Poverty… A State oif Mind

After recently returning from my first trip to the African country of Uganda, I once again found myself considering new perspectives on various things. These are gifts that always accompany me back home when I’m willing to leave my comfort zone in search of new experiences. In fact, I think it’s impossible to avoid…

 

I’ve been in numerous, Third World countries over the years and they all offer that first stark awareness in their own flavors of how different many if not the majority of people on this earth live compared to those of us in more “civilized”, modern societies. Regardless of our own personal perceptions of what defines this, the truth of it always lies somewhere in the middle. It knows its own source. Such is the case with the definition many of us have regarding the word “poverty”. In our American society, we view it as a “lack of”… newer, material things… money… nice housing… cars… the latest clothing… technology… The list goes on & on.

What I saw as I began to acclimate to my unfamiliar surroundings & to interact with many wonderful people there I met was something quite different however. I saw “communities”… the kind where people mingle or greet each other as they pass on the streets or in the shops on a daily basis. They stop to chat… interact… face-to-face. They know whose sick, whose getting married, who just had a baby and the other little things that go on in the day-to-day lives of their fellow villagers because they’re connected. The children, of whom there is definitely no shortage, are allowed the opportunity to do what they’re meant to do best… simply be kids. Down to the toddlers, using their imaginations, they play amid the hustle and bustle of typical, daily life, all the while taking in their own lessons along the way.

Don’t get me wrong… life there is harsh… very harsh compared to what I’m used to. This especially holds true for the women there who have little or no equal rights but are responsible for a great deal of the workload, exacerbated by antiquated, long-running, cultural beliefs & the lack of modern conveniences like dishwashers, stoves, washers and dryers, running water, flushing toilets, readily affordable, store-bought food and supplies, etc. But we humans become accustomed to what we have always known so we tend to create the quality in our lives in other ways which goes a long way in making life more bearable.

I also saw with great clarity & experiential taste, when a community grows its own food and remains industrious by creating ways to use readily available resources instead of depending on big corporations and other countries to supply it for them; it empowers them with their independence. Eating non-processed, organic veggies, fruit and meat… homegrown… antibiotic & growth-hormone-free… non-genetically modified in defiance of Mother Nature… allowed me to taste for myself how food is supposed to taste despite what we’ve grown accustomed to expecting for so long in this country. I ate heartily, enjoying good food, felt better and actually lost weight in the process. We’ve been asleep for far too long and we’ve forgotten what it feels like to simply feel good & satisfied… to have energy… to not have gluten
allergies, bloating & digestive issues. We blame it on a myriad of various things when so much of it can actually be attributed to the old tried and true “garbage in… garbage out” concept.

Maybe we’ve actually created our own ‘poverty” in our healthy food sources, community connectedness (think our infamous “Seattle-freeze”) & over-scheduling of our children in an effort to push them ahead more and more quickly instead of allowing them the gift of their own creativity and exploration as the children they are… you know, that space where great, new ideas eventually come from!

Every culture has poverty and abundance on some level. They vary by virtue of place but all are valuable and therein lies the lesson.

GET CURIOUS… REMEMBER…..

We First Have to Recognize Who We Aren’t In the Process of Discovering Who We Really Are

Face painted like earth

We’re birthed into this world as perfect beings coming into our bodies & respective lives to learn the lessons we’ve chosen to learn in order to continue our personal & spiritual growth. Upon our arrival, a “veil” covers our memories of where we just came from & who we truly are.

We then become human “works-in-progress” & embark on our individual studies at the “University of Life” whether we know it or not. The tough part is by our very nature, we don’t learn when things are easy & going splendidly.

When life becomes hard however, it tends to humble us & we’re better able to look beyond our egos & go within ourselves. We often develop a sense of longing for a connection to something much bigger than we are. The greater the pain, the bigger the lesson & some of us seem to think we need to learn things the hard way (just another limiting belief).

Universal God/ Goddess energy is very real & with it comes a great amount of Wisdom. Knowledge feeds our brains as we learn on a linear level but Wisdom must be earned by experience… much harder & but also infinitely more rewarding. The key is learning to be aware enough to recognize it when it crosses our paths. We have to learn to live in a more conscious way.

It’s easy to unconsciously accept what we’re told as innocent children growing up… by our parents & families… our extended community… our peers we want to fit in with. At those young ages, our survival depends on others. We gradually begin to believe our illnesses, issues, habits, belief systems, etc. are all simply part of who we are. In actuality though, nothing could be further from the Truth! They’re nothing more than lessons put in front of us to teach us something. Once the lesson is learned, it’s no longer necessary to have it in our lives & as a healer, I routinely see “miracles” occur. It’s about getting to the CAUSE… not trying to put a band-aid on the symptom.

To recognize & get beyond this, we each have to get curious enough to seek our own, individual truths. As well-meaning as others in our lives may have been, nobody has the right to decide another person’s path for them… NO ONE! Divine Free Will is our own gift & it exists for a reason.

When you take time to concertedly ponder it, just how often do you find yourself “tucking in” what you say or do to avoid making waves in an effort to keep the peace? Or maybe you fear being judged, ridiculed or shamed? Do you ever feel you’re being loved “in spite” of who you are… not “because” of who you are? These types of things are precisely the “in-authentic” issues that not only feel awful but also aren’t serving us in a Higher Way.

How do we break free of these limitations? PERCEPTION is the first place to begin. If 10 people stood in the same place at the same time & had the same experience, all 10 of them could & would likely have 10 different opinions & descriptions. Each of them would be basing their thinking on their own, individual, past experiences which formed the way they see the world they live in.

Soooo… reality is actually only a personal matter & another person’s opinion is just that… THEIR opinion… not the last word! It takes courage & effort to look honestly at ourselves & learn to recognize what doesn’t feel good or positive about ourselves. Those things either aren’t authentically us or they’re things we need to look at & change. Either way, it’s something we have to do to grow & expand. If it isn’t good for us, it ultimately isn’t good for anyone or anything else either.

I’ve learned that TRUE Freedom is an inside job. We can’t control what’s coming at us on an on-going, daily basis. The key is learning to control how we react to it & not giving our Power away to someone else’s idea of what we should or shouldn’t be.

There’s no greater joy than living our own lives in a sincere way that feeds us on deeper levels & by surrounding ourselves with situations & people who see, love & value us for who we are. At the core of every human being is the innate need to be valued for taking up space in this world & to be part of a bigger “community” of Love & Support. It’s what gives us our humanity, joy & compassion & without it, we become disabled in sharing our gifts, talents & Wisdom with others.

                                           GET CURIOUS… REMEMBER…

Experiencing Life Through the Perspective of Another

 

On my second trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica with a humanitarian, dental, non-profit organization called Great Shape/ 1000 Smiles, I again found myself working in a remote, jungle community called Walkerswood at the local school… in fact, the only school. It was a series of small, run-down, dirt-floored buildings joined together by sidewalks, metal bars in the glassless windows & surrounded by a rough-shod playground.

The kids, who ranged in age from 5 through 17, were more than curious as we hauled in box after box of dental equipment & chairs. They couldn’t wrap their minds around our odd ways either, whether it was petting or talking to the myriad of poor, starving dogs everywhere or wincing at the sight of bug-covered food that they would eat without a second thought… bugs & all.

Although the principal & staff cared greatly for these children, they were very strict about manners, obedience & the effort they put into their studies. I was even asked to speak at their monthly PTA meeting! The parents initially had a difficult time believing we would actually volunteer to take  time away from our own jobs & families & pay our own airfare to come there & not want something in return. Their own survival had always depended on having to hold so tightly onto anything they could get.

It was also an expectation throughout the community that if someone’s child was caught misbehaving, whichever neighbor happened to see them could take it upon themselves to mete out punishment which often included hitting them… the old “spare the rod… spoil the child” mentality.

The second day there, I met a teenage girl, Dana… 15 years old… who lived nearby. Her developmentally disabled brother attended the school & although she was no longer a student there herself, she could often be found helping with him or just hanging around. Her mother was a local healer… a very spiritual, church-going woman who was well-liked & respected in the community.

As we struck up a conversation, I asked why she wasn’t in school. She had attended previously & had actually been a very good student. At some point though, she’d come down with an auto-immune disorder which slowly robbed her of her ability to function. Often exhausted, she would ask the teacher to be excused. Her mother, being very concerned, had taken her to various local healers with no luck. She was finally able to get a clear diagnosis from a medical center some distance away.

Unfortunately because of the culture there & a lack of understanding, that explanation wasn’t well-received by the school staff. Assuming she was just being lazy, her teachers became so hard on her she eventually dropped out of altogether. Fortunately by the time we met, her symptoms had begun to go into remission & her strength & energy were slowly returning.

Since we were short-handed, this seemed like an ideal opportunity to have her work with us as a team member & build her self-esteem at the same time… a win-win! She seemed to have a natural aptitude for dentistry & before long she was performing a number of tasks quite well. The change in her demeanor was palatable & it did my heart good to see her confidence in herself grow.

Each year as our trip came to an end & we prepared to go back home, there was always a dinner back at the hotel to say “thank-you” to everyone who had participated & give them a chance to say their good-byes to so many they had developed strong bonds with. Everyone shared how much it had meant to them to really be able to help but they also felt they’d received so much more in return.

Our team invited Dana to come spend the night at the hotel in my room so she could attend the dinner & with her mother’s permission, she excitedly agreed. I knew this would be a great experience for her but I had no idea what an adventure it would be as well… for both of us…

She arrived carrying a change of clothes and an old, ragged towel in a paper bag. I explained it wasn’t necessary for her to bring her own towel as the hotel supplied them for their guests. I then told her to go ahead & feel free to take the first shower. She headed into the bathroom as my roommate & I took that time to kick back after a long, hot day.

About 20 minutes later, out she walked… tears in her eyes… red blotches all over her skin. Surprised & concerned, I asked her what was wrong. “I tried to stay under the spout” she said “but the water was just SO hot, I couldn’t stand it anymore!” To my dismay, I realized she had never been in a shower with hot & cold running water before.  I thought about how naïve I’d been not to realize that. Most Jamaicans shower in rainwater they trap in vats on their roofs. It’s a tropical climate so water heaters aren’t used, even though there are days I’m sure it’s chilly. They simply can’t afford the electricity or plumbing.

I apologetically explained the situation to her & helped her get ready for dinner, all the while trying to ease her extreme nervousness.  By the time we got to dinner & seated ourselves, the poor thing looked like she was going to pass out!

As our dinners were served, I noticed one of the Jamaican waiters standing by the wall near our table, quietly & quickly came over to her, placed her napkin in her lap for her & showed her the silverware. Once again, I realized she had never been to a restaurant… never experienced the nuances of having her glass filled with water or ordering from a menu. Again, I felt like I’d failed her in not being aware enough of the circumstances she came from. No wonder she was so anxious!

There are many people who live in the U.S. who also go without these things as well but even more Jamaicans do. So many of us in this country are so blessed to have enough to eat, a place to sleep, a chance for an education, clothing, charitable organizations who are available to make up the difference & opportunities for some type of dental & medical care should an emergency arise at least. We can’t know what we haven’t yet learned & sometimes it’s easy to forget to appreciate what we haven’t had to go without.

Gratitude is our gift to ourselves & to the collective because if we can’t see our own reasons to be grateful, we’re not near as likely to be there to support & empower others.

                                                 GET CURIOUS… REMEMBER…

 

 

 

 

Mental Health… So what’s in a label?

Among the countless things I don’t know is one thing I’ve learned FOR SURE… life is anything but black and white… neat and tidy! It comes instead, in a spectrum of shades… often overlapping according to facts and perspective. The issue of mental health falls perfectly into this conundrum. We seem to have a need to define everything and give it a name. It makes us feel safer… more in control regardless of how far from the truth that really is.

The professional field of mental health has historically been broken in many ways. A diagnosis can only be as accurate and effective as the tools used to assess any given situation along with the insight and training of the psychologist and or psychiatrist making that assessment. Until recently due to a lack of funding and priorities, the human brain has not been studied beyond a certain point. The tendency has always been to view the issue from only part of our human spectrum which is only a slice of the entire pie. The reality is we’re all made up of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies… each just as essential as the next and all connected and symbiotic.

Good therapists are worth their weight in gold but sadly those who aren’t seem to far outweigh them. This has been not my personal experience repeatedly but also mirrors the opinions of many friends and peers of mine in this field who have identified this as a real problem as well. Nobody in a healing profession can be effective unless they’re willing to also do their own personal work. People are often drawn to professions like these because of their own tough experiences and a sincere desire to help others. What they don’t yet understand however is we can’t help anyone else unless we’re willing to help ourselves first. When we know better… we do better. Knowledge gained through books and class-time is very different from wisdom. This is what we gain from going through the process ourselves. It shifts our perspectives and the way we deal with everything and everyone around us. Otherwise, it becomes just another way to avoid our “stuff” by focusing on someone or something else. That’s not empowering for either party!

Unfortunately, the propensity for life-long damage to someone who is incorrectly diagnosed or mishandled by the so-called “professional” they’ve sought help from can be heart-breaking. It certainly has been for me as I’ve listened to countless personal stories from clients and friends who have suffered the repercussions of being incorrectly diagnosed and labeled. They’ve all held the belief that they WERE their diagnosis… somehow less than everyone else… flawed… not worth having a joyful life or a healthy relationship. In every single case, they could not have been more wrong. NOBODY should go into the field of mental health unless they’re empathic and compassionate enough to see and understand the perspectives of those they are supposed to serve. The damage I’ve witnessed from ignorance on the part of the professional who should know better has left me many times with my mouth hanging open in amazement.

Learning to truly identify who we are at our authentic best requires letting go of the antiquated beliefs that keep us stuck, powerless and unable to see the bigger picture and truth of it. Becoming aware of the labels which hurt and shame so many and keep them hostage is something everyone of us can and should do. It also means having the courage to speak up when we hear or see someone doing something counter to that. At our cores, THAT is who we ALL are.

GET CURIOUS…. REMEMBER…

The Labels We Live With…

Years ago, I worked in the fashion industry. At that age I was drawn to it’s fast-paced creativity and the opportunity for travel but as I began to learn more about why items were marketed the way they were, I began to get a broader understanding of the meaning a lot of people give to a name or trademark on a label and how we’re so often manipulated by that. The funny thing is… clothing as well as many other items are routinely produced using the exact same materials from the same manufacturers. The only difference between them as they hit the store shelves & public awareness are the “labels” put in place beforehand…. OH!… and the price! One may have the “high-end” name of a popular and pricey brand while another may have a label from a discount store at cheaper price. It’s usually referred to as “private label” in the industry. The unsuspecting public falls prey to being “slaves to the label”… giving their power away by spending more of their hard-earned money for nothing more than a tiny emblem and the belief that they’re somehow not enough without it.

Negative labels attached to a person, most especially early in life, form their own opinions and ideas about who they are as well as those of others suffering from the same skewed perspective. We all come as spirits into this life healthy and whole with the prior agreement and intention of learning what we need to progress in a bigger, higher picture beyond here. WE ARE NOT DEFINED BY OUR DISABILITES, ISSUES OR SHORT-COMINGS. These are nothing more than lessons and lessons they’ll continue to be until we “get it”.

We are so much more…                                     
 GET CURIOUS…. REMEMBER….