Know that all paying work allows me to sustain this livelihood to work/serve/play/explore/thrive, as it is my main source of income. Know that my income often goes right back into purchasing gear that helps me capture moments better and continue pro-bono or discounted work for individuals and organizations like Conscious Impact. Know that I always do what I can to minimize my environmental & social impact while fostering regeneration. And, as most of you are aware, I happily travel for a good gig or opportunity. Try me 😉

Jonathan H. Lee, at your service!

PS: this was from an awesome wedding where I partnered with the talented Vidu Love & Kristin Cameron to capture the very special day of Christina Leung & Kevin Sun ✨

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... I don't have words.

Everyone's alright physically.

I DO have words.

This space meant immensely to all of us. This space was a showcase of our natural building knowledge. A showcase and celebration of our work alongside the community members. We invited locals who are skilled at straw weaving to help us with the roofing. It was a collaborative effort, much like a majority of our physical projects.

This new common space was a structure we didn't know we wanted and needed to exist. We dreamed of it in season 2, well over a year and a half ago, and some of us didn't even think it'd be feasible with our meager budget and simply the sheer complexity of its design and size. But our vision shined through. I personally watched it from several thousand km's away as the team on the ground designed, planned, and began the building process throughout season 3. I was mesmerized.
To see it, work on it, photo/film it, and be in it, even if briefly, this season has been such a gift. It'll be remembered. And we'll come out of this stronger together. 

@Conscious Impact 

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Coffee Co-op Groundbreak! (Video)

Friends and fans! This is a very exciting new construction project that Conscious Impact broke ground in the past month. We've been working with and talking about coffee with local farmers for about 2 years now, and each day we bring the hub closer from conception to reality.

Personally, I am pretty darn excited to have been able to integrate my new video capturing (especially the aerial shots!), editing, and storytelling skills gained from this past year in New Zealand and Australia and infuse them into the work that we do in Nepal (and beyond).

It has been a tremendous time being back with the team here in the lower Himalayas living, working, and co-creating together. Watching the trees, kids, ideas, and our community grow and thrive is often beyond any still photograph or video can truly convey, but I'll do what I can in bringing it all to life.

As I transition back to the U.S. in a few days, keep an eye out for much more content that I've captured these past 7 weeks and get into editing/writing/production mode, and of course continue to publish them on Conscious Impact's social media outlets and here with you all.

A heartfelt shoutout to all of my patrons on Patreon in making my livelihood and this work possible. Patrons also get exclusive content, early releases, and other perks! Check it out to see my story and how you could possibly take part also.

Water Tank Project Update (Video)

Last spring, hundreds of people helped Conscious Impact raise $7,000 USD via GlobalGiving towards a new water tank for the community of Takure. Now, just 3 weeks into our new season, the tank has seen some amazing progress. Community members and volunteers have been working nearly every day, moving sand, stone, and other construction materials, to make this project a reality. In one month, upon its completion, more than 50 families will finally have access to a sufficient year-round water supply.

I used $100 USD of the funding from Patreon to donate towards this water tank project. This project came out of the community members' desires, and has been made possible because of grassroots donations and supporters like yourself, seeking out initiatives, projects, communities, and organizations such as Conscious Impact to co-create a more collaborative and equal world. I am thankful to so many friends and family supporting me on Patreon in allowing me to return to Nepal and take part, capture, and re-tell progress and stories like this to more and more people.

Check out how I am able to do this on my page: www.patreon.com/subtledream

This was taken about a week ago at @ConsciousImpact's camp where I had a few minutes to explain the power of social media and storytelling to engage, inspire, and connect the characters moving the shovels on the ground here with the folks on the other side of the screen. I have several pieces of content that have been in my head that I'm really stoked about filming, editing, and producing in the coming months and beyond. Huge, huge gratitude for my patrons on Patreon in continuing to support me in making this possible not only for me, for Conscious Impact, and all the people whose lives we touch-affect intimately, to bring these stories of the human spirit here in this little part of the Himalayas to life.

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Kick off video!

Freshest video update of our kickoff of season/year 4 of Conscious Impact's work in the village of Takure in Nepal.

We kickoff with some housekeeping, volunteer camp upgrades, and steadily move towards the continuation of our existing projects in the rebuilding and agriculture spaces as well as youth empowerment. I'm thrilled to be utilizing my craft as well as my hands to serve this project and community once more.

A huge thanks to my 42 patrons on Patreon in making this a reality, and a special shoutout to Urška Čebron, my latest patron! Big gratitude. 🙏

Patreon is a platform that allows content creators like myself to earn a sustained income from individuals like yourself to support radical projects, art, and grassroots initiatives like this. Consider pitching in if you find value in what I/we do, starting as little as just $1/month! See and learn more about me via www.patreon.com/subtledream

Video shot and edited by yours truly featuring Orion Haas, one of the co-founders of Conscious Impact, a long-time friend, and also a fellow patron/supporter.

Check out and follow along Conscious Impact's journey: 
consciousimpact.org 
instagram.com/consciousimpact 
facebook.com/consciousimpact
vimeo.com/consciousimpact

Yoga for Nepal - Conscious Impact

Did you know that Conscious Impact is about to run our third annual yoga retreat at the village where we've worked and live? November 6-15 -- and trust me, that's a beautiful time to be amongst the Himalayas.

Learn more and sign up via: https://www.consciousimpact.org/yoga

Special thanks to Sebastian Buffa of Redefined Films for filming and recording Dharma Shakti working her magic physically, verbally, and energetically with the land and people. Putting this video together was a breeze because of you guys' sublime work! 

#MoreThanATree Campaign

I am late to the #MoreThanATree campaign, but folks ought to know about this, so here's my post.
As the videography and editor of this piece, I can tell you this campaign really, truly is much more than just a (coffee) tree (or 10,000!). This represents Conscious Impact's original commitment and intent in the village of Takure - a long-term vision and solution that is in-line with the community members' point of view. Narayan Bhattarai, a Takure local and a walking encyclopedia of local plants and all-things agriculture (and more), is our amazing community liaison and a dear friend since the inception of the project. Together with the agriculture team, we have taken part in many conversations and plannings in working to this point - the joining of an existing coffee growing cooperative that guarantees buyers at a fixed rate. What does this mean? It signifies that farmers who are part of this co-op can sell their harvest coffee beans at a rate that would bring in considerable income for his/herself and their families. What other benefits are there, you may ask? Good question! Since coffee trees enjoy being in the shade, part of coffee planting means also planting canopy trees which will tower over the coffee. For this we will put in the ground native and other fruit/food-bearing trees that will not only provide shade, but also food for humans, birds, and other fauna will be attracted to his multi-layer habitat, just as a natural and healthy-functioning ecosystem would. Another added bonus: more trees and a restored natural habitat = less erosion, and that's definitely a good thing in these deforested hillsides battered with heavy monsoon rains every summer. 
With that said, and having watched these coffee saplings grow from sprouts 13 months ago to their height now, the evolution of the agriculture program and its potential to really make a positive impact on regional community members ecologically and financially, I am beyond pleased to have cut this together to fund a project that I believe in personally. Big, big thanks to Sunita Pandey and Alyson Noele Sagala in translating our interviews throughout the Spring season, while the ag team consisting of Bryce Geralynn TannerGreg Robinson, Narayan Bhattarai, Jose Whelan, and Renée Dyke certainly deserve a round of applause for their dedication and (ongoing) work in making this a reality. We are at 44% or so now and I don't see why we cannot hit 100% before the summer's end. Big thanks to all who have supported us so far!

Ready to pitch in?
Campaign fundraiser link: https://www.classy.org/campaign/more-than-a-tree/c118678

Want to know more?

Vimeo video link (to share with those not only on Facebook): https://vimeo.com/consciousimpact/morethanatree

See more on Conscious Impact's Facebook page, Instagram @ConsciousImpact #MoreThanATree, and of course our website www.consciousimpact.org

PS: Gratitude to Rebeca Segal for photographing alongside yours truly, and to the musical talents Scott HansonIftach Yaya Meir, and Chris Mains for the sublime soundtrack!

KTM - DBX

I am sitting on seat 20D surrounded by Nepalis and Indians who are also flying to Dubai, many of which I am quite certain are going to or back to the UAE for work. As I spend the last minutes in this country, thousands of memories and snippets from the past 5 months and from past visits are flashing by, but in particular I am thinking about Udav and our boys and men who have been working with us Conscious Impact for several months to since the project's beginning. These are folks who would otherwise not be regularly employed staying in their home village with their families, or would otherwise move to Kathmandu for work, or equally likely too find work aboard in the Gulf States/Malaysia/Indonesia/etc. but leave their family behind. It makes me feel good knowing that our project has not only begun the reconstruction of a local school, an orphanage, a couple community buildings, and now houses too, but also have provided these guys the ability to stay in their home village with their families while earning a livelihood. Udav's house is near completion as I type this. These very bricks that he proudly helped make, cure, move, and place into his new, socially and environmentally responsible, earthquake-safe home will be a story to be told for decades to follow. I'm proud and honored to have been a part of it as this team, this community, this family as this chapter comes to an end. To be continued - Conscious Impact Season 3! #ComeToNepal

Udav catching one of hundreds of bricks from a volunteer as we load the truck for his home.

Udav catching one of hundreds of bricks from a volunteer as we load the truck for his home.

Education Program Update Blog & Video

Always a pleasure working with the amazing Alyson Noele Sagala who I met through Conscious Impact last year. Last week I went to the local secondary school with Alyson and two other volunteers/friends, Allie Seymour and Lilly Foster, and together they facilitated a women's reproductive health class alongside Shakya Jenisha, a Teach for Nepal fellow. Photos by yours truly and words and Alyson's.
Link to blog: https://www.consciousimpact.org/new-blog/2017/5/2/education-update-252017-sexual-reproduction-and-health

Also! Fresh video update of the same day. As is the case usually, Alyson describes it best:
"Though news from across the ocean is as disheartening as ever, I am reminded of the good we are still capable of putting out in the world to counteract ugliness, no matter the context.
Last Friday we did a sexual reproductive health and menstruation education workshop for the members of the Girls Empowerment Program. I'm even more excited about the follow up meeting we had just this morning with even more girls in attendance. But for now, take a gander at this video that documents what we did last week, engaging this bright group of girls with invaluable education in a fun, supportive, and safe environment.
"
Shout out to Lilly FosterAllie Seymour, and Shakya Jenisha in making this possible, enlightening curious young minds here where we've lived and worked. I always enjoy documenting a meaningful and empowering event and cause. Thank you! #ComeToNepal

CNN.com feature!

387 days ago, I left the US to return to Nepal to work and live with the Conscious Impact team in the rural village of Takure several hours outside Kathmandu. Today is the 2-year anniversary of the 2015 earthquake that shook Nepal and claimed the lives of around 9000 Nepalis and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. Last year I was also in Takure. I remember being with over 30 international volunteers working to produce locally and sustainably-produced bricks to rebuild one of the local primary schools. Now, over 70,000 bricks later -- a primary school, an orphanage, an office building for the local women's microfinance cooperative, a community center, an elder's center, and several family homes are either completed or currently in the works. 
This evening we gathered in commemorating of the earthquake that brought us together, and to celebrate how far we've come together and to fuel our journey ahead. This evening we are proud to present a feature on CNN.com, titled "Rebuilding a Nepali village, one block at a time." Deep, deep gratitude to the hundreds of volunteers and hundreds more supporters worldwide in making our rebuilding story happen and continue to unfold. I'll always have Orion Haas and Allen Gula to thank for their vision of Conscious Impact and the wonderful humans they have magnetized to this space over the years. I must also thank Alyson Noele Sagala and Sunita Pandey in helping me with the interviews and in gathering all of the information to make this article happen, and of course last but not least gratitude goes out to Phillip Ngo in connecting us to Bijan Hosseini at CNN in materializing this piece. I am absolutely humbled to have my photos and a project-community I have so much love for be featured on a major news channel. Namaste!
http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/25/asia/nepal-earthquake-takure/index.html

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Featured at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Friends and family, I am tremendously excited to announce my first museum exhibition feature at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel. The exhibition, titled "3.5 Square Meters: Constructive Response to Natural Disasters," will open to the public in under 3 days on March 23 at 6pm, and remain so until the first week of September. This multi-month exhibition will showcase (as you can likely imagine by now) Conscious Impact and our collaborative work since August 2015 in the village of Takure in the Sindhupalchowk region of Nepal. Plus... our very own bricks are there! The team and I have been working with the exhibition curator since last autumn to put together something that we feel is indicative of the immensely intimate and important work that we've been doing with the local community members heavily affected by the April and May 2015 earthquakes. 
Many many thanks to Neta Kind-Lerer for the connection to the museum for this opportunity to go from idea to manifestation. The whole team is extremely excited and grateful for the international exposure and whatever this may bring. Onwards! #ComeToNepal #RebuildTakure

Feature on Turn it to Trvl

My brother Allen Gula, one of the main reasons I first went to Nepal in 2015 after the earthquakes, as well as co-founder of Conscious Impact, recently wrote a blog piece on the story of our project and it has been featured on Turn It To Trvl - a very good read. Namaste!

http://www.turnittotrvl.com/conscious-impact-nepal/

"...We want to provide steady, supportive spaces that shifts development from the mind and planning every aspect of the future into a heart oriented space where what’s best for everyone can arise from the intuitive part of our best intentions. To continue to make bricks, provide local jobs and give the best advice to home rebuilders with a local material made by their families. To reforest these Himalayan hillsides with love, respect and fruit trees that we can eat from and share after a long days work together."

My first Conscious Impact experience in the village of Takure

The ambient light diffusing into my tent gently woke me up. It was roughly 6 am. The air was damp, but not muggy. I remembered it had rained last night. I remembered being pulled out of a deep sleep as the rain drops spattered onto the nylon rainfly less than a meter above. The rain was light though, soothing. I teleported back into dreamland within seconds. I have slept well almost every night. This rain was particularly welcomed. It hadn't rained for nearly a week. The transition out of the monsoon season has been quite drastic in these past 5 weeks. The frequency of rain has dropped noticeably, and so has the evening temperatures. Autumn is definitely upon us.

The volunteer camp in the village of Takure in the district of Sindhupalchok has been my home for nearly the past 6 weeks. I have lived out of a small tent, waking up early to the sun everyday to learn, work, and live alongside dozens of volunteers from across the globe. In some weeks there have been only about 15-25 of us. Others 40-55+. We eat a vegetarian, plant-based diet. We drink, shower, and clean with water from a spring further up the hill. Natural resources such as bamboo, wood, sand, clay, and stone are collected from around the community, and if needed, purchased from nearby stores to support local businesses. The diversity of the characters this camp and project has attracted here is truly immense. Equally immense is the hospitality and warmth of the Nepalis, specifically the community members of Takure. We've been welcomed into a number of families' homes and served tea, milk, and sometimes even fresh harvests such as cucumbers with chili salt. Their stories, openness, and humility humble us each and everyday. Describing the essence thus far with any one or even combination of adjectives doesn't even begin to articulate the full spectrum of humbling and enlightening human experiences I (we) have had.

Today we bid farewell to the 10-day October rebuild volunteers. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you have worked, laughed, sang, cooked, sweated, learned, and shared experiences with around the clock day after day. We share the collective vision for global learning and understanding. We seek connections beyond geographical and political boundaries. We are drawn closer by our similarities rather than being divided by our differences in beliefs, genders, and interests. We celebrate the unique journeys and skill sets which we are all on and have. It makes for quite the special bonds. I have certainly made a number of friends for life.

In the following several days, we will be completing the main structure of the training center. The training center is going to be where community members of Takure and folks from all around the region can come and learn about an alternative building material which will be produced on-site. Compressed earth blocks, or CEB for short, is the main product. These blocks are to be made from nearly all local materials, are ecologically and financially sustainable, and very importantly, earthquake-proof. The CEB will first be utilized in rebuilding the 2 local schools, a project which both Conscious Impact and YUWA Unity Nepal are fully committed to and foresee starting later in November. The vision is to have this training center to be a knowledge-sharing space and marketplace run by villagers of Takure to offer lessons, discussions, and have the earth blocks for sale at a significantly lower cost (as well as ecological footprint) compared to conventional building materials and methods.

I am so proud of my friends' work in this beautiful, special place. I am filled with awe at the progress we have made in the past month and a half. When you first walk around this village, you may only see physical devastation. Yet as all of us have discovered and experienced, the people living in the temporary structures rebuilt from scrap materials from their fallen homes are more often filled with resilience, joy, and hope. Amazingly, despite having had all but one structure collapse from the earthquakes in April and May, there is not one human casualty in Takure. Rupak, one of the local young men who has been working with us as well as serve as our interpreter, remarked that this is such a special place that Shiva himself has protected the village. This resonates well with the spirit we have felt through the visits to homes and schools. The community members are thankful for this life and are ready to rebuild better and stronger than before.

The dwindling internet access here at camp has made uploading content and staying connected limited and difficult at best. I apologize for the lack of updates especially these past couple weeks as our internet access went from limited to barely existent. As I (reluctantly) emerge out of the woods from this special place, I will undoubtedly be adding content to this fundraising campaign and on social media. There is so, so much to be shared.

Due to the complex and escalated political and social issues in Nepal these past few weeks, many resources including petro has been a rare commodity throughout the country. Many flights out of Kathmandu have been canceled, including my own. After several days of uncertainty (and some frustration), my departure date has been postponed to October 23 --- 6 days later than originally scheduled. This delay allows much-welcomed downtime, further envisioning with Allen and Orion for what the next year holds for us, in addition to the films we will be able to produce with Luke and Sebastian, the good folks behind Redefined Films.

There is 2 and a half days left in the fundraiser. We are so close to the goal. I am overwhelmed by the incredible support from friends and family across over 5 different time zones. I hope you find or have found value in the work that not only I have been doing here in Takure, but we collectively as a conscious movement doing what we all feel is morally and socially the right thing to do. The impact we have made, will continue to here in Nepal and far beyond throughout our lives and those we touch shall spread like ripples on a tranquil pond. I have no doubt this is only the beginning of the greater good we are able to co-create within ourselves and those we touch.

Looking forward, and always enjoying the present moment.

With love and gratitude from Takure,
Jonathan