Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography: Blog en-us Kyer Wiltshire Weddings and Events (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Sun, 13 May 2018 00:20:00 GMT Sun, 13 May 2018 00:20:00 GMT Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography: Blog 120 120 Privilege

Considering the growing economic inequality in the world, it makes sense that we hear a lot about privilege.  A friend defines privilege as being able to drink your tap water.  I define privilege as access to jobs, money, power, mobility, safety, experience and education.

I started learning Spanish in college when I was 19, and as my second language it’s given me a lot of privilege.  I’ve lived and traveled in many Spanish-speaking countries, and before I became a fulltime photographer I was a Spanish professor. 

Last month I had the privilege to photograph Hogar del Niño in the Dominican Republic.  The privately funded school educates and teaches life skills to over 1,700 vulnerable and underprivileged toddlers, children and teens.  In a country where poverty, violence and inequality are often the norm, these children are privileged to attend Hogar del Niño.

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) dominican republic hogar del niño privilege Mon, 05 Mar 2018 19:46:41 GMT
How do you Love?

How do you maintain your relationship in a relatively happy place?  Do you accept your partner?  Do you help each other grow? How do you make your partner’s life easier and more joyful?

Screenshot As a photographer how do you capture their love in an authentic way? How do you make them feel comfortable in front of the camera together? 

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that it’s about tuning into their energy, and asking them questions about their love and connection.  They are together because there is something special that they share.  How can you tap in to that with your camera?

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) happy joyful kyer wiltshire love photography love photos pics sikh wedding Sat, 19 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT
Do I bring my Camera? People often ask me if they should bring their camera traveling, camping or to an event like Burning Man.  My answer is usually: yes, bring your camera!   Your smartphone is fine for a quick pic to post on social media, but if you want the best tool to capture that beautiful sunset, a colorful ceremony or the art and people at an event like Burning Man, bring your real camera. 

A good point and shoot like the Canon GX1 (or Sony, Nikon, etc..) is a lightweight option for travel and hiking.  If you don’t have to lug your camera very far, bring a DSLR with a lens or two for best results. 

Here are some items you will want to have with you: an extra battery or two, charger, extra camera cards, canned air and damp cloths for dusty environments, an assortment of lenses--consider the weight of several prime lenses verses one zoom-- headlamp, tripod, or a small travel tripod for waterfalls, and backpack to carry your gear, food and water, your laptop and card reader.  I also recommend having insurance for your gear.  If you’re not a professional photographer, a homeowners or renters policy should cover you. 

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) artist point bali burning man empower kyer wiltshire photo photography picture lake renters policy shuksan tips weddings Fri, 11 Aug 2017 23:46:17 GMT
Body Temple Yoga Daniella and I first connected in 1999. She was a passionate and powerful young woman with a nascent yoga practice. A couple years later Daniella was one of my first models for my Sacred Form yoga calendar. As long as I have known Daniella she has been in love with yoga, not just the asana and movement, she is also a student and a teacher of yoga as a philosophy, a tool to help us find more clarity, equanimity, and purpose in our lives. I am excited and honored to share some of the photos that we have created over the years, as well as the wisdom and insights that Daniella has to share from her yoga practice and teachings.

What is the biggest gift that you have received from practicing yoga?

The biggest gift that I've received is the knowledge of the True Self. Knowing who I am outside of anyone else's projections or stories of me. Knowing who I am outside of what society and the media have pressed me to believe. This knowledge has connected me even deeper to my own heart. I know who I am and who I am not and that is the greatest gift of all. 

What was the biggest challenge you were able to overcome by practicing yoga?

Before yoga, I was creating my own suffering in a toxic relationship. My mind blamed my circumstances or other people for my feeling stuck and trapped. I was creating my own suffering by pointing the finger outside myself rather than inside and taking ownership of my own choice to stay in that relationship. The teachings of yoga showed me where I was getting in my own way. I learned that pain is a part of life, but suffering is optional, and there is a big difference between the two. 

Are practitioners/teachers of yoga walking their talk? Has the integrity of yoga been lost? What would you recommend to someone searching for a teacher, studio or training?

There are teachers who are carrying the torch of yoga, its tradition and art with integrity. And there are others who are simply in it for profit. In any profession, there can be an abuse of power (EGO) and yoga practitioners and teachers are not exempt from this. It is important to keep our ego in check. I have experienced this with a teacher of mine who abused his power and overstepped boundaries with students causing the community to fall apart. I have also experienced jealousy, competition and undermining tactics from a yoga studio owner so much that I was kicked out of the community because I was seen as a threat rather than an asset to the studio.

I recommending following your own intuition or gut: How do you feel in the presence of the teacher/studio/training in question? What does your gut say despite what they are saying? Your path is important and you will go the furthest along your path and learn the most with the teacher you most resonate with and feel the most trust and safety with. Not all teachers are in this for the right reasons. Use your gut to discern who's who.

Look for actions over words: Do the actions of those practitioners, teachers and studios live up to the principles of yoga? Or are they preaching them but not living as an example? Or worse, doing the opposite. I would be cautious of the ones who do not teach the ethical principles of yoga. That is a red flag.

Put your money where your beliefs and ethics are: part of keeping yoga's integrity is not only investing in yourself and your education, but supporting those who are living the teachings. Give your time, energy and resources to those teachers, studios and trainings that embody what yoga is and you will be contributing to keeping yoga's integrity and powerful application of deep change and healing, because ultimately you will spread what you learn.

How has your yoga practice helped others overcome personal challenges?

My yoga practice has helped others understand and experience Self Love. One of my teacher training graduates came to the practice disconnected from her heart, her body and not knowing how to love and value herself. The first time she came to one of my classes she wept from all the heart opening alignment. It cracked her open enough to feel again and have a release. She kept coming back and then eventually enrolled in the training. Now, a graduate, she confidently claims, and with tears of gratitude, that she loves herself in a way she never thought possible. She's more connected to her body and trusts her intuition more than she's ever been able to. She understands that what she heard in her head was simply not the truth. 

Why did you move to San Diego? Where are you going with your teaching practice? 

I am still connected to the Bay Area and my yoga school continues to run up there. I expanded to San Diego because my heart told me it was time to go. I didn't really know what was going to happen. What became clear is that it was time for me to live closer to my mother. We have lived apart for most of my life once I left to be on my own. And our relationship has always been very challenging. I've done A LOT of personal work and healing around my relationship with my mother. The practice of yoga has helped me heal our relationship. I didn't know how it was going to play out and I was a bit hesitant about it, yet our relationship is growing, thriving and full of love. I didn't see that coming, yet the call from my heart to move down here was related to that. I look forward to seeing how this move continues to unfold and reveal more of its purpose to me.

Teaching what I have learned from the wisdom of the Heart, I tend to attract some amazing people and I built a tribe. People who are ready to be free to be themselves, who are done being stuck in suffering and want to learn a better way. People who are committed to learning how to let their heart lead and are willing to face what it is inside themselves that is in the way. Vulnerability and courage are what I see in the people I get to work with and teach. My yoga school is running programs both in San Jose and San Diego. I am developing new programs with the Heart Wisdom Work and I am writing a book alongside it. I offer more advanced yoga programs as well. I'm most excited about the Heart Wisdom Work that I teach as it's something that has been there since I was 5 years old and now has platform to come out. I had the proverbial calling, and it came from inside my own heart.

All images are copyright Kyer Wiltshire and used in the photo blog with the permission of Daniella Cotreau.

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) body temple yoga daniella cotreau equanimity heart wisdom yoga Mon, 31 Jul 2017 16:16:03 GMT
Our Divine Nature

I first met Veronica Fernmoss at Beloved Music Festival in 2010. She was open and friendly, kind hearted and present. I felt happy meeting Veronica and I sensed then that we would become friends. She has been my teacher, my counsel, my confidant and my dear friend for seven years. We have enjoyed festivals together, creating together, exploring the human condition together, and most of all we have shared our love for nature together.

Veronica is an amazing mother, wife and member of the community in the Seattle area and beyond. Even through life's challenges, her default has always been holding love and compassion for others. She is a life couch and she leads personal retreats.

This is our first photo blog interview together. Look for some podcasts from us in the future as well. 

Kyer: Tell us a little bit about the culture you grew up in and the culture that you live in today.

Veronica: I grew up in a conservative east coast suburb. I pretended to fit in, but I felt like I was on the wrong planet. I dreamed of being part of a community where I was inspired and encouraged to authentically express myself. Today I live on Vashon, a rural, progressive little island in Puget Sound, Washington. I’ve been part of a creative community of for over 20 years. Dreams do come true!

Kyer: What life events and connections have helped shape your view of the world and how we connect (or disconnect) as humans?

Veronica: I spent my early 20s trying to find happiness and fulfillment by pursuing the American Dream. I achieved success only to realize how empty I felt. My focus was on external wealth and I hadn’t done much to get to know or develop myself.

I unplugged from the matrix by leaving everything behind and backpacking around the world. That was the beginning of my life long journey of self-discovery. Soon thereafter I began having the deep and inspiring connections that I had always wanted, and the deeper I cultivate my relationship with myself, the deeper and more fulfilling are my connections with others.

Kyer:  We have a lot of shadow—addictions, drama and pain in our world today. The hungry ghost always wants more and negative drama often replaces connection and a healthy fulfillment. What are the causes of this shadow?

Veronica: Shadows are caused by the traumas you experience, as well as, the ancestral and collective traumas you inherit. We all have shadows. Even people who seem to have it all together have shadows and challenges. Shadows are a part of being human. They’re there to help you grow, to help you crack open and become more compassionate with yourself and with others. 

The problem comes when you don’t take 100 percent responsibility for your shadows. When a challenge arises, if you blame other people or circumstances or numb out (addictions) and don’t heal what the shadow is trying to show you, it will persist and grow. When you step up to the challenge, you grow and find the gift in the wound. 

Kyer: What brings you joy and a healthy life, and what do your teach in your conscious living workshops? 

Veronica: There are lots of things that bring me joy and keep me healthy, dancing, singing, and being playfully silly. But when distilled to its essence, my joy and wellbeing come from deep, loving connections. Joy and wellbeing come from deep, loving connections with myself, with others with Spirit and with Nature.

As those connections have deepened over my life, I realize how inter-related they are. When you strengthen one relationship, it supports all the others. For example, my relationships with other people can only be as loving and healthy as my relationship with myself. 

My husband Baruch and I teach individuals and couples how to cultivate and deepen healthy and loving relationships.

Kyer: Tell me about the acronym POET. How can we use this to relate to everyone we come in contact with- family, lover, community- in a healthy and fulfilling way?

Veronica: Life is all about connections to your self, to others and to something greater than yourself. In order to have healthy, fulfilling and enjoyable relationships with yourself, your family, lovers or anyone, you have to cultivate these qualities. 

I use the POET acronym to teach these essential skills: presence, open-heartedness, embodiment and truth

Presence is essential to fully participating in life. The past is gone, the future not yet here, only the present moment exists. If you’re not present, you’re not “here.” How can you participate in life if you’re not present?

When you’re openhearted, compassionate, loving, and accepting of yourself and others you naturally feel safe. When you feel safe you naturally open, and when you open you connect. When you connect you feel safe. This is a positive feedback loop that supports wellness in all aspects of life.

Embodiment refers to occupying your entire body, feeling comfortable in your own skin and being able to express yourself physically. When you live in your head you’re only accessing a part of your entire intelligence. For example, much more can sometimes be conveyed with a hug than in hours of talking. You’re body holds a treasure trove of wisdom and pleasure. It is delight to explore and experience it!

Truth refers to being in touch with your authentic self. Knowing your true nature leads to freedom and transformation.

It’s a game changer when you relate to everyone from a place of presence, open-heartedness, embodiment and truth. Relationships naturally grow, deepen and flourish and life becomes easier and more satisfying.

Kyer: Let’s talk about something that you and I enjoy very much: the wisdom, joy and nurturance of nature.

Veronica: One of my favorite mantras is: Nature is my greatest teacher, my greatest healer and my greatest lover. It’s amazing to have such a powerful ally who is always there to offer support.  Whenever I go outside, to take a deep breath, look up at the sky, at the trees, and listen to the birds, I relax and I feel better, simply by connecting with nature.

When I see a beautiful flower or sunset or fern or moss, I’m reminded that the beauty and harmony I see in Nature is also in me. It is so simple, yet profoundly healing and nourishing.

Then there’s the overflowing joy and wonder during epic natural encounters. Recently I was blessed to swim with a whale shark, wild dolphins and eagle rays! One of life’s greatest joys is embodying and connecting with Divine Nature. 

All photos are created by and copyright Kyer Wiltshire and published with the permission of Veronica Fernmoss. 

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Beloved Divine Nature Veronica Fernmoss embodiment open-heartedness presence truth Fri, 14 Apr 2017 05:00:52 GMT
A Witch’s Brew for Navigating these Transformative Times

I first met Katherine Bird in 2005 at EarthDance musical festival in Northern California. She was modeling several dancing wings created by Durian Songbird. I remember her as a beautiful, shy, and a little quirky, young woman. In 2011 we reconnected at Beloved Musical Festival and we have been close friends since.

I have photographed many amazing women in my career as a photographer, but few have energetically moved me more than Katherine. I perceive her to be a veritable witch. She is a shaman, a healer and she has taught me a lot about how we connect and share energy with others.

Kyer: Tells us a little about your background, your education, training and your own challenges that have brought you to where you are today as a healer and an educator. 

Katherine: Thirteen years ago, I experienced an intense energetic and spiritual awakening.  I had been medicated since the age of 15 and at this point of my life, I made a huge commitment to find out who I was which included going off of medications, quitting everything I had been doing as my life’s work up to that point and entering into a very confusing, intense time of healing and activation. I heard at that point that I was a healer, so I followed the tiny breadcrumbs bit by bit along that path. Along with the training in the energetic and spiritual realms I was receiving, I started studying a multitude of modalities and processes. I was fortunate to find a teacher in sacred dance and movement meditation practices which I still practice and teach today, I studied practical alchemy, yoga, various meditation practices, shamanism, kabbalah, deep structural bodywork, energy healing practices, qigong and other self-care practices.  Over time, my authentic way of channeling, healing and working with people has developed with the aid of these diverse teachings.

Kyer: Our country is going through a lot. Deep collective wounds are being exposed. It’s perhaps more challenging for folks on a conscious path of healing.  Can you offer any tools to navigate these difficult and transformative times?  How are the challenges for women different than they are for men?

Katherine: People are definitely feeling the collective deeply right now.  Many are being called to help process these energies. The shame, anger, resentment and fear are palpable and for many sensitive people it is overwhelming. These thoughts and emotions stick to us and we start to feel like they are our own.  It can be very confusing.  It is important to firstly start to develop a fine awareness of self and keep asking, is this truly mine? Practices to help to move these energies are vital.  Shaking, tapping, strong breath work, cleanses, exercise, dance, hiking in nature will all help move these energies.  It is also very important to find your tribe.  Gathering with like-minded people is a key part of feeling supported and to start to take actions to help others and ourselves.  Women especially need to be gathering together to create movements to support the Earth and all women.  As the feminine energy is rising, women are being called to step even more powerfully into their power. This is not a take over of masculine power, but an intuitive, nurturing, feminine power.  We must also learn how love each other and be loved, to drop the jealousy and fear of each other and start to nurture and support our sisters.

Kyer: How can we heal collectively as a society? Do we have a duty to reach out to people who have a different worldview and values than we do?  How do we balance having more compassion for others while taking care of our own health and wellbeing?

Katherine: Like it or not, we are healing now. The healing process is often one that is painful, messy and confusing as anyone that has had to heal from a major physical, emotional or spiritual illness can tell you.  We can medicate, distract and fool ourselves that we don’t need to actually do the work, but it will need to be done both as individuals and as a collective.  I believe that we do need to be in conversations and reach outs with people that don’t feel and think exactly as we do, to be able to connect and spread our expanding consciousness with the world.  This means having patience, and not taking things personally, choosing wisely who to engage with and learning to come from a place of compassion, but not taking on their negative feelings and emotions into our bodies.  Many people are in a strong fear space and we have to separate our energy, have clear boundaries and keep ourselves in a bit of a detached presence so that we can more effectively see solutions and discern best courses of action.  Those of us that have been living in privilege will need to start finding even more ways to support the disadvantaged and marginalized through cooperative effort respecting their cultures, traditions and actual needs.  It is important to realize that not everyone will be a front line protestor and to find the ways of contributing that work with your energetic system and overall health and wellbeing.

Kyer: Your current work involves helping healers and coaches manage their energy, boundaries and the demands that their work places on them. In simple terms, tell us a little about what you do.

Katherine: I am focused right now on helping coaches, teachers, healers, mediums, entrepreneurs and social movement pioneers to be able to understand, heal and activate their boundaries so that they can serve more people and the Earth in a way that is sustainable.  Each person’s system is working in a specific way and by utilizing clearing and purification techniques, working with guides and helpers, developing effective self-care practices, healing traumas, understanding what the system is doing and how to navigate that in a more productive way creates more effective and larger scale work in the world. 

Kyer: What do you feel optimistic about going forward in your own practice, your clients, community and our society?

Katherine: We are seeing a radical awakening on this planet.  I receive messages and talk to people from all over the world who are starting to discover and own their gifts, sensitivities and missions.  They are realizing that what has been is no longer working and starting to actively engage in their communities.  The level of information on consciousness, from so many lineages, that we have access to in this time is truly exciting and inspiring.  People are stepping into ceremonial work, healing their wounds, pulling out of the fog of addictive behaviors and stepping away from the constant medicating of the system, which keeps us from living fully embodied, whole and joy filled.  This is an exciting time to be alive as we have everything we need to shift all of the major socio-political, environmental issues that enslave and poison us and step into a new era of peace, hope and healing for planet and people.  We just have to show up fully.

All photos copyright Kyer Wiltshire and published with the permission of Katherine Bird.

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Kyer Wiltshire Shamanism Transformation authentic voice katherine bird spiritual awakening Wed, 08 Mar 2017 02:37:11 GMT
A journey to more Conscious Consent

Shellie and I met in Santa Cruz in 2010.  She grew up in South Carolina and she was new to the west coast scene. Shortly after we met she modeled for me. Shellie is beautiful, intelligent. Now in her early 30s, she has a lot of wisdom and insight, especially for young women, to share with this world. She’s also taught me a lot about conscious consent. Over the years Shellie and I became friends and we connected at Beloved, Burning Man and the magical royal water palace in Tirtag Gangga, Bali, where some of these photos were taken.

Shellie’s Facebook page is

Kyer: You grew up a preacher’s daughter.  Your father was sometimes not emotionally present in your life. How did your desire for his love affect your need for validation from men as a young woman? 

Shellie: My father, his father, and my great-grandfather were all, at one point, Baptist Ministers. My dad never really wanted to be a minister, but because of the strength of his father's lineage, he fell in line. While he was in his ministry, he was emotionally unavailable to me simply because he was not being true to his authentic self. Today, my father spends his time building guitars and listening to music. We are now good friends, and that came after a long hard look at how we had been very inauthentic with each other most of our lives. I did strive for my father's love, and on a deeper level it was also a striving for God's love. When my dad wasn't present for me emotionally, or judged me for being a rebellious young woman, I found the illusion of love and fulfillment in the arms of young men, alcohol and recreational use of marijuana, cocaine and mindless activities like TV and binge eating. I found validation through being talkative, flirtatious and beautiful. I made many choices that didn't serve me at the time, but serve me now as an adult because I can reflect back on them, and provide a better solution for women going through similar experiences. I'm still healing some deep wounds around self worth, self-esteem and the need to be liked. I have grown out of many of the reckless behaviors of being a wild teenager, yet the actual issues have changed form. I have to stay aware of my emotions, my food choices, and substance use or I find it is easy to fall back into patterns I developed as a child to cope with what I perceived to be a lack of love from my Father, which leads to a deeper perception of a lack of love from God itself. Daddy preached about God, and there was a time when I felt the presence of neither of those 'Fathers'. I guess you could say I am still growing from it, not so much out of it.

Kyer: You have love for Jesus and his teachings.  How do you separate Christian shaming, around sex for example, and his wisdom?

Shellie: The archetypes of Yeshua and his Beloved Mary Magdalene have immensely shaped my views on sexuality, shame, guilt and going about daily life in general. I went through a deep initiation where I discovered I still wanted a very personal relationship with Christ, but not with Christianity. I felt, and I still feel, that organized religion has created an unbearable amount of suffering and separation on this planet. Yeshua (Jesus) spoke a message of loving God first, and loving each other as ourselves. Once I realized that I could still love Christ and connect to his teachings and life, yet let go of the religious aspect of it all, I felt very free. I am still in this process, especially around sexuality and sexual shaming. When I looked deeply into the teachings of Jesus, I discovered that he doesn't speak much on sex or sexuality. What is mentioned is mostly about "lust", or epithumeo, Greek for “an all consuming desire.” I interpret that as: don't look at another with the intent to possess sexually, regardless of consent. I still deal with feeling that I need to be a good girl in a monogamous relationship, but that hasn't seemed to work for society, or me personally. I also still work though shame around being naked or how what I am wearing effects the minds of the men or women around me. I have to practice daily feeling innocent in my sexuality, understanding that it is something safe to express, in conscious communication with my partner. 

Kyer: You and I met in 2010. You did two nude photo sessions with me. You shared that you were comfortable with me during the outside photo session with another woman, but that there were times when you didn’t feel comfortable during a shoot that we did indoors when it was just the two of us. Was there a lesson in communication for us both around boundaries and expectations, and in trusting your gut instincts?  How did curiosity and innocence come into play?

Shellie: The photo shoot with the three of us was fun and really edgy for me in being nude with another woman. I enjoyed it and it pushed my comfort zone. When you and I were alone and inside, I felt the energy become less innocent and more sexual, like I was being put on the spot to be some sort of porn star or something. In 2010 I was just beginning to explore this side of myself, and I simply didn't feel comfortable with some of the poses or actions I was being asked to do in front of a camera. I was able to listen to my gut and say, I'm not ok with this, I'd like to stop now. I'm glad that I did that, because I feel like if I hadn't maybe I would feel regretful and we wouldn't be as close as we are now. I trusted you, and I still do. But more importantly, I trusted myself, set my boundaries, and understood the difference for me in what felt like innocent erotic play and explicit content. I really love the photos that came out of that bedroom shoot, and I remember asking you to delete the ones where I didn't feel comfortable, and you did. The ones that were edgy for me I have included in this interview. Thank you for pushing my edge, I feel grateful I have the powerful photos of my feminine form. 

Kyer: What advice would you give to women who want to push their own boundaries and edges, especially if there is a sexual component involved?

Shellie: I am constantly inquiring about my own edge, boundary and hard line limits. If you're going on a date, for example, are you looking to just talk or do you want sex? It's not something to think about as the moment is upon you. Know what you're ready for emotionally and physically before entering in to a situation. What is your edge? Is it a kiss or oral sex? Is it talking about politics? In general, I know my boundaries in life are pretty clear, and getting clearer. The boundary I have the hardest time with is my own time management. It feels difficult for me to say no to a social offer or time with my partner when I really know I want to be working on my business or taking time for silence. I notice many women say yes begrudgingly, when they really mean no. Listen to your gut! Do you REALLY have the time or energy to be fully present? Or are you going to say yes and half ass it and probably resent the person later? It's a deep inquiry, and a vital one.

Kyer: What does conscious consent mean to you?

Shellie: Conscious consent is saying YES when you mean YES, and NO when you mean NO. Silence is not consent. Being drunk, or too far under the influence of any drug is NOT conscious consent. (Drugs are a real problem at festivals and in the conscious community scene). An enthusiastic YES from a sober person is consent. If you aren't sure, then say, "I'm not sure, let's wait". Conscious consent means that just because you said YES to making out doesn't mean you are ok with a finger in your pussy! Just because you've made love with someone one time, consent is still required every time; even in marital union! Conscious consent means that both parties are aware of each others authentic head space, heart space and physical comfort, and willing to put their own pleasure aside to be certain the other person is fully on board what is happening each moment.

Kyer: What are some of the ways that you felt that your consent, both as an adult, and as a child, wasn’t asked for or honored?

Shellie: When I was a little girl one of my cousins touched my breasts. He stuck his hands under my shirt during Hide and Go Seek. He told me that, this way, if we got found or tagged, it would seem like we were one person and then one of us would still be 'unfound'. He just wanted to feel me up. I remember feeling hot in my face and kind of embarrassed. Also though, at the same time, with that same cousin, we decided it would be interesting to get naked and hug. I still felt embarrassed, but my curiosity over-rode it. I was very sexually curious as a child, starting at four years old, and that curiosity has grown into a deep passion and purpose over the years. As a teenager, I was naked and making out with this really hot guy from the wrestling team and I was having fun with all of the touching and fingering, even oral sex, but I did not want him inside me. He didn't care. He said, “you can't be naked and basically fucking me without actually fucking me so we're fucking".” And he put himself inside me and it hurt and I wasn't into it and he finished, left the room and I cried.

As an adult I haven't had any issues around this. People take advantage of my time more than they do my body. I have a relatively strong force field around me that says, “I'm not available,” until I want to be and then I open up. I can tell when dudes are creepy, and I go the other way and I never assume anyone is innocent. It's my responsibility to listen to my gut and heed its warnings. Most women know in their gut when something doesn't feel quite right. 

Kyer: How can women be more empowered around conscious consent?  In light of the fact that men are still taught to be the aggressor in intimate relationships, is there a balance for women between standing your ground and being graceful in your response to men and other women? What could both men and women do better in creating more conscious consent in our interactions? 

Shellie: Women can be more empowered around conscious consent by asking themselves what they really want and need, and WHY they want and need that. Is it for validation, or to feel power over someone? Or is it because there is a genuine connection? Ways to be conscious around consent is to practice saying NO in other areas of life, like parenting, jobs and to strangers. You don't always have to say yes to be loved, liked and accepted. Practice saying NO so that when a vulnerable sexual experience arises, you feel OK saying “no, I don't like that” or “I'm not ready for that yet.” Conscious consent is also about creativity. Maybe you're not OK with one physical connecting point but would like to try another way of connecting. Consent is all about YOUR VOICE and YOUR CHOICE. Hone your voice in daily life. Sing! Chant. Speak your truth and mind openly and freely so that in moments of intimacy you already know your value and power. Regarding "being graceful in response to men and other women" I think there is a fine line between being polite and being abused. I don't feel women have to be 'nice' or polite when saying no. There are opportunities, depending on the relationship between the two adults where a woman can lovingly communicate to her partner, but a NO is NO and feelings can be talked about anytime after the fact. It's more important to me that women learn to say what they mean first, and learn how to say it in a different way later. Regarding men and women creating more conscious consent in sexual interactions; appreciate beauty without feeling like you have to obtain it. For example, my outfit is not an invitation to sleep with me. It would be nice to be able to wear a revealing outfit in which I feel sexy, without attracting so much sexual attention. I enjoy being told "Wow, that outfit is amazing" or "You look so incredible", but I don't like having my ass grabbed or hearing degrading comments. In general, women need to get clear with themselves first so that they can be clear with their lovers. Men, really listen to the words and body language of your lover and make sure to ASK before entering the Sacred Yoni Temple. Those are just a few points, and this is just the tip of the iceberg on a topic that needs to be widely addressed in festivals, schools, etc.

All photos are created by and copyright Kyer Wiltshire and published with the permission of Shellie White Light. 


]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) beloved burning man conscious consent rape shellie white light Sun, 05 Feb 2017 02:38:38 GMT
Tree Spirit Project

I first met Jack Gescheidt at a music festival in 2011. We are both professional photographers. We both photograph nude people in nature. We also love and enjoy the wisdom and beauty of nature. We became friends, and in 2013 Jack facilitated me joining him and taking promotional photos on a nude Caribbean cruise. I am a big fan Jack’s work. Not only are his images beautiful and provocative, he’s making a positive impact on the world.

Kyer: You call yourself an “environmental artist.” What does that mean to you?

Jack: I photograph outside in nature, and the collection of TreeSpirit images have an environmental purpose, which is to raise awareness of the critical role of trees and forests in our lives. Forests are critical to the Earth as an ecosystem, especially in this era of human-caused global warming (aka anthropogenic climate change).  Ending massive deforestation is one of the biggest, simplest, low-tech solutions to the greatest threat humanity now faces.  Continuing to cut down forests, especially rainforests, is suicidal.

Kyer: Why did you create the The TreeSpirit Project and how do you believe you’re making a positive impact environmentally?

Jack: I wanted to express my strong feelings for trees, which in 2003 was heightened by heartbreak in my life. The project gained momentum, more people wanted to participate. In 2006 I learned of tree sitters living in trees in the Memorial Oak Grove in Berkeley. They put their bodies on the line to save the trees from being cut down to build a gym. I offered to make a large group TreeSpirit photo to draw media attention — which it did. (Google: "treespirit berkeley oak grove”.) Since then, I’ve made a dozen other photos around the country to help save specific trees and forests.  We don’t value what trees are and what forests do in our society, especially their key role in mitigating global warming.

Kyer: Why are people naked in your photos? When I created images for my Sacred Form nude yoga calendar, my motivation was to show the nude body in a non-sexualized, yet provocative and beautiful way. What has been your motivation as an “environmental artist”?

Jack: People are vulnerable when stripped of clothing. Trees are also vulnerable to the actions of humans. Once naked, people often become tenderer with the trees. Being vulnerable then makes people more present for the photo session, more aware of the ground, the cold, sensations of the tree, its bark, and so on. They’re less likely to think of other things (out of reach of their smart phones). Clothing individualizes people; nudity unifies the group. Nudity also draws media attention to the environmental cause of saving and protecting trees.

Kyer: Is being photographed naked a big edge for many of your participants?  Is it empowering for them?

Jack: I’ve seen every behavior across a spectrum, from nudists who get naked before I ask them to be, to the person clearly struggling with being nude-in-public for the first time. I never anticipated that participating in the TreeSpirit Project would be liberating, or even healing for participants. All are volunteers, not paid models. Men and women have written afterwards to say how powerful, liberating or spiritual, and fun, it was.  

Kyer: What are your future plans and desires with TreeSpirit Project?

Jack: I have several projects in development, including a coffee table book that a major publisher is considering, as well as a reality TV show that is being pitched to the networks. I’ve learned that TreeSpirit has a life of its own. My goal is to reach more people with my photographs, written and spoken word, to rekindle our love affair with trees. We Homo Sapiens have been here about 200,000 years. Trees have been here about 350 MILLION years, and they have made our existence possible. Trees also enrich our lives. By spending more time among them, we can more easily appreciate all they do for us on this beautiful Earth.

Kyer: How can people participate in the TreeSpirit Project, or learn more?

Jack: Fellow tree and nature lovers can sign up for my TreeSpirit email from The TreeSpirit Project. They’ll learn about upcoming events, including my “Giant Sequoias Experience” retreats for those who’d love to spend intimate time with the world’s largest trees and participate in a TreeSpirit portrait. 

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Jack Gescheidt Naked in the Trees Tree Spirit Project Tue, 17 Jan 2017 04:33:55 GMT
Did a Backlash Against Political Correctness Elect Donald Trump?

I remember back in college in the late 1980s when political correctness came to the University of Oregon. I embraced it. I’d grown up with two parents who were activists. In the early 1970s, my mother fought for improved access to childcare, and my father was the second professor at Portland State University to support the student strike against the Vietnam War.

The correct use of language is an important social construct in how we view gender and race. Diversity and inclusion are values that I grew up with, yet it was an ardent political correctness coming from other students that had me sometimes feeling shame and judgment because I am a white male.  

Years later, the University of Oregon created the Bias Education and Response Team (BERT) “to complement and work with campus entities to connect those who have witnessed or themselves become a target of an act of bias with appropriate support and resources.” Many other universities and colleges in the US have since adopted similar programs. 

As a progressive, all that sounds good to me, but I am left wondering, have we taken all this too quickly and too forcibly for a large percentage of Americans?

During the campaign, Trump was saying what a lot of Americans have been thinking, but were afraid to say because they didn’t think that it’s politically correct. Some attitudes and laws around social issues have changed quickly in America and not everyone has caught up. These voters didn’t like feeling that others dictate what they’re supposed to think and do.

Many rural and conservative voters and those living in “flyover country,” blame political correctness on coastal and educated elites, Hollywood, and the mainstream press. For many of these voters, it doesn’t matter how many newspapers, politicians or rock and movie stars endorsed Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, from their point of view, tells it like it is without apology, sugar coating or politically correct language. 

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Hillary Clinton Trump flyover country political correctness Wed, 14 Dec 2016 03:59:22 GMT
Post Election: Moving on from Bigotry to Unity I wrote the article below for Elephant Journal. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on it. I’ve also received some negative feedback on it from friends who are still angry and in mourning.

Since my article was published, I’ve added this quote by from a recent interview with Jon Stewart. 

“In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look at Muslims as a monolith. They are individuals and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith – is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country. And so that is the fight that we wage against ourselves and against each other because America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We’re fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something that no one ever [has]. That is what is exceptional about America. This ain’t easy and that’s an incredible thing.” Jon Stewart on Charlie Rose November 15, 2016

On Election Night a group of us gathered to watch the national election results here in the blue state of California.

The night started out joyful for me. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary, but I was excited to elect our first female president and Hillary Clinton is much closer to my political views than Donald Trump. Almost all the polls I’d been following for months showed that she was going to win.

Then the state-by-state election results started coming in. “Why is Virginia, Senator Kaine’s state, so close?” was my first disturbing thought. The night began with the odds-makers giving her an 80 percent chance to win. Several hours later her chances were 10 percent.

What happened? How is this possible? Was it Russian hackers?

How could America elect a narcissistic bigot, a demagogue who allegedly sexually assaulted women, and has deeply offended a lot of people?

The day after the election I went downtown. The collective shock, grief and confusion were everywhere. Did we accidently enter a parallel universe like they did in an episode of the original Star Trek series, where the crew of the Enterprise was sadistic and evil?

Every other post on my Facebook newsfeed contributed to a collective sadness and anger. A few friends also posted, “We told you so. Bernie would have won in a landslide.” Were they right? Was Hillary such a flawed candidate?

I am entering the final phase of grief: acceptance. I desire more compassion and empathy for others. I think about my close female friends, my four sisters and the women who have been sickened by Trump’s candidacy. I think of the other groups of people in our country that Trump repeatedly threatened during the campaign. They are still in mourning and angry.

I also think about the pain and the angst of many Trump voters and why they chose to throw what Michael Moore calls the “Trump hand grenade.” These are the people who have been told for years that they were racist because they didn’t like Obama.

We called them bigots and racists because they want less undocumented immigration, recent immigrants to learn English, and to understand “traditional American values.” We called them ignorant, redneck, stupid, unconscious, and deplorable for their attitudes and views regarding gay marriage, immigration, abortion, and the changing demographics in our country.

A majority of Trump voters didn’t even like the guy, but they got what Michael Moore called the “biggest ‘f*ck you’ ever recorded in human history” by voting for him.

Going into Election Day about 10 percent of the electorate were still on the fence. They didn’t like either candidate. Would they be motivated by a legitimate fear that Trump is inexperienced and he doesn’t have the temperament to be president, or a legitimate anger that the political system is not working for them? A majority of them chose the Trump hand grenade.

Sexist attitudes aside, Hillary was viewed as the incumbent, the status quo. She won the popular vote, but enough voters in the swing states wanted change so badly that they went with the most unpopular presidential candidate in U.S. history.

How will Trump govern? We know that unlike most politicians, Trump is not an ideologue. He is a salesman and a promoter.

His enormous ego also means that he needs the validation of being seen as a successful president. I wouldn’t expect him to do, or attempt, most of the controversial things that he promised as candidate Trump.

I also take some comfort that Trump was born and grew up New York, one of the most open, ethnically and culturally diverse cities in America. He has been a member of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. He is a businessman and he will probably appoint people to his cabinet from the conservative financial sectors, and loyal retreads like Rudy Giuliani, but he is not a social conservative.

As I move through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), I see that we are now sailing into uncharted political waters. This may be good for America. Trump has exposed some of our deepest shadows and failures as a nation. We still need to stand up, resist, and hold him accountable, but Trump may be just the bitter pill that we needed to swallow.

Like millions of others, this has been an emotional and traumatic week for me. I have done a lot of soul searching, trying to understand what happened, why it happened and where we go from here.

His political views aside, Trump also represents the worst part of me as a privileged white male and I resent that he has been rewarded for his behavior and attitudes towards women and people of color by becoming our president elect.

I can only imagine what it is like to be a person who feels directly threatened and disenfranchised by a Donald Trump presidency. It may be too much right now to ask for their compassion and empathy for those who voted for a man who puts their life or those close to them in danger.

But what conservative commentator Glenn Beck said on election night is true, the problem is that “we don’t listen to each other and we don’t trust each other.” Fear, tribalism, partisanship and division have replaced reason and compassion.

If we believe that our diversity makes us a better country, then let’s walk that talk. All of America needs more acceptance, compassion and empathy for those who don’t vote like us or don’t view the world as we do.

The idea of President elect Donald Trump offends me on so many levels, but I know that now more than ever we need to create more understanding, compassion for others, common ground and earned trust in this country, or we will elect more demagogues like him.

Photo used with permission for the wonderful and talented Autumn Skye Morrison.


]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Autumn Skye Morrison Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Glenn Beck election empathy unity Thu, 17 Nov 2016 18:01:45 GMT
Sacred Sexuality and Empathy

I met Claire six years ago.  She has been a photography client of mine and she’s someone any photographer would love to work with. She is beautiful, smart, open, thoughtful and confident.

Claire is a student of human sexuality and gender studies, a devotee of Tantric Spirituality and Shamanism, an avid world traveler.  She is also an agent for healthier sexual attitudes, experiences and relationships. 

After our last photo session we talked more about the work that she does and we decided to do a photo blog interview.  Our topic for this interview is Sacred Sexuality and Empathy

Kyer: What does “sacred sexuality” mean to you?  What is sexual shamanism?  How do sexuality and spirituality intersect?

Claire: For me “sacred sexuality” has to do with my own state of Being and Presence during a sexual encounter.  How attuned, mindful, and responsive I am being toward myself and my partner is more important than what we are doing.  It doesn't’ matter if it’s a quickie or an all day love fest, a play party, a puja, or a solo self love session in front of porn; in the morning, afternoon, or night; slow love making, fast fucking, fisting, or even fighting – none of these are or aren’t inherently sacred.  However, any of these details or doings becomes sacred when I bring my attention, my attunement, my presence and responsiveness, and my Self to the experience.  Then, BOOM! Instant sacredness.

Sexual shamanism is a practice to cultivate more life force energy (chi).  The more chi we have, the more we mature as human beings and the less we need the structures of attachment and energy enmeshment that we grew up in.  

Sexuality and spirituality intersect differently for everyone, but for me they intersect when I bring mindfulness to whatever I’m doing.

Kyer: You were raised a Catholic in the south.  How did your upbringing influence your own path to becoming an educator and healer?

Claire: Profoundly. Being raised Catholic in the south meant I was conditioned to choose a conventional life, traditional relationships, and abstinence until marriage.  When I was young, there were few alternatives. After I left the Catholic Church, I began studying sexuality, gender and identity through a sociological lens, which opened my eyes to alternatives and fluidity in sexuality, gender, relating, and beyond.  I’ve devoted my life to learning about myself in relation to these themes so that from a place of on-going self “gnosis” I can share with others who are beginning their path toward sexual self-understanding.  That’s my life’s work.

Kyer: In your work, what are the goals of Tantra and sexual shamanism?  How are you re-educating men and women about sexuality and intimacy?  Do you also incorporate exercises that help create more empathy for couples and individuals?

Claire: The goals are to dismantle the “self” that conventional culture has created out of us and to learn about & create ourselves anew from a sovereign, self-loving place. We leave the trappings of conventional life behind and we move toward a more integrated, enlightened existence – as a “me” and as a “we”.  Sexuality and intimacy take on new purposes for people when they exchange mindless convention for mindful Self-mastery. There are some exercises that I include for creating more empathy; however empathy is a natural bi-product of doing the inner work to know and love yourself more deeply.  

Kyer: There is a deep sexual wound in our culture, our country.  It spills into politics, and how we treat each other and the planet.  What are some of the ways that we can individually and collectively heal our wounds, as well as Mother Gaia?

Claire: There’s the phrase “as within, so without.” This means that the external is a reflection of what exists inside of us. If we don’t like what we see or are experiencing outside of ourselves, it’s time to turn the focus inside and do the inner work to unravel the unhealed traumas and shadows that underlie our choices and behaviors, which the world is mirroring back to us. We can do this work individually, as a couple, and as a community; however, it starts first with the individual’s commitment to their own healing and self-awareness. The Earth heals when we heal.

Kyer: At you ask the following question, “What might there be to know about yourself as a sexual being?” In light of the fact that the “sensual and sexual natures of us humans can be mysterious and confusing, as well as nurturing” and full of personal growth potential, how would you answer that question?  

Claire: This question has infinite answers. We are constantly growing, evolving, and expanding; thus what there is to know or learn about ourselves as sexual beings is ever evolving and expanding also.  However, a Rumi quote comes to mind.  “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” The quality of our sexual experiences and relationships is commensurate with the quality and fullness of our loving of ourselves and of others. Am I loving at my fullest capacity?  What other barriers, like fear, anxiety, righteousness, impatience, etc., need to be dropped?

Kyer: I sometimes see an “us verses them,” framing when it comes to women and men, and sexuality.  How can we move beyond this divisive paradigm? Where can we start? How does empathy come into play in our collective and individual sexual healing? 

Claire: We can start by first realizing that men and women both have an inner masculine aspect and an inner feminine aspect that have a relationship going on inside of us.   As we put attention on this inner relationship (with the help of a coach, through journaling, in meditation, etc.), healing its inner divisiveness and cultivating more harmony within it, the outer divisiveness between men and women will transform too.  When we can have empathy (I’m defining this as understanding and acceptance) for our inner aspects, and thus for our entire self (this is an important element of self-love), then skillful empathy becomes easier to have for others.  We only fight with others when we ourselves are in pain.




The subjects of these photo blog interviews have approved all the photos and text. 

All photos by Kyer Wiltshire



SaveSave]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Kyer Wiltshire Sacred Sexuality Shamanism empathy sexual shamanism Wed, 05 Oct 2016 05:44:43 GMT
Love over Fear at Burning Man

Jessica Barber and I were neighbors at Burning Man this year. She is loquacious, smart and beautiful. She lives in Atlanta and she studied philosophy at Kennesaw State University. Soon she’ll be applying to Masters degree program in Philosophy.

Jessica was a “virgin” at Burning Man this year and she has a keen eye at observing and understanding how the Playa works. We both enjoy learning how we perceive this world, how Burning Man provides a co-created and unique container for people to safely express themselves. We had lots to talk about so we decided to do a blog photo interview and a nude photo shoot for my next book project, “The Four Elements of the Goddess.”

Kyer: Bill Hicks said “(We have) just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.” As a student of philosophy, what is phenomenology and how can understanding it help us choose love over fear?

Jessica: Phenomenology is a philosophical method that describes how the world is experienced. The history of western philosophy is a discourse of theoretical scaffolds, constructed frameworks for Ethics, Metaphysics, Epistemology, Aesthetics and Logic. These concepts attempt to answer the big questions. What is morality? What is the nature of art? What is real? How do I know? The Phenomenological method asks that we drop all of these arguments and simply describe the world as we experience it, free of judgments, labels and any desire for “Truth”. Phenomenology asks that we first observe, sit with ourselves, feel the present moment of our body in this environment and notice the small habits of the mind that are often overlooked.  When we try this, our thoughts, sensations, anticipations and reflections make themselves evident; we begin to see how rosy our rose-tinted glasses are! In a state of fear, we fasten ourselves to an idea or situation we are comfortable with. The only thing that is certain, it seems, is uncertainty. In a state of love, we step outside of the limits erected around us and observe the indeterminate flow of the world, with the curiosity and enthusiasm of a child.  By observing and describing the world, we wonder about the world instead of claiming to know it.  If we try this with ourselves, we see our potentiality, the microcosm and macrocosm of choices we encounter every day.  I find this to be liberating. We can choose fear and build a wall between the world and ourselves, or we can choose love and grow with the ever-changing beauty of everything.

Kyer: Burning Man provides a container for many things: acceptance and self-expression.  If we look at the choice of love versus fear, how can experiencing Burning Man bring us closer to love?  How has Burning Man changed you or brought you more personal growth?

Jessica: Burning Man is really a verb more than a place.  It is a phenomenon of self-creating within a community-self-creating what is possible and meaningful. You can explore the limits of who you are in Black Rock City because of the principles of radical self-expression, radical self- reliance and radical inclusion. I suppose these principles are the “radical” ones because they energize the activity of Burning Man. As a part of this sensory sea of radical freedom, I was encountered with a horizon of choices. Sometimes I chose to wander alone pretending to be an anthropologist observing this curious culture and sometimes I wanted to howl at the moon from a glowing art car with my beautifully dusty friends. I could easily see what I wanted to do, what I didn’t want to do and what I was hesitant to try, where my edges lie.  Personal growth was part of what I was seeking when I came to Black Rock City, so I consistently chose opportunities that tested the limits of what I was comfortable with and what I was comfortable sharing with others. Black Rock City really helped me embrace my life and love the uniqueness of everyone I encounter. John Halcyon Styn, in his weekly Hug Nation broadcasts promoting Burning Man Principles in the default world, says “We are all artists” because we are all part of the creation and expression of Burning Man. It was refreshing to see so many exceptional people being themselves and sharing their gifts illuminated with love.

Kyer: You did a photo session with me at Burning Man. That was an edge for you. Can you share your experience in terms of love, fear, shame, body image, nudity, boundaries, sex, healing and your own personal growth or edge?

Jessica: Sometimes I surprise myself; this certainly happened when I met you Kyer and looked through your photographs of Bali and book (Tirta Gangga) Tribal Revival: West Coast Festival Culture. My original intention was to do a philosophical interview with you about Burning Man, but I noticed, while looking at your gorgeous photographs, a boundary of my own: nudity. I am comfortably nude around other women; we have the same parts in a lot of shapes, colors and sizes. It’s not a big deal. However, the thought of being nude around a man, who is not my lover, is terrifying. Part of this body shame stems from the objectification of women’s sexuality, unrealistic definitions of beauty and raunchy nudity in the media.  The other part of my shame comes from personal experience. As a child I was sexually abused and lived in terror from my abuser. I also saw my mother objectify herself as a sexual object to manipulate many many men. The fact that I have my mother’s body terrified me for the longest time. I wasn’t comfortable and I used to have such huge personal boundaries that I would feel nauseous if someone stood too close to me, or worse, hugged me. If someone touched me, I felt violated. Thankfully, I have grown a lot since then and give wonderful hugs. I think my regular yoga practice helped a lot to make me feel more confident and sexually alive in my own skin. When I saw your photographs Kyer, I encountered the choice of love and fear. The way you photograph nudes is artistic and empowering; the faces and bodies I saw were all so different, graceful and proud. I was overcome by love and I chose love over fear to let you photograph me. Now, I’m still not the type to run through a crowd naked with combat boots on. That was not the boundary I was pushing that day. The magic of personal growth happens when we push our boundaries at the edge and I feel empowered for pushing my edge with you. 

The subjects of these photo blog interviews have approved all the photos and text. 

All photos by Kyer Wiltshire

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Bill Hicks John Halcyon Love over Fear Phenomenology burning man empower Mon, 03 Oct 2016 14:59:30 GMT
Young Flexible Strong Dance, gymnastics and yoga empower teen girls to be in their beautiful and ever changing bodies.  It challenges them. 

It gives them focus.  It reminds them that they are beautiful, powerful and strong. 

"Yoga and other similar physical disciplines offer a invaluable gift to teens and young adults: not only does it build confidence and appreciation for their own bodies, but it gives them an opportunity to cultivate courage, individuality and strength when facing challenges in their lives."

~ Rebecca Stuhlbarg, M.A., R.Y.T

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) dance empower empower teen girls gymnastics teen yoga Mon, 19 Sep 2016 01:57:34 GMT
Bruce Lipton Interview

Bruce Lipton, PhD is an international recognized leader in bridging science and spirituality. His self-published book The Biology of Belief sold more than 100,000 copies. Bruce has been a guest speaker on hundreds of TV and radio shows.

I met and photographed Bruce Lipton in Rishikesh, India in March 2016. Bruce came with Uplift Connect to speak at the International Yoga Festival.  Two months later I photographed Bruce at his home in Bonny Doon, CA for this blog interview. 

Kyer: One of the most exciting fields in modern medicine right now is our growing understanding of the human biome, and how this affects our mental and physical health. Can you explain some of the science around all this?

Bruce: To understand the vital role of our microbiome, we must go back a billion years or more.  At this time the biosphere consisted of only single-celled organisms, which included primitive bacteria-like prokaryote cells and the more advanced eukaryotes, amoeba-like protozoan cells. Many protozoan cells ate the prokaryotes. However, some species of prokaryotes excreted important metabolic byproducts vital to the more advanced eukaryotes. This led to life-sustaining symbiotic collaborations among certain species of eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Amoeba cells provide a safe environment for the bacteria and the bacteria reciprocated by providing the amoebas with nutrition, vitamins and energy resources.

Around 500 million years ago, many species of amoeba-like cells began to assemble into vast multicellular colonies, communities that we recognize today as plants and animals. A human body is a community of about 50 trillion amoebas, many of which still retain life-sustaining symbiotic collaboration that depend upon nutritional/genetic exchange with trillions of bacteria. Without these bacteria, our personal microbiome, we could not survive. They are so necessary for our survival that biologists now refer to humans as a super-organism, composed of 50 trillion human cells and as many or more microbes.

Kyer: During our conversations at your home I brought up my observation that children in Bali rarely have temper tantrums or act out. After their children are born, the Balinese don’t usually put their children down for 6-24 months. What is the biology around this type of nurturance and how does it affect the development of a child? 

Bruce: All organisms are endowed with a built-in set of behaviors to assure their survival. These behavioral programs are collectively referred to as the Biological Imperative, include such behaviors as, the drive to breathe, the drive to get water, and the drive to seek nutrition among others. Survival-related stress hormones signal the body’s systems to shut down growth and allocate available energy to prepare for threats. High levels of stress hormones in the body provoke the system to engage in aggressive fight or flight behaviors.

A “thermostat” in the brain regulates the concentration of stress hormones in the body. A large number of stress hormone receptors in the brain can rapidly shut down hormone production and return peace to the body. If there are small numbers of stress receptors in the brain, stress hormones may reach critical concentrations and provoke violence before the brain’s feedback “thermostat” shuts off hormone production. Babies continuously held by parents in the first years of their life experience somatosensory affection, the assurance that they are safe in the world. The more they are held, the more stress hormone receptors they acquire in their brains. These kids rapidly shutdown stress signal production and do not live in fear and hence remain calm under any circumstances. 

        Kyer: We are now learning that Fibromyalgia and other autoimmune diseases are caused not by genetic or unknown factors, but primarily by unresolved anger and frustration that our minds are not able to process. As a scientist, what is your understanding of how this works, especially in the case of autoimmune related illnesses?

Bruce: My work with cloned stem cells revealed that the genetic activity and behavior of cultured cells is controlled by environmental signals present in the culture medium. Culture medium is a synthetic version of the blood in the organism from which I get the cells. The human body is the equivalent of a “skin-covered” culture dish containing approximately 50 trillion cells grown in the natural culture medium – human blood. The brain controls the chemistry of our blood. The complex of gene and behavior regulating neuro-hormones and emotional chemicals released by the brain is based upon the beliefs and perceptions of the world held in our minds.

The positive placebo effect results from the mind’s release of healing chemistry and not from the sugar pill. Most people are unaware the power and influence of the nocebo effect, wherein negative beliefs/perceptions cause the mind to release chemistry that can create every disease and even cause us to die. Negative thoughts, unresolved hurt and anger, and frustration when held in the mind, are translated by the brain into debilitating blood-borne chemistry. When this negative chemistry reaches the cells, these signals control behavior and gene activity via epigenetic mechanisms. This is how the mind shapes the character and quality of our bodies and lives.

Kyer: One reviewer of your book the Biology of Belief wrote this: “Implying that positive thought can alter cell membrane structure and through that alteration, effect DNA transcription/translation in a way favorable to cell survival or death (depending on the circumstances) has the potential of leading to truly ignorant and insensitive statements like, 'Well, that person died because they didn't think positively enough'.” How do you respond to this criticism? And how does your work in biology stand up to peer review? 

Bruce: In The Biology of Belief, I describe that the nervous system operates with the cooperation of two interdependent minds, the conscious mind and subconscious mind.  Each mind has a different function and different way of learning. The first and most powerful mind is the subconscious; its massive computing power controls the body’s musculoskeletal system and all automated behaviors. It is a record-playback device that downloads behaviors as programs. Push the button, play the same behavior over and over. The more advanced conscious mind is the creative mind, a mind that can imagine a future based on experiences and learning. The conscious mind is the source of our wishes, desires and aspirations, as well as our positive thoughts. The conscious mind is directly connected to our unique identity and likely represents the seat of our source or spirit.

When creating our lives with the conscious mind, “we” are driving the vehicle (body) and are in direct control its behavior and character. When our conscious minds are at the wheel, we move toward our wishes, desires and positive thoughts. However, science reveals that the conscious mind is engaged in thought and not paying attention at least 95% of the day. At these times, the body vehicle is under the control of the “autopilot,” the subconscious mind’s programs. Most of our daily conventional behaviors have been downloaded into the subconscious as habits (programs), such as walking, driving the car, carrying out your job, etc.

As the book describes, “positive thinking,” a behavior of the conscious mind, can control our fate for only about 5% of the time … at most. By default, the programs of the subconscious mind are those that are really control the character of our lives. The majority of these programs are self-destructive. “Positive thinking” really works when the positive thoughts are downloaded as “programs” into the subconscious mind. 

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Biology of Belief Bruce Lipton Kyer Wiltshire human biome somatosensory affection Wed, 13 Jul 2016 21:55:04 GMT
Why I Live the Life of a Modern Hunter-Gatherer

A friend recently said to me, “Kyer, if I were in your financial situation, I’d be freaking out.” 

I value my friend’s perspective, and it made me think about some of my decisions in life. For the last 10 years I’ve worked as a freelance photographer.

I spend more money on travel and camera gear than I do on rent.

Compared to the average American my age I have almost no investment in my retirement or property, and if I stopped earning money today, in two months I would be broke.

My friend’s comment also got me thinking about how we humans have learned to live and survive.

“What were we designed to do?” “What is natural for us?” “What makes us feel happy and alive?”  

Life for our hunter-gatherer ancestors wasn’t always easy. There were real dangers from animals and other humans. We had to be smart and know what to eat, and what not to eat. We spent 4-5 hours a day looking for and preparing food, and the rest of time hanging out, playing, and gossiping. These fun activities were important because they allowed us to bond, and this was necessary to our survival.

My friend has been working for 17 years in a good paying position at a high-tech company. He has a love-hate relationship with his job. He tells me that it is not good for his mental and physical health, but he wants to be financially secure before he quits, and he counts the days to his retirement. 

I have other friends who don’t like their work, but they don't know what else to do. They have a mortgage to pay, mouths to feed, the new smartphone or car they “need” to buy. They want more financial security and they are frustrated and afraid that they don’t have it. 

Most of us no longer live in communal groups like our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Instead, we live isolated and surrounded by strangers in big urban areas. We are more concerned about not having enough time, enough money, enough love, or being judged by others, than having enough food tomorrow or that pack of wolves that lives up around the bend.

I live a life of privilege. I am an educated white male and I have skills. I am very grateful that my community and family would have the resources to support me if I couldn’t work. I am also grateful that I can make just enough of a living to share my gifts as a freelance photographer and as an artist. 

I sometimes worry about my finances. I don’t know if I can sustain my lifestyle. I don’t have it all figured out or planned, but I have come to realize that I live the life of a modern hunter-gatherer. 

Like them, I’ve lived in many places during my 52 years on this planet. I travel a lot, mostly looking for freelance work, and I’m very good at it, but I don’t have a steady paycheck (food source). Our ancestors weren’t sedentary and if I weren’t physically active I’d go crazy.

My mind and body feel best when I eat a modern version of the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Very similar to the Paleo diet, this is made up of modest amounts of lean meat, fish, “fruit” vegetables, nuts, leafy greens, all fruits, and only small quantities of alcohol, coffee, grains, processed foods and sugar.

We humans have also lived most of our existence in nature, and while a city can be exciting, I feel more at peace and at home in the woods, mountains, deserts, fields, coastlines and uncrowded beaches.

My modern hunter-gather life keeps me on my toes and it’s not always easy, but it makes me feel alive and very human. 

This article can also be found online at Elephant Journal


]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Elephant Journal Hunter-Gatherer Paleo diet What makes us feel happy and alive? What were we designed to do? Sun, 29 May 2016 21:51:18 GMT
A Candid Letter to Hillary Clinton and her supporters from a Bernie Sanders Voter

Dear Hillary and her supporters,

If it does come down to either you Hillary or Donald in November, I’d like to share some thoughts and advice on running a successful general election campaign, and healing the divide that exists in the Democratic Party.

Hillary, you have my respect and I see you as an honest person, but I voted for Bernie Sanders and I am encouraging my friends to vote for him in the California Democratic primary on June 7th. While Bernie’s chances of winning the nomination are slim, it’s not correct to say that he has no chance.

I voted for Bernie because he has the courage to speak candidly about important issues. I voted for Bernie to send a message to you and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that we are tired of our party often working more for the very rich than the middle and lower classes. We are angry that multinationals like Goldman and Sachs and Monsanto have so much influence over our elected officials and the electoral process.

Next to Donald Trump, you are one of the most unpopular presidential candidates ever. Twenty-four years of Republicans attacks against you and your husband, and your own penchant for secrecy have taken their toll; and we are still in a heated Democratic primary. Without Bernie’s support and a strong majority of his voters, it will be very hard for you to win in the general election.

So, what are you going to do about it?

You can start by continually reminding Democratic and progressive voters that Hillary and Bernie are in alignment on most of the important issues. You supporters need to become more educated about her good policies.  It can’t just be a “vote for Hillary to stop Donald Trump!” battle cry.

And show empathy and gratitude for the man and his supporters.  Many of you and Hillary were in a similar position 8 years ago. You know what it’s like to lose a close primary election.

It's also important to understand why your candidate came pretty close to losing the nomination to an old socialist Jew, and why he inspired tens of thousands of people to attend his rallies while you Hillary wined and dined at the private homes of wealthy donors.

There is a strong anti-establishment mood in our country and some of you and Hillary are a part of the establishment. If Democratic voters weren’t generally more reasonable and pragmatic than Republicans, they would have tossed you out like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.

The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is shrinking. Voters are more pissed off than I’ve ever seen them. If you don't acknowledge and address the reasons for this anger, more people will vote for Donald because he is perceived as anti-establishment.

Hillary, you're not as cool and hip as Barack, and you need to show young voters that you care about their concerns. Raising the minimum wage is popular. The cost of college has gotten ridiculous. Can you address both of these issues with a clear and workable plan?

As usual, you have the vast majority of Black voters supporting you. If your popularity with Latinos stays above 65 percent and voters are reminded of Donald’s absurd and bigoted comments about Mexican immigrants being criminals and rapists, you stand a good chance of being our next president.

Your defense of reproductive rights and family planning in front of the US Senate in the spring of 2009 was brilliant and heartfelt. It shows your caring, articulate and passionate side for an issue that is very important for many on the Left, especially women under 40 (a voting block you need to do well with in the general election).  I want to see more of that of Hillary!

Donald Trump entered this race as a bored billionaire and he would have been happy with 10-15 percent of the Republican primary vote as a smart business move. His already huge ego is on the verge of bursting. He will receive counsel on how to act in the general election, but Donald is Donald and let his arrogance, sexism and bigotry shine through. 

Finally, lighten up, smile and have some fun. Your detractors might mock you, but unmotivated and undecided voters will be drawn to your more human side. Your supporters like this side of you too. 

Wishing you a successful campaign for president, because while you are far from perfect, as Bernie says, "even on your worst day you are infinitely better than the Republican.”













]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Fri, 27 May 2016 17:02:13 GMT
Those Darn Superdelegates & What We Can Do About ‘Em

I see a lot of talk on my Facebook newsfeed about superdelegates and how they are going to steal the election away from Bernie Sanders.

“The Democratic Party’s superdelegates are undemocratic and tilt the nomination towards Hillary Clinton!”

“Bernie just won again in Wyoming, but WTF, Hillary got more delegates?!”

Some of my Facebook friends are also sharing photo memes of local congress men and women (super-delegates) with their contact information and threatening, “if Bernie won the majority of the votes in your district you better change your vote for him,” or else!

One supporter of Bernie Sanders has published a “hit list” of Democratic superdelegates, and several friends of mine in Oregon have threatened their future vote for Kate Brown, our nation’s first openly LGBT governor, if she doesn’t change her superdelegate vote for Bernie. (Oregon hasn’t even had its primary yet.)

A petition against superdelegates states: “This process is undemocratic and fundamentally unfair to Democratic primary voters….Democracy only works when the votes of the people—not the decision of a small number of elites — are what determines the outcome of elections.”

Donald Trump also chimed in this week, “You see what’s happening to me and Bernie Sanders. It’s a corrupt deal going on.”

To add some context to all this, here is something that my fellow Bernie supporters ought to consider. More than once in the last eight years Hillary Clinton must have thought, “if it hadn’t been for those darn superdelegates I might have won the democratic nomination and then the presidency!”

In 2008 Clinton won the popular vote over Obama (if you include Michigan, where he wasn’t on the ballot). Today she has 2.4 million more votes than Bernie. Unless Bernie does way better than current polls predict, Hillary is going to win the popular vote in 2016 as well.

Democratic superdelegates were implemented in 1984 to help avoid a brokered convention and today they make up 20 percent of the total delegates. They are free to vote anyway they like, independent of what their party’s voters might want.

Right now Hillary has a big advantage in superdelegates (469 to 31). In February 2008 she had a 2-1 lead over Obama in superdelegates, but as Obama started winning more primaries and caucuses, superdelegates began trickling over to him. The end result was that even though he lost the popular vote to Clinton, he received just enough (2,299.5) of the total 2,118 delegates that he needed to win nomination thanks to those additional votes from the “undemocratic” superdelegates.

Why did more superdelegates side with Obama in 2008 than Clinton? One superdelegate, Arizona Democratic Chair Mrs Fernández, spoke for many when she said, “Senator Barack Obama is strengthening the Democratic Party by bringing in new voters, young and old, into the process.”

So they chose the charismatic black dude over Hillary in 2008. Will the superdelegates that have already pledged their support for Hillary abandon her for the socialist Jew 2016? Unless something quite extraordinary happens, I am going to say no for two reasons.

Democratic superdelegates are distinguished party leaders, and elected officials, including all Democratic members of the House and Senate and sitting Democratic governors. Bernie has been an independent most of his political life and only recently changed parties so that he could run as a Democrat. Hillary, many years as First Lady, Democratic Senator and then Secretary of State, has a lot of friends and supporters in congress and in the party.

Also relevant to superdelegates is that in 2008 there was little vitriol against Hillary and the democratic party from Obama or his voters. Obama united the party, and this was welcome after eight years of George W. Bush and the Gore/Bush/Nader voting controversy of 2000.

Many Bernie (and Trump) supporters are metaphorically out there holding pitchforks. A majority of superdelegates voted for Obama not because they were pushed or threatened to vote for him, but because they saw that he “has the best ability to win the White House in November and lead this country forward.” (Mrs. Fernández again)

Superdelegates are people. They are emotional, logical, pragmatic and ideological just like you and me. When others threaten or push us to do something, especially if they are not close to us, what do we do? Sometimes we acquiesce out of fear, or a desire for ease, but more often we do the opposite.

So to my fellow Bernie Sanders supporters who threaten your future vote to superdelegates, or you’ll vote for Trump in the fall if they “rob” Bernie of his rightful victory, I say:

Back off the superdelegates, focus on getting out the vote in the remaining primaries and let Bernie and the strength of his candidacy convince them that he’s the man they should cast their vote for in 2016.


This article was recently published in Elephant Journal.

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Bernie Sanders Democratic Party Donald Trump" Elephant Journal Hillary Clinton Kyer Wiltshire burning man delegates super Wed, 20 Apr 2016 01:42:59 GMT
Autumn Skye Art   Autumn Skye and I first met at Beloved Music Festival in 2010. I was drawn to her work right away, and amongst many talented visual artists in our extended festival culture, hers and Alex Grey’s work have stood out to me as exceptional.

Her work is beautiful and moving. She is an artist. She also has the discipline, focus and business acumen to be a professional artist, which means she makes a successful living with her art. 

Autumn Skye and I recently connected in Bali around Bali Spirit Festival. She was working on a new painting still in progress of a woman's face and a lotus flower (photos below). Below is an interview that we did about her art, inspirations, her views on the current state of the world, and how art can bring healing and refection for us all.

Tell me a little about your life growing up in western Canada and how this influenced you as an artist. When not teaching painting workshops on various continents, you live on the cool and mossy coastline near Powell River, British Colombia. How does living in this rural and remote environment support and inspire you as an artist? 

“I was born on the East Coast of Canada, on a maple syrup and blueberry farm deep in the woods. My memories of this enchanted land are vivid and sweet. In my early childhood we traveled extensively across Canada, driving through mountains, plains, forests, and coastline, cities, villages, and rural countryside. Through these experiences, watching with fascination at the myriad of diverse landscapes sailing by my window, my vision and imagination was fed and enriched. Whenever I had a moment to do so, I would draw pictures and write stories.

I was blessed with total support of my creative exploration while growing up. There was never a doubt of what I would do with my life, and even before I knew what the concept of "artist" meant, I knew who I was and what I was here on this planet to do.

I have not completed an academic training, but I have been painting since I was old enough to hold a brush. I was drawing before I could walk or talk. I believe paint runs in my veins, and every color and texture I lay my sight on is translated by my imagination into ideas for new paintings.

The temperate rainforest of British Columbia's Sunshine Coast is home, and I am supported and inspired on a daily basis. The community here is small and tightly woven, and at the same time incredibly inclusive, diverse, and creative. It is a wonderful place to come home to after long journeys abroad. It has the perfect balance of community and sanctuary, social opportunities and solitude.” 

On your website you write, “It is our divine duty to create and share inspiration, especially in this time of (rapid) change.” How can visual art be a tool for bringing about greater consciousness and transformation?

“I believe that the role of the artist is especially crucial at this challenging and exciting time. The world is at the precipice of momentous change. We have an opportunity to transmute the shadow and pain that we witness in the world around us into visions of wholeness. Artists are map-makers, and those maps can help guide humanity forward into new and positive ways of seeing and being.

As we honor our personal creative paths, we contribute vitally to the whole through our own well-being. We inspire those around us and encourage them to create as well by manifesting visual mirrors to the light, the potential, and the divinity of each viewer. 

Each creation has an opportunity to be an offering: a positive reflection of ourselves and humanity, a celebration of evolving consciousness, an opportunity for healing and deepening, a vision of a bright future now.”

There is an older painting on your website called “the Vital Commission.” It has a monkey on your knee and a bird on your shoulder. Is this painting relevant to how you sometimes feel as an artist? Do you ever question your own artistic path or integrity? (

"The Vital Commission" (painted in 2008) is a portrayal of the reclamation of self, of spirit, and of purpose. She is accompanied and supported by animals, the snake, raven, monkey, and moths. These animals, in various cultures and legends, have been demonized and considered dark or evil. She has made peace with her shadow, she has acknowledged her follies, and is reigniting her passion and reclaiming her power. She is painting herself back into life, and the world is coming back to life around her.

In regards to your question about my own artistic path or integrity, I am grateful to say that I have never wavered in my mission of helping inspire, uplift, and heal the world to the best of my capability. For as long as I can remember, I knew my mission was to share my creations with the world. As soon as I was old enough to hold a paintbrush in my hand, I began making art. There were periods of time where I wondered if music would become a priority, or years that I spent dedicated towards running a restaurant or producing events, but throughout it all I have barely put the paintbrush down, and I intend to paint until the day of my final breath.”

You and I first met at Beloved Music Festival in Oregon in 2010.  Next to several other artists, you were live painting a new piece called “Beloved.” Many people in our festival community love this painting. Tell me what inspired you, and what you want people to take away from it. (

“The painting entitled Beloved is painted about a few different, yet interconnected, themes. It is about the celebration of the diversity of humanity, the differences of our personal or cultural backgrounds and our genders. I believe that when we can come together in respect and appreciation of each person's uniqueness, we are capable of producing profound light and co-creating much more than we could ever dream of individually.

Beloved is also about the reunion of our own inner masculine and feminine, our yin and yang, or sun and moon. Much like our outer experience of opposites and diversity, when we each can make peace between our emotional and mental aspects, and honor our profound capacity for intuition as well as reason, we will know greater peace within our own lives.

The painting is also in celebration of romantic union, divine lovers, soul mate connection, and twin flame recognition. When we have made peace and fallen in love with our inner masculine/feminine, then navigate the world outside of us with grace and unconditional love, we will finally be in a place where we are able to receive our perfect mirror.”

The painting of yours that has moved me more than any other is “Morning Due.”  (Photo below) There is a nude woman (who looks a lot like you) sitting on a cracked and dry lake bed with a hazy sky and dilapidated water towers in the background.  She is crying and her tears are flowing through her hands and on to a small plant that has somehow survived this forsaken landscape.  Is this painting a message of hope or despair?  How to do you want to impact or educate people with our art? 

“Mourning Due is a prayer for rain, for balance, and for healing. It is in reverence of water, and in grief for the environmental crisis that we have perpetuated through our short-sightedness. I pray that we remember that it is water and the sacred cycles of nature that sustain us, and it is the same water that courses through our veins and flows from our eyes.

We are in the midst of acknowledging how our actions have brought us to this point, and we are beginning to feel deeply our remorse, and choose differently how we live on this planet. It is a process that many feel is overdue and not happening quickly enough to right the wrongs. However, I believe is not too late! In fact, I believe in perfect and divine timing. This painting is not in despair, it is with hope and in faith that we can and are changing the course of our journey. The tears are flowing, and we are shifting our focus towards wholeness and healing, for ourselves and for the planet. To do so we must be willing to shine light on the shadow, and make changes in our actions and industry.

I live in British Columbia where we are blessed with abundant rainfall and lush forests, and yet there are many places in the world that look like this painting. It can change and must change. I have faith that those lands will be green again. The healing waters are within us. Let the tears flow....”

Besides Beloved Music Festival, I have been fortunate to connect with you in Maui, Costa Rica and Bali. You have also taught workshops and spent time in Vienna and Australia. How have your travels to places like Bali, Australia and Vienna inspired your art?  Have they also changed your perspective about the world, far away from the verdant pine forests of western North America?

“Since my childhood adventures across the vast wilderness of Canada, down into the mysterious and enchanting landscapes of the United States, and along the awe inspiring coasts of Mexico, this magnificent and diversely adorned Earth has enthralled me. This eager exploration and appreciation continued after high-school and brought me to South-East Asia and Mexico, and Europe. Wherever I travel, I take my sketchbook and diary, musing romantically and critically about how we live on the planet, how humans interact with our surroundings and each other, and what makes us uniquely different and the universally same. I witness the striving, the longing, the suffering, and at the same time I see the generosity, the hope, the reverence for life. It is this paradox that permeates the divine comedy of this existence. We are each the villain and the hero; it is a matter of perspective. This perspective is what I gratefully fold into the pages of my sketchbook and the archives of my memory, and when I return home from countless miles and distant continents, I unfurl the inspiration onto the blank canvases of my studio.”

All photos taken by Kyer Wiltshire, except the photo of "Morning Due."


]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Autumn Skye Autumn Skye Art Bali Beloved Costa Rica Kyer Wiltshire Maui Morning Due Thu, 14 Apr 2016 04:32:34 GMT
Kevin James and Shenteh I met Kevin James in Bali last fall at one of his kirtan gatherings in Ubud.  Kevin has a strong following here in Bali and abroad.  He grew up in Australia and though he has a smooth baritone voice like country star Randy Travis (albeit with less twang), and he is a talented guitar player, it wasn’t until later in life that he found his true passion and dharma: to bring greater joy and connection for others through music, chanting and song. 

Kevin had been recording his 4th album with our mutual friend Soma, a talented sound engineer from England, when we connected again around the possibility of me creating a music video for one of the songs on his new album.

You can listen to and download Kevin’s music, as well as watch his latest video at at

Kevin, “Aum Tara” is one of my favorite songs from your new album “Heartstrings.”  The first line of the song “I call upon the light of my soul help me to see through my own darkness” made me reflect on my own life.  In your online autobiography I read that the Tibetan Buddhist teaching of Dzogchen introduced you to Eastern philosophy. You wrote “for the first time since entering my teens, I felt that I wasn’t alone in this world.”  Can you tell me a little about your own journey through darkness and light, and how this has influenced your music?

"My songs have always been a reflection of my own inner journey. They have been my inspirations and anthems of a journey that I shared with the people around me. In my writing, I would often feel into what do WE want to be singing. Basing from my own experience and doing my best to avoid any dogma so there is a feeling of inclusion for all."

Kevin, tell me what inspired you to write the song, “Heaven in Your Eyes“? What do you want people to take away from it? (

"I wrote this song with the intention to remind us that heaven is inside us in the form of positive emotions that can only come through us. We cannot possess them or find them in things. So, if we share them, we can experience them more. It's petty simple but nice to be reminded. In this song I encourage us to take action to connect."

Kevin, also on “Heartstrings,“ is “All Rise Together.”  I see it as is a song of hope. What do you believe we need for a shift in human consciousness, to evolve to be more kind and caring to one another?  How are your songs inspired by the idea of our connection to one another (“the illusion of a separated self”)?

"Before stepping out into the world with my music, I spent 10 years off the grid so to peak, living close to nature to try to find a way to help solve the dysfunction in our culture in an attempt to do something meaningful with my life.

I suppose I realized that the illusion of a separate imaginary self was at the core of it. But separating myself and living outside the system was not an answer. I realized that we need to make this journey of reconnection together. So my coming out into the world is the outcome of the desire to join and connect with others who have the same intention, strengthening the movement rather that coming from a space of separation and wanting to change others or the world. My music is a hand reaching out to join and sing together, to affirm what we already desire or perhaps reaching people as a reminder, or to find a resonance with the words. This intention is reflected in that song for sure."

Kevin, you’ve been on tour for a while now with your daughter Shenteh. You originally wrote the song “Om Gaia” about your love for her. What do you want her to learn from this experience with you and your music? 

"Shenteh chose to join me as my hand was reaching out for her. I simply wanted to give her what I could to support her journey into womanhood as a father. Simply to give her all I can to support her to grow and also to relieve the stress of leaving school and working out what she wants to do with her life.  Offering the freedom to find her own inner strength and connection to her heart, introducing her to a world and friends that is beyond the limitations of Australia."

Shenteh, has traveling and touring with your father been a “transformational” experience?  Please tell me a little about your own story.

"I have experienced a huge transformation since leaving Australia for Bali over two years ago when I was seventeen. 

Travelling the world and being immersed in chanting circles as part of yoga, meditation and health retreats have been a huge curve in my learning about myself, the world and relating to a diverse range of people. Throughout my teens I had rejected many of my parents’ ‘alternative’ values and was unstable emotionally. At first it was hard for me to always be the youngest and least experienced person in the room, but it challenged me to learn to really listen and contribute in a more intelligent way. Chanting and kirtan have helped me to connect to people, and be more compassionate and loving."

Shenteh, you sing and play harmonium with your father.  What gifts, independent of music, do you want to share with the world? Imagine 20 years from now when you are 39, what advice would you give your 19 year old self?

"I feel like my gift to the world will come through self development and staying connected to myself, friends, family and the land.

If I were to give myself advice it would be to listen, and to be receptive to the opportunities that I am given to grow and expand, to be creative and active in the world, and express myself with love and wisdom."

]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Heartsongs Heaven in Your Eyes Kevin James Kirtan Kyer Wiltshire Shenteh Ubud Mon, 11 Apr 2016 06:27:09 GMT
Fire Monkeys and My Thoughts on the Presidential Primaries These are some of my thoughts on the current presidential election primaries. Also included in this blog post are some monkey photos that I’ve taken in Asia this Chinese year of the Fire Monkey.  

Are We Still Just a Bunch of Political Fire Monkeys?  (I took the photo below in Huan Hin, Thailand)

My first impactful memory as a child was when I was six years old. It was the day that I went with my father and our beloved 18 year old babysitter Maureen to downtown Portland, Oregon to join the large peaceful protests against the Vietnam War. I remember riding on my father’s shoulders and things were fun and festive. Then the teargas and the lines of angry police came. 

My father quickly carried me away from the mayhem, but we lost Maureen.  She showed up at our home several hours later. Our beautiful, blond and tall babysitter was now black, blue and bloodied by police clubs. I became a very angry little boy in that moment and I thought, “police bad, war bad, violence bad.” (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India)

This experience sparked a passion in politics that continued throughout my adult life, and I have always sought to balance that passion with empathy and compassion for those who don’t share my political beliefs and values.

I have an advanced degree in Latin America Studies from the University of New Mexico and I was professor of Spanish and Latin American Culture for 12 years. (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India)

I have spent years educating American voters about the civil wars in Central America, the war on drugs, the war of choice in Iraq and our current and seeming to never to end war on terror. 

As you might imagine, I strongly resonate with Bernie Sander’s campaign and his message. (I took the photo below in Mt. Seraya, Bali, Indonesia)

In Chinese astrology, this is the year of the Fire Monkey, and the hottest and highest stakes presidential primary season of my lifetime has me thinking about a lot things beyond politics, including our anthropoid ancestors.

In a troop of monkeys there is an emphasis on stability and order. Among males, there is an “alpha” male who clearly dominates everyone else in the group.  In these communities, politics and alliances also play a big role. (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India.)

So what’s up with Donald Trump’s macho appeal to so many Republican voters, and my fellow supporters of Bernie Sanders who loathe Hillary Clinton?

“Why is Donald Trump wining the majority of Republican primaries?” my liberal friend asks while shaking her head and flipping through her Facebook feeds. 

According to conservative New York Times political columnist David Brooks, “Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American system is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else.”

That makes sense, but what is more significant is that Trump's "I’ll fix this shit" bravado is appealing to voters with authoritarian inclinations. This is scary if we consider parallels to 1930s Germany. (I took the photo below in Haridwar, India.)

It still remains to be seen if Trump will be the nominee. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, recently called Trump a “phony, a fraud.”  It is possible that the Republican Party leaders, in a bit of quandary about what to do with this guy, will not allow him to become the nominee. 

Fry up some good popcorn and pour yourself an ice cold drink this July, because the Republican convention in Cleveland will be brokered, contentious and nasty. (I took the photo below in Hua Hin, Thailand.)

I always understood why Republicans disliked Hillary Clinton. They saw her as the “uppity” First Lady who tried to force “socialist” universal healthcare down their throats in 1993. Politically she is too far to the left for many Republicans: single payer healthcare, abortion rights, immigration, global warming, and one of the more liberal voting records during her time in the US Senate. 

In their eyes Hillary is a 1960s hippie in a fancy dress suit.

As a Bernie Sanders’ supporter who wants to remain informed, when I look at voting records and public statements, Clinton and Sanders are much closer in policy and ideology than they are with any of the Republicans running this year. (I took the photo below in Hua Hin, Thailand.)

I remember my friends who voted for Ralph Nader back in 2000 telling me that there was little difference between Al Gore and George W Bush. Gore was a continuation of Bill Clinton’s presidency and Nader was a true progressive, but my friends did not disparage Gore. There was no talk of trying Gore for war crimes, calling him a criminal, or a political “whore.”

From Whitewater to Benghazi, it is the Republicans that created the negative frame that Hillary Clinton is twofaced and not to be trusted. Many progressive Bernie Sanders’ supporters have now also bought into in this Republican framing over her. (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India.)

If you were to read my Facebook newsfeeds right now, you’d think Hillary Clinton was more evil than the most conservative Republican. 

Hillary’s supporters (not in my Facebook newsfeeds) say that her critics are sexist and that she is judged differently than her male colleagues. Her more reasonable detractors on the left believe that Hillary Clinton simply represents the status quo. She is a political game player, and that unlike the election of Sanders, or even Trump, Clinton in the White House changes very little of our “broken” system.  

Many Bernie Sanders supporters are threatening not to vote in the fall if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination. A minority of them would rather have Trump elected, cynically believing that with Donald Trump in the White House things will get so horrible that our country will finally “wake up.”  Viva la Revolución! (I took the photo below in Mt. Seraya, Bali, Indonesia.)

I understand that we are in the middle of a contentious democratic primary and our country has changed a lot this century, but I believe that the ire for Hillary Clinton goes beyond politics.

What is happening on a more primal level with Trump’s enthusiastic support, and the leftwing scorn of the most powerful female politician in America?

I believe that many Americans are still uncomfortable with a woman keeping us safe from the big scary world out there.  I mean, how many female Commander in Chiefs have we elected? (I took the photo below in Hua Hin, Thailand.)

Donald is the chest thumping orangutan, patriarch and protector of the clan.  He tells it like it is. He takes no prisoners. He makes no apologies for America’s greatness. He will persevere and strengthen the empire!

And who is the woman that many Republicans and Bernie Sanders’ supporters despise?  Is Hillary really the conniving chimpanzee with an easy smile that will stab you when your back is turned? (I took the photo below in Hua Hin, Thailand.)

Bernie is an honest, decent man who has motivated voters who otherwise feel hopeless or apathetic about national politics. He has helped to ignite a progressive movement in this country that I hope will move forward independently of this and future elections.  

In substance and policy Bernie is my candidate, but on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017 I’ll be very comfortable saying “Madam President.”

Or are we still just a bunch of political fire monkeys? (I took the photo below in Rishikesh, India.)

This essay was also published (without all the fun monkey photos) in Elephant Journal:

Photo note: I took all images close to the monkeys with a 100mm lens (2x) or less. 


]]> (Santa Cruz Wedding Event Photography) Bali Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Fire Monkey Haridwar Hillary Clinton Huan Hin Kyer Wiltshire Monkey Rishikesh Wed, 06 Apr 2016 15:55:00 GMT