The Difference Between a Spiritual Dream and a Physical Dream

Last summer I had a dream where I was in Brazil having a lot of difficulties and then toward the end of the dream I found myself in a patch of oregon grape plants which I started eating.  So, after I woke up,  I immediately looked up the healing properities  of oregon grape and found that it was exactly what I needed.   When I think about the dream and that it would just give me the healing herb that I needed, I feel pretty astonished, but the dream illustrates a basic principle of healing.  Healing is both spiritual and physical and so when I analyze the dream,  I find that it requires that I learn the spiritual part, which is how to deal with the difficulties, and then also accept the need for physical healing which comes in the form of the oregon grape bush.

In the 1990s is was very popular to treat depression as only a physical problem which needed a drug to remedy.   There is no doubt, and the research bears this out, that thousands of people were helped by the drugs to relieve the symptoms of the depression.   It allows you to forget the conditions that brought on the depression or the triggers that stimulated its presence, and then maintain a higher level of enthusiasm about your life.    It is exactly the same as if I were to only take the oregon grape and not deal with the difficulties that happened to me in Brazil.   I am going to get some healing from the herbs, but the next time that the same type of difficulties come up, my emotions are automatically going to start reacting in a way that will lead my body to the weakness that needs more oregon grape.  This is the logic of illness.

The healing requires both doing the spiritual work and the physical work.  Most of us want to forget the depressing circumstances that caused us so much stress so we will go for the physical healing only.  Indeed, the culture builds it right in to expressions like “I really need a drink” after having had a difficult time at work.    But since the dream world is interested in both your spiritual growth and your physical well being,  it is going to give you both messages.   Spiritual growth is always going to take up much more of the dream space because developing virtue is the purpose of our lives.    Our bodies do not survive the planet, but our spirits do.

Every time a person takes a drink or smokes a joint to relieve the symptoms of daily life then he stops the spiritual growth process in favor of the forgetting process.    In all of the dream meetings that I have done I have never been to a meeting where at least one person has not asked me.  “What does it mean if I can remember my dreams?”       So I think that the best way to answer the question is to ask the person,  “What is it that you are trying so hard to forget?”

I am certain that a huge number of physicians prescribed ant-depressants and then used the research to support themselves because the process of remembering the conditions that caused so much stress and then the body and mind to fail,  is truly depressing.    It is much easier for a doctor to prescribe a physical remedy and then tell his patient to forget the problems that he is having and it is also more lucrative for the doctor.

The key is to realize that if you are having some difficulties in your life,  that your dream life is going to help you resolve them.   Most of the information will be spiritual and sometimes you will get physical remedies or suggestions.   The difficulties are the gifts because they lead to the development of new capacities.   They never go away by themselves or with a drug.

The big question for all of us is,  “WHAT AM I TRYING SO HARD TO FORGET?”

What Do People Mean in a Dream?

What does it mean when someone appears in your dream?   If you have read my postings in the past, you know that I believe strongly that dreams are given to us so that we can become more of our true selves by developing new qualities and processes.   One thing most people have not thought about in regards to dreams is that, despite the fact that dreams are written in metaphoric language, there is such a thing as a message being more metaphoric than other.  Some messages are closer to the real world and less in the metaphoric world.

What I mean by this idea is that when you have a dream with an animal in it and it exhibits a certain quality such as the way a bear represents strength or a tiger represents courage, that animals in dreams are more metaphoric than people.   This means that when you have an animal dream, that the process you are trying to manifest in your life is further away from its full application in the world than if you dream about a person with a developed quality.

When an animal appears, you are more likely to be in a stage of development where you can do a lot of  meditation and reflection and inner work, but not have a great deal of application in the outer world.   When the dreams shift to people, it means that the application in the outer world is much closer after you do the change work.   The person in the dream is still best understood as a metaphor, but the degree to which you can act with the quality or need to avoid it, is very high.

The mistake that most people make in dream interpretation with people is that they tend to regard them too literally rather than regarding them as metaphors and then acting on the message.   It is generally more transformational to regard people in a dream as parts of yourself that you either need to change because they are negative or move toward because they are positive.  It always helps when you ask the question, “What is the positive quality that this dream is trying to develop in me?”

Many people, because they are not used to thinking in a metaphoric manner,  try to immediately react to a person in a dream in real life because they think the dream is telling them to do so.  Dreams always point in you in the direction of change and when you make the change, the person may show up and have a relationship with you, but it is not the first step.  The first step is always meditation and change because the purpose of life is to develop your capacities.

Take this example.   Suppose you are in a marriage that is relatively stable, but going through a difficult patch because of the trials of life.   Then one night you dream of an old girl friend or boy friend that makes you feel really attracted.   The worst mistake you can make is to think that the dream wants you to leave your marriage for the old flame.    What the dream really wants you to do is to remember the qualities of the old boy or girl friend that you already have in you, and then begin using the qualities again in your life and marriage.   As soon as you do this then the marriage always gets better.  If the old friend had the quality of enthusiasm or inner perception,  then that is what your current marriage needs you to be and use.

There is a different scenario that happens in dreams when you are in a marriage for the wrong reason or were forced into it.   Your dreams, in this case, will have you remember the people and qualities that actually cause you to leave the marriage.   When you develop that part of you, the door will open so that you can be a relationship that is more suited to you.

Persians have this idea that if you dream about a wedding with someone that is a very bad sign that something bad is going to happen.   And this is clearly because a wedding in the Persian culture is not between people who chose each other.   The marriage is usually chosen for material values based upon status and gain.

How to Use Exercise as a Transformation Tool

This post is primarily for Shane, my son-in-law, who is a personal trainer. He uses a lot of interesting exercise programs like intu-flow and kettlebells that can keep you fit and playing for a long time.    Since Shane and I have had numerous conversations about how sport and fitness training can be combined with spiritual change work,  I decided to share a simple procedure that may be helpful.

When I do spiritual change work with myself,  I first go inside and ask myself what is the worst issue I am facing.   Some people start out by trying to find out what they want to develop first, but I find that the negative energy is much more instructive than what my mind might conjure up.  Some of the things that we want without starting out with our issues are just not good for us.  I trust my negative emotions.

What is nice about intu-flow is that it takes you through a series of exercises that work all of the joints in your body.   When you do the intu-flow program,  you can make a mental note while doing it about which movements have the most pain associated with them.   It could be your hips, neck, or knees, for instance.   This is step #1.

Step #2 is to go back to the movement hold the negative stress for a short period and feel what negative emotion is most associated with it.   Here are some choices.  Fear, anxiety, sadness,  anger, frustration, disappointment, guilt, shame,  hurt, envy, jealousy, hatred.

Step #3 is to ask yourself what issue the negative emotion is connected to in your self.  For instance, if you feel sadness, then you may have an issue in your life about loss.   If could be loss of a parent, a child, a country, a job, an ability, or opportunities.   If you feel fear,  it will hold you from going very far with the exercise routines as well as some aspect of your life.

Step #4 is identify the energy that you would like to replace the issue with.   If you have sadness or are depressed, then you probably are looking for enthusiasm and a positive future.

One of the things I like about Intu-flow is that Scott tells you to not push the pain too much.  Why this is important is that when you deal with an issue,  you can do a lot more damage by going too fast into it to try to solve it. I like to think that the issues in my life are like novels that keep revealing new things with each chapter; so when you do the issues work,  try to find a little more information  with each new exercise session.    What you should find happening is that joints begin to loosen more with each new revelation.   This happens because when the negative emotion no longer needs to be there, it just goes away.    It doesn’t happen all at once because the spiritual teachings are too complex to be known all at once.    The exercise brings them out.

You don’t have to be doing a program in a fitness center to work the transformation.   If you play tennis, squash, volleyball, soccer or you run, bike, swim, or hike,  there will be parts of the experience that stimulate the negative emotions.   You can do the same procedure as above with any sport.   Step #1 is to identify the worst part of my game and what is the feeling I get.   Every time I play I can improve that part by loosening some of the negative energy and then it will allow for new patterns to being emerging.

You can think of transformation work as a gentle process.  At anytime that the emotions become too strong inside of you, you can just back off like you do in intu-flow.   And at some point you may just realize that you would like go for professional help and that would be excellent.

Animal Dreams

What should you do when you have a dream with animals? When there is a snake, a dog, a shark, an eagle, a deer, how do you regard these symbols?

Dreams with animals in them are always about developing specific spiritual qualities like courage, playfulness, strength, humility, and joy. As soon as an animal appears in a dream I think about the qualities that the animal has and then see how those qualities are what I need in my life right now. For me, animal dreams are some of the easiest and most exciting to work with because they are such straight forward messages about doing the transformation work necessary to get the virtue represented by the animal to be more present and working in my life. The nice thing about working with animal dreams is that they are so clear.


Like other dreams animals will present themselves in either a negative manner or a positive one. Dreams that are negative with animals such as being chased by a bear, bitten by a dog, or poisoned by a snake give you the issues that you are facing in trying to apply the animal’s virtue into your life. For instance, being bitten by a poisonous snake such as viper and then having the life taken out of you is a symbol that somewhere in your environment that you are being poisoned by the way people act around you. The most poisonous kind of human behavior is malicious backbiting because you get attacked and affected by a concealed enemy like a viper. A poisonous snake like a viper is a lot less dangerous when it is seen so it takes a great deal of care to blend in to the environment and hide in such a way that the victim doesn’t see it ahead of time. This is how backbiting works. People attack you behind your back by poisoning the environment with things about you that make others think badly of you. This has the effect of taking the life out of you. When you get the snake in the dream, you can recognize right away that you are being poisoned in the environment, see who the snake is, and then take steps to overcome the poison. The solution to an animal dream is take the negative qualities of the animal and then flip them over 180 degrees so that the positive opposite appears to you. A green tree viper has two or three wonderful qualities which are patience to wait for a long time in one spot before the right conditions appear to act, the quality of humility by taking on the shape of the color of the environment around itself, and the quality of using self defense only as a last resort.


Dogs are generally seen as for the qualities of loyalty and friendship so when you are bitten by a dog, it means that someone who you thought was your friend has acted in a not so friendly manner to you. If a friend turns on you or acts in an aggressively negative manner toward you, the tendency for people is to either bite back or to curl up in a corner and avoid more friendships. Having the symbol of a dog in your dreams means that the qualities of friendship and loyalty are being called for, but having been bitten by a friend lets you know that you can let go of what has happened to you so that your circle of friends can be widened. If you don’t get the message that the dog means that you need to be more friendly in your life even tough you were bitten, then you are going to end up protecting yourself instead of developing the quality. The appearance of the animal in the dream is a message from the dream world that you need more of its quality. Nothing could be more straightforward. The difficulty is being able to get help to overcome the issue.


The first step to understanding an animal dream is to take the time to meditate on the animal’s qualities so that you can see the positives that need to be actualized in your life. It is really most difficult to do this when you have a great deal of fear associated with the animal, but it is nonetheless necessary. Insects in a dream, for instance, usually mean something is bugging you, that you are being annoyed. The positive quality of insects are that they multiply rapidly so that when one insect dies or is squashed, the group continues forward. If you are being bugged(annoyed by something or someone), then you act like the insect world by just letting it go and then multiplying your positive acts. You maybe fearful of a bee sting, which represent the protectiveness that some people have when their issues are stimulated, but then you can just let it go (let the stinging comment go) and then multiply the amount of honey that you make for others.

The Steps to working with an animal dream.

1. identify the positive qualities that the animal has. (ants are industrious, dolphins are playful, etc.)

2. Identify the issue that the animal presents when it appears negative and then what your response is to the issue. (poisonous snake means your environment is being poisoned behind your back and your response could be like hiding away)

3. Change the negative metaphor to a positive one. (recognize the positive qualities in everyone around you and develop a connection with them that is life giving and energizing)

4. Set a personal goal to actualize the dream. (today I will find 4 people who can say something positive to)

Some animals and their issues.
1. Bear – strength- Fear of being overpowered by a stronger person.
2. Shark- assertiveness- fear fo being ripped into and torn to shreads
3. Lion- courage- fear of being attacked by a fierce opponent
4. Eagle- vision- fear of being swooped down on and attacked
5. Worm- Making the world more fertile – acting in a negative manner out of sight of others to get an advantage.
6. Crocodile- Patience- fear of something lurking in a relationship that is ready to attack.
7. Beaver- Hard work to reach a goal- doing a lot of work but getting nowhere

Traveling in a Dream

In one of my last posts I wrote about the four elements, earth, wind, fire, and water as they relate to dreams.  In this post the focus is on transportation.   The purpose of the four elements is to give you an indication of what kinds of qualities that you can be working on to improve your character and hence, have a much stronger true identity.   Traveling in a dream gives you some indications about how to move from the place you are at now to the destination that your true self desires.     It is important to emphasize, before discussing the symbols of travel, that there is a difference between having a destination set by your ego versus a goal that originates from your true self.    If you don’t get the distinction, you miss the whole point of dream study.    If you are from North America,  the cultural thought of submitting to a higher self or higher authority may just be something that you really resist.   US culture was founded on the idea that you can’t trust people who have a lot of power because they tend to use it for their own selfish purposes.  What this translates to in personal development is that you should be able to have the freedom to go after whatever goal you are seeking as long as it doesn’t harm anyone.     So a large percentage of the population pursue goals that have almost nothing to do with what their true selves want.  Sex becomes more important than relationships and money is more important than service, for instance.   The difficult concept for those of us of American origin is the idea of submission.   In spiritual terms this is known as surrendering the will of your ego to the will of the Creator, and in personal transformation work it is about pursuing goals of your true or higher self instead of abasing yourself with egomania.

Having grown up American, I have to say that when I learned how to do this process it was a huge turning point in being able to do my own changework because it helped me to have a lot more clarity about which direction my dreams were pointing to.    The symbols around traveling help to clarify the difference between the ego and the true self very elegantly so they are worth attending to.   If you have read my other postings, you might have already learned that when you have negative emotions in a dream, it gives you information about your ego, whereas positive ones point you in the direction of your true self.    Here are some of the common symbols people have around transportation.

Cars:  In most cultures cars are the chief means of transport to get you to your destinations in your daily life.  There are exceptions, but generally we use cars to get us to work, to shop, to transport our children to their activities, and to do recreation.   It is a symbol connected closely to our daily experiences.  There are exceptions because we also use cars for holidays, but they are more likely to come into play when you have an issue around getting somewhere on a day to day basis.   A car is closer to home than, for instance, traveling in a plane so when a car is in your dream, it often brings up issues of getting to short term progress rather than long term.    Often people, who might be driving, are in the passenger seat when a car is out of control.   This  is an indicator that they need to take more control in their lives.   A crash can signify either trying to get somewhere too fast, not showing enough care, or that someone else is leading you in a dangerous way.

Planes:  Planes travel in the air which in symbolic terms have more to do with going after a longer term goal because they are further away from home.   Oftentimes the issue with a plane is that of running out of gas. This is because when you start a project you may have a great deal of enthusiasm, but then burn out after awhile.  You need a way to sustain enthusiasm despite setbacks and difficulties.  Not being able to get off the ground is a problem of not having enthusiasm in the first place, whereas a mid air crash might be having too much enthusiasm that is not balanced with wisdom and care.    Flying on your own is different than flying on a plane and has a more to do with the benefits of freedom as opposed to getting from one place to another in your life.

Boats:   Being in water on a boat shows you issues related to working together as a group to reach a goal as in the metaphor we are all in the same boat.   If you are rowing a boat alone, but it is a positive experience it can mean that you are doing your part to make the group function and reach the goal.   A sinking ship may signify that something is wrong with the way the group is being lead.

Bicycles:  Bicycles differ from cars in that you get to where you want to go through your own efforts, so if you have a positive dream on a bike it could mean that the dream is asking you to make stronger daily efforts.   Racing down a mountain on a bike out of control means that you probably need to develop skills along with your courage.

Motorcycle:  A motorcycle is a vehicle that manuevers a lot easier than a car and has a lot more openness to it so a dream with a motorcycle may be that you need to have a free feeling while dealing with your goals and also the able to manuever much quicker.

Trekking:  Taking a trek has a lot to do with the quality of determination and the wilingness to commit over the long term to reach a goal.    The general rule is that the longer the journey the more determination is needed, while a short journey needs a lot of enthusiasm and courage.

25 Years is Only the Beginning


This is something of an adventure story. You see back in the early 80s I was studying with one of the great mentors in my life, Dr. Daniel Jordan, who had created a model of education called Anisa. In the Anisa Model we believed that human beings have unlimited potentialities and that we should combine a strong philosophy of education with the best that science had to offer in terms of research. In October of 1982 Dr Jordan died which was quite untimely for me since I was just beginning my study and collaboration with him. I thought that I would be working with him for a long time, but suddenly it was over. He was gone. By the spring of 1983 it was clear that the project at the university would not be supported, so many of us began looking around for other places to implement Anisa.

We ended up receiving a job offer on a First Nations reserve outside of Edmonton, Canada so in July of 1983 we left our country, the USA, and set out. A few weeks ago I started doing the math and realized that it had been 25 years since we had lived in the US. When I went to study with Dr. Jordan in 1980, I had hoped that I would be able to move to Latin America afterwards. It was always my dream to leave the US and live abroad. Now we are 25 years forward from when we left the US, having spent 16 of them in Canada, 6 in Brazil, and now we are on our 4th year in Malaysia.

Here is my story. I was really reluctant to leave California because I loved working on the model and loved the San Diego area. When I arrived in Alberta, I thought that where we were living was an armpit, but then I ended up really loving the work and loving the Cree Reserve so I again became reluctant to leave. Then my eldest daughter, Erika, decided that she wanted to go to the Maxwell International Baha’i School on Vancouver Island so when we inquired about jobs, we got them. We ended up being on the Island for 9 years and God knows the story. I was reluctant to leave. So He gave me an easy way. We were fired or restructured out. After a year of hanging out on the Island receiving unemployment insurance, we set out for the next leg on the journey, Brazil. This really is a story of reluctance.

I guess you know what I am going to say now. Brazil is so much a part of me that I often still dream in Portuguese. I thought that when I moved to Brazil that this would be it. I am just going to stay there for the rest of my life. Well, about 6 years on, the school decided to move in a different direction than the one we were in, so they asked us to leave. I think that is a really nice way to say it. Brazil has a way of stealing your heart so when we received a job offer in Asia after hanging out in Vancouver running along the seawall and going to parks with our granddaughter, Isa, for a year, I was really reluctant. I didn’t really think that Asia would be a nice place to live. How could I have been so wrong?

Really, sometimes I don’t get it with myself. I love to go on all kinds of adventures, but I am really reluctant to leave where I am. If God decides to grant me another 25 years, I think I am going to have to work on my issue of reluctance because I have had 25 wonderful years of adventure and I am just only beginning to meet a small fraction of the rest of the world.

Baha’u’llah has repeatedly exhorted us to regard the world as one country and mankind as one family. I’d like to think of moving around in the world as if I were moving from one state to another in the US visiting family, but I see that I still have a long way to go to get to His ideal.

Happy 25th to us.

Four Elements in Dream Analysis

Most of the cultures and religions in the world have classified spiritual energy into four categories which are  the heart, mind, body, and spirit.  Jesus said, for instance, that we should love God with all of our heart, mind, spirit, and strength.  In dream language or mythological language such as in native stories the four types of energy are most connected with one of the four elements.   The heart is connected to water, the body or one’s strength to the earth,  the mind  with light and fire, and the spirit to the air.  When you have a dream, what you can often do is to look to the elements that are most significant in the dream and then realize that those represent the areas that the spiritual world is calling on you to develop.

The spiritual world only ever requires that you work on one energy at a time so when a dream presents one of the elements, you can be certain that that particular element is the one you need now.   So if, for instance, your house is on fire in a dream, you can be certain that something is wrong with the qualities of your mind. The mind is supposed to be a source of illumination which requires a metaphor like a candle or other positive forms of light.   Your dreams will try to get you to develop the spirituality of the mind which include things like patience, calm, tranquility, and detachment.  When you have the spiritual qualities of the mind, then guidance and intuition seem to pour in easily.

If you have water in a dream, the first thing that can come to your mind is the need to focus on your relationships.   Water has so many forms in the world because the heart has so many qualities it needs to develop.   It is the least understood of all the elements because it is often associated as a feminine rather than a masculine quality.   It is the quality most spoken about in all of the religions of the world and yet is virtually non-existent in schools.    There is a lot that can happen with water in a dream.  It can be a flood, a tidal wave,  a storm, a rough sea,  a babbling brook, a placid lake,  a drink,  or a fast moving river.    When you have a water dream, it is important to note whether it is positive or negative.   If it is positive, then the dream will be encouraging you to recall the quality that is associated with the dream.    If you are white water rafting and having a great time,  then the dream may be asking you to reach out more courageously to others.  If the you are going down a wild river hanging onto a board and frightened to death,  then it could be a symbol that your relationships are just completely out of control and moving to fast.

The element of earth comes into the dream world when you need to have the qualities associated with strength such as fulfilling your commitments, staying with a project to its end,  developing abilities and skills from the ground up, and doing things that are extremely difficult.      The earth is the most solid of the elements so you may find that you are having difficulty climbing a mountain, which would be associated with having difficulty reaching a goal.  Cars are one of the forms of transportation on the element of the earth which symbolize trying to get from one place to another such as trying to become more competent in your work.   If your car breaks down or someone else is driving it,   it means that you are having difficulties getting to where you want to go.  You could run out of gas or be reckless and crash, or someone else is directing your life and career rather than you.     This element tends to be the one most praised by the culture as we know it because when someone is reliable, trustworthy, and hard working it makes everything in society work better.    Leaders who are concerned about their position at the top will love this quality in their workers, but when it comes to the next quality, air, they will likely be very threatened.   I am absolutely certain that the reason that the earth is so popular over the others is that it isn’t a threat to autocratic leadership.

Air is connected to the spirit which is represented in qualities like enthusiasm, optimism, idealism, vision, courage and hope.   Some of the common dreams involving air are flying dreams,  dreams where you are falling, and dreams with lots of wind.    Air is a lot like the heart, in that it isn’t often taught, but it is much more threatening because it is associated with doing new things which people interested in keeping the status quo do not like.

Here is a list of things which each element that you might want to explore.


Flying is often associated with freedom of action

Airplane is a medium in the air so it represents using your air-like qualities such as lightness and enthusiasm to accomplish goals that are new and a bit more radical.

Falling usually means falling from grace.  Falling from grace comes from not trusing in the Spirit as an extremely positive force that is always supporting you regardless of whether you deserve it or not.   Falling comes when you feel like you don’t merit things.

Wind usually tends to hold you back from rushing forward toward your vision.  The wind should be at your back instead of in front of you.  When you analyze a wind dream, imagine it at your back and then just let go of your hesitation.

Tornado is a symbol of how people take a small rather insignificant thing and then spin it until it becomes really destructive.   Tornados are what incompetent leaders use to get into power.  They find small things in others that are negative and spin them in others ears so that others get really fearful and make that person the leader.   Tornados happen where the values are more earth like the prairies.   They tend to pay attention to small things that aren’t true rather than investigating them fully.

Hurricane is a symbol of leaders who are trying to be god-like.   The association with God is that they originate in the ocean.   This is the same as a cyclone.  Hurricanes let you know that the relationship with God is being replaced by a leader who wants power.   When you dream it, it is a warning.


House on fire- many people have this dream when they try to use thinking all the time instead of other energy like relating energy.   The mind needs to cool to think well and be objective.

Light:  generally light is the source of illumination.   The negative side of light is darkness which is the absence of light.   When things are dark, it means that they need to be illumined with light.

Candle:  a candle is a soft light which is what you often need to find guidance or answers as opposed to really bright sunlight which may be overwhelming to the mind.   People often meditate to candle light because it has a way of letting you go inside and find answers.  The biggest mistake with the mind is to fret about finding an answer.   Many people don’t realize that the spiritual world will guide you when you need it and will withhold guidance when it is unnecessary.  It is part of the formula of trust.

Forest fire:  a symbol of how wrong thinking destroying growth and uprightness.

Unlike other elements where there are means of transportation associated with the energy,  the element of light requires remaining still.


Tsunami:    Cultural negativity in relating such backbiting, gossip, and criticism that is sustained by extremely negative and authoritarian leadership.    The opposite and positive force is encouragement which is sustained by finding positives in others and acknowledging them.

River:  raging river with a bridge is the problem of getting from one place to another in your life by crossing over lots of angry people.   The key to successfully dealing with anger is to not get pulled into the river.

Ocean:  The ocean is the symbol of the world of God because of its vastness.   A violent sea represents being out of relationship with the Creator.  I often substitute the spiritual world for the world of God. In my mind they are interchangeable.

Glass of Water: is a symbol of getting in relationship with oneself.   When you are thirsty in the desert, you are out of relationship with self.   The great majority of people are chronically dehydrated which has something to do with not being able have a positive relationship with themselves.

Shower is about cleansing oneself or purifying oneself.  Trouble showering means having trouble with motives either your own or others.

Toilet is the place where you let go of negativity that comes in and is meant to flow out.

Rain is a symbol of for what you to assist relationships to grow.   A drought is not enough relationship and a torrential rain is too much relationship.


Transportation on the earth:  many dreams in this realm are about moving from one place to another such as climbing a mountain,  driving in a car, going on a train, riding a motorcycle,  running, walking, biking.

Progress is made on the earth through effort.  When you are in the air and traveling like in a plane it is effortless, but on the earth you need your determination to go from one place to another.   Much of what happens is overcoming obstacles like big boulders or rock cliffs to scale.    You develop in this area through lots of repetition, doing the difficult thing,  always developing new skills.   If you are in a foreign country where they don’t speak your native tongue, then you need effort by practicing the new language a lot.

Earthquake:  your life if being shaken up, which means you need to get on solid ground.

In the next post I will write a little about buildings such as houses.   I would love to hear your dreams so please feel free to write me when you want to know what they mean.

A Child’s Dream is Often an Insight into Society

“I was going down stairs to get some water. On the way down a statue of cats came alive and were staring at me.  Down stairs there were two purple jaguars circling around me.  Om my chair there was a sleeping lady with Ron from Harry Potter.  wrapped around her arms and Ron said, “If you wake her up she will kill me.” I said, “what” and then the lady woke up and killed Ron!! Then I woke up.

Most things in dreams make absolutely no sense to the rational mind except the major negative emotion which is, in this case, fear.    It shows the main problem of our time that is a warning to this young 9 year old.   I don’t think that dreams of 9 year olds are meant to be analyzed metaphorically by themselves, but the fear is meant to felt so that they can recall it to someone who may help them through the process.   Unfortunately, it is a communication form that is only beginning to be understood so most children have little guidance about what is going on around them.     This dream starts by the boy going downstairs to get some water.    When you go down in a dream it usually means going to your lower nature rather than your higher one.   Going to get some water means that he is thirsty for a relationship.   The problem is the almost universal problem of young people in the world today.  They go to their lower natures, their ego,  for a relationship rather than their higher nature.   When this is done, their lives end up in fear and separation.

As he goes down the things that were statues come alive and start circling around him.    Animals in dreams can either be negative or positive.   When they appear as negative symbols, then the dreamer can turn his live around by finding their positive opposites.   The negative side of cat in a relationship is its aloofness and turning away from others, and the negative aspect of the big cats is their aggressive nature to tear into others.  The dream tells him that if he takes to his lower path that this is what he gets, aloof and distant relationships or really aggressive and abusive ones.   The final symbol is the mother figure who becomes a killer of a famous fantasy character when she is wakened.

A mother is supposed to be nurturing in real life,   but, in this episode, because he was taking the low road, he doesn’t get nurtured, he just sees horror.  The fantasy character lets him know that he imagines really bad things happening when he is on the low road.

It is often easiest to solve a dream by going backwards from the end of the dream rather than forward.  In this dream he ends up in a situation where he is  witnessing the death of an imaginary character.   This means that he can take the first steps to nurturing positive relationships and feeling alive and positive by being in the real world rather than the imaginary one.   This seems to be a major issue with all of the cultures of the world today.   Because the majority of relationships are built on material values, people slip into a destructive world of imagination rather than being real.    Children are just modeling their parents by slipping into things that distract them from real life.   Parents cannot moderate their children because they, the parents, do the same thing.

So the first step for most people and for this child is to be spend more time in the real world rather than in fantasy land.   It is not that Harry Potter is a bad read,  it is just that our culture spends too much time with him because we have become so atrocious at friendship and love and nurturing.   So then once you can get into the real world of friendship,  then you can take on the positive characteristics of the animal symbols, which in this case, would be to create a circle of friendship and pounce on goals that are positive.   The final symbol, which is the cats staring and being statues, is to be like a positive cat, which is to be independently minded.

What I do to get the symbols to become positive is to take their negative energy and flip them around to the positives.   So a statue of a cat would be like having the capacity of to think independently, but just not using it at all because it is much easier to just go into fantasy land rather than real thinking.    Real thinking is to be able to have opinions and discussions about real problems and then solving them.   And you can only get to the point of being able to have true discussions and openness when there is a circle of extremely positive relationships.

As we remember, the first part of the dream was to go downwards to get the water, which means taking the easy or material way to a relationship.  So the key, which is mostly non-existent in schools and in the world is for people to really desire excellence in having positive relationships.   Most people just do not want to put in the effort that a relationship requires.  They want it easy with the other side giving them lots of rewards.   So the main key to turning around the world culture is to be able to have a strong desire for working on relationships and on staying with the effort that is required.   It is not meant to be easy, but this is exactly what this child expects.

Sends your dreams to and get started on change.

Reflections on Being the Third Child

Baby Fiona was born today.   She is the third in her family,  like her grandfather.  That would be me.   Her parents named her Zaynab in between what people will call her and her family name.   Zaynab is an historical figure in the history of the Baha’i Faith. She was a village young maiden, who during the time when the newly born Faith of the Bab was being attacked by the Persian government’s army in the area of Zanjan, she decided that she would join the fight to defend her Faith.   In those days women were not allowed to be combative soldiers so she dressed herself in men’s clothing and joined the ranks.   She became so fearsome that even the very sound of her voice raised in a battle cry would cause the Persian soldiers to flee the battlefield.   Such was her courage.  Such will be your courage, Fiona Zaynab.

As a third child Fiona Zaynab, you will have some definite advantages.   Although Erika and Chris will have high expectations for you, the fact that there are already two others in the family will give you a certain amount of freedom because they just can’t watch over three the way they watch over two.   It is a place for your independent mind, for choosing the road less traveled.   Being a third child just seems to allow you go your own way, at least it did for me because I always felt a lot of support from the other family members that it was ok to try to do something different.   I see you in the first few moments in this new world that you has been born into and then imagine all of the great experiences you will have in doing that for which you have been created, all of the support you will have to be exactly who you are,  and all of the history of those family members who have preceded you, ones that you or I have never even known.

Your grandmother and I were a bit surprised when your mother and father decided to have you, the number three child, because much of the world these days rarely goes past two and a country of over a billion has even stopped at one.   But the threes have a special gift.  You are both in your family and free from it at the same time.  You will be free from convention and ready to explore all that is wondrous and new.     You will crave the unexplored parts of life even as an addict craves his drugs.   It is already so apparent in your complete tranquility, Fiona.  You are surrounded in love and support and this will set you free.

I leave you with a prayer for the first days of your life, Fiona, and long for our first of many adventures together.   “O Thou most glorious Lord! Make this little maidservant of thine blessed and happy; cause her to be cherished at the threshold of thy oneness, and let her drink deep from the cup of Thy love so she may be filled with rapture and ecstacy and diffuse sweet scented fragrances….”

Abdu’l Baha

What I Learned About Power on My Sunday Morning Run

I like to reserve Sunday mornings for my long runs so today I decided that it was time that I give myself a challenge by upping the distance to 21 k.   I haven’t run 21k for awhile, but I have been gradually increasing my activity level in the last few weeks so when that happens, the thought of a longer run just automatically enters.   The run was going quite well, but 21k is 21k. (long)   I started playing around with some nlp things about encouragement and relationship and finally power so I thought I would share them here in the case that others might be interested.

The really interesting thing about whether I was dealing with encouragement or relationship or power was that when my inner self was negative, then my outer self became tense and, hence the run became more difficult.   The more positive the relationship I had with my true self during the run, the more relaxed I was and the better I felt.  It seems quite simple and obvious,  but here is how it played itself out.   The nice thing about running is that it is an activity that you can do by yourself and in order to do it you need to have a good relationship with your own self.   So the first issue that came up was that I was trying to get someone else to have a positive relationship with me and then I found my mind trying to play with the pattern of how to get them to have a positive relationship with me.  What I realized was that I could have a positive relationship with my own self, so I dropped trying to get others to have a positive relationship with me and then suddenly an image of me running along beside me as my best friend just popped like we were running arm in arm.   At that point my body really relaxed and I just felt so great.  This was somewhere about 8-9k into the run.   I kept that image for awhile and then another issue showed up further down the roade which had much more to do with encouragement.   Encouragement is more like a positive voice that keeps you going so when the issue came up,  the voice was quite negative and critical and really didn’t want to have a relationship with me.   As I let go of the negative voice I found that the encouraging self appeared on as if it were on a bicycle next to me riding in a really relaxed way.   The encouraging self just gave me a nice plan and allowed me even more relaxation.   This happened around 12-13k.

Somewhere around 15-16k I started feeling really worn out and tired. It was already about 30 C.   I was filled with thoughts about trying to get people in authority in all kinds of situations to become powerful in a positive way to make things better.  This is a huge recurring theme in my life so I knew that since the relational and encouraging work had gone so well that I would give my powerful self a go.    What was interesting was that while the relational and encouraging selves appeared like images beside or near me, the empowered self was inside me.    I could feel it working on me feeling my body and my strength while I was running, but at the same time it was telling me where to relax.   At 18-19k I was still running at about the same pace that I was at 8-9k even when I had slowed down when the issue first appeared.

As I stayed with the empowered self it began to remind me of past runs that I had made at distance and started to get my body to run like those runs rather than running fatigued and slowed down.   So what I gained from the last part of the run was that empowerment arises when you feel your strength inside as if you are very relaxed but also feeling how strong you are.  It seems to come when I can change the focus away from other people’s power to my own memories when I felt strong in the past.

In summary, relational energy seems to be right beside me, encouraging energy is near but the focus is more auditory where as relational is visual and kinesthetic,  and empowered energy seems to be very kinesthetic feeling of being relaxed and strong at the same time that is generated from a positive memory.

If you try this exercise,  first just let the issue appear, spend some time analyzing it, and then let go of the negative energy so that you can acquire some of the positive energies.   Besides the three mentioned there is also a fourth energy, the enlightened self, which is more about guidance.   It has more to do with the issue of not finding your way, but it was not on my journey today.   When you find yourself lost or on the wrong path or on a path that someone else has lead you to, the issue usually has something to do with purity of motive.

Happy running!

Children’s Dreams #1 Giant Mutant Worm

“One day I had a dream that a giant mutant worm tried to eat me. When I was sleeping I heard a noise outside.  I went outside and couldn’t see the giant worm.  It was right behind me.  It tried to eat me, but when I turned back, I woke up because I was so scared.”

Understanding dreams is the same as reading a book, only instead of narrative, the language of the dream is metaphor.   It is helpful to know the child who is being described in the dream because it adds the kind of detail that the dream doesn’t fully give,  but it is not totally necessary.    When you can read the metaphor, you can understand the meaning of the dream.   You can also read what is known in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) as submodalities such as size, color, shape, speed, distortion, loudness, texture, pressure, etc..

Since children live in a land of giants, that is, everyone is much bigger than they are, many of their fears are registered by the submodality of size.  In this dream,  an animal that normally lives underground and is very small is transformed into huge proportions.    This is what makes the animal so fearful.   If it were small and in the ground doing what it does best, it would be creating air in the soil.    A positive worm helps by making the solid earth have more air.   It puts space between the particles in the soil so it isn’t so compact.   In the metaphorical world, the world of non-physical reality,  soil or earth represents some of the qualities that teachers love most such as perseverance,  responsibility, and reliability.    What happens to many children is that under the pressure to perform their earth like qualities, they become extremely compact and then they have a hard time achieving excellence.    The way a positive worm helps is to make things much lighter by giving more air.   In the metaphorical world this is something like having a sense of humour.   So you can say that a positive worm can dig into places where people are feeling compact because of pressure and then make them feel light.  Laughing makes it easier for them to achieve because they get a lot looser.

A negative worm is someone who makes his way into a person’s space and then makes them feel bad about themselves.   You can see from the drawing above that the child and the worm are drawn together which means that the child has become the negative worm that is ruining other people’s lives rather than helping them.   If the two were drawn apart from each other, you could assume that the worm was someone else.  But this child has really become a worm and now the worm is even going to get him.

Fortunately he wakes up when he sees that the worm is about to get him.     What I told the child was he needed to stop being a worm and start being more positive with others.   He could even start telling more jokes to make people happier.   It wasn’t a shock to him that he was a negative worm.  He knew it.  By turning around and seeing himself as a negative worm it woke him so that he could start to become positive.

Reading a metaphor:  To read a metaphor you simply ask yourself,  “What is a …..?”  Then you start differentiating the elements of the metaphor.   After you have analyzed the elements, then you can begin making equivalents with the non-material world.    Most living things have a positive and negative side such as a shark can either be frightening or it can be a metaphor for biting into new things.

The metaphor of sleeping means being asleep in your life or being unaware of his positive self.  He was so busy being a giant worm that he couldn’t recognize who he was.   But now he knows that he doesn’t have to be the worm, that he can be positive and do helpful things with others especially making them laugh.

Getting the Best from My Self

I realized not too long ago that I was really tired of being in conflict with leaders  so today I made the decision that instead of focusing on them, that I would place my attention entirely on going for my own goals rather than fighting against theirs.   As I am writing this right now it just seems so simple to come to this decision, but it has taken decades for its arrival.     I think that I must love the fight.  It is so tempting almost like a drug.     This morning I was about to write one of those tantalizing treatises to them about the worthlessness of what was happening.   I pounded out a few paragraphs with rapid key strokes.    Then, about three quarters of the way through the outpouring I realized that it was high time that I began plowing my own row, swimming in my own lane, my own race.

So instead of having negative feelings and interactions with them,  everything flowed amazingly well today.   All of my interactions with the old enemies were suddenly friendly.     Did they change miraculously?  I think not.    The decision seemed to change everything.    It was strange almost like being in never neverland.    The day was extremely joyous.    I think that I must have put out a really bad vibe to the enemies before because when I decided to change,  they suddenly became friendlier and easier to work with.   Very strange!

So I began to think about how I might get the most out of myself and then a young woman told me a dream that she had about going on a road to an old house where she felt really great.   Well an old house where you feel positive in a dream is a place in your old memories where you feel great.  So I began to remember some of the best events I have initiated.   Here is one.  Look at the two teams just really happy together.

So the next process I am going to work on in getting the best out of myself is to remember positive experiences as if they are still fully alive and happening right now and then just do more things.

Hmmmm.   Think I will organize a big trip.

Transforming the Worst to the Best: Is It Really Possible?

I learn a great deal of life lessons by watching sports so when I stayed glued to the TV for nearly two during the Olympics,  there was one moment that struck me.  The finals in the men’s basketball game was between the USA and Spain.    Spain played a magnificent game and made it close during the whole contest, but in the end they lost to the US team.   When the game was over Kobe Bryant, one of the US stars, hugged the star of the other team, Pau Gasol.    It was a great moment that two rivals could at the end of hard fought competition embrace.   Outside of the Olympics the two play for the same professional team, the Los Angeles Lakers, so they no doubt already have a great friendship.   But when you see players from the opposite teams hugging each other at the end of a game,  you have to believe that we have been through a huge transformation without being aware of it.

There is the mandatory handshake of course, for sportsmanship, but an embrace is a kind of recognition, that though we are rivals and the competition is intense, in the end we respect and admire each other.   When the decathlon and heptathlon events are completed after two full days of competing,  all of the athletes embrace and then take a victory lap together around the field.   There is the gold medal winner,  which is what the world wants to see, but there is also a great feeling of love between the athletes that transcends the old boundaries.    We don’t choose our countries of birth,  but we do have a choice about embracing change and knocking down old beliefs and old patterns.

So when you find the worst thing about yourself, you can be change it into the very best quality,  by first believing that it is possible.   Who would have believed in the 19th Century that a descendant of a slave would be the most recognized person in China, Kobe Bryant.   And who could have also believed that a white person would embrace him as a brother?   It has happened and we have lived to see it.   If a descendant of a slave can rise to be the most recognized person in a country of 1 billion people,  then what can we do?

It is a staggering question?

Transforming the Worst Quality to the Best Part 2 Joyfulness

Transformation of an extremely stubborn energy into a positive one is nearly impossible unless it is understood that the negative energy fixed in the ego is learned very rapidly and holds on tenaciously. Of all the negative weapons that people use to stop growth the one that is the most effective killer of change is criticism. It is hard for me to imagine any long term negative pattern of energy that has not been either begun or sustained by criticism. The problem that most of us have, which is about 80-90% according the research, is that we believe criticism much more readily than we believe positive comments. We are much more like to respond to someone saying that we can’t do something than saying that we can. I am absolutely convinced that most of the psychological profession as a whole does not understand how much more powerful even the slightest negative comment can be in creating a negative life long negative pattern. Because of not understanding it I think that there is a great tendency to blame things on genetics or physical things that really have their origins in criticism. There are hopeful signs in the world of psychology, but the power of negativity doesn’t seem to be fully validated in the scientific community as a whole.

The difference can be seen in a great number of schools in the world. When children enter school almost all of them hope for a teacher who is kind and encouraging and loving, while school leaders are usually focused on discipline, respect, and staying in a straight line. A child’s first priority when he or she enters school is never about learning. It is always about whether or not he or she will have close friends. A teacher or leader who focuses almost exclusively on following procedures creates a kind of poisonous soup that leaves children with patterns of coping rather than ones that allow them to thrive. This happens because, when the focus is on procedure and not on the child’s priorities, then the teachers tend to use a great deal more criticism and negativity to control children. Of course, the best methods combine the priorities of the child with great organization. I think that if leaders would smile more and focus more on their relationships with their staff or students, that people would tend to work much harder. It is the criticism that usually stops productivity and learning because it creates fear and lowers one’s belief about oneself.

What happens when people are criticized, is that they focus on what is being said such as, “you are so lazy”, then they believe what others tell them, and then they stop acting. What most people do not realize is that in the environment of the poisonous soup which is what most families, workplaces, and schools are, that it only takes a person one comment to believe the negative statement. Then they are finished. Unless we understand how powerful the negative messages are, we have a huge tendency to undervalue their force. It is not easy believe that one comment can stop progress, but it happens all of the time.

The key to change is actually not in the future, but in the past. What we need in order to change anything is first a set of very strong memories of experiences that are positive in our past. As soon as we are criticized, the tendency is to lose our memory, focus on the negative, believe it and then stop. When we have positive memories, then we become inspired by them and then set new goals and go after them. Criticism creates tension and stress, whereas remembering positives allows you to relax and energize. The process of helping yourself or others to remember positives is called encouragement. The way to practice encouragement is to be looking for positives and then acknowledge them. 90+% of the world do exactly the opposite. They look for the negative and do self criticism and criticism of others and then they stop their growth. It is deadly.

The key to change is to recover positive memories and then to acknowledge them. The question I can ask myself is, “What did I do positive today?” This question will end up inspiring me and giving me motivation to set more challenging goals and go for new things. Most leaders have the procedure of inviting you into their offices to tell you what you did wrong, so then, because they have the power to fire you, you make the negatives much larger than they are, and then you become paralyzed from change. People change when they remember the positives about themselves. Positives tend to be remembered when they are acknowledged. You can self acknowledge positives by reviewing them each day in your mind and then even recording them.

The poisonous soup that destroys a person’s ability to go after meaningful goals is created primarily by one emotion, jealousy. Jealousy is the feeling one gets when something that you have is under threat of being lost. While it is often associated with relationships such as jealous lovers, it has some of its deadliest repercussions from people in power or authority. In most cultures it is so bad that most people just learn to make whatever dreams that they have much smaller. What happens to leaders who are plagued by jealousy is that they usually have risen to the top through negative means such as criticism of a current regime or boss. When they are in power, they are in constant fear of someone from lower ranks taking over their position because this is how they came to authority and power. When you perform extremely well in a job or in your family, you are more likely to get criticized and harassed than when you do mediocre work because as soon as you get recognition for your efforts, the leader will become fearful of losing his position.

In most families jealousy takes over because the mothers feel like their children are going to take some of their power, authority, and recognition when they do well. So then they criticize them more and more even if their children are the very best. What most people have learned to do culturally is that when a leader becomes jealousy, to automatically turn on the mediocre button by making their aspirations smaller and hiding in the woodwork. If you have ever been in a situation where a leader flexes his power against you personally out of jealousy, you can just watch others pull away from you and lower their goals so that they also do not become victims.

Sometimes jealous leaders like to single people out to get temporary recognition such as when a huge amount of resources are invested in a few athletes so that they can win gold medals, while almost nothing is spent on the development of the group as a whole. As soon as you have won your gold medal and are no longer useful, then you will be discarded along with the rest. Usually it is when you are most successful, that jealous leaders turn on you.

I am very convinced that in order to believe that you can change what is the worst or the weakest part of your character that you also must be able to deal with the fact that transformation is such a threat to the way that leadership is in the world that you are going to be seen as a huge threat. If you think that most psychologists actually want you to have a huge transformation, you just have to wake up and see that a big change is a huge threat to them primarily because they have amassed a certain amount of power based upon their position. When people have a position of power, they often get hooked into their own ego which then entices them to use power over others rather than developmental principles and research. People in a position of power more often than than revert to power over more positive energies because they become to attached to recognition that the position gives them and also become addicted to the power.

To change yourself it is important to avoid the great temptation of getting into the power struggle. People in position are looking for a chance to exercise power because of its addictive quality. The more they use it, the more addicted they become. They don’t mind losing relationships with people because what they after is the high that power gives them. The huge problem that I have had dealing with people with power issues is that I always want to get into a fight with them because I think I have better weapons that are based upon positive principles, but I have always lost. You can’t deal with power hungry people by getting into a fight with them. You will always always always lose. There is a solution, however, and it is quite surprising.

The energy that ego power cannot deal with it at all is the virtue of joyfulness. What I have usually done which has been a complete disaster and failure is to see inside myself that I have a higher spiritual principle as well as the scientific research to back up my logic. When I get into with the people in position, they normally use two arguments against me. First is that I am causing disunity by not agreeing with them, and second, that the organization is not ready for change. They usually act on the disunity clause. “You are either with me, or you are against me.” It is hard to fully appreciate the use of power, however, unless you understand that it is addictive and people in power get a drugged response from using it. You are not allowed a differing opinion because they do not want change. My problem has always been that I believe that I can win the fight, but I lose because it is not about principle, it is about power.

Joyfulness is the virtue of really allowing you to be totally involved in the present tense. People oriented toward power attempt to cut off the future mostly by the threat of termination. They have no weapon for the present tense. Joyfulness allows you to take advantage of what is available and make it much more positive than was ever dreamed possible. Whatever situation you are forced into in life by reason of the injustices of power or greed, joyfulness, if used fully, can find a way to take advantage of the current situation and make it so positive that it changes everything. You can only take full advantage of the virtue of joyfulness if you can submit to the present tense and what is available now. What power leaders take advantage of is that most people cling to hope when the appropriate solution is joy.

Hope is the virtue of seeing a positive change in the current leadership, which is ok to have if there were not power hungry people ruling things, but they are so good at destroying hope and getting so high on it, that to cling to it just causes pain. The present tense can give you huge energy stores by taking advantage of what is available now rather than sitting and waiting for some benevolence that is never going to come. The present tense is where it is at, but it needs to be realized that not every possibility is available in the present. The set of all possibilities are available in the future, but in the present tense one must look for what is available and then act fully into it. By acting fully in the present tense with great joy the jealous leaders become befuddled because they get the drugged effect from cutting off the future.

The hard thing to do in the present day world is to actually increase activity with joy because one tends to become demoralized by injustice and ego power. It should not be surprising that depression started becoming a trendy mental problem at about the same time when the salaries of leaders in comparison to other workers went sky high particularly in the U.S.. It is well known now that a strong middle is what makes a strong economy and a stable country, but people at the top tend to love their power and like using it. Still is acting with joy in the present tense, huge joy, that power can do nothing about.

If the worst quality in the world is bad leadership trying to maintain things as they are for their advantage and then using power as a drug, then the best quality is acting with joy and increasing positive activity.

Transforming Your Worst Quality to Your Best: part 1

I am just one of those persons who was born under the sign of Taurus that can get really stubborn about certain things. On the bad side I can become extremely stuck by being determined to accomplish something that is largely a waste of time like trying to change the mind of a leader. However, it is with the same tenacity that I have found that a great many things about personal change that people used to believe just are not true. One of the problems about doing change work is what seems to me to be a certain “arrogance” in the culture of scientists. I just think that there are a whole host of mental problems that psychologists and psychiatrists have not yet found out how to transform very well, but instead of admitting that the techniques and procedures have not yet been discovered to deal with them, they are often put into categories as unchangeable and then given drugs to fix the symptoms. And when new techniques are offered, the scientific world is quick to reject them because of the loss of an economic advantage or worse an advantage of power.

In the process of doing change work I have found some things to be very helpful so I am including them here hoping that others also find them helpful.

The Sequence

in listening to over 10,000 dreams from people of all ages and then assisting others to make changes I have found that the transformation of a really bad quality like a huge fear into a very positive ones like courage or honesty follows a very sequential pattern.

Step One: Negative times Negative

Most people that I have dealt with want to change the worst negative energy that they have because of having carried it around for so long and not being able to do much about it. People usually don’t ask to change something that is a small annoyance. We only really go after change when the negative energy has severe consequences attached like the break up of a marriage. It is much better to go after change on a daily basis because there is so much positive energy that can be made manifest in our lives.

What I have learned is that each positive quality carries with it a negative opposite that remains firmly fixed in the ego even to the extent of becoming part of one’s identity. When we have carried negative energy around for a long time and given up on changing it, then we start describing it in ways that are part of our character. People say some really silly things like “I am not one of those people who are adventurous”, and then they become excluded from a whole host of experiences or “I could never just walk up to a total stranger and start a conversation.” When it is ready to change to a positive quality, it first announces itself as formidable force. In a dream it is often like a nightmare or something extremely negative like being shot and killed. In real life the fear presents the consequences in actual occurrences like missing opportunities because of shying away from them. Most people, often supported by psychology, stop the process of change even before it begins by believing that the energy is unchangeable or part of a set of genetic predispositions that you can’t do anything about. It is like fate or destiny that you have this terrible curse.

The big key to moving forward from the all negative stage is the belief that as soon as any positive progress is made even if it is only understanding, it is a positive change. If you start out at 100% negative, but then get an understanding that makes it 99% negative, then the transformation has already begun to occur even though in the real world nothing has really moved. Just imagine that you could make a 1% change everyday on an issue that you have been carrying for 50 years. That means it will only take 3.333 months to have a brand new quality. I think that maybe what has blocked psychologists and doctors is that they are not capable of seeing the changes happening in the inner world before they appear in the outer world. Persisting with the change work is probably the single most valuable ability because the 1% each day gives you new energy and new teachings that are gradually incorporating into new patterns of energy that are positive.

Step 2 Negative and Positive Together

Somewhere along the process what happens is that your life begins to change in a positive direction that is producing fruits in the outer world. Maybe you can speak with the neighbors now. However, you may only be about 50% into the completion cycle. The dreams you have will be partially negative and partially positive. They tell you to start acting outwardly and keep persevering inwardly. It would be like being able to speak the member of your church, but still have a difficult time relating to people of other faiths because of some fear or mistrust.  Your inner self will want you to keep persevering until you get to a completion of a cycle of energy,  so it is important that once you have made significant progress to keep going.   Negative energy is persistent and insistent.   It will not stop asking for change and it will not stop making you feel bad until you change.  So at this stage it is important to keep adding.

Step 3: Positive times Positive

At this point you have done all of your change work for that particular quality so now you can apply it freely in service to your family and community and are ready to move onto a new quality. Since very few people ever get to this stage, there isn’t much written about it. When you have positive dreams that don’t have negative aspects to them, they give you the message to act on the energy in the outer world, whereas in stage one when you have a nightmare, outer action is not appropriate. In overcoming shyness this would be like being able to travel the whole world and meet people from all walks of life with ease and comfort.    If you get to this stage,  it means that the pattern has become so integrated into your character that you often forget that you ever had the issue.    Later on the quality will reappear at a higher level, but now you are ready to do positive things with the new energy.

Step 4: Physical correlates

When you are involved in a change process, the body will have stress reactions that cause illness. When your body is under stress because of a fear for a long period of time, it ends up becoming ill and giving up. So when you first start the change process from a negative ego state to a positive quality, you will probably already have some illness connected with the ego. If you get physical assistance, like medication or supplements, it is important to realize that the medication will only temporarily take away the stress. If you have a negative mental pattern that is enduring, a drug won’t take it away over the long term. The physical support can be helpful because it can keep you in the process of changing, but physical cures themselves do not change a negative pattern of energy. Alcohol is a good example. You may feel looser and more social by drinking and even more relaxed, but when the alcohol leaves the body, the same mental pattern will take over again. Alcohol is a good way to stop the process of growth, but some form of physical support may be useful if you desire change.

The best results with herbs and remedies seem to come to me right after I have made a change even if the change is small. I think that what happens is that as the mental patterns change from negative to positive, then the body relaxes from the stress and is more open to healing.

Who is Controlling the Future?

Last week, our 4th grandchild, Will Shoghi Heins-Hastings, made his transition from the world of the womb to the outside world. I wrote about this in the last posting. Being there at Will’s birth made an impression on me that I cannot put to words because there is nothing quite like holding a newborn. Right now he has nearly no muscle tone, no language, and no outer abilities to make his mark in the world. He relies totally on the his mother for his very life, but when I held him, I felt at complete peace with the world. It was as if time stood still or ceased to exist. I couldn’t get enough time with him, with the feeling of peacefulness and timeliness

It is an extraordinary process and I am left in awe. As my peacefulness gives way to the realities and pressures of everyday life I wonder and worry for the future of my grandchildren because I am absolutely certain that the world we have created is not ready for all of their talents. There is Isabela who is turning 5 and entering school shortly. At her tender years she already has an amazing talent to see a possibility and then put it into action, and with each passing moment she is mastering the art of cooperating with those around her so that the plans are mutually beneficial to all and not just self centered. I am not so naive as to believe that any school encourages the talent of taking initiative or of cooperating with others.

And then there is Diego. Who is controlling his future? At 2.5 years he already has mastered the quality of tenderness and is a classic example of leading with the right brain, his feelings, and with his hands. What will happen to him when he has to trade his right brain for his left or his feelings and hands for his mind? Will there be some support for him?

Olee is about the same age as Diego. You can see in Olee that he is already very sequential and logically oriented. He is not a fast processor because it takes a long time for things to line up. He spends an enormous amount of time on a single thought which mean that long after everyone has moved on or thinking about something else, he has a new insight into the first thought. Will Olee be given the time he needs to process? I wonder.

In the world as it exists now it seems to me that my grandchildren will face tremendous pressures to give up their talents so that they will live out someone else’s dream. They will be asked to live a future that someone has decided for them that is mostly driven by self-interest and materialistic priorities. No matter how great we are at parenting and grandparenting, their challenge will be to maintain who they are, develop their initial talents in a huge way, and then develop new capacities that have never appeared on the planet before in the face of selfish, bigoted, and conservative forces.

What we can do, what every parent or grandparent can do is gain more control of the future. Right now it doesn’t belong to us nor does it belong to our children’s talents and abilities. The first step is to see the positive abilities that our children have and to recognize and acknowledge them on a daily basis. And once it is clear where there is a positive quality then it we can begin to influence its future expression by providing environments for its development and guiding the interactions within those environments. We can actually change who controls the future from materialistic and selfish leaders to our own true selves. We can see who are children are and then guide them to a very positive future by taking over control of their environment rather than leaving it to the current culture. It is a very active process, not a passive one.

You can take your child to a climbing gym instead of the mall, for instance. Instead of just thinking about getting into a good university, we can think of where in the world our children could go to have real life experiences that could teach them the things that don’t exist in books. The future is ours for taking. Will’s birth has taught me that the time is now.

Embracing Uncertainty #2: Bringing in the New Baby

I was really struck by something the other day. Sen. Obama, the U.S. presidential candidate, was in Europe proclaiming that he was a world citizen, that there is a huge need for cooperation if we are to solve the issues of the day, and that he wanted to work together with others. When I read the article on the CNN website, it started out in this positive vain, but then the report changed the focus from him attempting to promote cooperation ( a value that everything single teacher in the whole world starts to work on in day one of a child’s schooling) to reporting about how the other candidate didn’t think that he had enough experience and that his speech was just campaigning. So I asked myself why would CNN change something that everyone wants and promotes to trying to make it seem like Obama was full of self-interest. The only answer I can really come up with is that CNN and other news outlets have already decided that it is the presidential race that makes money so therefore, it is more newsworthy. They are not interested in global cooperation, they are simply interested in making a lot of money in the guise of reporting the news. It also lets me know that when I attempt to go for a really positive end in the world today that the biggest obstacle seems to be self-interest in the guise of something else like fair reporting. I don’t really see news agencies interested in the truth, but they seem to be able to pretend like they are. I think that they have pretty much decided that the truth is not going to make them a lot of money so they focus on what will make them money and then make it news and then call it the truth.

This posting is not meant to be a blasting of CNN, although it is easy enough to do,  but rather on the dynamic of why it is so difficult for new ideas to  be brought into the world.    Well, something really wonderful happened to me since I started writing this post.  My fourth grandson, Will Shoghi Heins-Hastings was brought into the world on July 24th shortly after 10 pm in Vancouver.    I have been overseas for the birth of my other three grandchildren,  but during this birth I was with my daughter, Juliet, during some of her early contractions and drove her and Shane, her husband, to the hospital for the delivery. Juliet has a special way of describing her life experiences that seems to be able to capture an entire experience in a few words.   After having spent more than two hours in the last phase of labour with extremely intense contractions that were on for 45 seconds to a minute and then off for 30 seconds and then back on again,  worrying that she may not be able to have a natural birth because her first child was a c-section, and being somewhat anemic during the last phases of her pregnancy, she  told  Shane that  she  had felt like she had just been through all of the Navy Seals training regime in two hours.  After the delivery, when our whole family was there in her hospital room, you could see how wonderful she felt despite the pain.   The only thing that comes close for me has been running a marathon, but it whithers in comparison to what she just had accomplished.   At the end of the marathon you feel a great deal of satisfaction and a great deal of pain, but you don’t have a magical new soul at the end.   Juliet brought this wonderful new being into the world after having carried it for over nine months.

I couldn’t get enough time with Will during the brief week that I had with him before having to return to Malaysia for work.    I am sure that I will have lots of adventures with him in the future, God willing, but those moments shortly after his transition from the womb into this world, have been quite unmatched.  I feel so fortunate to have been there.     Will is now completely dependent upon others for his new life.  His mother and father will spend endless sleepless hours with him so that his own will can be galvanized into a life that will be beneficial to the human race.

When I grew up in southern California,  I never dreamed that I my national identity would be anything other than American,  but gradually my life changed.   When I moved to Canada in 1983, I learned to be a Canadian. Now I love Canada.  And when I moved to Brazil in 1998, they almost always referred to me as estranjeiro (foreigner), but  in my heart I became a Brazilian.  There is absolutely no question for me that Brazil is my home.  The government doesn’t recognize me as a citizen of Brazil and most of its people will not consider me Brazilian, but I am.    And now I live in a new country, Malaysia.     I have been here for three years.    Before moving to Asia,  I had no desire to be here.  I wanted to stay in Latin America, but God seemed to have other ideas for me.    I didn’t realize how much I loved my new country until I reached Tokyo on the return trip from Vancouver.   When we boarded the plane from Tokyo to Singapore,  there were a lot more familiar people in the boarding area.  By that I mean Malaysians and Singaporeans and by the time we arrived in the Singapore airport,  I just felt so relaxed and at home again.    Am I really becoming a world citizen as Sen. Obama is encouraging me to be?

Giving birth to a new identity as a world citizen is not an easy transition, but I know now that when people ask me where I am from, it is not an easy answer anymore.   I use each one freely, but I still haven’t used the identity as world citizen yet.   When will it come?   Well I am no so sure that CNN is ready for Americans to change to make a transition from strictly national to a more global identity.   I don’t think they see it as financially viable yet, but some Americans, even presidential candidates, are warming up to world citizenship and giving birth to its possibilities.

I am sure that Will will have no issues with calling himself a world citizen because the world he has been born into in 2008 is much smaller than the one I was born into more than a half century ago.   It is only going to get smaller and more connected.    That is a certainty.   The animosities and rivalries and conflicts that CNN revels in are all fading one generation after another.    Who would have imagined in the late 1960s during the height of the cultural revolution in China that they would one day be inviting the whole world to its doorstep, but it has happened right before our eyes.

Embracing a new idea like world citizenship brings with it a great deal of uncertainty.   What will happen to my job, to my social security,  to my benefits if we are all members of the same country, earth?   Well, one thing is certain for me.   The earth is my neighborhood and my new grandson, Will, and I are going to get to know as many of our neighbors and do as many adventures as we possible can.   I hope you are ready Will and I hope to meet all of you along the way.

Embracing Uncertainty

It is 8:00 am, the starting time for the track and field meet, in Shah Alam with 8 international schools, over 500 athletes. I am excited and extremely nervous. Nervous because in my head I see the judgmental eyes of my colleagues ready to pounce on my mistakes. They have always been supportive of me and others, but the thought of something going wrong has a way of growing inside of me and it frazzles my nerves. And then it happens. The equipment for the high jump pit has not arrived because the driver has lost his way. In track and field planning, timing the events in your organizational mind ahead of time is everything, and now the events are 20 minutes behind schedule. The only strategy left is to wait patiently, but with each tick of the clock the eyes of judgment grow inside and with it increased tension and energy drain.

As the day wears on the meet becomes a series of mistakes and successes. The 1500 meter races and the 4 x 400 meter relays seem to drag into eternity, but all of my predictions about the timing of events are right on except the high jump. At the end of the day we finish early, the overall purpose has been achieved, and the athletes are excited.

As I reflect on that day and other events that I have planned including my daily classes, I am struck by the reality that however much planning and organization I put into an event such as foreseeing possible problems and having solutions for them, there are always things that happen that are unpredicted. It seems to me that when I am the chief organizer of an event that I need to have two capacities that greatly support each other. One is to be a meticulous planner where I have an excellent sense of how the event is going to flow, and the other is to be able to solve problems instantly on the field in time so that the flow continues. It is easy enough to predict some of the variables in a track meet in a tropical country. We know that there will be dehydrated athletes, for instance, so I can plan a strategy for taking care of them. I also know now that in the third world local officials may have to answer to a different set of rules than in the western world, so I now can plan for that variable. But as controlling as I am of variables I still need to be able to embrace the uncertainty of the day in the present tense. I need to have the ability to deal with things as they arise on the day.

In planning ahead of time for an event or an organizational scheme the strategy that works best for me is to look into the future, see the purpose of the event, and then lay down a scheme based upon my own past experience and the experience of others. Going back and forth from the future to the past in collaboration with others works extremely well.

The other capability, which is the ability to solve problems in the present tense, seems to first and foremost require an openness to believing that where things go astray in the present is where the new personal and social growth is. Being in the present tense fully allows me to see what is happening and adjust to the current reality, and then see where the new learning is. If you have the first capability, which is being able to plan ahead of time, but are not good at the second one, being present, then you will either not do the events again in the future or be so obsessive about the planning and perfecting everything that everyone around you gets turned off.

Being present seems to allow me to embrace the uncertainty as if it were destined to happen so that I could learn from it. It also seems to replace anxiety with the feelings of wonder and awe so that I can both feel great about the event and also grow from the lessons learned.

This coming year I am planning a huge swim meet for the same set of international schools so having never organized a swim event of this magnitude, I think I will embrace the wonder and awe instead of the anxiety. What a day it is already!!!!!

JFK Quotes

In my last post I mentioned seeing a newspaper article about JFK in the interview room of a newspaper in Sabah so I decided to look up a few quotes from JFK and post them here.  Enjoy them.

A child miseducated is a child lost.

A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.

A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today – and in fact we have forgotten.

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.

If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.

The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.

Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.

Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes… can no longer be of concern to great powers alone.

We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.

When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.

And so, my fellow americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Journey to the Mountain Top in Sabah

Sabah is a federal territory of Malaysia, not a state in its own right. It is like the Yukon or the how the Northwest Territories used to be in Canada. It, like Sarawak is located on the northern part of the island of Borneo which Malaysia shares with Indonesia.

We arrive in Kota Kinabalu, K.K. to the locals, on Monday. I had just done a half marathon they day before in KL and the with the marathon of a school year coming to the final months, you can say that Debby and I are close to the wall and tired. Our plane is delayed a couple of hours so by the time we check into the Beringgis Beach Resort it is already 11:00 pm..

Beringgis has a long beautiful flat beach and even though my legs are still recovering from the half, the sand and surf invite me in for a run along the empty beach with the jungle on one side and the South China Sea on the other. It is a relaxing way to begin another adventure holiday.

beach run

Debby wants a day to relax at the beach, so I give her 2 hours before we are off on first adventure to the Garama River to see three different species of monkeys in the lush rain forest that covers the island. Our guide is a 3:15 marathon runner and because he sees my KL half t-shirt we spend quite of bit of time talking about races in Malaysia, the most famous of which is the climbathon up to 4,100 meters a top Mt. Kinabalu.

guides on the river

Later in the journey we will climb the mountain, but now we are in boat for a few hours along another beautiful river in Southeast Asia. It doesn’t get much better than this as they say. Along the way we see proboscus and silver-tipped monkeys as well as macaques. Sabah is a wonderland. It has some of the greatest wildlife adventures on the planet including some of the best scuba diving, which we will have to put aside for another holiday.

grubs big nosed

silver tip

The river trip is quite relaxing and the dinner afterwards looking over the wetlands at sunset fills us with the kind of emotion one hopes to find on a holiday. Quite magical.

sunset dinner

The next morning we are off early for a three day adventure which will take us to the highest spot in Southeast Asia. We stop at one of the local handicraft markets. Debby finds a great bag to carry more things made from the local native people. In the mainland of Malaysia the mix of cultures is Malay, Chinese, and Indian, but in Sabah the majority of people are a mixture of native tribes, like in Sarawak, followed by Chinese, Malay, and Indian. It gives Sabah a different feel, a bit more laid back. The lines between the cultures seem more blurred here and model of integration much further along. Later on, when I am interviewed at a local newspaper, my eye is struck by the interest in integration in America, which moves me, but for now Mt. Kinabalu lies ahead.

Later we have a great nature hike done by a local Chinese botanist who describes the science in the rain forest. Many of the ferns mirror the rain forest of BC and because we are at about 1500 meters now the cooler air begins to resemble our west coast of Canada. We follow the ecology walk with another great lunch, a trip to Poring Hot Springs where we leisure in the healing waters and walk along the canopy of the jungle.

flowers nature hike

butterfly gardens

You may notice or not that Debby is quite joyful and relaxed on the canopy and I am not.


It is just one of those fears that sneaks up on me so I tell myself that no one is dying and that makes it a wee bit easier. That night we stay in dormitory-like hostel at the foot of the peak in preparation for the next morning up the slope of the mountain. We have a chance to visit with a couple living in Mongolia working for the Peace Corps and then are off to bed.


By 6 am we are awake, 6:30 packed up, and by 7:00 am we are eating breakfast. At 8:00 am we register for the hike and meet our guide.

mountains in the morning Beginning

Andrew and Debby

His name is Andrew, 42 years old, he has two teenage boys, and is a member of the local native tribe of which most of the guides are. He is more like an angel sent to help us every step of the way. In three years he has been up the mountain more than 110 times so he keeps telling us in Malay slow and steady, slow and steady. The first day up the mountain peak begins at the Timphonon Gate which is about 1800 meters and climbs to 3100 which is 6 kilometers from the starting pointing.

Difficult, tiring, grueling, never-ending, painful, excrutiating, continuously upward. These are just a few of the adjectives to describe the first day. Mt. Kinabalu is impressive because like other high places where native people live, it is regarded as a sacred place, and so it doesn’t surprise me when I am with the Baha’i community in KK doing a presentation on dreams that several people share dreams with the mountain in it. The trail is well kept up with covered rest stops every kilometer, not like the snow-covered trail up Crown Mountain in Vancouver, but most of the way up I am thinking of my climbing partners, my son-in-laws, Chris and Shane, and how much they would love to be ascending the Mt. K.. Debby was not feeling very well in the morning and the climb proves more difficult than she had hoped, but in her true character, she musters up every bit of self discipline and determination to reach Laban Rata, the hostel 6 km up from the start. Notice the woman carrying the 20 kilos on her back and passing right by us.

day one end woman carrying goods

sunset laban rata

Because she has had diarrhea and a quezy stomach she is not able to replace the glycogen stores along the way so makes the decision, wisely not to do the summit the next day. By the time we reach the first day’s end we have already made several new friends including a young English couple, a couple for Holland, and a brother and sister from California.

Of course everyone is about the age of our children. People our age usually don’t do this kind of thing. Well there is one man and woman other than us who have some gray hair. We must be crazy, but the fellowship of pain is quite comforting and the dinner quite a welcome. At 7:30 pm we are all in bed because we have to wake up at 2:00 am to make the final 2.5 hour climb of 1000 meters to the summit. Sleeping at 3000 meters is fitful because of the lack of oxygen and many people already have headaches and are feeling nauseous. Debby shivers for awhile and then finally gets to sleep. I know that I have slept because I have a few dreams, but it is not without a lot of tossing and turning. The wake-up call comes and I am nervous but also excited.

Now it is just Andrew and myself and every step of the way I am thankful for his help. I keep thinking of Shane and Chris and hoping they get the chance that I have. Climbing at night with a flashlight is a bit of blessing because you don’t have to see how high things are. The first 40 minutes are quite vertical and I am thinking that if I have to do this for another 2 hours that I am going to be spent, but by the time you reach 7 kilometers of the 8.7 things begin to level out and the hike changes from grueling to joyous. I keep thinking to myself how joyful I feel and how wonderful it is.

At 5:30 am, 30 minutes before sunrise we reach the summit. I will let the pictures do the talking because I think they say it all.

top of the world Andrew Richard


Climbing down a mountain always seems like a piece of cake but after a couple of hours of descending one step after another, your thighs go wobbly and so by the end you end up with legs that say thank you, thank you, for stopping. Now 2 days later, the mountain is still a strong memory in the thighs. Every step on a staircase is felt. We have a great buffet waiting for us at the bottom, but I am entirely spent after it. I sleep for part of the trip back to KK.

way down

When we arrive at the hotel downtown, we find that we only have a couple of hours before I am presenting on dreams to a group of Baha’is in the city. My mind and body say no, but the spirit beckons. Who am I to say no to it. Doing a presentation is a lot like climbing a mountain. Before the experience I always have nerves and wonder if things will go well, in the middle I just stay focused and keep presenting, and at the end have some moments of satisfaction. What is so interesting about this meeting is the openness of the people and how willing they are to go after the issues that are presented in the dreams.

Some of the Baha\'is at the Dream meeting

My worry before a meeting is always about the resistance, but in this one, there is no resistance whatsoever. Since a great deal of the community is culturally Chinese, the dreams reveal the weaknesses of Chinese culture, which is mainly about looking for the negative in others rather than the positives to try to get more improvement and then making people fearful of something bad happening if they don’t follow the path that everyone else is on. They are extremely receptive. Fortunately Baha’u’llah’s teaching emphasize over and over and over the importance of inclusion so one of the leaders in the community encourages the native Baha’is to share their dreams, and as always happens their dreams are the solution to the Chinese problems. This is the great Baha’i teaching that including diversity solves the problems that any culture is having. By the time the meeting is finished it is 11:00 pm. So I have been up since 2:00 am the same day and I am buzzing from the meeting and the day’s hiking adventure. What a day! Am I dreaming this? The next morning I am up early again because Kang, one of the local Baha’is, has arranged two interviews with newspapers. So here I am, only 5 days earlier having set foot on Sabah with no plans to do any meetings and now because of Debby’s initiative in calling some of the local Baha’is, I am now doing interviews for feature articles in two newpapers. I must be dreaming. Well both interviews go really well. In the first one the reporter asks me about a dream of her mother who has passed away some time ago and when I explain my understanding her eyes fill with tears, which come to her unexpected especially as an objective reporter. Life continues to be an astonishment. While she leaves the room I notice a framed copy of the front page of an old newspaper with the name Kennedy on it. I ask myself if it could really by about JFK, but think it is probably about a Kennedy in Sabah. So as I approach I notice that the date is May, 1963, just a few months prior to his untimely death. The article is about him delivering anti-discrimination legislation to the Congress of the United States. Later , the reporter asks me about what I think about Obama becoming president. At first I am surprised by the question and I tell her that the Baha’i teaching is to not become involved in partisan politics because they tend to be divisive, but then say, with JFK hanging up in the background, that it is quite incredible that a man who is both black and white could reach the highest office in the U.S.. My eyes begin to well up and I cannot explain the emotion. I explain to her that I did not expect to be so emotional when she asked the question. A day later as I think of the Kennedy article on the wall, I realize how much hope the world had with JFK, that even on the island of Borneo, what he attempted to do is revered. We are truly one planet and I know I am living in a dream. The rest of the day I am meeting with several people about their dreams and difficult issues in life. I look forward to my return, climbing the mountain once again, and hoping that I can help people up the mountain peaks of their lives.

“Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday.” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)

What’s Missing In Self Discipline is Usually the Self

If you go to almost any school in any place on the planet and ask teachers what virtues they would like to see their students have more of,  they will inevitably say self-discipline, respect, and responsibility.    If you ask a group of youth to identify areas in life where they are the weakest,   they will overwhelming say that they lack self discipline.   It teachers and parents want it more from young people,  why is it that it rates last on the energies that most people have?  Why can’t young people have more self-discipline?

It seems to me that when you have discipline,  you will do whatever it takes even to the point of experiencing pain to accomplishing a goal.    When you are doing it for someone else,  you can often have threats hanging over you or rewards in front of you to keep you disciplined,   but as we all know that is not self-discipline.   Self discipline has more to do with accomplishing goals that are set by your true self.

So it seems to me that what teachers and parents and managers most often leave out when asking for more self-discipline, is the other person’s self, the true self.   I suppose it is a relatively new idea in the history of the world which accounts for our lack of success with it.   I think that the historical model is that it is the higher ups on the authority ladder that set the goals, certainly not the young people and rarely from workers themselves.

Whenever I have had difficulties achieving my own goals, it always seems that I am in conflict with an authority figure.  It is as if that person does not want me to have my own goal and then I have trouble seeing my true self achieving it.   The discipline that is often demanded is for their goals, but there is a scarcity in the world of people who encourage others to achieve their own goals.   When you do not have a vivid and clear image of your self achieving the goal, then the discipline mechanism does not seem to be able to work very well.   We can be motivated and disciplined for the corporation’s goals, but not for our own.

It should come as no surprise that the goals of the true self would automatically come into conflict with most organizations at some point for the simple reason that the mess that the world is in right now is the hands a some pretty self-interested leaders.     The problem with being in conflict with leadership or with others is that it tends to blur the image of the true self doing the goals.   The problem with only doing their goals is that it also blurs your own goals.   If you fight, you lose, and if you give in, you also lose.

It isn’t so much that being disciplined for another person’s goals is such a bad thing especially if it has to be with the well-being of your family, but it should be clear that it does not come under the same heading as self-discipline.   And it isn’t self discipline if your own goal is motivated by the ego such as greed or envy or power.   Hitler never had self discipline because he was a slave to his own greed and power.  The image of his self out there was an illusion.   The difference between an image that comes from the true self versus the one from the ego is that the if you stay disciplined for a long period of time toward a true self goal, the goals that you set tend to have lasting results.   The ego goals are always short-lived.

So it turns out that having self discipline requires removing the fear of authority on the one hand and removing self-interest on the other.   When this happens, the way becomes clear to see the true self as you wish it to be.  Then action in disciplined manner follows.

So first I can do a clearing to see the true self and where it wants to go and then I can for it with a great deal of disciplined action.

Self Discipline Calling

I have to admit that when I started to feel the inner whispers that my being was calling forth the virtue of self discipline, it wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted to hear.   After all, I mean let’s face it.  Self discipline is not sexy like some other energies.  When I pick self discipline out of  a virtues pile, my response is to put it right back again.   It is like looking for apple pie and getting cod liver oil.  So here I am struggling to accept what is without one shadow of a doubt the perfect answer to my current situation, but having a degree of resistance associated with it.

Ok, I know the issue.   This is my 30 year recurring nightmare.   I have had this dream 100 times easily where I go back and reenter the Air Force Academy hoping to complete what plays in the back of my mind as failure.  Everything seems to be going well, but then I wake up after awhile and say to myself, “what am I thinking?”  The Air Force Academy is a military university which prides itself on training people to have huge self discipline, but really is  a system of making you fearful of authority so that you will allow yourself to be killed in battle.  Maybe that is a bit simple, but the self never comes into self discipline in the academies because thinking for yourself and going after your own goals in a systematic, disciplined manner is certainly not the goal.  So when I think of self discipline, my mind goes back to the AFA and to the rhetoric and I wonder if I missed something.  “If I were to only go back there and finish,” my mind thinks, “then I  would have what I need.”   Fortunately I usually wake up and realize that they are about as far from self discipline as an organization could possibly get.    Putting them aside I look around for other models.

Model #1  My Mother

When my mother had back surgery a few decades ago, the doctors told her that she would be in wheel chair within 10 years.  Well she decided that they were wrong and then she set out on a daily routine of various exercises to strengthen all the muscles around her back.   She is now 86 and walks so fast that it is hard to keep up with her.  She never misses a day of exercise.  She is a marvel of self-discipline.

Model #2  My Wife

Debby was diagnosed with a torn meniscus, recommended for surgery, but went through one year of a disciplined regime of taking herbs and homeopathic remedies which cleared her of the need for surgery.   Next she lifted a heavy box one day and ruptured a disc in her back.  The orthopedic doctors recommended surgery, but she went through a series of exercise routines that she still does daily.  Her back is fine because of having the virtue of self discipline.  My guess is that not many doctors have  run into the likes of my mother and my wife so they recommend surgery and make weak predictions.  If there were more self disciplined people in the world, there would certainly be less surgeries.

Model #3  My Eldest Daughter

When Erika did her master’s thesis, she used to wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, and then write all day long.  She did this continually for several months.   The product of her work was amazing.  As a youth she used to wake up at 5:30 am several days a week to do skating practice before school.

Model #4 My Son-in-Law, Chris

Everyone knows that my other son-in-law, Shane is hard wired with self discipline, but Chris decided one day that he was lacking self discipline and dedicated a whole year to developing it mainly through an exercise program several mornings a week.   His transformation is an inspiration to me because for the other 3 women, self discipline is runs through their veins.  Chris has come to it through struggle.

What I understand from the 4 of them is that self discipline is daily and while the goal is ever present, the expectation of immediate results is not.   The results come from repetition of acts over long periods of time.    It isn’t self discipline when performance is inconsistent.    It  seems to be self discipline when the tasks are done almost like breathing.

I am looking forward to making self discipline a friend.   I am glad that it has come calling.

The Myth of Ownership: Who Really Owns Space

I am writing this post because I had an interesting phenomenon happen to me today as I was working.   When I began thinking about being creative and spirited in my job,  I kept getting a negative image in my brain of one of the administrators and what that person might say or do to hinder the creativity.  As I began to meditate why he was their in mind,   I realized that I believed what most people must certainly believe, that the space belongs to the owners or people who are designated authority so whatever they think is what I have to overcome.

This puzzled me a great deal because I just thought that there must be a different solution.  How do I get him out of my mind and still have a certain amount of respect for property rights?  Well, this is a difficult challenge for me because it seems like whatever I do, he is there.    It turns out that what this person really cares about is rules and order and people following procedures.    He seems to spend every waking moment getting people to do things they way he wants.    So if I don’t get something in right on time, he is all over it.

What he doesn’t seem to care too much about at all are the actual creative things I do with the students.   This means that if I get things in on time and do fire drills correctly, then everything else is free and open.   I think I can live with that.   I can give him the 5% attention that will make him not have a heart attack so that I can spend 95% on the students doing interesting things.

I think that maybe the hang-up is wanting him to care more about some other things rather than mere organization, but then maybe that is the best he can do.  I seem to be able to drop him out of my mind by letting him have his control issues, accept that that is where he is at, and realize that he has left open the door of creativity wide open to do whatever I wish.

Another way to say this is that he has chosen to own the way everyone lines up and how to turn in forms, but he has left the ownership of creativity to everyone else.  I own the creativity.

If I enter someone else’s house, I can respect their property and level of noise, etc., but they are probably going to give over to me certain things that I can own.    They can own the noise level and the order in the house, but they usually will share certain aspects like friendship and helpfulness.   I can own the friendship and helpfulness and then use it freely to make the space much more enjoyable.   I can own courtesy and I can own kindness and generosity.  These things I can bring freely into the house as if the house were mine and then the house is mine while still belonging to them.

When I bring in bad manners and negativity,  I am usually not invited back because the owner doesn’t allow that in the house.   It is no longer mine.  In Latin America there is a saying, “mi casa es su casa”(my house is your house), which implies mutual ownership, but it is all predicated on the visitor having a great deal of courtesy and respect for the owner.   The owner agrees to share the ownership because the qualities of friendship and love and warmth that can exist are much better than living in loneliness.

I find it very interesting that the great prophets of God that founded huge religions like Buddha and Jesus and Muhammad were never interested in owning things or property.  They only ever seemed to concern themselves with bettering the space where others were.  Jesus told His followers to give Caesar his due.  They were then allowed to pay attention to the hearts of others.   This seems to be where the real ownership lies.

Who occupies my heart?  I think I will meditate on that.

Maria Montessori Was Right!

Over the years Maria Montessori’s worked has received a certain amount criticism for the lack of inclusion of creative play and fantasy. If you are in a very strict Montessori program, even the personification of animals is deemed inappropriate. Well, yesterday I was working with a group of young children on the climbing wall at my school when her idea of having children do real work instead of fantasy showed itself to me very clearly.

One of the children has been bringing small leaves and flower petals to class for about a week now. What I noticed was that every time that he was supposed to climb, he began obsessing on the flower petals and then making up stories about their magical powers. The result is that his muscle development and risk taking abilities are extremely weak. Besides the fantasy, he also uses blaming others if the slightest thing goes wrong like someone else going before him in line.

Yesterday I took away his magical leaf, told him that the magic was in his limbs, and that he was going to climb. So during the climb I went with him every step of the way giving him a certain amount of physical support, but I was there mostly to make sure he stayed on the wall rather than bailing. The result was what Maria Montessori must have often observed. When this young boy was faced with fear on the wall, he wanted to jump off the wall and begged me to let him stop many times. His dialogue with me was about how scary climbing was, but every time he made it to new rocks his dialogue changed from fear to achievement. It is as if he had two voices going in his head, a fear voice and a courage voice. When I was there making him do the experiences, the voice of courage was allowed to start coming out even when the fear was very great. The more he climbed the greater the voice of courage. Given the choice, however, the magic leaves are a much easier route for him because they provide some mild comfort to ease the fearful thoughts. As Montessori put it, the fantasy becomes a defense, a coping mechanism for dealing with the real issue.

Children and adults learn best from real life experiences. Facing fear is an important part of life no matter what age we are. Besides this boy I have had several children begin to cry when the fear was extremely strong on the climbing wall. By keeping them on the wall they push through the fear and then develop strength and courage so that the next times they can do the tasks independently. While they are in the fear it is as if they become different people, but they all love it so much when they get to the achievement and happy that they went through it.

So many adults have just seemed to give into their fears these days and then allowed their children to follow. Of course with adults the fantasy is a whole way of life which includes all kinds of sophisticated strategies of avoidance which people call living. The center of the fantasy seems to be anchored by alcohol and sex. Women also seem to go for shopping and men seem to go for obsessing on their teams winning to get away from facing life. Children have TV and video games, but the real life story of the boy on the climbing wall shows that the fantasy life is a way of coping with fear that is very temporary at best. Maria Montessori was right. Let’s get real and go after our fears.   We just need some support to stay in the experience.

Magic of Children’s Dreams

“About a week ago I dreamt that I was flying and then I went on an amazing adventure and it was so wonderful. And then suddenly, in my dream, I went back home and something terrible happened. It woke me up and when I tried to go back to sleep and remember the great adventure, I could only remember the terrible thing.”

This dream was told to me this morning by an 8 year old girl in my wife’s grade 3 class. Debby invited me in to speak about dreams to her children for about an hour today. They just kept telling one dream after another mostly nightmares the whole time and when I had to leave, they just begged me to stay longer so that they could share a few more dreams.

I started the post with the adventure dream because it happens to so many children and so many people. It is really worth writing about. When I explained it to the them, I told the girl that flying and having an adventure meant that inside of her, the part of her that relates to the future is very strong. Flying and adventure are symbols that relate to the future. Lots of children fly in their dreams and they love going on adventures, but what happens to her is what happens to a lot of real life dreams that children have.

When she goes back to her home, something terrible happens. If I would have had the time, I would have taken her aside and asked her about the bad thing in real life. She almost told me in front of her friends, but it is easy enough to guess. Most likely it is the terrible thing that happens to many children, the separation of their parents. In her true self she is a strong adventurer, but like most children, what she needs to keep adventuring is a strong support and encouragement system at home so she can be that way. When something terrible happens, then children get stuck in the past, in the memory of the terrible thing, and then they fear it happening more, and then they can’t venture forth very well.

A positive future works well when the past is supportive. Parents and grandparents represent the past for a child so when they are supportive, then the child can move freely into the future as if it were a great adventure.

This dream shows the difficulty of childhood. The only thing that really holds her back is the bad memory of the terrible thing because she believes that the terrible event will keep her from going forward in life. It doesn’t have to prevent it, but it is difficult to convince a child that. What she needs is adventures, as do most children, because that is where they get all of their new learning. If you know children who have had bad things happen to them, all you really have to do is be there with them to take them into wonderful places in the future. The more they do in the future, the more that they can understand and be told that bad things happen all around, but they can be left behind and then they can move forward in really positive ways.

That is a great lesson for me also. Ok I am off to an adventure tomorrow, but first I am going to leave a bad memory behind.

Raising the Bar Means Raising the Participation

On the playground at my school we have a set of monkey bars and rows of rings that students can play on to develop their upper body strength.   This year I set the goal for all of my kindergarten students to be able to do the rings and monkey bars.   Since they are both suspended off the ground, the students  always have to face the threat of falling, which happens all the time.  It is about a two foot drop so it is very rare that anyone feels hurt.    Nonetheless, the fear factor has kept a certain percentage of the children from really going after the goal.  Today something really great happened.  In one of the classes,  a group of girls decided that this was their day.   All 5 of them made it across the rings and then they came running over to me to announce their triumph.

There is nothing really all that technical or difficult about the teaching.  First  I have the belief that all of my 5 year olds want to make it across the bars even if they say they don’t.  When the students say they don’t, they are talking out of their fear or the messages inside already that say they can’t because of their size and lack of strength.   I just say to myself everyone can do this and everyone wants to.

When people say no to activity like running or walking or trying a new sport,  the no usually is coming from fear.   Inwardly everyone wants to participate fully in life because this is what it means to human.   What I am learning this year from my 5 year olds is that I can turn down the volume of the no or just not listen to it at all.   When I am feeling fearful about doing something new which makes me hold back, I understand now that it is the fear in me that is doing the talking and not the active, participatory full of life part.

The fear has many names and voices like the fear of making a mistake and being laughed at, the fear of not being very good even though I put in a hard effort, the fear of being turned down by others, the fear of being injured physically or emotionally, the fear of being put down, or the fear of looking bad.  What I realized recently was that the fear can have a strong voice in me and it can often win.   So instead of listening to the strong voice of fear I can turn off the volume and instead see the part of me that loves to participate more and go for it in myself and others.

In the country that I live in right now, Malaysia, I find, that despite it being a democratic and pluralistic society,  most people are not encouraged to give their opinions or express their creative ideas for the betterment of the group.   In fact it seems to have been quite discouraged as it has in other parts of the world.   Whenever I do a workshop in Malaysia and ask for opinions, they are not forthcoming immediately as they would be in North America because there is still a great deal of fear associated with participating in a democratic way.   In authoritarian cultures people hold back their opinions to protect themselves from getting shot.   Transitioning from an authoritarian form of culture to a participatory one is not without its challenges because when someone has a good idea, they keep it to themselves out of fear even if the authority figures are not so strong.  The memory of the need to not participate can be so strong and be so loud that people just hide away.   This was undoubtedly one of President Bush’s biggest mistakes and why the initial armed victory did not bring immediately results in Iraq.  The inward fear that has been sustained through hundreds of years of authoritarian rule is slow to give way because the culture of participation is such a weak force.   One tyrant just replaces another.

The great majority of leaders who find themselves in a position of power and recognition usually make the wrong decisions when it comes to participation.   Instead of being an encouraging force they tend to a stifling force because when a culture in an organization or country moves toward more participation it automatically means that power is shared.   This is much better for a culture because it means that more people can become more capable and do much more.    It is simple when you think of it in terms of a running race.  In an authoritarian culture the only runner is the leader.  Everyone else sits around a watches and only does stuff to support that leader’s run.   Well you end up with one person with a lot of ability and everyone else with very marginal abilities.     In a participatory culture everyone runs and everyone’s running is valued and recognized even the last place person.   The leaders do everything they can to mobilize everyone into running so that they can all become better.   It is pretty simple.

If you are a leader and you are at a meeting to discuss the future of your organization,  you can take a look around and see how many people are participating in the decision making and betterment of the organization and then you can just find ways to encourage more people to participate.   Its easy.

Successful Events #3 Solving the Worst Problem

When I was a principal of an elementary school,  I used to meet with individual teachers quite often.   Inevitably the question that I would ask them to answer was to identify for me the worst problem that they were having in there class because I knew that if they solved the worst problem everything else would get better.   No one gives much attention to the minor problems or puts much energy in them, and no one goes to therapy for relatively easy things to solve.    We all want to have the big stuff dealt with.   I learned that the best way to start working on the worst problem with teachers was to just ask them what it was.   They always told me.

The logic for dealing with the worst problem is quite simple.   The worst problem creates the greatest amount of negative energy in a group or event or meeting or in oneself.   When you solve the worst problem,  it automatically invigorates the environment of the meeting with positive energy.     Most of us have the problem of having to attend meetings that are largely one-sided, that is, they are planned by leaders who have their own agenda to meet their own self interests.    We are the ones excluded from the meeting because they are not thinking about us.   They are not anxious to hear our most pressing issues because they are only interested in addressing their own issues related to their own desires.  It is pretty sad, but that is the way most events are run.

If you are in charge of meeting,  then the planning process is simple.   For instance, some times I am asked to plan a meaningful event for a holy day.  So I ask myself who is likely to be most excluded or have the most difficulty at the event.  Usually it is children, but it could be someone who doesn’t speak the language very well.    For some reason, as soon as I include the children by making the stories more visual or simpler or add a lot of activity in the event, then everyone loves the event because prior to that the children were the big problem that took focus away from having a meaningful experience.

The world’s worst problems seem to be connected with leaders who have nothing but self interest so that  the ability to plan successfully is often usurped by their selfishness or undealt with fears.   When I give into their fears, the events become diluted and lose the vitality necessary to make them successful.   Most leaders don’t want to have to deal with the most difficult problems people are facing, and the further down you are on the economic or or social ladder,  the less agenda time you will get.     What leaders want is for  recognition and resources to flow to them.   What I found by asking teachers what their greatest problems were, was that most of the problems weren’t even in the classrooms, but at home or in a personal relationship.  So then I would talk to them about their relationships outside of school and then suddenly their teaching would get a lot better.    It is so simple.   Positive energy is positive energy.   When it is released, it affects everything in a positive manner.

My worst problem in my classes  nowadays tends to be children who are trying to get undue attention.  It is not surprising since that is the world’s model of behavior right now in shows like ______________Idol or Amazing Race or Fear Factor.     When I give them a small amount of discipline so that they can refocus on tasks instead of trying to show off and get everyone’s attention, then the whole class suddenly works extremely hard.    The positive energy goes to achievement rather than to “look at me”.

Well, it is pretty hard to discipline an out of control leader, but you can attend to areas where they are not.   The world’s leadership doesn’t like to pay attention to people who have been the most excluded because the leaders are the ones who have made them that way.    However, since the leaders are not paying attention to the most excluded, it means that the work there will improve the fastest when it is attended to and the benefits will generalize to all parts of society.   Just ignore the leaders and go for the real issues.  This seems to be the key to success these days!

Successful Events 2: Keep the Big Mouths Shut

A few years ago I attended a wonderful physical education conference in Rio de Janeiro. Besides myself and a couple of other people the entire conference participants were Brazilians. The wonderful thing about the conference was that it was highly participatory. We did outdoor problem solving courses, martial arts, and ultimate frisbee to name a few. However, part way into the conference someone gave a lecture on something that I can’t remember. During the lecture about 50% of the group was sleeping. I remember everything about the other workshops that were active, but I can’t even recall the subject in the lecture.


People rarely remember the words of even the greatest speeches and the most important ones that have ever been spoken are often very short. People remember the events where they were able to participate fully. If there is to be speaking, it is much more effective in small groups where everyone has an equal voice and where they are able to share personal things.

Last year I sent one of my volleyball teams to a local tournament. After about 30 minutes of play, the whole tournament stopped, some dignitary walked in and proceeded to speak for about 40 minutes. As hard as I try I cannot think of a more ridiculous way to plan an event. Who cares what he has to say? The players certainly don’t. Who was he speaking to? The air?

My rule is simply this. Very few speeches and lots of interaction and activity. I think about planning an event as if the group were 5 year olds. I have 5 minutes at the most for talking before they need to get involved in activity. How many times have you gone to boring events where people just get up and give speeches in order to self-glorify themselves? The days of long speeches are long gone. Let’s get over them.

One of my real pet peeves these days are the LCD projectors where people hook up what they are going to say to a computer and then project it for everyone to see and then they read it. What an abuse of good technology!!!! I think they were designed to show interesting pictures, not boring outlines.

The key to planning events is getting people involved and the best way to keep people from being involved is through a lot of speeches. It is how to put people to sleep. Let them have a real experience!!!!

How to Make Every Event Successful: part 1

A little over two years ago I started working in a new position as athletic director in an international school in Malaysia with students K-12. One of the first challenges I faced was with the elementary swim team. We had a relatively small team which practiced a couple of times per week so that students could participate in other activities as well such as martial arts and dance. Early on in the year the team was invited to participate in a triangular meet with schools twice our size and whose teams practiced 5 days a week. Some of our kids couldn’t even dive off the starting platforms.

swim-1.jpgNeedless to say they didn’t perform that well in comparison to the other schools. A week later I had a number of parents entering my office and wanting me to make my program like the other schools. When I met with a whole group of them, I made the mistake of saying that I had never been in a school with a swimming program. You can imagine how they felt about that!! I let the season continue just observing without making any changes at all. When the season was over, another colleague and I got together to produce a new strategy that has since left everyone really excited and the parents extremely happy. Between the two of us we called our meets the Crappy Schools Swim Associated because we decided that during the following year we would only participate in meets that we planned and set the model for. We invited 3 other schools who were on or slightly above our level and then organized a new type of meet.

In the meet we gave awards to the first 3 places in every swimming heat which was something like 70 heats per meet. When we added relay events we ended up giving away almost 250 awards. Prior to that the only time that the swimmers got awards was during the annual city meet with 9 other schools where medals were only given to the top 3 in each event. In that year only 2 kids had won awards in the whole season. So what were our results? Almost instantly the parents thought we had a wonderful swimming program and since that day, I have not receive one complaint about the program. It turns out that parents and students really don’t care about who is first overall. They just love getting ribbons and when you make it much easier to win, the pressure just eases right off on the program. And what was even more gratifying is that the times of the swimmers just kept getting better and better with each meet, and they all began practicing a lot more on their own as well.


Now if we would have played the game that a lot of people play when they are planning, then we would have “shoulded” on ourselves. Shoulding on ourselves would have meant that we try to do what the other schools do by having a program like theirs, but we did something else that was a little more radical. Instead of reserving winning for the top we increased the ability to win at all levels. In the second year of the new program we added a swim carnival for every student from grade 2-5 in the school and did ribbons in the same way. It caused the team to grow from 25 the year before to almost 60 swimmers.

The principles that we used are not particular to swimming or sports. They can be applied to any situation to bring great success. Most people base the planning of a sporting event on the Olympic Games. They only give awards to the top three athletes, base all of their pride on whether or not one of the three awards are won, and try to copy their programs based upon those who are winning the top three awards. So a lot of effort goes into the few athletes at the top who are gifted athletes. The ones at the bottom drop out because early on they have decided that sport is not for them. The same thing happens in every other discipline in most schools as well. In American based schools the goal is to go to an Ivy League school like Harvard. The programs get designed to be one of the few at the top. The people in the middle or bottom are largely forgotten. The glory of the school is based upon how many of the few at that top make it to an Ivy League school.


But what makes you successful is the first principle of planning which is to be able to detach yourself from the way everyone else does things. This is not easy thing because everyone wants to be part of the gold medal winning team or filthy rich. But let’s face it, the world and everyone of its nations have failed completely in narrowing the gap between rich and poor. If you go into any bookstore in the world, most of the books are written by the one or two people who made it to the top. If you read the book and follow the prescriptions, you too can make it to the top.

The radical approach to making events successful is to plan for those at the bottom and the middle. If the event is like the Olympic Games where only top is awarded, then the event is not about change and growth. It is simply about recognition and glory. Sadly, most organizations and most events are still run this way. The problem is that the ones at the top get lots of recognition, and then can’t understand why others become disenfranchised and apathetic. They write books about how others can be like themselves, but the glaring fact that the discrepancy between the top and the bottom has grown so dramatically only shows the extent of their failure. I think that most of the people at the top really don’t want people in the middle recognized and rewarded because they have the false belief that they are going to lose some of their recognition by doing so. Our experience proves them absolutely wrong in their thinking.

The key to making an event successful and transformational is to think about how to reach the people who are normally the most excluded. In our swim program the athletes who were the most excluded were the ones that had made a lot of effort, but were never rewarded. We simply put them in races against others with similar ability and then awarded them in the same way that we recognized the top. The top swimmers all received the same number of awards that they normally would have received, but now everyone else also had more chances for the prizes. Even the slowest swimmers got awards. The result is that everyone stayed motivated and everyone improved.

So when you are planning something like a meeting to discuss the future of the company or the family vacation, the emphasis should be on how to include the ones who are normally the most excluded.

Who Do You Work for?

I just spent more than 30 hours during the weekend as a tournament director for a high school tennis tournament in which 9 schools from all over Southeast Asia participated. At the end of the day there were more than 200 sets played. We began our days at 6:00 AM and finished around 10:00 PM. We had just enough time to eat some dinner and hop into bed.


This morning is a school day, but I am way too tired to be in school so I decided to call in for a substitute for my classes. Before I called in I had some feelings of guilt as if I were so weak for being so tired and not being able to keep on going despite the exhausting days in +30 temperatures managing all kinds of variables including rain delays. The guilt of not being strong enough was haunting me so I began to do some reflection of where it was coming from.


The question that keeps resounding in my head is that of who I work for. During the tournament I kept feeling pressure from various people to shorten the tournament especially for those who did not qualify for the semifinals. As I felt the pressure I kept reminding myself that the games for 8th place are just as important for those players as the games for first. The tennis players just want to play lots of tennis. They love being on the court. After a rain delay on the first day we ended up playing two hours after the original schedule. At 8 PM all of the courts were full, the lights were on, but there were only 2 official matches left. Everyone just kept playing despite the fact that the schedule was over.

During the second day God stepped in as if to validate my feelings. Just when the final matches were to begin to decide champions and third place, it began to pour rain and didn’t stop for the next 6 hours. The third place matches got canceled and the first places ones went indoors and were shortened considerably so that we could finish the tournament. So in the end it was the 5th to 8th places that got the best court times and had the most matches. It was if God were saying to me that everyone is important, not just the champions. Everyone deserves and should get his time on the courts and when I am doing my job correctly, in His eyes, no one is singled out for more time than anyone else.

But why do I feel guilty about not going to work when I worked such ungodly hours so that everyone could play? It dawned on me that the pressure is to favor the people at the top. Be it the first place players, the director of the school, or whatever head of something, they tend to believe that they should have more time and the best resources and everyone else should serve that end. The lower down the ladder we are, the more we tend to serve whatever they want, hoping that that we will get our time on the courts. They usually don’t give it because they are more interested in their position on the ladder than on giving everyone a chance.

Part of me is working for all of the players including 8th place, but another is just serving the top and their selfish aims without realizing that they have no thought of mine. They just expect me to do whatever they wish.

At one point in the tournament one of the coaches of the top four teams became upset with me when I told him that we had moved the semifinal match up and they had to get on the court. If was as if he thought he should have special privileges and I should give the team more time. I held firm and the team did fine without special treatment. It just proved the point that all leaders should know. People at the top don’t perform better with special treatment. They do equal or better when they have the same privileges and resources as everyone else.

I just need to remind myself that I am working for the 8th place players just as much as the first place ones. I am very grateful that the rain came when the showcase games were supposed to happen. The tournament was a success because of how treated 8th place, not how we treated first.