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…..

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A Bigger Universal Perspective… Think Like a Hawk

Imagine yourself sitting on the ground. You lift up a large stone & there before you exposed for your observation are a myriad of smaller life forms… bugs, worms, snails, slugs & the like… all busily…even frenetically going about their business of living their lives in their earthly environment. The closer you look, the more you tap into how each species performs their tasks for survival as well as how they interact with each other in a more communal way.
Now picture yourself as a hawk… gliding along on the wind currents… ever aware & observant from high above all that is going on below. The hawk is capable of seeing exactly what it needs to see from great distances. It doesn’t need to tune into all the details… only those which support its own life & true survival.
Nature is a wonderful & wise teacher… microcosm/ macrocosm. When we fallible humans get caught up in the “emotionality” of a situation, it then becomes very difficult to access it with the clarity needed to find a viable solution. “Emotion” is about feeling… something we need to be able to connect with to be healthy & well-rounded. It comes from a natural tendency & need to give & receive. “Emotionality” on the other hand, is about drama & being triggered into a reaction to something that has wounded us prior to that. Operating from that vantage point never serves us well so it’s important to recognize the difference.
If we can learn to mentally stand back out of the chaos that so often permeates life & observe it from a more Universal vantage point, we automatically give ourselves the gift of seeing any given situation with much more clarity & truth. It also allows us to see a new perspective in relation to the level of importance we tend to assign things out of misplaced emotion, something by the way… the animal kingdom never does. What may have appeared to be much more important when we’re right in the middle of it often is merely a drop in the bucket when we consider the bigger picture, especially when we can let go of our fear & ego & see it for what is really is.
That my friends, is a recipe for true freedom & peace of mind & when all else fails, just remember… this too shall pass.

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…

 

 

 

 

How Do You Define Intelligence?

 

Many people think of intelligence as our brain-based I.Q.  Although helpful & necessary for linear information, it’s only 1/3 of the entire equation…

How many times in your life have you noticed someone you considered to be intellectually bright & talented yet unable to maintain personal or business relationships? If they’re in positions of authority… managers, CEOs… teachers… parents… partners… friends… this definitely makes for a miserable & destructive atmosphere.

Without empathetic wisdom… instead of empowering others through good communication, they tend to deplete & undermine them. Regardless of their ability to understand & pull off the day-to-day tasks, they don’t have the ability to relate to or understand those they share their homes, work-spaces & lives with. After all, we get back what we put out there at the end of the day…

Sometimes it actually becomes harder for someone with a gifted MENTAL I.Q. to even understand the concept of this. Because things always came so easily for them in their heightened intellectual capacity, they become accustomed to feeling superior. Their egos disable them from being able to humble themselves enough to seek or recognize what they’re missing. Certainly, this doesn’t apply to every person of high intelligence. I’ve know many wonderful, very compassionate, gifted people but I’ve witnessed enough of the misery caused by those stuck in their egos to warrant speaking out.

Not only is there a great deal of damage done to others affected  by someone’s lack of emotional understanding but also to the person propagating it because they’re not able to interact with others in the fulfilling, rewarding ways they deserve as well.

The important component which is lacking in these situations is EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. It’s the ability to tap into someone else’s feelings through body-language, intuition & their words. For some, it comes so naturally they simply react that way without being conscious of it. They have gifted emotional I.Q.s. For others, it must be learned & sometimes in order to do that, they have to leave their intellect at the door.

Although it can be learned at any age, the best place to begin this development is in childhood… right along with our ABCs. Parents & teachers need to “teach” children how to have empathy and to be kind & compassionate. The lack of it manifests in bullying & other destructive behaviors that create woundings for the recipients they often carry around inside for a lifetime.

This is also where SPIRITUAL INTELLIGENCE comes in. It’s our ability to connect not just within but also without… to something bigger than ourselves. It allows us to expand our perspectives & consider the collective good instead of just our own well-being. It’s not a dogma… it’s a way of “being”… towards ourselves & others. It’s what gives us our humanity towards ALL life.

Not only do these 3 types of intelligence each play their own specific part of the whole but every one of them can be used in creating whatever it is we want… art, business models, curriculums, our plans for our lives… literally anything. Everyone is born with certain gifts whether they recognize it or not & when we’re given a gift, we’re expected to use it to the best of our abilities. When we know better… we do better. To use them wisely, we need to be humble & caring enough to use them to benefit the most people.

                            GET CURIOUS… REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE…

Fear & Limitation

“Hang on tight… You never know what might happen if you let go” …. Brian Andreas
What are you afraid of…? I mean what REALLY scares you? You can’t count anything you might worry could happen to a loved one… this one is just about you and only you. Have you ever really thought about it or ask someone you’re close to about theirs? You may be surprised at the answer.
Each year I try to pick something that “scares the hell out of me” and I do it anyway. I’m never short on subject matter! Although this may conjure up visions of possibly jumping out of an airplane 2500 ft. above the ground, many of my own, personal roadblocks have tended to revolve much more around that “P”-word most of us are likely more intimately acquainted with than we’d like…. “procrastination”. Having experienced both of the above types of fear numerous times, I found the fear of not meeting expectations… mine or someone else’s… MUCH more frightening than sky-diving!
I eventually came to understand just how much of a limitation FEAR plays in our lives… right down to the small, seemingly insignificant ones. There seems to be a lot of confusion about what its true purpose really is. Despite its intended design which is to keep us alive, it’s been heavily over-used….
On a trip I took to Yelapa, Mx. A few years ago for a yearly sacred, women’s retreat I have been participating in, I was particularly aware and often amazed at the amount of fear I witnessed in many of the participants. This is a very small, fishing village that can’t be accessed except by boat. Although quite comfortable, our rooms or palapas were made of thatched palm leaves for the roofs and had no walls or glass windows… quite rustic & open to the jungle life except for mosquito netting around our beds..
For someone like myself, who feels most at home in nature and the trees, going to sleep each night to the sounds of the secadas and other vibrating insects, in unison with the rhythm of the waves lapping against the rocks on the beaches only yards away, always sing to my strong shamanic connection to the earth. Waking up each morning to the sounds of the jungle and the songbirds coming to life again to start a new day absolutely fills me with gratitude for the gift that it all truly is. That’s MY perspective anyway…
The first day begins with a quick overview of some interesting local facts about the indigenous culture there and a few cautionary suggestions for avoiding bites or stings from some of the critters that call the area home, one being scorpions. The point is always made though, that the actual incidences of this happening are pretty small as long as they know to be aware.
Out of the 10 women who came on this particular trip to experience the adventure and connection outside their normal comfort zone, many were very nervous about the scorpions and other wildlife, some were afraid of what might be in the water or climbing out of a small boat in choppy water, etc. but the one who stood out the most was a woman who was petrified of heights & trees!
Of all the palapas, she was assigned the one with the best view at the edge of a beautiful canyon and right in front of an ancient, enormous banyan tree. I could feel the energy coming from it as I stood there gazing in admiration and feeling a little envious of her good-fortune at being able to sleep there.
The next morning, as we all gathered for breakfast, I was surprised to see this same woman walk through the kitchen door, her puffy, red eyes belying the fact she hadn’t slept a wink all night. We agreed that a healing session might be in order and later that day as we began working in energy, she explained to me that she had always had a deep-seated fear of trees along with a lengthy list of other phobias. We eventually uncovered the reason for her fear of trees, which she explained was based on the worry they could fall over on her.
She spoke about being raised in a military family, the oldest of four kids. Their lifestyle required frequent moves which meant she had to continually uproot her life, leave her friends behind and begin again…over and over.
Because emotional expression was neither modeled nor encouraged by her stoic parents, her normal feelings over all this went unaddressed. As the oldest, she just naturally assumed the responsibility of watching out for her younger siblings, which left her with little time for her own self-nurturing.
As I worked on her, I suddenly felt and saw the connection. “It’s not the tree you’re afraid of.” I told her. “It’s the fear that the “roots” will give way and it will topple.” That was where her fear of it falling came from! “Roots” are what she never could seem to hold onto throughout her childhood & even at times in her adult life as well. Never being able to stay in one spot long enough to feel safe and connected had taken its toll. We worked together to release that belief and incorrect fear which in turn gave her new insight.
The next morning she walked with a smile on her face and a much different and more empowered look and attitude. She said she was amazed at how peacefully she had slept throughout the night… right in front of that beautiful old tree elder.
But the news she was most excited to share was that as she was awakening, she opened her eyes and looked straight at the tree. There in front of it, she clearly saw a very old, aboriginal man. He said nothing but looked at her and smiled.
With a catch of emotion in her voice, she said she knew he was there to tell her she had done good work. I explained that he was one of her guides and I pointed out to her, if she had not been able to step out of the fear, she wouldn’t have had the clarity to be able to see him and the gift he gave her of support & wisdom.
As the week progressed we worked to recognize where each fear became locked in and with a concerted effort of support from everyone there, she was able to empower herself to overcome them…one at a time. The shift in her entire being was palatable by the end of the trip and it was a true inspiration and lesson to everyone there.
She had to come to truly understand at a deeper level that because she saw something as scary didn’t mean everyone else did. It wasn’t the “thing” that changed…only her perception of it. Finally gaining the courage & support to actually face them set her free or put her well on her way. Our imagination is often much worse than the reality of a given situation.
GET CURIOUS… BE COURAGEOUS… REMEMBER