love yourself. love the planet. begin within.

Since the news of Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which was in large part thanks to the persuasion of twenty-two corrupt GOP senators who have been purchased by and subsequently advocate for the fossil fuel industry, I’ve been inspired by the rise of nations, citizens, states and cities who are so infuriated by this affront to humanity that they have since recommitted, loudly, to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. People are stepping up; true leaders are emerging. People are making it known that this injustice, this terrorist threat on all of humanity by 23 men, and those that linger in the shadows behind them, will not stand.

I see this as the silver lining to an otherwise obscene gesture. A waking up, by way of outrage, to the critical nature of stopping our anti-environment behavior, stepping out of determination and into immediate action. Climate change is no longer a partisan, religious or political issue, as people from every sect of politics and religion all over the world are rising up and saying, a clear and undeniable, “NO” to economics that fatally suffocate ecology. The Paris Climate Agreement just sprouted legs.

Goals and benchmarks like those listed in the Paris Climate Agreement are important though until there is a massive global grassroots effort to take action, such agreements cannot meet their full potential. Certainly, some communities are stirring and making positive change and hopefully this new momentum will ignite everyone else to join in.
 

Presence and Adaptation: Remedies for Climate Change

We need to consider climate action as a surfer considers a wave. The starting point immediately shifts and changes—what was true about the starting line in 2015 when the Paris Climate Agreement was signed, changed within months, maybe even weeks and will keep changing. Surfers understand that the skill of their sport isn’t merely in staying up on the board and reaching the shore with a smile. A surfer’s skill is in her ability to adapt to the constant flux of a wave. There are no expectations, just presence and adaptation. We must be adaptable, prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. We must be equipped with plenty of practical innovation focused on adapting to irreversible climate change as much as we are seeking to meet benchmarks that, we hope, represent the slowing of global warming. The Paris Climate Agreement accounts for adaptation, now we just need a big push towards implementation from neighborhoods to capitals.

We have some momentum now, thanks to the unusual spark of greed by a few corrupt people in Washington. The good news is that the 7.5 billion other people on the planet far outnumber them and we can make good on our commitment to save ourselves.

I see the two enemies of humanity being comfort and convenience while the two heroes are presence and adaptability.  Every person on the planet can make their own personal shift from living in alignment with comfort and convenience to living aligned with presence and adaptability. The privileged among us can scrutinize our lifestyles, assess our contribution to the problem and make positive changes immediately. We can also make it possible for the less privileged to do the same. 

I have concern about the well-intended focus on “saving the planet for future generations.” This phrase has been used a lot this week, in response to Trump stating his plan to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. There is nothing inherently wrong with it. It is a no brainer in my book. Of course, most of us don’t want to bequeath an inhabitable planet to the next generation. In other words, we don’t want to be responsible for the end of humanity. And while this notion of doing the right thing for the people of tomorrow is warm and fuzzy, research shows that people are motivated by instant gratification, even more than considering of the quality of life they will leave for their grandchildren. The future is hard to feel concrete about. How does a person take action today on the vague ideas of tomorrow?

The trouble with “doing it for the future” is two-fold. First, anytime we push change out into the future—the unimaginable, unpredictable future—we green light procrastination. We’re essentially saying that the issues are not great enough today—regardless of skyrocketing rates of cancer, mass extinction, asthma, dying coral reefs, melting polar icecaps, over population and limited resources, polluted water (to name a few)—for us to take action now. The human psyche hears this message about “the future” and slows everything down.

The psychological stages of change are critical to consider as we make advancements, personally and collectively, regarding climate change. The Paris Climate Agreement represents the determination stage (planning for action), while most individuals appear to wallow in the stage prior to it, contemplation. We know there is a problem but we’re not ready to make a commitment to take action. Contemplation is a necessary step in change, but humans tend to hang out there so long they miss critical windows of opportunity. It is in this stage where people have to challenge their addictions to comfort and convenience. Lingering in contemplation can put off determination and, subsequently, action by entertaining shame, self-pity, bargaining, blame or excuses. Effective contemplation ideally requires a limited window of time so as not to lose all of its insight and momentum. It never works out that way though. Getting to determination often takes years if not a lifetime.


The United States ranks number 2 in producing the world’s CO2 emissions and  number 1 in daily oil consumption despite being home to only 4.3% of the global population. Globally, the people with the least power and privilege are experiencing the most devastating consequences of climate change while Americans are generally insulated from it (for now).


Trump can’t pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement until November of 2020 though he can refuse to honor the U.S. commitment of 3 billion dollars, of which the Obama Administration already submitted 1 billion [FirstPost]. And given that U.S. political leadership is uncertain, it is plausible Trump will not have the title of “president” by November 2020. So in many ways his threat is not an issue. At least, not yet. It is part of the Trump-brand show. But as I said earlier, the silver lining is how his symbolic gesture of greed and wickedness is motivating to anyone who cares about clean drinking water, their grandkids or not getting cancer. We cannot rest on our laurels about climate change, which, I am afraid, many countries who signed the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement have possibly done once the fanfare was over. The value of any such agreement is in the actions taken, not merely the signing of the certificate. A marriage license, for instance, without actively committed partners will end in divorce or worse, a deeply divisive feud.

The other issue of crediting the effort we take today to tackle climate change primarily for the sake of future generations, is that this well-intended reason discounts the value of life today. It implies that people alive today are sacrificial while tomorrow’s global citizens are innocent and sacred. This hints at a Jesus complex or at least, martyrdom. Doing and dying for the sake of others, never for our own wellbeing.

If we care about leaving a habitable planet to future generations, we must start caring deeply and without exception about ourselves in the here and now.
 

Healing the Planet by Befriending Ourselves

The self-destructive human behavior that fuels rapid climate change has everything to do with a lack of self-love and a deep, multi-generational fear of being present with our true nature. Even if we “fix” climate change and spare future generations from, well, not-existing, what wisdom will we have passed onto them? Will we simply teach future generations that they too can push the envelope of self-destruction to a tipping point, then pull it all back to a somewhat neutral state all by the skin of their teeth? Or will we pass on the wisdom we cultivate as a result of being on the precipice of our own extinction? Will we offer sage advice to the future along with a habitable planet? Because, without the passing on of wisdom, the cycle of destruction will just be pushed off to a later date—facilitated by a future generation.

The future needs us to love ourselves now. The future needs us to love nature. Our nature. The future needs us to choose our own health and wellness as the primary reason to take action in reducing (and ideally stopping) human-caused climate change.

Taking action for the sake of our own wellbeing offers immediate gratification in the reduction of disease, cancer, suffering, global conflict and terror. Approaching climate action from a place of self-love is the way we need to move forward.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
— Albert Einstein

Innovation alone will not save humanity. We need to infuse love into every action, every policy and every agreement we make.

What is happening to the environment, and to the living beings dependent upon her, is the result of comfort and convenience and the rejection of presence and adaptability. Of course, we adapt to the devastating changes comfort and convenience thrust on us, like obesity, disease and pollution—but this kind of adaptation is in contrast with evolution. The kind of adaptation we need is that of the skillful surfer who finds the flow in spite of the uncertainty of the wave. Adaptability without presence leads to self-destruction. Adaptation as a result of presence, leads to wellbeing and harmony.

So what does this mean for you, right now, as you read this article? It means the first thing you must do to take action against climate change is get quiet, turn off the noise (otherwise known as “the news”) and get in touch with your own nature. Those demons you hide from are the demons that fuel your desire for comfort and convenience. We all have them. Make a commitment to face them each day. Commit to bring them gentleness and compassion. Listen to what they have to say because they probably just need your love and attention. And start a dialog with your true nature, get reacquainted with the you that is not tempted by comfort and convenience or filtered through fear. Sure, that means we’ll probably have to deal with a lifetime of baggage, but that is the point. The planet can’t manage the baggage of 7.5 billion people.
 

Reacquainting with our Nature

Humanity’s self-destructive behavior is ultimately the result of humanity’s estrangement from our own nature. We cannot heal the planet while sacrificing, rejecting or ignoring ourselves. Greed happens when people feel deeply disconnected from love and mindless consumption happens when people are estranged from their true nature. We’re all trying to fill up on empty calories and the result is that we’re at war with ourselves, our neighbors and the planet.

What I propose is that we step out of the role of martyr and into the role of sage. We know what needs to be done to heal the planet but a gigantic portion of work on climate change has to do with healing our individual estrangements with our own beautiful, wise and abundant nature. It isn’t about intellect, education or privilege—we are all gifted with the same brilliant nature. And in fostering our nature, we not only heal the wounds of the planet, we preserve humanity. A more conscientious, conscious and unified humanity.

Be compassionate with yourself. Don’t give up hope too easily. Don’t condemn or shame yourself and stop blaming everyone else. We are all so wounded. We have vastly different stories of our wounds but the remedy is the same for every single one of us —LOVE.

There are good cases to be made why someone else is responsible for your pain—but telling those stories doesn’t do anything but keep you imprisoned. Sometimes justice prevails, but mostly it doesn’t. We make our own wholehearted justice then and we begin by unburdening ourselves from the past, taking our experiences as lessons learned, adorning our heads with crowns of wisdom and showing up in the world ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

I realize this article may be lost on the fiercely intellectual or those who pride themselves on being stoic and unemotional. I hope not. There is something profound in this idea for you too—reacquainting with your nature. Your messy, passionate, beautiful nature.

Love yourself. Love the planet. Begin within.

what is soft is strong

Wisdom grows in quiet places..png

It is 4:28 am and after a losing battle with a mosquito, I’ve decided to get up. We’re on the coast of Uruguay at a time of year when mosquitos are not abundant but just one can make sleep impossible. No matter how many times I swatted defensively at it or reorganized the sheets creating a mummy-like tube to protect myself in, the mosquito persevered. My resistance was futile.

I’ve been contemplating the idea of resistance since November. I get a happy feeling when I think of the authentic power and wisdom that builds the movements of justice and love in the U.S. and all over the world. Though, I find a discrepancy between transformational movements and the word commonly used to describe them, “resistance.”

I understand its history, value and how it came to be though I worry about its limitations.

Words matter. They can encapsulate, inspire, control and liberate. And it may seem silly or too heady to consider the words encapsulating the current movement for justice, liberation and love. That is okay. This is merely an idea that has been nagging at me as I watch my country from a distance and people all over the world struggle to defend what is right and suppress what is wickedly wrong.

Clearly, resistance is about opposition. We oppose the racist, sexist, anti-humanitarian, anti-other, anti-environmental policies and practices of an incompetent president and his nefarious cohorts. We assert our disapproval for and rejection of how our country (and the world) is dismantled by short-sighted greed. We resist the bleak world these foolish few are forcing on the rest of us.

But resistance isn’t enough.

Resistance implies reaction rather than assertion. We use our bodies, voices and communities as impediments to prevent further movement of the destructive energy coming out of Washington, D.C. We stand between those anti-American (anti-human/anti-environment) policies and the not fully realized, sacred values of our country. It is noble. It is also unsustainable. Resistance is a front line action and it can only serve for a brief amount of time. No one can be expected to hold that line of resistance for the long haul. That deep-in-the-bones fatigue so many are beginning to feel will only continue, as long as we’re merely resisting.

The truth is, what is happening now is merely a highly concentrated performance of what has been going on as long as humans have roamed the earth. Even under democratic leadership, the environment was in danger; corporations had more power than the people; war for oil was sustained under a veil of “fighting terror” and the poor, disenfranchised and oppressed were still poor, disenfranchised and oppressed. To an arguably lesser degree under democrats, but neither right or left are saintly. 

It is easy to lose sight of how flawed all politicians are, especially those we vote for. Most go to Washington with good intentions but quickly realize how profitable it is and join in the sell-out-your-constituents game.

This phase we’re in is merely an exaggerated, accelerated and graceless version of what’s been going on all along. Pretending that the other side of the aisle is solely responsible for the destruction of the planet, quality of life and human health does not help the cause to protect humanity and the planet (economy falls under “quality of life,” it should NOT have its own header). We must see it for what it is: a repetitive story of how unchallenged power and greed corrupts hearts and distorts minds.

Whether it is a religious ideology sweeping across continents killing and converting people, or a political ideology sweeping across continents killing and converting people—people who have lost sight of their own humanity and good nature attempt to destroy it in others.

Resistance is a barrier. It has purpose in crisis but it is not capable of withstanding years of an opposing force. And while we tend to think this movement was sparked on November 8th, 2016, deep down we all know there was no beginning, only moments marked in history of critical shifts in human consciousness when courageous people were able to hold out long enough—overcoming the gravity of the status quo for a brief, but life-altering, moment.

This is not a new movement to oppose a new injustice. Nor is it a story unique to the U.S.

This is the long and arduous story of human enlightenment.

Regardless of your beliefs, or lack thereof, enlightenment is merely the process of waking up. Becoming conscious. Becoming self-actualized. It is the other side of the coin of evolution. Evolution is about adaptation for the sake of survival whereas enlightenment is the wisdom of life itself.

Our struggle is one of finding balance between wisdom and survival. And without wisdom, there is no survival so it is in our best interest to prioritize wisdom over everything else. 

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
— Confucius

It seems to me that this new phase presents us the opportunity to shift collective consciousness out of necessity. We can resist for a while, lose movement leaders as martyrs and make a mark in history. But, if this current political crisis were to suddenly end and we could go back to a time we didn’t worry so much about the fate of our country and the planet—would we be wise enough to prevent this moment from happening eventually? Would we go back to sleep in comfort and convenience? Would we feel less outraged because the political and corporate corruption was still neatly swept under the rug? Would we rest in our various forms of privilege because we hadn’t been outraged enough by the suffering of others? Would we continue with consumerism as usual because the impacts of climate change hadn’t yet reached our door?

Resistance is important but cannot be effective if we don’t do the rest of the work needed to shift humanity in a direction led by wisdom. This moment in our existence is marked by insufficient wisdom across the board. Tribal and indigenous elders are ignored, politicians seem increasingly incompetent, Twitter is a form of official government communications, everything is “breaking news,” and we spend more time cultivating our public persona than we do our character. Wisdom doesn’t drive most of us right now, reaction does. 

For much of the last 6 months, I’ve carried a slight depression around with me. Even though I am on this adventure and I “should” be drunk on the privilege of taking a trip like this, I’ve not been able to shake the worrisome reality of the world we’re living in. 

Stepping away from my cozy life in Portland has given me countless opportunities to feel uncomfortable. Culture shock, challenging my own ethnocentrism and learning how the U.S. is perceived by other countries and cultures—all things I expected and looked forward to. But I was disheartened to find less wisdom and more consumerism abroad than I'd imagined I would. Throw away culture is everywhere, even in the Andes and the Himalayas. Streams, beaches and mountainsides, even in remote places, covered in millions of plastic pieces, bags and bottles. Dogs, birds and cows chewing on plastics laced with salt—a hint of nourishment. Compassion between people and animals/people and planet observably lacking nearly every place I've traveled to, including the U.S. 

Suffocated wisdom has led to pollution of the planet, the body and the mind. Everyday we make choices that are not in our own best interest. Sometimes we make difficult choices between two unfavorable options. But mostly, our choices are based on comfort and convenience, not wisdom. And it is the unconscious choices we all make every day, often out of ease, that are contributing to the concerning trajectory we are on. 

I decided to stay present with it all. The state of the environment, the state of my country, the state of all the places we visit and the state of humanity. I stayed present with it and it was uuuunnncomfortable. I felt the depression puncture my energy, my spirit and siphon my hope until I stopped resisting. We have to be willing to put up with the rain if we want a rainbows. 

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
— Jiddu Krishnamurti

In staying present with everything that causes me great heartache, I realize that I cannot fix any of it with resistance. The solution to all of it can only be found by softening the protective layers around my heart and cultivating wisdom. 

I no longer resist the new administration in my country in an effort to stand my ground—I now see everything as interconnected. To resist one aspect means resisting all the joy, love and wonder dreadful pieces are connected to. So, for me, it is no longer enough to resist, I now seek to transform. Using my power, in community with yours, to reduce hate, fear, apathy, arrogance and greed into compost for growing a just and harmonious world. 

It is possible. 

I grappled with the simplistic notion that to stop resisting might equate to acceptance or denial. For some it could, but for me, choosing not to resist is about choosing to be present with everything—not just my outrage, but more so my power and my ability to rise, persist and reclaim. Resistance isn’t even about fighting back, it is about assuming an opponent will make contact and being strong, stoic and immovable so his movement stops once it hits us. Resistance is about becoming rigid and that is dangerous. To be rigid is to suffocate our own energy, making us fragile to force. But, to be fluid and flexible allows for reshaping the energy we are opposed to. 

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.
— Lao Tzu

I can’t speak to specifically defeating wickedness in politics, but I have a sense of how to defeat it in myself and wisdom tells me that whatever I do to enlighten (no matter how small or unseen by others) is reflected back into the world as my contribution. Understanding that there is a devastating lack of wisdom in the world—resulting in the myriad of crises we are in today—we must, actively and without delay, engage in practices that cultivate copious amounts of wisdom if we want to make this upcoming quantum leap.

choosing lesser technology

Last week I traded in my smartphone for a $25 cell phone that does not have a data plan or wifi or any of those features. It will take some getting used to. I'd grown comfortable with the mini-computer in my pocket for the last few years. Although, truth be told, I didn't utilize all the bells and whistles on the smartphone. 

I started to grow concerned that my smartphone was causing me to lose my ability to be still in any given situation. It had become a reflex of perceived boredom. Use the phone in lines, on buses, when my lunch date went to the restroom. It was a way to redirect that discomfort of being still. After nearly a year and a half riding the bus to and from work, and recognizing that on each of those rides nearly 90% of the people on the bus were face down in their pocket computers, I started to feel a stirring inside me that grew louder each time I took note of the masses around me, myself included, stoned by the cell phone. Once I noticed it, I couldn't stop noticing it. 

One particular day I stood at a train station during rush hour and saw a magnificent rainbow igniting the gloomy spring sky. Sheer joy and amazement washed over me as my inner child came out to express glee in the brilliant show. And it was heartbreakingly remarkable, too, that the other 15 or so people waiting for the train, all missed it because they were enthralled by something on their cell phones. 

heart work is hard work

It is in times of tragedy that we are tested the most. This is how we learn to rise, become resilient, foster compassion, grow our integrity and see the truth for what it is. These moments happen to everyone in some way--some more public than others--but we are all tested. The purpose of these tests is not to encourage competition or retaliation. These tests offer us the opportunity to dismantle the ego and let more light into the world. The world needs more light

It is in tragedy that our hearts take center stage. We come together. We rush to aid those who are suffering or wounded. We find ourselves in a state of unity more than any average day. We see each other as brothers and sisters, sharing a trauma bond. We are more alike than we were yesterday... more alike than we will be tomorrow. And in that alikeness, we are family

But, as the acute quality of the tragedy fades, so too does our living primarily through the heart. We grow less concerned for the wellbeing of others as we fade back into the isolated know-it-all intellect that is primarily concerned with popularity, accumulation, appearance, getting ahead (even when it means stepping on others to do so), being right and winning (a war, a comment thread argument, an election). 

It isn't until the next tragedy strikes that we are catapulted back into wholeheartedness

For too many of us, we require tragedy to feel deep compassion for others. And it is often juxtaposed with feeling angry, victimized and desiring vengeance towards the people or nature responsible for the tragedy. Once the shock of the tragedy passes, along with it go our Earth-moving feelings of community and love. Not true for everyone, but for the vast majority. The intellect distracts with a shiny new object and we're off... chasing that new thing, far from heart

The struggle between wholehearted living (ruled by love) and survival living (ruled by fear) is both an individual and collective one. While there are many people working tirelessly to increase survival by way of better laws, justice for victims, gun control... this work doesn't get to the root of the problem. Far too many people are so terrified all of the time they cannot think clearly, reasonably or lovingly and they act from this place of deep, destructive fear. 

When tragedy strikes, it is natural to suss out where the threat is and extinguish it immediately--that is what the survival mind does. The problem is, the threat is almost always invisible. All we can see are the symptoms. A person who goes into a night club and murders forty-nine people, is a symptom of a society that is caving in on itself. A society that seeds people with fear from a very young age. In a fear-driven society, some people will grow up to be self-destructive while others will project their suffering on to others. But some people, will step out of the pattern all together--not by accident but by pure will--to reject the status quo and carve out a new society. One rooted in love. 

The root problem is in how society is orchestrated (by whom and at what price) and its impact on individual and collective psyches. As individuals, we contribute to this problem by buying whats being sold without scrutiny, repressing critical thinking, choosing willful ignorance, puffing ourselves up in a Trump-like manner while uttering the narcissistic mantra that "The U.S.A. is the greatest country in the world," increasing our bad habits and addictions to deal with our pain or growing deeply cynical as a way to protect the heart from more shock and disappointment. The cards are stacked against us for breaking free of this. But, if we want a different society, one where gun violence is not the norm, we must do the hardest work on the face of the planet: Become wholehearted in spite of all the suffering and chaos.  

Heart work is hard work. People know this when they poo poo it. It is so much easier to write off compassion, vulnerability, empathy and reflection as "wimpy" than to actually do the work. The issues in the world have everything to do with people not knowing how to get in touch with their emotions, and not having the skill to apply healing love to the places we've been wounded. As a result, wounds fester and they become the lens through which we see and interact with the world. 

We don't know how to be still anymore and stillness is a critical component of peace and harmony. In fact, we're programmed to avoid stillness, writing it off as boredom. We're constantly and noisily marketed to and that takes a toll on the psyche. Stillness is where we refuel, connect and ground--without it, we float through life like a plastic bag dependent on the wind. When we don't make regular time for deprogramming and self-reflection, we grow ill. And in a society that normalizes every kind of illness (even some ills that didn't exist until there was a pill for it) with the pushing of drugs, it is much harder to recognize that we are quickly moving beyond the boiling point. 

And some people snap. 

With each new violent attack by someone with a gun, I wonder when we will grow angry enough to wake up and hold the true source of the problem accountable. Instead, we focus all of our anger at the person pulling the trigger. We are distracted by the symptom. Gun violence gives the ego someone to hate and in those chaotic and shocking moments of terror, we need someone to hate. We are quick to distance ourselves from the person who caused the suffering. We are compelled to dehumanize the perpetrator, label him and to sentence him in the court of public opinion. But the source of the problem remains in the shadows, untouched by our outrage. 

We don't have to make sense of a senseless crime. We don't have to feel compassion for the people committing the crimes. But, if we want this madness to end, we have to take a big step back and reflect before adding more noise to the newsfeed. We have to get in touch with our feelings and take inventory of our own behaviors. We have to be willing to connect to Source in a meaningful way--where we can be rejuvenated and cleansed of external chatter and propaganda. We have to open our hearts instead of closing them off and recognize that everyone in the story was once an innocent child. The world shapes all of us and some people need a little extra love. We're so busy being busy, it is sometimes too late before we realize there was discombobulation occurring in someone's psyche over a period of years, maybe decades. 

The solution to the madness requires shining a light on aspects of society and, our own lives, that we don't want to see. To apply a mixture of truth and love until we unravel the coping strategies and deceit. Then, we can restructure our lives and society with a clear head and open heart

The solution is not easy. The solution is to do things differently. To "[b]e the change [we] want to see in the world." - M. Gandhi. These are not sweet words on a bumper sticker--they are words to live by. And it all begins with self-love, self-compassion and self-reflection. We can ban the weapon, but the problem will remain. So we also have to be willing to be present with the ambiguous truth of our situation. We have to be willing to see how we are being programmed and that some of us are struggling terribly. It behooves us to care about people who are struggling. It also behooves us to admit when we, ourselves, are struggling

The United States is in serious adolescent trouble. A young, self-obsessed country with little desire to self-reflect much deeper than a selfie or a viral tweet. The U.S. has been responsible for a great deal of suffering around the globe for many years (if you look into the dysfunction and violence of many places globally, you will find the U.S.'s involvement) and this country is accountable for a disproportionate share of global warming--with little evidence of collectively changing our ways. And yet, the "news" and our leaders continue to pitch a story that isn't based on reality and most Americans buy it gladly. This country is a contradiction and most other countries are well aware of of our self-aggrandizing and the reality that we are not the "hero" but rather, a global bully. 

So it does not surprise me that people snap. It deeply saddens me. But I do not see these gunman as lone gunmen. I see them as programmed by a deeply dysfunctional society. Many hands pull those triggers. 

By waking up, we change the story. By becoming conscious to the truth and seeing the delusion for what it is, we disarm violence and the people who profit from it. If we want more love, we need to practice LOVE in our day-to-day lives. A hard ask during election season when nothing about it has anything to do with love. But, this is how we heal the problem. We take inventory of our lives and make adjustments. We disconnect from society's programming and plug into Source (nature, God, what ever you want to call it). We stop practicing narcissism and seek out character-building opportunities. We don't avoid discomfort, but move through it with determination. 

Positive change is within our power to create, with simple choices every single day. Moment by moment. Thought by thought. Make your mantra love, not revenge, and you will contribute to ending violence. The more people who do the same = metamorphosis.  

It is possible. 

Similar but not the same

This being human is a trip. We move in and out of delusion until we take our last breath. A teacher of mine recently shared with me the Buddhist idea of forgetting and remembering. And how humans spend most of our time in forgetting. This makes a lot of sense to me. 

What is it that we forget?

We forget that we are made of stardust. We forget that we matter, that we are miraculous in our biology, creativity and our intellect. We forget that we deserve love, that we deserve to be fought for/advocated for/believed. We forget that the world is a beautiful place, full of divine moments that in our forgetting, we’re numb to the awe of it. We forget that we have to ask for help from others and God (or whatever you want to call the source that sustains life). We forget that when we ask, we will receive. In our forgetting, we repeat mantras of self-loathing and being a victim--and the Universe responds to our mantra--always giving us what we ask for.

When we remember, it is like a wave of gentle love that washes right through us. Often times coming after a storm and it cleansing us from head to toe. We remember all the wonder and beauty of existence and we ignite with the light that results from knowing (not thinking) we are LOVE, we are lovable, we are worthy, we matter, we are special, sacred, beautiful. When we remember, the world reflects these awe-filled knowings back to us--because our mantras are about love, connection and understanding.

Then we forget again. Until we remember… and forget… and remember.

Each time we remember, we shift. We move from a cyclic pattern to a spiral. From above and below it looks like we're moving in the same cycle again and again. But, when we get perspective, when we step away from our “good and bad” perspectives, we see the intricate spiral we’re creating with our intention and effort to remember more often. Patterns look the same for as long as we need them to. For as long as we hold out on learning the lessons forgetting offers… and until we embrace the blessings of remembering.

And as we circle back around to a wound, a trauma, a story… it feels, looks and smells like the original pain. It is so similar that it is difficult to remember, it is not the same. How we respond to it, if we apply our forgetting or our remembering, determines our growth in the moment. We cannot jump out of the lesson, which we all try to do with a bevy of habits and addictions that offer instant forgetting. For peace and movement, we must be present with what is… and remember.

Strangely, it is the remembering we fear. The admitting to ourselves of our own inherent beauty, brilliance, importance. Certainly, remembering brings with it things we’ve kept in the shadows for a long time and reuniting with those pieces of ourselves can be deeply painful. But the pain is temporary and by being present with it, can we release it for good. Only in remembering can we replace that previous source of pain, with inspiration and wisdom. It is the difference between taking a painkiller to numb the pain (forgetting) or healing the disease itself (remembering).

The pull to forget and engage the world from that place is intoxicating. In part because that is where our addictions live. It seems like an impossible notion that we can have a different story, release triggers, and eliminate patterns that don’t serve us. But we can. We just have to work at remembering as much and as often as possible.

Today, I remembered. And I am grateful.

Making space for forgiveness

Sometimes I wake up with a thought about an unresolved conflict. It could be something that happened years ago, or just yesterday. Before my eyes open fully, I have to make a conscious choice to not entertain that thought and replace it with something else. Something that will serve me well. I don't always succeed. 

When the conflicted thought successfully seduces me, I end up ruminating. It is a strange sort of relief, in the moment. I perfect what I would say to a person with whom I've had conflict, if I had the courage/if we could redo the conversation/if if if. It feels as though I am smoothing the edges off a jagged piece of wood with my rumination. The trouble is, this seemingly innocuous practice has notable and immediate consequences. 

After a bout of rumination, I feel irritable and it is difficult to be present in the moment. It is as if rumination is an intoxicant and it takes time for the affects of it to wear off. It helps to seek out inspiring (perspective building) stories to bring me back to center, do something physical or meditate. 

Its taken me years to recognize that rumination has no value. It is a way to hold on to pain and stories of pain (which may or may not be completely accurate). It is how I stay tied to experiences where I failed myself in some way--most likely, by not standing up for myself. And, rumination fosters the notion of victimhood which does't permit the opportunity to step in to my power. 

What I practice now, after sobering up from a rumination binge, is to write down what happened as objectively as possible (this can be difficult because our own story gets in the way). Then, write how I felt about what happened. Next, write what needs of mine were not met by what happened. And finally, what I would do differently next time (there is always a next time). 

This is the outline of empathetic dialog and in this case, I engage in it with myself. The other person doesn't need to be part of it and often, we're not able to include the other person for what ever reason. This practice has been helping me recognize my behavior patterns including beliefs that call certain personality types, with whom I don't mesh, into my life. 

There can be a fifth step in this self-empathy practice. Writing down how I imagine the other person might feel and what needs were not met for them. Of course, we can't know for sure how they felt, but this practice softens the heart and invites compassion in to the story. Instead of seeing the other person as wrong, mean, the bad guy, etc. we make space in our psyche for the possibility that this other person is human, has feelings and may also have regret. It is at this point when we can forgive them. Forgive ourselves and forgive the situation. 

This morning's inspiration: 







 

immediate relief from the woes of the "busy" mind

Each of us has the power to add value to the world. And this value is not determined by how we make a living, the clothes we wear, our status, or our credentials. Nor is it determined by our ability to exert power over others and nature. Our truest value is in choosing to bring love, peace and comfort to others in spite of politics, religion, economics, distance, difference or the difficulty and (sometimes) delusion of our own story. 

Thank you Care.org

Do yourself a favor, watch this video

Marianne Williamson is a brilliant and connected woman who sums up what I feel, believe and practice in this video.  We are in the phase of existence where each of us has to decide which path to practice.... the path that stems from love and leads to wholeness or the path that stems from fear and leads to extinction.  It is a decision made not once, but moment by moment. Choosing to be conscious to life, your life, means pulling away from the drunken gravity of habits, addictions and stories that keep us from moving forward. It is hard. It takes a lot of effort. It means being uncomfortable, often. It means daily self reflection (not self criticism). Not only is it worth if for the big picture... but our own lives are transformed with each minor or major adjustment we make to align ourselves with love. 

positive thinking: handle with care

For a number of years I've been trying to land on my own understanding of the "think positively" philosophy. It became a thing to question after I realized there were people who scoffed at the notion that positive thinking could do any good--instead, some insist that positive thinking can lead to negative outcomes because, they say, it denies the suffering of reality.

My experience has been that positive thinking is like a rope in a high-walled well. It offers the opportunity to pull ourselves to the surface when encouragement or a break from suffering is needed. The surface being the place where we have perspective and can breathe. The surface is also the place where we can choose the next steps of a path forward rather than in a circle as the well would require. 

Inside the quiet and contemplative

The older I get, the more I recognize what my needs are. I think this is pretty standard for most people. In the last eight to ten years, my need for rejuvenation and contemplation have grown exponentially in importance, replacing the need for socializing I had in my twenties. I consider myself an outgoing introvert. When I am in social situations, including work, I am social and wholly engaged. But it takes a lot out of me--though I admit there are exceptions to the rule. But for the most part, I prefer to spend non-work time in as unsocial a setting as possible. Preferably surrounded by nature or animals. 

rain

This morning I arrived to the train stop with a twelve minute wait. I had a momentary inner-dialog wishing the wait time was shorter. After all, it was pouring down, sideways rain. The thought came and went with no germination--I noticed it and let it go. My cell phone battery was drained forbidding me a tool to pacify myself with so, I found a spot and stood quietly until the train arrived. A few minutes later, a woman dressed in designer clothes, walked up to the stop audibly complaining. She complained about her umbrella, the rain and the nine minutes she had to wait for the train. She was so vocal I thought she was talking to someone else. Her complaining continued on and offered me the chance to practice non-judgment.

I couldn’t help, though, calling up thoughts of my friend who, within the last few days, said her last thought-provoking sentence. I thought about her in the recliner in her living room surrounded by her husband and children as each day, now hour, draws her closer to her last breath. I thought about the less than three weeks she had to prepare for her death… how quickly she went from investigating horrible stomach pains to hospice.

I thought about how much she loves the rain and how she might roll her eyes at the woman announcing all the things she does not approve of. I thought of the conversation we might have, as we have so many times before, about the hyper-distraction mode most for us are in and how we lose the present moment when we can’t make peace with what is.

In thinking of my beloved friend, I became aware of the wind kissing my cheeks and the dance it shared with my hair. I recognized remarkable emotion in the sky and felt the air move into my lungs as if each breath were the most important breath of my life. I imagined the poem my friend would choose to accompany this scene--something so perfect it would most certainly give me chills. In this waiting time, I became conscious to the moment. A fleeting consciousness, as they all are, but something I may not have had the train arrived earlier or if I spent energy focusing on the displeased woman.

increase your well-being...turn off the news

I have been on a bad news diet since August.  I cheat a little here and there but I seriously limit how and what I consume.  I feel terrible when I consume bad news. It depresses me, fills me with anxiety and worst of all, leaves me with a feeling of dread about the world and the future.  On the other hand... when I consume good news I feel connected, hopeful and energized.  So, what's the deal?  Why doesn't mainstream news balance reports with good news of the day? 

There are countless reports and articles on why good news is rarely, if ever, reported.  Some blame the lack of demand by viewers and that is probably partially true.  It is a market and it's product is determined by demand.  But I'd say the motivation for bad news reporting has to do with the the bottom line.  Fulfilled people don't make much of a profit for hospitals, the sick-care industry (aka health care), pharmaceutical companies, companies that sell anything at all, the war industry or the political industry.  Fulfilled people aren't easily convinced into supporting agendas that harm people, the planet or greater good.  

People are hungry for good news!

We have been programmed to believe that it is our civic duty to remain abreast of the news, so we do and we pay for it with a chronic feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and dread.  It shows up as irritability, a short fuse, addiction, road rage, depression and anxiety--to name a few.  The news as we know it, tells a fearful and ambiguous tale, and fails to offer people- and planet-affirming resolutions.  The thing that makes mainstream news "bad" isn't simply that it is negative, it's that it intentionally evokes fear in viewers with a long term goal of using that fear for profit.  Of course, this is my opinion but I think it's highly plausible.  No one can (or should) try to stay abreast of all the world’s news and we couldn't if we tried, because the news is incomplete and inaccurate.  It is one vantage point with blinders on.  It is a scam aimed at marketing fear, not observation or fact, to the public. 

Bad things happen.  But so do GREAT things.  As well as neutral things but, we’re not going to get the spectrum of community and world happenings from the news as we know it.  Humans are designed for conflict, we can handle it.  Conflict in news isn't an issue. What we cannot handle is the "not if, but when" propaganda that pushes the nervous system into overdrive. Yes, scary things happen in the world but fear will not solve any of them.  War will not end terrorism, drugs will not cure cancer, stress will not end heart disease and pouring hopelessness and maddening political banter into every living room in America will not stop gun violence.  The solution to all of these things will be found in the peaceful, quiet mind. 

I suspect fewer and fewer people are carving out time each day to unplug, recharge and reclaim a peaceful mind.  I have more peace of mind and hope without news in my diet.  I get news from my community rather than from CNN and I assert my boundaries when people try to download the world's woes with me without my permission.  After they get over an initial judgement of my opting out--we have a meaningful, witty, solutions-focused conversation about life and the world around us. 

The news doesn’t have to be bad!

Typical news is deceptive and sadly, it is up to each of us to change the channel.  But, the good news is, GOOD NEWS abounds. Even though good news is less reported and recorded than bad news, if you look for the good... you WILL find it.  There is good in every moment, the responsibility is ours to look for it.  It may not be a headline or flashy and that is okay.  Good things rarely are as loud as awful things but they are just as transforming. 

Life is too precious to spend it filled with worry and fear.  For all the bad things that happen in the world, there are far more good things happening.   The more people consume good news over bad, the less bad news there will be.  The more people feel content, safe and peaceful, the more peace and safety there will be in the world.  The next time you want a news update, choose one of these outlets:

The Good News Network            Gimundo           Huff Po Good news            Today - Good News           Daily Good

Sometimes you have to look a little harder but if you take the time to find the good, in even the worst situations, you will... find the good: 

Pianist Plays 'Imagine' Outside Bataclan, Uniting Parisians In Moment Of Peace


nice happens

nice happens

I've been too nice lately. Its a trap that opens when insecurities flare up. Its not the trap everyone falls into. Some people fall into the other end of the spectrum, covering up insecurities with bravado and a bark. There are as many traps as there are people in the world. For me... nice is the problem. 

I cringe when I am referred to as "nice." People mean well (they are probably being nice), but when it happens, I take it as a wake up call. An opportunity to examine the holes I've been trying to fill with approval from other people. This weekend has been all about assessing my current state of self-confidence/esteem thanks to hearing the concern of a co-worker who sees me as "too nice." She's right. I've been too nice.