Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Climbing The Mountain

June 8, 2012

I’m climbing the Spiritual mountain. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard.  Each step though is my step. Each handhold is mine also. Sometimes I stumble. Sometimes I go backward.  On really hard parts of the path I take two steps forward but go one step back. How I envy the mountain goat that can jump and leap and dodge these rocks and stones with nary a miss.

Along the way I have help.   Some of it is very good but some of it is suspect.

After trudging for a whole day I come to an overlook and I am immediately in awe of the view.  The horizon recedes in various degrees on mountains, lakes, trees, birds, and other natural beauty.  I sit down and try to take it all in.  Everywhere I look is another new and amazing sight.  I see a taller tree, a prettier bird, a clearer lake and a bluer sky. After a great while I pick up and begin anew on the spiritual path.  I realize that I found this path as a trail from the my main path.  It’s a path that I feel intuitively. In the weeks ahead I come across many sideline and divergent paths that lead to beautiful little nooks, and crannies, and grand vistas of awe inspiring beauty. I also find little shrines, and temples and synagogues.  I find chapels and churches and Grand Cathedrals of Holiness.  Each holds me in a transfixed state and I am hushed to humility and quietness.

Eventually I make my way back to the my true path and I realize that I have only been going around the mountain.   In short, I’ve made almost no vertical ascent.  I can see that I should stay mostly on my path and eschew these sideline trails and paths.  As wonderful and as holy as these places are, I realize that they don’t really lead me anywhere. I resolve to be more steadfast to an ever upward spiritual ascent.  If I come to a beautiful spot or a supposed Holy Ground, I recognise it but move on. To stay at these places is a dead-end.  I begin again.

I come to a landing that has many, many books.  The books appear as bibles, religious text, sacred writings, and ancient scrolls from all of the world’s religions.  I quickly recognise and pick up the main book from my geographic background and upbringing. I peruse through it and like what I see.

I start to follow it’s teachings again and it’s like a map that leads higher and higher up in the mountain. I’m starting to feel like I’m making headway and that the summit is near.  I come upon a winding stream with big canopy trees and foliage. My path leads right through it and I’m coming to a corner of the path to turn through.  As I turn the corner I am amazed at what I find.   I’m back where I started. I’m again at the landing with all the religious books and texts.  “How did I get here,” I think to myself. I sit down and ponder my situation.  I look at my book and find that it’s old and tattered.  It looks different now.  What initially appeared as an Authoritative guide has now turned to a useless book.   I quickly look at all the other books and texts and realize that they are old and tattered also.  I open another different book and look for the path given by that book and realize, “It’s the same path I just took.”   It slowly starts to sink in, “All of these books are just books and they all lead back to the same landing.”  Finally, I abandon the books and make my way for the path out of these woods and up the mountain again.   I realize after much thought that there are no sacred texts that are more important then a real reunion with God. I begin again.

As I ascend the path a brilliant light appears ahead of me at about a 45 degree angle. I have to arch my neck up just to see it. The light is emanating from some person.  I can only barely see through the light that someone is ahead of me. He has his hands folded in front and is sitting in the lotus position.  I call out to them, “Hey, who are you?” From the ledge a considerable distance above me a serene but authoritative voice answers, “It is me, your Teacher.  I’ve been sitting here waiting for you.” I become very excited because I’ve been looking for someone to show me the way.   It’s such a difficult journey and frequently I feel that I need all the help I can get.   The Teacher starts advising me on how to ascend to his platform.   The path starts to become  easier for it has obviously been walked on by others before me.   The Teacher keeps beckoning for me to hurry to him.

I’m getting excited because I’m halfway there and then I hear a voice from my immediate right about 30 feet away.   “Hey you. Where are you going?”  Another man is on an adjacent path but it doesn’t appear to be connected to mine.   “I’m going to meet my teacher.  I’m following the light that emanates from his being,” I say.  He calls to me to stop a minute.   “Please take another look for me will you.  I’m trying to find God and  I’m wondering if you can see his face? Is the light coming from his face?”   I can’t really figure out what he’s asking me but I look again and realize that I can’t see his face.  I see an aura of light emanating all around his head but I can’t see his face.  I look at the sideline climber again and say, “No, I can’t see his face. What does that mean?”  My adjacent climber friend shakes his head and says, “The light you see of the supposed leader is just a silhouetteHe’s standing in the path of the light of God and you’ve temporarily  mistaken it for God.”  I look again really hard and I realize now that my friend is right. I can’t ever actually see the teachers’ face even thought the aura of light is all around him.   I’m stunned  and realize that another illusion has interrupted my path.

I sit down and try to take it all in.  My adjacent climber friend has stopped also.   I look over to my friend and he sees my disappointment.   He calls across from our divided paths, “The Teacher, he’s not much farther along than you. He’s not at the top and he’s not cresting the horizon. If it was really Gods face, you would see his face and the light would emanate from his face.”   I nod my head and look  up the mountain again to the supposed teacher.   I turn and look again at my friend.   He calls to me and says,  “The Teacher is probably on his own singular ledge.   The path that leads to him is just a path to him.  He means well but has essentially stopped his ascent.”

As I regain my orientation I finally call back to my friend, “Hey friend, you were right.  I can see that you are on the right path so is it OK if I  tag along with you?”   He just looks a me with big sorrowful eyes.  Finally his gaze meets mine directly and he says, “No.  My path is mine and yours is yours.  Each of us has an absolute singular path. Each of us must follow that same path back.  When we left God we each left by ourselves.  Some ran down the mountain, some rolled down the mountain and some of us, like a big lazy river, just meandered down the mountain.  I happened to have JUMPED from the mountain and that’s why you see me now climbing the face of the mountain.   Follow your intuition and you’ll find your path.   Again, some of us jumped off the precipice and now we have to climb the face of it back up.  Your intuition will tell you your path because you’ll remember it as the path you took coming down.”  Before I could beg, plead or debate it with him he takes off and leaves me to my own thoughts.

I rested awhile and reviewed my friend’s words.  As I eventually start treading up the mountain again I realize that he was right.  If I jumped off the precipice, I have to climb it. To follow him is just a lateral move. The energy, time and space is exactly the same as pushing forward up the side of the mountain. I can see now that some people can just walk up the mountain but some people must straddle the face of a cliff.

As I come even with the teacher I can see that from his position that no path upwards exist.  The only path is the one I was on and that only leads to him.  I look along that path now and can see one person descending the trail to make it back to their own path.   Frequently those leaders will make their encampment on an adjacent ledge and proceed for a long time to regale themselves with their following and congratulating themselves with their level of attainment.   I realize that someday that teacher will descend his own path down and renew his real path upwards. More importantly he will make his path alone.

I can’t pass any judgement because from this height I can see that my own trail has ebbed and flowed, descending and then ascending again like waves. There are no books, places, or people that encapsulate God.  They are really just reflections.  I rest awhile….and then I begin again.

“We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes.”

                                                              – Amos Bronson Alcott
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Water, Land, and Religion

March 30, 2012

In 2005, a movie called “The Corporation” was released.  In that movie they told of the Water Rights Movement of Cochabamba, Bolivia.  Apparently in the year 2000 the water was privatized and Law #2029 gave the water rights to a private company. The broadness of this law debatably gave the company control of people’s irrigation systems, personal water wells, and even the rainwater. The protest movement of the Coördinator questioned whether God’s rainwater from the sky could ever be properly or rightly owned. Eventually the people of Cochabamba had their own water rights restored to them, The “Corporation” book/movie was certainly highlighting the overreaching control of corporations. I have since been informed that the rainfall water rights of Western America are controlled by the Government and related water corporations.

In 1626 Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from the Carnasee Indians for gifts with a value of 60 Dutch guilders.  While this has variously been described as being worth $24.00, when it’s truly adjusted for inflation it’s a sum more than $1000.00 in today’s market.  The nearby Raritan Indians supposedly sold Staten Island at least six times.  This probably means one of two things: the Indians either knew what they we doing or they didn’t understand what property rights were.  There’s no evidence that either party attempted to swindle the other but it seems to me that the Indians must have at least pondered what was going on.   Did they in fact wonder whether they could also sell the moon, or the sunshine and the stars?  Did they think the land was being leased?   Again how can land be owned?  Does anyone anywhere have the deed from God?  Did Mother Nature give anyone the title to those resources?  Isn’t it really just a manmade invention.

Mankind has an inordinate desire to own things and this has even been seen in our Spirituality and Religions.   Many people want to OWN God, to make him their own.  Religion has become a possession. “In my church….”,  “In my religion….”,  “In our beliefs….”!!!  It’s a natural expression of wanting to belong to something and to have that thing belong to us.

I feel that we should release our feelings from the temporal qualities of this world and realize that we are just passing through.  Yes we should adhere to God’s laws and we should be part of the community and we should love  one another but beliefs of ownership polarizes us.   You and me, yours and mine, us and them are just examples of claiming God’s world as our own.  Mankind frequently does that to control others and to control resources.

It also undermines our real relationship with God because we put others up as intermediates to God and others put themselves up as intermediaries to God.   No person, group, institution, or organization has greater connection to God than your own self.   God wants me to ‘remind’ you that your greatest connection to God is your own Self to God. No one anywhere can speak for your needs better than your own Self to God.

Lastly, I hope that we can realize that we walk through God’s rain, we travel through his Land. The rivers and mountains and streams are his domain. God’s plan is his alone and we can’t own it, change it, amend it or control it. We are stewards of God’s land and we can walk through it but we will never own it.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books”
                                                                                                                                                                 – John Lubbock
 

Astrology: The Mirror

September 16, 2011

These are my observances, thoughts and opinions of Astrology. First, what Astrology is not.  It is not the daily horoscope as commonly found in the newspapers.  If you pay a dollar for advice you will get a dollar’s worth of advice(shades of instant karma).  If you read the daily advice column you can usually be certain that it won’t be about your exact concerns and problems. Dear Abby doesn’t apply to everyone all the time. Why don’t these columns and horoscopes work?   Because each and every human being is different and unique.  Every Astrology Birth Chart is different. Even the stock market page advises each person to consult a broker for real financial advice.

In my opinion(which varies with much of the Astrological community) Astrology is not a  psychic instrument and  forecasting the future can be difficult and challenging.   In short I don’t particularly find it to be a great instrument in predicting the future.   However it can be useful nonetheless.   Just as I might look at the weather forecast or the stock market trends or the political landscape I can possibly draw likely scenarios of the future.  I just can’t do so with certainty.   Three days out and the weather can completely change.  There are too many variables to read to make completely accurate predictions.  

It is not a religion but is it part of the spiritual as we all are. It is not science but it is mathematical and exact. Between religion and science it has become an outcast of the modern world. 

 In truth Astrology shares much in common with psychology. The famous psychologist Carl Jung used Astrology. A fair amount of psychologists use Astrology.

The stars do not determine our fate, they mirror our personality and reflect our likely dispositions. Our fate is still determined by us.

What the Astrology Birth Chart does do is to mirror our world.

The actual birth chart is like a snapshot of the most important moment of your life, the moment you were born. Truly the most significant moment of your life.    If we had a big enough camera and snapped a picture of the universe from the exact time and place of your birth the picture and the birth chart would look the same.   It would show exactly where the Sun, the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars were at that exact time/spot where you were born.  This is why it’s a mirror.  It’s a reflection of how you view the world. 

So why is Astrology so hard to understand?   One, because all of the planets and houses need to be understood in their own context and in relationship to one another.   This would require homework for the true student to understand the whole picture. Another reason it’s so hard is the planets describe ourselves as energy.   This is a difficult idea to understand. It’s even more difficult to describe.  How do we describe a waterfall or a bonfire?  How can we describe steam or electricity?   How can we describe a hurricane or a sunny summer day.  But in our lives we all know people who are like emotional waterfalls, fiery bonfires, hellfire hurricanes or beautiful sunny days.   Any worthwhile system takes time to get a comprehensive view.

It worth it for each individual to have their own chart calculated and interpreted by a reputable Astrologer.   Only by doing this can others understand.  It’s a soft science in that judgements and interpretations are determined just as a psychologist does in his evaluation with patients. It’s a science in that the Birth Chart has to be calculated from the persons exact time and place of birth to determine that exact placement of the planets at the time of birth.   Several books have to be consulted to calculate the chart(an ephemeris, a table of houses). The cost is minimal compared to the knowledgeable information.

A QUICK ASTROLOGY INTERPRETATION OF MY CHILDREN(please read to the end)

I can’t go over both of the children charts and there is too much in each chart to post on even one site.  I have culled from the interpretation of a book called “The Only Way To Learn Astrology”. This is actually a very common book that can be found in any New Age bookstore or even in Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Only-Way-Learn-Astrology-Second/dp/1934976016/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1316101288&sr=1-1

Here is their birth data.   In using the book a person would read up on a planet/house combination and see if it fits the respective individual. The relevent parts that pertain to them I will have in bold and italics print.

Date                     Time             Place

Daughter:

Jan. 5, 1993,   10:31 AM  EST,  Port Huron, Michigan   Placidus House System

Son:

Aug. 6, 1993   08:10 AM EDT,  Monroe, Michigan   Placidus House System

For my example I have used the Moon indicating the mother figure(also the sign of Cancer) and the Sun/Saturn representing the Father figure.

First my son:

He has a Moon in Pisces in the 8th house. The 8th house and PISCES sign are both indicative of secrets.   PISCES is also related to the 12th house of things hidden from others.   This 12th house is also the house of secluded or private institutions like prisons, mental institutions, monasteries or hospitals. For our purposes it means an absent mother or secret mother.

My son has the Sun in the 12th house(house of secrets or isolation) which can also mean an absent or secret father.

My daughters information is even more direct and with one exception is quoted exactly from the book with the relevent page and line numbers.

MARS IN CANCER Page 171, line 9 of the paragraph

“Mars in Cancer can lead to an early separation from the mother”

SATURN IN THE 12TH HOUSE Page 216, Line 9 of the paragraph

“With harsh aspects, your father may have faded out of your life early”

Her Moon is in Gemini which could be interpreted to mean two mothers.

These sentences and interpretations fit nicely into their real lives because:

The children have never known their respective birth parents because my wife and I adopted them as infants.

It’s also possible to have one’s chart done online and to buy the books and read up the interpretations on one’s own.   It is absolutely important that the DATE, EXACT TIME TO THE MINUTE, AND THE PLACE BE EXACT. Even so I would still highly advise that a person consult a reputable Astrologer for the best interpretation.  When we look at ourselves sometimes we fudge the truth and this is another reason to consult an Astrologer personally.

nosce te ipsum     (Know Yourself) 

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.
                                           – Aristotle

Spiritual Book Review: Dating Jesus

August 30, 2011

The Spiritual Book reviews actually covers ANY book that has any spiritual/religious insight or meaning.   Slight Spoiler alert: If you are an ardent believer in God and your personal faith and feel that your faith is sufficient than you may not want to read anymore.    I personally believe that God is working everywhere all the time.  I believe that God is teaching things in those individual religions for an individual instruction to fulfil that person’s total reunion with God.  Sometimes though God wants us to grow in other ways and we may have a path that is less than traditional. 

“Dating Jesus” was written by Susan Campbell and published in 2009.  In trying to write an honest review I have to be truthful about the less than good things about this book.   Please keep in mind though that I feel the book is meaningful and worthwhile to read otherwise I wouldn’t write a review at all.  

1. The book could have been longer, it was only 205 pages long.

2. She skips important and meaningful things in her personal life that probably had a direct impact upon her religious/spiritual values.

3. The larger development  about her faith is questioned as to whether it crumbled away or a full-blown spiritual realignment occurred. 

I believe that the editor and publisher should have compelled a greater input and direction for the answers to the above shortcomings.  

There….I got that out-of-the-way.  I don’t like being negative but at the same time if it’s the truth I can’t paint over it and let future readers believe that the book  is supremely great.  It’s just merely GREAT.

I admire Susan Campbell for her courage to write this book. It’s very honest account of growing up in a bedrock, good as gold fundamentalist religion from Missouri, the back bone of middle America.  This is not altogether a book about spiritual growth as much as it is a book about the spiritual realizations about her own faith that she was raised to believe in. She still believes in God, but differently.

As a child growing up she followed her faith and did as she was asked.  She was Baptised and then Baptized again.   He community, her friends were almost all belonging to the same church. She and her friends would proselytize door to door to find new members.  Frequently she made clear to others that belief in God and Jesus were not sufficient, that their church was the one true church. Any other church wouldn’t do.  She attended church three times a week.  That was an important facet of their social world.  She became an excellent Bible student and would attend Bible camps.   It soon becomes apparent that Susan Campbell does know her Bible because several Bible quotes are referenced throughout the book.  

As she states so aptly, “”So begins my memorization of vast snatches of the Bible-Old and New Testament. I can recite the books and the apostles and the Beatitudes.”  Her teachers proclaim, “that girl know her Bible.” 

Her realizations of unfairness and differences came as she watched her brother ascend to a beginning ministry position.   It was made clear that she could never do that or be that. Further dashed hopes were the differences in the sports area.   The boys were encouraged and applauded.  The girls were merely tolerated.  One was real and earnest, the other was just entertainment. When Title IX was enacted to promote equality in high school sports some things even changed.  It still took a long time to bring about even a semblance of fairness and equality.

The most important thing that I learned from the book is that in 1909, two bothers named Lyman and Milton Stewart, compiled a number of religious writings of the time and published them as The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. It was originally a twelve volume tract that essentially defined and gave birth to the beginnings of Fundamentalism.   These books were then sent FREE  to several ministers, missionaries, YMCA and YWCA  secretary’s, College Professors, Church superintendents and other like-minded leading Christians throughout the United States and the World.  While many of these ideas are  subject to great debate and controversy I believe that the authors intentions were sincere.   I am not an advocate of fundamentalism but  I understand now how these ideas became so widespread even though many themes have non-existent or debatable reference in the Bible and even the exaltation of the Bible. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fundamentals.

The other main point of the book is when Susan Campbell goes back to Missouri and visits with her brother and his family.   They attend church while she’s there and she sees that it’s different….very different.   The church has modern musical instruments while her original church didn’t even have a piano.   The choir doesn’t have that familiar closed four-part harmony.  It becomes obvious that many members don’t really know their Bible, at least not like her and her brother did when they were kids.  

This realization becomes something that she realizes is lost.  Not just for others, but herself too.  She laments and regrets that at one time she had total and complete conviction, total religious understanding, total purpose and spiritual meaning in her life.   There was NOTHING grey or fuzzy or uncertain.   Her religious life had purpose, meaning and direction. 

In moving from children to adults,  in seeing reality intruding, we observe that things are not always what we have been taught. Sometimes, such as in Susan’s case, we question ourselves and the so-called values we’ve been taught.   We try to find real answers for real questions.

Many of the things Susan has been through have occurred in many others, myself included.  I applaud her courage and vision to dispense with the old even if she doesn’t have a replacement of new values and spiritual understandings.   That’s what takes real courage.   She didn’t switch, she didn’t just change religions or try something else.   She just evolved and grew.  That is FAITH.   She truly is letting go and letting God work it.  

Even with all the things that I think I know, I pray that I will be able to discard my old ideas and rise to new understandings. I know that even now I’m relying on old ideas that are probably just a bridge to new understandings.

I rate this book an 8 out of 10 stars,    ********.  

Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl.      ISBN:    978-0-8070-1066-2

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
                                          Confucius

Faith(102)

July 1, 2011

A famous entertainer had developed a habit that upon arising in the morning and taking care of the morning preparations he would stand in front of the mirror and recite special affirmations.   These were personal and uplifting and filled with love and appreciation.  He was a great star and had great faith in himself and his abilities.  Unfortunately his life ended with less than satisfactory results and social approval.   I’m purposely not revealing the name so as to not besmirch the individual.  The reasons I cite him in this post though is because I question “What went wrong?”    If he had faith how did his life end differently than what he would have wanted? I’m not sure if he had faith of if he was living in an illusion.

A  young adolescent boy about nine years old was asked one day “Son, what do you think faith is?’  He looked up and said plain as day, “Faith is something you believe in even thought in your heart you know it really isn’t true.” <(Source Unknown)   It’s hard to really pinpoint exactly what faith really, really is.   We know it when we see it but again it’s not really something you can hold in your hand.

According to Merrium-Webster Dictionary:

Definition of FAITH

1
a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2
a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3
: something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>

I am intrigued by 2b(1) “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

When I think of Jesus baptism  and his travails in the desert for forty days and forty nights, wasn’t he examining his faith?   When he prayed in Gethsemane and expressed that this cup be taken from him, was that doubt?

Faith is the belief in something outside of ourselves.  In many ways it is denial.  It is living outside The Consciousness of Now.  It is Future Redemption. It is Something More, a Greater Reality and Something Ahead and Something in the Future.

Again I say the our faith has to have Substance.  It must be Real.  It must be made Whole. The Entertainer was in some ways living an illusion, maybe his faith was misplaced(himself), maybe he also had contradictory thoughts throughout the day that voided his faith. Many many people have had misplaced faith and illusions.  Many of my friends and relatives have invested heavily in dreams, illusions, hopes and fears that I could see were bound for failure.   Frequently too, after the fact, they politely let me know when I had believed in a false Ideal. I also have seen people express great energy, vision and faith and proved me wrong.   Are those having the greatest faith just madmen living in institutions?  Are those that live in a purely materialistic, faithless world living on an island?  Should our faith be more practical? Now comes some of the favorites words that I like to say, “I don’t know…..”

I invite your input here about illusion, practicality, and faith. What are your experiences?  This is something that I need further imput on. It’s something that I am constantly trying to figure out.  Do I lack faith or do I just not want to believe in the wrong. I obviously do have faith because I have endured many, many trials in which I realized “Yes, Yes, you were right in your convictions!!”

I do have an absolute faith so allow me to quote from one of the most direct, simple, practical visionaries of our time:

I am looking for a lot of men who have infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.

                                                                        -Henry Ford

Empathy(102)

June 28, 2011

After my teenage introduction to empathy I proceeded along in life and more growth.   I did try to be empathetic with various individuals and although I was better than before I realize now that I was still a novice.  It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I got my next lesson in empathy.  I hate saying there are empathy skills because that goes against the whole grain of humanness.  Skill and empathy shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

I had joined for a short while a group that tried to help people with their problems.  This volunteer group was a group that was started around the local university in the 1960’s.   Their basic modus operandi was to take anonymous calls from people who seemed to be immediately experiencing problems or depression.     There was a rotating crew to handle the phone lines.  A caller might get a different person every time.  Dependency was to be discouraged but if people needed to call back again then so be it.

When this group was started it was at the height of Viet Nam, political upheaval, emerging drug use and experimentation,  the arrival of birth control  and with it free love.   Broken relationships, bad drugs trips, social disorientation were common everyday events.  The calls were anonymous for both caller and receiver.   Part of the reason was to ensure confidentiality.   The other reason was to help people open up and also to keep people from being dependant. If its anonymous it goes to the grave and no one knows. I heard about the group and it sounded like a great helping and learning opportunity.

I attended the two-day orientation and sat down in the auditorium.  Methods, rules and expectations were discussed for the potential members.  I was assimilating these things when the next most important life lesson in empathy occurred before me.   They proceeded with onstage demonstrations of caller/responder episodes.   Since it was visual and there didn’t need to be any phones they had the caller/responder sit back to back.  This aided us, the audience, because we still wanted to see them speaking but also it helped us concentrate on the voices as supposed phone calls.

I listened to the first caller and she was having a relationship problem.  She was pouring her heart out and the responder was giving these short, terse answers.  Now this is where the first disconnect with me came in.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  Truth to tell, the problem as I saw it was that the responder didn’t give any answers and I didn’t understand that.   As a man I’m a problem solver, a fixer, a repairer of anything with only baling wire and duct tape.  In a quick man’s synopsis I surmised that she should “dump the bum.”

The second caller/responder came on.  This caller was “higher than then a giraffe.”  A drug induced dialogue ensued.  The responder basically inquired on the caller’s safety and security. He asked what drugs the guy was on and if he was going to be OK.   The druggie rambled on and he sounded like he was lonely.   Again the quick, furtive responses were given and then the caller finally hung up.   In my mind I couldn’t figure out why the responder didn’t say “Hey dummy, don’t do drugs. They’re against the Law.”

The third caller came on.  He said that he sometimes contemplates suicide. In fact though he was still far from suicide.  The responder made the inquiry if that was an immediate condition(possible suicide) and found out it wasn’t. Again the responder replied in short “Uh huh” answers.   He listened and listened and listened.   There was no solution.  This guys life was a mess.  I didn’t know what I would’ve said.   Finally the call ended.  It did appear that the caller was feeling differently after the call.

The mediator came out and asked what had happened, did anyone notice anything.  A woman to my left said “He didn’t gave any answers.”   Everyone starts talking, “yeah or neh.”   I’m thinking it’s a failure, where’s the helping hand.  As the sound tones down the mediator says, “We don’t provide answers.  That’s Ann Landers job.   What we do is try to give people their voice,  we let them talk and that’s why they called.  They want someone to listen to them without judgement, acrimony, or fear.”  My second “empathy lesson” light was coming on.

The Volunteer Group’s job was helping people through right now, to carry on to tomorrow.  They didn’t believe in answers because of several reasons. Each human being should discover their own answers.  Frequently no one right answer exists.   None of the people were licensed psychologists or counselors.  To provide a so-called answer was against the law.   Instead references and directions were made for various forms of professional help if people were open to it.

To summarise the Group’s philosophy, they Validated people and they recognized their problems as real and urgent.  The means to reply wasn’t to give answers, it was to listen and communicate the worth of the individual. Their talking style was to say, “I understand, I feel for you, you’re important, your feelings are important, your ideas are important.”  That doesn’t mean that they never used the NO word, they did.  The object was to allow the caller to Vent their immediate feelings, to somehow come to grips with their own problem after a sometimes emotional discourse and then the caller could begin to SOLVE their own problems.   Frequently it would never make it that far.

What I learned was that solutions were out.  The other person’s thought’s and feelings are just about more important than anything in the world.  To facilitate this dialogue certain words and sentences are used to compel the caller to talk EVEN MORE.  The best way to get them talking is for the responder to talk almost as little as possible and to use momentum pushing words.   I’ve made list of the phrases and words and sentences that best accomplish this.  These are not my own but they do push the caller along. These are the MAGIC WORDS:

un huh

yep

really?

you don’t say!

tell me again!

for true!  (a southern expression)

what did you do next?

that must have been terrible, (or heartbreaking, difficult, taxing, frustrating, unbearable, embarrassing)

I hear that!

why!

what then?

you feel how?

I’ve done that too, many people have!

me too! (indicating their not alone)

whose says?

Each sentence is about 5 words or less. It’s important for the caller to go through the emotional catharsis first and then IF a solution can be found by the CALLER  they can make it their own.  Most of our solutions will be useless.   Again as I stated in another of my posts this is why therapy takes so long. The therapist is trying to guide the patient to their own conclusions.   This is the only way they can own them.

“To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.”

                                                                                                                 – Chinese Proverb

When you listen, what do you Honor?

June 13, 2011
I’m trying to tell her but she just doesn’t get it.  She brushes me off. I explain again. I try to make her see how crucial this is to me.  I become more emphatic.  She ducks and dodges and weaves from my finest arguments.  Finally, I really am arguing and she is too.  Our voices get louder and more and more sarcasm enters the picture. Finally we both are in full-fledged battle.   We break apart……and lick our wounds. 
 
It’s taken me a long time to understand how most of us have learned to communicate with one another.  We learn from our parents. We learn from TV and the movies. But most of those experiences don’t really reinforce positive communication.  From the media, movies, and TV world, positive communication is not good drama or entertainment. A most striking example is the English Parliament where insults and embarrassment appear to be the standard fare. The resolutions appear disappointing if people resolve things without acrimony.
 
Frequently when people discuss things, their focus can be on winning, scoring points, laying down the gauntlet, embarrassing their opponent. Sometimes it can manifest as absolute and total denial.  People want to preserve their identity and their illusions, particularly about their own image. Especially in America where we definitely have a whole sports culture that says that winning is everything. Every issue is engagement.
 
In marriage, relationships, and sometimes the work world this doesn’t work well.  We can’t run over our spouse, dominate our kids, and do whatever we want. 
 
One way to have a more adult relationship is to be “continually & willfully mindful” of what we are saying and what we are doing. I call this CWM.   When I fix this thought with a little axiom I can then fix it in my mind.  This CWM can be hard to do since our upbringing has indoctrinated us by TV and Movies to act less than our best.
 
Recently(the past two years), I’ve been trying to not honor power, force, sarcasm, winning and self-righteous behavior. Not that I consciously honored them, that’s my point, but that I have been taught to honor them.  I’ve been trying to pay attention to how I talk, how I sound, what I mean when I say certain things. 
 
I’ve made a list of conflict resolution arguments that I stay away from. Most of this list if from TV, Movies and personal experience. It’s a lengthy list of “don’t do’s” for avoiding arguments and staying on track, getting what you want without resorting to boorish behavior. It’s difficult to do.
 
 
It’s important to not:  use sarcasm
It’s important to not: use knee jerk reactions,  in responses or baiting.
It’s important to not: change the venue, “Another thing you did…”          
It’s important to not: use name calling, “Doodlehead, Crazyman,…”
It’s important to not: use Demonizing or Polarization, “You did..,” Us vs Them
 
It’s important to not: use one-upmanship behaviour, “At least I am…….”
It’s important to not: use a negative tone, another form of sarcasm or disdain
 
It’s important to not: use a cavalier manner or attitude 
It’s important to not: use impunity, “That’s too small to even worry about!!”
It’s important to not: Gesticulate, arm waving, finger-pointing, giving the finger…
 
It’s important to not: use tagging, “Yea, Jim is that way.”  indirect positioning
 
It’s important to not: use inverse tagging, “I’m the good one.”
It’s important to not: use Short Shrifting to undermine others 
It’s important to not: use  Buckshot Charges, “You did A, B, C, D, & E.”
It’s important to not: use Blanket Denial, “It’s ALL WRONG, the WHOLE PACKAGE”
 
It’s important to not: use Stonewalling, (defensiveness) 
It’s important to not: use Stiff-Arming
It’s important to not: use “So What” Answers, People’s feelings, ideas & opinions count
 
It’s important to not: use Brush-Off Answers
It’s important to not: use Plausible Deniability
It’s important to not: use Punt, Fumble, Out oF Bounds Answers
or Arguments
It’s important to not:…………..
 
There are an endless supply of bad arguments and answers.
 
I’ve been trying to shift to good responses, earnest responses, and real answers to real questions.  I found that it wasn’t enough  to just agree with GOOD ANSWERS.  It wasn’t enough to just try to work with people.   I had to HONOR the sensible way out.  I have to lift that good measure up as an ideal and make it and keep it real.  
 
I realized from my list of conflict resolution arguments that it’s real easy to mess up and it’s extremely difficult to stay on track and resolve things honorably. 
 
The things that I HONOR now are civility, kindness, dialogue, others input, truth no matter the source.  It’s important to value the merit of ideas regardless of another’s high or low status.
I’m willing to take the short disappointments because now I’m playing the long game.  Not as a game but as a way to treat others and myself honorably and respectfully. 
 
P.S. This is a work in progress for me.
 
Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.
                                         -Mary Wortley Montagu
 
 
The shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be; all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice and experience of them.”
 
        -Socrates

Empathy(101)

June 4, 2011

I was thirteen. I knew as much as any other thirteen year old boy which was almost nothing. We were crossing the football practice field on the way to my house.  My friend Jon was recently broke up with his girlfriend.  “What am I going to do now?”, he said. The breakup was not his idea.  He had been sullen and quiet all day. “I was really starting to like her a whole lot!  Do you think I should call her again in about a week?”   I started to say “Yea” but I didn’t really know and in fact I actually didn’t really care.   I didn’t really know what to say so I punted and said, “Gee, I don’t know.” I didn’t know anything way back then. Jon clammed up again.

We finally get to my house and sit down at the kitchen table. My mother comes in, says ‘Hi”,  and proceeds to take care of the dishes she had washed earlier. I’m talking to Jon and he really isn’t responding. My mother senses that something is wrong and asks Jon point-blank  if he’s OK. He blurts out that “Nancy and I broke up with each other.   She wants to see other guys.”   My mother just looks at him and then she says, “Really, did you want to talk about it?” He says “Yea.”  She sits down and him and her start talking.  He starts talking about Nancy.

I just sat there.  My hands propping up my head, my eyes going back and forth with their words.   I didn’t really want to do this.  I didn’t even know it but I was afraid to “go there.”

At this point an amazing thing happened.  I started to see. I listened and saw that my best friend, Jon, actually had very strong feelings for Nancy.  I saw that my Mom knew how to talk to him and how to listen to him.  I saw my friend and I saw my Mom in a totally different light. They talked for about 40 minutes.  For sure my Mom had talked to me like that before but she was my Mom, that’s what Mom’s do.  I didn’t know she could talk that way with others or that it was even acceptable. 

 My Mom saw a need that wasn’t food, wasn’t warmth, and wasn’t security.   She saw that my friend needed some solace, he needed a balm.  Her words weren’t magic, in fact I can’t remember one sentence that stands out from my memory.  She somehow managed to find out how he was feeling. More importantly she allowed him to vent his feelings and to validate them. She listened to HIM.  She affirmed that many people have had the same feelings. She shared some of her own experiences and knowledge of boyfriend/girlfriend stories.

He still didn’t feel great, but I could tell that what my Mom had said, had made an impact on him.  Finally he turned to me and said “lets go back to my house.” We left and made our way across the practice field.  Jon turned to me about halfway across and said without judgement that “the way your Mom let me talk and explain myself was the way I wanted you to talk with me.”  At the time I fumbled some sort a of an apology.  Inside I knew he that was right. What good are your friends if they can’t lift you up or support you?   But for me at that young an age, I didn’t even know what the word was for what had happened.  Later I learned the word was Empathy. The word means “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another(Dictionary.com).”

My Mom showed me.

My friend told me.

The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.
                                                              -Meryl Streep

Spiritual Perseverance

May 29, 2011

Recently it was brought to my attention that “I’ll never find what I’m looking for.” The point was made that it’s obvious that I’m searching and I need to settle. I disagree, no surprise here. I’m not purposely trying to surf or spin. I’m not trying to say I’m constantly dissatisfied.  I’m not trying to be obstinate. 

Much of what people think that I need to settle on is “an external object.”  What’s my book? What religion am I in?  Who’s my Savior? What teachings do I adhere to? I believe that I’m a spiritual being and that you are too. 

I once read a story(recalled to the best of my memory) about a CIA analyst/Salt Treaty Advisor that was being interviewed on the history of the cold war and the US/Soviet Arms Race Buildup.  He was questioned at length about the cold war, what it was, how it happened. The interviewer finally inquired on the Advisors’ role in the Salt Treaty.  “Since you’ve worked for about 25 years monitoring the weapons and the Russians, why are you working with them now, what is different now?” he asked. The advisor put down his coffee and looked the interviewer right in the eye, “Yes, you’re right, I’ve been at this a long time. Most of my career, in fact. The difference today is that the Russians now are actually going to give something.”  The interviewer looked at the analyst and said, “You mean you have sat in your chair for twenty-five years just waiting for the Russians.”   The Analyst smiled and said “Yep, waiting for them to give something of value, something of substance and something real.  Everything before this was just words, research and posturing. We now finally, after twenty-five years, really have something we can hang our hat on.”

That’s the way I feel.

Part of what I’m trying to say is “We aren’t there yet.” How can we be since the world is so divided?

Spirituality is a process, not an object. It has no beginning and no end.  I or we, will never arrive.  We can stand still(an illusion), step back or step forward but no matter what we are in constant spiritual flux.

I, as much or even more than others, would love to find that spot or Ideal realized. Like a moth to the flame, wouldn’t any of us sacrifice ourselves for greater and total reunion with God.

My position is not anxiousness, it’s Patience. It’s not wanderlust, but the insistence of Spiritual Certainty.

I believe that our greatest communion is self to God, our greatest values are worked through our community, and Truth & Justice transcends Religion and Borders.

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

                                                            – Matthew 18:20

Spiritual Capitalism

April 18, 2011

My friend Scott had recently turned his life over to Christ.  He told me, “Yea, by accident I overheard a Christian radio show at the pharmacy that asked its listeners if they were prepared to go to Heaven.   They talked about going to Heaven or going to Hell, what would be my choice, so I chose Heaven.”  For awhile some of my coworkers and I had to endure a continuous monologue of “I got mine. You better get yours too!!!”  As the weeks droned on I finally told him “Scott, you sound like a Spiritual Capitalist.”

When I said that, a little light went off in my head. I realized that actually some of Scott’s outlook is good.  What I realized was that actually we do want to invest in our Spiritual Life.  But not as solitary agents or beings.   The upshot as I understand is, “we are all in this thing together. That our Salvation, whether self or others is absolutely tied up in others.  No man is an island, no person can do it alone.” 

Our investment can be reading the Bible, studying scripture, and analyzing Spiritual things.  I believe though that our greatest “investment”  is in each other.  We should be nurturing our developement, helping one another, sharing lessons learned, and teaching Love & Respect.  It’s a communal thing.  If we want to understand God we should know that no person shall be left behind. 

I’m going to tell an experience here that I wouldn’t ordinarily share with anyone because I would consider it boasting.  My kids don’t know, my mom doesn’t know and my wife doesn’t know. But for example I wanted to share what I belatedly realized was to be a Spiritual Investment:

I was driving down the five lane Base Line Road.  All of a sudden I saw a fairly old woman standing beside the road with her bags and her four-point cane. Her grey hair was blowing wildly in the wind and she had her thumb out facing the traffic.  I initially thought “Oh my goodness, what is she doing, does she want to get hit.”   No one hitchhikes on this road. It was very unusual and I barely swerved around her.  As I passed I looked in my rearview mirror and saw her turn and stridently start hiking behind me, very determined and hurriedly. I almost never pick up hitchhikers but sensed that this woman actually did need some help.   I carefully slowed down, put on the brakes, looked for traffic and put on my emergency lights. Then I opened the passenger side door and watched as she seemed to take forever ambling up to my car. 

She got in and we talked, she had a German accent and was half out of breath.  I told her it was unusual to be hitchhiking on this road, and asked what was going on?   She said that she had just had surgery a couple of weeks ago and that she desperately needed to make her next appointment.   She had missed the bus and needed to catch the next one on Delaware Avenue.  I volunteered to drive her there(I was in no hurry for anything).  We talked and we talked and actually found out that we had some shared beliefs about life.  We developed a great rapport in a couple of minutes but knew that it would soon be over.  I dropped her off and told her,”If I don’t see you again then we’ll meet in the hereafter!”  She started laughing and said, “Sounds good but hopefully not to soon!”

We should become Spiritual Capitalists. We should invest in the Spiritual, invest in humanity, and invest in each other.  Thanks Scott.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

                                     – Mother Theresa