Love and Acknowledgment

Spiritual+Love.JPGIn one of my dreams a group of frustrated and critical women, an un-nourishing restaurant experience, and a missing suitcase representing unacknowledgment, unrealized longings and social neediness, and a symbol of independence and of not going somewhere in life confronted me. Whew! With dreams like that who needs stress?

But through my dream and subsequent reflection I learned something about myself. Once again I noticed that I was still looking for approval from my mother and as was usual, I didn’t get it. She’s been dead for 13 years now and the part of me that’s still looking for acknowledgment is the part of me that tried to get it 60+ years ago.

I also learned again that there’s no satisfying acknowledgement from outside myself when the inside has yet to acknowledge. I project the unsatisfied acknowledgement onto the stage of the waking world and then blame the waking world inhabitants for not acknowledging me properly. I’ve known this for quite some time, but I always seem to forget until the universe brings it up to me yet again, and again, and again.

This is not to say that the waking world inhabitants don’t have their own acknowledgement issues. I’ve observed many folks either delivering conditional acknowledgements, or throwing up subtle and not so subtle barriers toward acknowledgment coming their way.

Conditional acknowledgment, the kind where one hand delivers while another takes away such as “He’s really good for someone as awkward as he is!” Is like no acknowledgement at all. Don’t bother, I say. Don’t toss an acknowledgment that’s going to drop to the floor before the intended receiver can catch it. You won’t make any goals that way.

Acknowledgment is a tricky thing, we’re all looking for it and it’s all about the approval we didn’t get, or perceived not getting, from our parents. Acknowledgment can be energizing and empowering, or de-energizing and disempowering depending on the sincerity and quality of the delivery. Better to just say “good job” than to get all flowery and come across as disingenuous.

I used to present a workshop a number of years ago called “The Acknowledgment Workshop”. I spent a great deal of time helping people discover what acknowledgment was and was not and what were some of the barriers to giving it and some of the obstacles to getting it e.g. accepting it. What I didn’t do then was to talk about the inner dialog that many of us have that makes it difficult to present, or accept, nor did I spend much time talking about who’s really responsible for getting and giving acknowledgment.

Bottom line– Personal responsibility is more than being responsible for your actions, it is also being responsible for what you project onto your experiences and onto the actions of others. Responsibility includes your interpretation of reality and what you do with that.

Acknowledgment is a dance between the receiver and the giver with each responsible for what is delivered and what is received. We owe it to the one to whom we are giving the acknowledgment to make sure that it is given in a way that it can be received and that it actually is taken in the manner it was given. It is also incumbent on the receiver to communicate to the giver what is wanted and needed.

That last part is by far the most difficult because it can be quite embarrassing and it has the potential for disempowering the giver e.g. it can be seen as a criticism of the acknowledgment and thus insult the giver. Mostly I wait until another time and place and unrelated to the off-putting acknowledgment to make a statement of what I need regarding an acknowledgment, though if it’s just between the other person and me, I have been known to take them aside and let them know that I didn’t really feel the acknowledgment, but for an acknowledgment junkie like me that doesn’t always happen e.g. why take the chance that whatever acknowledgment was there will then be rescinded?

I also learned (again) that one cannot receive or deliver true, unconditional acknowledgment through the ego-self. It is through the larger soul-self that acknowledgment is experienced. It is through that part of each of us that is, and experiences, love. And as with everything meaningful, that’s where acknowledgment comes from either in it’s giving, or it’s receiving–love.

Acknowledgment has the best chance of traversing the distance between people when it comes out of that place of love and is embraced by the same place in the other. Love is never conditional,half-hearted, or self-serving.

Yet love in the form of an acknowledgment isn’t always about “peace and pleasure”*. Love can come to one whether consciously intended or unintended by the giver, in a way that makes the receiver look deeply into their self to see what lies in their heart of hearts.

The Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran wrote in his Prophet pointing out another level of love,

 

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

 But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure*,

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.”

Though Gibran may not have meant it this way, I believe that there are some secrets of the heart that need to be made known so that they do not prevent it’s true expression. In this way a conditional acknowledgment can be in the service of love because it focuses your attention on what you’re doing with it and provides the opportunity to ask yourself why. For me the pain of an unsatisfying acknowledgment can be useful and healing. My heart is often opened through pain and thus I try not to reject its healing process.

Epic tales, epic symbolism

 

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The Battle between Good and evil –by Robert Adelman found on Deviant Art

 

 

As a boy I was fascinated by the tales of Middle Earth as told by J.R.R. Tolkien. I also knew that if one fought bravely enough that good could eventually triumph over evil.

As I grew older I became aware of the Northern Norse mythology that Tolkien used as the foundational source material for his work. But unlike his stories I learned that the most striking feature of this mythology was that all was hopeless, that the apocalyptic battle at Rognarök was humanity’s doom, and that no matter how bravely the hero fought the monsters and giants would defeat humanity and the gods of Asgard.

But I also learned that for the gods and heroes and heroines of the North loss in battle gave meaning and mettle to the warrior who courageously stood their ground and fought on regardless of the fact that all was hopeless.

What’s this? I was dismayed that these epic battles would ultimately end with evil triumphing over good. How could this be? The purity of courage be damned I thought, it needed to be rewarded and besides winning and defeating was the goal of all good and evil confrontations or so I thought. Oh yes and by winning of course was meant that “good” would always prevail.

It wasn’t until years later that I achieved some insight into these wonderful tales from the North.

From the writings of Carl Jung I was introduced to the concept of the Conflict of Opposites and the effect of either ignoring or battling the shadow i.e. evil aspects of our personal or collective nature. In this context. either ignoring or actively suppressing the shadow one gives it power, diminishes their own power, and leads to their being overwhelmed by it.

I surmised that if Jung were right, then the hopelessness and defeat so often celebrated in the Northern myths becomes an allegorical warning to mankind regarding its relationship with the shadow aspects of its personality. Is it possible that when one resists or denies the shadow either in themselves or the society in which they live that its power over us becomes paramount in that our violent response only adds to the violence of the shadow and increases its power and makes impossible to overcome? Oh I won’t deny that some battles can be won but ultimately the shadow keeps returning ever more powerfully. Will we never defeat it and have a permanent peace?

We are both good and evil. So what does this say about a God in whose image we are created? If then God is also both, to resist this would seem futile and self-defeating.

I remember that in a long ago Judo class the teacher talked about not meeting force with force to overcome ones opponent but by using the opponent’s own energy to defeat them. To me now this simple strategy seems a  useful metaphor for dealing with the shadow forces of our nature. If we allow ourselves to become the shadow by denying it we will be defeated no matter how glorious or courageous our actions but if we learn to accept this darker aspect as part of ourselves and turn its energy toward good it can add to our own best intentions and we can prevail.

 

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A Buddha dream

 

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Some time ago for a men’s group I agreed to give an overview of Buddhism. Now, what I know about Buddhism you could fit in a shot glass and still have room left for the shot. But I didn’t let that stop me, primarily because I wanted to learn something and have long since discovered that it is through the teaching of something that I learn best. What I learned is that by letting go of all my notions about what is real I could quite possibly gain a sense of true happiness.

Self-trust is a theme here as is forgiveness and being responsible–to act as though you are responsible for all there is. Want a good job? Want a good relationship? Want peace in the world? Who’s responsible for that? “But I can’t be responsible for all that!” You might cry. No you can’t, if you define responsibility as a burden, or as blame, or if your image of yourself is too small to include it. If your view of the world is that there is you and then there is everything else, then you are most definitely outnumbered. But what if you held yourself as bigger than your image?

Now, I’m not talking about your ego-image, that’s always small and can only be inflated through and by itself, including only itself, excluding everything else. What I’m talking about is something much bigger than your personal identity–your personal consciousness. I’m talking about the awakening of something primordial, always becoming, life affirming, and inclusive–inclusive from the point-of-view that everything is already connected and reflecting everything else.

It has been said that the consciousness of a Kingdom can be seen in an individual. Truly powerful kingdoms affirm the individual who, in turn, affirms the collective. When I act as though I am you, my responsibility for your well-being shifts because it is my well being that is at stake.

Part of the process of becoming a fully actualized human being includes the rectification of the opposites that exist within us and that we project onto the outside world. As long as we continue to act as though we have no responsibility for the conflicts that are a result of the faux separations we have created in our psyches, then the peacefulness that grows from being connected will struggle to be realized. I say realized because the peace is there–it’s not as though we have to create it. It is, however, hidden beneath all our fears, unacceptance and rigid adherence to personal point-of-view–all things that separate us from each other.

Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) set out on a journey to eradicate suffering. What I think he discovered is the real cause of suffering, us, the ego us, the illusory separate us. He preached a way of reconnecting with what is real in order to reveal the rightness of this greater spirit. In this place of the here and now we can experience the happiness, the joy, that is Being.

A “Hidden Music” dream

 

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“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

 This is a quote oft attributable to Frederick Nietzsche that I ran across while searching for aphorisms. It stuck with me all week mainly because it seemed to be speaking directly to me.

Two other quotes that seemed to apply came to mind as well, though I don’t recall from where I first saw them and Google didn’t help at all. My apologies to those who first spoke them.

 

“People who don’t understand things tend to reject them.”

 And

 “Let your heart lead and your mind follow”.

(I can imagine the corollary to that might be “let your mind lead and heart will get lost in the dust”.)

 

Not all that long ago I had a dream that seemed to reinforce this notion of some inner voice, or song that few others can hear. The dream seemed to be an extension of the dream I had even earlier that I had labeled The Blue Fresco. This dream could also be interpreted as what I’m now calling a “Hidden Music” dream.

It’s only when I’m quiet, when I’ve stilled the incessant chatter of my ego-voice that I can hear the music. When ruled by pride, fear, desire, worry, anger, distrust, greed, or when I imagine myself better than others I cannot hear the music. When I judge others or myself, I cannot hear the music. When I surround myself with distractions (TV, Facebook, Twitter, video games) I cannot hear the music.

It is only when I seek the sound of silence that I can hear the music of the spirit. It is from this deep venue that my soul waits to be expressed by as Rumi said, “It’s most beautiful face”. To dwell in this place is to dance to the music that few will ever hear, not that they cannot but that they will not and herein lies the cause of our deafness, the “Will” of will not, the be-all and know-all of the human consciousness that hides the beauty of what we all are beneath its suffocating self-centeredness.

It is this self-centeredness of the will that has us search the world for some treasure when the treasure is in us all the time. It’s what Lao Tzu called the Tao, “the origin of all things” the heart of all our being, the essence of what we are. It’s what lies between each of our words and the thoughts that create them. It’s what is beyond our personal and collective motives.

When we become self-centered the music cannot be heard. As Lao Tzu said “the quest for outer acquisition closes the door on the Tao” and it is the needy self-centered ego-self that is always projecting outside itself its unreality because it knows that it is hollow and empty within. No matter how hard it tries, no matter how many self-help programs it takes it cannot fill the void of itself for here there is no music within the void. It is not in the personally created ego that we can find the music of our true self.

As with that dream of several years back (The Blue Fresco) one needs to leave the empty world behind it and follow the intuition of the child into the mountains beyond where the music lies. Therein lies the connection with the spirit, the real self.

Neverland, the border land between sleep and wakefulness

 

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“Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning” was Peter Pan’s answer to Wendy when asked where Neverland was located. It was also Captain Kirks answer to helmsman Checkov when asked “Where to Captain?” in Star Trek VI. In both cases it referred to a mystical place between realities, an ‘unknown country’.

Neverland is also my name for that borderland called the daydream where we are neither in sleep or in wakefulness but certainly lost to both worlds. It is a place at the margins of reality a place that some call fantasy.

Now, a certain amount of fantasy is healthy to a balanced psyche. It can be healing to ones sense of self and help one to recuperate from the traumas of the everyday. This fantasy world often serves the artist, poet, writer, musician, lyricist, inventor, and scientist or just about everyone else. It is where the energy of creativity is born. I suggest that it is the semi-lucid place where the conscious meets the unconscious to where the soul speaks to us most clearly and where its power is felt most keenly.

But the traveler who hikes to realities edge must be careful where he or she steps and to visit too long or too often can lead to entrapment and skew the balance of the psyche i.e. it can separate one permanently from the upper kingdom and thus alienate them forever from friends and family. This was the very real threat that Robert experienced in the Archipelago of Dreams.  It is in our daydreams that all sorts of realities can be explored. In this place the soul is freed from the restrictions of the body and its limits with time, place and idea. Here there is a clarity of mind that can begin to form and inform. No longer restricted by time the future can come into focus. Traveling into the past often affects what’s happening in the present. One typically forgets what they are doing when they travel deeper into Neverland.

In the upper realms when one is tasking the mind narrows its engagement to deal only with the analytic task at hand and compassion suffers terribly. But in the Neverland of the daydream both the analytic and empathetic modes function and cycle through different modes and leading perhaps to a broader understanding. In the daydreaming mind various associations not seen when awake can bring forth understandings that the awake mind has grappled with without success. This also happens during dreaming but it tends to be more random.

Basically we are a daydreaming species. A recent Harvard study suggested that we humans tend to daydream up to 47% of the time we’re awake. But this is not useless idle time because studies have shown that unusual associations and pairings, counterfactuals if you ill, take place during a visit to Neverland. From our unrestricted depths well up all kinds of strange new thoughts that often turn out to be quite useful where new possibilities surfaced beyond what people are already exposed to in their waking lives (according to Baird and Schooler, Psychological Science, 2012). It is suggest here that more creative solutions result when the mind is allowed to wander into Neverland i.e. in general the better one is at wandering through the borderlands of consciousness, the more creative they tend to be.

In closing I share this excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe’s Marginalia (Part V,” Graham’s Magazine, March 1846):

“There is, however, a class of fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt language. I use the word fancies at random, and merely because I must use some word; but the idea commonly attached to the term is not even remotely applicable to the shadows of shadows in question. They seem to me rather psychal than intellectual.

 They arise in the soul (alas, how rarely!) only at its epochs of most intense tranquility–when the bodily and mental health are in perfection– and at those mere points of time where the confines of the waking world blend with those of the world of dreams. I am aware of these “fancies” only when I am upon the very brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so. I have satisfied myself that this condition exists but for an inappreciable point of time–yet it is crowded with these ‘shadows of shadows’, and for absolute thought there is demanded time’s endurance.”

 

 

 

10 Cognitive Thinking Errors and what to do about them.

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10 Cognitive Thinking Errors and what to do about them. (based on an article from Reddit.com)

We are living in a time of easy access to an overwhelming amount of information and of much over-the-top rhetoric with questionable fact delivery and weakened logic that seems to be driving a fear-based narrative. Part of what reinforces this negative stream are what are called errors of cognition or just thinking errors. These show up more often than not when we are in fight or flight mode and weary of all the negative input that inundates us at every turn.

Note that these are “errors” and not necessarily “disorders” unless of course one uses them all the time and in a way that affects their ability to function effectively and appropriately.

In September of 2016 I wrote about the effects that fear has on our thinking in Fear breeds bigotry and bullying .

The following is a deepening of this idea:

Based on the work of Aaron Beck and others, in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns outlines 10 common mistakes in thinking, which he calls cognitive distortions.

  • ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING – Also called Black and White Thinking – Thinking of things in absolute terms, like “always”, “every” or “never”. For example, if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure. Few aspects of human behavior are so absolute. Nothing is 100%. No one is all bad, or all good, we all have grades (I call this ‘absolutism’ and I find that I use it most often when I’m having an argument with my spouse. Nope, it doesn’t work).
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “Has there ever been a time when it was NOT that way?” (all or nothing thinking does not allow exceptions so if even one exception can be found, it’s no longer “all” or “nothing”)
    • Ask yourself, “Never?” or “Always?” (depending upon what you are thinking)
  • OVERGENERALIZATION – Taking isolated cases and using them to make wide generalizations. For example, you see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat: “She yelled at me. She’s always yelling at me. She must not like me.”
 I’ve also seen this when people support or discount a reality because they “Knew someone who…” or “Read about someone…” or “I have it from a ‘good’ source and then apply that info globally. This falls into the category of “There are huge drug cartels in Mexico, therefore all or most Mexicans are drug dealers”. 
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
  • When you catch yourself overgeneralizing say to yourself, “Just because one event happened, does not necessarily
 mean I am (or you are or he/she is…[some way of being])”
  • MENTAL FILTER – Focusing exclusively on certain, usually negative or upsetting, aspects of something while ignoring the rest. For example, you selectively hear the one tiny negative thing surrounded by all the HUGE POSITIVE STUFF. Often this includes being associated in negative (“I am so stupid!”), and dissociated in positive (“You have to be pretty smart to do my job”). Boy do I over use this one! Both on myself and on certain politicians and political parties.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Learn to look for the silver lining in every cloud
    • Count up your negatives vs your positives – for every negative event,
stack up a positive against it. Make a list of both negative and positive
character attributes and behaviors.
  • DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE – Continually “shooting down” positive experiences for arbitrary, ad hoc reasons. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences. The good stuff doesn’t count because the rest of your life is a miserable pile of doo-doo. “That doesn’t count because my life sucks!” To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “So what does count then?” “In what way?”
    • Accept compliments with a simple, “Thank you.”
    • Make lists of personal strengths and accomplishments (I’ve found this to be particularly helpful though you may need to keep it nearby to remind yourself.)
  • JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Assuming something negative where there is actually no evidence to support it. Two specific subtypes are also identified:
    • Mind reading – assuming the intentions of others. You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check it out. To beat this one, you need to let go of your need for approval – you can’t please everyone all the time. Ask yourself, “How do you know that…?” Check out “supporting” facts with an open mind.
    • Fortune telling – anticipating that things will turn out badly, you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. To beat this, ask, “How do you know it will turn out in that way?” Again, check out the facts.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • When the conclusion is based on a prior cause (for example, the last time your spouse behaved in this manner s/he said it was because s/he felt angry so s/he must be angry this time, too), ask yourself, “What evidence do you have to support your notion that s/he feels…” “How did you arrive at that understanding” “What other conclusion might this evidence support?”
    • When the conclusion is based on a future consequence (“I’ll die for sure if she keeps harping on this…”) Ask yourself, “How does this conclusion serve you?” and “If you continue to think that way… [what will happen to you]?” and “Imagine 5 years from now…” (Future Pace)
  • MAGNIFICATION AND MINIMIZATION–
    • Exaggerating negatives and understating positives (I do this when I’m going down the rabbit hole of ‘absolutism’). Often the positive characteristics of other people are exaggerated and negatives understated. There is one subtype of magnification/catastrophizing – focusing on the worst possible outcome, however unlikely, or thinking that a situation is unbearable or impossible when it is really just uncomfortable: “I can’t stand this.”
    • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “What would happen if you did [stand this]?”
    • Ask yourself, “How specifically is [this/that/he/she] so good/too much/too many/etc. or so bad/not good enough/too little/etc.?”
    • After asking the second question, ask yourself, “Compared to what/whom?”
  • EMOTIONAL REASONING –
  • Making decisions and arguments based on how you feel rather than objective reality. People who allow themselves to get caught up in emotional reasoning can become completely blinded to the difference between feelings and facts.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
  • NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) patterning interrupts and creates new ‘anchors’ that are the most powerful state changers – interrupt anything negative: “X makes me mad” “How does what I do cause you to choose to feel mad?” Interrupt: “How could you believe that?”
  • SHOULDING ( or Oughting)–  “Must”, or “Can’t” thinking.
  • Shoulding is focusing on what
 you can’t control. For example, you try to enlighten another’s unconscious – they should get it (for me this comes from my self-centered ego self, after all I got it why can’t you? This assumes that I actually got it). Concentrating on what you think “should” or ought to be rather than the actual situation you are faced with will simply stress you out. What you choose to do, and then do, will (to some degree, at least) change the world. What you “should” do will just make you miserable.
 Often these come from the expectations (values?) we were fed as we grew up.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask, “What would it feel like, look like, sound like if you could/did or could not/did not?” or, “What would happen if you did/didn’t?” or, “What prevents you from just doing it then?” or, “What rule or law says you/I SHOULD?” or, “Why should I?” or, “Could you just prefer instead?” or, “Why SHOULD I/YOU?”
  • LABELLING and MISLABELLING – Related to overgeneralization, explaining by naming. Rather than describing the specific behavior, you assign a label to someone or yourself that puts them in absolute and unalterable negative terms. This is a logic level error in that we make a logic leap from behavior/action (“he called me a name…”) to identity (“therefore, he’s a jerk”).
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask yourself, “What could be a better way of looking at this that would truly empower you/me?” or, “Is there another possible more positive meaning for this?”
    • When you recognize you are labeling or are being labeled, ask, “How specifically?” Example: “How specifically am I a jerk?” – which will evoke behaviors rather than identity (what helps is for me to see where the other fellow’s “jerk” shows up in me because it almost always does to some degree).
    • Remember who you/others are in spite of behaviors: “Even though I failed the test, I’m still a worthy person.”
  • PERSONALIZATION & BLAME – Burns calls this distortion “the mother of guilt.” Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. For example, “My son is doing poorly in school. I must be a bad mother…” and “What’s that say about you as a person?” – instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, “lf only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. On the flip side of personalization is blame. Some people blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.” – instead of investigating their own behavior and beliefs that can be changed. I will use this one just about every Father’s day to explain any problem facing my kids.
  • To beat this cognitive distortion:
    • Ask, “How do you know [I am to blame]?” “SAYS WHO?”
    • Ask, “Who/what else is involved in this problem?”
    • Ask yourself, “Realistically, how much of this problem is actually my
responsibility?”
    • Ask, “If there was no blame involved here, what would be left for me/us
to look at?”

These 10 cognitive errors are all habits of thinking that are deeply ingrained. The good news is, like any habit, these patterns of thinking can be broken and discarded through awareness and practice.

 

Sources:

Captive Hearts: Captive Minds, by Madeleine Tobias and Janja Lalich, Hunter House, 1994; pgs 101-103

Take Back Your Life Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns, M.D.

Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement, by Anthony Robbins, Joseph McClendon

Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding, by Robert Dilts & Judith DeLozier

 

Gaia’s dream

 

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Starry Night Alex Ruiz

Not so long ago I wandered out to the front of the house one morning and looked up at the five am sky and saw the most beautiful site of the old crescent moon smiling down upon me. Standing awestruck for what seemed a very long time and moved nearly to tears I knew that I had to capture the vision in some meaningful way, so I ran back into the house and gathered my pen and journal and began to write…

 

Diamonds and glitter scattered across a Cheshire Cat moon in a sky not yet blue, but no longer black.

 Cold and a shiver I pull up my jacket, a night I remember so many lives back.

 As I lowered my gaze from the heavens to the world’s edgy line where dark silhouettes dawn,

 A glow of first light urged the Nightpainter to lay down her brush toward another day drawn.

 The Daypainter’s brush traced across mountain and valley and river and dale, warming all touched by this wondrous light.

 Revealing a pallet of a great artist’s canvas making the night’s mare but a half recalled fright.

 And out on the meadow full buttercupped and daisied, were beeflittered poppies all pretty and fine

 Life shivered and shook and began to dance crazy and then greeted me for the 10 billionth time.

 

Dreams as portals to the divine

 

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I’ve said this for quite some time that we are made up of divine stuff, though I’ll admit that I rarely experience the energy of this “source-being” save with one fairly consistent exception in my dreams.

In my dreams I often find myself square in the middle of my soul-self.

It has been my attention to my dreams that has partially awakened me from the sleep of my so-called waking world. Yes, we are asleep as we walk through our waking dream. The images of our every day are just as illusory as those of our sleeping dream though mostly we aren’t as yet lucid enough to notice.

Dreams are normal occurrences, we all have them whether we recall them or not, and if remembered and worked with appropriately they can provide an expanded way of perceiving. They are quite literally a way for the soul to speak to us and given how much of our life is spent giving the loud voice of our ego-self the podium of our existence it is one of a very limited number of portals into the divine.1

It’s one of the best ways of connecting us with our true self.

It’s only our ego-self, the self that we imagine us to be e.g. the self seen in the mirror either the one we stand before or that we see in the mirror of our mind, that thinks it can fulfill itself, its hopes, dreams, and desires. It’s the part of our nature that desperately wants to make a difference but no matter how much money is gained, or fame that is acquired, or number of degrees, awards, and recognitions bestowed upon us we never fully experience making a real difference not for any sustainable period of time at least .

Why is that? I’m not sure, but I think it’s because “making a difference” is an illusion created by the illusion of the ego-self; an illusion of an illusion if you will. While “asleep” all images are but illusions. While asleep in our every day we are out of touch with our soul, isn’t that so? Just look and see. Are you really in touch with your essence or just in touch with your mind’s image– your idea– of it? I’ll bet that if you are in touch with anything it is just your familial, societal or cultural images and hardly the authentic soul of yourself.

But when you are really in touch with your authentic self you become a magnet to your deepest desires and regardless of the outcomes of life, or how it looks to others, there is a profound, effortless, and deep quiet that you are in touch with and you are able to hear your intuitive voice and start to fulfill your innate potential.

“This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.

Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

George Bernard Shaw 

 

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1The other portals include art (in all its forms), meditation, and deep prayer and though controversial– psychedelics; actually entering these portals are facilitated by anything that suspends the chatter of the mind e.g. I have had this happen during a strenuous long distance run, as a consequence of extreme fatigue, and as a result of extended fasting.

More Barriers to love and the spirit within: The seeds of our own destruction

 

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Not too long ago my wife and I presented a Cornerstone class on conflict resolution at our granddaughter’s elementary school. Project Cornerstone first came to the school district as an anti-bullying program. But over time the use, or over use, of the word “bully” to identify a certain type of behavior has hardened into a type of person rather than a type of behavior i.e. they “are” a bully instead of them “behaving” like one.

When “bully” becomes a label instead of a description of a behavior it leaves little room for the person displaying the behavior to change or even to defend themselves because the use of the word sets them in concrete. The label then becomes a way of excluding someone. Most of us do that with the word “evil”. Once we’ve hung that around someone’s neck they’re no longer a human and they are open to all kinds of abuse.

This isn’t unusual behavior on our part in that we humans often tend to paint each other with a broad paintbrush. It’s easier to do this and doesn’t require much higher-order thinking. This becomes especially noticeable when we are caught up in our fear of something that we don’t understand and begins to escalate radically as the more helpless and fearful we become.

Tribally we humans tend to reject outsiders and behaviors that we don’t understand and when those so-called outsiders seem to be of a particular tribe we tend to paint them all with one color. Even the best of us sometimes fall into this trap as when we condemn a race of people for the actions of some of that race or when we condemn an entire religious group for the horrific behaviors of a certain subgroup.

In recent years we have witnessed the horrific behaviors of a religious subgroup and have rightly labeled their actions as evil, but some people out of their own fear and ignorance have branded all of that religious group as being evil. This is of course a big mistake and totally unhelpful to the cause of peace and our ability to detect what it is that needs to be done to contain the evil behavior and how to lessen the number of those who fall prey to the lure of this subgroup.

While we hold people accountable for their behaviors and while we do what is necessary to end and/or contain the evil we must look at what conditions are enflaming and enabling it and do what is necessary to end those as well.

Yes, we need to fight this, but we need to fight it intelligently and not do it in a way that throws gasoline on the fire thus spreading its damage over a greater area. We need to respond to the presence and actions of evil and not just react.

Reacting is a “lizard brain” action where no thought is required just instinctive animal reactivity. God gave us so much more to work with that lies above the reactionary archaic brain stem and we need to resist the tendency to label everything we’re afraid of or don’t understand as being evil and thus subject to our wrath. We need to stop acting like a frightened snake striking whatever moves and more like the intelligent thinking sons and daughters of a loving God we are.

Simply put, we cannot push back the darkness of evil by simply pouring on more and more darkness– we need to add some light to it. WE (you and I) need to come up with some ways to 1) rein in our own lizard brains and 2) find ways to end the spread of evil and once accomplished deal appropriately with the root causes of it. To do anything else will only perpetuate the evil i.e. you can bloody the land with more killing and that may subdue the evil but only temporarily.

History is rife with lessons on how we humans take the wrong paths toward peace. That’s because we react out of fear instead of responding to it and using it as a motivator to change, a change necessary because we have failed to do what is needed to treat others with the respect we would want for ourselves.

Now, that is not to say that we can end all evil. There will always be those who have been sickened by their own minds and will seek solace from that pain by attempting to dominate and control those outside themselves as though it’s the outsider who causes their sickness. There will always be egos that want to feel bigger and more important and will attempt to subjugate the world around them.

Compassionate Containment may be what is wanted and needed in these cases at least until science can find a successful means of healing them. But each of us who are healthy has the means for controlling our own negative and reactive behaviors. We need to get serious about learning what those means are and start actualizing them.

We need to embrace the real meaning of enlightened civilization and grow beyond our reactive tribal mentality. Currently we seem hell-bent on sewing the seeds of our own destruction.

Barriers to love and the Spirit within

 

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Life is holy, but some people out of either ignorance of that fact or as a self-serving and malevolent expression choose to not treat it as such.

We can either enhance life or diminish it, extol it or denigrate it. What enhances life is love, given freely without strings or attachments. Everything else is just a barrier to achieving and experiencing wholeness everything else is just survival, though of course one needs to maintain the latter to express the former.

But when the survival mode dominates we can only limit ourselves i.e. we take and hoard, hold onto, close up and restrict. In love we give ourselves away and in so doing save ourselves. Survival mode comes from a personal context of insufficiency (there’s not enough) and vulnerability (life is fragile). Survival with no other purpose than to continue life is a form of death. The soul is not about survival but the full expression of who and what you are_ it is about wholeness.

This is what wholeness looks like: No limits, open, truly free i.e. to be unbound by your beliefs, your prejudices, judgments and self-protections.

When we are free of the barriers we put up in order to feel secure, when we can give of our life freely we are then said to be in “possession” of it i.e. it belongs to us and not to someone else’s ideal or belief or dictate or expectation for us. When dominated by our survival mode, or even to the degree by which we have allowed ourselves to be dominated by this mode of living, everything else possesses our life and we are not free to be what we are.

 

“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.”

–Rumi

 

But to be what we are takes immense courage, “The courage to be” as Paul Tillich called it– it’s not about what you do or don’t do, it’s about who you are and expressing that regardless of the evaluation of others.

Your life is holy, everyone’s life is holy and the clannishness we’ve created in order to protect ourselves from seen and unseen dangers is killing us, it selfishly treats only a select few as being holy and only if those few adhere to the clan belief system. There will never be true freedom to “be” with this kind of limit on the expression of wholeness i.e. ‘holiness’.

 

“I am neither of the East nor of the West, no boundaries exist within my breast.”

–Rumi

 

Beliefs that teach that only certain humans behaving in certain prescribed ways are looked upon favorably by God attempt to build fences around the real God. But God cannot be fenced in and fences don’t enhance, they diminish. To denigrate the differences between us does not enhance the human spirit it is a barrier to it.

If you were to strip away the stories, the interpretive overlay, and dogma of every religion you will notice that virtually every spiritual leader, credited with starting a new way of thinking, a new way of being in relationship with each other and with the spirit that created us has done so out of knowing that the purpose of being human is to become whole and to express that wholeness freely and honestly. All have known that what we are is love and that we need to learn to express it more freely. Anything else is not love and it is not an expression of wholeness or the sacredness of each of us.

 

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”

–Rumi

 

Namaste…