The idea that actions are “high quality” communication has been around a long time. The old saying is that “actions speak louder than words.” You’ve also doubtless hear people say, “Put your money where your mouth is.” What people do is usually considered a better indication of what they are thinking than their words suggest. Sometimes, the difference between what people say and what they do is obvious: A person might say, “Trust me. I will be there at 9 tomorrow morning,” when he or she has no intention of being there at all. Or a person might intend to be there but show up a little late. Or a lot late. Or simply not show at all. It’s also been said that, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
When people actually do something that conveys a message, such as Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem before football games, people don’t always equate the action with the words that would convey the same idea. Many who would readily agree with him if he said, “Black people aren’t treated fairly in this country,” complain about his “disrespect” for the flag and the country it represents. His engaging in the “speech act” of not standing is the idea behind the saying, Put your Money where your mouth is. The idea here is, if you really believe what you are saying, do something that proves it. Kaepernick wanted people to pay attention to what he was saying, so he took action to make his point.
During the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine referred to summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, who served in the Continental Army only when it was convenient. The behavior of the summer soldiers indicated that they were not fully committed to the cause of defeating the British. People can and do, of course, change their minds based on what seems important at the moment. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Thomas Paine and George Washington were focusing on the long-term need to defeat the British, and the summer soldiers were divided between their desire to defeat the British and their need to be back at the farm to take care of planting and harvesting the crops. They wanted to defeat the British, but they also wanted their farms to do well. Both serving as soldiers in the summer and returning to the farm to tend to the fields are “speech acts.” The coming and going of the part-time soldiers communicated both priorities. To fully understand the behavior of the summer soldiers, you have to recognize their conflicting needs and desires. A single act is not enough, but actions over time indicate choices that form the basis of “character.”
With the “summer soldiers” of the Revolutionary War and Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem, we see that speech acts catch attention and influence both opinion and behavior. While most of us will never engage in speech acts that will influence public opinion, our behavior—what we do—says a lot about what we value and whether others can trust us. In terms of our own relationships, others relate to us based on accumulated experience. The more experience we have with another, the more accurate our perception. If your only interaction with a person was a nasty argument, that experience might result in a frozen evaluation, an opinion difficult to change. Longer term relationships usually provide varied experiences, some good and some not so good. Marriages usually last as long as the perception of “good” outweighs the perception of “bad.” When the “bad” outweighs the “good,” a marriage will end. The final “negative” is often called the last straw—the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Individuals in a relationship, of course, have different thresholds for the point at which something becomes “the last straw.” One of the things that makes relationships difficult is that we never know from day to day or week to week where our own “point of no return” might be, let alone the other person’s. We can go along thinking everything is perfectly OK only to discover when it is too late that the other person’s load of straw had become excessive. In general, when we are well-rested and healthy, we can carry more “baggage.” We have all seen that with children: when they are well-rested and -fed, their dispositions tend to be good. When they are tired and hungry, every little thing sets them off. What we don’t often recognize is that the same is also true for adults. An adult who is tired and/or hungry will have a “shorter fuse” than one who is well-rested and -fed.
February, the shortest month of the year in the Christian calendar, is the month during which we celebrate Valentine’s Day, usually by exchanging token gifts with the person we consider “our Valentine.” The token gifts, whether something physical (flowers, jewelry, etc.) or “speech acts” (going out to dinner or to the theater) are designed to demonstrate feelings. A long time ago Ann Landers said, The only two people who know what’s true about a relationship are the two people in it—and sometimes one of them doesn’t know. While there’s wisdom in that concept, it misses the point that the relationship is different for each of the people in it.
Perhaps this February, not only on Valentine’s Day but before and after as well, you might spend some time thinking about your relationships, past, present and “still possible.” That’s not always easy. It’s much easier to see the mote in the other person’s eye than it is to see the beam in your own. And as you think about your relationships this month, that’s probably a good place to start. How is the “beam” in your eye contributing to or detracting from the quality of your relationships? That would probably be different, of course, for each of your significant relationships. A woman once told me that I was “nicer to the dog” than I was to her. She was right. At the same time, however, the dog was nicer to me than she usually was. One of the basic truths is that we tend to reap what we sow. This is not to say that changing what you sow will change the nature of your relationships, but it is the best—and only—place to start.
Choose your love. Love your choice. ~ Thomas S. Monson
February has long been celebrated as a month of romance. As we know it today, St. Valentine’s Day contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition, so it seems only appropriate to write about love for the February Beyond Mastery Newsletter. In Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach reports a phenomenon that plays a part in the love story for most—maybe all—Westerners:
Several years ago a small group of Buddhist teachers and psychologists from the United States and Europe invited the Dalai Lama to join them in a dialogue about emotions and health. During one of their sessions an American vipassana teacher asked him to talk about the suffering of self-hatred. A look of confusion came over the Dalai Lama’s face. “What is self-hatred?” he asked. As the therapists and teachers in the room tried to explain, he looked increasingly bewildered. “Was this mental state a nervous disorder?” he asked them. When those gathered confirmed that self-hatred was not unusual but rather a common experience for their students and clients, the Dalai Lama was astonished. How could they feel that way about themselves, he wondered when “everybody has Buddha nature.” (Tara Brach, Ph.D,Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha, pg. 11)
Brach goes on to comment that while all humans feel ashamed of weakness and afraid of rejection, our Western culture is a breeding ground for the kind of shame and self-hatred the Dalai Lama couldn’t comprehend.
Shame and self-hatred are played out over and over between men and women, from the bedroom to the boardroom. It is not just romantic relationships that are adversely affected by unrealized and unreleased inappropriate shame. Professional partnerships can be battle the ground for our wounded egos. Those who have trained with SCS likely witnessed Joel’s and my struggles. Working together rendered us as insecure as teenagers in love. We often argued like an old married couple.
My Internet search for “relationships” produced about 677,000,000 results.
We see evidence of the dynamics of puffed up egos fed by shadow shame and self-hatred playing itself out in politics, too, but I will not go there right now.
Some of the tools in the SCS/NLP materials provide valuable insight for relating. Recognizing common metaprograms, for example. If metaprograms are new to you, read more in Healing with Language: Your Key to Effective Mind-Body Communication. It is our comprehensive training manual based on the foundation laid by Korzybski, Erickson, and others (including Virginia Satir, Fritz Perls, Gregory Bateson, and Paul Watzlawick). The foundational tools were codified into Neurolinguistic Programming primarily by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. Others—such as Robert Dilts, Judith DeLozier, and Steve and Connirae Andreas, were also among the early contributors. We have elected to do advanced study of NLP with Richard Bandler and John La Valle with The Society of NLP. (See Healing with Language)
If you would appreciate a free copy of Healing with Language: Your Key to Effective Mind-Body Communication, email firstname.lastname@example.org. I will tell you where you can pick up a copy, or I will send a copy anywhere in the continental US for the cost of postage.
But back to the topic of this newsletter…. If a matcher is relating with a mismatcher, a sense of being out of phase is likely to be very common. Metaprograms tend to operate through time and across contexts, influencing behavior in a wide variety of ways. A principal cause of interpersonal conflict is that we all tend to assume that others use the same metaprograms that we do. When we discover otherwise, we tend to think that the other person’s behavior is wrong, or that something is wrong with us.
One of the most important applications of the confirmation metaprogram is knowing how you know that someone loves you. It may be even more important for you to know what kind of information someone else needs to be convinced that you love him or her. Most people assume that others, especially a spouse or significant other, share their confirmation metaprograms. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Differences in the sensory modality or frequency of evidence is a major cause of interpersonal difficulty and the source of numerous jokes. Like the one about the man and woman divorcing after 75 years of marriage. When the judge asked why, the wife said, “In 75 years of marriage he has not even once said he loves me.” In answer to the accusation, the man simply stated he told her he loved her the day he proposed and had not changed his mind!
What we need or what we offer might seem reasonable to us but leave the other adrift in the sea of self-doubt.
While we all experience the world of love using our senses, which (assuming that we have all of them) include vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, we each have our preferred systems. Different preferred sensory systems also result in misunderstanding when unrecognized for what they are. People who process primarily auditorily use those words: hear, listen, resonate. Visuals ask you to look, to be clear, to imagine. Linguistic preferences can result in devastating relationship dynamics. A simple miscommunication of “Are you listening to me?” or “Why can’t you see things my way?” can trigger buried toxic shame.
We not only have a preferred sensory system, but we have a system we are least aware of. That system, unrecognized, can be the source of triggered feelings.
In Radical Acceptance, Brach quotes Mother Teresa’s insight after a lifetime of working with the poor and the sick. “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of not belonging.” This feeling of not belonging is worsened by the shadow of shame and is difficult to address until it is recognized for what it is: a result of our upbringing.
Many of us grew up in imperfect families. We may have not had sufficient nurturing. I did not see my mother and father kiss until after I was married. Granted, I married young, but you get my point. Our families may have moved, uprooting our sense of community at crucial developmental stages. We were likely not blessed to be raised by a village, secure in the fact that we were loved not only by our parents and siblings but by an entire “tribe.”
Janice Clark said, “I don’t think you’re suddenly going to begin to look at the world with new eyes when you’re 80 if you haven’t been doing it when you’re 30.” Days and weeks or months and years unfold into a lifetime of communicating through hidden shame, resulting in patterns of relating that lead individuals to conclude things about a relationship that is not really about the relationship at all.
For years, I suffered silent feelings of inferiority to Joel. He was the college professor. I was the high school dropout. We projected lots of unhealed childhood wounds onto one another. We played out painful dramas. We blamed one another and ourselves for the failure to launch SCS Matters into the success we knew it was deserving of and the world could benefit from.
The past few years Joel and I have not been formally teaching together but we have continued to maintain a commitment to one another and to SCS. We have done that through our web presence. We reach out to each of those who studied with us in ways that is doable for this phase, and we welcome new connections.
I publish “Debra’s Wellness Tips,” “Wholesome Thougths,” and “Sacred Stories” each week. If you are not already receiving these, you can sign up at DebraBasham.com. We have been publishing the “Beyond Mastery Newsletter,” both contributing articles, since September 2006. You can read past articles in the archives. We each blog. You can sign up to receive our blog posts automatically from the homepage at SCS-Matters.com.
Brach says we long to belong and feel like we don’t deserve to. Richard Bandler says the best thing about the past is that it is over. Maybe Janice Clark does not know the truth that with SCS/NLP it is never too late to have a happy childhood and there is always time to live happily ever after.
May this month of love lead each of us to a deeper sense of radical acceptance so we can enjoy all of our relationships, especially the one within…
After having my blood pressure be relatively stable since August after it spiked in May of this year, it spiked again last week. I am once again surrendering to the release of old emotional patterns. (You may appreciate reading my earlier blog post if this is news to you: Three Days Without Anxiety Medication.)
I am not feeling anxiety so much as just aware of an inner state of stress. Dr. Jane Oelke used The Emotion Code to help me identify the hidden cause/s of this current state of being revved up. The Emotion Code uses kinesiology (muscle testing) to connect to the subconscious mind to find out where the blockages are and what emotions they are related to. Then a magnet is rolled over the corresponding body meridians several times to release those emotional energy blockages. Three major areas showed up: a feeling of vulnerability that was inherited from my paternal great-grandmother, the sense of not feeling supported by my husband in 2009, and an overall feeling of being peeved. My body is helping me acknowledge that buried emotions are a very serious situation.
I have been pouring through journal entries from 2009. Journal writing helps me not hide from my shadow. I am reading my past rants and raves and witnessing my understandable desire for things to have been different than they were and better than they are. I witness with compassion the desperate feeling that getting things turned around was all up to me.
In the midst of my letting go, what a blessing to watch Let’s Laugh Our Way to Enlightenment, a talk by Barbara Marx Hubbard. Barbara has been called “the voice for conscious evolution…” by Deepak Chopra. She is the subject of Neale Donald Walsch’s book The Mother of Invention. And many would agree she is the global ambassador for conscious change. This paragraph is from Barbara’s website:
At her heart, Barbara Marx Hubbard is a visionary, a social innovator. She is an evolutionary thinker who believes that global change happens when we work collectively and selflessly for the greater good. She realizes that the lessons of evolution teach us that problems are evolutionary drivers, and crises precede transformation, giving a new way of seeing and responding to our global situation.
One thing becomes very clear—we could laugh more. Here are some of my notes from that talk: Laughter is the gateway. Laughter forces us into, seduces us into, demands that we be in, anchors us in the now. Laughter hold the largest truths paradoxically. The garden of Eden is not true, it is paradox. Laughter stimulates feel good hormones. Laughter brackets your ego so you begin to see from a clearer place. Laughter facilitates the field of collective intelligence. Laughter releases what we need to let go of so we can see clearly.
Barbara clarifies the point that she is not talking about forced laughter. She is talking about the laughter that arises spontaneously from genuine joy. She says our joy enhances perception—and the soul is a faculty of perception.
The impulse of evolution in me and in us has a frequency of God intelligence particularly when you say yes to it…. God has an internal joy of wanting to create creators…. So when I laugh, God’s laughing inside me. When you laugh, God’s laughing inside you. God feels our laughter just as God feels our tears. God sits and laughs on high. When we laugh, we feel the divine voice saying, “Yes!”
This is certainly the key. When I was guest pastor at Pilgrim Congregational Church on December 4, 2016, I expressed a wish for all humans to feel/sense/know our divinity and to mirror the divinity back to others in the world.
Joel also watched the talk on laughter, and while he has appreciated Barbara Marx Hubbard’s books, and agreed with her points on laughter in this talk, he did not at all resonate with the man she was presenting with. Soon after I sent the talk to Joel, Joel forwarded a Wikipedia entry on Barbara’s co-presenter, Marc Gafni.
I felt the stress rise in my body as I read the information. Marc has been accused of sexual impropriety—on multiple occasions. For one thing, Joel has a very advanced BS detector. I could envy that. For another thing, we know that Wikipedia has an agenda. Everything we read online probably has an opposite point of view posted somewhere else online. That said, I know what I could feel in my body was a life-long (perhaps many lives long) core sense of guilt and shame. Those toxic emotions activated these toxic questions:
“What would people think if they knew everything I have ever done? Would the divine truth I am so passionate to share be discounted totally because of my past actions or inactions? Have people been harmed by my sins of commission or omission?”
We are now aware of the painful results of having grown up influenced by the theology of Original Sin. So, this inherited vulnerability, these shadow self-doubts, that old pattern of panic can be welcomed. These are the lies divine truth is willing to reveal!
We are blessed with this truth. This truth is reality worthy for our beginning the New Year. This truth is wonderful to live for the rest of our days. This is how the divine truth was channeled by Barbara Brodsky at retreat on November 13, 2016:
I am the one you have called Jeshua. I came in love for all beings. I did not suggest ever that people should suffer, or that people must suffer to reach a higher plane. My dear brother and friend Siddartha Gautama (note from Debra – this is the Buddha) also did not say that people should suffer, only that suffering is inevitable until you awaken and understand that nature of suffering. But why should you continue to suffer? I came to teach you love. Some of those who brought my teachings into a religion created the idea of sin. I did not come to save people from their sins. I came to remind all of you, that you already are awakened, that you also are the Christ. The word “Christ” means “awakened one,” and I came to remind you that you are that Awakened One; not to be a model put up on a pedestal, but to take your hands and walk with you and support you knowing your own truth of love. How could it be otherwise? You are love.
The rest of it is, as Aaron would say, mental objects, just ideas in your head, ideas that have been so deeply ingrained, that you have somehow a stain on you and you must do something special to eradicate that stain. You have all been in mud puddles, yes. You’re splashed all over with it. Get in the shower. It rinses right off. But if you think it has seeped into the skin so that you must use a scouring pad to scour it off then you will bleed, there will be pain, and that is not what I came to share. The only answer is love.
My colleague and friend, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, writes a wonderful column in Spirituality and Health Magazine. Here is what Rami illuminates for us about sin:
You can live godly or ungodly, but God is unchanged. If you are “swimming” in an ungodly manner, you aren’t sinning against God or separate from God. You are simply working against your own best interest… No separation is possible; no return is necessary.
….Sinning against God is like trying to punch a wave; no matter how hard your strike, you can’t do any damage. Think in terms of swimming in the ocean. If you swim with the current, the ocean works with you. If you swim against it, the ocean works against you. While this matters greatly to you, it matters not all to the ocean. And regardless of which way you choose to swim, you are always in the ocean.
So, join me in totally letting go of any old programming. Any sin of the past was just it was punching waves.
Let go of guilt and shame. You might appreciate this EFT Tapping exercise that can help. Let go of old programming. Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. Let’s laugh!
When I first read Debra’s article for January, “Let’s Laugh,” Aerosmith’s 1973 release, “Dream On,” started playing in my head—especially the line, “Sing for the laughter and sing for the tears.” What occurred to me is what would laughter be if there were no tears?
Here are the lyrics for those who like to have the complete context:
Every time that I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by like dusk to dawn
Isn’t that the way
Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay
Well, I know nobody knows
Where it comes and where it goes
I know it’s everybody’s sin
You got to lose to know how to win
Half my life’s in books’ written pages
Live and learn from fools and from sages
You know it’s true
All the things come back to you
Sing with me sing for the years
Sing for the laughter and sing for the tears
Sing with me if it’s just for today
Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away
The implication is that both laughter and tears are rooted in our mortality. We are aware we are alive, and that has both costs and benefits. The fancy name for this is mortality salience—from a fairly early age, humans are aware that they will die. It is not clear to what degree other mammals share this knowledge. Although other mammals don’t laugh or cry quite the way humans do, if you have opportunity to observe them carefully, you will catch them doing the equivalent of laughing or crying, typically in response to something physical. As far as we know, humans are the only ones who can “think” themselves into laughter or tears. We know that animals can remember and anticipate, but we don’t know the degree to which their cognitions influence their mood. Humans may be the only creatures whose internal life outweighs external circumstances.
In 1991, Karol K. Truman published Feelings Buried Alive Never Die…. The book explores the dynamic underpinnings of buried emotions. Laughter and tears are typically the expression of emotions that have been buried and are subsequently triggered by an event. When the buried emotions come to the “surface” of consciousness, we laugh or cry based on associated memories. The English poet William Wordsworth, said it this way: “To me the meanest flower that blows can give / Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears. (For the complete poem, see Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.
Everything, all our experiences from birth through whatever age we are now, adds up. The laughter and the tears are complementary. One doesn’t cancel the other out. They work together to provide us with a multidimensional perspective of Life. We know we are happy because of the way happiness contrasts with sadness, and we know we are sad because of our memories of happiness. As Debra said, “Laughter … anchors us in the now. The same, of course, is true for the tears of sadness. I think that both are necessary for our (yours, mine, everyone’s) evolving consciousness. In terms of our collective consciousness, we seem to be at a major pivot point in history.
We have been living in what might be called interesting times. We are beset by problems at all levels: local, national, and global. We also have unprecedented opportunities. Old technologies, based primarily on the exploitation of fossil fuels, are being replaced by “clean” technologies. We have numerous wars and other national and international conflicts resulting not only in death but also in massive migrations. In the States, we have just had an election that gave us who live here the opportunity to choose between the first woman candidate for that office and a celebrity business person with no real political expertise.
When you find yourself having thoughts that provoke laughter or tears, you are doing something uniquely human, and it is something you have in common with Socrates. At the same time, however, remember the words of a more modern philosopher, Jackson Browne, who provided musical insight into seeing too much evil and good:
Doctor My Eyes
Doctor, my eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
Now I want to understand
I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can
Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long
‘Cause I have wandered through this world
And as each moment has unfurled
I’ve been waiting to awaken from these dreams
People go just where they will
I never noticed them until I got this feeling
That it’s later than it seems
Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what you see
I hear their cries
Just say if it’s too late for me
Doctor, my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the prize for having learned how not to cry
In May of 2006 I sat in the front row of the room, within spitting distance of Gary Zukav, author of Seat of the Soul. He and Linda Francis were speaking on authentic power. Linda’s major claim to fame might have been her connection to Zukav, but I will always remember her for this comment: “Your emotions tell you what your soul wants you to know.”
At the workshop a woman asked Gary how she could deal with someone who tries to take her power away. She went on with a lengthy description of precisely how her husband would criticize her for spending money on seminars like the one we were in. He would say she was wasting money better spent in other ways. Those teaching such seminars were only interested in taking your money. Gary was very present with this woman, taking nothing personally and skillfully offering suggestions for her to not react from the frightened parts of her personality. Nothing seemed to make much headway with her as she went on and on about how controlling her husband was.
Finally, seeking greater clarity within his desire to be of some genuine help, Gary asked, “What did your husband say as you were leaving today?”
“He did not say anything today,” the woman answered.
“Why is that?” inquired Gary.
“He is dead,” she replied.
Gary’s head snapped back before offering a brief condolences and inquiring further, “How long ago did he die?”
The audience let out a collective gasp, and Gary was momentarily speechless. Absurd…
In many ways, any perceived lack of personal empowerment we are currently experiencing is just as absurd.
In Healing with Language: Your Key to Effective Mind-Body Communication, Joel Bowman and I wrote about the recurring patterns of behavior known as unconscious communication patterns. These UCPs are also called calibrated communication cycles, scripts, games, tapes (audio or video) or core scenes. These conditioned responses can be triggered by a particular word or phrase, tone of voice, or gesture that the receiver unconsciously interprets in a specific way.
Best to note, the interpretation is outside of the awareness but conditioned by the receiver.
These interpretations are driven by patterns buried in what has been called the reptilian brain, the old brain, or the first brain, the nonrational and unreasoning seat of human emotion. This woman’s lack of awareness was obvious to every person in that room except her. She was blind to her continued reaction to a dead man.
Unconscious communication patterns can be either positive, such as private jokes and special meanings for certain words or gestures; or negative, such as repetitive arguments or self-defeating attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors (as in the case of this woman).
A positive UCP reminds you that the world is a safe, nurturing place where your survival needs will be met. You know the world is a place where individuals are predictable and you can trust one another, even though you have differences.
Negative UCPs, however, are triggered when something in the environment suggests danger. Unmet childhood needs and fears are locked into the old brain so that certain situations may trigger old-brain defensiveness or aggression. Because at root they are based on survival—the survival of the fittest—negative UCPs often originate in competition and separation. Programmed responses mask what is underneath our emotions, often blocking the genuine needs of our soul.
My mom spent many years complaining to her friends and family how she would be able to do wonderful things if it were not for my dad. He was an alcoholic and extremely jealous. Her typical conversations would include some variation on the following: “If it weren’t for him, I would go to church, but everyone in town knows about his drinking, and I could never hold my head up.”
After my dad’s death, when my mom finally did venture out, she discovered that she was horribly afraid. His behavior, contrary to her years of complaints, had really been protecting her from having to acknowledge her own fears.
A story about the Buddha fits here. A very murderous man was known to be in the region. The Buddha was warned that Angulimala (meaning finger garland) wore a garland of many hundreds of human fingers around his neck—fingers cut from the hands of his victims.
The Buddha passed by Angulimala, and kept moving ahead of him, even though Angulimala, knife raised, ran after him calling out, “Stop! Stop!”
The Buddha replied, “I have stopped. It is you who have not stopped. I say that I have stopped because I have given up killing all beings. I have given up ill-treating all beings, and have established myself in universal love, patience, and knowledge through reflection. But you have not given up killing or ill treating others and you are not yet established in universal love and patience. Hence, you are the one who has not stopped.”
With these words of truth Angulimala’s heart opened and he was set free. He became a student of the Buddha and lived the rest of his life in service to humankind.
You and I don’t kill people and wear their fingers around our neck, but we have probably all held someone or something from our past responsible for the choices we are not yet making to live in our authentic power. We have been driven by the primitive brain. We have believed the lies that the world was not safe.
Perhaps we are ready to listen to our emotions and notice what our soul wants us to know: stop. You can stop the old, unconscious communication patterns. We can be willing to have our hearts opened and to be set free. Let us, like Angulimala, live the rest of our lives in service to humankind….
Unlike Debra, I have no idea what my soul wants me to know. I do know that certain thoughts and actions help me feel better, and certain thoughts and actions result in my feeling worse. I assume those differences are guiding me in the right direction, but I am by no means certain. Unlike Debra and, presumably Gary Zukav, for example, I can understand the woman’s continuing to feel bad about her dead husband’s critical remarks. I have not only studied psychology and understand conditioned responses, but also have examples in my own life resulting from critical remarks made by my parents while I was young. I am no longer young, and my parents have both been dead for many years. Even so, some memories still influence my feelings and behavior. Conditioning is, after all, the way we learn.
The burned child fears the fire, and we drive more safely because we have learned how to respond to traffic signs and signals appropriately. One of the things that makes such responses useful is that they operate below our level of conscious awareness—we do not have to analyze a situation and make a logical choice. We chose a behavior automatically based on what has been punished or rewarded in the past. This system works for all living things: sunflowers turn to face the sun; dogs learn to come, sit, heel, and fetch through the same process. Cats may not come when called, but they pay close attention to the sound of a can opener. The general rule is, “What gets rewarded, gets done.” Zukav’s woman, as is true of all people, kept doing what she had been doing because she found it rewarding.
The missing piece is learning to make new choices when old choices are no longer serving your purpose. If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten. If you want a different outcome, you need to choose a different behavior. Choosing a different course of action requires two things: First, the recognition that you don’t want what you’ve been getting, and, second, recognizing that you have options. I’m not sure that either of those recognitions is based on soul awareness. I don’t know for sure whether the woman in the Zukav story wanted a different outcome. She may have felt that she was somehow punishing her dead husband by attending events that would have annoyed him and may have felt that she was maintaining a relationship that had been important to her. It’s also possible that she simply didn’t know you can make new choices and change the way you feel. You don’t have to keep doing what you’ve always done.
The key is awareness. It’s a matter of being aware of what you are feeling and the contributing factors. Awareness makes choice possible. I don’t know what Gary Zukav said to the woman or whether he helped her become more aware of choices that would lead to better feelings. I also don’t know whether our souls are especially interested in our feelings. My sense is that the purpose of earth school is to provide us with the experiences necessary for our spiritual evolution—or for us to help others along the way, even if that means we have to play the role of the “bad guy” from time to time. We not only learn from those who set good examples, but we also learn from those who demonstrate the unpleasant. Heroes could not be heroic if villains weren’t being villainous.
I think our main choices are a natter of the degree to which we want to be aware. My sense is that greater awareness is better than less awareness, but I have no sense of certainty that’s the case. It may be that we have the level of awareness that allows us to learn the lessons we incarnated to learn. My sense is that humanity has been making spiritual progress over the centuries, but the process is slow—perhaps because it needs to be. My sense is that the only thing that counts is our own awareness of spiritual evolution. In Voltaire’s novel, Candide, the main character echoes the belief that because a benevolent God created the world, the world must be the best of all possible worlds. As the protagonist travels and sees all sorts of misery, he decides that the world may not be as benevolent as some had thought. For Voltaire, and for Jonathan Swift and Herman Melville, God created a world of problems and was indifferent to human suffering. The poet John Keats thought that a world of pains was necessary to school an intelligence and make it a soul.
Voltaire, Swift, Melville, and Keats all seem to be saying that suffering—in one way or another—is necessary for spiritual evolution. I don’t know that’s the case. More recently, Stevie Wonder said that evolution is taking 10 Zillion light years because we’ve had so far to come. These stories, including the Stevie Wonder song, and others resonate with me. Nature also resonates. That’s as close as I can come to listening to my soul. I do not know whether Zukav’s long-suffering woman was listening to her soul in complaining about her dead husband. It seems entirely possible to me that she was using her memory of her husband’s criticism as motivation for attending workshops that would contribute to her increasing spiritual awareness.
Although I am in favor of greater conscious awareness, I’m not at all sure that unconscious patterns are the problem. Would the woman be better off knowing that she no longer needed to use her dead husband as motivation for attending workshops? I don’t know. If she had that awareness, she might stop attending workshops rather than simply attending them more joyfully. Even so, had I met the woman, I probably would have wanted to help her understand that she no longer needed to use her dead husband to motivate her to seek greater enlightenment.
And what about you? In Herman Melville’s terms, why are you seeking the great white whale?
Change doesn’t have to be destructive to be productively disruptive. ~ Alva Noë
I share some devout values with Alva Noë, author of Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015). One of those values we share is art. I have said there is a reason ART is in the word heart.
Alva Noë is a philosopher at the University of California, Berkeley, where he writes and teaches about perception, consciousness and art. In “Do You Wish Time Would Slow Down?” Alva Noë wrote this opening quotation about change. It really jumped out at me because of another of our shared values: Knowing change does not have to be destructive. It is downright inspiring to recognize the productive side to disruption.
In the Book of Runes, Ralph Blum has this to say about Hagalaz, the Rune of Disruption:
Change, freedom, invention and liberation are all attributes of this Rune. Drawing it indicates a pressing need within the psyche to break free from constricting identification with material reality and to experience the world of archetypal mind.
The Rune of elemental disruption, of events that seem to be totally beyond your control, Hagalaz has only an upright position, and yet it always operates through reversal. When you draw this Rune, expect disruption, for it is the Great Awakener, although the form the awakening takes may vary. Perhaps you will experience a gradual feeling of coming to your senses, as though you were emerging from a deep sleep. Then again, the onset of power maybe such as to rip the way the fabric of what you previously knew as your reality, your security, your understanding of yourself, your work, your relationships or beliefs.
Disruption takes many forms: a relationship fails, plans go awry, a source of supply dries up. But do not be dismayed. Whether you created the disruption, or whether it comes from an outside source, you were not without power in this situation. Your inner strength — the will you have funded until now when your life — provide support and guidance at a time when everything you have taken for granted is being challenged.
Another of the Cycle Runes, the term radical discontinuity best describes the action of Hagalaz at its most forceful. The more severe the disruption in your life, the more significant than timely the requirements for your growth. In the midst of disruption, at the center of the storm, take heart: know that the universe and your own soul are demanding that you do, indeed, grow.
Perhaps we can realize change, disruption, and even destruction as the necessary first step to improvement. I see that in every home improvement show I watch on HGTV (Home Garden Television). We certainly see changes happening in the lives of friends and family and companies and countries all around us. We even sense destruction happening within us. How invigorating to recognize these events as evidence we are indeed growing!
At the time of this writing, in the US we do not yet know who will be elected as our next president. We do know whoever is the holder of that illustrious title is not an individual who is to be held responsible for the quality of our lives. The quality of our lives is now and always will be entirely up to us.
People are awaiting test results.
People are standing by feeling helpless as they watch things fall apart.
Disruption is real.
Recently, a friend/client/colleague was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer and told she needed to have a double mastectomy, with follow-up chemotherapy and radiation. This young woman still has a son at home. She was understandably distraught at this diagnosis and prognosis.
As I was driving to meet with her, I was listening to Abraham Hicks. The most incredulous things that we hear coming from humans are words like incurable. We say, what? You say, ‘It’s incurable.’ We say, what does that mean? ‘It means that I can’t get to where I want to be from where I am.’ We say, what dimension are you in? How did you manage to withdraw yourself (to extract yourself) from the laws of the Universe as we know them to be? How did you manage to pull yourself out of the flow of nonphysical energy that is you? You didn’t. You can’t. There is nobody who cannot get from where they are to where they want to be. That is illogical in every sense of the word from every law we know and we know them all in all universes, in all dimensions, in all time-space realities. It is not possible for you to have something that is not curable. It is not possible.
When I got to her home for the session, I told her what I had heard on the drive.
I reminded her of Jane Foster’s experience and I suggested she watch the video interview of Jane at ImagineHealing.info.
Unknown to me at the moment, my client was going to another surgeon later that day for a second opinion. This doctor reported that the mass in the left breast which had been seen on the mammogram in August was not even visible on the PET scan she had the first week of October, and concluded, “A bilateral mastectomy is not medically warranted.”
The rest of the story for this woman is still being written. Isn’t that true for all of us?
You may wish to listen to Abraham’s words yourself, especially the part about how we can want something we have been holding ourselves out of alignment with. what I had been listening to
In “Do You Wish Time Would Slow Down?” Alva Noë says engaging with art is critical.
Art is warehoused all around us, in museums and galleries, or in the form of digital storage. It sits there and it harbors a most magical property. Turn it on, engage it, and it can transform your life and reorganize your mind (and brain!). Art can change how you see and think. It can reorient you. But not just for the price of admission. It isn’t a matter of walking through the gallery or pressing the play button. You need to study, look, listen, think, question. Not merely see or hear. And this isn’t easy. It isn’t easier than learning a new language. And it requires not only that we engage with art, but also that we engage with the communities of people who devote themselves to art and to its challenges and rewards.
Art can do all this or, rather, we can do all this with art. Art affords us an opportunity to step outside the projects that, in a way, hold us captive. A life with art is a life unbound.
Engaging with art is one way you can come into alignment. Let’s do whatever it takes to make sure we are in enough alignment that we can see the disruptions in our lives as productive changes…
May you live in interesting times is often said to be an “ancient Chinese curse.” It is, however, neither Chinese nor ancient. Regardless of its origins, it is easy to see why living in interesting times would be considered a curse. What makes “times” interesting? The answer, of course, is change.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
Kipling’s advice is focused on an individual’s staying centered in the midsts of chaos. It is probably advice we all need at this point in history. Of course, the only thing that makes this point in history different from any previous point, is technology. Improvements in technology have increased the speed of everything, including change. We have always had wars, of course, and, at various points in history, more than one war was going on at a time. In many ways, human history is defined by the wars that have been fought. The weapons of war have evolved even as technology has evolved in other ways. My sense is that human evolution has not kept pace with technical evolution.
Humans, and human political systems, have not evolved at a pace equal to that of technology. More people are smarter and better educated than at any previous time in history. Unfortunately, intelligence has too often been weaponized: we (humans) too often use our big brains to build bigger and more deadly weapons. We also, of course, use them for other things, including advances in science, medicine and other technologies. Science and technology evolved as much to provide military advantage as to foster understanding of the world. This needs to change. You have probably heard the song, Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. The concept transcends its religious focus.
My sense is that those of us who are morally aware have the obligation to make choices that will best serve to promote peace on earth. It isn’t always easy to know, of course. We—humans—are currently facing a wide variety of challenges, from wars (especially in the Mid-East), global climate change, pollution (of both air and water), human migrations (with people leaving war zones and seeking food and water), and radically uneven distribution of wealth. The problems are too numerous and global in scope for any one person to do much. Nevertheless, we do well to do what we can, starting with being nice to those with whom we disagree and reducing waste to the best of our ability to do so. Recycle what you can. Buy energy-efficient products when you replace, remembering Mahatma Gandih’s saying, “Live simply so that others may simply live.”
That doesn’t mean you need to take a vow of poverty or forgo a big-screen TV. After all, we live in a consumer-oriented society in which some design, manufacture, market, and install big-screen TVs so that they can also simply live. And that’s a major rule: we live in a cooperative society. We need each other—not only those we call friends and colleagues, but also those we may think of as enemies. A long time ago, a singer-song writer named Tom Lehrer wrote a song titled “National Brotherhood Week.” Here he is performing the song back in 1967:
Tom Lehrer wrote the song 50 years ago. In some ways, we have made progress since then. In 1967 we had “pockets” of post-racial racialism, and those pockets have expanded. The pockets are bigger and more numerous, but they are still pockets. More neighborhoods, schools, and professions are integrated, but there are still a lot of places every bit as segregated as some of the worst segregation in the 1950s.
Back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, many of us were hoping for more progress more quickly than we have been able to achieve, but at least we can see progress. The same is not the case with some of the other major problems we face. Air and water pollution are probably worse now than they were then, but that may be more a matter of perception than actuality. It’s hard to measure where we are with war and war refugees. Again, it’s hard to tell whether things are better or worse than they have been previously.
When we look around at everything that’s happening now, it’s easy to sink into despair or righteous indignation, feeling that nothing can be done that would make a difference, or blaming others: “It’s their fault,” or “If it weren’t for those people….” When we have those thoughts or feelings, we need to remember Kipling’s advice and focus on what we can do that will make a positive contribution to our mutual progress.
In some ways, we should celebrate living in interesting times. Interesting times afford us the opportunity to grow intellectually through problem solving and to grow spiritually through expanding understanding and compassion. As the poet John Keats said, we need “a world of pains and troubles to school an intelligence and make it a soul.” Living in interesting times provides us with the education required to develop, not only intellectually, but also spiritually.
“If you’re not willing to learn,
no one can help you.
If you’re determined to learn,
no one can stop you.”
~ Author unknown
When I read this opening quotation in my friend David Bloyd’s thought for the day, I resonated deeply with the implication. Reading on, I saw this newsletter article coming into being. David wrote:
Being willing to learn—it doesn’t say being able, it doesn’t say being able to afford learning, it doesn’t say not wanting to learn. It says, “If you’re not willing…” In other words, the message is that we can all learn, regardless of our finances, our access to resources, our backgrounds. We may not all become great scientists, authors, or inventors, but here’s a world of learning available. We tend to think that there are certain pockets of society or populations or communities that can’t learn. They just don’t have the ability, we say. But that just isn’t true. Look at Helen Keller. Who’d have thought that someone who couldn’t see or hear could become a great author, political activist, and lecturer? Or how about Beethoven? He was deaf, and yet wrote some of the finest music ever. And today’s Steven Hawking—an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge. He has early-onset ALS, is confined to a wheelchair, and he now communicates using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech-generating device. I’m sure you could name many others who have overcome a variety of physical and mental handicaps to learn different skills, talents, and capabilities. They were all determined to learn and couldn’t be stopped. So before we say “I can’t…”, let’s be willing to say I can and I will, whatever it is that you might like to know.
I was immediately taken back to The Recovering Hero Proclamation by Aaliyah LivingWell, aka Gina Dawn Gavaris. Her writing, too, inspired me, resulting in profound change in the way I think of and do my service in the world.
I have no need to save others. I have no need to rescue others. I have no need to outshine anyone. I have no need to out-think, out-perform, out-produce anyone – including myself. I do not need to know anything. I do not need to be an expert. I do not need to fix anyone, or any change anything. I do not need to dazzle, impress, or inspire anyone. I do not need to be the hero of my own story. In truth, I am organic, evolving, and fallible. I allow things to unfold naturally, and I trust the flow. I joyfully accept and experience my humanity. I need nothing. All already is. Blessed be.
People I know are experiencing a lot at this time. My nephew is back in jail, having been released from two years in prison, then encountering difficulty in the program that was designed to help him be released on parole. A group of folks I love are watching their service to the dying be eliminated in an organization where they previously felt their work was valued and their jobs were secure. A friend is witnessing her adult son’s process with alcoholism and depression. My friend who lost her adult son a few weeks ago has a blood clot in her leg this past week. It would be overwhelming to feel responsible to fix all of this.
Add to the personal experiences, our collective circumstances that seem to need fixing: climate crisis, political chaos, financial uncertainty, cancer…
What is an appropriate way of being willing to learn, while not being attached to trying to fix things?
We are obviously not all blind like Helen Keller, or deaf like Beethoven, or in a wheelchair like Steven Hawking. (Note-Beethoven’s famous compositions were done prior to his going deaf.) Even so, it is undeniable we all have obstacles. However, obstacles are the stepping stones to our learning. I love how Aaron (as channeled by Barbara Brodsky), says it: “There are no problems, there are only situations that ask for your loving attention.”
Yes. Loving attention is what we bring as we see others in fear or pain, and joyfully accept and experience our shared humanity—meaning we stay connected to some of the important points in the proclamation. We do not need to know how things are going to work out. We can allow things to unfold naturally, and trust the flow.
Nothing lasts forever. This, too, will past. The problems, the chaos, the uncertainty. These are conditions, and conditions are always temporary.
Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön, speaks about bringing warmth to the conditions. Our capacity to be present with the conditions of our own lives is intimately linked to our ability to be with others in the conditions of their lives.
These conditions in our lives are current. When we meet them without any need to deny, suppress, project, or fix them, the world just speaks to us in a different way. Experiencing life has meaning, including experiencing difficult conditions.
Pema says everything is a path to awakening. Perhaps that is what our willingness to learn is about. Our mind creates our world. As long as we think of something as a problem, it will be a problem. When we are willing to see every situation as something asking for our loving attention, the conditions themselves are experienced as a path to awakening.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched—they must be felt with the heart. Life is either a great adventure or nothing. Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” ~ Helen Keller
Humans like to think of themselves as the “Crown of Creation.” In 1968, Jefferson Airplane captured the irony of the human tendency to presume that we had achieved the pinnacle of the evolutionary process in the song, “Crown of Creation”:
You are the crown of creation.
You are the crown of creation,
And you’ve got no place to go.
Soon you’ll attain the stability you strive for,
In the only way that it’s granted:
In a place among the fossils of our time.
In loyalty to their kind
They cannot tolerate our minds.
In loyalty to our kind
We cannot tolerate their obstruction!
Life is change.
How it differs from the rocks.
I’ve seen their ways too often for my liking.
New worlds to gain.
My life is to survive and be alive
That song was released in 1968. I was in the Army and stationed in Vietnam the first time I heard it. At the time, I was more concerned with getting back home than I was with the political implications of the music. The late 1960s, much like today, were a time of unrest and political upheaval. We (young people at the time) were, however, very hopeful. In the late 1960s and early 1970s many of the young people, “hippies,” thought that “free love” and communal living would eliminate the problems caused by “outmoded” political structures. A song that expressed the heart of the counter-culture, “Share the Land,” by the Canadian Group, Guess Who, was a hopeful expression of anticipated change:
Have you been around?
Have you done your share of comin’ down
On different things that people do?
Have you been aware?
You got brothers and sisters who care
About what’s gonna happen to you
In a year from now
Maybe I’ll be there to shake your hand (Shake your hand)
Maybe I’ll be there to share the land (Share the land)
That they’ll be givin’ away
When we all live together, we’re talkin’ ’bout together, now
While some of the communes established in the 1970s still exist, most have long since disappeared. In the late 1960s, the Haight Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco was a center for the hippie movement and the home for revolutionaries and famous singers (including the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin). A quick drive across the Oakland Bay Bridge, led to Berkeley California, home of the Free Speech Movement. Young people at the time (and I was one of them) were angry at “the establishment” and hopeful for significant social change. The 1967 song by Scott McKenzie captured the feelings of the time:
In 1974, I was comfortably back in the States completing my education when Stevie Wonder released, “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away”:
They say that heaven is 10 zillion light years away
And just the pure at heart will walk her righteous streets someday
They say that heaven is 10 zillion light years away
But if there is a God, we need Him now
“Where is your God”
That’s what my friends ask me
And I say it’s taken Him so long
‘Cause we’ve got so far to come…
Tell me people
Why can’t they say that hate is 10 zillion light years away
Why can’t the light of good shine God’s love in every soul
Why must my color black make me a lesser man
I thought this world was made for every man
He loves us all, that’s what my God tells me
And I say it’s taken Him so long
‘Cause we’ve got so far to come…
But in my heart I can feel it, yeah,
Feel His spirit wow oh woo…
Feel it, yeah, feel His spirit…
See full lyrics.
While the song is more upbeat and hopeful than “Crown of Creation,” the theme is essentially the same: humans are struggling to live up to their potential and are a long way from “sharing the land.” The hopeful sentiments of “Share the Land” and “If You’re Going to San Francisco” evaporated in the ongoing realities of US and global politics. Some progress was being made, of course, but hopes and dreams became increasingly modest, and for every gain there seemed to be a corresponding loss.
Debra’s article this month highlights the human inability to save others and the need to let things unfold naturally. I am not sure that’s possible for humans, nor am I sure that it is even desirable. I agree with her Pema Chödrön quotation that everything is a path to awakening, but that is only true if we are open to awakening. A closed heart has a difficult time letting possibilities in.
The philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Remembering the past is, of course, the first step in learning from it. If we can’t remember it, we can’t learn from it. Even if we can remember it, however, we have to have a sense of what we are to learn. I am still sufficiently a child of the ’60s to think that we need more peace, good, and brotherhood:
Look over yonder
What do you see?
The sun is a-risin’
A new day is comin’, whoo-hoo
People are changin’
Ain’t it beautiful, whoo-hoo
Crystal blue persuasion
Better get ready
Gonna see the light
Love, love is the answer, whoo-hoo
And that’s all right
So don’t you give up now, whoo-hoo
It’s so easy to find
Just look to your soul (Look to your soul)
And open your mind
Crystal blue persuasion
It’s a new vibration
Crystal blue persuasion
“Crystal Blue Persuasion,” like “Crown of Creation,” was released in 1968. Its feeling, however, is very different. “Crown of Creation” feels “dark.” In comparison, “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is “sweetness and light.” A lot of people mistakenly thought that the song was about drugs. That’s not the case, however. The song is about Tommy James’ vision of the New Jerusalem, a powerful metaphor for life as it could be.