Women's March Poem (Video)

2 years ago, I recorded my good friend Alyson's poetry / spoken word piece on the "sunset terrace" in Nepal for the Women's March in DC and women all around the world.

I've had the utmost pleasure to work alongside Alyson since 2016 within Conscious Impact as well. She's the visionary behind the Youth Empowerment program, and currently she's in the village of Takure in Nepal continuing to run the program, finding a Nepali coordinator to improve and expand the reach of our work, while also helping to build up the coffee cooperative processing center for local farmers to process and sell their organic coffee beans in the future.

I am thankful for her presence, strength of character, devotion, authenticity, and friendship.

The video can be viewed on Vimeo as well.

Check out Alyson's other work at Alyson Noele Poetry or alysonnoele.com

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

Namaste, Nepal

3 flights and 38 hours later… feels so, so good to be back in the Himalayas once more. Here’s the incredible Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.

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2017 End of Year Time-Lapse Reel

Here's a little treat I have compiled together of time-lapse highlights from 2017. They represent 4 of the countries I've had the lovely opportunity to spend time in and photograph. Everything is going to fly by quickly and there is no fancy editing except for sequence change to a few beats. Don't blink because in this short video your eyes will see tens of thousands of images representing tens of hours compressed into 85 seconds. Happy new year everyone!

Music by the incredible The Polish Ambassador - 'Dark Between Stars'

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! 

Everest Basecamp & 3 Passes Trek

Everest Basecamp + 3 Passes Trek in the Khumbu-Everest region of eastern Nepal

Dates: 21 March - 16 April 2017 (27 days total)
Start: Shivalaya, ~1,800 m
End: Phaplu/Salleri, ~2,300 m
Lowest elevation: ~1,500 m, at Dhudu Kosi River crossing near Nuthala
Highest elevation: 5,643 m (18,514 ft), at Kala Patthar
Temperature range: -10 to high 20's °C
Transport: Bus + legs only! :)

Everest basecamp (yellow/orange tents), Khumbu Glacier (behind basecamp), and Khumbu Icefall (above glacier). Nuptse in the background 7,861 m (25,791 ft) in the center-right. Everest slightly hidden behind the clouds in the middle-back.

Everest basecamp (yellow/orange tents), Khumbu Glacier (behind basecamp), and Khumbu Icefall (above glacier). Nuptse in the background 7,861 m (25,791 ft) in the center-right. Everest slightly hidden behind the clouds in the middle-back.

Trekking Map (incomplete)

Gear

A snap of nearly everything minus the snacks before departure.

A snap of nearly everything minus the snacks before departure.

  • 50L backpack
  • 2L water bladder
  • 1L water bottle
  • 0.5L thermest - amazing for hot drinks
  • water purifier (Steripen Ultra)
  • water filter/pouch (Sawyer mini water filter)
  • sunglasses - so very crucial
  • regional trekking map - also rec'd: offline maps
  • Kindle (Paperwhite)
  • Down sleeping bag rated for -7C/19F (REI Igneo)
  • mini first-aid, sunblock, moisturizer, mini towel

Clothing & Footwear

  • (3) pairs of quick-dry undies
  • (2) pairs of wool socks
  • wool/fleece beanie
  • (2) fleece neck warmer/gaiter
  • fleece gloves
  • synthetic short sleeve
  • convertible quick-dry shirt
  • wool long sleeve base layer
  • quick-dry hiking shorts
  • full-length synthetic tights
  • rain jacket/shell (Patagonia Torrentshell)
  • insulated jacket (Patagonia Nano Air)
  • light fleece sweater (Patagonia R1)
  • lightweight windbreaker (Patagonia Houdini)
  • quick-dry hiking pants (Patagonia Quandary)
  • soft-shell pants (Patagonia Simul Alpine)
  • trail-running shoes (Brooks Cascadia- wore these most of the time at lower elevations and on mild days. more notes below
  • mid-top waterproof boots (Salewa Firetail EVO) - too warm for low elev., primarily used them at 4000+ m. more notes below
  • full-length gaiters (REI Alpine) - see notes below
  • microspikes (by Kahtoola) - see note below

Clothing/gear note: The retail $ damage on these pieces of gear would be nuts. The reason I was able to afford them is because I had worked in the outdoor industry and got everything heavily discounted while under their payroll, and the occasional thrift store gems! REI Garage Sales are awesome, too (sorry folks, they are only in the US). There are many low-priced outdoor gear shops in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and other trekking towns that carry replicas of North Face/Marmot/Mountain Hardwear/etc. base layers, jackets, pants, and accessories for ~20-50% the branded retail cost, and a good number (though certainly not all) of these products function very well, or even just as well as the real thing. That said, I've seen porters/guides/other trekkers hit the trail in the low valleys to high passes with simple shirts, jeans, flip flops, and everything in between. I don't believe there is a "correct way," though I do think there are certain materials to avoid to make the journey more comfortable and be ready for varying circumstances in weather. I'm fortunate to have solid gear that has kept me safe, warm (mostly), dry (again, mostly), and should likely last a long time. I also believe in Patagonia's environmental and social ethicacy and other companies' similar statements, and wish to support their work. 

A water filter/purifer is highly recommended to minimize the chance of catching water-borne illnesses and eliminate the need for single-use plastic water bottles. 

The trail-runners were great and I wore them for most of the trek. Even with temperatures dipping below freezing at high altitude and/or early mornings, with medium-weight wool socks and as long as I kept moving my feet stayed happy. The mid-top boots were welcomed at higher altitudes (4000+ meters), stream crossings, and trekking over ice/snow, and for some additional lateral support, but I am blessed with strong ankles and therefore didn't absolutely need them for this reason. Another benefit with wearing ventilated shoes - MUCH less stink. ;) It's more weight to carry 2 pairs but I felt prepared for the hugely varied and at times unpredictable conditions from 1500 - 5500+ meters.

I think gaiters and microspikes are optional depending on the time of the year and snowfall from previous season. My friends and I started in late March, which is considered early in the trekking season. Folks do trek all year in the region, though with the winter cold between Dec-Mar, much fewer people, including lodge/guesthouse owners, are at higher altitudes. We luckily had friends who had just returned from the region and told us that traction device and gaiters would be useful as they had gotten snowed-in at Gokyo (a seasonal town at 4790 m) for 2-3 days in the 2nd/3rd week of March. I would imagine later in April and May these 2 pieces of gear can be omitted to save space and weight. I couldn't speak for the rest of the year. There's always Namche Bazaar - the hub of the Khumbu-Everest region - to get the latest word on trail conditions and weather and to pick up supplies of all sorts.

Camera Equipment

Additional notes: The focal length range was tremendous and made for nearly every type of shot possible. The quality from those zooms with the full-frame sensor is impressive, however the weight was undoubtedly on the heavier end. More than half my pack's weight was in camera gear and accessories. I would certainly consider a lighter setup (ie: 1 wide angle prime + 1 medium-range prime, like 85/100/135mm) or a mirrorless/micro 4/3rd's camera with an all-in-one + prime lens. The GoPro/monopod combo was great fun to have, and the tripod was essential for me to do night and long exposures as well as time-lapses.

Looks like a tiny bag, but the weight was quite killer (especially with all the snacks) while ascending and at high elevation. Ascending towards the 2nd of the 3 Passes, Cho La (~5,370 m) from Zonglha, 6 April 2017.

Looks like a tiny bag, but the weight was quite killer (especially with all the snacks) while ascending and at high elevation. Ascending towards the 2nd of the 3 Passes, Cho La (~5,370 m) from Zonglha, 6 April 2017.

Ama Dablam (6,812 m) rising into the sky behind tea-guesthouses in Pangboche (3,980 m) on 30 March, 2017.

Ama Dablam (6,812 m) rising into the sky behind tea-guesthouses in Pangboche (3,980 m) on 30 March, 2017.

Descending from Island Peak basecamp (~5,070 m) back to Chukhung (~4,800 m) as a wet rain/snow mixture was falling on 2 April, 2017.

Descending from Island Peak basecamp (~5,070 m) back to Chukhung (~4,800 m) as a wet rain/snow mixture was falling on 2 April, 2017.

Walking thorugh the Khumbu glacier just outside Everest Basecamp (~5,300 m) on 4 April, 2017.

Walking thorugh the Khumbu glacier just outside Everest Basecamp (~5,300 m) on 4 April, 2017.

Dawn hike up to Kala Patthar (~5,600 m) from Gorakshep (~5,150 m) on 5 April, 2017.

Dawn hike up to Kala Patthar (~5,600 m) from Gorakshep (~5,150 m) on 5 April, 2017.

View from Kala Patthar (~5,600 m) a minute before the sun peeks out behind Everest (dark tall peak on the right) iteself. 5 April, 2017.

View from Kala Patthar (~5,600 m) a minute before the sun peeks out behind Everest (dark tall peak on the right) iteself. 5 April, 2017.

One of the Gokyo lakes half way up Gokyo Ri on 8 April, 2017.

One of the Gokyo lakes half way up Gokyo Ri on 8 April, 2017.

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

Day 19, April 8

Day 19, April 8. 5 am wake up to hike up Gokyo Ri to catch the sunrise. The mercury was well below zero and the windchill made it feel like minus 8 or so. About half way up the mountain, I caught sight of several yaks that were grazing along the steep hillside as the golden morning light thawed the slightly icy ground. I strategically walked above the yak and followed it for a good 20-30 minutes and snatched this shot of a black yak with Gokyo Lake and the town in the background. One of my favorite captures from the whole 3 passes/Everest basecamp trek.