Not long ago I received this communication from someone who I have never met.
Not long ago I received this communication from someone who I have never met.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a really great technique that could change the depressive states that most of us get into when others do not give us the kind of validation we are seeking?
For the huge overwhelming majority of the world’s population, seeking validation from other’s is a pattern sewn right into the very fabric of our beings. I have yet to find a culture that teaches young people to see their own giftedness and then act on it in positive ways. Most of the world grows up in cultures of either high demands and criticism or low demands and abandonment. You can be living in the wealthiest family in the world or existing day to day on the street and still be plagued by the huge neediness of trying to get validated by others.
The principle of achievement is bolstered by being able to see an image of the self with positive qualities and doing positive things, but the world’s primary practice, aimed at increasing the level of growth, is to focus attention on negative aspects of the self through the use of criticism and fault finding. It goes completely against both science and religion but, nonetheless, has been adopted worldwide as the major tool in most schools, businesses, and families.
What happens to all people is that they are impelled by their very natures toward positive growth. Everyone desires to be changing because we all have an irrepressible force within us that seeks transcendence. What the cultures of the world have all colluded in is a process that corrupts the transcendent nature rather than nurturing it. This is done very early on by telling people that they are sinful, weak, undeserving, worthless, and a whole host of other adjectives. The techniques of doing this have been handed down from one generation to the next for quite some time now so that it has become quite unconscious and second natured for almost everyone to either abandon or actively criticize the self of others.
Inwardly, since we all want to grow, we secretly, meaning unknowingly, look for ways to be validated (give positive value to ourselves). The best way to be validated is through self-validation, a process that can be taught very early on to children. Self validation means being able to see or hear inwardly the positive characteristics that exist both in your immanence ( the indwellingness of the past) and your transcendence (the future). When we have a clarity of vision or audition about the qualities we already have, it allows us to enthusiastically go after the qualities in the future that are as-yet-to be manifested. For instance, you can tell yourself and see yourself with the positive qualities that musicians have despite the fact you have never played an instrument and then the image will allow you to increase energy so that you can become the image in the actual world.
The mistake that the world makes is that instead of seeing and hearing musicians playing beautiful harmonies, it perceives the opposites and then emphasizes them. It sees and hears noise, disruptions, indiscipline, and irresponsibilty and then lets everyone know that they see the negative. This has an extremely negative effect on others which leaves them unable to energize toward positives goals, reinforces the negative state, and in the end depresses the size of the goals set.
The best musicians, athletes, or craftsmen are those that are motivated inwardly by their own vision of their own selves performing at higher levels. One of the problems that most people get into is that they look for the validation from someone else like their boss or spouse or parents. When they don’t hear the praise or get the reward, then they fall into the cycle of depressing expectations because they have put someone else in the place of what should be self-validation.
When you see and hear your own positive qualities both in the past and in the future with a great deal of clarity, then you have a sustainable inward system for improvement that allows for the release of large amounts of energy. When you do the opposite which is to see the bad qualities or look for validation and not get it, then the system becomes depressed and there is a huge drain on energy. Below is a technique that maybe useful in the process of achievement. Try it.
Self- Validating Technique
Step 1: List several of the worst things you have been told about yourself or what you tell yourself all the time. (e.g. impatient, worried, sloppy, lazy, overbearing, greedy, shy, hurtful, etc.) In using this technique you don’t have to deny the bad qualities because they do have a usefulness in identifying the areas of growth so it is important to identify how you have been invalidated. What you don’t want to do is to hang out in the bad qualities and then become self-loathing or aggressive. In this step you are just bringing up the patterns to consciousness that are running your life right now in an unconscious manner so that you can change it.
Step 2: Make a list of all of the ways that you try to get validation from others. ( pleasing, asking for it, sitting around hoping for it, etc.)
Step 3: Make a list of at least 10 positive qualities or abilities that you already have. (organization, taking initiative, kindness, finishing what you start, joyfulness, calmness, etc.)
Step 4: Make a list of 10 positive qualities or abilities that you would like to develop in the next decade. (e.g. patience, peacefulness, perseverance, organization, compassion, fixing cars, using a computer)
Step 5: Prioritize the list of qualities that you want to develop in the next decade. ( 1 is most important 10 least important right now) Note: You can often work on more than one skill area at a time such as becoming better in computers or a better swimmer, but qualities such as patience are of a nature that you can only do one at a time. Qualities are generalizable so when you develop patience it will automatically transfer from one activity to another. We usually think about developing one quality each year because they are so complex and have such an infinitude of understandings that you don’t make enough progress in less time.
Step 6: Tell yourself (write it several times if you need to) that seeking validation from others always ends up in depressing your goals. “When I see or hear myself with positive qualities, I am energized and can achieve higher goals.” Decide who you seek validation from the most by realizing that this is the person who you are most likely to have a love-hate relationship with. Determine to let go of the practice of seeking validation from them. Just let it go.
Step 7: Take each one of the positive abilities or qualities you already have and then visualize them. If they are more auditory like music or speaking, hear yourself with the quality and if they are more physical like dance, see and feel yourself doing them. The clearer your mind is on the positives you already have, the more motivated you will be about adding to the list. You can repeat this step everyday until things are so clear that you are fired up with motivation.
Step 8: Changing belief in invalidation. Take the list of from step 1 and then decide which is the worst quality that you believe about yourself. If you are in the habit of seeking validation from others, then what will happen to you is that you will have a huge amount of tension to try to avoid looking at these things. This is because they are so painful or hurtful that you don’t want to go there. You can simple relax the tension and take a look at what you believe about yourself. It is ok.
The number one worst quality will match the number one positive quality in the future that you wish to develop. So if you are impatient, the quality that you are going for is probably patience, peacefulness or calm. If you don’t find a match, then you probably want to reprioritize one list or the other until you get them to match. If you feel like you are controlling, then it could be a match with creativity, with quitting you would probably need determination, etc..
Now you will have 2 realities. One is the negative quality in the present and the other is positive one in the future. Whatever the negative picture is like from the negative quality, change it to the positive characteristics in the future. If you are lazy, it maybe that you see yourself as inactive, dull, and lying around doing nothing or frivolous things. If the positive quality is to be more active and service-oriented, then you can see yourself that way with a lot of color and brightness.
Refine the image until it is exactly how you want it.
Step 9: In NLP this is called a swish. Basically what you will do is put the negative image up in your mind to the left and the positive image up in your mind to the right as if there were two images at once. You can swish them by first making the negative image large and the positive image small. Then you can swish them by instantly changing them so that negative one becomes small and then positive one large. You may need to practice this several times. The idea is to replace the negative image of yourself with a positive one.
Step 10: Look into the future and see what you want to accomplish in the next week and right it down. You should have the new energy turned on and it should allow for more achievement.
It is hard to imagine another place in the world that has suffered as much since the 1970s as our neighbor to the North, Cambodia. Barely a decade has passed since the series of invasions and the horrific civil war have ended. As we are flying into Siem Reap (literally Siam Defeated) my expectation is once again altered as in every other new country that I have ever entered. The airport visa system is extremely well organized and efficient, the airport new and attractive, and the money exchange process quite easy.
We arrive on Christmas Eve, take our first adventure with a Muslim driver, in a country that is 90% Buddhist, and whose greatest attractions are largely Hindu. The gentleness, warmth, and togetherness of the people make it difficult to imagine the millions who were slaughtered by their own hands. Peace is a great blessing to a country and being in Cambodia on Christmas in a peaceful place is a great blessing for us. Santa couldn’t find reindeer in Cambodia so he came in an ox-cart.
Tonle Sap Lake is the home to floating villages. It is poor for sure, as we enter we pass house after house 3- 5 meters off the ground to protect from the rising waters in the rainy season. We are in the dry season but there is still enough water for the floating structures. Debby and I are the only passengers on boat designed for about 12. The young children are in school making the universal noises that they make everywhere in the world. What is different about these children is that there school house is floating in the water, buildings on barges. Even the basketball court is a floating structure. The houseboats are simple structures, the life even simpler, but Debby and I notice almost simultaneously, the bougainvillea and other flowers on the smallest of places. Beauty and its attraction does not belong to the rich. It is found in all classes. It is a lesson that will test me again.
I am writing this journal on leaving Siem Reap on our way to Battambang in a bus occupied by 80% Cambodian and a few gringos like us. The bus has just stopped by side of the rode adjacent to a rice field. The bus driver yells something out in Khmer and many get off the bus. They go out into the field men and woman alike and have a pee break. Debby follows. They all return to the bus and now we are on the bumpy road again. Life is still simple and uncomplicated. Wealth will no doubt come to Cambodia quickly as it has to the rest of Asia. It is easy to see. One day soon the buses will all have toilets and this part of life will disappear. I wonder if Isa and Olee and Diego, our grandchildren, will have this chance to pee by the side of the road. So I put this in my memory that simplicity has its place.
The Ruins at Angkor
We have two days to visit and study the vast temple complexes of around Siem Reap, the center of an empire that once covered most of Thailand and Vietnam. So as I am thinking about how to learn about the great empire, I am imagining myself walking through the ancient structures with a guide at my side who will answer every question of my inquisitive mind. And this is the plan. We have some contacts in Siem Reap through the Baha’i Community there and even a couple who we decide to hook up with on this journey to the past. But as fate would have it somewhere between leaving Siem Reap, getting our 3 day pass, and arriving at the first temple site, we lose the guide and the other couple. My inner process has a huge flare up because my expectations of how to proceed through the ruins quickly vanishes before my eyes. Debby asks me how long I am going to have my attitude. I tell her that I will deal with it somehow. Somewhere in the midst of my disappointment I pull a “Juliet”. (Juliet is our youngest daughter and pulling a Juliet to me means being aware that something out of the ordinary needs to happen). I say to myself that if I really needed a guide on that day, the guide would be there. As we leave the first temple and proceed to the next, my inner guide begins to awaken, but I still have a bit of the old expectations. The next stop is an ancient reservoir. My attitude says what do I want to see a reservoir for, but inwardly I begin to see the things that a guide could not show me. The place where water is stored is surrounded by beautiful sculptures and intricate carvings, and then I begin to see the real Angkor for the first time. Why would a culture, nearly 1000 years old build a place to store water as if it were a holy temple? It seems to me now that the organizing principle of the culture is beauty, an attempt to transform the ordinary into the sacred. The symbols around the reservoir make it clear to me that it is a place of healing, that the waters are sacred, and that the lure is beauty.
As we enter the next temple my attention is drawn to Apsara, the feminine divinity that is shared strongly in these ruins in both Hindu and Buddhist structures. Everywhere you go Apsara is with you. The masculine images pale in Angkor in comparison to the quantity of feminine ones, which reinforces the value placed on beauty and other feminine qualities. We end our first day with a visit to the temple where Lara Croft Tomb Raider was filmed. When the French colonized Cambodia in the 19th Century and then began to do archeological work. Much of the temple structure had been overrun by the jungle. That night, after having discovered some of the mysteries of the ancient past, we head to downtown Siem Reap, and eat burritos at a Mexican restaurant with some friends from KL. It reminds us that world has grown small.
After having gone through my crisis with the guides on the first day, I have decided that on day 2 that I will not force the hand of the inner world. We plan for a guide again on this day, he shows up, and remains with us the entire day. Life is mysterious. Visiting the sites of Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat with a guide to explain the history and significance was how I had imagined the first day. Although Angkor Wat is the most famous temple structure, our favorite by far is Angkor Thom, built by what seems to have been a very benevolent ruler. It is a Buddhist structure, whereas Angkor Wat is Hindu. The smiling Buddha seems to reflect our feeling here. To end the day we take a small hot air balloon ride, which gives us a panoramic view of the things we have taken in at ground level.
Our purpose in visiting Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia, is to meet some of the Baha’is in the area and do a couple of presentations. Our first experience happens on the back of motorcycle. It is not unusual to see a family of 5 riding on a motorcycle. What we would have been so judgmental about only a couple of days previously we are now doing. There are three interesting projects in this area, CORDE, UniEd, and Gems International School. CORDE is a development project that teaches people in the villages English classes combined with materials that are oriented toward positive values such as service to the community. Families donate part of their land to build a classroom structure and then funds are raised for the building. Except for the directors of each building all of the teachers are volunteers who have gone through the coursework previously. Even some of the Buddhist monks from the area are volunteers. They are all quite enthusiastic about doing the work. UniEd is a small university of about 70 students. One of the problems of Cambodia in its transitional period is that students have to pay a fee that is quite exorbitant in order to pass the high school exam. UniEd created a more open entrance policy that doesn’t require students passing the high school exam. It also teaches all of the classes in English, which allows Cambodians the students to take advantage of resource people and instructors from outside of the country who don’t speak Khmer. Gems Intl. School is a kindergarten, which is also English based. The topic about which I am speaking at UniEd is moral leadership, which means leadership that is more group oriented and based upon positive values and the development of capabilities. The night before the presentation I have a dream in which I am truck driver. In the midst of the dream a King Kong like character is brought into the truck, breaks free and then tries to cause lots of havoc. It takes me about an hour to go back to sleep after the dream because I realize that it is the history of leadership in Cambodia. During my presentation I use the metaphor of the dream for nearly the whole first hour. Later when we are in Phnom Penh, we hook up with one of the Baha’is who attended the talk. He is there to meet with other NGOs about some projects he is doing so we decide to have breakfast before he has to go off to his meetings. He tells us that he has to talk with us about his King Kong issues, which let me know that the metaphor presented in the dream really works. In the afternoon after my presentation at UniEd, Debby gives a presentation to parents at the Gems School about the Virtues Project. What she teaches is quite revolutionary for parents everywhere, but particularly in Asia, that when you name positive virtues in children and call them to those virtues, rather than belittling them with constant nagging and criticism, that they become those virtues. She gets them to begin making a commitment to that promise and promises them that she will return.
Our time in Battambang is mainly about making Cambodian friends. We have planned to leave the area on the 30th, but the Baha’i friends encourage us to stay for a wedding of a young couple. These pictures tell that story.
I wish that I could share more of Battambang, but my pen would die of exhaustion and so would you. When I was a young man in high school, I attended some Christian gatherings, one put on by an organization called Young Life or something like that. I loved the activities they did until it came to the part where they said that Jesus was the only way to God, that if you didn’t believe that He was the only way, that you would go to Hell. I remember quite clearly thinking that there were a large number of Buddhists in the world and that I couldn’t see how God could condemn them all to damnation. Cambodia is a country that is 90% Buddhist. The people are gentle, hard working, and family oriented. Being with them in friendship is a heavenly experience.
The air-conditioned bus to Phnom Penh is freezing. Debby has to put her feet in her day pack to keep them warm. We pee again by the side of the road and later stop for coconut rice served inside a bamboo stick. The prices in Cambodia for things are really quite unbelievable. For $2-3 you eat really well. The Khmer food is not so spicy like Indian or Thai food so if your palate or gut cannot take it, Cambodia is a great place for you.
We arrive around 2 pm in the afternoon, make our way in a tuk-tuk to the Burly Guesthouse, where for 13USD per day you can get air-conditioning and cable TV. I even see part of the Rose Bowl one night, but since it doesn’t begin until 10:30 PM local time, I fade after the first quarter almost like Illinois. We had met a couple, Sherif and Shaku Rushdy in Battambang, who had been living in Croatia and now Kyrgyzstan doing lots of development work throughout the world. They also know Shane quite well, so we spend New Year’s Eve with them. Phnom Penh is really vibrant for us. We walked along the riverfront, eat more burritos, enjoy the festive atmosphere. Jan. 1st is a national holiday so it seems as though everyone in the city is out to enjoy the New Year’s party. Fireworks begin at midnight but we are already in bed for an hour by the time the noise begins.
There are 2 big markets in Phnom Penh, the Central and the Russian where you can buy name brand clothes from the local factories that make them like Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Boss, Camel, and others for unbelievably low prices. A dry fit Tommy Hilfiger shirt is $5. Needless to say a certain member of our family is extremely excited during the times we are in the markets. The afternoon after we visit the Central Market I give a workshop again on the topic of personal transformation at the Baha’i Center. The woman in charge of the Center, Yvette, is a Cambodian who had to flee to Vietnam during the Pol Pot regime. Her uncle was a general in the Cambodian army before the Khmer Rouge so when the takeover happened in 1975 the new government invited all of the old leaders to join the new army and promised them positions. Instead they were all shot.
Debby and I didn’t visit war sites in Vietnam where we were last year because Vietnam is sewn into the fabric of our souls from when we were young. There are no words yet created to describe the horror of the Pol Pot Regime. Day 3 in Phnom Penh is our pilgrimage to one of the worst nightmares of the 20th century. It is difficult to experience, sobering, draining, and difficult to return to joy afterward. The Toul Sleung Museum is our first stop, which is school that was converted by Khmer Rouge into a prison where they brutally interrogated people to extract information and then later killed them. Our guide takes us through each room and explains the methods. There are hundreds of photos from small children to older persons who were all tortured and killed. The regime made a habit of photographing the victims so that everyone would believe that they were doing the killing. Such was their perversity. Pol Pot was so extreme and paranoid that even killed many of his own soldiers. At the end of the tour I ask our guide about what her experience was. She explains how she was only 14 that her father was a member of Parliament, her mother a French teacher. She is forced to walk from Phnom Penh to nearly the border in Vietnam, a journey of nearly two months. Her mother and father are murdered as are her grandparents. Only many years later does she find that her brother is in San Diego. In the commune where she is forced to do slave labour she is sick all the time, an illness that continues until today. The nightmares also continue so she takes medication each night to sleep. Debby and I are holding back our tears, but we are moved beyond that which we can explain. She calls her daughter and niece over to us who are both vibrant and enthusiastic young people. We share a few moments together and try to find a way for her to meet some of our new friends in the city.
During the meeting on personal transformation the day before I talk for several minutes about Debby’s story and some of her difficulties as a young woman. After the meeting I tell Debby that I was feeling the presence of her father, which I feel again in the prison.
After the prison we hire a tuk-tuk to take us out to one of the hundreds of Killing Fields in Cambodia. This one is located 15 km from the prison in a place that is strangely peaceful and serene with a beautiful lagoon, but what happened there is quite the opposite. Pol Pot only died in 1989 from natural causes because the only way to get peace in country after the Vietnamese left was to give amnesty to the Khmer Rouge. Many of the regime are in prominent positions and it is only within the last few weeks that some of the major players have been arrested and face trial for crimes against humanity. After the very sobering morning we wonder how we are going to get back to some measure of joyfulness and yet not forget what we have seen. I think about the all of the young boys who were forced to be soldiers and kill incessantly and what it will take for them to be rehabilitated. It is a staggering thought.
We eat lunch at a restaurant called Friends, which is a project to take young people off the street and give them meaningful work. Cambodia has become the land of NGOs, some positive and some not-so. The lunch is a good transition from the morning taking us from the worst degradation to the hope.
Afterwards we visit the huge royal palace and National Museum. In the evening we visit the Baha’i Center again and sing songs and play some cooperative games making more friends with our favorite age group, teenagers.
During our flight and taxi ride home we talk about how amazing the trip has been, how different than our other holidays, and how grateful we are. We are wondering and hoping for an early return.
I have met with many people in recent weeks who seem to have the same brutal energy affecting them strongly when they are in the midst of trying to change their lives. They seem to be caught up in the cultural myth that says that if I get enough love, then suddenly my life will be somehow magically transformed into a blissful paradise where everything comes easy. I think it is something like being happy-ever-after.
There is only one problem with the strategy. It doesn’t work. Whenever I have tried to get love from someone else or in a relationship, the very best I ever have is a temporary feeling that feels great for a very short time not unlike a drug. As soon as the person is not there or has to deal with their own problems or is busy trying to get the same from you, then we both end up in a sea of negative emotions. This idea that someone else is going to somehow fulfill me or two halves make a whole, etc., etc., is so difficult to break out of because it is just so prevalent.
I am not sure how anyone ever makes it through this mire. The problem is that we try to grab some warmth or closeness from someone else because they may be very attractive. Everyone else does it so why don’t I do it too? That seems to be how most of us think. The other day I was thinking that if getting love from someone else is only a temporary thing which doesn’t end up working in the long run, then maybe the place we haven’t looked for true joy and happiness is in the process of dealing with our enemies.
Let’s face it. Our friends can’t be there all the time to give us our fix of love and support, but who always seems to be there rain or shine is our enemy. Our enemies are so faithful that even when they aren’t there, they are stuck in our minds. What do most people do when they are with their friends or come home from work? They complain about their enemies whether it be a colleague or a boss or our spouse or the leader of the country. In fact the more you think about it the more enemies act like how you want your loved ones to act. They stick to you like glue and are there rain or shine. Hmmm.
I have to say that my arch enemy for as long as I can remember is authority figures. Bad authority seems to follow me around like flies to …. you know what I am talking about. And I seem to love to keep them as the enemy. They are so convenient. I love to go after new ideas and make changes wherever I am, but the authority figures seem to love keeping things as they are evoking conservative strategies so that they can hold tightly to the reigns of power and control. Why won’t they just go away? Why do they show up wherever I am?
I know the answer. Not too hard to figure out actually. The answer is that inside of me I am a closet conservative right winged control freak at least there is an energy inside of me that acts that way even it is not a part of my identity. So if I am to change it, I can be, instead of an enemy who fights it, like its best friend who listens patiently, non-judgmentally, and shows unconditional love. After all, if I am holding onto not changing, trying to stay in one place, then I need the closest of companions to help me through this energy. It isn’t that being a control freak is acceptable to me, but it is more that being a friend to the energy will allow to do what it really wants to do which is to change into something that is wildly radical.
I think I get it. On to some reflection, deep process.
This quote really helps me out when I think of the process of change.
Recognize your enemies as friends, and consider those who wish you evil as the wishers of good. You must not see evil as evil and then compromise with your opinion, for to treat in a smooth, kindly way one whom you consider evil or an enemy is hypocrisy, and this is not worthy or allowable. You must consider your enemies as your friends, look upon your evil-wishers as your well-wishers and treat them accordingly. Act in such a way that your heart may be free from hatred. Let not your heart be offended with anyone. If some one commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them, and if you wish to give admonition or advice, let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the bearer. Turn all your thoughts toward bringing joy to hearts. Beware! Beware! lest ye offend any heart. Assist the world of humanity as much as possible. Be the source of consolation to every sad one, assist every weak one, be helpful to every indigent one, care for every sick one, be the cause of glorification to every lowly one, and shelter those who are overshadowed by fear.
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace)
The other day I was having lunch with some of my Chinese Malaysian colleagues when one of them ask me an interesting question. “Do you believe in standing up for the truth?” one of them asked to me. It seems like such a straightforward kind of question, but it is often more about wisdom than courage
Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith answers the question this way.
“Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it.”
In answering the question to my colleagues I told them that saying my version of what the truth is takes a lot of wisdom so, in most cases, I chose my battles where I think I may have a chance of affecting the outcome in a positive way. I usually don’t fight for something if I don’t think my actions are going to make a dent in the way people think.
Having said that to them I told them my stories of being fired when I acted counter to the normal wisdom I would usually display. I don’t think anyone can accuse me of playing politics by saying things that will please the leaders, but I do realize that there is value in holding things back at times. It is not easy to know when to use restraint when I want to let it rip. Most of the times I see that the leadership is very conservative or protective in certain areas so I don’t go to those areas to voice to many opinions. If they ask for an opinion or for consultation on an issue in a sincere manner, then I feel I have a responsibility as a part of the group to voice my opinion. Many leaders are comfortable and open and give a lot of autonomy in some areas and then very protective in others. Wisdom requires that I study a situation to understand which is which.
There are times when I have had to throw conventional wisdom out the window. It has happened to me when I am faced with a hostile takeover of the forward thinking philosophy I am working with by a more traditional one posing as forward thinking.
I have been in three different schools where hostile takeovers have occurred. These were all privately owned schools, but public ones run the same risk as in the U.S. with their “no child left behind” legislation. If you have a forward thinking philosophy in an organization, its very nature will mean that it makes mistakes in its efforts to pave new ground. The wannabes (those doing the hostile takeover) are lying in the wings ready to pounce because they are so envious of your success that they want a part of it even though they don’t want to do the work that you have done. They know exactly what to do. They criticize the mistakes, blow them up in such a way as to convince others that the organization is falling apart, and then walk in and take over.
The first time this happened to me I was sitting in a meeting after the school had already been dismantled behind our backs. I just stood up and told the leadership what I felt. It was so exhilarating, but I also knew at that point, that the takeover had already occurred. Fortunately I was able to find work to continue the philosophy in a different country. The hostile takeovers of the other two schools where I worked did not happen until about 6 years into those programs, but the patterns were all very similar. At the time that the take overs began to happen, was actually the time that I felt that I was doing my best work, but their untimely intrusion made me throw caution, restraint, and conventional wisdom to the wind so that others in the organization could begin to see what was happening and perhaps survive. As unqualified as the wannabes are in the new philosophy I have to give them a great deal of credit in how to manipulate opinion and use power and even sound like they are intelligent. They have the ability to fool many people, enough at least to get themselves into the leadership. I was forced out in a hostile manner twice because of the wannabes. I don’t regret my speaking out even for one second despite being fired and left without the possibility of work for a year afterwards in both cases. In all three cases the hostile takeovers allowed me to leave one country and then find work in another. I may not have had such rich experiences if it were not for the firings.
The schools and those who did the firing have not been as fortunate as me. Two of the schools have closed and the third is down 40% in enrollment. They turned their backs on the new philosophy and just lost their way. Their expediency was their own suicide note.
I can honestly say that I really didn’t know what I was doing when I spoke out against the hostile takeovers. I acted mostly on intuition. I think that my being fired was already calculated by those doing the takeover so I think that the speaking out may have been aimed more at those left behind than to the thieves who took over the organizations.
Strangely enough I now work in an organization whose philosophy and practice is quite traditional rather than being in one whose philosophy is different than the culture’s mode of operation. I don’t often feel compelled to fight or stand up for stuff because a hostile takeover would be an oxymoron in a traditionally based organization. It is not under threat because it doesn’t put itself out there in a culture-challenging way. So I try to operate here more with wisdom than with trying to save it from a takeover. Standing up and speaking out has its joyful moments. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as putting pressure on wannabes to admit what they are doing. Wisdom is more like having a mathematics teacher put a very difficult problem on the board and then giving you a semester to solve it. As you act with wisdom everything and everyone around you changes, but you are not the target of the deficiencies of those around you.
Baha’u’llah’s challenge to us in using wisdom may well be much more difficult than speaking out against an inconvenient negative truth.
I was all set to do a great unit on cooperation with my kindergarten students. They passed through some great work earlier in the semester with courage and determination and attention. It seemed so right. Then one day they came in bouncing way off the walls and the sequence of cooperative activities became a sequence of nagging and sitting kids out. “What happened to my great group of focused kids?”
It is the holiday season in school so I began to wonder why my kids are so acting the way that children under stress behave. Weird!! What is the stress that children feel during this season? I know that when anyone is under stress they regress to a previous stage so that is how I handle the situation. I take the pressure off the students and do things that require less focus. It is a temporary pain reliever; a tranquilizer.
I wish that I could say that this festive season was only positive for my students, but yesterday I had one group play a game that just two weeks ago they enjoyed in perfect harmony. Six children ended up crying and doing regressive behaviors like wanting to pull out of the game because it didn’t go their way. Is this really what Jesus had hoped for?
I don’t want to be critical of Christmas because, for most Christians, or even non-Christians living in a Christian country Christmas has a great way of bringing families together with a great deal of joy. I think that the stress that my students experience is based upon the idea that they are just going to get whatever material thing they ask for, so during the season when there is a lot of hype, they shift from finding their huge joy in play and activity, to the hope that some thing outside of themselves, is going to bring them joy which it may very well do for a few minutes at least.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against presents. Bring them on, but it seems pretty clear to me from this experience that when young people think that they are going to find huge joy in material things, that they become stressed and then stop learning at an accelerated rate. It seems to me also, that they function better and learn more when the activities themselves are the reward and gifts are given in moderation.
So I think that the idea of Christmas should be to keep the gifts simple and have a great time with the activities so that children become a lot less stressed.
I have a theory about parenting based upon much of the work that I have done with dreams that the issues that first children face have a great deal to do with changing the way things are in one’s family, and that the last children’s issue are designed to change the culture around them. I am a last child and my mother and her mother were all last children. We just all seem to have a way of not going along with things.
My mother’s doctor told her, after her spinal surgery, that she wouldn’t be walking in 10 years. That was was more than 20 years ago. She is now 86 and can still out walk almost anyone. She just has a way of refusing to listen to what others believe. She calls it self discipline or having an iron will, but I think that she believes that things can be different than what the culture adheres to and then just goes and does what she wants. Last year at 85 she started doing Chinese brush painting for the first time and now works on it vigorously. That kind of quality is much more than self discipline. It is just looking the culture in the eye and saying, “Get out of my way. You have no business in my life.” I mean let’s face it. Medical school is supposed to be the pinnacle of western education. Thousands of students compete for very few openings in universities, but my mother just decided somehow that they didn’t know what they were talking about. She did let them operate on her which means that there are parts of the culture worth keeping, but she didn’t hand over her mind to the culture. You have to love that.
First children put their issues right in your face because their issues are your issues. The last children suffer for the weaknesses in the culture. It is extremely difficult for us, the last children, not to throw out the baby with the bath water. When I was 18 I was so unaware of this dynamic, that I went off to a military academy thinking that perhaps if I had more self discipline or something like that, that I my life would really be improved. It didn’t take me long before I started to wake up and see that what the culture had created wasn’t working very well and that self discipline was not the issue. What I had a much more difficult time with was how to sort out what was useful and working, and what needed overhauling. I had a huge desire to throw out everything having to do with an ordered life and restrictions because the academy didn’t have much room for things like creativity and expressing one’s opinions. Now I know that there is a great place for being organized and having rules and discipline, and they don’t exclude creativity, encouragement, and intimacy. I personally think that most of my events and classes work best when I spend the time in the organization and have restrictions on what students can and cannot do. When I add creativity and encouragement into the mix, the classes become magical.
What happened at the academy was that too much criticism and unbalanced order began to have a detrimental effect on my character. It forced me into understanding the role of encouragement and creativity, but the negative effects of the academy’s culture distorted how to integrate constructive opinions and order. I was just so compelled to not see their place because of the pain that I felt. This is the last child’s dilemma. I don’t see it that often in first children. They seem to survive the culture much better, but don’t survive their family very well.
The difficulty for us is being able to live and appreciate the positive things in the culture while at the same time trying to change it. We become so dysfunctional by the negative aspects of the culture that we go into a funk that keeps us from doing our part. I just always feel like screaming out about how bad my culture is/was, but I know it has some amazingly positive aspects to it which I can really appreciate. I just wanted to do to the academy what it did to me, criticize it.
Now I understand that changing the culture is much easier than I ever thought by first appreciating and acknowledging the positives around me, and then systematically going after a specific issue that is causing the greatest difficulty.
Juliet is my youngest daughter so I am now in the habit of seeing where she focuses to see what the culture needs to do. If you read her blog, (hoogliart) you can notice that in recent times she has shared with us a great deal about simplicity. So I think I will take her lead.
Take this “Good” Parent Test to see if you are living up to the expectations of your culture.
1. I believe that it is the first impression that counts the most. Y or N
2. When I go to the playground, I think more about how my children are going to get hurt so I can protect them than what capacities they are building.
Y or N
3. I believe that the university my children attend determines how successful they will be. Y or N
4. I believe that when my children make a mistake, that I should intervene and correct them immediately. Y or N
5. I believe that telling children about their positive characteristics has a detrimental effect on their character. Correcting faults is more important. Y or N
6. I am a good parent by being vigilant about my children’s faults and correcting as many of them I can. Y or N
7. When my children go out in public, my first thoughts are with how others will perceive them. Y or N
8. I prefer that my children go to Club Med rather than an experience in the wilderness or jungle. Y or N
9. My child can achieve a lot more success by being more outgoing than ingoing. Y or N
If you answered yes to many of the above questions, you are a “good” parent, at least in the norms that are practiced universally in the world. This is what most parents do most of the time and they don’t seem to be able to have an internal choice to do anything different. They aren’t all bad. Being outgoing, having a university education, making a good impression, correcting faults, and being safe are all meritorious.
The problem with this approach to parenting is that its locus of control is in the hands of some cultural idea that may or may not be useful anymore, if it ever was in the first place. The most telling aspect of whether you are being controlled by your own inner true self that has choice 0r by the culture around you is whether or not you feel compelled to correct faults all the time. If you are an obsessive corrector, you have given over all of your control to the culture. This can be extremely harmful to your child’s future.
When Erika, my eldest daughter, was 19 or 20 attending the University of Victoria, she called me up one day distraught and full of tears. When she thought about her own sense of the future and the university she was attending, she could not find a great match. Nothing about her experience was aligned with what she thought she might want to do in the future. She didn’t know what to do. Well when you are a parent and your children are distraught, the great tendency is to become just as dysfunctional and do silly things. Fortunately, at that moment, something inspirational happened between us. I told her that probably the kind of future that she wanted for herself doesn’t currently exist in the culture and that is why it isn’t in the university program, that she should just think of possibilities and not concern herself so much with the university program. It was enough to stop a few tears.
The next day her Spanish instructor spoke to her about the possibility of going to Mexico to study Spanish and also teach some English courses for several months. Then she figured out that the rest of the year she could study art in another part of Mexico. By breaking the cultural mode she was able to become extremely fluent in Spanish and study the style of art that has the most impact on her personal style. As a parent I was lucid enough for a few moments to encourage her to break out of the culture. I stopped being the “good” parent and it paid off.
There were no cultural rules for me to follow to help my children through their university educations. The “good” parent would say to just go along with the system and it will pay off in the end. It just didn’t work. Erika graduated from university with a masters degree and was invited to do her doctorate. It means that for her, there were parts of the university experience that worked, and parts that didn’t. For some children a university education is not the answer because the cultural system is so counterproductive to who they are that it completely stifles them.
When you do not make your own decisions, but allow the culture to decide your fate by following its pattern, you end up being like everyone else in the culture. Some of it is worth keeping, some is not. You try to correct your children when their thoughts do not match cultural ones rather than encouraging them to live out of their true selves.
Playing badminton in Asia is much more than than setting up the equipment that you bought at a $10 K-Mart special and then hitting the birdie a few times during your family picnic. It is a major sport and is taken quite seriously. The dominant country is the one you would expect, the biggest, China. Almost all of the world’s #1s in each category come from China. Last week was the China Open and its matches played to pack arenas cheering wildly for the home team. All of this you would expect like watching the NBA or NHL in North America.
What I didn’t expect to see in China of all places was the rather prominent VIP section which the cameras seemed to show between during every break of play. When the the NBA plays on TV in LA or New York, the camera tries to find movie stars or other celebrities because that is what America has become which it finds no embarrassment in. At the China Badminton Open, the VIPs not only got the camera, but they also were sitting in luxury boxes and were served drinks and food with real dishes in plain view of everyone else.
Watching the badminton was thrilling especially when a young Malaysian woman ( I live in Malaysia) beat the #1 Chinese woman in singles, but it struck me as quite peculiar that in a country whose political doctrine is based upon having a classless society, that this kind of action is justified with no apparent shame. The theory of communism is based upon equity, that no one is seen as higher or better than anyone else. The VIP section makes it very apparent that the China does not believe its own rhetoric. In Malaysia there is no shame about VIPs because the country has a king and queen and sultans for each state. They give them an honored place at events because it fits with the country’s model, but in China the actions do not fit with the words. What the government is saying and what it is doing are two different things.
I don’t mean to single out China for this kind of behavior because the disconnection between words and actions is certainly not unique to China. Democratic countries like the U.S. have a great deal of rhetoric about people having an equal voice and equal opportunity, but if you have a voice of opposition toward your employer, you can bet that democratic values will be thrown out the window and so will you. We all know that in the western world money and position gives you more of a voice.
The badminton was magnificent, obviously the highest quality in the world. The mismatch between words and deeds is always settled on the court in sport, but you have to wonder about having a VIP section in China and what effect that has the people.
Last night in my sleep I dreamt that I was on a path in an unknown place trying to get somewhere. I don’t quite remember where I was going, but it was a social event. Along the way I ran into an abandoned 5 year old who was drinking beer and begging for money from me. It seemed to be something that he was doing often. It felt like he would have just kept pestering me for money had I stayed, kind of like a shop keeper who sees that you are eying and item and then chases you down the street to try to sell it to you, so I decided to leave him.
What is very interesting to me is that I teach 5 year olds physical education so I know a great deal about them and what allows them to thrive. They benefit a great deal from positive attention and chances to develop their abilities in an environment that is both playful and challenging, fun and demanding. What I couldn’t get over in the dream was the alcohol. I ended up abandoning the child because of the alcohol and the begging associated with it. I think I believe that the alcohol is a huge deal, that I can’t reach the child as long as the alcohol is around.
What I am understanding, right now as I am writing this post, is that the alcohol is just coping, that I can just ignore it and do what works, which is to provide environments with a great deal of warmth and energy. Many of my students who come from wealthy families fit into the category of abandoned alcoholics. Their parents work day and night, leave them with unqualified child care, and push them into activities that allow them to end up like themselves, overworked and inattentive. The warmth and involvement in their child’s life are just not present. The children become addicted to video games and TV and the wrong kinds of food and later alcohol to fill up the space in themselves left by the abandonment. As soon as you add positive activity and warmth, the addiction goes away.
It is a fairly simple process actually. The complicating factor is that the entire world culture has become the alcoholic 5 year old addicted to the things that temporarily help forget the abandonment which leads them begging for more money to be able to forget more. My process in all of this is a huge desire to avoid the alcoholic behavior which leaves me out there wandering and not being able to get where I want to go.
The message in the dream to me is that what works with 5 year olds should be the factors that work with the present stage of the world, warmth and positive activities that are both joyful and challenging. What I am having a hard time ignoring is the alcohol in the hands of a 5 year old.
I have to admit that I have been so anxious to write about this subject for a long time. Sometime in the 20th century (it seems so long ago now) it was decided that as a professional you shouldn’t do therapy with a relative or with someone that you are in love with. Who were they trying to fool? It is in the same category of thinking that requires teachers to not get too close to their students less the students become disrespectful. Who invented this stuff? The very best coaches know how to get very close to their athletes and still work them very hard. Getting close to someone is more like a prerequisite for people working hard rather than a hindrance.
My wife and I have been married for 33 years. We are still in love with each other, but that love does not mean that we cannot be objective about our lives, where we are going and speak very frankly with each other. Love encourages frankness and openness. Everyone in our family does therapy together. We use all the same questions as a therapist, go very deep, and get great results. No one has a license.
The logic is easy enough to explain. Intimacy is a virtue. It simply means the ability to get closer to another. Problem solving is about being objective and detached which means putting distance between yourself and the problem. To be a therapist you need to be able to become intimate to people and keep the issues at a distance, and you can become extremely effective by doing them both at the same time. This is actually what science is all about also being in love with the search after truth and then doing the searching. It means bring the relationship in where it has a lot of warmth and keeping the problems far enough out so that you can see them.
So where does the myth of distancing oneself from a client come from. I am sure that it is not too far away from what owners do when they do restructuring so that they can fire a lot of employees but give themselves a big fat paycheck. If they are distant from their employees, then they can become self serving. If they are intimate with them, then they will be much more willing to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of others.
I am thinking that the clergy have an awful lot of do with our distorted ideas about what is ethical. What is a pulpit about anyone?
It is June of 1968. I am on my way to the Air Force Academy in Colorado after having just graduated from high school in Inglewood, California. Not long after my arrival I am verbally assaulted by 19-21 year olds, who besides getting mad at me for one unshaved whisker, repeatedly let me know that their indoctrination was much harder than mine. Most of us who grew in the 50s-60s had already been used to hearing that kind of rhetoric from the cultural of our parents who grew up in the Great Depression. They prided themselves in telling us how soft and undisciplined we were and how much more discipline they had because they didn’t have TV or other things like that. Now that I am a grandparent I find that I often hear parents complaining about how soft their kids are because they play so many video games and have it so easy.
What my parents generation didn’t know about us growing up in the U.S. in the 60s was that we all had this huge cloud of fear hanging over our heads all the time of the threat of nuclear annihilation. I can distinctly remember, as a 12 year old, having the thought that our whole society was probably going to be blown up. My parent’s generation had lived through a huge depression where they faced a lot of hunger, and then a huge war where lots of people gave their lives. I can honor the sacrifices and difficulties that they endured, but I can never remember even one time where that generation honored my generation for the constant fear of instant annihilation that we faced. The words we heard were lazy and soft.
It is not surprising that the same thing is happening to the current generation. Parents and teachers still have the same complaint that the teachers and parents of my generation had, that this generation is undisciplined and soft. It is difficult to see the tests and difficulties of a child’s life growing up in a world with so much instability and chaos. What we see when we turn on the evening news and what a child sees are two completely different realities. The children carry all of the fears and anxieties that the parents have only much more magnified.
Whatever we fear, our children fear more. Parents and teachers judge their students quite readily for not having self-discipline, but I think that their perception is wrong. What they should see is that the retreat into endless hours of TV and video games is about fear and not the lack of self discipline. The Cold War and Vietnam made me grow up fearful of dying young. It hung over us and was always present, but no one ever acknowledged, or attempted to acknowledge my fear. The cultural message was that we were soft and undisciplined.
I have grown suspicious of the use of self discipline because the true meaning of self discipline is the ability to have a noble purpose and then to make efforts and sacrifices in order to reach it. Whenever someone uses self discipline as an accusation, I begin to ask myself what they are fearful of. What noble purpose are they fearful of pursuing, what have they given up on, and what is it inside of them that yearns to come out?
If parents can learn to acknowledge their own fears, and then to realize that their children’s fears are a magnification of their own, then all of the judgment can be replaced with honoring the challenges that we all face and deal with daily. I think we should have a period of silence about the idea of self-discipline until we learn to acknowledge the pressures and fears that we are all under. Let’s reawaken nobility of purpose before we accuse even one more person of being lazy.
There is a huge belief in the world sort of like a pandemic of human behavior that, no matter what the research says along with hundreds of books continues to exist virtually unchallenged and unabated. That myth is that when someone does something wrong, i.e. when they make a mistake, that it has to be corrected. A child could have scored the highest math score in the history of humankind, but the huge majority of parents in the world will spend far more time on teaching him why he should put the toothpaste cap on the toothpaste tube, than in analyzing how he has performed so well in mathematics.
What is it with us that we defy science in order to try to correct everything? What is it about a mistake that is so attractive and appealing that we just can’t leave it alone? Why do we have to take out our baseball bats and beat it into the ground until it gives up and says, “ok, I will fix it?”
Take the Apollo 13 failed space journey to the moon. Have you ever seen a group of more competent people working together to get the astronauts back to the planet after they started having problems? It was one of the most creative acts of engineering excellence one could ever imagine. Here they were acting together with a pile of things that would be in the space craft, and they brought them back. Amazing! After the landing I am sure that the whole emphasis on all investigations was to find the thing that went wrong, but what should be interesting to all of us is how they all worked together in harmony and incredible creativity and resourcefulness to bring the crew home safely. Now that is the thing that should have been studied because if NASA could have changed its way of operating so that there was more of that kind of process, then perhaps some of the other engineering disasters that were to come later would not have happened.
One thing is clear. The research says that when we pay attention to the processes that work and then acknowledge them often, people stay engaged in what they are doing much longer and more productively. What happens with correcting is that the words literally pass through as if they were never heard, and then the tones cause people to become fearful, tense, and more likely to quit.
Feeling like you have to correct mistakes all the time comes from a faulty belief about society and humankind. It comes from the idea that people are incompetent and the positions available in the world are limited. If one corrects enough, then there will be a much greater possibility of getting one of the few positions that are available because all of the incompetence will be taken out of them. So the belief goes.
A much more useful belief is that human beings have endless treasures inside of them that can be discovered, acknowledged and allowed to develop in the right environments. Accelerating change happens when you correct only very moderately, but spend most of your time discovering and acknowledging talents and gifts and then giving them an environment to develop.
The tone is always the give away for me. I used to always react when people corrected me like something was really wrong with me. What has changed, or is beginning to change, is knowing that when someone uses an angry or arrogant tone with me, they are the ones in need of the change and not me. When they are angry, they are trying to get me to change for their own self interest. The correction has nothing to do with me, my well-being or my future. It is only about them and what they are trying to get by having me change.
When a parent is angry at a child, the parent is trying to get the child to be what they are not. Positive correcting is not anger-driven. This is always the key because when I am free of anger, I usually have more choice. I can choose to correct or not to correct, but I am not compelled like when I have anger. If someone has a positive tone when they are correcting me, then the advice may be worth listening to , but when they are angry, I am thinking what is it that they want from me.
Last weekend at the Baha’i School in Kota Tinggi I went to a workshop on virtues and discovered that I needed the virtue of trusting more, especially trusting in God. So I am reflecting on it here to see what it means.
When I was teaching ethics classes in Brazil, I used to do a unit on how God is perceived according to the various religions in the world. One of the groups of students that interested me a great deal were the Marxists who claimed to be atheists. Their complaint about religion, which is quite valid, is that they saw a lot of people lighting candles and praying, but then just waiting and hoping for God to act rather than acting themselves to get things done. I think that the materialists have the same complaint as well. Marx saw organized religion as a drug which kept people from acting. His hope was that people could be stirred up and start acting rather than being victims of the class system. Unfortunately most of the movements of left proved to be failures because they never allowed people to act as he had envisioned. In countries like China or North Korea God was replaced by the leader of the country who people came to worship. Materialistic cultures, led by ideas from the right have had no shortage of initiative and action, but the lack of spiritual and ethical values, replaced God with things. People rely and trust in things.
Trusting in God for me seems to be the ability to see myself acting with virtue to achieve positive ends and then actually taking steps toward the vision. Trusting in God means trusting in virtue or trusting in the positive spiritual teachings like love. It seems to require a vision of a positive spiritual possibility combined with visualizing oneself with spiritual qualities and then acting energetically. It seems to me that at the moment that the three inner processes come together that there is also a simultaneous connection to the larger Spirit, which we often call the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit has its own will, which is far better than our own, it guides and directs as it pleases. The magical things that people often wait to have happen don’t seem to occur by praying and sitting around for things to happen, nor by reflecting and coming up with good solutions, nor by action alone.
There seems to be a great deal of power in the combination of the three. So for instance, I want to begin a new program, or start a project, or create a new institute. I first can get a glimpse of the program and its positive purpose, then I can see the picture of myself acting in the program with a specific quality like creativity, then I can begin to act vigorously to realize the vision. The moment that I act is the moment that the larger Spirit enters which begins to change everything in a fundamentally more positive way.
The trusting part is connected to the belief that God will assist all those who step into the arena of service. The most difficult part for me, which may not be for others, is the ability to see myself with the processes or the qualities that are required in project. Right now I am working on visualizing myself as having a lot of expressive qualities. What I am finding important, which you may wish to also try, is visualizing as a dissociated image, an image outside of myself or me acting positively.
The three steps are 1. creating a vision that is positive and spiritually oriented 2. seeing yourself with the initial qualities that make the vision work and 3. acting vigorously.
Debby and I just returned from the Singapore Baha’i Summer/Winter School in Kota Tinggi in the south of Malaysia at an eco resort called Kota Rainforest Resort. The chief organizer said you can call it winter or summer because if you know this part of the world, there is really no difference.
They asked me to do a presentation for 90 minutes each morning so one of the things I did was to choose the following quote and then have small groups reflect on it.
Now is the time, O ye beloved of the Lord, for ardent endeavour. Struggle ye, and strive. And since the Ancient Beauty was exposed by day and night on the field of martyrdom, let us in our turn labour hard, and hear and ponder the counsels of God; let us fling away our lives, and renounce our brief and numbered days .
The struggle and the striving is, of course, for a better world, for the coming together of the entire human race as one family, for the elimination of prejudice of all kinds, for the equality of men and women, and for universal education to name a few.
So I had everyone reflect on the following questions and experiences.
What does it mean to fling your life away?
Remember a time when you flung your life away. What was the positive outcome?
What is keeping you from flinging your life away?
If you could fling your life away, what would you do?
Of course, flinging your life away does not mean committing suicide or doing things that are irresponsible. It simple means to fling away the life that we are all attracted to of false promises that has been created by the negative culture of those with self interest and greed and instead live the life that will cause the uplifting of humanity. This is the great desire of most of us, but it is very easy to be caught up in the mundane and the pursuit of transient reality. We were especially happy to meet some of the Baha’is from Vietnam and Iran because of our history with Vietnam and because of the constant persecution of the Baha’is in Iran who still have no rights.
These questions aroused a great deal of thought amongst the participants because most of us find ourselves wishing we could do more to further the cause of the coming together of humanity into one family. I leave them for you here should be interested in a doing some flinging.
I have been working with a couple of people in the past few weeks who have issues about how to deal with the hurtful things that have been said to them. Most people think that they are justified in getting angry and then letting the other person know how bad they feel, but, in my experience, it doesn’t seem to have much of a long term effect on the person they are attempting to change nor more than a few moments of relief to get it off their own chests.
So I invented this little exercise that is easy enough to do that really helps to attend to who you are rather than to the hurt inside or how bad the others around you are. Here it is.
Take a sheet of paper and divide it half. On the left side with a regular pencil, write down the worst thing anyone has ever said to you. Then on the right side, with colored pencils, write the best thing that you ever did including the positive qualities that you demonstrated. When you have finished, read the left side in color and then say, “This is who I really am.” Do this about 5-7 times, then read it each morning. It has a very powerful effect.
Here is an example.
Example of a worst thing someone has said
Did your brother do that art work for you? (Quote from a third grade teacher on showing my art work to the class. My brother had helped me, but most of it was mine.)
Example of a best thing I ever did
I organized, along with my physical education team, an interchange with a school for street kids where we played cooperative games, competitive games, and arts together in the park followed by a big barbeque. Many people were worried about drugs, stealing, etc., but we taught our students that we had more to learn from street kids, than they had to learn from us, and that wealth did not mean that we were better than them. The virtues I used were courage, creativity, organizational detail, joy, and team work.
Try this. It is great. The photo is another example only this one was getting a lot of kids together to jump for a worthy cause.
Flying into Kuala Lumpur after my third trip to Bali, the plane makes it final glide. It is nearly midnight with one more hour’s taxi ride home. My mind drifts in and out of sleep on the well lit freeways of KL mostly in remembrance of a week in paradise. Paradise is a cliche in Bali. It is so rare to find such a rich blend of culture, spirituality, art, ocean and river sports, natural beauty, and warmth in one place.
Bali is not without its problems, but things just have a good way of working themselves out in a positive way. Maybe it is because the people seem to be in a constant state of prayer because of their ceremonial way of life. The unique style of Hinduism, influenced by mother nature, herself, although to my western mind seems superstitious at times, still seems to have the effect of people being in a constant state of prayer which gives a certain peacefulness and tranquility to life to those of us who travel there. It reminds me of the many experiences we have had living and working with the Crees in Alberta.
We arrive at our first hotel shortly past midnight only to find that they don’t have a record of our reservation even though the paper I am holding says that my reservation is confirmed. There is a warm wind from the sea that despite the confusion gives a certain amount of patience. The night clerks, who speak almost no English, along with the taxi driver, spend the next 20 minutes trying to find us another hotel. Nothing is successful by phone so all of us enter the taxi and go on a late night room hunt. We settle on a 30 USD homestay which is quite comfortable. We are quite tired. Early the next morning, 5 am, the roosters sound their morning alarms which awakens us slightly by not enough for the final stirring.
The scuba shop which is located in the homestay is manned by friendly Balinese who give us great information and ideas for possible dives the next day. They lend us some snorkeling gear so that we can check out the local reef near some other hotels. We are still thinking of returning to where we had the original booking, but as we turn into the villas where the coral reef is, we drop all plans, find what we really need in the next 3 days, pay more than we anticipated, and allow our bodies and souls to soak up all that the area has to offer. The Persians have a saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Another way I have heard it said is that man has his plans and God has His plans, but God’s are much better. What has happened to us can only be described as the mercy of God. What we needed was a calm, relaxing place surrounded by beauty, but still active and fun. We stumbled into it, or was it that God knew what we needed and had us stumble to find it? I am sure that the Balinese would answer the latter.
Scuba diving is an interesting activity. It is like taking a leisurely walk through the forest, only instead of greenery, and birds and insects, with the occasional larger animal, you see coral and fish and other creatures as you make your way through the beautiful waters. Every once in awhile you see a big turtle or a ray or a shark. 4 dives in two days gives me a chance to learn to relax underwater and take in the rich beauty of the underwater world. The Balinese divemasters are patient, encouraging, helpful, and observant. I always feel secure with them.
After several days of the ocean, we pack our bags and head to the center of the island to one of Bali’s volcanos that still steams and has erupted in 1929. We sign for a morning adventure up the mountain and find that we are being awakened at 3:00 am, fed a light breakfast in the hotel, taken to the trail’s head and then exerting our feet and legs for more than 2 hours to reach the summit by 6 am to watch the sunrise. The hike is cloudy, dark, and difficult. With flashlights in hand we take frequent breaks. After an hour the trail steepens making the last hour more sweaty and more tiring. Still foggy at the summit, we sit and wait for the clouds to part, sipping hot coffee and tea, nibbling on another light breakfast, watching the monkeys waiting for a handout. We are mostly happy to have made it to the top, but then after nearly 20 minutes, the clouds suddenly scatter, and the sun’s reflection shines brightly on the lake below. It is a magical moment of which one becomes accustomed in Bali.
The hot springs give our muscles a deserved break after the morning climb, and then a great buffet finishes our stay in Bali. We are fortunate that Bali is only 3 hours from our home a blessing that we cherish not knowing how long our stay in Asia will be. I am reflecting on the three trips to Thailand, the trip to Vietnam, Jakarta, Sarawak, the Perhentian Islands in Malaysia.
I feel as the Chinese all hope for, lucky.
Earlier this week I had a dream that goes to the heart of what my blog is all about and what the book I am writing is hoping to communicate that really truly radical change is an evolutionary process of working hard every single day to change my life for the better. In the dream there was a young person who was having a problem in his life so I took out a flip chart and made a drawing and explanation of what the problem was and how to solve it and then told him. When he tried to apply it, he totally failed as if he hadn’t heard a single thing I was saying. I became intensely angered and started yelling what he should do, but still no response.
My dream goes to the heart of the change dynamic. A major change does not suddenly happen with one explanation and then an attempt at an application. This is not to say that the explanation is not important, but it is only the beginning and not the whole process. The big negative emotion in the dream, anger, let me know that there was a part of my self that still needed a lot of work. Anger is the mirror emotion meaning that when you are angry at someone else it really is a sign of having something about yourself that you are having trouble changing. If you already have the quality or process, you can be much more detached and patient.
So then I began the inner work to find what I am so angry about inside for not changing. What I found is that, even though I have made a lot of progress in the issue in the past, I needed to have the quality of being more outgoing with others. Since being friendly and outgoing is a spiritual quality, it means that it is infinite in its actualizations. It means that no matter how much I have worked on it, there will be more ahead.
Why I need to be more out there is clear in the dream, because I am in the role of being a teacher and helper which means that I can’t hold back with people.
Changing always means having the goal of actualizing more of your true self and working with the negative energy inside that presents the issue. So after the dream when I realized that I was so impatient with the change process, I practiced being patient and encouraging in my classes and the effect was amazing especially with the really weak students. I realized that I could set what I initially thought would be too small of a goal for them on the first day and then increase the goal each day thereafter. I began to notice the progress in the students who were having a great deal of fear. Every time they approached the climbing wall and made one more step or made a big effort I let them know.
Then all of sudden, in one class, three boys climbed up to a place where they have to have to ring a bell and then jump down onto landing mats. This was a great deal more than I had expected, but the really interesting thing was that my class arrived early so that sat and watch the boys do their acts of bravery and receive due recognition. Immediately when the new class came in, a young girl, who had not done very much up to that point, came up to me and asked me if I could help her ring the bell. I said, “of course, let’s go for it.” And she not only rang the bell but she worked much harder on all of the tasks for the rest of class. It was a magical moment for her.
The point is that radical change is about staying in your process and working each moment to get better. Pretty simple.
During the last week or two I have several challenges in my work about getting photos taken and then downloaded for applications and printing. One of the interesting things that is happening is that the school has a very expensive camera so that events can be recorded and used in the yearbook. Recently, when I asked to use the camera at one our important soccer tournaments out of town, I was refused permission for its use. And when I asked for the A-V technician’s time to take some photos even at local games in the school, I was also denied permission. So then one of the students volunteered to go to the soccer tournament out of town and take photos with a cheaper camera, but now every time I go looking for her to download the photos, she is nowhere to be found.
Under normal circumstances I would become angry and give the administrators a few choice words of how stupid they are acting. I did try it. It didn’t work. So now I am facing the fact that there is a part of me inwardly that is somehow not allowing the camera work to happen. In order to do this change work it is important for me ot think of photography as metaphor for my inner process. What photography does, through the use of a camera, is to record images of things. In my case the need is to record images of specific events. It can be extremely motivating for others to see action shots in a slide show or posted photos on a board or in a book that spurs them on to even greater achievement. Because I am having problems in the photographic process, I can assume that something is wrong with my own inner recording process which means that I can’t take and remember images in my brain very well.
My memory for visual content is having a difficult time working. The first issue is connected to authority. In the outer world I am not allowed to have access to the camera or staff to assist me. When I get a cheaper version of what I want, it turns out that the person taking the photos is irresponsible.
To solve the memory issue, the first thing I can do is give myself permission to have really beautiful and exquisite memories by realizing that the authority for my memory rests within myself, not outwardly from protective administration. Isn’t that an interesting revelation that I can just give myself permission to have wonderful memories. The second issue seems to fall right on the heels of the first. If I have permission to have beautiful memories, then my inner camera will record things with very high quality of color and clarity, but because I don’t give myself permission for the highest quality of memories, I tend to have cheap memories so I just become irresponsible with them and forget them.
What this means is that motivation to get to a higher level of performance in every endeavor depends upon a high level of memory recording. When I give myself permission to take excellent photos in my mind of events and actually do the mental recording, then my motivation goes sky high.
If this is true about memory and its effect on motivation, then I have to examine how it happened that my mind was allowed to have such cheap memories and then become irresponsible and unmotivated. What I realize, as I reflect on the question, is that I believed that people outside of myself were responsible for giving me great memories by telling me how wonderful my performance was. Now I understand that I can be in control of my own memory by doing the recording myself.
It is not surprising to me that after I wrote my last post about Godzilla and the principle of opposition that, without having read the post, someone sent me an account of their 3 year old child’s nightmare with a dinosaur. The dream is as follows.
“I dreamed that a dinosaur was chasing me – it was big with blue skin that was really bumpy. And was scared, so I went into Mummy’s room, and I could see Mummy sleeping under the covers, but when I pulled the covers back, Mummy was a pirate! And she had a knife! I was so scared that I ran away from her, but he started chasing me so I jumped out the window. Mummy the pirate followed, and then killed her. “
This is what I wrote back to the mother with her permission.
“A dinosaur represents a huge fear of negative evil, reptilian, which means that it doesn’t have a lot of positive ambition and it is very old like dinosaurs. When you have a dinosaur in your dream, it means that you have huge potential and drive to go for really big things that that are positive. Think of it as a negative sign whose solution is really positive potential.”
“As a parent you can to do 2 things that will really make facilitate the development of your child. First is to acknowledge the fear and give your child lots of comfort and assurance. ‘That was so scary. etc.. ‘, but in your mind at the same time you are beginning to think of what the solution is because reassurance is only short term and can only go so far. The solution, that she has a big bright wonderful future, is long term. So you can start planning for how she is going to have a big bright future by seeing the signs of it in her spirit and then providing the environments she needs to develop it. Both processes are important, but the second one is sooo much more difficult than the first. Many parents do not even do the first process of acknowledging the fear and the dinosaur. They do everything possible to deny the experience hoping that it won’t reoccur. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that most people do not understand that the principle of opposition. Once you understand that the negative has a positive opposite that can be brought out over time, then it is much easier to be empathetic and patient with the nightmare. Culturally speaking most people do not believe that their children have incredible potential because in the history of the world we have been mostly led by tyrannosaurus rex. T-rex doesn’t like people who may challenge his leadership.”
“When she sees you as a pirate that has a knife that kills, it is because she needs exactly the opposite from you and also eventually from herself. She needs someone as a mother who is life giving and nurturing and sees her gems and provides environments for the gems to come out and then also acknowledges the gems when they are inside and when they start coming out.”
“One more thing. The blue skin that was really bumpy means that she sees the dinosaur (the fear) with a lot of clarity. To solve the problem you can have her see who she is in a positive way very clearly as well so that she can begin to generate a positive future and become enthusiastic about going for things. The clarity is also an indicator that she has the ability to perceive the negative aspects of the culture very clearly. This means that if she is guided properly, she will readily be able recognize people who are dishonest, who are trying to take advantage of her, and are ambitious for their own greed.”
“Windows are symbols about vision because you start from inside of your true self and then look out into the world. Your house in a dream is a symbol of your self and so a window is the vision onto the world. What a child would normally do is look out a window, see possibilities of play or something like that, and then run down to do the activities, but in the dream she is so scared that she jumps right out of her vision.”
“Vision is an essential part of the development of a person’s will because they get an idea in their mind ( a window of opportunity) and then seek to achieve it. Fear of the dinosaur drives out the positive envisioning process.”
“What you can do to help her is to ask your own self the following question. What is the part of me that is acting out of the negative culture that is fearful of envisioning great possibilities?”
“Then you can begin to change that part into positive capabilities that will support her. The negative cultural aspect of yourself is the pirate in your/her unconscious that comes through the dream.”
“What I would guess is that there is something in your own envisioning process that has been affected by the culture.”
Last notes: My experience is that people dismiss their nightmares or just try to forget them because of not knowing about the opposition principle. When you have a nightmare, it is a sign that you have a great deal of fear and very little of the capability that the dream is calling forth. My personal practice with nightmares is take as much time off the day after so that I can begin the work on the new capability because it is like an infant at that point. By doing this process you can actually become excited about a nightmare because it means that you are going to develop something brand new. If you dismiss the nightmares in the dream world, then they have a tendency to appear in the actual world.
In Chapter 11 of Dreams for Peace, (see Hastings) Godzilla comes into someone’s house causing panic and huge fear where everyone ends up fleeing for their lives. Some don’t make it. It is easy enough when you are doing the initial dream analysis to see that the dreamer is running away from a perceived fear of something that is large and evil. You have a fear and it makes you start avoiding. This is the pattern. You can find this kind of information in most books about dreams.
What you don’t find is a good theory about solving dreams. About 10 years ago when I was doing dream work with a lot of adolescents on a daily basis, I discovered a principle which I call opposition. It certainly isn’t a new principle because it can be found in great writings of every major religion. The principle, briefly stated, is that we all have a true self, which is eternal, positive, and oriented toward service to humankind, and we also have an ego, which is the animal or material self that will one day die. The ego, because of its protective and survival orientation is prone to all of the negative emotions especially fear. When the ego is not subordinate to the true self, it tends to cause all kinds of harm and mischief. Godzilla, for instance, is a symbol of a big ego that causes great evil.
The major problem with most contemporary practices in psychology is that they do not see the true self as the solution to the ego. The true self is unlimited in the number of positive capacities that it can express, while the ego is its mirror opposite in its negative destructive abilities. Dreams are either an expression of the true self or an expression of the ego. Sometimes there are dreams that express parts of both in the same dream. Godzilla is an example of dream about the ego. It could be as a result of personal experience, of family upbringing, or of cultural origins. What most people need after a dream like this is an analysis, but what is even more important is a solution. We have to ask ourselves what is the solution to Godzilla.
In the Baha’i Writings there is a famous quotation that goes like this.
So far as ye are able, ignite a candle of love in every meeting, and with tenderness rejoice and cheer ye every heart. Care for the stranger as for one of your own; show to alien souls the same loving kindness ye bestow upon your faithful friends. Should any come to blows with you, seek to be friends with him; should any stab you to the heart, be ye a healing salve unto his sores; should any taunt and mock at you, meet him with love. Should any heap his blame upon you, praise ye him; should he offer you a deadly poison, give him the choicest honey in exchange; and should he threaten your life, grant him a remedy that will heal him evermore. Should he be pain itself, be ye his medicine; should he be thorns, be ye his roses and sweet herbs. Perchance such ways and words from you will make this darksome world turn bright at last; will make this dusty earth turn heavenly, this devilish prison place become a royal palace of the Lord — so that war and strife will pass and be no more, and love and trust will pitch their tents on the summits of the world. Such is the essence of God’s admonitions; such in sum are the teachings for the Dispensation of Baha. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 34)
Spiritual writings are, by their very nature, solution oriented. In the above quotation, described as the sum of all the teachings for this age, the solution to blame is praise, the solution to poison is honey, and the solution for thorns are roses. So if we look at Godzilla, based upon the above quotation, he can be described as a terribly destructive force that wreaks havoc everywhere he goes. Where psychology has come to thus far as a practice is to recognize that Godzilla is an evil force causing untold destruction, so therefore, lets kill him and everything will be just great. So we kill Godzilla, but because we haven’t done the solution of opposition as in the holy writings, sooner or later, Godzilla’s uncle pops up and starts the same thing all over again.
Being solution oriented means doing the opposite. Great destructive powers are solved by great constructive and healing powers. When the world trade center was destroyed in New York City, the immediate response was to go after Godzilla. Countries do have the right to protect themselves, and there is a benefit from killing Godzilla, but no one seems to have responded to him in a solution oriented way by going after huge positives.
Whenever I have a dream that is negative, I almost immediately begin by flipping the negative images in my mind to their positive opposites. This tells me almost immediately what kind of actions to take in my life. You can try it. If you are being attacked by a poisonous snake in a dream, you don’t really need to worry so much about what a snake means. What you need to do is to change from being poisoned to being healing. Maybe there is a lot of vicious backbiting at work. You can do healing work by finding people to praise and honor.
There are a lot of interesting clues that you can get in dream work if you learn to pay attention and then apply a solution. If the dream is dark, then it means that you need to bring more light into the world, maybe shedding more light. If there is a large negative, then you can go for a very large positive. If everything is going really fast, then you can work on slowing everything down.
If you have ever walked around with labels like very creative but extremely disorganized, dyslexic, distracted, hyper, or ADD, this little tool may help you out. You first have to realize that most people with such labels organize on the basis of space, not on time. This is a big key. All of the courses of time organization or other organizing schemes won’t work for you so don’t feel bad if you have organizers that don’t have any marks in them. Most of them are for people who organize on the basis of time.
People that lead with their right brain tend to process by seeing the whole picture and then making connections between things in the picture. Left brain processors organize themselves according to lists and sequences. They make a list and check it off one at at time. They are greatly loved by teachers because they follow directions well. Most people can do some of both, but those with a more severe right brain style really can’t do lists. They have never read a technical manual but know more about computers than anyone because they can just keep experimenting and making connections. The only time they look at the manual is when they absolutely can’t figure something out.
So when you are right brained or ADD, you need a different type of planning tool. You need something where you can see everything all at once and then just start doing things that seem most important. One way to do it is to just write things on a piece of paper as if it were a picture, not a list. You can remember a picture, but you can’t remember a list. There is a dynamic that happens in the brain when you can see the whole picture and stay focused on it that leads to a lot of action which is not necessarily sequential but still accomplishes a great deal of work. It doesn’t seem to be present in right brain processors when they are given a list and a calender where you have to turn pages.
Personally, I think that the less organized the paper looks from a left brained perception, the more likely you are to accomplish more. I would suggest writing at different angles with lots of lines and shapes. I personally find things like mind maps a little too organized and contrived. I like to keep all of my papers on top of my desk strewn all over the place because as soon as I am done with a project and file the papers away or stack them neatly, it is like a death notice to the project, something like a cemetery.
The best device for a telephone list for me is my cell phone because a large percentage of my ideas come to me when I am speaking to others away from my office. By having a lot of numbers in my cell phone I can start working on a project immediately.
There used to be a popular notion in the practice of psychology that you could give criticism to a person by separating the behavior that someone is doing from who they are as a whole person. The theory evidently is that by doing this you preserve the person’s self esteem, that is, they won’t feel bad about themselves when their behavior is criticized. Someone had this wild notion that a person’s behavior is somehow separate from themselves so you can mess with the behavior all you want and the core of the person will go unaffected. Ok I am Johnny on the playground, and I want to score a goal really badly. I run up to the person with the ball and trip them so that my self interest can be served. The old notion would have us believe that I just have to change my behavior of tripping because the core of me is this perfect child that doesn’t need to change on the inside, that somehow inside I already know how to play enthusiastically and also think like a member of team and play by rules. I think that the idea is that if you stop the negative behavior, stop the tripping in this case, and give the child a new behavior, that he is somehow going to change.
The first half hour that I ever entered school I was given a pair of scissors to cut on a line. I just remember how much of a blur the first days were and how overwhelming the new experience was. So the teacher gives me some scissors and asks me to be a choo-choo train staying on the track by cutting across the paper on a line. Well, you can imagine the outcome. Being overwhelmed with wandering attention my train derailed. So what does this brilliant teacher do? She makes sure that I know that my train went off the track.
If you have ever watched the national team from England play soccer, you will be able to see just how devastating criticism is. The English press puts constant pressure on the national team to perform better. They criticize the players and coaches constantly putting them under enormous pressure to succeed. The national teams usually react to the criticism with what science has already discovered about performance. They always usually find a way lose when they are in a pressure situation.
Criticism is the act of seeing a behavior that is negative, according to the criticizer’s point of view, and then expressing it. The way I think about it is that it is the lazy person’s way of getting attention and advancing. For a writer or journalist using criticism as his main tool means that he advances on the backs of other people’s mistakes. It is the easy road. It is how journalists kill other people’s spirits out of their own self interest of getting to the top. Politicians, social climbers, parents, and people trying to move up corporate ladders all do the same thing. Criticizing gets a lot of fast attention, it makes others look really bad, and it destroys people’s spirits. It also takes the pressure off of your own performance and puts it onto others.
The more difficult road, the road less traveled, starts and ends with the belief that people have unlimited potentialities that can be actualized. It believes that change is possible. How many of us have been called into our boss’s office to be told how we screwed up and to not let it happen again or else when what we need to hear are acknowledgments of positive observations and the belief in positive change.
And then there is the ever popular acknowledgment of an event that goes like this from the leader. “Well that was a great event. Congratulations. There is just one little small thing.” And then the leader goes on for 5 minutes about the small thing. What is it about leaders who think they have the right to criticize every little thing? Why has the research on the effects of criticism gone so unnoticed when it has been consistently shown to cause such major damage? It must be about laziness and the lack of self control and self discipline.
Here are some interesting things from the research on criticism on why constructive criticism doesn’t work. 80% of the people who are criticized go into a negative non-resourceful state when they are criticized. Of the 20% who don’t feel really bad from criticism only 10% can keep the criticism dissociated so that they can judge whether or not to use it. This means that almost everyone takes criticism personally even when the criticizer says I don’t want you to take this personally. Most people just feel bad and get more non-productive from criticism.
There is also some interesting research on work in elementary school classrooms and in marriages that found that the magic number for positive encouraging comments in ratio to correcting or more negative ones is at least 4 to one. That means four positives to one correcting. When the ratio was 2 to 1, students felt like the classrooms were very negative. Marriages where the ratio is 4 to 1 last much longer than those where the ratio is much lower.
This does not mean that there is no place for critical comments, but they don’t seem to have the intended effect unless the environment is 80% positive. So maybe, instead of losing self control and blurting out negative comments, it may be good to practice some self discipline by keeping our big negative mouths shut and opening up the positives ones.
I was very inspired when I read my daughter’s blog about sorting beans with Olee, our grandson the other day. See http://hoogliart.wordpress.com. I think Maria Montessori was one of the first educator’s to see how organization of space really gives children a great deal of freedom to play and explore. Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to work together with a number of my colleagues to apply her teachings. What happened was quite incredible!
Being a product of the 60s you can imagine that I might have some difficulties conceptualizing how play and creativity can work together with order and control. The 60s were instrumental in bringing out the evils of leadership by control and self interest so for many people of our era, when we think of conrolling an environment, we think of people who had the wrong motives. Organization for accumulation of selfish desires still may be a huge reality in the world, but yesterday it finally clicked for me why order is so important when you are doing something for the right reasons.
The event that we planned was a swim meet for students from grades 2-5. We had four hours, two two-hour sessions to complete 110 swimming races. What was incredible to me at day’s end was that we finished each session 20 minutes early. That is two groups of 160 swimmers each. You can do the math, but however you calculate, that is a lot of play in a short period of time. When I think of about it, it was all about the organization of space. Military order paled to us yesterday.
We planned where students had to sit while they were waiting for races to be called, where they had to sit after their races were called, which lane they were to swim in, and where they were to go when they finished each race. The adults all had a program with the list of all races and lane assignments, the volunteers all had written instructions of what to do at their jobs, and well if you have ever done a swim meet or track meet, you know that it takes a lot of people and organization. Because of the organization all the athletes had to do was to focus on their play, the swimming. The heat numbers were written on their arms so all they had to do was listen for their heat, go to the marshaling area, and then jump in the pool and swim. They were absolutely wild with enthusiasm and joy.
The results: Every child in the school participated in at least one to four races and everyone received at least one ribbon. It was magical. We even had to take a 10 minute break in the 2nd session because of thunder and a small amount of rain, but still we finished 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
The planning group was extraordinary. Everyone worked together with no self interest, just the joy of doing great work. So a day later I am thinking about the excuse that I have already mentioned previously in other posts, that people say that they don’t have time to play and now after yesterday, I am certain that the issue is not about time but the fear of being in the play space.
Unlike most children who can’t be held back from play, many adults seem to be blocked when it comes to participating in play. For them it is emotional. The underlying emotion that inhibits play the most is the fear of being criticized. Children are immune to its deadly effects for a time mainly because they are around other children who love to play, but gradually they drink in its venom especially when other expectations in their lives like academics are raised until the joy of play is sapped right out of them.
The key for me in recapturing the joy of play of childhood is the ability to organize the emotional space in my life, to bring order to my emotions so that my positive energy can shine through. Criticism is the great epidemic of our time, far more deadly than any pandemic the scientists may predict because it kills a person soul and their bodies. It is so commonplace that it is even often regarded as a virtue, but it kills nonetheless.
What is the vaccine that will get adults back in the pool and into play? It is simple. Find something positive about yourself and others and say it. This changes everything. You just let go of the negative thoughts that come in by dealing with them on your own in your meditation or with the help of others, but you don’t express them in an aggressive way outward. When you recognize positive things that are happening, you express them outwardly. This has the effect of making play very inviting. Then people can experiment and make all kinds of mistakes and the great learning and fun can happen.
First of all it should be clear from my recent post that God, according to the Baha’i Writings, is neither a man nor a woman but transcendent above all names and attributes. However, I am fascinated by the idea that God was once a woman and then became a man. Who is God as a woman? Why do we need Her back again?
About 15 years ago I was on a trip in northern Alberta to a small city called Ft. Vermillion to do some work with some of the Cree people there. So one afternoon we drove out to visit an elder who told us a very remarkable hunting story. It seems that two men went out one day to hunt for some moose. They loaded up their backpacks with some extra meat and rifles before leaving for the hunt. Then the elder surprised us by telling us that they will never find a moose. We were left in our western materialistic minds sitting there wondering why. He says that they won’t find a moose because they don’t need to find one. They already have meat. If they needed meat, it would show up, but they don’t need it so it doesn’t.
When God was our mother, this is how we used to think. We believed that we would be supported and cared for. The whale hunters on the coast of British Columbia used to describe whaling as paddling out and waiting for whales to arrive rather than searching for whales. Thinking of God as our mother in no way negates the idea of God as our father. God as a father gives us the qualities of self reliance and justice, but it seems to me that when God became a man, the qualities associated with mothers left religion and society.
I mean think about it. When we think of a CEO, do we think of him with qualities of a father or of a mother? Being a mother means being supportive and nurturing, overlooking mistakes, and giving lots of encouragement. Do we think that our nations’ leaders should have these motherly qualities or do we persist in thinking that the leaders are those with only qualities associated with fathers?
The mother is the first educator. The life of every new born babe depends upon his mother’s milk. Through a strong bonding with his mother, the child learns to trust. So with that in mind I believe it is time to think of our communities as being more motherly, as more nurturing and more encouraging.
When I was in Canada this summer visiting my family in Vancouver including my three wonderful grandchildren, my two daughters introduced me to Facebook, which is an internet based service designed to help people from all over the world to connect with each other. Yesterday something really great happened by using Facebook. I wrote to one of my old colleagues in Brazil saying that I had lost touch with a good friend who lives in Bolivia and wondering if she had his email. Well she didn’t have the email, but she told me that my colleague’s daughter was on Facebook so I could write to her and find out her father’s email. I then wrote to her on Facebook and she gave me her father’s new email. So in the space of about an 2 hours I was reconnected with an old friend. Now that is radical global change.
The first thing that you notice, if you get onto Facebook, is that information is not very guarded between the participants. You can see what everyone is writing to each other and what everyone is doing simultaneously all around the world. If you need confidentiality you can still have it, but the huge guarding of emotional content in people’s life that characterized most of the 20th century has suddenly been swept away. Yesterday I received messages from Australia, Japan, China, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the US, England, and Israel.
Most of what you hear in terms of future prognosticating these days is the acceleration of the negative so I am just going to do the opposite. If I can communicate instantly all over the planet with people I know and share my thoughts and feelings openly on a blog on a daily basis for others to read, then it has to mean that we will see unprecedented acceleration of the healing of all those conditions that are caused by isolation and alienation. It will become increasing more difficult to go to war, people will begin using the term world citizen as easily as they identify with their own countries, and conflicts and oppression will be almost impossible to hide. This is all because the communication space between people from great distances will continue to decrease.
Ok, here is the thing. If you look at the way the world is in all of its negative aspects, it will have a huge tendency to bring on paralysis. It does for me. However, if I look toward the future and see what is going to happen in positive terms, it means that I can accelerate its occurrence by acting positively now. If I just complain and whine, which I love to do, then nothing will happen. What is difficult to account for are the radical changes that are going to happen to drive us forward in a positive way in the next few years. The best strategy for a great world shift toward the positive is transformation of our lives.
Here is what it is like. My oldest grandchild is now 4 years old. Within the space of two years her brain is going to go a radical alteration so that she can move from being a captive of perception, that is, to being able to only hold one thing at a time in her mind such as size or shape or color to being able to hold all three dimensions in her mind at the same time and then use them. She will move from thinking in size or shape or color to size and shape and color. This means, for instance, that she will be able to see that a person can have very light skin and still be a human being. Right now she can only see one or the other.
This is exactly what the world needs. We can be citizens of our countries and citizens of the world. We can be women or men and still all be human beings. Human beings don’t have to be men while women are something much less. We can have great economies and we can have a clean and protected environments. We can have security and health and we can travel limitlessly with great freedom.
I am not sure if many people have reflected on this question on where God is, so I decided to throw out a few thoughts to share some of my observations. What I have observed is that the location of God seems to move around according to the cultural context.
In the Judeo-Christian culture that surrounded me growing up I learned that God was a man in the sky. That was in the 1950s in California. I am not sure if he is still there in California. He may have moved to the mall because people seem to do their worshiping there. However, when I first learned to pray, I learned that God was up there watching over us. I can remember pictures in the Old Testament, which is really the Jewish Torah, about seeing an older man in white beard with white hair sometimes looking pretty peeved at the world. I can understand the Jewish notion of God, because it was the purpose of Moses to unite the tribes of Israel through the application of law in a just manner. Justice means that people are not higher than the law. The law is higher which keeps people’s egos lower. Prior to this time the rulers were above the law. Many of them still are, but that is a different story.
In the 1980s I began working on a Cree Reserve in Alberta, Canada which had the effect of radically altering my view of where God is. For the Crees God is a woman who supports and nurtures all life. Her spirit manifests itself and communicates with us in all things in nature. For the Jews God created order through a set of laws and became a man, but for the Crees God is our mother living in the earth. Could God be in both places at once?
When I read the New Testament which is really the teachings of Christ and then some elaborations, I find that what Jesus was trying to teach was love for one another. He seems to have moved God out of the sky and into the heart, but since you can’t have order without law and justice, God needed to remain in the sky, but also in the heart. Now Christians also have the third place for God which is in the spirit, the Holy Spirit. Hence, Christianity evolved into what they call the trinity. There is God in the sky keeping things in order through justice, God in the heart which brings about love and connection, and God in the spirit which brings about communication and guidance. Before I get to where the spirit is, I just have to say that I am a little bit perplexed as to why the Christians forgot to add the mother like the Crees. For that matter, the Jews abandoned God as a feminine figure as well. Maybe that is why it so hard for the equality of men and women to take root even in western liberal cultures. Could be the source of Jewish mother’s guilt as well.
God may have always been there in one form or another, but the real impetus for God being an invisible force came through Buddhism six centuries before Jesus. God practically disappears in Buddhism because of Buddha’s emphasis on people doing their own internal work rather than relying on things outside of themselves. Buddhism is about detachment. Through meditation and other practices one is forced inward so that the spirit within can communicate and be released into the world to do positive action. In Buddhism God is both invisible and internal.
So we have God being up in the sky, in the earth and nature, in the heart, and invisible and internal. What makes it even more complicated is that with atheists, God is nowhere at all and with agnostics God seems to be there on occasion or in the fog.
Islam and Christianity share the same heritage so whatever is true for Muslims is also true for Christians. The difference is that Muslims do not allow images of God or messengers which is a movement toward God being transcendent, which means that all description of God being in time or space is pure imagination. This also, is the Baha’i view of God which means that it is helpful to imagine where God is terms of virtue, but description of God is beyond all comprehension.
If true religion were ascendant, then it would be very easy for everyone to be in absolute harmony learning and integrating things from each other because virtues have no difficulties working together. Justice and love, detachment and support, and inspiration and acceptance all can live together without difficulty. The problems seem to occur when the egos take the place of God. For instance, instead of God being in the sky administering justice with the rule of law, men put themselves in the sky and do whatever they want whether they be tyrannical leaders such as Hitler, tyrannical CEOs, or tyrannical parents or teachers.
Instead of having love for one another and treating each other with mercy, charity, and kindness, people take the place of God in the heart with lust of sex and power. And instead of going inside to deal with your own spirituality, people seek material satisfaction outside of themselves through material means.
Likewise, instead of relying on spiritual teachings for support such as sharing and generosity, people put their own superstitions in their minds to keep development from happening. Superstition is ultimately an attempt to keep God out through controlling weak minds.
What I think is that if we use the paradigm of God taking over various domains of human beings, you can analyze the weaknesses in religious structures and then change them. For instance, for God to take over the domain of the heart the religion has to place a major emphasis on artistic beauty as expressed in painting, architecture, music, and theater and it needs to look at the quality of loving relationships in the community so that there is kindness, mercy, and attraction. But God still has to be in the sky, not man, for love to take over the heart, because justice is a precondition for love to spread.
In my last post I was writing about a 5 year old boy whose primary presenting negative emotion is frustration. Frustration is what you feel when you are trying to accomplish something, but you are not making the progress you were hoping. It is different than disappointment which is feeling you get after the experience is over. With frustration you are still trying, but still failing.
The spiritual solution to frustration is always in the area of the virtues associated with patience. Patience is the ability to slow down time to a standstill so that other solutions can appear or other things can happen first. If you are frustrated as a student or an athlete, it usually means that you are not patient enough to try new strategies or solution because you are too rushed to get to the goal. To overcome frustration there is always a slowing down process so that new solutions can enter.
When frustration presents itself into a situation like my 5 year old, it usually means that there isn’t enough patience in the environment. This is sooooo interesting!!!! In the meetings I have done on dreams I usually put out cards with the names of virtues like courage, enthusiasm, honesty, compassion, etc.. I always put out 2 cards that say patience as opposed to putting out only one of every other virtue. Both patience cards are always taken.
So why is frustration such a big issue and why do we seem to need a lot more patience? It should actually come as no surprise because the more sped up the culture gets, the faster we go to keep up with it. We can’t slow down to find new solutions because we are already in the super fast lane.
I think the real key is the ability to slow down internally. So here is the epilogue of my 5 year old which is what I think leadership is all about. All of his teachers, the school counselor, one of his parents, and the nanny all got together for the purpose of discussing what we could differently. The meeting lasted for over an hour. Everyone was allowed to share openly and frankly. It was an extremely positive environment where a few decisions and a lot of suggestions were made.
So today he came to class and participated fully attending to every activity. He was quite amazing. His coordination still is not great, but he is on the right path. A little bit of patience, i.e. slowing down, seems to go along way.
The group showed how a decentralized process can work. The people closest to where the actual action is take the authority to work together to improve a problem situation. Everyone is given a voice, everyone listens to each other, and then change begins to happen.
Last week during one of my physical education classes with my 5 year olds I witnessed and incredible act of leadership that left me with a great feeling of hope. I have a young boy in one class whose frustration tolerance on a scale from 1-10 is minus 6 or 7. He has had a melt down in each of first 5 or 6 classes, but during my last class something interesting happened. I had the students work in pairs throwing and catching balls back and forth. Now my frustration boy had had almost zero attention in other tasks, but on this day he was paired with someone who had almost no English which immediately thrust him into a helping position. He watched the task, decided he could do it, and started working with his partner. He acted extremely patient and encouraging with his partner, showing him what to do and being the perfect leader. I was shocked, but so pleased that I immediately wrote it down in my notes after class because it was the first really positive sign that he had ever shown.
I am not so sure what happened inside for him to make that kind of click, but it was clear to me that he had become a leader on that afternoon because he was practicing the virtue of helpfulness. It just made me realize that leadership is no longer a function that can be described as a top-down function. We seem to mostly make jokes about those who still are appointed to positions highest up on the hierarchical ladder because leadership can no longer be directed by one person, if it ever could. Those who try to force their wills by reason of position have found themselves isolated and unsupported. Their days are obviously numbered. The only people who are thriving are those that have turned decision making into a collective process and worked to empower members of an organization through capacity building and decentralization.
The world has turned upside down on its head because now the best leaders are not those who are decisive and willful, but those who support the development of leadership and decision making abilities in everyone in the organization. My 5-year-old melt down specialist became a leader in my class. How can I support him to be a leader all the time?
One of my little addictions is watching war documentaries on various history channels. I have seen a lot of people die on TV. I think it has to do with the fact that I am always trying to do new things that require facing the enemy of tradition. Today, I watched a show about World War 2 and the invasion of Normandy. The story featured an American soldier who won the US congressional medal of honor, which pays the highest respect for bravery under fire. Despite his heroics on the battlefront he could not prevent the death of his brother who died while fighting on Omaha Beach. He said that he has had continuing dreams of his brother for over 50 years since his brother’s death in 1944.
So I asked myself, on hearing about this story, why he would have dreams for so long about his brother. He had been a faithful soldier that had gone off to war to fight for a just cause, but nothing in his soldiering could save his brother from an untimely death on that beach. The purpose of the war, as I see it, was to make the world safe so that a person like him could have a life of peace and harmony with his brothers. When he came home from the war having received high honors but not having his brother present in his life, he must have surely had torn feelings. On the one hand he was a hero, but on the other he was without a brother. The scourge of fascism was ended in Europe and Asia in no small part by the heroics of such soldiers, but in his own family there remained a hole. The future that he had probably envisioned with his brother was suddenly finished.
So why the dream? I am sure that I have listened to over a 200 people share their experiences where loved ones has come back in the dream life who have already died to the physical world. Inevitably, their message is the same one which is that they are fine in the next world, the people in this world need not worry about them, and that they can let go of their grief and get on with their own true lives. The dream world is kind and patient and without time, so it doesn’t seem to mind sharing dreams repeatedly to the person in the physical world for as long as it takes to get the right message.
There is nothing the young soldier can do to turn back the clock and save his brother from an untimely death, but he can deal with his own grief. The people who have gone on to the next world seem to being quite fine, but it is we, the living who suffer.
In 1982 one of my great educational mentors was murdered while on a routine visit to New York City to discuss some ideas with people at the United Nations. I had envisioned my professional career being played out together with the educational model he created, but then he suddenly died, the program we were working on was curtailed, and I was suddenly left without a future. From time to time he appears in my dreams in such a way that the dream feels like real life. When I wake up, I suddenly fall back into grief as if he has died all over again. For a long time I thought he was trying to communicate to me to continue the work of the model, but as I think about the soldier and the other people who shared similar dreams of loved ones who have passed on, I am thinking that he is saying that he is perfectly fine, doing great work, and that my future can be extremely bright. The dreams have a lot more to do with my inability to have a bright future without him than needing to hang onto his model and further it.
After his death, I spent the next six years on an First Nations Reserve in Canada. Instead of the hallows of a university campus I was thrust into the field of application into the worst possible environment imaginable. No high school graduates for over 12 years, 50% attendance in the school, 80% sexual abuse, alcohol, drug, and gambling abuses in every family. You name it, we had it. And the model worked very well. Students stopped dropping out, attendance rose to 95%, teenage pregnancies decreased, and scores of people went into treatment for addictions. I didn’t need my mentor there to have a bright future or create bright futures for others.
The ideas that I learned while studying the model have worked wherever I have applied them very effectively. I still use them everyday and as long as I have a bright and enthusiastic future they will surely keep producing. The soldier on the battlefield in World War 2 woke up courage in himself to do remarkable feats during the war, and his brother’s death is a reminder to keep doing heroic events everyday with weapons of peace. Courage generalizes. Notice in the picture that boys are wearing pink and the girl blue. Now that is radical change.