Day Nine of Forty

It’s Day Nine of Forty Days, Forty Nights, and I realize I was a too impulsive to think I could commit to writing something every day, 40 days straight, for this blog. So, I’m going to taper off. I’ll still be posting toward writing through the divide. I have a lot to say, but work-work, health-related work and spiritual-related work all compete for my time and energy.

We live in tough times, and whatever we need to do to minimize our stress, we should do. Stress kills. This has been proven time and again in research. Stress shows up as inflammation in the body, seen on various test metrics, such as cholesterol, which indicates not necessarily the need for a drug, but to focus our attention on where we need to work (i.e., minimizing stress, eating right, integrating movement into our daily lives). Diabetes, cancer, autoimmune illnesses, digestive conditions like Crohn’s all have stress and its mismanagement in common. And yet, we often seem wired to crave stress, even if that results in negative moods, actions and outcomes.

Were anyone asking, I’d share what I do in my own life, not as frequently as I’d like, but I do try: Get silent, even if just for five or 10 minutes, follow the breath, see the thoughts arise and watch them go. Pray— a lot. Do things that bring joy.

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Nonviolent Communication pioneer Marshall Rosenberg, pictured here with his jackal and giraffe puppets, in Israel in 1990. Photo by Etan J. Tal.

I also keep envisioning the world I’d like to live in—one where all people have what they need to reach their full potential. A world steeped in peace and in people who are integrated with the land-, water and airscapes in, on and near which they live (not atop these places). Where more people have the ability and thought processes that allow them to step back and see what glorious times we live in—at the juncture between what we want and what we don’t want and to be able to push more and more toward the former as well as from the former, that is, to learn increasingly through the positive, not the negative, which our ancient biology dictates.

For every person, I desire peace, inner and outer. I imagine there are many people who might judge me for living in some kind of “fantasy land.” To which, I’d reply: Oh, yeah? You like the world you’re living in—how’s that working out for you? And your family? And your friends, neighbors and coworkers?

We have got to get this right. Even though I believe we live in a benevolent—and very patient—universe, why not act now in the interests of what we desire?

I admit that I don’t “get” apocalyptic visions or thinking. They lead to no place good and, to me, they feel false. Manipulative. Dishonest. And distracting. I have travelled that path in this lifetime, and it led me into some bad situations. That kind of thinking, most likely, is evidence of some unmet need.

Speaking of needs, in the months ahead, I’ll refocus on Nonviolent Communication, a method pioneered by the late Marshall Rosenberg, who had a way of pinpointing feelings and getting to the underlying needs that gave rise to those feelings. (I really, truly wish every politician, and every member of a corporation or nonprofit could take NVC training; it would make a cosmos of difference on this planet.) If you watch, listen to or read about Rosenberg’s techniques, what becomes quickly clear is the man was filled with compassion, even when he himself felt vulnerable, and was able to listen and really hear what people were saying.

So, in that vein, I’d add another aspect to the world I want to live in: It’s one in which every person is heard, in which we listen and try to understand one another. I don’t like to stop at “try,” but because each person is unique, I know I’m not likely to be able to walk a million miles in another’s shoes in exactly the way that person would. But I will try.

We live in a post-“Second Coming” era and would do well to recognize both the reverberations that have come from the disintegration of the family unit, limited thinking and ideologies that all too easily crust over and become dogma, the totalizing effects much of our 20th Century technologies have had on us (e.g., inescapable nuclear radiation) as well as our own place in what’s really a spiral, not a linear, history. We need to do this, if we are to step into full responsibility for ourselves—responsibility for our thoughts and our need to shift those thoughts when they are unproductive or harmful. This process must thoroughly infused with compassion, for ourselves, first and foremost, and others, and rather than slouching, we need to be deliberate in our actions, mindful in our words and deeds.

Please stick with me as I post some interviews in the days and weeks ahead, from people who are trying to bridge the gaps we see all around us.

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Day Eight of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

In the Words of…Del Shannon

As a kid, I was blessed with a record player and my parents’ and siblings’ 45s. One of those was Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” I loved that song and still sing it.

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Carpet salesman Shannon (Charles Westover) started playing in his native Michigan. “Runaway” hit number one in April 1961 and he no longer needed to sell carpets. Other hits Shannon is known for include “Hats Off to Larry” and “I Go to Pieces,” which he reportedly gave to British duo Peter and Gordon after touring with them.

Had he not killed himself in 1990 and continued to live, he’d be 82 today.

Nobody thinks mystery writers go around killing people, but they always seem to assume singers are singing about themselves, especially if you write melancholy songs like me.

There were times in my career when I would try to write songs like Bob Dylan… Artists get hooked up in that. To be a follower, you lose.

I usually write when I’m in a great place. When I’m depressed, I don’t usually write. So I take all of when I’m depressed and throw it into when I’m feeling good. Weird, I guess.

No, Mr. Shannon, not weird at all. RIP.

Day Seven of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

Stepping off the Triangle

When I last wrote about the drama triangle here, I speculated that an herb like agrimony might help people physically—and psychologically—to get some distance on the persecutor-victim-rescuer drama in their lives. I still wonder that, but there are no large-scale, randomized-controlled, double-blind studies to “prove” the efficacy of agrimony for this particular use.

Still, in the years since and through self-exploration, I think “Green Beings”, whether plants or trees, can help us gain perspective, if we are willing to visit with them and consider how they live.

But the first step is always awareness and I suspect many people are not aware of their roles in enacting dramas in their lives. I like the mantra: Neither a persecutor, nor a victim, nor a rescuer be. If it sounds made-up, it is—it’s one of my mantras and I wish more people would steal it.

No position on the triangle feels good, so why do we persist in playing?

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Exploring nature can swing us into parasympathetic-dominant mode and allow us to self-reflect and get off the drama triangle.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s because what doesn’t involve drama is something we’ve got to accustom ourselves to. Living without drama may be a natural state for humans—love is also a natural state for us—but “natural” doesn’t mean we’re inclined toward it. Drama and its effects orient our brain a certain way and the desire for lack of drama—a low-key existence—requires us to shift it away from that orientation and that’s not easy. By low-key, I do not mean less exciting, just exciting in more joyful ways.

What makes the drama triangle such an icky place to hang out is because its presence in our lives indicates a lack of acceptance and execution of one’s full power (either us or the other person we’re “playing” with on the triangle). That cannot ever feel really good, even if in a kind of temporary way it makes us feel something: Persecutor: “I’m better than you.” Victim: “I’m not lovable—that’s why they’re being so mean to me.” Rescuer: “I need to step in and help this person, because it’s obvious s/he can’t do it for themselves.”

These three have one thing in common: ego.

I treat ego like this: I need to be aware that I have one. I still think from time to time I need its “oomph” when I come up short asserting myself. Yet, even there, I have found that simply by not generating thoughts that touch into “persecutor”, “victim” or “rescuer,” it’s easier to assert my true self. The second I think something like, “It’s hard to get their attention. Why are they not paying attention to me?” is the second I step on the triangle and then it’s akin to digging in and the people whose attention I’m trying to get are giving me exactly what I want.

I am working toward an emotional worldview that looks at and senses each person standing in her or his power, no matter who the person is. This is especially challenging in our present, divisive atmosphere, because it often feels like many, though not all, people are set in their ways, however those ways align with the larger groups with which they identify. It would be helpful for all of us to ditch media for some self-reflection. We might find ourselves happier for doing so. But I cannot deny that self-reflection and self-work are easily achieved. I’ve been working on me for years and expect I will for years to come. And that’s okay. I have all the time in the universe.

Day Six of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

Monday Photos

Today, I diverge from the usual—a set number of words—to post a couple of photos I really like.

These are probably spruce grouse, a species whose taxonomy has bounced around and currently is considered to be the genus Falcipennis, species Canadensis, with five subspecies recognized, including two in Nova Scotia, where this group of grouse were hanging out just off the Skyline trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

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Spruce Grouse, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, Canada, September 2016. Given the little bit of red over the eye (not seen here), this is probably a male.

What amazed me about these grouse is their apparent ease around humans, but this is said to be one of their traits and has earned them the nickname “fool’s hen.” Animals were said at one time not to fear humans, so it’s interesting that these birds appear to have retained that quality. They were within 10 to 15 feet of passersby on the Skyline Trail.

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Spruce Grouse, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia, Canada, September 2016. Based on the understated markings, this is probably a female.

Day Five of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

What’s In Your Heart?

Not having much time to write for this space today, I thought I could come up with a short list of suggestions around developing the kind of life to live, according to one’s visions and ideals. But at least for me, it’s a bit more complicated than “First, turn on the dreamin’—let it rip!”

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Brazilian guitarist, singer, songwriter Jorge Ben’s Big Ben album, 1965.

That’s because until quite recently, I hadn’t given myself permission to dream. So, from childhood on, I’d get little snippets of visions, important, yet incoherent.

But that’s the funny thing about humans: Whether we give ourselves permission or not, we are primed to dream. But we can dream in a laissez faire way or we can be deliberate about it.

And because I’m not liking the either/or, black/white feel of that last sentence, I’ll add that I sense there’s a third way that combines easy-going and more deliberate approaches. Maybe this example’s not an exact match, but it’s like when you’re driving and you keep the gas steady—not too much, not too little, and you’re just moving along and actually, from behind the wheel, can notice those peace eagles waiting for the sun and the warmth to help dry their wings or the way the sky looks on a clear day in March just as the willows are starting to leaf out. Too much laissez faire, the dreams come, but may be incoherent and disconnected. Too much deliberate, I suspect, and we feel a bit pinched in our dreaming. Combine them and we get a directed ease.

All my life, I’ve been aiming for an internal consistency. Perhaps it is already there, within, and like Michelangelo, my only task is to learn to discern it and chip away all that keeps it hidden. Yet my own tastes feel so completely eclectic. Maybe I made a contract with myself in the “life between lives” to be all-out eclectic in this one. Could I have predicted when I was five and listening to my parents’ and siblings’ 45s, ranging from Mary Ford and Les Paul to the Ohio Players, that today I’d be trying to learn Jorge Ben’s “Patapatapata’” in Portuguese? No way, though I know the five-year-old me would embrace the endeavor; she loves Jorge Ben.

Maybe besides enjoying a diversity of tastes, it helps me forge links with people with whom I’d otherwise have apparently little in common. If I’ve made any “mistake” in this so far, it’s not learning enough about the arts and philosophies of those in my own background—my ancestors. But there’s still time.

This desire for diversity burns in my heart and I imagine it’s latent in everyone’s. Otherwise, why would we humans have such a large range in our sense of appreciation for “other”?

So, my only suggestion here is to go try something you think doesn’t interest you. You like metal? Listen to Mahler. You like ancient Greek art? Look at some paintings by Alex Katz. Can’t stand being outside?…You get the idea. You don’t have to hike the Appalachian Trail; visiting a local park will do.

Feel some trepidation? Good. Sit with it. Notice where you feel it in your body. Take some belly breaths. See how you feel. The point here isn’t to develop some newfound loves—but if you do, that’s good—but to expand your range.

Day Four of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

For All Who’ve Ever Felt Unworthy

Today marks the thirty-fourth anniversary of singer/drummer Karen Carpenter’s death. Carpenter, who with her brother, pianist/arranger Richard Carpenter, formed The Carpenters, suffered from anorexia nervosa which, in time, weakened her heart.closetoyou

I don’t recall much about February 4, 1983, other than how shocked everyone was, especially my father, who loved the Carpenters’ music. (Karen’s death also would come up later that year and in 1984, when it became known that a few students in my dance classes had the same illness—beautiful girls and kind. I’d often wonder, How can that be?) Karen had such a warm, resonant voice and made singing look so easy and her apparent wholesomeness masked much of her turmoil.

The 1989 biopic The Karen Carpenter Story reveals a slow-motion wasting away of her life. In her situation, once the illness took hold, it seemed she could rationalize it as one of those things that she consciously chose, one of the few areas over which she had control. In the film, her mother, Agnes, comes across as favoring Richard and as being unaffectionate toward her daughter.

Women who suffer with eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, as well as those who treat them, say women with eating disorders all have one thing in common: low self-esteem. That cause plays itself out in the film.

Every light has a shadow and Karen’s was right there in her voice—always a certain sadness (even in the upbeat songs), which, besides the quality of her vocals, may have been what drew people to her. Not the sadness per se, but the emotional depth. It’s too bad that her illness was long unrecognized, even though the people around her and her fans knew something was wrong.

A Generational Paradox

When I consider people’s lives—my own as well as others’—I wonder what the lessons are. Karen Carpenter may have been unique in her musical talents, but she was—is—far from alone in her illness and in her sense of self.

People are quick to point to her mother’s treatment of her as a cause. In fact, it’s almost always a matter of course to scapegoat parents. From a generational standpoint, I hope we are moving toward ever greater love among parents and children, because love is a cornerstone in whether someone develops a strong or weak sense of self. As I’ve observed, many mothers, though not all, who were themselves children in the Great Depression and the years of World War II tend to come across as stoic and less likely to share affection with their children. I think this is because for them, life was about life and death, about surviving. When childhood is about surviving, nuance, especially emotional nuance, is less likely to be explored.

Since the advent and dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, life feels all the more fragile and it feels important to make the most of every connection in every moment. I say this not about the generations that lived through those years, but about the offspring of those people as well as others who followed. Someone living in London, whose family meals were constantly interrupted by the German Luftwaffe probably is not going to care a lot about nuance, but about survival itself—making sure they get downstairs to the shelter until the day comes and they’re worn out and say, “Eh! I want to eat my soup while it’s warm. I’m staying put.” Sense of self in that situation is less important than just getting through each day alive.

But given post-war prosperity and a bit of distance on the century’s earlier catastrophes, people in subsequent generations have had space to develop qualities that maybe could be more easily developed only during times of relative peace. From a hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal axis point of view, the bombs would loom large in the collective psyche of that generation; they would, in essence, blow out someone’s sympathetic-dominant system, lay down a lot of cortisol, and then for that person, it would be like trying to fit into sweat pants after one’s boyfriend has borrowed them and stretched them out; the elastic doesn’t return to its original shape. The fight/flight/freeze response probably would have hampered development of the prefontal lobes whose task, according to Joseph Chilton Pearce in The Biology of Transcendence, “is to turn the unruly reptilian brain, old mammalian brain, and neocortex into one civilized mind that it may access later.” This is because the children’s caregivers and models would have been focused on survival, not the job of nurturing, and this can’t but help affect the caregivers’ offspring.

Altering Biology through Appreciation

I believe each person is here for a particular purpose and we learn about that purpose and we learn best through what feels good and what doesn’t feel good. For me, developing trust in what feels good has been a long time coming because what was “right” was always whatever my head pushed me toward. Head = safety. It didn’t matter that my head’s diktats amounted to a long list of do’s and don’ts that increased my stress; I had to follow them—or else! My heart may have been screaming at me to take different actions, ones that would have benefitted me even more, but I tuned it out because trying to access it didn’t feel safe.

Still, I’m grateful that what my head pushed me toward was continuous learning about many subjects, whether the arts or sciences, religion and spirituality, or legal history and governance. That’s long been my safe space. Like a lot of teens, including Karen Carpenter, my self-esteem was in the toilet. Like her, I was obsessed with perfection. I felt I was only as good or worthy as my next “A” in whatever class, my next successful project, my next dance recital or choral performance. But I was lucky in that, there was no end to what I could learn. I enjoyed learning new things and my curiosity—following my head, in other words—was probably my salvation. I was lucky, too, that I put more stock in my intellect than in my looks; I didn’t crave the attention that I might have otherwise if I’d been into plays or music and so much of America’s celebrity culture, which has only become more extreme since I was a teen. The downside, if it really is one and I have doubts that it is, is that it’s taken me years to realize that I am worthy just by being here at this time, that I am lovable and worthy of being loved.

I’d like to say to anyone—preadolescent, teen, middle-aged person or elder—who suffers a poor sense of self, that little by little, the “inlook” can become better. It’s too much of a bromide to say, “Hang in there.” Though I hope anyone down on herself or himself would do that, it didn’t feel too good when people told me the same thing. Frankly, it takes a lot of work to shift out of feeling unworthy. But as I said in previous post, focusing on appreciating those things one enjoys, taking pleasure in simple things, can really help. That feeling of appreciation, as I keep developing it and focusing on it, multiplies.

I wish Karen Carpenter would have known that. She is part of my late sister’s generation of post-Depression/post-war babies who came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a hard time with all the changes. I appreciate them, for they’ve made it easier for those who’ve followed to do the often-challenging self-work that’s needed to have a fulfilling life.

(Documentaries about the Carpenters include the BBC’s The Carpenters’ Story: Only Yesterday [2007] and A&E Biography: The Carpenters—“Harmony & Heartbreak” [1999].)

Day Three of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

Fun, Fun, Fun

If your upbringing and experiences have been anything like mine, then you were probably a pretty serious little kid who struck your elders as “wise beyond your years”. But that apparent wisdom—authentic as it was—could sometimes mask a holding back, a way of putting life off, of not exploring “the game”, much less getting into it.

When I was a junior in high school, I used to ask a friend, “What is the meaning of life?” (I used to think there was just one, overarching meaning.) She would turn the question on me. Usually, I’d end up with this: We’re here to make the biggest and best impact we can on others.pip_why-are-you-taking-my-photo

Impact—or influence—can be a lot of fun. Many of our greatest visionaries who touched people’s hearts and moved their minds into better, less-fearful or fear-free spaces appeared to have fun. But can we ever truly gauge our impact or influence?

Fun was often foreign—opportunities for it saved for the low times when I would dance to achieve it, which made the dancing less fun than when it was spontaneous, or those rare times I’d go to Busch Gardens in Tampa and ride the roller coasters. It has got to be one of my life’s ironies that denying myself fun has been akin to stepping on a metaphorical and physiological/autonomic roller coaster. Because the essence of life is fun and trying to keep fun at bay led me into big swings and deep drops.

But no longer.

When I wrote on Day One about the “strange confluence”, the desire for fun is part of that. But what does it look like? What does it feel like?

My ideas don’t necessarily line up with what many think of as being fun. Mood-altering substances…not fun. Rant-talking politics or religion…not fun. Rushing around out of some misplaced sense of obligation…not fun.

My list of fun activities: spending time with loved ones; hooking (using colored strips of wool pulled through a linen backing to create fiber paintings); taking care of plants; hanging out with dogs (most anyone’s, really); watching little kids have fun; walking; doing tai chi; learning new languages; meditating; reading; cooking; singing; dancing; hiking; traveling; sleeping; dreaming; and definitely, talking with angels. The Divine has a beyond-cosmic-sized sense of humor that often catches me off guard and segues into chuckles or laughter.

After figuring out what is fun, the next biggest challenge for me is being open to fun and not putting it off for some other day. Life constantly beckons us to have fun. When it does, we best go along. If life finds us not receptive, we will see the results of our choice as a closing down—mirrored in our health, in our relationships, in our work, in our flow (or lack of flow) of abundance.

This is where the feeling sense comes in. When we are keyed up for fun and enjoying whatever we are doing, time seems to stop. Who could not use more fun to stop time?

This is why I believe we are all privileged to be here, in this place, right now, because we have such a wealth of people, activities, and places to enjoy. I hope in five years—or sooner—“cutting loose” won’t feel like an activity separate from everything else, but will have become part of my DNA.

What’s something you think of as fun, legal and nonharmful to you or others that you’ve always wanted to do? Try it the first chance you have.

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Pip Closes In. (This dog’s sense of fun knows no bounds. Just ask my mother!)

 

 

Day Two of Forty

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split between. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

Accelerated Medicine for an Accelerated Year

Our negative emotions are not meant to be maligned, but rather to push us toward how we’d like to spend more of our time feeling—joyful, peaceful, calm or elated, with a sense that all is as it should be. But when sadness, anger that morphs into simmering frustration, or depression come on, they can feel hard to dislodge.

The best antidote is free: To shift back into feeling well, express gratitude—quite literally, in your head, aloud or on paper, state those things and people for which or for whom you feel grateful. This can be small or grand—from gratitude for the mother who gave birth to you to, or, if you are adopted, the one who raised you…or, if you have a troubled relationship with your mother, other women who’ve helped support you along the way; for the father who’s been there for you when times have been tough—or, if you don’t know your father or don’t have a good relationship with him, other men in your life who have been there for you; for your overall well being; for having a roof over your head, food to eat and clothing; maybe you feel grateful for a skill you’ve developed over many years—or for a talent you came in with and have continued to nurture. Or maybe, it’s just the sun itself, knowing that it’s there, even behind those clouds.

If this feels hard, the truth is it can be. Sometimes—this is true for me—some prep is needed before turning on the gratitude. For me, the preparation is sometimes singing and dancing to a favorite song, taking a shower, or going for a walk and admiring the trees and laughing at the squirrels. Just something to dislodge doomist thoughts that too often seem to be on a continuous loop.

Once you get the gratitude going, it may be necessary to stay off social media and avoid the news—not altogether, but long enough for you to truly feel appreciation, so that you might, unlike Hansel and Gretel, lay smooth, bright stones along your path so that you find your way back easily.

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Keeping a gratitude jar is a simple way to cue up appreciation. (Photo by Leigh Glenn.)

Forty Days, Forty Nights

Late 2016 and early 2017 have, for me, been marked by a strange confluence of events—from the recent U.S. presidential election to my own particular set of health issues demanding my attention. I’m not likely alone in this as many people have been “gobsmacked”—as one of my fellow “painters in wool” put it recently—by the outcome of the election. It’s time, I sense, for me to begin to better understand the links between inner and outer, between past and present, with an eye toward where we are going, collectively.

I don’t pretend to be any kind of spiritual guru nor am I much of a political junkie, but unlike in the past, I will probably be writing about both here, at some depth. There is an “art” to this Earth (it’s right there in the name!), and it’s one that I hope I can master and then model and maybe mine will be the kind of model that others can base their own models on—but only because it works for them, not because it’s better, necessarily.

So, for 40 days and 40 nights—one or the other—I intend to post here in word counts in increments or multiples of 40, so from 40 words to 1,600, but probably somewhere in between most days. My intention is to “write through the Divide”—we all know…the one that we Americans apparently are split along. But I call bull on that, because we are not so divided as we think we are. I’ll keep this paragraph of my intro for each post, so if you’re seeing this for what feels like the bazillionth time, sorry, but someone else may be seeing it for the first time.

Day One of Forty

I was as surprised as anyone by the election of Donald Trump—surprised he got as far as he did on the Republican ticket, too. But in the biggest of big schemes, he deserves to be loved, just like everyone, no matter how much his actions offend (his treatment of women and minorities is certainly offensive as is his unwillingness to be transparent in his business dealings and holdings).

I believe we come round and round here on Earth. We who get to come to this beautiful place are lucky. We get sped-up, compressed lessons, and if we’ve chosen to be here now, we are part of the Big Wow—our learning is super accelerated. We have the benefit of having a historical perspective while also being, if we pause to consider it, at the nexus of many frontiers of exploration in the sciences, both biological and physical. Plus, as I see and sense it, we have ever-greater interaction with the nonphysical that we can drawn on. For now, let’s just say the nonphysical is our internal guidance system, our intuition.

Let’s put things in perspective: We don’t live in the era of Genghis Khan (some of us surely did). We are not struggling through the Dark Times brought on by a plague of vast proportions or being killed because we disagree with the Church. And much as comparisons are drawn between our time and that of fascist Germany or Italy, we are not there.

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Florida Sunset, copyright Leigh Glenn 2017

There is something in the makeup of Americans—a willingness, ultimately, to look at, evaluate and reevaluate the stuff we tell ourselves. This is one of those times. Some people are more adept at this than others; some are faster, but in time, many of us come around.

Moreover, for those who are really worried, what power does the U.S. president really have over any of us?

Some will disagree, but I think the president has little power, certainly not the amount we’ve long ascribed to him in that well-worn phrase, “leader of the free world.” Which of our presidents has ever been perfectly suited to lead? The Founders—given how many “owned” brown-skinned peoples and were, at the same time, deciding the fate of those people—had “yuge” conflicts of interest!

And in the very substance of our founding documents—“all men are created equal”—we might find a little clue to our own hypocrisy, something that’s long driven me a bit batty.

But these posts are meant to help find the pony among all the poop. Perhaps awareness of that hypocrisy gives us momentum when we evaluate ourselves, both individually and collectively. Because we need something to bounce off of—to understand first what we don’t want and to feel how icky the “what we don’t want” is in order to push ourselves toward what we do want.

Election 2016 Reflects Our Fear/Love Divide

Everyone today has some kind of stance on our upcoming presidential election—whether they’re Canadian or Russian or whether they are Americans who dislike all the candidates.

I too have a stance, though perhaps it’s somewhat different than those of others: I am curious to know how, depending on who is elected, our personal and collective spiritual growth will be affected.

Neither of the two frontrunners has a clear vision of what they’d like the country to look like, although the Republican candidate’s vision certainly feels more tangible as it plays into the fears of many people who believe they have been let down by dysfunctional governance—or lack of governance—and by a system that has eroded traditional livelihoods.

The other candidate feels as if she’s a kind of placeholder, a double or an understudy in a national drama and we’re just waiting for the lead actor to show up and take her place.

The Walking Wounds

But who wrote this script?

We did.

We’ve based it mostly on our reactions to what we hear, through various media and media personnel, who have their own interests, as well as on our utter lack of collective vision.

When I say collective vision, I mean an overarching idea of who we’d like to be and where that being might carry our doing.

I also empathize with our country: We are still so young and it can hard, while growing up, to see with crystal clarity what is needed, not only at the present, but into the future. We have lots of wounds—those we ourselves inflict, but also those of others who came before and which we re-enact.

Feelin’ Stuck-Stuck-Stuck

If I look carefully at the frontrunners, I see in them a similar sense of stuckness that I used to feel. I see it because it’s been part of my chosen modus operandi. They are stuck in different ways, but both are stuck. One repeatedly offers the same set of moves that play to fears; the other feels stuck in time—a space where women had to adopt, as much as possible, a male mindset and behave like men in order to get anywhere. (I distinguish between male and masculine. Each of us has masculine and feminine aspects whereas male/female are the outward appearance and expression of our gender.)

Some weeks ago, I was really upset with her on that count. Why can’t she take care of herself? I wondered. Why does she work herself into ill health? Why can’t she be a model for others? Then I realized that that behavior was helpful for her generation’s women. And I realized, too, that I have acted the same way far too often, feeling as if I had no choice but “do what you gotta do.” The recognition of my own choosing the same kinds of behavior as she does gave me greater compassion.

Likewise, I wonder how it is the other candidate has lived an apparent lifetime of wounding—wearing his wounds for all to see, acting on them, reacting to them, recreating them—and I’d like to take the running-scared parts of him and envelop those parts in my arms and say softly, You’re safe. You are safe.

That our people are so divided now feels symptomatic of many things: our own personal fragmentation as well as a distractedness for which many blame the media, thereby locating outside themselves the source of their pain, which is, in part, division from Self. At the root of all of it is fear, an abiding fear that stifles vision, that purports to keep us safe while reinforcing itself and allowing to “come true” all that is feared.

I can empathize with the doomsayers on both sides of the frontrunner divide. Some are taking up arms against possible unrest. But taking up arms is an action undertaken in fear. This period is a crescendo—and likely not the last to come—of the choices we’ve set in motion, the ones we are making now, and the ones we’ll make in the days, months and years ahead. We always have choice because we have free will: In every moment, we can choose fear or we can choose love. But the choice is ours.

Election as Inflection

This is election as inflection. Who we choose will symbolize where we stand with respect to our personal and collective evolution. One or the other leading candidates, depending on where we are on our growth curve, may offer a speedier path.

In some ways, we need more speed right now. In other ways, we don’t. If we are caught up in speed because we feel we’re in a race against everyone else to reach some given point—what point?—faster than others, lest there not be enough for us, then that is fear at work. If we are eager to grow spiritually, then perhaps we can use the speediness of the times we are living in to choose instead a measured pace as a way of life, one in which we take time daily to give thanks for all that is, including all we are—for being alive at this time, in this gorgeous Earth and to be able to do the real work, which is mending the separations and divisions that we feel.

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Aspy Bay sunrise, Neil’s Harbour, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, September 2016

 

 

I’ve wanted many times in my life to hit a pause button on our national tick-tock, and get everyone listening and then, once they’ve mastered that skill, talking. First, it would be critical to lead people in meditation, so they can hear with great clarity the small, yet ever-present, voice inside, the one that sees them as a being through which something larger, something generous, kind, and loving seeks to emerge. Their true Self, in other words, the unconflicted them who knows it is love and acts only in love.

It does matter who we choose on November 8. But it is just as important to begin to understand that whoever we choose will not solve our issues. It is impossible for any president to solve issues. At best, perhaps he or she can help create the environment where issues can be resolved.

When it comes down to it, it is up to us: elites all, by virtue of the fact that we’ve chosen to be here, in this marvelous place at this time, that we can choose to benefit the growth of our Spirit, that we can choose to let go of the past and previous, outmoded patterns that don’t serve us and allow ourselves to expand into uncharted territory and to go there in love.