Walking a different drummer/spiritual path in a secular world

A little over a week ago I started participating in an on line class called “Co-Human Harmony“.  The idea is to work on understanding and tools to help create bridges in a divisive society or situation.  I signed up because I think it’s so important right now and because I realize I even have a problem quite often about joining groups who are working for peace or justice (i.e. theoretically same view as mine) because I frame these issues so differently.

I’m loving the class but also struggling for the same reasons.  The quite valid point of the class is to learn tools for bridging divides where people are, which is generally not in a place of understanding or accepting non-duality.  And I’m realizing I’ve moved so far along the path of looking at everything from a spiritual/metaphysical viewpoint, I’m having trouble answering some of the course questions within a more “practical” framework.

I believe so thoroughly we’re all divine beings who are made of energy which is part of one unified field.  And I am so used to using tools like (1) moving into heart energy and shifting a room with it or (2) chanting lovingkindness for someone with whom I’m at odds or (3) doing a meditation that balances energy between me and another person before we actually interact, that I think in those terms for bridges and healing rifts.

The teacher has pointed out it’s fine to think in those terms (and has encouraged me to continue) but for these situations we’re addressing how to be in a room with, say, a Neo-Nazi, and find a way to connect as humans so we can talk.  And I’m guessing as we move from studying the theoretical framework to more practical applications it may become easier to just use and apply new concepts.  But right now I’m floundering in attempts to talk about my understanding of various passages, videos, etc. on which we’re asked to comment without talking about energy and chakras and stuff.

I’m really seeing how far down this spiritual path I’ve gotten.  I know, I know, seems goofy after this many years for this to be a new thought.  But I’ve wound up mostly hanging around with other spiritual seekers who’ve been at it for years and though I know intellectually that most people don’t think this way, I’m rarely confronted in person with how totally different the drumbeat to which I march really is.

Since most of the folks who regularly read and participate here lead deeply spiritual lives I’m very interested and curious to hear your thoughts and stories about participating as a spiritually-enmeshed person in secular affairs.  Comments are welcome but I’d be even more excited to see some of you write posts about living spiritually in a secular world.

BTW, I’ll still be continuing the People Power series but as I work through this class I’ll likely switch back and forth in topics.

People Power: Truth, Lies, Myths, Manipulation

For part 2 in my People Power series a lot of focus right now on truth telling and “fake” news, which is discussed as if it’s a phenomenon that started with the current U.S. administration.  The truth and what we believe and why we believe it are crucial at this point but it’s a slippery slope.

The media and people in power have been hoodwinking us for years (maybe always?) and we all now hold a lot of beliefs that are based on falsehoods and/or manipulations.  In the wake of the 2016 election I’ve read a lot of studies about belief and how hard it is to change one or more.  Bottom line is beliefs are very hard to change in all people.  Once a belief has been accepted, most all of us will ignore evidence that tells us a different truth.

By and large these studies aimed at the right wing folks who elected the not-really-a-president, but what I’m seeing is that both sides are subject to the same “set in stone” thinking.  And the liberal/left often seems so smug about knowing what’s true and what’s not that they are blind to the ways in which they have been duped and are just as gullible to believing what’s been fed.

My first three examples of ways the media shifts perception all come from events of which I was aware or in which I participated in the 1980’s:

1 Nicaragua

  In the 80’s there was a huge civil war in Nicaragua in which the socialist Sandinistas were fighting the party of the late right-wing despotic dictator Somoza.  The Somozan guerillas called themselves Contras and had death squads torturing and killing people.

Reagan supported the right wing and the giant propaganda effort he waged on their behalf led to the Iran-Contra affair.  One small but key move he made to shift perception was to start calling the Contras “Freedom Fighters” in order to portray them as the good guys.

After a while I noticed that NYT articles about the situation were using his propaganda phrasing, calling the Contras “Freedom Fighters”.  It’s a subtle but effective way of re-shaping perception by a small change of phrase.  The anti-abortion movement pulled off a similar shift by changing their movement to “Pro Life”.

[At a guess, it was not the reporters on those articles who used the phrase, but probably an editorial change commanded by somewhere up the chain]

2 Nuclear Power Cases

Nuclear Power Plant cases are giant sprawling things, with thousands of pages of complex expert testimony, briefs that are usually 100 or more pages each and opinions that are just as long.  They’re complicated and cover tough-to-grasp topics like nuclear power plant engineering and econometric forecasting.

I worked on those cases and I barely grasped the minutiae even after several years, relying on the greater expertise of older attorneys who’d been at it so long they knew every nuance.  So I can imagine how tough it must be for a reporter covering the outcome of such a case –presumably among other assignments on other topics — to comprehend the material.

Pretty much every time one of our cases came down, I’d read the newspaper report on the opinion/outcome and scratch my head, wondering if the decision on some other nuclear plant case somewhere else had come out that day and the reporter confused the opinions.  Really.  I’d read the opinion and then the news and fail to see how one led to the other.

I don’t think anybody manipulated on purpose in those cases, but in complex technical matters it’s too much for a mainstream media reporter to be able to get it all and write a concise, understandable article that accurately reflects the material.  I’ve talked to other people in other complex arenas who’ve said the same thing.  Media coverage often doesn’t reflect the kind of understanding that people within the “biz” have.  On complex topics, if you really want to know, you probably need to look at trade-specific journals or major studies.

But the news articles are often the only info the public ever sees, so any mistakes in the coverage wind up being part of the belief system.  One example in nuclear stuff I see all the time is the assumption that nuclear is the cheapest form of power.

Putting aside the incalculable issue of how much the environmental devastation will cost down the road, (1) the cost overruns of building them have been astronomical; and (2) the ONLY reason they ever seemed relatively cheap in the U.S. was the gigantic federal underwriting they received.  If you add the grants into the overall cost they’re very expensive.

But because the powers that be who favor nuclear have always referred to it as the cheapest form and the federal money supporting them is never mentioned there’s a general belief that nuclear power is cheap.  In this case the public is misled by a combo of misinformation and omission.

3 Perception of Crime

Yup, I’m back to this one again.  And before you roll your eyes and think I need to stop with this one, I really want you to take this in and understand how manipulation changed perception and what that means for us.

As a sociology grad student in the late 70’s I landed on a huge research project called “Reaction to Crime”.  The premise was that the perception of rising crime threats arose from some changes in reporting and the idea was to figure out how to assuage those fears.  Part of the project was a gigantic “crime statistics survey” in which a small group of us poured through decades of studies and articles on crime stats.

In a nutshell, what we found was that the chance of being the victim of a crime, from robbery, burglary, assault, battery, kidnapping, etc. to murder HAD NOT CHANGED IN DECADES.  Two major changes fueled the change in perception:  (1) crime used to be reported differently and not in gross numbers as it has been for some decades now and (2) the rise of television meant that many crimes that once would have been reported only locally became national news.

The change in reporting from noting probability to just counting the total number of crimes and sounding the alarm that it kept going up suits law enforcement and politicians very well because it helps them convince the public they need big budgets and fuels election campaigns.

The thing is, the population keeps growing, so the totals will always grow. The only relevant info in terms of being afraid of crime is the probability.  Has not changed significantly over all for more than 100 years.  And I keep checking in on the studies and reports as they update and it’s always the same.  Unless you’re a Hispanic or Black male between 15 and 25, the chances of being a crime victim have gone down by and large since Colonial times. (And I’ve not looked into it but I suspect some crimes related to opioid sales and distribution have gone up in recent years.  And hate crimes only have relatively recent stats as they were not considered separately).

But every time I talk to people about this I see them politely nod and then observe them a day or two later discussing the terrible crime problem.  So this is the piece I want you (and I use “you” very generally here, hoping I might reach a wider than usual audience) to really get.

I am telling you the factual evidence compiled by decades of experts in this field shows  a perception of crime as rampant and getting worse that IS NOT TRUE.  And most of you have bought so deeply into the manipulation that you do not really believe me when I tell you this.

How does this make you different from climate deniers?  Or flat earth believers?  Somebody presented those folks with an alternate view of truth and they’ve bought it so thoroughly you can’t persuade them it’s actually false.

This is how manipulation works.  It presents you with a version of events or a way of phrasing or skewed “statistics” that suits people in power and gets you to believe what they want you to.  And then you can’t be dissuaded.

In the 1940’s, when people left everything unlocked and wandered around feeling safe, the only difference in likelihood of being a victim was perception.  Not the numbers.  Perception.  So when you worry about crime and contemplate security systems, etc. remember nothing has changed since the days of unlocked doors except your perception.

A few articles:

In a broader sense, this all goes to a point I’ve been making for a while about the price of lapping up negative news and largely ignoring (instead of demanding!) positive news.  The corporate elite–who quietly (and I’d argue without a conspiracy but acting out of self interest) hold the strings of power and use them to manipulate–put a lot of effort into keeping the populace afraid and pointing fingers at one another and at “circumstances” like rising crime.

Lately I’ve been noticing in my digital Washington Post subscription, although they continue to dislike the President while also celebrating him daily via multiple posts, they’ve been tearing down the Democratic candidates and Democrats in general on a daily basis lately.  At first I was surprised but then recalled I’ve read several times that the big mainstream media folks have recouped their financial standing by covering this administration incessantly.  Which will presumably change if he isn’t elected in 2020.  Bear this mind.

The point of creating fear is to keep us from noticing (1) together we actually have the power since the 2% need us to buy their crap and (2) they’re really the ones raping, pillaging, plundering, and destroying the earth and its people.  But if we’re all hopping around about crime and racism and immigrants and refugees and dividing into camps pointing fingers at one another they just get to keep taking more power and leaving us with less of everything.

Which brings me to another item I keep coming back to, this lovely 10 minute Ted Talk by Julia Bacha on the importance of being aware of the positive and the price of focusing on the negative.

It’s time for us to wake up and look at the world with new eyes.  To step back from the “truth” as we keep perceiving it through the lens of mainstream media.  It’s time to seek and celebrate the multitudes of positive things in the world.  And by noticing and celebrating we bring attention.  Since energy flows where attention goes, that means energy moves to the good stuff.  That’s how we start moving the power.  Change the flow.

For those of us in this blogging crowd who have come to know each other here, we have been in the forefront of those who are digging deep into our own psyches and releasing the old false beliefs and delusions in our personal lives.  Now it’s time for us to dig into the false beliefs and delusions of our society and world and step back to hold a deeper truth.  I don’t usually ask this, but please forward this through social media for me.  We need to get this out there.

I like my aging face

For some months now I’ve felt like I’ve been in some sort of hibernation/incubation mix, drawn to studying up on a bunch of current events issues and unsure what’s next.  Finally in the last couple of weeks a couple of epiphanies have arrived.  The first will take several posts so I’m writing up the second one to open.

Lately a number of articles and insights about aging have cropped up, during a spell when I’ve often enjoyed my graying hair in the mirror as well as appreciating my aging face.  They’ve had me contemplating myself as an aging woman.

Time Stopped

Aging has been an odd process for me.  Like many with a long-term ailment like chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia, in many ways my life froze at the point in my mid-thirties when normal life stopped.  For many years I had trouble conceiving of myself as having moved anywhere past that age.

At the same time, the process of moving toward wellness included lots and lots of bodywork and a faithful yoga practice combined with some other movement practices.  Once the process of aging caught up with me enough that I could no longer hold an illusion of being 34 🙂 I had transformed my body from stiff and pained and barely mobile to strong and lithe and flexible.

So I find myself at 66 with a body that feels younger than it did in my thirties and a face that clearly says “66” in a life that felt like a couple of decades went missing.

“Not Fair”

Clearly somewhere along the way I drifted from feeling 34 to seeing the aging reality in the mirror.  Having, in most conventional senses, lost 25 or so years, my initial reaction was, “Not fair!”

Alternating amongst angry and mournful and denying, I grappled with “losing” most of the middle of life and finding myself old and still struggling to get past all the health and emotional issues   Not fair!

Again, because my body was coming back to life and my muscles were serving me better than ever, denial became an easy refuge.  As long as I didn’t look in the mirror, I felt so much better it was hard to reconcile the “old” thing with the state of my physical being.

I never landed on anger or grief or denial for long and through it all I could manage to look at what I accomplished during those years and have a little re-think.

I Earned This Face

I can’t remember how many years ago I quit dying my hair (I’d gone prematurely white around my face in my early 30’s and, like so many, once I started, I kept going too long), but an appreciation of the gray look has been growing ever since.

Lately, as mentioned, I’ve been seeing a lot of photos and posts about amazing “older” women.  Soaking in the tub one recent day and pondering some of these “signs” I flashed to the image of my long graying hair when it’s down and my face with its wrinkles and the deep circles under my eyes that tell me my kidneys are still being squeezed by muscles and I’m not getting enough sleep.

Suddenly I felt love.  I earned this face.  When I look at the photos above I see a progression that may not be as visible to those who haven’t lived it, but to me is clear.

The toddler me is still open and bright; it’s a photo taken before I shut down.

By the time of the graduation photo taken at 17, my face is frozen and the muscle issues have already pulled my eyes back farther into my head than they should be.

The next photo, at 45-ish, was taken after I’d been doing spiritual work for 10 or so years, after going through the Fisher-Hoffman process work and I can see a little more openness, but, not having started work on the facial muscles, my eyes have pulled even farther back.

In the final photo — from last week — I see a face much more open.  My eyes have moved farther forward.  Not all the way yet, as final recalcitrant core muscles continue to work out of the web behind my eyes, but they’ve moved and appear more open again. Still in progress, but a visible confirmation of accomplishment.

I worked hard to move from the girl with the frozen face to the aging woman with masks removed and brighter eyes  I’ve faced into dark depths and wandered down entangled pathways from which I could not see a way forward.

To the outer world my life moved nowhere except from one U.S. state to another to another, but in my essence, at the core of my being, I have traversed a thousand miles of wilderness, facing down the lions and tigers and bears.

At 66 I stand on the brink of being the healthiest I have perhaps ever been.  I’ve jettisoned neuroses and useless beliefs and large pieces of what I thought was my personality.  I’m still not positive where the next phase will find me but I know I’m finally going to be living life as me and on my terms.

I earned this face.

Compassion for the Unlikeable

In my last post I explored the puzzling contradictions of the right wing evangelical movement.  It’s easy for liberals and leftists and spiritual types who pursue love and peace to shake their fists in fury and despise the hatefulness and hypocrisy rampant in the white nationalist propensities of so many folks who call themselves Christians.

Except fist shaking and fury are, you know, hateful too.  I’m guilty of it and up to a point I see it as a good thing to initially feel angry when people lack humanity and are prepared to sacrifice the lives of every group they don’t like.

But at some point it seems to me true compassion requires a step back and the application of humanitarian instincts even to those who seem to have no compassion of their own.  Brotherly love isn’t just for those with whom it’s easy to empathize.  At its heart it requires the ability to dig deep and find love for everyone, even when it’s hard.  Especially when it’s hard.

I see the hatefulness of the right wing as arising from huge fear.  It would be tempting to offer my theories as to why they’re so afraid (and trust me, I have some), but I also feel like Right Listening requires us to engage in a conversation with them that helps them to dig deep and offer their own truth about fear or to tell us it’s something else.

And then to ask them what would help to assuage the fear. Discuss programs and possibilities and really hear their input instead of the usual pattern of designing a program from outside and imposing it on people without finding out what they want.

At this point, like many I know, I’d pretty much vote for anybody not the guy we’ve got now, but I wish we’d see some of the liberals putting some attention on healing our great divide by turning some compassion toward the “other side”.

Sage advice: muscles

My knowledge of muscles is taken from many places.  From a section on anatomy and muscles in my yoga teacher training, to info on muscles liberally dispensed by yoga teachers and multiple body work therapists to reading on my own, I’ve been learning about muscles for 30+ years.

The key factor I would emphasize is that most of us are woefully ignorant about our muscles and the central role they play in our health, well-being and ability to get around.  Western medicine largely ignores muscles, so many problems go undetected because they don’t even look for damage when you’ve fallen or been in an accident.

It’s worth learning about your muscles and seeking assistance outside of allopathic medicine in order to maintain muscle health and to restore it to balance after injury.

Emotions and muscles

Since this is everyone’s least favorite aspect, let’s get it out of the way 🙂  At times of trauma and/or drama we tighten our muscles and often the emotions evoked by these events wind up locked in knots in the muscle.

When you start opening the muscles, whether through practicing yoga, getting body work or treatments like acupuncture, those emotions and the memories associated with them are going to surface.

I think it’s one of the biggest reasons body work may plateau; resistance to remembering and/or releasing leads the person unconsciously to tighten.  In yoga people prevent these openings by getting out of a pose as soon as the muscle starts to relax enough to let those memories and feelings rise up.

Getting clear of old issues almost always needs to include some work on muscles in order to open the flow and restore essence.

Strength and Flexibility

America has somehow come to the conclusion that healthy muscles need only to be strong.  It’s a persistent misconception even though multitudes of people who work only on strength have wound up suffering pain from the impact of having muscles that are rigid but incapable of flexing.

Natural movement through the world requires muscles to have both the strength to make certain movements and hold certain parts of the body upright and the flexibility to allow you to balance, and to adjust to the motions life throws at you and, even more important, to allow vital force energy to flow throughout your body.

The nadis, or energy channels, through which prana (chi, qi, vital energy…) moves go through the muscles.  Rigid muscles restrict that flow.  Western thinking and medicine understands very little about energy, but energy and its ability to circulate is crucial mentally, physically and spiritually to good health.

After 32 years of yoga I’m prejudiced, of course, but I think it’s one of the best ways to get your muscles into the perfect balance of strength and flexibility.  A good yoga practice works on balance on many levels and one of the important features of a good practice is performing poses for both strength and stretch.

The Pain Place and the Source of Pain May Not Be the Same

The first serious massage therapist for me used a combo of sports medicine and the trigger point therapy theories of Dr. Janet Travell, particularly as shaped by Bonnie Prudden in Myotherapy.  Because muscles are interconnected, a holding pattern in one area will spread –given enough time, tightness can spread throughout your body — and may create a tight spot that hurts somewhere else.

If you work only where the pain is, you will not get rid of the problem.  Practitioners who know how to follow patterns* can figure out where the source of the problem really is.  When that piece releases, others will be easy to open.

Margaret, that first practitioner, often worked on my neck, couldn’t get anything to budge, moved down to a giant ball of knotted muscles at the top of my achilles tendon, worked there and then went back to my neck, where the muscles would now respond.

In Body Patterning, practitioners learn to see patterns in muscles and will often release several other areas before working on the place where you’ve indicated pain.  They’re releasing pieces that are holding that one and the spot you may think is central will not let go while the other patterns hold.

Another aspect of this is that your brain will numb out much of the pain if you have tight, sore muscles all over (or in many places).  Then it will zero in on one or two specific parts where you will experience the pain.  They’re not necessarily the places of origin for your problem.  Sometimes the pain is just referring from the pattern that’s the real issue.

Find a good practitioner –making sure you check on the training and experience — and trust him or her to work wherever you most need it regardless of whether that turns out to be the place where you feel pain.

When I do Flowing Body work on myself or with students, I generally do triggers of release for at least three areas and work with consciousness not only of before and after, but what has been affected by what.  For instance, during a recent knee problem, I did the triggers for ankles, knees and hips and noticed the ankle release did the most for the sore knee and the hip release was also more effective than the knee releases.

Another I’ve noted frequently, as have many students, is that releasing the ankles will often release something in the neck and/or jaw.  Almost every release will cause people to lower their shoulders even if no work has been done on shoulders.  Pay attention as you practice yoga or other exercises as to which movements bring relief where.

Muscles and Bones

Many muscles are connected to bones which means muscles pulled out of alignment can pull bones out of alignment too.  In the early years of trying to work my way out of fibromyalgia –harking back to Margaret again — the massage therapist prescribed chiropractic appointments to help.

Once the muscles have pulled bones out of whack, it often takes work on the bones as well to get the muscles to release.  If you’re not keen on the invasiveness of traditional chiropractic work, try Network Chiropractic. which doesn’t use the bone crunching technique and instead is gentle touch.

Therapy and Self Care

Over time I learned that body workers can help a lot but if I don’t do anything to help in between appointments, progress is exceedingly slow.  There are a variety of things you can do to help

I’d already been doing yoga when I began getting massages, etc. so that has always been a natural piece for me.  But it was when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area that I became conscious of helping along more.

I’d moved out to Marin but still wanted to go to the same massage therapist and also liked going to Kabuki Hot Springs, a Japanese bath place with wonderful sauna, hot tub, steam, etc.  To save trips over the bridge I started booking the massages on one of the ladies’ days at Kabuki and going in to soak, sauna, etc. first.  The therapist quickly noted my muscles were much easier to work on from the deep heat work right before the appointment.

Then, years later when I started doing a trade for Body Patterning, I only had an appointment every other week and I knew I needed to do something to maintain from one visit to the next.  Yoga had always helped but not enough.  And the commute to Kabuki Hot Springs had become a couple thousand miles 🙂

I’d done Robert Masters’ Psycho-physical Method to tapes for years but found it unwieldy for regular practice.  I began doing some of this work in between appointments and gradually re-worked it into sets of my own which dropped some pieces and joined various disparate parts in his classes into sets that worked well together and then combined it with yoga

Practice in between helped and I began a practice of doing 30-60 minutes of this work shortly before massage appointments, with a long soak in a hot bath right before leaving.  Suddenly I was being told that I had released more since the last appointment.

Normally practitioners get a number of things to open and then a combination of repetitive motions performed in life and the pulling force of patterns still holding in your body take the progress backwards a few steps (say 4 steps forward, 2-3 steps back).  Then at the next appointment the practitioner spends 15-30 of the first minutes of your appointment getting you back to where you were at the end of the last appointment.

So doing your part through practices that maintain progress and making sure you’ve done all you could before an appointment, you can move much faster through the body work to healthy muscles.  Very little time needs to be spent on getting you back to where you were and most of the appointment is about progressing further.

Problems Arise Slowly

It’s amazing how little it can take to start a problem with muscles and then it may take years before you feel the pain.  Yup.  Years.

I know I try the patience of some of my students with my emphasis on form in doing yoga and they don’t really believe me when I tell them doing it wrong can cause injuries.  If they’re not being wheeled out on a gurney at the end of class, to them there was no injury.

But do a pose wrong — or watch TV daily with your head turned or tilted or sit with your hips uneven, etc. — and keep doing it wrong and one or more muscles can be pulled a little out of place and/or strained enough to create a small knot.

At the time and perhaps for some time to come you probably won’t feel any pain at all.  But you’ve started a pattern. And if it goes untreated, the muscle will lock into the slightly-off-position and the first couple of knots will pull more of the muscle into knots.  Once that muscle is far enough out of whack it will start pulling all the muscles around it and causing them to tighten.

You might have started off pulling a muscle in your right hip out of place and a few years later it’s expanded until you’re having pain in your left shoulder and since you haven’t even done yoga for two years, you have no idea that doing it wrong started your problem.

The same is also true of having an injury and failing to get help.  You may stay off an ankle for a few days or go on bed rest for a spell and feel okay enough when you move again. But there’s a very good chance the trauma and the automatic tightening of muscles around it has set a little pattern.  Left untreated the pattern will remain and keep reaching out to affect more muscles.

The best way to protect your muscles from injury is to stay aware in the now.  Learn to do any exercise properly — and if your teacher can’t carefully explain the details of how to do something correctly, FIND A DIFFERENT TEACHER!!!  Also take care about positions you engage in routinely — how you sit, how you hold your head.

If you do an assessment and realize you’ve been twisting your neck when you sleep or sitting with one hip higher than the other, etc., seek help on identifying any patterns that have arisen and releasing them before they’ve turned into 20 patterns.

Bottom line, your muscles are important and you are the best steward in maintaining health.  Do what you can to keep them healthy and any time you have an accident or injury or feel a strain from repetitive motion seek help from alternative practitioners who actually understand muscles.


*i.e. cranio-sacral or body patterning

Revisit tips for the holidays: people skills

For some years I posted some tips for coping with the holidays every year and then I drifted away from it. Thought I’d re-issue one with some links to others:

dont beat drum quote

Every year at this time I post about a teaching from Kahuna teacher Serge King that has had an enormous impact on my life.  Serge likes to keep it short and simple, so the basic principle is:  “People are who they are and they do what they do.

I believe that if everyone in the world learned this one and lived by it, peace would soon follow.  As with many of his seemingly simple teachings, if you started exploring this one you’ll find it has tremendous depth.

The greatest source of disappointment, frustration, and anger toward others arises from having your own agenda/expectations about who you want them to be and how you want them to act/what you want them to do..The deep reality is that people are who they are and they are going to do what they do based on who they are.  You can wish or will others to be somebody else as much you want.  You may even occasionally manipulate someone into doing something that’s not what they want.  But in the long run no one can be anyone other than who they are.

Your best defense, if you want to avoid being disappointed or upset by others, is to know them well enough to know who they are.  Know what they do.  Expect them to be who they are and do what they do.  You’ll never be surprised by anyone’s behavior if you really know them.

And then realize who they are and what they do isn’t about you.  Pretty much ever; even when someone attacks you, the attack has everything to do with who they are and nothing to do with you.  So Don Miguel Ruiz’s advice, “Don’t take anything personally”, fits very well with this teaching.  People are busy being who they are and doing what they do and none of it has anything to do with you.  So don’t take it personally.

Is Aunt Murgatroyd going to tell unfunny jokes at the annual gathering, as always?  Of course she is.  It’s who she is and what she does.  Is your cousin Snagglepuss going to bore everyone AGAIN with stories of his really dull job?  You bet.  Who he is, what he does.  Is your overly protective dad going to criticize you like he always does?  If his way of showing care is to fret and pick apart anything that doesn’t fit his view, then yup.  Gonna do it.  If he’s an unhappy guy who criticizes to express his dissatisfaction with the world, that’s who he is…  gotta figure he’s gonna do it.

If you walk in with a chip on your shoulder because you know the irritating behavior(s) are going to arise but you’re secretly hoping it will be different, you’re going to get what you’re expecting:  unhappiness and dejection.  A lot of times we enter these situations knowing what they’ll do and expecting to be angry because of it.  And you’ll pretty much get what you’re expecting — ongoing cycles of them being who they are and you being angry.

If you expect anyone to do anything other than what s/he does, you’re doomed to disappointment.  When you can walk in knowing they’ll all be there being themselves and doing what they do, you’ll get what you knew you would.  Know that nothing they do is about hurting, irritating, upsetting or disappointing you.  They’re just being themselves.

When you can step aside from the behavior, know that it’s about them and not you, and stay centered, you can defuse most of the emotional turmoil that can make the holidays stressful.

The question we’ll explore in the next post is:  can you love them anyway?

Love Them Anyway

Communication

Recognizing Love When It is Offered

Unconditional Compassion

Ever since the election, it’s seemed to me that the liberal left (and I’m a member) has been patting themselves on the back and feeling self-righteous because they’re the people of compassion and caring.  And the other side are evildoers and deserving of hatred.  It bothers me, because my understanding of true compassion is that it’s unconditional.

I’m a work in progress when it comes to living with compassion; not claiming to be operating from the ideal place.  But I’ve contemplated it, done practices to develop it within and read a lot of the thoughts and wisdom of people who have mastered it better than I and I think I understand the basic idea that true compassion doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t see an “other”.

Hanging around calling people idiots or stupid or worse demonstrates that you are just as hateful as they are  It sure doesn’t argue for your great sense of compassion.

When I look at some of the hatefulness and dip into my heart and sense of compassion, I see people who are totally frightened.  I don’t know why or have the answers that will end their fears, but I know that understanding the fear and figuring out how to address it is more likely to shift their terrified and hateful responses to the world than calling them stupid.

To me the biggest failure of democrats and the left has been the absence of using their hearts to explore how to address the fears of those who become self-protective and lash out at those they wrongfully blame for their troubles.

But while political types are working on their idea of change, I keep clearing every issue I find within myself.  I keep meditating and chanting and working to raise my vibration.  Because in the end the one significant contribution each of us can make to the collective energy that is All of Us as One is to raise our own energy.

Every time I shout at the television or shake my fist at one of the candidates, it means I still have anger to clear.  It means I still have more chanting to do.

Every time we lift ourselves another notch in vibration, we lift the world a little bit.  If a million of us raise our energy, we change the world.  Be the peace.  Live with compassion that knows no other nor any conditions, but is given freely to all.