You Don’t See Color?

skin color
What motivates people toward an “I don’t see color” orientation? Have you ever heard someone say I don’t see height or hair length? With regards to color, have you ever heard someone deny the color of your shirt or your shoes? Yet, somehow when it comes to skin color, visual functioning is compromised. In my profession such a loss of contact with reality is considered psychosis.

I always find this peculiar. I see my skin tone in its unique shade as clearly as I see that I am wearing a black shoes and a blue shirt. I clearly see the various shades of skin color on the diverse group of people around me.

To deny something as fundamental to my being as my physical characteristics is to deny an aspect of my identity. I am a spiritual being in human form with specific biological and genetic traits – skin color, height, body type, etc. That is Who I Am; incarnated in this world, at this time, in this way, for a Divine purpose. That is to be honored, not denied. To do so is to dishonor the will of the Creator.

We must be honest about how we have been conditioned to think and feel along color lines. Recently on NPR, a group of black men were interviewed about being perceived as dangerous or a threat simply because of their skin color and the lengths they go to counteract this perception. One guest told the story of being questioned by police officers for being in the neighborhood where he lived. The officers were also black which accentuates the point that we have all been affected.

Racial conditioning in the United States goes back to the decision to use African people as slaves. Easily identifiable, the ability to escape captivity and assimilate into society was an impossibility. Regarded as sub-human and brought to the United States as free labor, not free citizens, to do the work of their masters, the status of being lesser than (3/5 human) was written into the original United States Constitution.

The media plays a powerful role in shaping perceptions based on color. The portrayal of black men in the film Birth of a Nation is a prime example. Released in 1915, it depicted black men as evil with a lust for white women who would ruin the precious South. A scene where a white woman hurls herself off a cliff to escape the pursuit of a black man clearly conveys the message that death is a welcomed alternative to such relations. The media continues to reinforce negative stereotypes of black men and women in ways that blatantly and subliminally penetrate the psyche.

An Iowa newspaper is facing accusations of journalistic racism as they published photos of one group of men accused of a crime in coats and ties and the mug shots of another group of men accused of the same crime. Take one guess at the color of the men whose mug shots were published. Visually, a mug shot links the man and the color of the man to criminality both consciously and unconsciously. Visually, the image of a man in a suit does not equate to criminality. Who thinks of a man in a suit as a criminal? Despite the Bernie Madoff’s, Ken Lay’s, Jordan Belfort’s, Ivan Boesky’s and Michael Milken’s of the world, who thinks of a white man in a suit as a criminal?

No shortage of such examples exist. While they often fail to register in the conscious mind, they penetrate the unconscious influencing and shaping our perceptions of those who look like us and those who do not and those who are lighter and those who are darker.

The efforts of many led to significant progress in terms of racial equality. We have made great strides through the legislative process but the human heart is not changed through the passing of laws. Sadly, given the manner in which race has been used as a psychological weapon politically it appears we are regressing. Much work remains in terms of racial equality, even more in terms of race relations.

In the years following desegregation, overt racism became increasingly socially unacceptable but little has been done to address the deeply entrenched beliefs and feelings associated with the color of skin, reinforced for hundreds of years and exploited for political, social and economic gain to the present day. Such attitudes have not gone away, just masked by denial and repression.

The psycho-spiritual damage created by racial conditioning then results in a pathology where people claim not to see what is self-evident. I believe the denial of color is an attempt at acceptance and open-mindedness; albeit a failed and destructive attempt that unconsciously and unknowingly reinforces the racist orientation it seeks to overcome.

To see skin color, especially dark skin is to reconnect with how we have been conditioned to think and feel about dark skin color. We must remain mindful that such conditioning along color lines rests uncomfortably in the fabric of the United States. It is in our DNA as a nation. It is individual, familial and ancestral. It is in the air we breathe and while it may not affect all of us to the same degree, it is impossible not to be affected in some way.

Seeing color produces psychological dissonance and serves as a gateway into the shadow of race; the socially unacceptable biases we have about those people that lay repressed, hidden, denied and, in some instances, known but disregarded.

Not seeing color is neither a compliment nor a statement of one’s commitment to diversity but a means of assuaging guilt and shame. It does nothing to transform the inner darkness of racial bias into enlightened honoring of differences. Actually, all it has done is created a peculiar psychosis.

The invitation to all who do not see color is to see it – its beauty and it’s Divinity. The invitation is to own denied biases born of racial conditioning and be with the dissonance. And, if you choose, do the healing work to free energies expended unnecessarily in denial and repression. Through this work, true acceptance and open-mindedness will be achieved and unconscious racist orientations overcome.

Posted in Culture, Politics, Psychology, Race, Society, Spirituality | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Humanizing Parents, Deifying God

Whatever we idealize betrays us. Where this is most profound is the relationship between children and their parents. We place expectations on them that are impossible to ever meet. As John Bradshaw once stated, we deify the parent and parentify the deity. Moving into maturity requires redefining our understanding of and relationship to both.

Individually and collectively, we project human attributes onto God. Typically, these are the characteristics and traits of those who serve as the higher power in our lives as children, our parents. We reduce the Creator of a vast Universe we cannot fully fathom to the limitations of being human. We have given God a gender and turned him into our father. While this makes incomplete sense on a symbolic level, I prefer to think of God as the Great Mystery. The term God has become synonymous with human characteristics which removes the element of mystery giving us a false, rather, narcissistic sense of knowing.

Mystery compels inquiry. Once solved the quest to know ceases. To believe we have the capacity to fully know the greatest mystery of our existence, what is responsible for Creation as we know and perceive it, is merely arrogance. The ever-unfolding mystery of the Divine is one of the greatest joys of life’s journey; however, the human ego, another idealization, betrays us through its need for certainty.

Spiritual maturity compels a more evolved understanding that requires leaving the childish notions of the old bearded man on the cloud behind. Spiritual maturity requires a level of psychological maturity that allows us to exist in the uncertainty of the human condition. This is no small task and I presume spawned the experience of faith. Not religious faith, per se, but the faith that allows us to go forth despite the inability to know what is beyond the present moment. I leave for work every morning with the unconscious belief that I will arrive safely and return home safely. I have no certainty of this outcome, nor do I even think about it, but without faith I would be too overcome with anxiety to leave my home.

While we reduce God to one us, we elevate our parents to deities. This should come as no surprise because in the child’s mind, they are. Our parents create us, protect us and provide for us. We reach to them for safety and comfort with an instinctual knowing that without them we cannot survive. The human condition is such that our first experience of a higher power is our parents.

For these reasons, the child’s bond with the parent is sacred. Consider the longing of those who have been adopted to know their biological parents. Consider the deep wounds of the child whose parent is lost at an early age. Consider the desire of the child who has been abused, neglected, abandoned or rejected to still desire some form of connection to their parents. Beyond all resentment, anger or disengagement born of parental wounding is a deep desire for the love of and a deep love for these vessels of our creation. To the extent the parent is held in this most sacred way in the heart of the child, their words and actions carry supreme influence, shaping our perception of the world and our perception of ourselves.

Much like the hero, warrior or king, the parent is an archetype; an idealized image of a person that comes with expectations no mere mortal can ever fulfill. It is a psychological necessity of the child to idealize the parent. It is also a psychological necessity of the child to deny the limitations and imperfections of the parent. Children are helpless and vulnerable with an innate awareness of their fragility in the world. Idealizing the parent as all-knowing and all-powerful offers a sense of certainty and security in a world the child is ill-equipped to navigate independently.

The belief in parental omniscience allows the child to go about the tasks of childhood unburdened by the fragility of life. Pre-adolescence and adolescence typically marks the beginning of a shift in the parent/child relationship. Teens become quite adept at challenging the sovereignty of their parents. What may appear as defiance is merely preparation for the sovereignty one must ultimately assume in his/her own life.

To fully enter the realm of the mature adult, we must put away childish things; perhaps the most difficult are the expectations of our parents to be, or have been, perfect. All parents wound their children in some way. It is an inevitable reality of the human condition. Imperfect beings will function imperfectly in an existence as complex as the human experience despite all efforts to the contrary. Parenting is no exception.

The shift into mature adulthood and assuming sovereignty over our lives involves the difficult process of redefining our perception of and our relationship to our parents. While we will always be our parents’ children, at some point we become their adult children. In so doing, we are gifted with the opportunity to grow from being merely a child of God to an adult child of God, thus, redefining our perception of and relationship to the Divine.

I often ask clients the names of their parents. I instruct them to remove the label of mom and dad and see them as John, Jane, Fred, Martha or, in my case, Russell and Wilda. To remove the label of parent (mom, dad, mother or father) is to remove archetypal expectations, thereby, removing them from the mantle of deity. It is an opening into their humanity – their fragility, their wounding, their limitations, their imperfections and ultimately their beauty. It is also an opening to profound healing as we come to realize our parents have always done the best they could with the inner resources and capacities available to them.

Redefining our relationship to our parents marks a redefining of our relationship to ourselves. As we remove the parent from a position of authority over our lives we assume full responsibility for our decisions and choices and their inevitable consequences. The outcomes of our lives fall squarely upon our shoulders. I am continuously reminded of the challenge we humans have with assuming responsibility and holding ourselves accountable. We seek out the scapegoat, the bad guy, the one to blame…and where there is none, enter the devil.

The role our parents play in our lives and our perception of them as deities makes them easy targets. I have already acknowledged that our parents will inevitably wound us. Sometimes those wounds cut so deeply they pierce the soul and, in some instances, so deeply recovery is minimal. Mostly parents serve as the repository of resentments; a point of reference to excuse our shortcomings, explain our struggles and the source of responsibility for all that does not work in our lives.

As a wise woman once told me, “getting sick may not be your fault but getting well is your responsibility”. While the wounds inflicted on us by the imperfect beings we call mom and dad can help us understand and explain struggles we endure later in life, blaming them offers no transformational value. If we have been granted free will by a source more powerful than our parents can ever be, surely we can exercise this will in service of our healing and the creation of the lives we ultimately desire.

Whatever we idealize betrays us. The idealization of the parent is a necessity and so is the betrayal. Without the former we could not endure the angst of the human experience during our formative years. Without the latter we fail to mature into our parents’, and our God’s, adult child. Through the dynamic of idealization and betrayal we grow, mature and evolve; placing our parents in proper relationship to us while embracing and opening to the ever-unfolding mystery of the Divine in our lives.

Posted in Family, Psychology, Spirituality | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Loving Your Enemies

Next month Deepak Chopra will be speaking in my current city of Houston, Texas. It will be the third or fourth time I attend one of his talks. Of his many books, my favorite is The Third Jesus. In it, he identifies three aspects of this figure we have come to call Christ – the Jesus of Faith, the Jesus of History and the Jesus of Consciousness.

Christianity has placed much emphasis on the Jesus of Faith – the Jesus of the Nicene Creed; the Jesus sent by God to die for the sins of humanity so we may have everlasting life. But, and this is a big but, Heaven’s gates will only open if you accept this as truth and Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

While there is much controversy as to whether this is all it takes to enter the Kingdom, I have been told repeatedly that, yes, it is. I can live a life of evil and wretchedness and on my last breath “see the light”, so to speak, accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and entrance is granted. As far as the afterlife goes, this makes Christianity a very convenient religion.

The Jesus of History refers to the actual man who walked the earth ministering and teaching. The man upon whom the Christian faith was founded and is arguably the most influential figure in all of human history.

The Jesus of Consciousness appears the most compelling of this version of the holy trinity. To understand this Jesus we must understand the concept of consciousness. Simply stated, consciousness is awareness; a level knowing and understanding. We all exist at various levels of awareness, knowing and understanding at any given time.

Consider being in a huge crowd. Now, imagine everyone in the crowd suddenly reacting to something. You have no awareness of what has caused this reaction, only what those in the immediate vicinity are doing. Now, imagine you are standing on an elevated perch with an expanded view that allows you to see the entire crowd. From that perspective you can see the larger context; therefore, have greater awareness, knowledge and understanding of the crowd’s reaction.

The third Jesus refers to the radical shift in consciousness that occurred with his coming and though his teachings. With Jesus and the New Testament, we see the shift from an angry, vengeful God to a loving and merciful God. To say this was a massive transformation of the collective mindset is an understatement.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asserts that anyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty in the court, just as the person who commits murder. Adultery, not just acted upon, but existing in the mind is an equal offense. He speaks against the existing vengeance consciousness of an eye for an eye offering instruction to turn the other cheek. Perhaps the most radical of his ideas is the notion of loving your enemies.

From a certain perspective, none of these directives make any sense whatsoever. However, when we understand that our actions are the offspring of emotion born of thoughts originating in the mind, Jesus equating lustful thoughts or harbored anger to adultery and murder seems more wisdom to heed that nonsense that confuses. When we understand that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, turning the other cheek becomes the better part of valor.

That leaves the notion of loving your enemies; a difficult teaching to grasp and even more challenging to practice. The deeper questions regarding loving your enemy are, what does this actually mean and why? Conventional thinking compels us to rid ourselves of our enemies. You go to war against your enemy. You destroy your enemy. You defeat your enemy. But loving them?

My understanding of Jesus’ invitation toward love vs. vengeance requires faith; specifically the belief that nothing of the human experience is wasted or lacks value. My deeply held faith belief is that all experiences serve our healing, growth, expansion and evolution toward higher states of consciousness for the parts of me that are flesh, bound by birth and death, as well as the part that is spirit. I believe we are all here, first and foremost, on a soul mission and the experiences of the life journey serve the greater, grander purpose of the soul’s work. The experiences affording the greatest opportunities for our unfoldment are often those which bring great suffering.

Those who are intentional about healing and growth know this. The most difficult, challenging, even traumatic experiences usually contain the greatest gifts and blessings. We must do our psychological healing work around these issues first. Then we are able to engage the existential questions around meaning. In many instances the pain inflicted by our worst enemies lead to purpose and mission. Consider the example of John Walsh who became a crusader for victim’s rights after the kidnapping of his son.

Having the right question is far more valuable than having the right answer. What good is having the right answer to a question that lacks relevance? The conventional answer regarding our enemies are to destroy them. The conscious questions regarding our enemies are: What is this person here to teach me? What lesson am I to learn from this experience? How might this adversary be a source of healing in my life? Is there an unresolved issue is this person triggering? Is this enemy mirroring a disowned part of myself that needs to be integrated? What skills or capacities is my experience with this person compelling me to develop? How might this experience serve my greater purpose in life?

Loving our enemies does not mean allowing ourselves to be victimized nor does it mean maintaining an unhealthy or abusive relationship with someone. Loving our enemies simply means embracing the opportunity this person, through their actions, is presenting to us. Simply ridding ourselves of their presence is a missed opportunity.

The recent incident with the SAE fraternity at the University of Oklahoma is a good example. The university severed ties with the fraternity, closed the SAE house, students were expelled and the President of the university harshly condemned the actions of the misguided individuals involved. Branding them as racists and casting them out offers no transformational value to the deeper issues reflected in their behavior. Certainly consequences are warranted for such actions; however, higher consciousness holds the awareness that actions are end the result of a process that begins the in heart and mind. Our society gets off on punishing actions yet ignores rehabilitating the mindsets and heartsets from which they originate.

What lessons could be learned? What opportunities for healing exist? How could everyone, especially the individuals involved grow from this experience? What possibilities exist if we lean into the issue of racism, the sentiments expressed and deeply and personally explore this incident? Instead of casting them out, why not involve these individuals and the entire fraternity in racial healing initiatives or multicultural endeavors. In the spirit of loving your enemy, there is space for accountability and opportunities for the healing, growth, expansion and evolution for all involved and all affected.

I live by the principle that God works in mysterious ways. As such, my challenge is to remain open to the unique, creative, confusing, unorthodox, paradoxical, frustrating, humorous, profound and infinite ways this Force seeks to operate in my life. From this perspective, the glass is neither half empty nor half full. It is always overflowing. From this perspective, your enemies are no longer your enemies but allies in service to your psyche and soul.


Posted in Culture, Psychology, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Old Man with Lots of Stories

How many times have you heard it’s the journey, not the destination? And how many times have you found yourself hell bent on reaching the destination, achieving the outcome or getting where ever you are trying to get to or accomplishing whatever you are trying to accomplish in the fastest most efficient way possible?

After all, we are a get it done and get it done quickly society; the fast-food, drive-thru, microwave, sound bite, 140 characters or less society. But has anyone stopped to ask, “Why are we in such a hurry?” The upside to this approach to life is quantity. We are able get more, do more accomplish more; but what of the quality?

This issue of patience emerged in a conversation recently with a 21 year old who desires to be completely independent and self-sufficient, capable of raising her children on her own without support or assistance. As a 21 year old, I had no children and was still living in my parents’ home. I do understand her impatience, though. When I began my career, I was envious of those with 20 and 30 years of experience. Such comparisons only resulted in unrealistic expectations and a flawed self-perception.

I did not want to endure the process of mastery. I just wanted to get there. Approaching twenty years of professional life and reflecting upon the journey to where I am now, what an amazing journey it has been. From the people I have met, to places I have traveled, to knowledge I have acquired, to the various successes and ascension to increasing levels of competence I have achieved, the journey of my professional life has enriched and brought me great joy.

But what of the larger scope of life; life itself, for which our career lives are merely one dimension? The destination of life is death. What makes life worth living are the countless experiences we have on the destination to our final breath.

I learned a profound lesson about the journey in 2007. I began a relationship in June of that year with a woman who wanted to visit the Grand Canyon. As intention would have it and taking advice given in a workshop conducted the previous year by Robert Moore, Jungian analyst and co-author of King Lover Warrior Magician, I created an “I Want” list. That’s just what it was; a list of things wanted or desired. On my list was a visit to the Grand Canyon.

Knowing her only a month, we took a road trip from Houston to the Grand Canyon the week of July 4th. I had a detailed itinerary including the distance, time it would take to arrive, amount of gas required, where we would stop to spend the night, what time we needed to leave the next morning…you get the idea.

She assumed a laissez-faire approach to the trip. Each stop for gas or food or to use the restroom illuminated our contrasting styles. I was in a hurry to get moving, much like a driver making a pit stop in the Indy 500. She sought to explore each location, not only content but excited and intentional about fully experiencing each location regardless of any stupid itinerary.

The proverbial hit over the head came when she told me to calm down and said, “The trip is not just about getting to the Grand Canyon but about getting to the Grand Canyon!” Magically the shift occurred. There was much to see, feel, taste and touch between origin and destination that added to the richness of the entire experience…and I was completely ignoring it.

This was not only a hit over the head but a reminder of an event that occurred several years earlier while married. Sorting through boxes in the attic, I came across several CDs once belonging to my now ex-wife’s brother. Among the CDs was U2’s Zooropa album. The last song, titled The Wanderer is sung by Johnny Cash. The song was hypnotic and I cannot accurately recount the number of times I replayed the track in the coming weeks and months.

The song is about a man who leaves home and begins to wander. The lines with the deepest resonance were, “I went out there in search of experience, to taste and to touch and to feel as much as a man can before he repents.”

My life was never the same. The painful reality that the journey of marriage I entered with my wife did not align with the needs of my soul was crystal clear. I had more to experience and the commitment I entered was incongruent with what were once merely whispers from the deepest, most buried and denied part of my being.

The marriage eventually dissolved, still one of the more painful experiences of my life despite its necessity. I needed to live, to discover myself, to experience life in a way I had not summoned the courage to before. That did not alleviate the guilt and shame I felt as commitments are not something I take lightly.

My struggle with those feelings eventually led to the understanding that we all act from the degree of self-knowing we possess at any given time…and even if we do know, we sometimes lack the capacity to act on that knowing. Marriage was the catalyst that brought to consciousness the deeper dissatisfaction with my own lived experience.

I wanted to be an old man with a lot of stories; an old man who has fully embraced and lived life to the fullest- the joys, the pains, the hardships, the triumphs, the failures, the successes. The only experience I did not wish was regret and, at such a young age, I was burdened by many.

My intention to be an old man with lots of stories remains alive. I know that one of the stories I wish to tell in my last days is about the amazing woman who walked beside me through the years and the life we shared. Yet, that is but one dimension of a multidimensional experience. Indeed, there is much to see, feel, taste and touch without the need to repent; wisdom born of excess and unintended consequences. I no longer seek to wander. That phase of the journey has run its course. But, oh what stories lie ahead. Oh the places yet to go within and without. Dr. Seuss would be proud.

Recently, the question, “what does it take to shift from merely being alive to living?” was posed by a good friend. Living starts with coming alive and it continues with savoring each breath, each moment, each experience. The measure of our lives lies not in its completion but in all that occurs between our first and final breaths.

Be old with a whole lot of stories to tell.

Posted in Life and Living | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

We the People?

Election day
Today is Election Day! Hate is really a strong word but I can honestly say that I hate politics. Can you think of a more ineffective and in efficient way to go about solving our most important issues than the political process?

As people fervently argue over conflicting points of view all convinced of the “rightness” of their entrenched positions I find myself distancing from the madness of it all. Detachment brings perspective; a seemingly lost endeavor as heels are dug in so deeply the capacity to open to the remotest possibility of a better way is lost…especially if that better way is proposed by the other side.

Stepping out of the fray brings a certain clarity to the collective insanity and leaves me with many questions. Perhaps the most significant being the question of motivation. Does anyone stop to question the underlying motivations giving rise to their positions, the candidates they support or the policies they seek become the law of the land? Do we have or even seek to understand the full impact of these policies, the positions we support or how those decisions will affect our neighbors (and by neighbors I mean everyone)? Why do so many condemn the system, yet conspire with it?

The how of the political process is deception, deceit, spin, half-truths, distortions of reality and bold face lies. The why of the political process is to win, seemingly through any means allowable for the politician. For the voter the why appears more rooted in affirming ideology.

We assume the motives of those seeking office are noble however I firmly believe that a person’s actions are the greatest indicators of what they truly believe. If we were to utilize that standard as the litmus test for elected officials we would come to the conclusion that most people have about many politicians they are full of shit.

How often do you see one side calling attention to tactics of the other while ignoring their own use of the same? We see the current elected official being crucified for exercising the same authority as his predecessor. The only difference is his/her political party. So, when your guy does it, its ok but when the other guy does it, its not? Much political discourse and punditry is merely a back and forth exchange of finger-pointing and blame akin to children on a playground.

I am saying nothing most of us have not thought of already but are politicians really the problem? Is the system really the problem? Or is it the electorate?

Politicians exist as they do because we allow them to and because we collude with a system where a man who runs on a platform of family values can solicit prostitutes and not be held accountable for such an egregious violation of integrity. Granted no one is perfect but family values and prostitution is a lapse in judgment that makes me question suitability for office.

We are content with a media that has turned politics into a reality show. More focused on drama and sensationalism than accurate reporting, mainstream media is the primary mechanism of the population’s complicity.

We either vilify or prop up elected officials reinforcing a system that knowingly deceives playing on emotion not logic, sound bites not solutions and divisiveness not unity. Lincoln said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand…I do not expect the house to fall but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

The house remains divided much like it was during Lincoln’s day and before. The specifics matter not. At the heart of the divide is the central issue that has prevented a great nation from actualizing its fullest potential- the us/them, win/lose, advantage at the expense of whoever is considered “other” mode of operation . The “United” States is an ideal not fully realized; the great melting pot more rhetoric than reality. In practice just the opposite has occurred. Examples intimately understood by the “other” and denied by the advantaged are too numerous to list.

And the divide persists. While there is strength in differing ideas and points of view, that strength is lost when one or multiple parties’ perspectives become entrenched positions. This is the demise of the problem solving process and this is our current political and social process.

Like it or not, we the people, are the government. Our elected officials are mirrors of a largely immature, self-centered and self-righteous public too blinded by childish demands, ignorance, greed and fear to see the walk toward its own demise. To the extent we are content to blame the problem on one person or one party is the extent to which we really do not fully understand the problem.

As we seek to blame, vilify and condemn we need to look no further than ourselves. We have traded negotiation and compromise in favor of winning at all costs. Everyone is upset yet no one is willing to own their role in the problem. A more productive and perfect union will never occur in the current climate. We must demand more of elected officials, the political system and, most importantly, ourselves.

Posted in Politics, Society | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

How Do We Get There?

I recently shared this picture and received the response, “Spot on! Now…how do we get there?” So it got me thinking…

It appears we have not reached a tipping point in the collective consciousness to actualize these sentiments. It is our nature as egoic beings to separate, differentiate; to have an “other”. It is the human condition. We have not collectively evolved to a consciousness that understands we do not have to apply these principles of separation to the most basic necessities essential for subsistence, let alone a decent quality of life for all. It only takes reading the comments on any social media post related to social or political issues to observe the lesser evolved of our species…and they are many.

The bell curve concept offers some insight. A small number of progressive thinkers have always been on the leading edge of shifting the collective conscious. They are often killed or vilified; discredited at the very least by those exerting gravitational forces to maintain the status quo or even revert to the ways of the past. However, Margaret Mead reminds us to never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Evolution, progress and expanded consciousness always prevail. We once believed the earth was flat. We once believed it was ok to enslave others. We once believed a black man would never become president of the United States (at least in our lifetime).

The Universe is progressive and evolution toward higher consciousness is a fundamental (and obvious) Universal law. In the bigger picture evolution, progression, expansion always wins but perhaps the impediments progress exist to maintain some sort of cosmic balance. Too much too quickly has its downfalls. Not only does that tipping point not yet exist but collectively we are not at a level of consciousness to withstand such rapid shifting.

What is being proposed is quite a shift; a good one but one that would leave heads spinning if it happened right now. Making it happen ultimately requires that these ideas continue to be shared, promoted and exercised where possible, even if on a small scale. It helps to remain mindful that what was once radical, idealistic or impossible is either today’s norm or has already been eclipsed by what was once considered even more radical, idealistic or impossible.

A few thoughts on “how we get there”…

1. Getting there is inevitable but it will take time. This is really difficult for those who realize alternative ways to collectively share the planet and its resources and structure society in way that can eradicate so many of the social ills caused by how we have been doing it thus far exist. It begins by realizing there is enough for everyone’s basic needs to be met. No one on the planet has to go without food, shelter, clothing, housing or adequate healthcare. The lack and limitation of previous eras simply do not exist in modern times.

2. Cooperation must guide our functioning. I am not saying that healthy competition is not effective or cannot lead to progress. We have seen where it has. I am saying that, collectively, we must be cooperative to a point where the willingness give and share so that a minimum standard of the provision of basic needs to all is met. There is no reason in modern times that anyone should have to compete just to survive.

3. Greed exists as one of the seven deadly sins for damn good reasons. Consider the extent to which greed influences governments, corporations, political entities and the major institutions responsible for ordering and structuring societies. Those who have the most want more and want it at the expense others. That has consequences and we must begin to connect the dots between how the us/them mentality is illusory. Our existence is shared, one of interconnectedness and interdependency. What affects one affects all. The vast majority of spiritual and religious traditions teach this yet we ignore the most basic of our sacred teachings. Greed is arguably the greatest contributor to the world’s most debilitating problems.

4. To address greed we must understand that fear is its driving force. All human behavior is motivated by either love or fear. Once we embrace this truth of being human we must assess whether our fears are rational or distortions of reality. The greatest distortion of current reality is the belief that there is not enough. When competition instead of cooperation is the guiding the principle, the perception of lack and limitation is enhanced because someone wins and someone loses. The winner emerges with the goods while the loser goes without, heightening fear and perpetuating endless cycles of competition. Is that not the basis of war?

5. We must begin to fundamentally challenge the assumptions we hold about how things should be and open to the possibility that a better way exists. We must be intentional in this endeavor and stop playing politics with real issues that affect real people in profoundly significant ways. I see and hear so many useless debates rooted in entrenched ideology where positions are argued with no meaningful effort or desire transcend the limitations of either and arrive at effective solutions that benefit all. Therein, the most significant aspect of how we get there- embracing and attending to the interdependent and interconnected collective; shifting from a model and mentality of “self-interest” to “us-interest”.

It begins with intention. The small number at the evolutionary, progressive end of the bell curve must continue to challenge the status quo and put forth what may currently be considered radical new ideas. I believe more of those people exist and many silently affirm those who are more vocal and demonstrative. The silent must become vocal.

Monumental change occurs from the convulsive effects of acts grand and small and the tipping point is the culmination of a series of ascended steps. Ultimately progress, evolution, expansion, elevation is the law of a higher source and will always prevail.

Posted in Culture, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Embracing the Dark Nights

dep 1
Dancing wildly
Morning sun my partner
Life in every step
Every breath affirms life lived
Inspired to aspire to this soul’s highest calling

From the highest highs
Greatest hopes and dreams manifesting
Comes the long slow slide of descent
Light of day receding
Sun whispers beneath the horizon
Giving way to this soul’s dark night

Morning light fades
Into the blinding darkness of fear and self-doubt
Now my partners, now my guides
On the journey through this soul’s dark night

The rhythmic drum of synchronistic alignment
Now arrhythmic, erratic, off-beat
The soul screams
The heart breaks and bleeds
Bathed by tears
Born of sadness
Birthed by loss-
Too frequent
Too immediate
Too profound

From morning to mourning
From inspiration to desolation
From ascent to descent
Into darkness
This soul’s dark night has come…

“The dark night of the soul comes just before revelation. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.” Joseph Campbell

From the warm light of the morning sun to the cold darkness of the midnight hour, impermanence is both friend and foe. The happiness we feel today is inevitably eclipsed by tomorrow’s sorrow. Life is an unending ebb and flow of emotional tides; the inevitable currents of life for which the only effective response is surrender.

The energies of joy, love, well-being and harmony can only be felt in a context where opposing energies exist; polarities creating a necessary tension that brings vitality to the human experience and from which purpose is sourced. Thus we must embrace the dark nights of the soul just as we anticipate the warmth of the morning sun. I once heard that God takes us through Hell to show us the way to Heaven. It is the darkness that propels us into the light and these dark moments in the soul’s journey that moves us into ever brighter and purer light.

Posted in Psychology, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road of Happiness

For some reason, I have found myself consistently happy in recent weeks. Perhaps it is because of all the time I’ve spent exercising (endorphins are waaaay underrated). Perhaps it is because I am using my time more productively (much to be said for accomplishing goals). Perhaps it is because of whom and what I left behind that no longer serves me (even more to be said for letting go of inhibiting forces). Regardless, I have been enjoying consistent and longer periods of happiness.

I cannot deny the presence of lesser desired emotions; everything from anger to sadness to fear and even loneliness. After all, I have not transcended being human but Pharrell’s whimsical song, Happy, best characterizes my current mood. So…Clap along if you know what happiness is to you…Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do.

During the course of my life I have encountered many who just seem naturally happy. One such character is my friend Michael. One night I heard him as he approached the room where other friends were gathered and I uttered the words, “There goes happy ass Michael”. It stuck and he still refers to himself as such.

Eventually I would come to read several books and articles on the subject of happiness from authors such as Martin Seligman, Sonya Lyubomirsky, the Dalai Lama and others. Of the more interesting research findings is that 50% our capacity for happiness, or what researchers define as subjective well-being, is genetically determined. So, if you are unlike Happy Ass Michael and happened to be born into the shallow end of the happiness gene pool, the good news is that you have control over the other 50%. The remaining percentages break down into 10% circumstances and 40% intentional activity.

Equally interesting is that we seem to expend about 90% our time and energy trying to change our circumstances with the expectation of greater happiness. Well, that 90% investment only yields a 10% return. Circumstances refer to things like money, status, material possessions, physical appearance, ranking on the corporate ladder, etc.

We live in an age where money affords us great luxuries yet we are the most highly addicted and highly medicated generation in human history endlessly chasing what is considered next best, newest and improved, bigger, better and faster. That goes for material possessions, partners and even body parts.

While nothing is inherently wrong with creating the best possible circumstances for our lives, it is important to keep things in perspective. Failure to do so leads us to traveling the road to happiness instead of being on the road of happiness.

The remaining 40% of the happiness pie, intentional activity, is the road of happiness. Essentially this entails how we direct our thought process and the behaviors we choose to indulge.

Manifesting anything in one’s life begins with intention. If more happiness is desired begin by setting the intention to be happy. “Ask and you shall receive”, it is written. I say this not from a place of preaching but from experience. Many a way has been made where there was none before through the power of intention.

It is also essential to seek the lessons and gifts in all experiences. Needless suffering does not exist and if we truly seek, we shall find blessing in the form of growth, lessons, wisdom and maybe even purpose.

Think of a particular difficult or painful experience you endured. What do you know now that you may have never known had it not been for that experience? Adopting this view serves to enhance one of the most important elements essential for happiness- gratitude. From this perspective, the proverbial glass is not just half full but perpetually overflowing.

In the realm of behavior, there are several activities that foster more and longer periods of happiness: exercise, healthy diet, proper sleep, a positive and affirming support system, fun and laughter, acts of kindness, being of service, setting and accomplishing goals, living a purpose driven life, spiritual connectedness and spiritual practice and, arguably the most challenging, forgiveness.

I believe the road of happiness also involves doing one’s own work- the efforts to address unresolved issues and heal unhealed wounds. No one escapes this life unscarred and our wounds often point us in the direction of our purpose. Unresolved, they burden and hinder; not only our progress but our joy.

It may be helpful to think of the Chakras, the 7 energy centers that run through the body. Unresolved issues lead to energy blockages and dis-ease. When these issues are resolved and negative energies released, a pathway is opened for the energies of creativity, harmony, love, peace, well-being, joy, happiness and spirit to flow freely into you, through you and as you.

Be mindful that “As you think so shall you be”. Feeling joy starts with thinking joyfully. Remaining joyful requires behaving joyfully. So…hug somebody, hold a door open for somebody, smile, laugh, help someone across the street, listen to positive music, associate with positive people, dance, sing, pray, count your blessings, learn something new, embrace, create.

Search within. You know better than anyone what brings you joy and happiness. Think it! Do it!

Posted in Culture, Psychology | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Throwback Thursday

Among the many interesting trends to emerge from social media, Throwback Thursday peaked my interest. TBT is the phenomenon that has Facebook users posting pictures of ourselves, our friends and our families from days gone by.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh at those old clothing and hair styles? From the afro to Jheri Curl to the mullet, from bell bottoms to parachute pants… well, every and anything from the 80s really, history leaves a vast pool of content to make us ROTFL.

For whatever reason, I gravitated toward the TBT trend posting captured moments of times past. The result being nostalgia, laughter or shock; like the picture of me and my date for the 8th grade prom. I think she is still plotting her revenge.

As I was exploring my archive of photos determining which would serve as my next TBT pic and preparing for a course I am co-facilitating on archetypes, I came to a deeper understanding about the draw toward posting these relics from the past.

The course is composed of an educational and experiential series of classes where the archetypes of Lover, Warrior, Magician and Sovereign are explored and utilized in service of personal growth. The Lover archetype represents the part of us that seeks to connect, while the Warrior is the part that establishes and maintains boundaries and energizes us toward completing a mission. As we move around this archetypal wheel, the Magician represents our ability to discern, and the Sovereign, our call to lead, care for or nurture others.

In each of us these energies exist and find expression, however, we possess varying degrees of strengths and weaknesses as it relates to the expression of each archetype. One of paths to accessing Lover energy is through reconnection with their inner child.

The concept of the inner child has been ridiculed for many years by comedians and in depictions in media; however the inner child is at play on some level in any therapeutic, healing or growth endeavor whether we are doing formal “inner child” work or not. Each year that we have lived and the experiences of those years exist within, offering insight into the people we are today.

“As a child I thought as a child and acted as a child. Now that I am adult I put away childish things.” Sadly, many lose touch with the playfulness, curiosity, vitality, openness and creativity of youth as the important transition into adulthood occurs. Indeed we must put away irresponsibility, naiveté, impulsivity and immaturity but in doing so the qualities that animate, illuminate and enhance life at any stage are too often sacrificed.

Reconnecting with the inner child entails reconnecting with childhood experiences. For many much trauma existed during this critical time of life. It is has been my experience in working with many adults traumatized as children and children who have experienced unspeakable horrors, the vast majority can reconnect with some aspect of that child who was curious, playful, creative, magical and filled with awe at the “bigness” of life.

As I thought about the pictures I posted recently- of me with my dog, dressed up in costumes with my sisters as backup singers or with my 8th grade prom date among others- they reconnect with a time when life was “big” in that awe-filled kind of way, when there was a certain magic about life and when the joy of play connected me to my family, my friends and the world that surrounded me.

As an adult I never completely lost that childhood innocence. I am still fascinated by airplanes and tall buildings and curious about how stuff works. That silly little kid that used to dress up and perform still does. It just looks more sophisticated now.

What I came to understand is that my weekly Throwback Thursday ritual is an expression of the child that once was and continues to live within. More importantly it serves as a way of staying connected to that little kid within and bringing his spirit into and through the adult I am today. And I am more than certain he will find expression through the old man I will be tomorrow.

Posted in Culture, Family, Psychology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Intention/Impact Dynamic

When was the last time you woke up and decided that you were really gonna hurt somebody’s feelings that day? When was the last time you intentionally set out to make someone’s day miserable or inflict any degree of pain or discomfort in their lives? How much time or effort do you put into being a negative force in the lives of others, either through intentionally offending them, pissing them off or being rude and condescending? The vast majority of people do not begin their days with such an intention; yet, at times the impact of our words or actions have such effects.

How often has the unintended impact of your actions resulted in conflict or disagreement with someone leaving you confused and perhaps offended at the reaction you received? How often have you been on the receiving end of this dynamic?

Awareness of the intention/impact dynamic goes a long way in reducing unnecessary conflict. It also serves as a path to unresolved issues needing attention. Sourcing the gift from such incidents, particularly if I am the one feeling the impact of someone else’s actions, requires that I first take ownership of the thoughts and feelings that were triggered.

“He made me mad!” is not a statement of ownership. It is a statement of blame and making someone else responsible for my inner state. Personally, I do not care to surrender that much control over my being to another. Indeed an external entity may have served as a trigger, however, ownership and the assumption of responsibility moves me in the direction of a deeper understanding of my reaction to the trigger.

Many of us have a tendency to make our reactions the fault of someone else. Shortly after my divorce, I had an epiphany. During my marriage I was often upset by certain habits of my ex-wife. I like to keep my surroundings neat and clutter free. She, on the other hand, left little piles throughout the house- paper, clothing, books or combinations of just about anything. This was not a major problem; more of a cap on the toothpaste or toilet seat type of issue. I came to realize that as much as I blamed her for my irritation about her piles of stuff, her clutter zones may be insignificant to another partner. In viewing this matter through that lens, I could no longer make her responsible for my feelings. Besides, her piles were obviously not done with the intention of causing me distress. It was simply her way of functioning, to which she has every right.

Other scenarios produce far more intense reactions than my irritation around my ex-wife’s piles. And certain behaviors of others are universally triggering, such as a physical attack or verbal insult. Be mindful that I am speaking about the unintentional. Premeditated acts do not fall within the scope of intention vs impact as I am discussing here; however, if we are to maintain integrity regarding our reactions, we must take ownership even when they occur in response to intentional acts.

Our reactions, particularly our overreactions, to triggers direct us toward unresolved issues and old wounds from our past. Properly understood, they offer us an opportunity for healing. To the extent we miss these opportunities, they will resurface. What is unresolved, avoided or denied within reappears until the necessary work occurs to move forward.

I cannot stress the importance of responsibility enough. Until we take full ownership of our emotions, feelings and behavior, we will continue to live as victims; at the mercy of others and circumstance having surrendered the only control we are capable of having in this life.

Instances where others have strong reactions to our unintended behavior often leave us scratching our heads. You may be in a state of confusion wondering, “What did I do?” Some may react directly and strongly while others may be more passive or passive aggressive. Some may distance themselves from you while others react with sarcasm.

We have options in these circumstances. We can remain in a state of confusion or seek to understand the reaction toward us. It is important not to assume responsibility for another person’s reaction but realize there was impact despite my intentions or lack thereof. A willingness to affirm the “affect” on the other party involved is not assuming responsibility for their reaction but simply an act of understanding and compassion.

We move through life with various levels of self-awareness often at the mercy of unconscious forces within. The impact we have on others may illuminate an aspect our functioning previously hidden from conscious awareness. If I am receptive to exploring my side of the intention/impact dynamic, I may come to learn that my actions impacting another reveal something I may choose to address within myself.

The intention/impact misfires of human interaction too often result in conflict as olds wounds are triggered and defensiveness takes hold. I believe such instances are opportunities for self-awareness and healing gifted to both parties…if they choose to and if they possess the ability to step away from reactivity toward inner inquiry.

Posted in Psychology | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment