Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Lessons We are Here to Learn

With all the huge news this past few weeks, I think these two historic events have been pushed to the back burner. I wrote this blog a year ago, but it’s still relevant today:

This has been a busy news week in the US, with some major stories that continue to unfold.  For this blog I’m going to focus on two events:  the shooting of those in a prayer meeting; and the Supreme Court decision that Gay Marriage is legal and should be acknowledged in all 50 states.

The dichotomy, and yet the similarities between these two stories give me pause.  I understand that not everyone views them in the same way.  But it’s my blog, so I get the microphone for now and I’m going to attempt to express how they affected me, in the hope it might be helpful to you.

Both have historical implications and both involve prejudice and bias. One of the stories was originally about hate, and generated a lot of pain that will be felt for generations.  But it also generated a lot of love, forgiveness and unity – displayed by families and friends of the victims, and by others who are weary from all the hateful acts that have been committed in recent years.  The other was born of love – by those who were simply asking for the right to marry the person they love.  But it, too, has spawned a rash of hatred, bigotry and intolerance.  It’s my contention that both of these situations are examples of the lessons we are to encounter as spiritual beings having a temporary human experience.

The horrific hate crime in Charleston and the memorial services that are taking place have touched me in a very deep place. The depths of how hate can affect us as humans – and be spread so quickly – simply because some people are threatened by others who appear different from them leave me in wonder.  I’m sure I don’t understand the emotional turmoil the young shooter must have been going through.  But I do know we all have the capacity, if we narrow our focus enough, to let something we believe germinate until it grows into something else that becomes larger than life.

And then the there’s the recent rapid change in the country toward LGBT citizens (after years of struggle) – culminating in the Supreme Court decision that was just announced. (One poll I read showed Americans who support gay marriage has risen from 32% in 2004 to 58% today.  This event also touched me in a very deep place.  And I still tear up just thinking about it.  I know there are others who are very upset by this ruling because of their faith, which I respect and honor their right to maintain. But I’m repulsed by some of the venomous comments on social media, and especially by political and religious leaders.  These remarks invariably come from people who label themselves as Christians.  How can it be Christ-like to say such vulgar things about another human being!?  Again, much of what is being said is because they are threatened by those who appear different from them. 

What happened to researching, discussing and educating ourselves when we don’t understand something?  Just because someone is different from me 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.  I repeat: If 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.

I used to believe it was enough to love and respect the people I know who are of a different ethnic decent than I am or my friends who are LGBT.  But five years ago, 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 or the LGBT community fascinating and courageous.  But then I started volunteering at the LikeMe Lighthouse (an LGBT 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.

Gay people marrying is not going to affect anyone who is not gay.  They are not out looking for recruits.  They are not polygamists.  They are not child molesters.  And if they get married to each other, they are not going to have any influence on heterosexual marriage.  (Although some of my lesbian and gay friends have some very strong marriages from which many heterosexual couples could learn).

Equality isn’t just for Blacks and other ethnic groups, LGBT, disabled or anyone else who appears different. It’s for each and every one of us. We all come from the same factory.  We may come in different packages, but inside we all contain the same ingredient – just like a drop of water exists of the same molecular structure as the ocean, we are each a piece of the originating Source. That ingredient is the energy of love.  The problem is that when we become human, we often forget that, and we let our ego run away with 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.  In the process, they become sad, bitter and sometimes homocidal 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 so much more power over us.

So, just as these two stories may be part of a divine plan, so is our reaction to them.  I’m not saying God (or whatever you call he/she/it) caused these things to happen.  Humans did, because we have free will.  But now we have the opportunity to determine whether we are going to let the world explode from hatred or if we are going to lift it to new heights of unconditional love. It’s up to you and me.

The Courage to Embrace Fear

It seems every week brings more huge scary news.  Aside from the constant violence, this week Great Britain voted on Brexit, with an outcome that is scary on an international level; leaving Western countries vulnerable in many ways, and hurting world-wide economy. Orlando has also continued to come up in almost every session I’ve had this week.  It has re-traumatized LGBTQ folks  (in one case brought up a repressed trauma from over 50 years ago), as well as my clients who are dealing with their own grief.  Something like this breaks us open to the point where even things we have already dealt with seem to bubble back up to the surface.  So I’m re-posting this blog from just a few months ago – also written in response to a similar horrific act.  I hope it helps:

I think it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, but we must be careful not to let our minds overtake our hearts.  When I allow myself to focus on it, I am overwhelmed with sadness and compassion for those who have  been affected by all the violence, ignorance and unwillingness to explore and learn more about things and people that are foreign to us.  At their hands, whether they are active terrorists, shooters, or just politicians who espouse hate and those who applaud them, or even those who sit by quietly and do nothing – others have lost loved ones, homes, their way of life and their own lives. I also feel anger that so many people purposely set out to hurt others, that terrorists are capable of committing atrocities without being traced until it’s too late.  And fear.  We all feel the fear of the what if’s.  Where will they go next?  What will they do? And will we be able to stop them (whoever “they” are)?

What I’m about to propose may not be popular. I come from the belief that all humans originate from the same source – a source of Love and Light.  We may call it by different names and worship or understand it in very different ways, depending on our individual needs, but God (or whatever you call it)  is not religious. We are each an extension of that Light. So we have no choice, but to be like what we came from. Even the terrorists and other “evil” people.  (That’s not to say we should stand by & allow them to continue to victimize others.  All behavior has consequences, and we should not accept unacceptable behavior).  But we need to realize that buried deep down inside, they’re just like you & me; and given similar circumstances, any one of us could have ended up in their place.

So since we come from the same place, whether we are Christian, Muslim, White, Black, Republican, Democrat, gay, straight or transgender, it’s the ego, the human side, as opposed to the spiritual “Light” side that brings us down to these lower levels of energy.  And terrorists are not that different from some politicians in our daily news. They are addicted to power.  People who need to feel power to feel OK about themselves will do whatever it takes. It’s a narcissistic, fear-based, isolationist mindset, and they need more and more power to continue to feel OK.

Fear is at the base of all prejudice, covered by hate and anger that expresses itself in extreme radicalism, homophobia and racism. Although they would have us see it differently, the anger and aggression (or the emotional disconnect) we see in the terrorists, and hear from some in the political field is NOT the same as courage. Anger and emotional numbness are both like a bullet-proof vest we all occasionally put on to protect ourselves in order to feel a little more powerful.  They are covering what we’re really feeling deep down – vulnerable.

Courage & fear are  also intricately interconnected.  Sometimes our fear is very rational (as in the case of severe illness or real harm being perpetrated upon us); but often, it comes from an irrational belief about our situation.  While there may be an aspect of interpreting doctrine or situations differently; I believe the primary issue is that the terrorists and the politicians (and those who follow and applaud them) are terrified of feeling vulnerable. They don’t understand that’s the very element that connects them to the rest of humanity! And that connection is what would eventually give them the strength they so desperately want.

The people with real courage are those who have experienced the fear –  and then moved forward,  because they knew the odds of staying in their comfort zone are far outweighed by the risks involved in changing  their lives and the world.  People like the refugees, who have risked everything (and sometimes lost it all) to be able to live their lives in a way they choose; those in the military and first responders; people with fatal illnesses, who choose to enjoy their lives and live in the moment, rather than shrivel up and die; minorities, who have to fight for equal rights because racism and prejudice has not been eradicated; people like so many of my friends and clients who have risked not only ridicule, jobs and abandonment by their family and friends, but often their lives to come out and publicly be who they really are instead of shriveling up as they hide.  We can name any number of people in many threatening situations who take risks and allow themselves to be vulnerable in order to find their courage.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to combat all the fear and pain that saturates our world.  But I do know that, if handled appropriately, fear is the door to growth.  It’s going to take each of us to individually conquer our own fears and feelings of inadequacy in order to move society forward. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel the fear.  Sit with it for a few minutes at a time, feeling it in your body & shutting out the intellectual violence in your head.  Use it as a motivator to change. After the few minutes, put the fear away, take the focus off the negatives and visualize the life you want! Look for a more positive way to look at any given situation.  Your perspective is what feeds your attitude.
  2. Educate yourself about the situation or people involved.  When you see someone who looks different than you, start a conversation.  Get to know the PERSON.  Learn more about their values.  I’ve also listened to interviews with Muslims who are very faith and abundance-oriented.  I’m currently listening to an audio book about the Muslim faith that challenges and explains both of the sides we’ve been hearing recently in the news.
  3. Look for ways to give. Volunteer where there has been a disaster – or to help provide food or clothing for the homeless or families who don’t have enough. Get involved in the issues that matter to you by calling or writing your representatives and voting.  (Nobody has all the answers, but listen for those who actually have specific plans and are not just spouting off everything that’s wrong with the world).  Action can give us a sense of accomplishment and personal power.
  4. Go inside and find your center.  Meditation, prayer, or just sitting in silence on a consistent basis will reconnect you to your higher self – that part of you that is the extension of the Light I mentioned earlier.
  5. Send Love to others – those with whom you agree, and those you do not understand.  I sometimes silently repeat the word “Love” or “I am Love” to myself throughout the day.  It helps me feel love towards myself and others.  The Course in Miracles says the only two emotions are Love and Fear, and whatever is not love is fear.  So the best way to combat fear is to love.

Namaste (The Light in me recognizes and honors the Light in you.)

Courage is only courage when we’re afraid. 

Orlando

Last Sunday morning, our country woke up to the horrific news of the biggest mass shooting in our history.  I felt paralyzed and stuck in front of the TV  and on the internet trying to make sense of what had just happened to us – AGAIN!  There are so many thoughts and feelings swirling around in my head and heart, that it is difficult to verbalize it, (but you’ve never known that to stop me, have you?) 😉  I have been an active LGBT ally for years, and have some understanding of how important bars and public meeting places like The PULSE are to a community that needs a sense of connection even more than most of us. Those who often have lost so much, including their family – simply because of who they are – have found a way to build a new family in these places.

And, yes, I’m climbing on my soap box here.  When I sat down to write this, I became overwhelmed, because I’m well aware there are many other factors in this shooting than I am addressing here today.  There is the terrorist connection, mental health issues, self-hatred, the impact on Latino and other minority groups, whether stronger gun control might at least help slow down these incidents, and so much more that I simply can’t address here.  But because of some recent conversations, I am moved to address one aspect of the shooting.

I am hearing from some of my LGBT friends and clients that they are not feeling as supported by many of their straight friends as they would have hoped – even by people they know have historically supported LGBT issues.

After hearing this several times, I looked at my news feed, and did see where some people had changed their profile pictures, or were posting stories and words of support; but the majority of those were LGBT folks themselves.  In proportion to the number of similar signs on Facebook when Paris was attacked, for instance, it was a pretty small sample.

I’m not sure why that is, and it’s certainly not my place to judge anyone.  But from some of these conversations, and several from past memory, I have some theories.  As I lay these out, I want to make clear, I’m in no way an expert on all things about the LGBT community and what they have endured for centuries.  I do, however, have many friends who I have the utmost respect for because of what they’ve lived through; and maybe even at a deeper level – I’ve vicariously lived through many a client’s experiences as they’ve tried to make sense of things and recover from the trauma of it all.  The people I know have developed a strength, courage and sense of humor by going through their own trauma – and have come out understanding how important it is to fight FOR their rights, rather than against the hatred.

Many people I know are very supportive of equal rights for all.  But I believe most straight, white people have no clue about a couple of things.

1) When the Supreme Court declared same sex marriage legal in the US, apparently many straight Americans (while they may have supported gay marriage), thought the war was won. (It was huge, and I was in tears, jumping up & down for joy when the announcement came).  But many didn’t realize it was just one of many battles that have been brewing for centuries, and unfortunately, will continue to need to be fought for years to come. (For just a couple of examples, we are all too familiar with the bathroom issues that have arisen recently; and it’s still legal in more states than not to be fired, simply because you’re gay or trans).

2) Most gay people I know have always had a sense that they are not safe ANYWHERE.  As a straight, white middle class American from a relatively healthy family, this would be absolutely unthinkable for me – if not for the people I know who have endured this sense of fear.  People have described situations to me that those of us on the other end of the spectrum would never even consider dangerous – for instance (and this is a real example shared with me), kissing our spouse goodbye in the vehicle as they drop us off for work – and worrying whether there’s someone watching that might be armed and take offense – and decide to do something about it; or just someone who could (and would) use it against us in some other way.

Yes, the fear has heightened for all of us again, as it always does when these acts of violence remind us there are those out there who are angry enough, and unstable enough to decide to take us all out. But many LGBT people are more traumatized by this one.  This is, by no means the first act of violence against their community and unfortunately will not be the last.  But it is the biggest to date and the one that has caught the world’s attention.

This is a huge crisis for our country in general.  But there are positive lessons we can learn, such as allowing this to motivate us to stand with the LGBT community (and/or the other minorities that were targeted here) and work to make changes towards equality, in whatever way we can.  Maybe that is just posting a little more on social media.  That’s a huge audience!

Someone told me the other day that he felt “awful” about the shootings, but he just wasn’t saying anything about it in public or on social media.  I know we all have different ways that we process these things.  Some have to quietly mull it over, while others need to speak up and get it out in the open.

I used to think it was enough just to love my gay friends. But over the years I’ve learned that isn’t enough.  1) How are people to know we care if we don’t show it or tell them? and 2) as straight allies we have even more power to stand up for them in ways they can’t for themselves.  Yes, we might have some fear that we’ll piss somebody off –  maybe lose a friend. But that’s nothing compared to the fear they live with daily.  And believe me, we have SO MUCH MORE to gain from speaking up.  I’ve made friends I never would have met, if I hadn’t gotten involved.  Friends who I cherish and respect more than they know.

At the very least,  I ask you to consider just taking a minute to reach out to someone you know who is a part of the LGBT community and let them know you see them, and that you sit with them in their fear and pain.  That’s all it takes. You don’t have to do anything else.  We can never walk in their shoes, but we can let them know they’re not quite as alone as they thought they were.

Stepping off soap box now.  Namaste.

 

 

 

 

Where Are You Looking?

There is an old story about a drunk who lost his keys.  A policeman sees him searching for something under a streetlight and asks what he lost. He tells the cop he lost his keys, so they both look.  After a few minutes without coming across the keys, the policeman asks if he is sure he lost the keys here, and the drunk replies, “No, I lost them in the park”. Of course the policeman is dumbfounded and asks why he is searching here.  The drunk replies, “This is where the light is.”

Apparently, he chose the simplest place to put his focus in order to find what he wanted.  But it was not even close to where the keys actually were.

How many times do we search for something where it is not?  For instance, if I want a better relationship with my husband, sometimes I focus on what HE is or is not doing that would make my life better.  He takes it for a long time before he finally gets frustrated with me and then we have to talk about what is really going on.

I forget that the answer is not with his behavior.  If I’m upset because he doesn’t pick up his things, it’s not his problem – it’s mine.  And that is very difficult for me.  Somehow I’ve always inherently understood that if I want to have a clear head and heart, it’s much easier if my physical environment is clear.  My husband – doesn’t really care about that.  He literally can sit in a room surrounded by all sorts of “stuff” and be happy.   (I recently posted an article on my Professional Facebook page about this very issue:  https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/cleaning-decluttering/clutter-depression/)

So occasionally, he has to remind me that it really is my problem.

How do I deal with this?  Sometimes, not well.  But when I am able to feed my spiritual being by exposing myself to information and music that inspires me, physically working out, eating right and meditating, I can usually get myself back to a place where I recognize where my focus needs to be: 1) on my own anxiety that is stimulated by the surrounding “mess” and what I can do differently to make peace with the situation, and 2) on what he DOES do to make my life better in so many ways.  My happiness does not depend on him; it’s up to me to find it where it is – inside me.

When we put our focus on what we DO have in our lives, rather than what we don’t have, we can begin to move forward towards freedom and peace.

Eckhart Tolle says, “It’s almost a joke, how humans live – how they look for something where it can never be found.”

I’m pretty sure my need for a clutter-free house and my husband’s lack of enthusiasm for that may never quite be resolved for me.  But we’ve made it over 47 years together in relative peace, so I think we’ll survive.  As humans we are always under construction.  That’s why we’re here – to experience ALL of life’s little joys and pains – and to grow from them.