Connections

Last night I watched a film titled “On Her Shoulders” and today I learned it is “National Voter Registration Day” in the United States.  Your average person might not be able to make a connection between the two but I easily can.

First, about “On Her Shoulders“: the movie follows a young Yazidi woman name Nadia Murad Basee Taha who who was captured and forced into sexual slavery when ISIS over-ran the Yazidi area of Iraq in 2014. She eventually escaped, was smuggled out of Iraq. Following a public briefing of the United nations Security Council on human trafficking Nadia became the unofficial (?) spokesperson for her people. This film follows her as she travels the world for the cause of her people. She had met people from all walks of life with, clearly, the most emotional meetings being those while her own exiled people.

This film comes at an opportune time because the cause is largely forgotten now that Iraq has been freed from ISIS clutches. That an entire, albeit small, group of people remains in danger of extermination is forgotten. I was left wondering what I could possibly do and, at the time, not coming up with answers.

Here is the connection to the American National Voter Registration Day today. Many nations in the world today are turned or turning towards to right. Fear about losing something, purity of some kind or another I suppose, seems to cause many to yearn for the return to a so-called better and simpler time. Politicians and non-official state actors are very adept at both reading and exploiting this sentiment. With this turn to the right huge swaths of groups are being demonized and marginalized. So they peel off small segments of society one at a time. Once you feel little to no connection to another it is easier to ignore them and easier to not fight for them. This is happening everywhere, all around us.

How do we, the common people combat this? We combat this by registering to vote, where voting is still possible. We do this by deciding what is important to us and being involved in the political process. We don’t have to run for office but we can be informed about the political candidates. We can read up up on them beyond simply reading a campaign poster or some glossy literature. And we can decide who best represents us regardless of their party affiliation and how we’ve voted in the past.  When the time comes we can cast our vote for the person we feel most deserving of it. Make your candidates work for your vote.

Why does this matter? Many don’t really care about issues that appear to have no impact until it’s too late. What happens if your child comes out as LBGTQ but the protections are no longer there? What happens if your daughter is abused because women are no longer seen as being equal to men?

To the people who think it doesn’t matter, regardless of your political affiliation, or whether you are a Supreme Court nominee, or a media personality: Can you really look your mother, wife and daughters in the eye and say none of this matters? Can you honestly say this matters only to your loved ones and no others? Have you ever looked in the mirror and said the things you say in public to your reflection? Do you really believe any of this? Or are you either opportunistic or too frightened to fight the orthodoxy?

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Turning the Other Cheek

This isn’t about somebody being mean to me or persecuting me in some way and me learning how to turn the other cheek.  It’s about learning how to see the divine in the not so obvious places.

Going back a bit in time, it’s now been over two years of nearly daily reading of “A Course In Miracles.” The book is frequently abbreviated to ACIM. I’m fond of telling myself that one cannot spend that much time with the book and not be profoundly changed. If the book could be distilled down to one phrase it might be “We are all one.” We are one with ourselves, with our immediate circle of people, with people half a world away, and on and on. Knowing this in my head versus knowing this in my heart and soul are two different things, however.  Remember that we have this primal survival instinct that classifies people as friends or enemies based on how much the same or how different we appear.

Recently I had an opportunity to try flipping my perceptions of another (anonymous) person. The set-up is this:

There was recent new item about 12 year old who is transitioning to the female gender who was threatened. The headline “Class canceled after adults threaten ‘open hunting seasons’ on 12-year-old transgender girl” says enough. The child’s “high crime” was to use the female washroom at school. Threats were made, a child was called all sorts of names, protective orders were filed and school was canceled. In short, a lot of anger was created by this little incident. Making another human sub-human with name calling isn’t harmless. So-called jokes about physical harm are not jokes. Urging people to beat up another human being is probably easier so long as other people do the dirty work and as long as another person has to look at the victim and consider their actions afterwards.

I must clarify that I am middle-aged and as I get older I seem to buck the so-called normal trend. It is perhaps stereotypical that as one gets older their politics moves dramatically to the right. My politics and viewpoints and decidedly moving towards the left from an orientation that was more central or slightly to the right. Furthermore, growing up when I did there were not a lot of LGBTQ people out there. Or if there were, pressures of the days forced them into denial and silence. My thoughts towards the people making the threats were far from charitable. I shook my head and wondered just what is wrong with people these days and why is there so much anger anyway?

ACIM repeatedly emphasizes that we are all one. This body we are given is a shell that hides our true holy and divine nature. ACIM frequently notes that our true essence, the only one that matters, is that loving spark that we sometimes call the soul.  It was difficult to see this, though, when reading about the people who threatened this girl and her family. It was real easy to silently vilify the intolerance of these other people. But then that core message of ACIM came back to me. These people are no more or less than I am or that scared little girl is. Their light might be hidden deeper but even that might be misconception on my part. What I do know is that my own intolerance of those who threatened this family in any way just adds more fear into the mix. I want to start doing less of that.

I can’t pretend to understand how or why people think this way. But I do believe it is fear based. Do people seriously think one small person can threaten the integrity of a family or society at large? Maybe. Maybe it’s all so very “woo-woo” to send out vibrations of love and compassion to these anonymous, or at least unknown to me, people. Their fearful reactions are incredibly outshouted in relation to any perceived threat to their well-being. I can only hope that following the very public airing of this story some of those who lashed out in such a negative manner are beginning to consider how their thoughts and actions fuel a certain fire that needs no extra stoking.

Who or What is God?

I’ve been re-reading a book by Wayne Dyer titled “Wishes Fulfilled”, this time paying much more attention to the words. The last time through it was more as another notch on a belt so I could say I read another book and that maybe I am focused enough to finish something. At the time, it may have been useful to create an exception to what appeared to be an absolute truth at the time. That so-called truth was, “I am unfocused.” It is a belief I still hold to a certain extent and one that is quite common. I’m not the first, nor will I be the last to say that about themselves.

Back to “Wishes Fulfilled”. My sudden brainstorm, flash-of-inspiration, for the summary of this book is that it helps you discover for yourself your concept of God and, thus, yourself.

Do you believe that God (among other things) is:

  • Unfocused,
  • Not creative,
  • Will-full, capricious and mean, and
  • Doubting and doubtful.

Or do you believe that God (among other things) is:

  • Infinite,
  • Loving,
  • Focused, and
  • Creative.

What you believe of God is what you believe of yourself. What you believe of yourself is what the universe shows you.

Through a variety of sources, whose authority and authenticity you can debate, Wayne Dyer draws the connection of your I am statements to those of God. In essence, what you say and think is what you are. You have a choice to say “I am unfocused and dumb.” or you can say “I am focused and smart.” The trick is to periodically and randomly choose the higher energy thoughts such as those in the second list.

I am, this time around, being more mindful of my “I am”s.  A big one for me is, “I am healthy mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.” This is an attempt to reverse my thinking that I am generally not all that emotional without going too far the other way. On health my contention is that ebbs and flows, most of the time without me being very aware of it. A prolonged energy discharge, similar to your car’s alternator gauge showing negative, results in noticeable issues. This is my attempt to regain equilibrium.

Another important one is, “I am a courageous creator.” This one is intended to bring about more open creativity. I write a lot and draw often, too. What I’m trying to achieve is more confidence and openness in my creativity. I’d never say that God is a tentative creator so why should I say or believe the same of myself.

There are plenty of times when I do feel little shifts in my energy upwards. Who knows? With enough persistence maybe my book ideas will be coming to a website and bookstore near you?

You Are Not Alone

For some it’s been a rough week what with the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. In all honesty, neither person had much significance to me although I am familiar with their work.  I can’t pretend I know what their struggles were or why ending their lives seemed to be the best choice. On the outside looking in we see people that had everything: great jobs, travel, get to do anything they want, lots of money, all kinds of friends and so much more. It becomes incomprehensible and tragic that these people who apparently had “everything” couldn’t overcome their challenges.

These two deaths do dredge up memories, some that I’ve written about and others I have not. These memories perhaps contribute to the empathy and undercurrent of turmoil I feel right now. As usual, the spotlight turns towards mental health for a while and then turns away again. One wish from this is that I wish we’d recognize the prevalence of mental health issues in this world or ours. My feeling is that I have myself experienced such issues but at a much lower level than those who have made the news this year already for what I want to term “all the wrong reasons.”

I recall many years ago a very quick episode. This was in the ’70’s when men were the macho, silent type who didn’t speak about problems. I remember being characterized as a sensitive person, which was not a great thing to be when you’re a teen-aged boy in the early to mid ’70’s. In this brief episode I was being tormented by some of my siblings for reasons I don’t remember. But I do remember lying face down on my bed, crying and thinking about a belt in the back closet and the closet rod. This was but a brief moment in time with its meaning and purpose, really, still unclear. Maybe it increases my empathy but I cannot, in truth, even begin to understand many people’s struggles.

2013 was a relatively dark year for me where I felt so alone even when surrounded by people. The thought of ending my life never entered my mind, at least not seriously. I clearly remember many times, though, thinking that it wouldn’t bother me if something were to happen – not that I became reckless in any way.  To this day a verse from the Townes van Zandt song “To Live is to Fly” retain there relevance.

Days, up and down they come
Like rain on a conga drum
Forget most, remember some
But don’t turn none away.

Back then I would have been happy enough to refund my remaining days while not actively seeking it. These days I’m very happy to keep them for myself.

Even this is nothing compared to others’ experiences. I know that. Maybe this, too, increased my empathy. I’m much less willing to withdraw when such things come to light. This is one of the problems. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about their struggles because they lose friends. People don’t know what to say. Or they just want to fix everything. And maybe this “thing” cannot be fixed but only managed and coped with.

I can’t tell just by looking at somebody the state of their mental health. People are very good about hiding away their true feelings. I’ve done it myself. If we could recognize that each one of us experiences some of this pain sometimes it might remove some of the stigma surrounding admitting when we need help. I don’t need to know the details.

To those I knew who took their lives, I’d say to them today: You are not alone. You matter. Find somebody you can trust to talk to – just talk. Your absence would create such a huge hole.

The Reminder

The following was possibly co-authored, of that I am uncertain. But I do know it was meant for more than just me, so is being shared here.

You are being reminded that talents that appear to come easy are often undervalued. The self-deprecation of “Oh, it’s nothing.” (and other such thoughts) runs rampant. However, it is more than nothing. The skill or talent that comes easy is to be equated with walking or talking. These are also undervalued by most. Recall that these skills, undertaken with near unconsciousness, didn’t just happen. They are skills that were acquired through a span of time and with much desire, effort and persistence. The same holds for your artistic talents. These were also acquired over a span of time through that same persistence, desire and effort. They, too, evolved over a span of time.

Remember that this is an extremely common error. You are not alone. This error is created and then compounded through many forces.  “Nobody likes a bragger” and comments of a similar vein takes well placed pride in an accomplishment and crushes it to dust. Imagine a child’s drawing and whether it is placed on the fridge with pride or thrown in the garbage. This is your choice now.

Portrayal of creative genius being unworthy unless accompanied by great turmoil, struggle and near fatal effort only reinforces the perceived unworthiness of your gifts because they seem to come at little to no cost. You are reminded of the first paragraph.

Hear the words of those who truly love you when they praise your creative endeavors. Do not diminish your work, or their words, by repeating those words, “Oh, it’s nothing.”, or giving those same thoughts roots in your mind. Make no mistake that thoughts are as powerful as words.

Fumbling Towards Forgiveness?

The connections started in the morning. The background is that my wife is in Costa Rica with some of her girl-friends. She, of course, wanted me to keep in touch, which I had been diligent in doing. But she hadn’t really responded in kind. There were a ton of probable good reasons for this but once ego becomes involved  there is no such thing as a good reason.

Ego takes note of the differences and disparities and then turns them into punishments. Remember that most of us are our own worst critics, therefore, our toughest jailers. In the ego-ic world I am now paying for past sins and indiscretions. It doesn’t matter when I note that Wi-Fi  is probably not as good there as here. Noting that the VRBO they rented is remote, even for Costa Rica, falls on deaf ears, so to speak. Telling myself she is could be in the cloud forest , therefore away from Wi-Fi also does nothing. Noting that perhaps her phone is broken, or lost, or out of battery – all very real possibilities – also doesn’t still that insistent voice. In ego’s world she has told some secrets to her friends and they have now counselled her to leave me and this is why she is not communicating with me. This has never been a threat but ego doesn’t live in a logical world.

It also doesn’t matter that I can watch ego at work, as I have done many times with countless issues now. I know ego’s tricks but that doesn’t help still that harsh, capricious and unforgiving “voice”. Not this day. It never seems to help when I note that I do the same thing, I get busy or distracted so perhaps I could extend the same consideration to others.I have watched it on smaller issues. In all cases there seems to be only one cure. It seems like the only thing that helps is finally getting that response text back. Time ticks away and still nothing, which only adds fuel to ego’s fire.

Then the “coincidences” begin to pile up. First comes an e-mail for an e-book from Hay House. The note promises forgiveness. Given ego’s machinations this strikes a chord. I download the book and begin reading it at lunch. Within the book itself are a few more interesting coincidences. First comes a quote from “A Course In Miracles” (ACIM) which counts as a double whammy.  This two-for-the-price-of-one begins with the fact that I read ACIM nearly every day. As I frequently tell myself, you can’t spend nearly two years now with that book and not be transformed. The second whammy is the quote itself. It reads as follows:

“If you knew who walks on the way you have chosen, fear would be impossible.”

This mirrors my frequent conversations with my guides, one in particular, who I frequently thank for walking with me. I know they can’t do my work but they can walk with me.

The next coincidence is that the forward is written by Gabby Bernstein. I had just spent part of the previous morning with her via webinar. I’ve got one of her books so I have some familiarity with her work.

I ask ego what he wants. I don’t try to just ignore or suppress this root anxiety as I used to and still often do. This is an honest attempt to give ego voice and learn what he really wants. The answer back is forgiveness.  The book, “Wings of Forgiveness”, begins by reminding me I have received (created?) numerous miracles already. ACIM defines a miracle as a shift in perception. It also states that there is no order of difficulty in miracles. One miracle is not easier or more difficult than another. It’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around this at first.

Asking ego that question and considering its answer is a shift in perception. It isn’t ignoring or discounting its voice as most of us are so apt to do. It is a shift in perception, therefore, it is a miracle.  This miracle will create a whole universe of domino effects.

A little bit of reading coupled with handwriting this out served to quieten the beast somewhat. It hasn’t entirely silenced the beast because he makes a good point. Forgiveness with no distinction between giving and receiving is a shift in perception. Or maybe it will be many such shifts. Maybe this is the thing I want to spend much of this personal development time to. All the other things can wait, or take lower priority, because maybe this is the greatest hurdle to clear yet.

Towards Perfection

Ha! Not even close. Being human means making mistakes and having wildly varying experiences even from hour to hour.  By varying experiences I mean mostly one’s reactions, feelings and emotions in relation to outside events.  These are the vibration levels or perhaps the color spectrum that is used as part of chakra identification.

The prompt for this post began with a conversation that ended up with me over-stepping a boundary. The details are not as important as my acknowledgement that while I didn’t mean to touch a nerve, I did. I did apologize for stepping on toes but that didn’t (still doesn’t) seem like enough. A slew of thoughts enter my mind with most of them being not too negative – or in that red, rooted in earth, color.

There was the thought that each one of us is responsible for our own reactions alone. That didn’t help much. I know this is canon in the personal development world and that the truth of this is solid. But, being human means sometimes telling ourselves this doesn’t help at all.

Asking why this was bothering me so much revealed the answer that this person is at least somewhat significant to me so her thoughts and her opinions matter to me. That helped a little bit. Having said that, this is a work acquaintance so when it comes right down to it of either of us left we’d likely lose touch – thus the tag of “somewhat significant”.

Recognizing the teaching moment in this moment helped a little bit. The main teaching moment revolved around a quote from A Course In Miracles that still sticks with me:

Teach only love, for that is what you are.

I’ve extended this to “Teach (speak, think and be) only love, for that is what you are.” Looping back to being human, I know this was not a “speak only love” moment and that strict adherence to this suggestion (stopping short of calling it a rule) is near impossible at all times.

I’m very well aware that we are bombarded with messages of imperfection. I can read about the 31 ways I’ve been cooking my chicken wrong. Yeah, that was real article. I can read about which color I like that is either unflattering on me or so last year that it isn’t even funny. I’m also very well aware of my imperfections and how I should do more of this and less of that. Maybe in some strange way this helps ease the burden of having to be perfect that seems to be imposed by so many forces, both internal and external.

The lessons from this I suppose are to not expect to be perfect always, not expect others to be perfect and to own as much as possible when the imperfect happens. That’s a lot of ownership going on! There is also the opportunity to ask why a thing is so bothersome, what lessons can I teach myself and how can this move me towards thinking, speaking and being only love more often.

Fear and Action

My struggle these days is with action, not with inspiration or dreams. There is no shortage of desire to succeed in helping a lot of people eventually. There is, however, something a shortage in action. It’ll be a gradual process, probably, but at least I do have a little more knowledge to work with.

I listened to a T. Harv Eker webinar last night that outlined eight steps on to How To Make A Lot Of Money & Help A Lot Of People.  This is one webinar workbook I want to re-visit many times in the near future, rather than put it in a desk drawer to gather dust.  The last step is the one that is holding me back. In some ways it should be a pre-step or step 0 in addition to being step 8. At least for me that’s the way it is. Here’s the summary of step 8:

Step 8 is titled “The ability to take action”. To take action we have to overcome fear. To overcome fear we need a definition better than the acronym False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear involves the anticipation and avoidance of pain. The fear that is created in our minds is a future imagining designed to protect primarily the mind with the body along for the ride. This is different than the primal fight-or-flight instincts that might happen when you happen to notice, for example, the car barreling towards you in a crosswalk. The last part of that workbook  states that the key to success is to act in spite of our fears. T. Harv Eker likes using declarations, which some might call mantras or affirmations. The final declaration is, “I act in spite of fear, I act in spite of doubt, I act in spite of worry.”

Part of discovering our fears is discovering our pain points. This involves becoming more self-aware and then not suppressing the shadowy thoughts that may bubble up. For me scarcity is what appeared. As with all fear or pain it reaches back tens of thousands of year in the dark past when mere survival required a lot of work. Scarcity thoughts involved a lot of varied things. There is the tendency to hoard things due to potential scarcity. It could be anything. I’m still trying to figure out whether my fear is motivated by scarcity and how it impacts my ability to take action.

One thing I want to do, but have problems with, is doing more writing and drawing. I’m already aware that even 10 or 20 minutes extra on most days is enough. I’m also very well aware that I must take action for my dreams to come true. But there are blocks to beginning this. Part of removing these barriers is becoming aware of when it happens and even trying to listen to that hidden voice that tells me why it is so difficult to start one small habit.

It’s all a work in progress, as is life itself. From there eight steps, to me, become a rinse and repeat sort of thing as I discover where else my skills and passions lie.

Think Pink

Today is pink shirt day. I have to confess I am getting a bit tired of all these different days. It’s not because I don’t support these causes. Every single one is worthy and deserving. But for me these various days have become a bit like corporate speak. For example, I don’t like the term “empowerment” in corporate environments because it becomes lip service. My contention with the word empowerment, again in a business setting, is that you either talk about or do it but not both. Same thing with accountability – your either do it or talk about it but not both.

So it is with Pink Shirt Day. The thing is, every day is pink shirt day. And pink ribbon day.  And Let’s Talk day. These issues don’t just go away because their “day” has already passed. For some these days and symbols may truly help. For others awareness and vows to do better may be temporary. Or behavior may actually change. For still others a blip is barely registered if at all.

I suppose part of what I’m saying is that all these causes are worthwhile but there are so many of them it becomes nearly overwhelming. The only way I can choose which ones I’d like to support is based on my personal experiences and challenges. I guess the only other thing I can add is that if an issue is important enough to you then be a voice for it every day.  One voice alone is merely a whisper in this great big world. But enough voices together for a sustained period of time becomes a shout and maybe even a roar.

Roller Coaster

Up and down, left and right, wavering this way and that – it sometimes feels like being on some kind of demented roller coaster. And with me is the equally demented roommate , sometimes so fully identified with me that we seem indivisible. Is the inner Roommate ego and also the meaning making machine? We are meaning making creatures who are incredibly self-centred. Everything is all about me. If I say, “It isn’t you, it’s me”, I’m not lying.

I don’t perceive the contradiction when I dislike something you do but then turn around and do the same to you. It happens rarely out of spite. It’s even the small things. I text and you and don’t hear back for a long time. So the meaning making begins. And sometimes completely unrelated events get bundled in to the meaning making. The time I said something, innocently,enough in my mind, that caused an unintended reaction. And now you’re using your silence to get back at me. And when I happen to suggest to the inner roommate that maybe you got busy – maybe the suggestion is accepted but more than likely isn’t. Then you respond and it’s like when suddenly the cloud moves away from the sun and all is bright and warm again. For a while.

Maybe this is one thing I’m learning – how to live with the meaning making roommate and maybe teach him how to be more consistent and more understanding.