Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break.
And all things can be mended.
Not with time… as they say.
But with intention.
Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness
for the light that is you.
~ L. R. Knost
(from the Brahma Kumaris Thought for the day March 4, 2017)
Tenacity is such an amazing concept. To love intentionally, extravagantly, and unconditionally requires tenacious resolve. I recall stretching out on the floor of the skyroom at the Holistic Alliance after lunching during an NLP intensive, and fondly listening to Richard Bandler’s Personal Enhancement 6 CD set. I especially loved the one titled “Tenacious Resolve.” Synonyms for the word tenacious include: persistence, determination, perseverance, strength of purpose, resolve, steadfastness, and patience, just to list a few.
It certainly took tenacity for Zan Lombardo, artist extraordinaire, to complete her 30-foot watercolor painting. The painting (shown here at The Art Gallery at Franklin Commons in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania) is truly amazing, as is Zan.
This is my 30-foot watercolor. It took me two years to draw and two years to paint, in little increments; 30 minutes while the laundry tumbled, 10 minutes while the pasta boiled.
(This poem is written along the bottom of the 30’ watercolor. Calligraphy in uncial font by Sheila Waters.)
EVERYTHING IS INDEED REACHING OUT TO EVERYTHING ELSE
Arcs of arms are reaching out from distant
Suns whose gestures stir the life of seeds.
To be here, now, requires our hearts to listen,
Watch, and know that Light fulfills our needs.
When gripped by stagnant vines of fear, relief
Springs from the pulsing centers of our chests.
False boundaries dissolve in prayer; peace weaves
The seeming chaos into something blessed.
Stay rooted. Stand witness. Be upholding.
Guidance from great Mother Oak whose limbs
Will move ours to join the sacred dance, singing
Aloud that work is love made visible.
Roused by poetic muse of rainbow voice,
What stirs us also presses us against
The thick embranglement of choice
In which our spirits rise and fall, unfenced.
One truth: that drawn by gravity and awe,
The world is in relationship with all.
-Zan Lombardo, 2011
Isn’t that how life is? We must capture, contemplate, and create the extraordinary right in the midst of the mundane.
That has certainly been the story of Debra, Joel, and SCS.
This winter, I have been sashaying with my shadow around stagnant vines of fear, as Zan would say. I finally managed to make a phone call to a man I felt had treated me unfairly. In my mind, I had pictured him conniving—going to all lengths—to stand in my way. I was at least honest enough with both of us to tell him I was calling to ask if he had done what I had already considered him guilty of. His answer was, “No.”
Zan’s painting is truly incredible, but the sharing of why and how these mystical and magical colors and shapes and images came to be is what moved me to tears. She was teaching when her work load was doubled and her prep time was cut in half. She ordered the 30-foot roll of artist paper because she wanted a safe place to go so she would not spend the last ten years of her teaching career bitter. In four-foot sections of paper and mere moments of time, as she created that safe place for herself, universal images and themes emerged.
What does it mean for you to know the truth that we can choose to not be bitter even when circumstances warrant bitterness? Relationships can trip us up. I read this quotation by an Armenian-Russian writer of fantasy and science fiction, Vera Nazarian, “Was it you or I who stumbled first? It does not matter. The one of us who finds the strength to get up first, must help the other.”
Zan shared the poem (the painting’s thirty-foot title) was complete, save for ten syllables in the very center. Underneath the skyward branches of the majestic tree which anchors the center of the painting, Zan’s friend said, “I was given a message for you. ‘Stand witness, be upholding’.”
Zan counted the syllables. One, two, three… seven syllables.
“I need three more syllables,” she confessed.
“Native Americans say if you have a question, you can put your forehead against a tree and you will get an answer,” her friend continued to breathe wisdom into the air that hung poetically between them.
Zan leaned her forehead against the tree. “Stay rooted.”
In 1928 John A. Shedd published a collection of sayings (“Salt from My Attic”) that included the following saying, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” You may also be familiar with the saying, “Any port in a storm.” The recently recovered audio tapes from the El Faro that was lost at sea in 2015, clearly illustrate how risky the ocean can be even for experienced sailors. The Shedd quotation is often used to encourage people to take more risks and to discourage “playing it safe.” Progress occurs because people take chances, and not all chances pay off.
Our ancestors who went down to the sea in ships were willing to take extraordinary chances in the hopes of extraordinary rewards. They were, after all, in sailing vessels much smaller than either El Faro or the Titanic. Some of the rewards they were seeking were, of course, financial. Others went to sea primarily to learn more about what was “out there.” Charles Darwin, for example, wanted to learn more about the species with whom we share the planet. And he was not the only one curious about the world. The time between the early fifteenth century and the end of the eighteenth century became known as the Age of Discovery. During this time, the Europeans set sail on what became a global quest, not only to see what was “there,” but also for wealth. I am not sure why the extensive exploration of the world was dominated by the Europeans instead of the Asians, but I suspect it has something to do with the inherent differences in philosophical orientation between East and West.
To say that the different attitudes toward exploration resulted from the West having adopted Science while Mysticism dominated Eastern thought would not be fully correct. Nor would it be fully correct to say that those in the West prayed, while those in the East meditated. My guess is that those differences are, however, based on a fundamental difference in philosophical orientation. At this point, science has overtaken Asian thought to the same degree as it has Western thought. All things considered, those from the East and those from the West aren’t that different. Most of those reading this article will be more familiar with European history than with Asian history, but those histories have more similarities than differences. The Medieval period, for example, was marked by numerous wars in both Asia and Europe. Class distinctions were also similar, with strong divisions between royalty and peasants. In both East and West it took a long time before a “merchant” class emerged, forming the foundation for what is now considered the Middle Class.
Political systems were slow to evolve. In the West, we look to the Magna Carta as the beginning of the end of the absolute authority of monarchs. The poet William Blake said, For the Eye altering alters all. We gain perspective when we travel, regardless of our mode of transportation. I suspect that the saying applies to time as much as it does to space. We (including those we consider “less evolved”) are not the same people our ancestors were. Our sensibilities have changed because we know more. In general, the more you know, the less you fear. We tend to be more afraid of the unknown than we are of the known. That doesn’t mean, of course, that any of us would be glad to wrestle a grizzly bear or otherwise engage in risky behaviors. A long time ago, my parents came from California to visit me and my family one very snowy Christmas in Michigan. There was quite a bit of snow on the streets when my father and I went out to run a couple of errands. For me, driving on the snow had become relatively normal. However, I thought my father was going to jump out of his skin every time I turned a corner or came to a stop sign. Driving on snow and ice was an “unknown” for my father, so he had no way of knowing how hard it might be to turn a corner or stop.
The familiar is comfortable, whereas the new is not. The old saying is, Better the devil you know than the one you don’t. But that’s not what ships are built for. We need to remember that we are on a metaphorical ship, and our only real choice is whether we chose to set sail or simply stay in the harbor. Life will be more interesting if you choose to set sail.
If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past.
If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future.
If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present.
Lao Tzu (Laozi), ancient Chinese philosopher and writer
We have been teaching this concept in SCS (energy medicine and linguistics) for decades, but I did not know the awareness of how emotions are related to our orientation in time was shared by Lao Tzu in ancient times. This idea is the basis for the Emotional Freedom audio. It makes me wonder how much other truth we are just now noticing that has been around. Perhaps we are all conditioned, much like Mohini.
Mohini, a white tiger, lived in a zoo. For many years her home was limited to a cage. She ate, slept, and paced in her twelve-by-twelve foot space.
Even after the zoo created a large natural habitat for her—complete with rolling hills, mature trees, and a pond—Mohini lived the remainder of her life pacing in one small 12X12 corner.
Everyone was shocked at her foolish programmed behavior, but are humans that much different? Learning about timelines (See Healing with Language: Your Key to Effective Mind-Body Communication, Bowman and Basham) and verb tenses really does empower you to help others and to help yourself. Awareness of the significant impact language has on our behavior is key!
When people are experiencing a problem—a stuck state—they often use an all-encompassing present tense: “I can’t learn new things” or “my supervisor is a jerk.” Notice what happens when the verb tense changes. “Learning new things has been difficult,” or “my supervisor has been a jerk.”
When a person seems “stuck” in a state or in the experience of a problem, he or she will often use a simple verb tense: “I am depressed.” Simply changing the verb to a progressive tense may help the individual see him- or herself as moving through a particular state or problem: “So you have been feeling depressed.”
We can all listen for the verb tenses people use when talking about their problems. We can skillfully use verb tenses to help others move problems into the past and solutions into the present and the future.
It is also helpful to think about the way you can use your knowledge of timelines and verb tenses to better understand your own problems and/or find appropriate solutions.
Remember that the universal present tense exists through time. When you say that something or someone is, by implication the tense includes past, present, and future: “I am depressed” or “Bob is a jerk.” Shifting to the past tense helps move the problem into the past: “I was depressed.” Using the past tense for such expressions also helps limit the context in other ways: “Bob was being a jerk when. . . .”
While in many ways our mammalian brain allows us, like Mohini, to live our lives captive by our own past experiences, we also have a human brain and you can step free from the trances that have limited your freedom. Freedom is possible!
This Page of Water [Understanding] card from the Osho Zen Tarot Transcendental Game of Zen deck speaks to the climate of freedom that is our true nature.
Tara Brach calls this unfolding the wings of acceptance. In Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of A Buddha, she writes, “When we are caught in the trance of unworthiness, we do not clearly recognize what is happening inside us, nor do we feel kind. Our view of who we are is contorted and narrowed and our heart feels hardened against life.” (p. 27)
I love these additional words from the commentary on the Understanding card, too:
You are out of jail, out of the cage; you can open your wings and the whole sky is yours. All the stars and moon and the sun belong to you. You can disappear into the blueness of the beyond…. Just drop clinging to this cage, move out of the cage and the whole sky is yours. Open your wings and fly across the sun like and eagle. In the inner sky, the inner world, freedom is the highest value—everything else is secondary, even blissfulness, ecstasy. There are thousands of flowers, uncountable, but they all become possible in the climate of freedom.
By living in the reality of this climate of freedom, we notice our thoughts. We take responsibility for our emotional reactions and change our lives. We do not have to live our lives like we were in a cage. We have the opportunity to enjoy the freedom that is ours.
Changing the verb itself is a very smart way to alter the interpretation of a statement of limitation. Consider using feel for conditions you wish to be temporary and am for conditions you want to be permanent. “I feel tired.” “I am confident.” “I feel lonely.” “I am capable of enjoying friends and family.”
I feel sad that Mohini died not knowing she was free to roam her new habitat, but I am excited that we know the sky is the limit because freedom is our true nature.
Debra’s article this month, “Mohini,” provides an example of learned behavior. Having learned how much space she was allowed, Mohini remained within her learned limits, even when more space was available to her. Behavior is often developed—shaped—by environment. Humans demonstrate this every bit as much as tigers and other animals. B. F. Skinner was a behavioral psychologist best known for creating the Skinner Box, designed for shaping behavior through Operant Conditioning.
Those of us who have owned dogs have doubtless used operant conditioning, both rewards and punishments, to shape the behavior of our dogs. If we’re consistent in providing rewards (punishments are not required), we can teach them to come, sit, stand, stay, and a variety of other things by rewarding some behaviors and not others. This works especially for dogs because they are pack animals and tend to do what the pack leader desires. Cats are not pack animals, so they can’t be easily trained with praise. The will, however, respond to operant conditioning as long as they are rewarded with something they really like. While dogs pay attention to “negative reinforcement” (punishment) because pack leaders will punish behavior they don’t like, cats can’t readily be trained with punishment. They have a “get even” mentality, and peeing on your favorite furniture is one of the ways they enjoy getting even….
When it comes to learning, humans have a huge advantage over other animals. Adult animals teach their offspring of course. Young ones typically stay with mom until they are old enough to survive on their own. Mom shows them what’s safe and what isn’t, where and how to find food, and how to navigate their territory. In primitive times, humans did essentially the same. We generally lived in groups for reasons of safety and efficiency. Parents and other elders passed accumulated knowledge on to children. We still do basically the same thing, but we have become more efficient at it because we have learned to disseminate information in a wide variety of ways. In primitive times, children could learn only what the tribe knew. We now have all sorts of printed information available, TV, movies, and computer-based information exchange. Communication gives us a major advantage not available to Mohini: We can learn from other individuals and other cultures. Mohini didn’t have another tiger available to say, “Hey, Mohini, this whole area is yours to explore now.”
The increased ability to exchange information also has a downside. What do we do about those who are different from us? Throughout history, the answer as typically been war: tribal warfare, racial warfare, territorial warfare, cultural warfare, and religious warfare. I suspect other kinds of warfare as well. In “Hamlet,” Shakespeare says that Fortinbras is willing to go to war over “an eggshell.” It isn’t always easy, of course, to know what makes something valuable to another. Shakespeare doesn’t tell us the Norwegian’s motivation for going to war against Poland, but we do know what Medieval warfare was like. Here in the States we have just had the most contentious election in a long time. Democrats and Republicans have been at each other’s throats, not only with a war of words, but also with some physical violence. The irony is that most of those on both sides want the same things for themselves and their families. But pack animals, and humans are essential pack animals, tend to do what the pack leader dictates.
Humans have been conditioned to follow one pack leader or another, so we are a lot like Mohini. We are free to choose alternatives, but “what we know is what we know,” and it is difficult to choose an unknown. You may have seen recent news stories indicating that the George Orwell’s “1984” are up. My sense is that increasing numbers of people are aware that something out of the ordinary is going on, even if they aren’t quite sure what, and even if they don’t yet know what to do about it. We may indeed be in the Skinner Box of life, but once we have figured that out, we will have a better idea of how we might avoid letting old conditioning control our behavior.
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 email@example.com. 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?