Monday, August 1, 2016

What will it Take?

What will it take?

What will it take to move you, to move US, from a place of certainty, to a place of openness to evidence, to a place of possible changed opinion?

As we stumble through this ghastly election battlefield, I keep coming back to that question. My FaceBook feed is full of political memes and messages regarding candidates; their potential benefits to the nation, their views and more often, their missteps and political sins.

What do we think we are accomplishing when we post these images and words? I suspect we hope we may make someone think; that we might just offer an issue that generates pause and causes them to research and truly consider their vote. We want to make a difference. We hope to gain another voter, perhaps, that sways the election in the direction we desire.

But how many are those among us who will truly free themselves from ego and conditioning to critically analyze the information? I remarked yesterday that I grew up in a staunchly republican home. My dad was pro anything the professional republicans promoted. I fear his loyalty was more based on identity and emotionality than researched ideology. That makes me sad.

But the truth is, I was so indoctrinated that I thought words like "democrat" and "left" were dirty until I was older and in a place to think and research for myself.

Neither "democrat" nor "republican," "left" nor "right" are dirty words. Alliances that are well thought out and researched are respected by me and others who are capable of exercising their muscles of critical thought.

Are you open to evidence? Are you willing to research and critically asses the information put before you? Are you able to resist the mob rule of the American political climate? Can you put space between you and your ego and make a well-considered choice?

Below is a bit of a post I wrote a few years back regarding knowledge of the universe and its laws. But it applies to the political landscape as well, and is appropriate now as we consider our political opinions and alliances:

 "We are an arrogant lot. We think we know; we think we understand. I'm pretty sure we don't understand much of anything. I suspect we get about one half of one percent of what there is to know...if that. My opinion is not that we're stupid, but that the body of knowledge to be known is so vast, that it's simply outside of our grasp. But this is not a statement of hopelessness. Quite the opposite in fact! What beauty and hope lie in a universe that offers more than we can ever aspire to realize. 

The practical side to this is, we can't think we know. Our minds must constantly be open to and aware of new potentialities. When we think we know, we're sunk. Don't be the arrogant guy. Don't be the one who digs his heels in the mud during a debate and refuses to entertain the possibility of being wrong. In wrongness lies creation, potential, and growth. Our egos tether us to an opinion and belief. Let go of the ego and soar on a jet stream of possibility."

And so, it is with these words that I challenge each of us to be open, to consider, and to use our heads when assessing our choices.

But above all, be kind. Remember to love. Remember that even those candidates with whom we disagree are human with souls and an eternity that stretches before them, just as it does for us.

Love is about people, not about opinions or ideology.

What will it take? 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The True Self and Examining our Conditioning

Just yesterday, a friend and I were speaking over lunch about how each of us is subjected to forces which have the net result of conditioning us over the course of our life. We all experience it in one way or the other; in both grand and subtle ways.

We are conditioned to behave in a particular manner, depending upon a host of factors; our gender, race, culture, and socioeconomic status, among others. Oftentimes, we don't even realize that our actions, thoughts, and beliefs are in fact, a result of and reaction to our conditioning. We come to believe that we behave or think in a particular way because, "That's just the way I am," instead of digging deeper to understand the forces that created the thought or behavior within us.

But living consciously requires us to examine our thoughts, behaviors, and motivations. It requires that we evaluate the truth of who we are against the measuring stick of who we wish to be. And it requires that we become accountable for closing the gap between the two.

What would happen if we challenged our conditioning? What would it look like, and how would it feel, to rail against the notion of, "That's just the way I am," and forces ourselves to consciously examine why we behave and believe as we do?

I strongly believe this to be a worthy exercise. Along the way, I suspect we would learn much about our values and our true identity as it manifests at our root. It's important to ask the tough questions. Do we behave in a particular manner because we hold some distorted view that it's noble to do so? Or do we truly act according to our own personal values and beliefs? Have we taken the time to sort through our values to determine which are truly integrated into our being and which are artifacts left over from our upbringing and societal conditioning? Do we believe and behave as we do because it sits well with our soul, or because it was another's view of how we should behave?

I've said before that if we are open, we will become aware of road signs on our journey. One way to become aware of the role of conditioning in our lives is to be aware of our use of the word, "should." Recognize how often it's used and in what cases. This word is a caution sign of sorts. It very often signals a gap between who we truly are and the messages we have been supplied through our conditioning. If we pay attention to the use of the word, we can discover amazing insights into our inner life. Use the information wisely. It's a great springboard for further self-discovery.

It is my desire to examine every bit of my being. To understand, to grow, and to be aware of my effect upon others. One way that I've begun is by taking an inventory and considering the role of conditioning in my life. My hope is that you will do the same, and perhaps share your thoughts and insights.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Ridiculous Power of the Subconscious

About two weeks ago, I started a new job. I was motivated and excited to be invited into the company I am now working for. But I was nervous. You see, it's been nearly four years since I've worked in an office outside of my home. It's scary going back to an office environment after being your own boss for so long!

What worried me most was the need to conform to someone else's idea of how my day should look. Specifically, I was worried about getting up very early each day to be to work on time. I'm generally a morning person (much to the annoyance of many of my friends), but I'm also a bit of a perfectionist. I absolutely wanted to be certain I'd never be tardy to work.

So the night before my first day on the job, being the pseudo-over-achiever that I am, I set not one, not two, but three alarm clocks. Yes, you read that right, three. Come the next morning, and the pre-ordained sacred hour of 5 a.m., my beside table rang out, sounding something akin to a nightmarish version of a carnival carousel gone awry. Nothing, nor anyone, could have slept through the cacophony  of bells, chimes, and tunes that sent me nearly soaring out of bed. Things had gone as planned. I was up and ready to go.

That night, the alarms were reset to do their job for the next day. But this time, as I drifted off to sleep, I kept reminding myself that I had to be up by 5:00 a.m. Over and over, I kept rolling the time around in my head. The next morning, I woke at 4:57 a.m., unassisted by the demonic bells I had set up next to me. The next day? Exactly the same. Aaaaand, the next.

It seemed my subconscious had taken the suggestion of my wake time seriously and was ensuring my success.  Wow!

Of course, this wasn't the first time I had done this, and I'm sure you can relate to the experience. It's nothing unique or new. Many of us wake each morning just moments before our alarms are set off. But have you ever considered the mechanism behind the phenomenon? It's your subconscious keeping you on the path you have set for yourself. It listens to your intentions; to the self-talk chatter that rolls through your head. Even when you think no one is listening, someone very important is, in fact, listening intently. You!

Your subconscious will not disappoint you. You tell it something is so, and it believes you. It works overtime, under the hood, to ensure that your reality matches  your beliefs and intentions. This is great if you tell yourself that you need to be up early in the morning; not so great if you walk around telling yourself  you're stupid, ugly, or won't amount to much in life. See how that works?

Tell yourself you're an amazing employee, and you will become one. Tell yourself you'll never meet Mr. or Ms. Right, and you most assuredly will not. Tell yourself you're trapped in your life with no way out, and you will be. Tell yourself you are successful, and it will become so. It's not rocket science, it's just the way it works.

Test it. Try it out. See what happens. It's really not some new-age mumbo jumbo; it's how we're built and part of the way we work. We easily accept that our limbs bend and move as they do. We understand that after a certain period of time, we need sleep. We even recognize the limits of our memory. Why is it so hard to accept that our subconscious can guide our lives based upon the information we feed it? I don't feel guilty for going to sleep when I'm exhausted, and I'm not going to allow myself to feel odd for taking the time to affirm various things in my life.

Affirmations can have a massive impact upon our lives. They are just simply the things we tell ourselves; food for the subconscious. What variety of food do you feed your mind? I used to reach low on the shelf and choose the cheap, easy stuff: "You'll never become much," and "Life is too hard and gives nothing back." But these days, I'm treating myself to top-shelf brands: "You can be or do anything you want," and "You are successful and capable."

I've even gone a step further. In an effort to test the muscle of my mind, and lose a few pounds in the process, my new (at least twice daily) affirmation is, "I eat small portions of healthy foods." Sounds silly to say it out loud, but I've lost about eight pounds feeling goofy saying it each day. I'm willing to sound silly to harness the power of my subconscious, are you?

What will your new affirmations be, and how will they stretch and test the power of your subconscious? I challenge you to recognize the ways  you've programmed your mind to this point, and to make an effort to positively program it from this point forward. What you speak becomes your truth.

I'm down to two alarms to get me up for work each day now. I trust my subconscious, but prefer to have added insurance for the moment. They never actually ring. I still wake about three minutes before I need to wake and turn them off before they have a chance to shout at me. I still marvel at it. But each day, it's a reminder that I truly have the power to guide and shape my life, however I see fit. And each day, you have the same. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Paradox of Potential

"Potential” is one of those words that most often elicits positive feelings. Potential is possibility, and hope, and a sense of looking forward all wrapped up in one happy, smiling package. But what happens when potential becomes nearly overwhelming and transforms in our hearts and minds to paralysis? What happens when we see possibilities so vast that we simply cannot choose among them? And what happens when our focus of sight is impinged upon by so many opportunities cluttering our view that we end up doing nothing in the face of not being able to do everything?

Yeah, I know; sounds like a bit of a lame problem to have, perhaps. But to those who struggle with it, it can become a problem that seems to define life. There are those among us who see shining fragments of potential refracting from the edges of nearly every experience like the rainbow beauty shining from a fine diamond; so much so that it can be blinding and intimidating to walk among the chiseled stones. And sometimes, people hide.

Dabrowsky recognized this when he formulated his theory of positive disintegration. His theory seeks to describe personality formation, but extends to descriptive characteristics of people with high talent and consciousness. He suggested that these folks often see possibility in everything; they are said to possess “overexcitabilities.” These may be of an intellectual nature, sensual nature, emotional nature or even others. These overexcitabilities can sometimes take people to the point of being paralyzed and unable to act upon anything. These are people with great potential! People regarded as smart and capable of contributing to society in unique and meaningful ways. And these are the guys being thwarted by their own abilities! What are we, as a society, missing out on by not nurturing these folks to the point of sustainable action? An even bigger question is what can we do about it?

I’m great at posing questions; not so great at offering answers. But on this topic, I have a few ideas.

When a student in school is first identified as having a learning disability, there is a great flurry of activity. Parents are notified, meetings are held, pamphlets about the disability are given out, counseling referrals are offered, and accommodating class changes are proposed. Parents and caregivers tend to regard the news seriously, and recognize that their student’s success depends in part upon their investment. They know they will have to go a bit further.

In contrast, when a student in school is identified as gifted, the situation is a bit different. Parents are certainly notified and sometimes, accommodating class and educational changes are proposed. But by and large, parents often go home pleased as punch and breathe a proud sigh of relief that gives away a certainty that their student will be successful in school and life. This is where we’re missing the boat.

Students at both ends of the spectrum require special attention. I’m not suggesting that gifted students are disabled. But I am suggesting that they too require a measure of special handling. They have unique perspectives and vulnerabilities that are not currently being widely addressed. Much as learning disabled students have global ramifications stemming from their disabilities, so too do gifted students experience widespread effects from their abilities. It sounds a bit counter-intuitive. I propose this is why we tend to ignore the peripheral byproducts of ability while we focus on nurturing the academic. We simply must teach kids how to cope with the characteristics of being gifted, much like we teach learning disabled children methods to cope with their disabilities. We cannot assume gifted children will flourish simply by virtue of their expanded aptitudes.

If gifted children can be equipped early to anticipate and cope with some of the challenges (yes, I said “challenges”) of being gifted, they become better poised for success; better able to cope with their sensitivities, better able to understand themselves in relation to their peers, better able to focus themselves, and yes, better able to walk among the diamonds of possibility and potential. I believe anticipation, preparation, and understanding can loosen the binds of paralysis that imprison many highly talented individuals.

I happen to be associated with a community of people who describe themselves as “gifted and lazy.” My association with them is more about the lazy than the gifted part, I suspect, but they are kind enough to include me in their little enclave. It’s all tongue in cheek, but I’m struck by how true it is, at some level. Each of them is bright and creative and yet, each of them regularly laments their inability to get as much done as they’d like due to an inability to focus and know where to start. They see wonder and possibility in nearly everything, and find it hard to settle to a task. Imagine if they had been coached early in life on how to appreciate their vision of potential while simultaneously focusing their resources upon something specific.

Now in THAT, I see great possibility and potential for society.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

Today is Independence Day here in the U.S. Amidst all the hot dogs, beer, and fireworks, I hope my American friends will take a few moments to reflect on what the day really means. I hope they will think about how this country was born, and find thanks in their heart for the men and women who struggled to birth a nation, and for those who struggle each day to protect its integrity and freedom.

Independence, freedom and security. They all come at great cost.

We can be easily lulled into taking each day for granted; into digging the heels of entitlement deep into the sand and forgetting the price tag of blood and lives that has been and is being paid each day on our behalf. The birth of our nation was only the beginning.

Let's be thankful today and remember. Remember those who had the courage to stand apart and begin a new nation. Remember those who fought for ideals in the early days of our country. Remember those who went to fight when their country called and returned to an ungrateful and hostile land when they were done doing what was asked of them. Let's remember those who have fought to take the message of freedom and democracy to foreign lands. And let's remember those who struggle each day to protect our country and freedoms from those who would do us harm. Remember them all.

At the risk of offending my British friends (c'mon guys, you love me, right?), I'm posting a few fun videos here that help us to remember our early history as a nation. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did...they bring back fond childhood memories of watching them on TV as a fun way of learning history. And thanks to my cousin Michelle for reminding me about them in a Facebook post!

Happy Independence Day...and be careful with those fireworks!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Rise of Robots; Friend or Foe?

Computer components implanted in your body to make you feel, think, and physically respond more efficiently. Nanotechnologies awash in your blood as they circulate throughout your system repairing damage on the cellular level to keep you healthy. Artificial nano-cells replacing some of your red blood cells to enhance your immune system's defensive mechanisms. According to one man, a leader in technology, all this and more is on the horizon...and likely within your lifetime.

As a technology buff, I watched with awe the documentary "Transcendent Man". It is the story of Ray Kurzweil, a bright MIT graduate with a talent for invention and technology. He's a man before his time in many ways, and some claim he's a sort of prophet, preaching the doctrine of technology. However you view him, one thing is certain; he will make you think.

Technology is an amazing thing. It absolutely fascinates me and anyone who knows me will tell you, I absolutely LOVE gadgets. I'm all about keyboards and screens and cool applications that let me access huge amounts of information for which I'll likely never have any real use. Since I was a kid, computers have entranced me, and I grin like a schoolgirl in love when I read about the next new shiny bits of silicon. I won't purport to understand how they work. Honestly, don't know...don't care. I just love what they can do. 

But I've struggled before with the boundaries of technology. I've asked myself, how far is too far? Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should. This documentary found me of two minds, and struggling with this question, as I contemplated its message. 

My eyes grew wide with excited fascination as I listened to projections of how our bodies might be made stronger and able to outlast the current limitations of life. My geeky side was titillated even more so as we were invited to envision a world in which we live, work, and play alongside humanoid AI robots so life-like that it would be difficult to distinguish human from machine. But what is too far? And more to the point, what are the consequences of crossing that threshold and ringing a bell that realistically cannot be silenced? 

I'm all for change. I'm all for growth. And well, I could be wrong about the likely negative consequences of pushing nature to the brink. But when we begin to be so arrogant that we start calling our technological advances a form of biological  "evolution," I think we tempt the very power of the nature that placed in each of us the drive to create. 

I don't know the answers and can't even articulate all the questions, but I sense they are there. As I watched the experts discuss the possibilities and their criticisms, I was glued to the screen and noticeably uncomfortable simultaneously. There is a sense of momentum that seems to be building with regard to technology. Are we destined to gallop inexorably down a silicon path to the state Kurzweil calls "singularity?" I'm not sure. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Personal Story about being Wrong

There's more to what I was trying to say yesterday. As I read it over today, I realized that I wasn't very elegant in what I was trying to get across. Perhaps I should forgo elegance and just tell you a story. Actually, it's a very personal story. After the story, we'll revisit the whole bit I was trying to convey yesterday about  being wrong.

Nearly four years ago, I became suddenly very ill. Just out of nowhere it hit me. It seemed like maybe it was just the ghost of vertigo come to haunt me again, as it does every now and then. And then it seemed like I had just picked up a bad virus. A trip to the emergency room landed me IV fluids and the pronouncement of a viral infection. No big deal. But then, I wasn't getting better. In fact, I was getting markedly worse by the day. In the end, they plunked me in the hospital for five days while they poked about trying to figure out what ailed me. Eventually, they named the devil and it seemed I would recover, but it would take a great deal of time. I was told  to expect about a year of trouble as my body gradually got stronger and recovered. I was not a happy camper.

So, I went home to recover. First staying with some friends who cared for me and then returning home on my own. I was in a horrible state. Getting up to get a drink of water would literally take me an hour from the time I decided to do so as I had to muster all of my strength just to walk to the kitchen and back. Friends who came to visit would sometimes find me just gazing off into space and my brain was incredibly foggy.

Sitting at home, day after day took its toll. I became angry. Very, very angry. Now understand, people who know me say that generally, I'm pretty tolerant. I'm slow to anger and prior to being ill, had not actually been angry for a very long time. But I felt it boiling up inside of me. I was angry and becoming depressed. Something had to be done.

It seemed therapy was in order. After finding a therapist very close to my home, I began weekly visits with her. Together, we talked about my illness and about the undeniable anger beginning to rage inside of me. Honestly, I didn't know what I was angry about, just that I was. Looking back, I've come to realize that the anger was about my helplessness. It was about being ill, being in the hospital, and feeling like a non-entity. Being ill and in the hospital seems to take on a life of its own. A momentum builds as medical professionals try to sort out the puzzle and very often, patients don't feel in control. Well, I didn't feel in control, anyway.

The therapist I was seeing said something very simple, but very profound, about feelings and thoughts: A feeling is borne of a thought, and you can change your thoughts. Who knew? I mean, d'oh! Really? As I began to play with that idea and work to consciously mold my thoughts, I found she was largely right! Slowly, she began to introduce me to other concepts like positive thinking and the power of intention and using affirmations for strength and growth.

I was skeptical. It all sounded a lot like a bunch of new age quackery to me. And on top of it, I was/am a Christian! I had, and to this day still have, a strong belief in God. I was supposed to keep far away from all that seemed new age. But with all that time on my hands, home recovering, I had time to think. And I did.

Slowly, I began to dissect my beliefs and those of this new way of thinking. I refused to dismiss something just because I'd been taught to do so. The therapist talked about quantum physics, and Masaru Emoto's experiment with water. She introduced me to Louise Hay and affirmations.  The more I read and learned, the more it dawned on me. Learning about the laws of the universe and the way we are designed and work doesn't necessarily exclude God. In fact, if there is a belief in God, it's yet another reason to be grateful to Him for designing such a magnificent universe.

Here's the thing though. I've said it before and will repeat it here. I'm not in any way pushing upon you my belief in God. I have a belief in and a relationship with God. Whether that is your belief system is of no consequence to me in this context. But I'm making a point here. The point is that I could have simply chosen to dismiss some of the best information of my life because someone taught me once in Sunday School to stay away from "new age."

Who decides what "new age" is anyway? Heck if I know. I actually loathe labels.  What I do know is this: I was willing to be wrong. I was not so incredibly and ignorantly tied to something that I had to cling to it in spite of what my brain was telling me. That's my point.

With the willingness to be wrong, though, comes the responsibility to be discerning and wise. In the end, I determined that I simply could not subscribe to some of the beliefs the therapist offered. But that's okay. In fact, that's the way life works. It's like a smorgasbord of information, beliefs, and experiences. We get to pick and choose what we wish from the table, largely by how it sits with us.

See where I'm going with this? Just because we've not been exposed to something before, or we don't understand how it works doesn't mean it's not valid. Be willing to be wrong. Be strong enough to say, "I once thought this was right, but turns out, I was wrong. Now, I believe *this* is right." To be willing to let go of the ego and willing to let go of old beliefs that no longer work is to be willing to grow. To cling to old beliefs in spite of new information is to stagnate. What's your choice?

Turns out, I'm okay. I recovered and got back to something that resembles my prior normal self. And actually? As miserable as it was, I'm grateful for that whole experience. I was humbled and learned so much that I don't think was accessible to me before my illness. Funny how things work out.

So there you have it. Not particularly elegant or well-written, but hopefully it passes along to you something of value; the recognition that being wrong is often an amazing gift.