Present Tense

We HAVE to love

monkey-loves-cat1I was just reading an article about dog behavior.  Most things in the world come down to animals for me, particularly dogs, but this concept struck me as a perfect example of some insight into the question that has become our national mantra: “What is wrong with people”?

Seems that puppies have these two times during their development, when a fear response can become ingrained and turn into major behavioral problems for their entire lives.  One is between 8-10 weeks and there is another 2-3 week period between 6-14 months of age.

They cited an example where a perfectly normal and well-adjusted German Shepherd pup suddenly became extremely aggressive toward other dogs.  He was fine with people, but his owner was literally afraid that he would kill another dog.

The genesis of this very serious problem was one traumatic incident: the dog and his dog buddy were wrestling around in the front yard, as they had done for months, when they got too close to the invisible fence.  The German Shepherd was shocked and immediately went after the other dog, resulting in an all-out dog fight.

From that moment, he became increasingly aggressive toward other dogs and would never play with that familiar dog again.  ONE incident of traumatic pain and fear, altered that dog’s life forever.

Let’s turn to humans.  How many incidents in our past have shaped our relationship to life?  Things that we can barely remember or that we can’t remember?  The figurative electric shock of various traumas that have been layered one on top of another since we were born.

Even though life in the United States is relatively safe, compared to many parts of the world, there is a lot of trauma going on.  Trauma for many that begins the moment they were born into a family with a history of violence or abuse.  Trauma in their neighborhood, where crime and violence were common place.  Trauma from being different and/or not fitting in.

It may not have been anything physical like an electric shock.  Maybe it was listening to the adults in our lives express fear or suspicion or flat out bigotry and hatred toward someone or some group?  Maybe it was something learned in church or from media.

Maybe it was the devastating loss of a loved one or pet or friend?   My God, the list is endless, isn’t it?

All of these incidents add up over time and in some of us, morph into destructive behaviors.  Just like the dog.  We are really no different in our conditioning, particularly when we are young and don’t have the skills to cope or analyze.

So, as we discuss the various tensions within our nation and the world, remember that humans are not machines.  We are all shaped by our environment and surroundings.

Those of us who are pet owners, know that puppies need a lot of love, attention and socialization.  Training them with abusive or fear based methods can result in aggression and that makes them dangerous.

Humans are delicate.  We are easily bruised and scarred.  We also need gentle handling, not only as babies and children, but for our entire adult lives.  Be aware of that and be aware that many of your fellow travelers carry around not only their trauma, but the trauma of their ancestors, because that stuff is passed down.

It’s so easy to see.  Look at the Middle East.  Look at the problems in our inner cities.  Look at the problems on Native American reservations. Ancestral trauma.

We all carry it around with us like a heavy, ever-present backpack. In order to begin to see others in a loving way, we must heal ourselves.  We have to release our past traumas and pain in order to open up to healing the pain of others.  Don’t discount another’s trauma. It is real.  It animates them; often in ways that are destructive to them and to our society.

Listen to these people’s fears and experiences.  Really HEAR them, without your political or religious or socio-economic filters.  It’s not just their trauma, it is all of ours and until we acknowledge and embrace that, the killing and conflict will continue.

Empathy.  Walk a moon in their moccasins, measure your words and reactions. Be kind.  We are all in pain.

July 10, 2016 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Into the Fire

burningLast week, as I was fixing my morning coffee I looked out the window and saw my husband burning some brush in our fire pit. I had a pile of paperwork that I was planning to shred and decided to just toss them in the fire.

Once I got outside, I discovered that I had also grabbed a small notepad and as I tossed the papers into the fire I felt a tug of inspiration that urged me to make a list of things that I wanted to dispose of. Ya gotta burn it down, to allow it to rise up.

I finished my initial task and ran back into the house for a pen and a coffee refill. I grabbed one of our big, old heavy Adirondack chairs and hunkered down in front of the fire to spill it all out. These were things that I wanted to root out, look at in the light of day and then burn to ashes.

At the top of the page, I simply wrote “let go”. Here is my list:

Ego
Grief
Fear
Resentment
Rejection
Failure
Humiliation
Not fitting in
Control
Hatred
Frustration
Limitations
Conventional wisdom
Second guessing
Crusty, old beliefs
Overreaction
Panic
Cultural knots and entanglements
Behaving as you “should”
Material lust
Status seeking

This was stream of consciousness. Things that I felt were holding me back in some way. I didn’t over-think or take more than 10 minutes to compile the list. I then stood before the fire, read it aloud, asked for guidance from spirit and tossed it in to the fire.

Done. BAM! Burned.

I looked up and saw a big, beautiful hawk soaring overhead. I watched him for a few minutes and as he circled closer and closer, I thanked him for acknowledging my ceremony.

Ceremony and ritual are important parts of the human experience and in modern times, we often forget. There is no time or inclination any longer. Fewer and fewer of us attend church or any kind of spiritual gathering and we suffer for it.

There is something inside us, that has been there from the very beginning that craves connection with the Divine and we ignore it at our peril. I believe that is why we have such a callous attitude toward others and toward the Earth. We’ve lost touch with this spark, but we can make the time, even if it’s just us, all alone, to reignite it.

As I walked back to the house after my ‘cleansing’, I felt lighter, freer, empowered, calm, loved.  I’d taken just a little time and made a connection with not only my soul, but with what animates it. Spirit and energy and God and creator are all around us, at all times. Tap in. When you feel an urge, as I did, follow it. Be with yourself, create some minor rituals and try to develop a daily practice, even if it’s 5 minutes, to connect with the thing that is greater than you.

To listen to the audio of this blog:

August 16, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

We’re depending on you

Head in HandsWhat the HELL is going on in the world? What is wrong with people? We could turn those phrases into a drinking game this week and we’d all be drunker than skunks if you took a shot every time those words were spoken.

It’s crazy right now, but the interesting thing is that even though we do have some common pains and worries, we don’t really have common solutions. Another mass shooting: one side calls for stricter gun laws, another for looser ones. Another instance of alleged police misconduct resulting in a civilian death: one side says police have a hard job and we should always respect that, while the other side says that the police are the enemy.

And the frustrating thing for me is that these issues seem to always divide along party lines. If you’re in one party, you must believe this, which will of course, be the exact opposite of those ‘idiots’ in the other party. Sound familiar? And then there are those who actually use their brains and their other emotions besides fear and anger, who reside in the Venn Diagram where our values and common sense and empathy intersect.

Unfortunately, the places where we get our news, particularly on TV, rarely enter that fairly large area of agreement. Not good for business. Much better to keep people afraid and angry and suspicious of ‘the other side’ because it’s great for ratings.

So, here we are. Stuck. Angry. Frustrated. Overwhelmed. Afraid. Dug in. Barricaded in our belief system, with no intention of learning about how others came to their world view.

Now, that is scary. A bunch of humans, glaring at each other through their tiny peepholes in the giant door that protects them from people who disagree with them. What a way to live, eh?

You know how on the internet or Facebook or whatever, videos of cute baby animals and baby humans tend to spread like wildfire? That is because we all universally (okay I know there are some of you with very dark and scared souls who refuse to enjoy puppies and kittens…which is a shame) feel a swelling of good emotions while watching them. They are cute and innocent and funny and we just wanna squeeze ‘em. That is because we are connected. By universal love.  Massive, global warm and fuzzies.

There are also those stories and shares of brutality and pain and suffering that receive millions of views and hits. In these cases, we are all connected by that universal pain. We all feel it. We all suffer. We all are connected. Do you understand what this means?

It means that we have to begin to acknowledge our commonality, rather than our differences. We are connected. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one triumphs or feels joy and love, we all do. It spreads and covers us and lifts us up and knocks us down. We are all one on a soul level.

This is the basic teaching of every single major religion and spiritual path. Love your fellow beings, for they are you. But, it’s hard, isn’t it? Everyone is so flawed and complicated and imperfect and blah, blah, blah.

We are at a tipping point. I believe that this is a time to awaken to the clarity that is available to us. I would not presume to know how you will do that, as we are all on our own path to awakening…or not. But, if you feel like things are not working, begin to question your beliefs and the collective beliefs we’ve taken as hard truth.

That is step #1. Question everything. What you have carried around as a belief for years and years is probably not really based on anything but what you were taught by other flawed humans. Core beliefs can evolve, despite the conventional wisdom that says otherwise. We’ve seen a huge evolution in our lifetime on various issues.

What have we been taught as Americans? Growth, progress, technological supremacy, military superpower, USA is #1, work over family, we know best as a nation, might makes right, money and wealth is the ultimate goal, we have dominion over the earth, etc.

A lot of us are questioning those values because they don’t seem to be valid any longer. We are fat, sick, mired in massive debt, destroying our environment, working longer and harder for less, feeling as if we have to aspire to great wealth, but not having the means or training or education or connections to achieve it.

So, re-think. Re-tool your belief system. Maybe fulfillment comes from a more nurturing place. Maybe you’ll begin to feel those connections to all things on earth, including other humans that you don’t quite understand. Love yourself, find yourself, connect with your soul.

Find a way. We’re all depending on you.

For an audio version of this post, click below

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Who’s stealing the photos?

familyI just spent a few days with my 94 year-old mother. She has a very nice apartment in a beautiful assisted living facility about 4 hours south of where I live. We’re coming up on the first anniversary of my dad’s death and she is still very sad and very lonely, so my siblings and I do our best to ease her burdens.

For the past couple of months, my mom has been obsessive about her photo albums. She keeps telling us that someone is taking her pictures.

I’ve had this discussion with her at least 20 times, as has my brother who lives about 15 minutes away and sees her several times a week. I always say that I don’t know what’s happening to her pictures and point out that she still has thousands of photos, spanning all of her life and even some from before she was born.

The truth is that over many decades, things get misplaced or we’ve removed a photo here and there for various  celebrations and photo compilations. Or maybe one of us just liked a photo and snagged it for our own memory. Who knows, but it’s a frustrating déjà vu every time I arrive, to be grilled as to “who is taking all of my pictures?”

This last trip, she sent me home with a little album of photos from my wedding. This was after she made me promise that I wouldn’t throw them ‘in the trash’. I assured her that I would not. I told her that they mean as much to me as they do to her. But, that wasn’t quite true.

It’s not true because I finally realized that her obsession with the photos isn’t about the photos. It’s about proof that her life was as full and happy as she believes that it was. These volumes of thousands of photos are what she has left of her life. They are photographic evidence that she and my dad had 70+ years of love and happiness and family.

Having spent a fair amount of time around elderly folks over the past few years, I have seen how their lives shrink as their mobility and abilities shrink. At this point, my mom’s life takes place in a two bedroom apartment. The things in that apartment are of paramount importance to her. She is surrounded by what is familiar and that is her only comfort.

The photos are part of that. They represent the time when her world was big and full and juicy. Photos of parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, friends, family, houses, cars, many, many trips and vacations. Photos of people who are long dead and photos of grandchildren, who now have their own children. She looks through the albums and admits to me that she can’t remember many of the names that go with the hundreds of faces. She often can’t remember ‘which kid belonged to which other kid’.

But, she knows that these people were in her life at some point in the past 94 years. She sees photos of my smiling and handsome Dad and is assured that they were happy and loving and that he really was by her side, as her partner, for 72 years.

We all need this reassurance. That we matter. That we loved and were loved. That we’re here for a reason and that when we’re gone, someone will remember.

March 22, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 17 Comments

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