February 26, 2016

To Think or Not to Think


Just because something isn't a lie does not mean that it isn't deceptive. - Criss Jami

I am a child of a simpler time. A time when a person had the pleasure of forming their own conclusions about the world around them. A time when folks were given credit for having a "lick of sense." Apparently we mere mortals are unworthy of this kind of power because it's been completely stripped away.

I must have been otherwise engaged when things changed so radically because I didn't see it happening. It feels like I blinked too slowly one day and the world I lived in morphed into something that bares no resemblance to what was in its place before the blink. 

For for whatever reason, the powers that be (or the powers that want to be) seem to believe that human beings are no longer capable of taking in information and drawing conclusions from it. There's an urgent need to translate - even the simplest of things. It seems we now need to be spoon fed our impressions and conclusions. Did we get too lazy to do it ourselves? Were we only too happy to have one less thing to do or did we all just do what I did - blink?

The news media is particularly guilty as it vies to input its various and sundry agendas in that hallowed space once reserved for our own rational thinking. They can take a simple statement and shape shift it into something that would totally confound even the X-men!

When you stretch the truth, watch out for the snap back! - Bill Copeland

Have our brains rusted shut? Who should we believe, the commentators or our own lying eyes and ears?

 Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind. 
                        - Austin O'Malley

I've also noticed that truth has changed dramatically. Now instead of being a stand alone item it shifts depending on how many times misinformation about it is reported. It goes something like this: Take the truth and change it up enough times and...POOF...the lie is not only transformed magically into truth but has taken on a new life of its own. Might this sort of stuff have worked on my parents when I was growing up? If I lied repeatedly enough about the same thing would it have been awarded enough "truth points" to actually become the truth? If that's the case can I get a do over and get back all the time I spent grounded? 

There's nothing wrong with stretching the truth. We stretch taffy, and that just makes it more delicious. - Stephen Colbert

Why do we need so much conjecture? For instance, why are we willing to let someone tell us, after a political debate, what the candidates on stage really meant? Have we so completely devolved as a species to the point of not being able to connect the dots without someone holding our hands and guiding the pencil? On top of that all we need to do is push a button to get a different version of "what really happened." We can channel surf until we come up with the the version we like best without ever activating a single brain cell in the process! Isn't life grand??

If we understand the mechanisms and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it - Edward Bernays

It's not just the "news" media however. We're not even sharp enough to watch a sporting event without an hour of conjecture before hand telling us what we can expect to see and an hour after letting us know what we just saw - in case we somehow missed it.

Politicians have elevated conversational hocus-pocus to an art form. Soon we'll have national museums displaying beautiful works of spin. Admission will be free if we can cut through the sticky webs at the entrances and don't mind the slime dripping off of us as we leave.

All of this worries me - apparently - since I'm writing a blog post on the topic. Maybe I'm just a late adapter. Maybe I should just get on board the train to Brainlessland and stop complaining. I see so many other people doing it that I have to ask myself: "Is it just me?" 

 But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and important requirement for success
 - Adolf Hitler

Regardless, I've made it this far drawing my own conclusions so I don't feel particularly inclined to hand that job over to someone else. Especially someone whose agenda I can't even pretend to know. Not yet at least. There's no doubt that the big wheels keep on turning and the big spin will keep on churning. I guess it's left to us to decide whether to get on board or continue to swim through the ever thickening murk ourselves. To think or not to think. That is the question!

How about you? Are you still thinking or has it become just one more thing on an already too long to do list?

February 21, 2016

The Unexpected Sabbatical



[suh-bat-i-kuh l]

Any extended period of leave from one's customary work, especially for rest, or to acquire new skills or training, etc.

On October 21, 2015, I finished writing a post titled Nailing Jello to the Wall, edited it, and hit the publish button - just like I'd done time and time again since beginning this blog. I walked away - fully intending to do the same thing one week later. Then a strange thing happened. I didn't. The week came and the week went and no blog post went with it.
At about the same time, I pretty much abandoned my social media sites - stopped tweeting - stopped posting on Facebook and even stopped reading other blogs and commenting on the wonderful insights gleaned. I stopped checking my phone constantly for emails, tweets, and texts too.

I'm a consummate reader and the only thing I love more than a good read is a good "write."
Writing frees my mind - but for a time, my mind has been otherwise engaged!

 Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.  - Henry Ford

In a previous post titled  The Power of the Purge, I mentioned that I'd taken part in an experiment of sorts with a friend who was learning a process called TEC which releases trapped emotions from our bodies. (Hooey! Yeah, yeah...that's what I thought too - until I saw some pretty amazing results from our sessions. You can read more about that at the link above.) 

I felt such a difference after those sessions in fact that I became fascinated with the whole process - to the point of researching it, and deciding to become a certified TEC practioner. (Didn't see that one coming - did you? Well either did I!) I felt if something so simple could release my demons, how outstanding would it be to help others find the same relief!

 Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.  - W.B. Yeats

To that end, I've been anxiously engaged in studying, practicing, and finishing up all that was required for certification. Now all that's left is to receive the certificate.

In the process of practicing with friends and family, I've seen some very interesting things. Some results were nuanced and some quite dramatic. Some of the sessions in my training were on behalf of animals. Yes, even animals (especially rescue animals) can benefit from releasing trapped emotions and they seem to get results even more quickly than their human counterparts.

I don't think there are many people that deny the mind/body connection. Studies repeatedly prove that stress wreaks all kinds of havoc on our bodies. Where does stress come from? It comes from our emotional responses to external stimuli. Trapped emotions occur when we feel any particular emotion with high intensity. It's sort of like the resonance that's left once a bell stops ringing. The energy of the emotion can linger long after the initial emotions have passed and if that energy gets trapped in our tissues, it can cause trouble for our physical or emotional health.

 I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led. - Thomas Jefferson

Ever had a bad break up? Go through some pretty terrible feelings? How did that affect your willingness to stick your toe back into the romance pool for a time? Did it color how you showed up in your next relationship? I'll bet the answer is yes. 

One of the aspects of trapped emotions that I found most intriguing was the concept of a literal, energetic, heartwall. We've all heard the cliche "I've put up a wall around my heart to protect myself." Well, it turns out that it's not just figurative. We can actually build an energetic wall around our hearts as a result of traumatic events, painful experiences etc. Those walls do, in some sense, protect us from pain. Like real walls, however, they also separate us from others. Anything that can keep out bad things, can also keep out the good. Heartwalls keep us feeling isolated and outside looking in.

 Stress is the trash of modern life - we all generate it, but if you don't dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.
- Danzae Pace

The experience that I talk about in The Power of the Purge was just part of what I experienced when my friend finished removing my heartwall. My social anxiety also vanished. I no longer felt like I was "different" from others and didn't fit in. Instead of avoiding social situations I found myself seeking them out and actually enjoying them. Does that mean I've gone all extrovert on myself? Nope! Still need my alone time to decompress but I no longer ONLY want alone time. 

 There are few things more pathetic than those who have lost their curiosity and sense of adventure, and who no longer care to learn.
 - Gordon B. Hinckley

I'm looking forward to this new adventure. I have no idea where it will lead and isn't that fantastic! Something to look forward to is as essential as continual learning for keeping our lives meaningful and staying engaged.

So I guess that it is possible for an old dog to learn new tricks. It's much more than possible! It's crucial in my opinion and I hope that no matter what your age, you're still finding wonder and intrigue around every corner. 

My sabbatical has been a time of learning, experimentation, mind expansion, and OK...a little break from social media. The result is I'm feeling refreshed and renewed. You know what that means right? You'll be plagued with more posts!  

How about you? Have you ever treated yourself to a sabbatical? What did you do? How did it affect you? I'd love to hear all about it! 

October 21, 2015

Nailing Jello to the Wall

What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.   - C.S. Lewis

The longer I live the more convinced I am that we do indeed create our own reality. A recent conversation brought this into focus.

As I listened to a "horrible" experience shared with me, it became clear that the worn out platitude "There is no reality, there is only perception" lives on for a reason.

As the tale unraveled, and knowing well the entire cast of characters, I looked at the events as though they were playing out on a  3-D sphere that I could manipulate and view from different angles. Each angle told a story of its own.

 Songs are as sad as the listener. 
- Jonathan Safran Foer

There was the story that was being told with all of its rawness from the perspective of the storyteller. If I turned the ball, a completely different story appeared as I factored in my knowledge of a different person in the story and took into account their motivations. Another spin showed a completely different tale told by a different participant. Tilting the ball another way presented the event at the center of the story - all by itself - before anyone had a chance to color it in hues of perception. As is most often the case, the event was the only neutral element.

Being uninvolved in the goings on allowed me to see it from a detached point of view. It became clear to me that what could have been something completely benign had become highly significant to the storyteller. So significant in fact that she will filter other events through her perception of this one and look to validate the beliefs she acquired from this in future interactions with these folks.
From her perspective, her feelings were invalidated. She feels her property was violated, her objections were unheard, and therefore she is unimportant. Since that's how she internalized the event, this forms her reality of not only the event but also of those involved. Hopefully those feelings will mix with contrary evidence from earlier experiences with those same people and will become tempered or even outweighed.

 Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. - Wayne W. Dyer

This same event has created a different reality for the others parties involved. They have colored it with their own points of view so that their picture probably bares little resemblance to the storyteller's picture and my guess is that they are unaware that the impact made on the storyteller was significant.

I have seen firsthand how perception can affect relationships. As a parent, I hear stories from my own children that flabbergast me. I hear them recall events from their childhood that I can barely make out because their experience of the event is so completely different than mine. I have seen my own actions interpreted in ways so far from my intention that I am completely bewildered and perplexed. It's been a rude awakening that has caused me to reflect on my own upbringing - events that have had a significant impact on me - and to re-examine them. I try to see them from that 3-D spherical perspective to see what other perspectives those stories may hold. This practice has changed me.

It's caused me to have more compassion for those I once believed intended me harm or appeared to show reckless disregard for my feelings. I also try harder to see people less as one dimensional and instead in their fully fleshed out forms including as many of their life situations as is possible. For example, instead of seeing something my mother may have said or done as "how could a mother do such a thing," I now realize that no one is ever "just" a mom or just any one thing for that matter. My mother was and is also a human being, with feelings, problems, disappointments, and dreams all her own. She is also a wife, a daughter, an in-law, and friend. Like all of us, she was sometimes acted upon by outside forces that she couldn't control. In short, she said and did what she did as all of those people - not just as a mother.

 Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, "What else could this mean?”
  - Shannon L. Alder

It's, apparently, also caused me to become aggravating. Aggravating because when someone comes to me with a "story" I try to take the sphere approach and offer different perspectives to what they may be experiencing in order to help them reframe it - see it from another point of view. It's been a rude awakening to me that others don't want to hear a different perspective. They want me to get mad at those they're mad at and take their side in that moment. The different perspectives might be welcome after they've had time to cool down, but my sphere approach makes them feel as though I'm not validating their feelings! See what I mean by intentions being misinterpreted? It's happening to you too! Every day.

The only reality that seems consistent to me  is that nothing we say or do is without effect. Life is like soup. We can't keep the flavors of the individual ingredients from combining. Once they're tossed into the pot they become part of and flavor the entire batch. An insult by a husband at breakfast can easily simmer and be served to the children at lunch.

Life is complex and we each view it through lenses colored by perception - perception that may or may not have any basis in reality - whatever that is.

 Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.  - Shannon L. Alder

Uncovering reality can be as tricky as nailing jello to the wall. Reality shifts and changes shapes constantly as it's acted upon and perceived. It's one color to one person and another to someone else. What tastes sweet and refreshing to me might activate your gag reflex.

It's raining. That's a terrible thing to a bride who's planned an outdoor wedding - and a wonderful thing to a farmer who's watching his crops wilt in the field. The rain is only water falling from the sky but each person's reality of that truth depends on how it's affecting them at the moment.

The terrible thing about all of this is that we are all observers - packed full of experiences that color our observations. We filter each experience through other experiences and base our observations not only on present information but also on our personal history and accumulated belief systems. That can make things tricky. New relationships are acted upon by our past relationships - so much so that our new love interest can sometimes be expected to do penance for the sins of their predicessor or at least be punished for those sins.

Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.  - Marcus Aurelius

The wonderful thing about this is that we can change our perspective and thereby change our reality! Awareness is the first step to making it possible.

All of life's events are happening on a sphere - metaphorically and literally. How much better would things be if we could find a way to step back and see them that way? Would we be more understanding of other points of view? Maybe even more tolerant? Would we think twice about our own actions if we could see the impact they may be having on others? Would we all become aggravating? There's a lot to unpack here and this is just my limited perception of it! I'd love to hear yours!

September 28, 2015

Of Clouds and Rainbows


 They sicken of the calm who know the storm. 
 - Dorothy Parker 

Each Sunday I teach 11 seven and eight year old children a Sunday school lesson. If you've never been in a room with that many seven and eight year olds, you're really missing something! The sheer energy and excitement in that space could power a small city for a week - if we could find a way to contain it - which I haven't. Moreover, the things I learn in my attempt to educate them on life, faith, and the undying love of Someone unseen to them, makes me wonder if I wasn't put in there to be taught instead of to teach.

A few weeks ago, one of my usual little firecrackers just wasn't herself. In fact I'm not sure who she was. Her normal effervescence and sparkling eyes had been replaced by a sullenness that was disturbing by contrast. It turned out that the cause for her demeanor had to do with another boy who's usually in the class. She'd seen him earlier in the day but he never made it to our room. She was worry stricken.

I pulled out all my best stuff trying to get her to cheer up but she was having none of it! At one point, she feigned a need to visit the "necessessarium" in order to investigate what had caused her friend to be absent. She returned saying she'd leaned that his family had to leave because he was bleeding.

More information did not make things better. In fact if her mood had been dark before - it was now black. She refused to open her eyes. Any attempt to speak to her was met with a turned head and folded arms. Even my suggestion that she call and check on him when she got home fell on deaf ears.

It was interesting to see that the lesson  earlier in the year about loving each other had taken root - but it was still hard to see her tortured.

After our lesson time, all the children's classes meet together. The children rotate turns addressing the entire group and giving a talk on an assigned topic, offering a prayer, or sharing a scripture. I never cease to be amazed watching these kids do with ease what most adults would rather be shot than do - speak in public! It brings to mind how brave we were before the world taught us to  be afraid of each other. Fear and unease are not our undefiled states. Those things are acquired over time and it's refreshing to see what pure trust and confidence looks like once a week.

During this time, my little brooder became darker still - even angry if someone spoke to her. I thought it best to give her space to work through her emotions without further intrusion so I let her be. She used the time to further steep in her anxiety.

A few minutes before we were to go home, I leaned toward her and whispered:  "If I have to go home today without seeing one of your beautiful smiles, I might not make it till next Sunday. I look forward to those smiles all week long!" To this, she folded her arms and snorted. 

Moments later her countenance changed. The scowl vanished and a peaceful look replaced it. She tilted her head toward me and  flashed the biggest forced grin I'd ever seen! Then - without warning - she exploded into a story of how she had seen a double rainbow. She told me how exciting it was and how it landed in a field. She was excited for me to know that she'd run to get her family and that pictures had been taken as proof it really happened. Then she said, with complete astonishment, "And the whole time, IT WAS RAINING!"

I explained to her that if it hadn't been raining, there couldn't have been a rainbow and how the rainbow gets even brighter when it's against a dark sky. She beamed at me with complete wonder - and in that moment it hit me! SHE had just become a rainbow! 

It was freshly clear to me why the rainbow is such a beautiful metaphor for hope. It's during the darkest hours that it can shine its brightest. The rainbows of our lives are those flickers of light that we see - if we're looking for them - just as we feel we may drown. The darker the circumstances the brighter the potential for the light to be. Life is stormy. Life can seem to be a dark and dangerous place. In that same space there is evidence of something more - something better if we can just hang on a little longer and let it take shape. That's not easy with the rain getting in our eyes and the winds beating against us, but in every storm there is the potential for something beautiful to appear and to transform us into something spectacular.

These aren't just flowery platitudes I'm sharing with you today. I'm speaking from my own experience of life. I've lived in the sunshine and basked in it's warmth. I've lived through the clouds. There have also been times when the skies have been so black that I'd almost given up hope of the light ever returning. After weathering each storm the light has come back and some of those storms have produced the most beautiful rainbows! Some came in the form of insight. Others - new people coming into my life to replace the ones who'd blown away. Once the blackness disperses and I've picked myself up and dried off, I've taken time to pick through the aftermath to see what's left - worth keeping.

I deeply believe that life isn't suppose to be all sunshine - and what a blessing that is! My greatest strength has come as a result of weathering storms, not basking in the sun. (Wear sunscreen by the way! You'll thank yourself in your 50's.) Storms - even the worst of them - carry trans-formative power. Just as the lightening nourishes the plants, so does adversity feed our souls if we drink deeply the lessons and experiences. We can also choose to reject those and dwell in bitterness but that leads to shriveling instead of growth.

I'm not going to tell you that you'll ever reach the point where you see dark clouds gathering and greet them with shrieks of excitement. What I will share though - and what's been true for me - is that the time may come when you can face them with wonder instead of horror and understand that they may just land you in OZ.

How about you? Have you learned to weather the inevitable storms in life? What insights can you share? How have you been made stronger?

September 14, 2015

Fry Big Fish

The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.  
- Lou Holtz

I recently had an experience that caused me to scratch my head in utter disbelief. It was a small thing. A very small thing. A small thing that suddenly became a thing of monumental proportion. Work had been done - hard work and a lot of it. The end result was resplendent and far exceeded initial expectations. Moods were high and celebration was in full swing when someone decided to take offense at the most ludicrous, puny, and highly subjective thing. My jaw dropped in disbelief. This guppy in the ocean suddenly became a great white shark - not because it was a bad thing - but because of the fatal effect on morale that pointing it out caused. This was a very small fish yet someone decided to fry it anyway.

I struggle to understand why people waste their time looking for reasons to be dissatisfied? Do they feel it gives them an air of superiority to create issues where no issues exists? Are some people just inherently unhappy and desperately in need of the tiny morsel of attention they receive by pouring cold water on the good fortune or elated moods of others? Maybe it's the result of a life devoid of real problems or just having too much unoccupied time? 

 When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.  - Earl Nightingale 

Being critical is only one of many optional response to a given situation. Having mercy, giving the benefit of the doubt, and even choosing to overlook some things are examples of other possible responses that leave us (and others) with a much more peaceful experience of the world. I'd like to understand it but honestly, it's a small fish and I'd rather hook a big one.

Just as frying a small fish leaves the fisherman as hungry as he was before, complaining offers no nourishment to body or soul and causes others to starve from withheld appreciation for well earned praise. Is that the point?

Some other examples of frying small fish include: knit picking, fault finding, criticizing, and gossiping. A complete list could fill several blog posts. 

Complaining isn't fishing. It's pointing at people who are fishing and declaring they're doing it all wrong. Sure, our hands don't get as dirty while complaining as when we're fishing, but complainers carry their own kind of stink. When we are busily engaged in working toward a worthy achievement we have a lot less time for small fish frying. 

Complaining and criticizing are attempts at diverting attention away from our own shortcomings using the "look over there" tactic - and often it works. Instead of being seen as a slacker we're seen as a complainer. When's the last time you cleared your calendar to spend time with a complainer? Me neither!

I know someone who believes SO strongly that toilet paper should be put on the roll with the paper coming off the front instead the back that they are offended when they encounter it WRONGLY positioned. Not only that, but they make it a point to FIX IT - even at other people's homes. This is a perfect example of frying a small fish. I look forward to the day that my life is so well ordered that I can fit this in as something to worry about.

If I could give any advice that may change the course of someone's life it would be to only fry BIG fish. Don't waste your time championing petty plights. If you have the passion to fight for something, make it something BIG. If you're going to go through all the trouble of dragging out the oil, and getting flour and grease all over your kitchen, ONLY FRY BIG FISH! Your life (and stomach) will be fuller. 

Photo Credit: Original Artwork by Sarah Kopp