Category Archives: Uncategorized

Be the Instrument

Maybe we should be getting used to it by now, but this past couple of weeks it seems like the violence around the world has once again elevated to a new high. There’s been a lot of talk about how we’ve shifted into a society where we don’t just disagree any more, but we now can’t stand to be in the same room with someone who believes differently or looks differently than we do, and that we all become violent either verbally or physically when an argument ensues.

While I, too, would like to go back to that sense that everything is safe and happy in my world, there is sufficient evidence that frankly, “the good ol’ days” never really were as good as we remember them to be. (If you don’t believe me, check out the book THE WAY WE NEVER WERE: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz). It’s not a quick read, she’s a Social Worker/Researcher, and it’s chock full of statistics and explanations of how American life has always been kind of a “sh_ _ show”, but we’ve always managed to plow through the piles and land on top. (That’s the Gospel According to Patti).

And actually, I’m not sure the world is less safe than it’s ever been as a whole. We all just have so much coming at us way too fast these days, with social media, up-to-the-minute news on TV and the internet – it’s overwhelming, and at times, it’s too much for any of us to manage.

I do see a lot of people being intolerant of anything that goes against their belief system; but I think most of those people have always been there. They just seem to feel they have permission to say it and show it now. I won’t go into why I believe that’s the case. If you’ve read any of my recent blogs, you can probably figure that out.  Bottom line, not everyone in this country is mature emotionally, and violence IS the crutch of the emotionally crippled.

That said, I do see more and more people who consciously show love and want to improve life for others who don’t have it as good. I think when the negative energy is dominating so much of our space, it serves as a catalyst for the rest of us to at least attempt to counter it.  What we look for is what we see.  And when we see something that doesn’t align with our hopes, sometimes we have to start the movement ourselves in order to effect change.

When I was younger, I played the flute and piccolo. Before I decided to major in psychology instead of music, I became pretty proficient as a flautist. But if the flute was just sitting on my bed or in it’s case, it didn’t make music. I had to pick it up and play it to make the music.

The same principle applies when we think about our lives. It’s very clear to me that I don’t actually help people. I understand that I am just the tool or instrument that is available to help them effect change in their lives.

Saint Francis used to pray “Make me an instrument of thy peace”. Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” They weren’t asking for peace or change to be granted to them. They both understood that to have something, we must become active in the direction we want to go.

And how do we find that direction? Contrary to what some believe, I don’t think we need a map for our lives – a map gives very specific information about which road we should take, where to turn, etc.

What we need is a compass. A compass simply gives us a direction. Then we each have an “inner GPS” to help guide us. We are drawn towards what we are here to do. Having free will, however, we sometimes choose to ignore that pull. But if we take a side trip, our GPS will recalculate and, if we listen to it, we’ll eventually end up where we need to go.

So if you feel you’re not on the right path for you, or if you’re upset about the way things are in the world right now, decide what it is you would rather see in the world. Sit with it quietly and ask your higher self (that inner voice we each have) to lead you. Then get about the business of exhibiting those qualities you want to see.

Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens through you.

Pride Month

June is unofficially recognized as LGBTQ Pride Month, because of a demonstration that took place in 1969.

The morning of June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village. Law enforcement could legally justify the raid because Stonewall was serving liquor without a license, but at that time, it wasn’t unusual for police to target gay clubs. What was uncommon is for crowds to fight back.

As officers forced drag queens into a police van, the crowd threw bottles at them. The brawl erupted into a riot, reaching neighboring streets. Police called for backup. Days after the Stonewall Riot, gay, lesbian and bisexual civil rights demonstrations took place in New York. Historically, this was the first major demonstration for homosexual rights.

There have been many accomplishments and losses along the way since 1969, but on the whole, it has been an upward swing toward more universal acknowledgment that LGBTQ citizens are and should be equal to any other citizen. On June 25, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriage was a RIGHT nationwide.

Since 2000, presidents have declared June as pride month, which calls attention to and allows us to celebrate the diversity this country has always been known for. This year, the president has remained silent. It’s not only his silence that is disturbing, but (as with other areas of our lives) much of the rhetoric and actions of his administration have been attempts to block, and even reverse the progress made to date.

As I write this, it’s the first anniversary of the horrific shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. This event touched me in a very deep place, and I still tear up just thinking about it.  I still occasionally hear venomous comments about it from people who don’t agree with me on the equality issues, and I’m repulsed that people could hate so much.  These remarks often come from people who label themselves as Christians.  How can it be Christ-like to say such vulgar things about another human being!? I respect their right to their beliefs. But it’s one thing to believe something taught in a church; it’s quite another to focus solely on certain aspects of another human to the point where they are seen as inferior in worth; and then to go even further to either try to make those people change, or attempt to strip them of their right to be who they are.

My belief is that this mindset comes from those who are mentally rigid and emotionally stuck; hence they feel threatened by those who appear different from them. When we don’t understand something, it’s important to research, discuss and educate ourselves.  This process of learning more about them usually diminishes the fear because it takes away much of the unknown.  Just because someone is different from us in some way is not a reason to intimidate and torment them – unless there is fear. When we feel fear, we attempt to control whatever we believe is the cause of that fear. We narrow our focus enough, to let something we believe germinate until it grows into something else that becomes larger than life.  As Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, commented to Chely Wright while he was helping her prepare to publicly come out:  There’s no one quite as mean as people being mean for Jesus.

If you haven’t already figured it out, I am a proud LGBTQ ally. I used to believe it was enough to love and respect my friends who are of a different ethnic decent than I am or who are gay.  But in 2010, when our friend Chely Wright became the first openly Lesbian Country Artist, I realized it wasn’t enough to just love my friends. That’s like being a bystander who does nothing when someone is being mugged. I had to become more vocal and work to help secure equality. I’ve always found my clients from a different heritage, culture or the LGBTQ community fascinating and courageous. But then I started volunteering at the LikeMe Lighthouse (an LGBTQ Community Center in KC founded by Chely).  I started sharing posts about LGBT and racist issues. I educated myself and engaged in conversations.  But most importantly, in this process, I met more people and I found some of my best friends – people who do more good in this world than I ever hope to.

Some of the backwards movement, I’m afraid (for now) we may have no control over.  I have no doubt that the tide will once again turn in the direction of love, equality and unity.  But until that time, what can we do?  Many people are actively fighting to maintain and improve the rights of our LGBTQ friends, and it’s being done in various ways – by marching, posting information on social media that highlights discrimination or advances being made, voicing opinions in public and standing up for individuals when we see abuse of any kind taking place, providing safe places for people to meet to socialize and to work together to provide education, emotional support and meeting places for groups who continue this work, providing homes for those without, or just donating financially to organizations who help monitor and promote legislation, education and emotional support, such as the Human Rights Campaign, PFlag or local organizations such as the Center for Inclusion here in Kansas City (formerly known as the LikeMe Lighthouse).

But I believe the bigger answer to “what can we do?” includes, but goes beyond all the above.  It’s going to take a paradigm shift for it to completely change. That shift has begun, but it’s going to take time (not JUST time – we have to do something in that time).  Although it won’t happen over night, if we look back at progress that has been made in just the last 5 to 10 years, there have been huge strides.  But it won’t be enough until everyone can go to work without fear of being fired for who they are, or walk in the streets of all cities in all countries without fear that they will be bullied, physically harmed or killed just because they’re different. And those of us who are allies are extremely important here.

My final point is this: Equality isn’t just for Black and other ethnic groups, LGBTQ, disabled or anyone else who appears different. It’s for each and every one of us.

If I had to point to the one issue that clients present most in my practice – it’s that they are trying to fit into someone else’s idea of who they should be. They feel they have to please someone – or everyone else, but often don’t even stop to ask themselves, “what do I want?”  In the process, they tend to lose themselves. They become depressed, anxious, bitter, addicted and sometimes homicidal or suicidal.  It never works to live our lives for others, but that’s what those who oppose equality are trying to enforce. They are trying to say, “You have to be more like me.”

We are all meant to be free – free to be who we are. Those who are fighting equality (unbeknownst to them) are actually more imprisoned by their own rigid beliefs, because any time we fight or resist anything – we give it much more power over us.

So you and I have an opportunity before us: Are we going to let the world explode from hatred? Or are we going to lift it to new heights of unconditional love. Even though there is more talk of unity this week after the horrific shooting, apparently targeting Republican congressmen, it’s too soon to know if that will last. Even if it does, we can’t expect our representatives or government to make this happen. It’s up to each of us.

If we aren’t part of the solution, we are participating in the problem.

Things You Can and Cannot Change

People who have been involved in a 12 Step program have been exposed to this concept, but it’s also appropriate for those of us who just tend to live in our heads a little too much –  determining what we can change and what we can’t. It makes all the difference in how we view the world and our part in our own problems. The following by Ralph Marston is an excellent way of helping me decipher the difference:

There are things that you can change, and there are things that you cannot change. Both have much value.

The things you can change can enable you to create, to achieve, to express yourself, and to improve the world in which you live. The things you cannot change give you the opportunity to grow stronger, to develop real wisdom, patience, acceptance, flexibility and effectiveness.

There is much you can learn from the things you cannot change. And there are countless ways to positively apply that learning toward the things you can change.

The things you cannot change give you a base from which to work. The things you can change give you an ever-increasing world of possibilities.

When you accept what you cannot change and find positive ways to deal with it, you lay the groundwork for success. When you understand what you can change and find positive ways to put that change to work, success and achievement are yours.

You are fortunate to live in a world where there are things you can change and things you cannot. As each moment arrives, you’re in a position to make the best of it all.

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The most difficult thing (in my life) that I can’t change is other people’s behavior. I work daily on being nonjudgmental, and I believe I accomplish that much of the time. (The one thing I can admit to being intolerant of – is people who are intolerant of others). And one of my most hurculean lessons, which I’m still working on, is to send them love. I do believe we all come from the same source, but we arrive in an array of different colors, ethnicities, sexual orientations, personalities and genders – for a reason. I practice seeing God/Source/Beloved in each human and animal, which makes it much easier to meet them where they are.

And yet, those I love the most are the ones I have the most difficulty not judging! When we get upset with people’s behavior, what we’re really saying is “You’re not enough like me!” So when I can remind myself that the person before me is exactly who (s)he has always been, and that is the reason I love her in the first place, then I can accept the behavior much more readily. (I don’t have to LIKE it, but again – I can’t change it). Then I can determine whether there is something about it that I can change – not that I can change the behavior, but maybe I can see that his behavior makes perfect sense, given the situation at hand. Perhaps I can work on getting to know that person a little better, which could help me understand why she reacted the way she did. If it’s someone I do already know well, hopefully I can start a conversation (with curiosity, not judgment) about the circumstances or belief that drove the action. Or maybe I can change the way I look at the situation, which might make his behavior a non-issue after all.  Finally, I want to show each person the respect I would ask in return, to make the choices for their lives that they see appropriate. Even when (sometimes with every fiber of my being) I believe it is harmful or inappropriate for them.

Bottom line is that the only thing we each have any control over is our own attitudes and behaviors.  Coming to terms with what I can and can’t change helps with that. If I want to live in peace, which I do, then it’s up to ME to make that happen!

Namaste

Managing the Daily Stress of Living in an Uncertain World

I don’t believe what I’m about to say is taking sides (other than the side of love and equality for all); but I’m aware that many people see some of my blogs as political. My purpose is always to go below the surface to the emotional and spiritual fallout these external events are triggering for us.

We can’t seem to escape the bombardment of news any more.  Those of us who want to keep up with it all so we can do our part to keep our democratic way of life alive feel overwhelmed often.  I don’t know about you, but I find myself almost longing for the “good ol days” when all we had to worry about was the transgender bathroom issue or whether there was voter fraud.

I’m only partially kidding. The issues that we have been focused on in recent years have been overwhelming and exhausting, regardless of which side of the political system we’ve been on.  But that’s my point.  As frustrating as it was, it used to just be partisan politics.

What we are now facing has nothing to do with politics. The very real danger of losing our way of life, has been endangered for much longer than most of us realized, because of the interference of another country into our election. And  every week it’s even more clear that other areas in our government, computer systems, other infrastructure and just our way of life  have also been at huge risk. And so far, they’re accomplishing what they wanted – we’re all choosing sides and, in some ways, becoming weaker as a people.

Just mentioning this in the presence of some people can start an argument.  I get it!  I’ve said for months that I feel like every day I’m giving credence to a conspiracy theory.  And on top of all that news, we each have the daily stress we’ve always had – just making ends meet and managing our own responsibilities. It’s just too much at times.  The reality is that our world has always been uncertain.  We’re just all VERY conscious of it now.

The  general purpose of my weekly blog is to help people manage their mental/emotional/physical health.  So why do I focus on social issues more these days? Because my clients keep bringing them into our sessions! And because of my holistic view, it’s clear to me that it’s ALL interconnected.  We are spiritual beings having human experiences, and some days it’s HARD to keep that balance!

I’ve always championed certain causes actively, but for the most part, I didn’t talk about political stuff much.  I’ve tried to focus on those things that are shining the light on humanity and showing the positive strides we’re making. I still do that as much as possible.  I think we all need that – now more than ever. But back in the “good ol’ days”, I didn’t follow the news; in fact I purposely didn’t watch it and suggested the same to clients (especially those with high anxiety).  My belief was “if anything really big happens, someone will let me know and then I can deal with it.” It wasn’t an attempt to avoid anything, just a belief that I didn’t need to let that negative energy into my life.  I stayed well enough informed that I cared if some crisis took place, and responded in whatever way felt appropriate (prayer, donating money, food or items; holding those affected in loving light and energy, etc). Regardless of whether I agreed with things being done at the governmental level, I felt safe that enough of those we had entrusted to protect the constitution and our security had our best interest at heart.

I still believe it is appropriate to weigh how much of that negative energy we each want to allow in. And we each have to decide how much attention we want to give it.

But guess what – something really big HAS happened!

So, whatever your stance is on what is going on within national and international security – I’ll leave that to you to determine.  But there is something I would like you to understand: we do have to recognize that what is going on right now IS affecting each of us, whether we are actively responding to it or trying to pass it off as just more politics.  I don’t say that to worry anyone; it’s just an honest statement.  I’ve never believed that sticking our heads in the sand and avoiding something that feels bad is a good idea.  I have lived by the rule that WHAT WE RESIST, PERSISTS. So I do believe in meeting things head-on, facing them, acknowledging they exist, and then determining how to address them.  Anything we ignore, just gains more and more power over us.

But we do have to slow down occasionally – shut off the TV, put down the phone, work out to shake it off, take a breath, walk in nature, and/or pray or meditate for a while to get ourselves back to some semblance of balance.

There are several ways to manage the stress (some of which I just mentioned), but I believe the first step is to change our relationship to the stress itself.  As an example, I’m a long-time meditator, and I’m old enough to have begun to have some pretty constant pain from time to time. So one of the methods I’ve used to help manage my pain is meditation. Something I’ve learned through this process is to recognize that non-pain is not necessarily a default setting.

What that means, is if I go back and long for “the good ol days” when everything wasn’t always painful, I’m going to constantly be noticing and agonizing over the fact that I have pain NOW. Or if I look forward and catastrophize that not only am I always going to feel this pain, but that, as I age, it’s only going to get worse, I’ll become more anxious and fearful, my body will tense up and the pain will be exacerbated!

The other option is to stay in the moment with it; acknowledging the pain but not owning it.  When I see it as “my pain,” it becomes part of “my story.”  Instead, if I gently put my awareness where I feel it (as if I’m holding something very fragile), I can witness it as just a sensation without trying to make anything happen.  This puts some distance between the pain and me and it’s easier not to identify with it; hence easier to let it go.

Just substitute whatever stress or emotion you’re dealing with now for my pain in the above scenario. Action that stems from feeling threatened and fearful only creates more fear, hate and violence; therefore more stress and pain. In issues with other people, or with the things that are going on politically, I acknowledge some of it is kind of scary. But when we act out of fear, we aren’t living consciously. We are reacting to what things appear to be, without delving deeper to try to understand where others are coming from or what really is going on. (And, as I said before on the political front, we can become weaker as a nation and aren’t as strong as we would be if we were united together working towards the same causes).  It’s something that takes constant monitoring. The only way we can do that and stay sane is to stay in the moment with it and respond, rather than impulsively react.

Changing our relationship with the stress also involves looking at it from a different perspective.  I get the “Resistance” movement, and I like it in a lot of ways – because it HAS united many of us. I just I wish it would have taken on a different name that has a little more positive tone (like “Persistence”)? Remember one of my first comments here – WHAT WE RESIST, PERSISTS.  What we fight, digs in and very often becomes more powerful. I’ve never liked the thought of fighting AGAINST anything.  But if I am marching FOR freedom; FOR inclusiveness; FOR those in the worst circumstances to have the same rights as those in the best – then I’m all in!

As Martin Luther King, Jr said,  Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Fighting hate with hate is never productive.  Don’t misunderstand, there’s nothing wrong with the anger many of us feel these days. It’s just a human emotion – and usually a warning sign that something is not fair, or that expectations are irrational or unreachable. It’s the aggressive behavior and spiteful attitude that often accompanies the anger that morphs into hate. THAT’s what we need to watch for.

So, it’s OK (actually healthy) to feel the stress and anger, and whatever else all this triggers for you.  But don’t let it immobilize you.  Acknowledge it and let it empower you. Channel it into energy that is spent for the improvement of a situation. (But do so with balance,  Determine which issues are most important to you, and stick to those if you want to be active.  Take a break occasionally, and distract yourself with fun or otherwise interesting activities, rest, or some of the other coping skills I mentioned earlier).

We can’t be the Light that we are meant to be if we hold even one other person in contempt and darkness. It’s difficult, but we all have the responsibility to find ways to make this life on earth work.  Many of us believe the best way to do that is through kindness, education and love. When we are challenged by those who don’t believe the same way, we may have to do some fighting.  But please don’t fight against them, fight FOR that healthcare, to save the earth, or the unity, democracy and peace we all dream of.

Honor and Memorial Day

Honor is not a word that we hear much these days.  With all that is going on in the news, most of the stories we hear produce feelings that are opposite of honor – disgrace, dishonor, disrespect, embarrassment, humiliation. . .

But the fact that it is Memorial Day Weekend, I want to switch my attention to those who I believe define the word *honor*. I would hope others who are in a position to represent us might take notice and learn from these people.

Memorial Day was originally designated as a day of remembrance for those who have died in service for the United States. Regardless of what we believe about war and politics, for most of us, it’s still a reminder for us to recognize and appreciate those who have lost their lives in the armed forces, as well as to thank those still living who are or have served in some capacity. All of them, including their family members, have sacrificed so that the rest of us can enjoy the lifestyle to which we are accustomed. So I take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to all who have given their energy and lives to protect us.

They fought, not because they loved war, but to preserve the culture that represents the values we stand for.  They fought and continue to fight to protect those beliefs each of us hold.  They truly define the word service – honorable, selfless and possessing a quiet strength that has no need to be boastful. That’s real power.

This is the legacy left by those who have gone on and maintained by those still working to protect these values: the respect for human dignity.

Let each of us endeavor to grow and maintain our own honor and personal power in the same way, regardless of what we witness elsewhere.  Let us not fight against anything, but FOR the integrity and honor of each person who lives on this earth; not because others determine they deserve it, but because it is their right.