Choice III: Keeping At It

WhichWay?If one single thing distinguishes this new millennium in my mind, it will be the active and fully conscious exercise of choice. It is only the intensity of choice that can break the oppositional pull of dualism, provide the synthesis between contradictions, handle, if never entirely eliminate dilemmas, and move the human spirit to the next phase of development.

Much personal and group struggle over the centuries has been about choice – towards territorial liberation, away from imprisonment of caste and class limitations, towards the right to create one’s own personal and professional identity, towards and away from the right to communicate with God directly in whatever form God takes for us, including the absence of a God figure. Choice also takes us towards the capacity to read and write according to our taste, to parent or not, to move throughout the world or nation with ease, and to love our neighbors as ourselves – or not.

If I want to experience extremes, for example, I can always find a “playmate:” a mouse for my cat or a cat for my mouse, even if I know in advance that in this particular game the mouse eventually dies. As human beings we play cat and mouse for each other all the time: sometimes I am the cat, sometimes I am the mouse. We both experience the thrill and horror of being both predator and prey, and in so doing understand a little more about the nature of our particular form of reality.

It is choice that permits accountability, claims responsibility, ends victimization and blame, and opens us to the possibility of fulfillment. When I exercise conscious choice I no longer blame another for my fate or misfortune, nor do I let another steal my freedom. My actions become heroic rather than weak or shameful, and yet I do stand up, even if it means the ultimate sacrifice of my life. The question is, can I stand up without having to die for choosing, and can I still receive my “reward in heaven” if I choose not to take another life or even my own?

The awareness of choice literally redefines history; the conscious exercise of choice transforms it. Discover the choices you are making now: the unconscious ones as well as those at the forefront of your awareness. When we reclaim our authority to choose what we experience, we can laugh at our errors of action or judgment and change them, and we can revel in our great successes. We can claim both fully.

Choice does not necessarily mean the immediate end of horror, nor does it necessarily mean the end of organized religious expression or social order, but it does mean and it does hold out the promise and possibility of fulfillment at every level.

The Color of Music

Recently a colleague came to dinner. The conversation was East Coast heady, covering decades of experience, emotion, and intellectual understanding. We laughed, traded professional and bawdy stories, discovered surprise. All was going along quite well until a question shot out like a bolt from the blue…

“Why did you stop singing, Helen?” my musically savvy dinner guest asked. “And why are you so reticent to begin again?” (By now I was sure my trusty dusty best friend had spilled the beans about my fear of singing.)

From somewhere deep within, tucked away under lock and key for decades, a river of emotion seeped through the crevices of an interior vault, threatening to open a Pandora’s Box I didn’t even know I had buried. I was invited to remember how important music had been and remains in my life. In addition to singing too often and way too loudly in my dad’s military chapel, I sang in church and in touring choirs in the U.S. and Germany, in chorus at two universities, motets, trios, duets and countless choral arrangements in high school and college, and more congregational songs in various churches than I could possibly count.

And then, seemingly all of a sudden, the music stopped. I left the church, I left the university, I left Germany, and I left music, at least of the formal kind where you sat in the audience and listened or stood at the podium and sang.

When the Sixties and Seventies came along the music was more a vehicle for dance and political expression than a focus on “the voice.” My body swayed to these new rhythms and loved them, but my singing voice began to take a back seat and eventually fell silent most of the time. I could no longer read music and I lost all trust in my ability to hold a note, harmonize, or sing on key. My closest friend would regularly encourage me to sing (and still does!), but I would have none of it… that is, until I got double teamed at dinner recently and remembered the joy of middle C.

Still today when I am alone and I feel melancholy or wonder or joy, I find a trusted song – usually a hymn or medieval chant because that’s what we sang back then – and sing it softly to express a moment of resonance from the distant past when music was my passion. The love of music was hidden but had never completely disappeared. It was just “private.”

Our dinner guest described the power of music in ways I had never heard before: the variations in color, tone, and mood that a single note could evoke. She talked about how a deep-seated fear of singing like mine could be overcome by making  an intimate connection with something as simple as the note of middle C.

Her storytelling was so powerful I found the tears welling up, and at one point even had to excuse myself from the table. She described the potential variations of a single note, the colors of music that provide unlimited expression to something as simple as the lowly and often underestimated note of C. How much more might I finally express in my whole being when the terror of a single note could be so deftly overcome? Is it possible that other notes waiting for their colors to be seen would begin to tumble from my atrophied vocal chords and tucked away notebooks?

The Color of Music The Color of Music

For the first time in decades this holiday season offered me an opportunity to consider my own song, my clunky personalized vamp, my deep love of middle C. Now other pent-up notes may start tumbling out as well…some sung, some written, some photographed, some merely hummed in the shower of my solitary mind.

Thanks, dear friends, for bringing me home to the color of music. One of these days I’ll brush that color off and make new sounds; or at the very least I’ll frame it.

Are We There Yet? On the Record in October 2001

Number is 5

March 2020

I posted an intuitive insight on the 19th of October, 2001, going “On the Record,” about certain global events, then followed with an update in early 2015. Somehow both statements seem as relevant today as they did almost nineteen years ago, immediately following the collapse of the World Trade Towers in New York. I am reposting a modified version of this piece once again as we face global challenges with the emergence of COVID-19, a new corona virus that surfaced in late 2019. Presently this virus is believed to be transmitted by tiny droplets of virus-contaminated water entering the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, causing temporary and possibly permanent damage to the lungs.

Update From January 2015: Earth, Air, Fire, Now Water

Since 2001 we have experienced Banda Aceh, Fukushima, chemical and biological warfare in the Middle East, devastating earthquakes in Haiti, as well as in the U.S. heartland, the Near, Middle and Far East, melting glaciers, dead and dying coral reefs and disappearing islands and coastlines as our seawater rises and generates epic floods. On the other hand there is simultaneous drought and lack of water in many parts of the United States and the world, triggering massive wildfires that rage uncontained for months on end. Our drinking water is contaminated with lead and other untold chemicals. New and old viruses battle for our attention, our fear, and our funding: the ebola virus, bird and swine flu, and the still important AIDS epidemic, even though we try to make AIDS seem like ancient history by comparison. Now we add a new corona virus to that infamous list: COVID-19.

We knowingly contaminate our water tables and divert our water supply to serve identified national needs. In the early years of the millennium we justified fracking as a tool to meet our political and economic desire for energy independence and a strong economy. We made such near-term decisions even when we realized early on that the practice causes permanent damage to the planet and to our neighborhoods in the longer term. Because the neighborhoods immediately impacted were poor, we turned our heads and looked away.

We have experienced plenty of bad news during these past two decades, and the public discourse about current news could certainly qualify us as living in a political and social “cuckoo’s nest.” We have also experienced amazingly good news during this period, but the original insight for that moment in 2001 dealt with contemporaneous craziness.

We sit squarely on the horns of a dilemma: what action, if any, shall we take? When Jack Nicholson landed in the cinematic version of the cuckoo’s nest, he decided to do something about his situation and that of others, even at great cost to himself. Will we exercise similar courage?

Here is what I wrote then about choices we were facing. The way I did things at the time was to get an mental or visual image or metaphor, describe the image, and then try to ascertain any potential meaning. Here I am, on the record, over eighteen years ago:

Original Post On the Record on the 19th of October, 2001

General Image: ‘One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.’

Meaning: Discerning who is crazy and who is sane becomes more and more difficult. Limiting one’s targets is impossible at this time. Discerning friend from enemy cannot be accomplished with any degree of accuracy. Making a water supply polluted only for the enemy is ludicrous. Releasing diseases only for the enemy is impossible to control. There are always surprises in such wars that are controlled by the forces of nature much more effectively than the forces of men in enclosed spaces.

Image about chemical and biological warfare: The same as above. ‘As above, so below.’

Meaning: All of the four elements will be carriers of chemical and biological warfare: earth, air, water, fire. Those who suffered already from oil fires in Desert Storm, napalm in Vietnam, radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, understand the four elements as opportunities for carnage as well as development. Earth, air, and fire have already been key conduits for carnage….now it is the time for water. The water may be bodily fluids, such as mucous and blood; public reservoir systems that millions depend on for life itself; lakes and oceans. Beached whales and angry sharks foretell of these new developments. Look and listen.

Laurel. There is a place called Laurel [possible state name deleted] that experiences the impact of water poisoning. It is a small place, and yet the impact is 100 times that of the September 11th events. We don’t absolutely have to fly, [for a very brief period all air traffic halted in the United States following the events of 9/11], but we must find and trust water to survive. One small and yet compelling incident with water and life is never the same. Such an incident is on the horizon. These four-part harmonies are just about to begin in earnest. Earth, air, fire, water. And the greatest of these is water. If we forget love, then we will remember water.”

*****

That is what I wrote then. Now that we have hindsight, how much of it was truly foresight? What else do we need to remember, and what else is it finally time to forget on the way to becoming one world?

I will say it again: pay attention to water.

Choice and National Culture Revised: Bringing the Question Home

WTC BeforeNational cultures are made, not born. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, for example, this defining moment appears in various forms across several religious and cultural stories and continues to shape our contemporary politics. 

National cultures last longer than a generation and they depend on the continual interplay of relationships between individuals, groups, institutions, and external cultures that help shape national boundaries and sometimes force them. While not “persons” in the legal sense, national cultures do indeed have identity and are undoubtedly influenced by their beginnings. 

On the other hand, there are many other stories that can show powerful influence of a more positive nature, less fraught with gut-wrenching dilemma. Perhaps the time has come to find and share some of these alternative iconic cultural moments. If external events such the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, spread of the ebola virus, rise of ISIS and of ISIL as a potential Islamic state, increased need for water and energy, and global warming are insufficient to capture our attention, what about issues closer to home such as police-community relations in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, and countless other locations across the U.S.? Who deserves to be educated, housed, employed, and healthy? Which of these contribute to our definitions of ourselves and others in what becomes an expression of our national culture?

National culture is a blueprint that provides the framework for a structure and the opportunity for a choice. That framework should not be confused with the structure itself, any more than a draftsman’s blueprint should be mistaken for a three-dimensional building. National culture offers us moments to decide who we are, to shape ourselves and our projections into the world. There is ample room for choice. In fact, embedded in the power and intensity of culture over time and generations is the responsibility to make continuous choices which ultimately contribute to the flourishing or the demise of that culture.

Nations reach decision points, just as individuals, families and companies do. As we are currently in the throes of what will later come to be known as a Third World War, many nations are facing critical decision points. Leaders arise who reflect (and sometimes shape) the full range of possible cultural expression. Whether through election or coup d’etat, the intensity of collective emotion, belief, and thought determines which leader is chosen, which events occur, and eventually which national persona the culture adopts based on its current shared values. As citizens, we get what we ask for on a conscious or unconscious basis. Do not underestimate the power of individuals and small groups to identify and promote leaders, and to frame leadership in any particular historical moment. There are many crossroads, many potential tipping points: who will we be as a nation in this time? Global political and cultural events are never inevitable in my view, even though blueprints from some deeper level of collective consciousness shape daily life and expression. Events exist to help us make choices, not to resign us to some predetermined fate.

“Destiny” is active, creative, vital, vibrant, continuously changing as we make and act on our conscious and unconscious choices and beliefs. Destiny was never meant to imprison; it was meant to offer a frame of reference that helps us look into our collective mirrors. The true meaning of destiny is purpose, expressed through values, understanding, choice and action. 

I believe we do the best we can as national cultures given our resources, beliefs and available information at any moment in time. Much like individuals, “when we know better, we do better.” Even in moments of deep despair and anger about what I may consider to be the flaws of any particular national culture, I continue to believe that ultimately the collective “We” will both know better and do better. Alas, I cannot predict precisely when “ultimately” turns out to be or what the scenario will look like, although important clues abound. That being said, I try to contribute something to the ultimate moment I would personally like to experience in each moment of each day in my little corner of the world and in my little corner of our national culture. That may be all any of us can do. And when I know better, I’ll do better…

My Big Toe

BigToeI returned from a most extraordinary trip to the East Coast only to discover that all that walking around had damaged my right big toe. It was blue purple, bleeding, swollen, looking as if the nail would pop right off at the slightest touch. We walked a lot in New York City, but I had not bumped into anything or slammed my foot into a door.  Having been teased and stared at quizzically on the last trip to the mainland’s East Coast, however, my vanity took over and I left my beloved toe shoes at home this time, settling for a more conventional pair.

After returning home to Honolulu I could not move, could not tolerate anything touching my big toe. Potential medical issues ran the gamut from “No big deal: suck it up and but a bandage on it.” to “This could be the sign of a life-threatening illness!”

Thoroughly immersed in a world view that insists on the intimate connection between mind and body, I finally asked myself the same question I would ask of any client: “Why is this happening, and why now?” What is the deeper message my big toe is trying to tell me? What have I been missing so often that I had to get a big blue toe to force me to stop and think?”

In my intuitive dictionary the feet and toes have to do with an impulse – often a suppressed impulse – to run away or perhaps even run towards something: a person, situation, challenge, even a shift in professional or personal identity. The index finger and the big toe have to do with direction – Direction with a capital “D.” The finger has to do more with immediate decision making, but the toe has to do with fundamental direction and identity, with destination, perhaps even with destiny.

As if divinely staged, I ran into a colleague soon after whose symptoms were mirroring my own but derived from a trip to the Far East, not the East Coast, affecting the other foot and a different toe. We hooted at the discovery of all these synchronicities including our insistent and deep, heretofore unspoken prod to make important decisions about the fundamentals of professional and personal direction.

I am convinced that the body talks when the mind is afraid to look within on a conscious basis. My colleague and I share a worldview that toe stubs are more than toe stubs; they are consciousness stubs as well, pointing us to ways in which we may be “running away from” our deepest fulfillment. Stubbing our toes made it impossible to run, hindering our movement just long enough to stop and think about what we were doing. We were asking similar questions and our bodies were sending out similar clues and alarms, if we would only take the time to notice. With all we had read and all we thought we knew, we still struggled with the message, but we knew there was one.

Eventually we talked our way through our unique configuration of core beliefs, as well as the impact the old ones were still having on our present circumstances.

What challenging fun! There is no need to divulge here the content of our discussion. Rather, I invite you to trigger your own conversation with your body and to listen to its answers.

Notice your aches:

If the ear: are you listening well or being heard?

If the back: are you feeling betrayed or are you betraying someone?

If the eyes: are you observing something that makes you uncomfortable,  but feel unable to do anything about it?

If the arms: are you holding back from implementing something at work or in your home life for fear your efforts will be rejected?

If the chest: are you feeling constrained by external forces, or is there some unexpressed grief?

If the knees: are you struggling to make a decision to stay or leave a situation, person, position, profession?

If the base of your head: are you still carrying old rage about events from the far past?

If your neck: does your head tell you to do one thing, while your heart wants to do something else?

If the hands: is there someone you would like to punch out?

If the forearms: is there something you would like to implement but hold back from fear of rejection or failure?

You can modify this list to make it your own in a way that matches your body’s communications. These are just examples. By paying attention you will be amazed at the coherence between physical symptoms and emotional states.

Yesterday I made a fundamental decision that gave me a sense of relief and got me back on track, thanks to my big toe. Today the color is gradually returning to that right toe, even though I may lose the nail. I am going to heal, I am going to live, I am going to do what feels good, regardless of public image, and by golly, I am going to wear my toe shoes no matter what anybody thinks about them!

Today I remembered to thank my body for the other aches and pains I have been ignoring, the ones associated not simply with growing old or being out of shape, but rather those coded communications from the inside out that are gently tugging me towards my own fulfillment and warning me if I go astray. After all, age “ain’t nuthin’ but a number!”

What is your body telling you about your direction, your relationships, your dreams and fears, and most importantly, about your core beliefs? Ultimately, it is your beliefs about yourself, human nature, and the future of the world that support and hinder not only your body, but your fulfillment as well. Conversations not only in the flesh, but with the flesh: what a hoot, what a wonder, what fun!

 

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Personality Conflicts May Not Be What They Seem

Confrontations of Matched Strength
Personality Conflicts

Like many of us, I assumed that personality conflicts in the workplace were the result of having to deal with difficult people. What I know now is that most – if not all – workplace personality conflicts derive from deeper structural issues, even if the other person is not particularly somebody you’d want to hang out with on weekends for a variety of reasons having to do with individual style and taste. That is completely normal. But for serious personality conflicts at work, ask yourself if the difficult individual is:

  • unclear about her or his job description?
  • having to report to more than one person at a time?
  • given more work to do than is humanly possible to complete during a normal work week?
  • underpaid for the level and quality of work demanded?
  • understaffed and under-resourced, making it difficult to complete quality work requested in a timely fashion?
  • kept in the dark about larger organizational challenges, perspectives, and plans?
  • rarely or never selected for further professional development?
  • unacknowledged?

Is the difficult relationship:

  • the result of unclear lines of authority? Who’s actually zooming whom?
  • the result of policy gaps, where neither really knows what he or she is supposed to do, by when, and for which policy, constituency, or audience?
  • the result of unspoken conventions that have never been written down, but play out every day?
  • the result of limited or non-existing professional development? Remember, “Deadwood” was once a live tree, curious to learn and excited to help!
  • the result of pure exhaustion on the part of one or both of you?  A little deep rest could go a long way towards resolution.
  • the result of simple exclusion by either of you? “Tick, tock, the game is locked, and nobody else can play.”
  • the result of mixed messages and poor leadership from above that has divided and conquered you, taking the attention away from where it really belongs: on poor leaders and mediocre leadership?

Take a few minutes to ask and answer these questions for your situation and organization, as well as for the person you are focusing on right now. Ask these questions not only about the difficult person you have to deal with, ask them about your own situation as well. Are any of those things listed above happening to you? Is someone else considering you the difficult person they are having to deal with? Are they thinking you are difficult for the very same structural reasons having to do with mixed messages and lack of clarity? Has someone else, a supervisor or third party, for example, placed you both in an untenable situation structurally?

Then ask yourself these questions intuitively:

  • “What one action on my part, if any, could remedy this situation?”
  • “Based on my location in the company or group right now, what can I do unilaterally if necessary from this position, even if I seem to have no official authority?”
  • “What is the one clearly shared goal that both the difficult person and I have that we could build around and shift our situation from adversarial to collegial?” “Is there something we could do together that would be easy instead of so hard the way it is now, that could ‘reboot’ our relationship?”

Take the very first answer you get in seven seconds or less for each question and act on it. It is possible that this difficult person may not be difficult any more, that you in turn may not be perceived as difficult, and the situation may begin to be resolved with a little patience and probably a lot less time than you imagined!

“It’s Only Meat”

giraffe-dreamstime_xs_31307435The killing, skinning and dismembering of a healthy two-year-old giraffe named Marius in front of child and adult spectators at the Copenhagen, Denmark zoo has haunted me for days. I am still trying to sort out my visceral feelings about this, and trying to understand and share the public outrage and concern on all sides of the issue.

Like hospitals, zoos deal with matters of life and death every day as they win some and lose some. Unlike slaughter houses and butcher shops whose goal is to kill, however, zoos have a fundamental commitment to fostering and preserving life. They are not chartered to offer biology classes that teach anatomy through dissection. So the recent event with Marius surprises and shocks to the core.

I will be the first to claim my disingenuousness, since someone had to kill a healthy animal for the burger I ate last week. I like to pat myself on the back for choosing as much as possible to eat only free range, organic meats and vegetables, but someone is still doing the dirty work for my table behind closed doors. But even this may not  be the central reason I am feeling so uncomfortable and so outraged at the decision taken by the administration of the Danish zoo.

The fact that some parents applauded the zoo’s display does not make it right: parents in the United States also exposed their children to the public lynching of African slaves and later citizens; Inquisitors tortured and killed alleged infidels in gruesome public rituals, and it is likely that well-to-do citizens of Rome gave their children the opportunity to watch early Christians and other dissenters being fed to the lions for sport. In these instances the sport put on display were human beings, even though some were not accepted as such at the time.

Fast forward to the present. Many children and adults who visit zoos are enamored with all sorts of animals, and are rooting for both the large cats and their prey, which in the wild might include giraffes. Visitors typically come to be uplifted and enlightened, to experience a warm moment, not to watch a sweet young animal slaughtered, skinned, dismembered and fed to the large cats who are also captives of the same zoo. In the process of writing this piece I looked again at some of the images of the children and adults witnessing the scene: some were fascinated and appreciative, while others were clearly disturbed. In one image a young girl had turned her back to the scene, but still found herself watching in horror.

What a shock! I was not physically present, watching edited clips from more than a continent’s distance away, and yet I was horrified. Like me, some of those children and adults will remember and be marked by that moment for the rest of their lives.

The most telling issue for me centered around the zookeeper’s comment in one of the videos: “See, it’s just meat!” The missing component in the decision to do this deed was the way in which any and all aspects of human and other animal consciousness were ignored. How can a giraffe have consciousness? Who assumes that the big cats have no idea they are eating their cellmates, and that this meal for some reason does not taste like the others? What about the sibling giraffe forced to witness this horror, essentially alone? After all, it’s only meat. I have watched birds and rabbits and elephants gather and grieve the loss of one of their group, whether hit by a car or eaten by prey. I have seen animals stop and acknowledge that this is their moment to die as they face off their predator, perhaps in the service of the larger ecosystem.

Furthermore, there is clearly a pecking order regarding the value of a life. In an article in the newspaper India Today, Bengt Holst, the scientific director of the zoo was quoted as saying, “”I know the giraffe is a nice looking animal, but I don’t think there would have been such an outrage if it had been an antelope, and I don’t think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow if it was a pig,” said Holst.

In my worldview we are all connected: human, non-human, predator, prey. The event was shared at a cellular level by everyone who participated whether physically present, reading about it, or watching video clips. It was a different sort of execution story, one that reminded us of our distinctive human nature when compared to four-legged animals, and of our failure to recognize that we are indeed part of, not masters of nature. I will add that I feel the same wrenching feeling each time I learn or read about state sponsored executions of human beings through application of the death penalty or mob violence. Are human beings “just meat” too? We are being “culled” too, more often than not based upon fallacious eugenics theories about the relative value of certain human lives as compared to others.

That young giraffe was not “just meat.” While its awareness may not necessarily mirror our own (who knows for sure?), it was nevertheless a conscious being that in its two short years had perhaps come to trust its captors, and may have been more shocked than any that its regular humans would personally kill it based on possibly flawed genetic understandings. As for the other creatures remaining at the zoo and the brouhaha that ensued in this case, how could they trust again, and what will happen down the road when animals large and small begin to rebel in unusual ways?

When a cow is raised on a beef farm, I imagine that its awareness must be different from one raised on a dairy farm with a different life and production cycle. Likewise, being raised on a chicken farm for meat must carry a  different vibration and expectation from being raised on an egg farm, which depends on the chicken’s staying alive. I believe – and I may be totally and anthropomorphically crazy – that all consciousness knows the context of its existence on many levels, whether expressed as a one-celled paramecium or a billion-celled mammal.

What that zoo did in the killing of Marius the giraffe was no different from triggering something like the earlier outbreak of mad cow disease. A few years ago it was discovered that vegetarian cows were being given cow by-products as feed: in essence they were being forced to become meat-eating cannibals in order to lower the costs and boost the profits of the companies that traded in beef products. Mad cow disease was a metaphorical, and perhaps literal rebellion that alerted the world to the plight of these animals. The PBS documentary Blackfish raised similar awareness regarding the plight of killer whales maintained in captivity for the entertainment of aquarium visitors.

Returning to the story of the giraffe, however, the large cats at the zoo were fed the dismembered giraffe. Where is the ethical breach in that, if any? As far as we know, they were not being fed the body parts of other cats, but of animals that are natural prey in the wild. The good intention was to avoid waste and to provide natural feed. And yet there seems to me to be something a little unseemly about that in this particular situation.

In my opinion, and I have no scientific proof to back up my claim, there is something about captivity that binds all these creatures together in this particular multi-species drama called a zoo. Just as warden and prisoner are bound together as one, as well as master and slave, zookeeper and zoo animals are inextricably connected, regardless of species.

It is possible that the giraffe event was an acting out of pathology, not a scientifically “neutral” biology class or a so-called “normal” zoo experience, if there is such a thing. This giraffe did not have an opportunity to run with other giraffes and attempt to escape from a hungry cat who helped maintain the strength of both herds. Nor did the cats have the opportunity to hunt their food and revel in their mastery. Their food was dragged to them from across the compound, and the giraffe was shot like fish in a barrel. This is not nature, and those acts were not natural.

This event certainly reminds me of my responsibility for the killing of animals that I eat,whether or not they die by my hand. At a deeper level, however, it also reminds me of the dilemma involved in eating literally anything if it is true that we live in an aware and elementally interconnected universe. I may as well have been present in the room for the last moments of that giraffe’s life, for just knowing about it adds to my local experience in some way. Frankly, I wish I had missed the story altogether, and yet I was drawn to click on it in my news feed, as I am often drawn to one story or the other. In so doing I, too, must take responsibility for the lives saved or taken, the rescues made or failed, the news that is good, bad, and all too often ugly: just as ugly as the killing of this young, gorgeous, vibrant giraffe.

Perhaps the giraffe staged a political protest in his own way, sacrificing his life for the edification of group consciousness. The face of that giraffe will haunt me all my days. Whatever it was, Marius the giraffe was never “just meat.” Not even close.

This week I am still eating meat and fish and vegetables. Will I become a “breatharian” next week, unable to eat anything at all? Hard to tell but right now, in this moment, that suddenly sounds like an option. Then again, is plain air any less conscious than fish or beef or giraffe or plant or fruit? Maybe, maybe not. What’s a person to do??? Perhaps becoming aware is a first step…

Written on 11 Feb 2014

Sochi Games

IMG_6469 The threat of toothpaste and gel-based insurgent attacks on flights to and from the Sochi Winter Olympics could have an interesting twist. What if, in the process of protecting flights by removing predominantly safe products in travelers’ bags, a different sort of threat is actually put into motion? What if the intelligence gathered and disseminated ahead of time serves as a form of “disinformation?” Now travelers will have to purchase products already onsite in Sochi, and it could be precisely these onsite products that would be contaminated, athletes and travelers literally taking the terror inside the compounds with them as unwitting carriers of their own demise?

I remember watching an old black and white movie many years ago in which the main character is a security guard or driver. He is feeling sleepy, so he drinks coffee from his thermos to help him stay awake. The catch was that he did not realize it was the coffee itself that had been drugged and was making him sleepy! We all let out gasps… “No, don’t drink the coffee!” We roared and that was a fun-filled moment of cinematic terror. The stakes now are much different and much higher.

In reading accounts about security preparations for Sochi, this old twist came to mind because of research I did in the 1960’s about what were then called domestic “disinformation” programs occurring in the United States. What if the  idea of disinformation has been turned around and used by others to compel the purchase of toilet articles after people arrive at the Olympic site? One clever prompt could be to boost business sales there, of course; a more deadly prompt could be to introduce tainted products to athletes and visitors stored on the sites well in advance.

There are many smarter and more informed minds than mine out there working on this. Nevertheless, the possibility of disinformation may be something to think about.

The Root Cause of Divisiveness in American Culture and Politics 2020

Confrontations of Matched Strength
The Battle for Dominance

Continue reading “The Root Cause of Divisiveness in American Culture and Politics 2020”

A Non-Scientific Approach to Singularity

145597650The search for world peace is ultimately based on a relentless yearning for the Singularity, the remembrance of complete synchrony in that moment just before all remembrance fades into oblivion.

Singularity is the siren’s sound that calls us home for dinner: home for alignment and attunement; home for repair of the universal heart of being. The universal heart is the synchronized breath of All That Is in unbroken, undifferentiated resonance.

The movement towards singularity is heralded by sound, that one long note held together exquisitely for a moment, that can last a day or a million years. That note, that moment of complete synchrony is always followed by silence, by completion and the recognition that there is nothing more to be said or done, nothing misunderstood. It is the sigh of lovers spent after the deepest of embraces.

As soon as the piercing, universe-wrenching sound announcing the imminent fall into nothingness occurs, there is a moment of shimmering into silence, into the singularity of dark matter and soundless, teeming potentiality. In our terms, that moment can last a nanosecond or a trillion years, for in this place of being time has no meaning.

And then the cycle begins again: the breath, that single ray of light out of the darkness of singularity, when All That Is begins its next breath, its next inhale of expansion. Riding on the wings of sound, a ray of light emerges from the silence, the crushing silence of the singularity. There is thought, there is wondering. The “What if…?” of universal mind once again begins to differentiate within its undifferentiated Self. What beauty there is in that individualized expression, the unique blossom that can only twinkle and disappear.

The singularity differentiates itself partly because the search for that brief moment of synchrony just before the silence falls again is so exquisite, so unimaginably sweet, that we would separate again just for the pleasure of “making up,” of finding unmatched harmony, synchrony, and resonance in light structures, finding and returning to the brief moment of holding the breath of all potential being, between the cycle of inhaling and exhaling, the cycle of expansion and contraction, before the light goes out again into the deafening silence of the Singularity.

That moment is the song of the thorn bird, the sound it makes impaled and dying, the sound of having known life outside the inevitable and continuing Singularity; a life that clearly is, and yet ultimately can no longer be an individuated unique being. Its song of sorrow and beauty and pain makes the heart of All That Is, of the Singularity, weep with an emotion it otherwise could never know except through the wail of the dying bird that feels alone, abandoned, and apart. But it is not….

The siren’s song is enough to make the ONE breathe again, and so another ray of light emerges from the darkness of the singularity that was completely and fully spent, enough to make it endure upheaval and war and disaster and extraordinary discoveries of the mind and heart, as each attempts to become its unique expression apart from the whole.

Then one more time, endlessly, just to experience the moment of resonance again, just for the beauty of the impaled thorn bird, just before the light and sound go out into nothingness, into All That Is, the universe lets out a loud and powerful wail, a song before dying into eternal being.

And so it goes, the cycle continues…

  • 12,000 years
  • 35,000 years
  • 260,000 years
  • a million years
  • a billion years
  • a trillion years

Waiting to exhale….

[Thoughts upon waking, written by Helen on 26 February 2011. These thoughts followed and are related to a long conversation with a dear friend in Europe, Rachna in ‘t Veld, whose own poem triggered my musings.]

Alternate Futures

WhichWay?We could continue along what seems to be our current path, exhausting the resources on earth and colonizing other planets in the same way we have colonized this one. We could do that and be scientifically thrilled and justified in our behavior from a particular point of view.

Alternatively, we could skip into that infinite space of the unfettered mind and find solutions that do not require colonization, genocide, the destruction of intellectual and cultural history, and the starvation of others to feel safe in our world. Perhaps that probable world exists already and we could simply travel there with or without spaceships and ask them how they did it.

We could meet future versions of our companies and products and policies and find out ahead of time how they worked out – or not. We could begin to create future success and abundance in this moment teeming with possibility.

Then, using the information from our flights of fancy, we could make certain adjustments now to our process, product line, social policy, energy consumption, and framework of knowledge that would end up shifting the very foundation of our definition of human nature, animal existence, and the qualities of organic and inorganic matter, as well as the qualities of energy and consciousness. The universe would open itself up to us in such new ways that we would have plenty to explore instead of slashing and burning our people, animals, and natural resources, all as a result of distorted good intention.

New categories of business could spring up to replace old ones whose natural life cycle had ended. We might actually become the limitless consciousness we already are, the new human we have actually always been.

In my world, fear of lack is obsolete because, like the elements in a Jungian dream, all of the characters in my environment, whether ten yards or ten thousand miles away, represent some aspect of me. I can only be truly fulfilled when the Whole, when every character in my dream feels fulfilled as well.

In my world, that future already exists, and I intend to go there and see it expressed. Intuition is the small gift in my hand to help me get there.

[This post is excerpted from my book, Seven Seconds or Less]

Detachment From the Outcome

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If you believe that investment in the outcome is the true mark of loyalty to your company, you have some homework to do now.

Detachment from the outcome does not mean you no longer care. It means that you are willing to let your ego and your fear step aside for a moment. If you are attached to the outcome, you will be closed to the element of surprise, and to information that comes to your aid from outside the domain of reason. It is very hard to remain detached when you know that millions and billions of dollars are riding on your decision, and yet that is precisely what you have to do when you work with intuitive information. You are useless to your business if you are running around at a fever pitch all day every day, even on weekends. You are equally useless if you only use the estimated ten per cent of the brain that is involved in reason-only decision making.

It is critical that you stop first, take a deep breath, and center yourself. You must be able to detach from the outcome for a split second and mean it. The pause must be long enough for you to know what action, if any, would be best for you to undertake in this moment about this pending decision.

In mastering intuition-on-demand for your business purposes, having trust in yourself and in your good intention is first, but detachment from the outcome has to be running a close second. You have to be able to let go of what others might think, and you have to let go of the possibility that your intuitive information might be wrong. Remember, quantitative analysis is often wrong too, but you are willing to act on that because somehow it seems more reasonable to do so.You are willing to embrace some element of risk.

Trust your gut, and then act on what your gut tells you in as neutral and detached a manner as possible. The best way to settle down and realize you are truly on to something useful and profitable is to engage in repeated practice that reaps repeated positive results. Even if you never understand exactly how this process works, the proof in the pudding will be quite enough!

YES!!

YesFor me the most important word in any language is “Yes!”

“Yes” represents the transformation from either-or to both-and thinking. It is the fusion of dualities, the essence of choice, the claiming of personal and collective responsibility. It is ending the need to blame or shame, the need to dominate or annihilate, the need to hoard or steal. I believe that learning to live in a both-and world is our greatest challenge for the next millennium.

“Yes” means I am, I choose, I take responsibility for my life, family, planet, actions, joy and horror. I belong, I create, I shimmer. It also means we are, we choose together, we take responsibility, we belong, we create, we shimmer. Any experience I wish to explore requires the fundamental, conscious, and often unconscious collaboration of so many other human and non-human elements. It doesn’t matter that the cooperation appears to be adversarial at times.

“Yes” is enough: it invites limited or limitless expression.

“Yes” is powerful enough to embrace and obscure the “No” that is its shadow self: the choice not made, the life not lived, the unfulfilled yearning, the unexplored opportunity that remains in the field of probabilities to provide color and contrast, continual choice, the chiaroscuro effect that makes our choices shimmer with delight.

“Yes” is the critical element in all reality creation: a raucous, robust howl into the field of probabilities, whether that reality becomes one of joy or horror. It is the willingness to explore ideas, beliefs, emotions, and options with enough force to materialize them and to see them in their full expression. It is the willingness to take the awesome capacity of wonder to its logical conclusion and to learn from experience as it unfolds. The experience may be terrific, one worth repeating, or it may be terrible, one I/we never want to repeat. Either way, “Yes” furthers. Whether or not I realize it now, the goal is always understanding, fulfillment, collaboration, compassion…the goal is always LOVE.

Sooner or later experience serves love in all its forms, whether or not that service is understood in the present moment. That is why the willingness to say a deep and profound “Yes!” may be the ultimate gift for achieving our particular version of heaven on earth. It acknowledges the grace that permits literally anything to be experienced, perhaps in the form of a Star-Trek-type hologram, while ultimately destroying nothing.

So how does all of this translate into daily life for me specifically?

  • I don’t try to figure out all the details, trusting that the universe “leans in my direction.” I say “Yes” once and emphatically, and then go on to make small and large decisions assuming that any decision I make leads ultimately to my fulfillment. I have stopped “taking my temperature” every three seconds.
  • I have given up my traumas and reasons and excuses and blame for being unfulfilled: parents, partners, children, politics, work, myself…all of it. All of that is part of an either-or worldview. All of that from the past helped create and deepens my current both-and approach, not only in spite of, but also because of those past experiences. I claim, embrace, recognize, even applaud my shortcomings and the shortcomings of others, for that experience always leads me to compassion and the possibility of embracing something quite different…the possibility for individual and collective fulfillment.
  • Whenever I feel a “No” coming on, I try to catch myself and giggle. That’s enough: no long processing, no hair shirt of self-deprecating judgment, no expectation of perfection. I try to simply notice and move on, dropping that potential “No” into the past once again with all the others, to be replaced with a “Yes” in some specific and actionable form right now.
  • I say a small “Yes” a million times a day: laughing at the critters’ antics, taking photos of a new blossom, smiling during a silly family conversation, doing mundane household chores, looking often at the sky, reading something provocative. The big “Yes!” takes care of itself.

North Korea (Private emails written by Helen on 18 Dec 2011 and 31 Mar 2013)

Beneath the SurfaceWritten 18 Dec 2011

The dominoes fall – still again. Part of the surprise, even though all knew [Kim Jong Il] was about to go. No amount of orchestrating and planning can make them “behave” in ways others in the West wish they would. (They means the North Koreans.)….

Be on the lookout. There are wrinkles here, and unanticipated consequences yet to play out. The son, the dauphin, does not last and cannot rule. On the other hand, he could be a Julian in hiding [Emperor Julian], who saw and observed without being seen. If [Kim Jong-un] has seen and not been seen, [or if he has been] too damaged [by what he has seen], he could become a force to be reckoned with and surprise many…if he is allowed to live.

He was named heir because he obeyed. The [uncle] did not obey, and may be the better leader for the new world. He is an enigma. But does [Kim Jong-un] have a heart, which makes him deemed insufficient or too weak to rule, or is he so ruthless he would blow up the world just to get even, just for revenge? The jury is still out on this.

The internal violence – within the family and not just within the country – makes for some highly unusual dynamics. Right out of medieval England and [historical] Germanic drive. I heard the following quote from an old movie this week after a political boss kills one of the inner circle, “I loved this man like a brother, and yet I killed him. Imagine what I will to do any other who betrays me or my objectives.” [from “The Jackal”]

To use another movie metaphor, this is a “Lion in Winter” scenario: internal family intrigue shapes the future of [that] nation and the world….More important than anything: do not base the future on the past. And do NOT make assumptions.

Curious: the son may be a sleeper. Either or both of them…all of them. In either case, heads will roll. The maneuvering has been going on for years. The uncle will not be as powerful as he has imagined. He will be in for a big surprise, and if the West has counted on the uncle, it may be surprised as well. There is much to revenge, and many ways to fashion it, depending upon one’s perspective.

Written 31 Mar 2013

In some domains it may already be too late for short-term relief. The North Korean situation escalates beyond repair. The U.S. State Department is considered weak following Clinton’s exit, and South Korea is considered a weak target because a woman is now at the helm. Both are surprisingly not true. But Kim Jon Un is playing (and counting) on perceived weaknesses, just as Israel planned its surprise attacks on Muslim religious holidays in the 1960’s. Now both parties do the same thing.

There is no conscience here, no underlying sense of ethical propriety. “Get them while they are down [from weakness or prayer], or are perceived to be down.” International conventions on fighting – whether boxing for sport or interrogations for information, or all out war – went out the window. At some point in the past, men understood among each other that it was unacceptable to target the potentially excruciating genitals. Those conventions no longer hold true.

Also, KJU, as a young and overweight man, must prove his mettle with those who want nothing more than to oust him or rule through him as regent because of his youth. He is just young and unwise enough to be unable to control either his testosterone or his mind. This is highly dangerous indeed. He, like Napoleon, is a small man with instruments of destruction in his grasp. This is frightening, and no amount of “reason” gets through to testosterone…. KJU, after years of invisibility and ridicule, [is devoid of reason]. Beware. Will he eventually become a cultural hero and icon, or will he be vilified as the supreme example of hubris?

Attempts to use the old machine of war as economic stimulus do not work in the same way this time. Things go too far. He is not Khrushchev, and this is no longer 1962. The dominoes that have fallen in the Middle East and all of Europe continue to fall with unusual consequences in Asia. The scenarios there are quite different and quite a bit more shattering. Saddam Hussein, Muhammar Khadafy, even Benjamin Netanyahu, are or were not young men any longer when the world was on the brink of WWIII. KJU is a young man, a modern Caligula with no thought for the future of his own people or any other. He is the ultimate narcissist, and this is not good news. Both he and Hitler used personal insecurity to shape national policy and identity, where local or personal identity was wanting.

A most unusual character, and one not to be underestimated. He would, like Jim Jones, actually destroy his own population to prove a point. This is testosterone at the extreme. Do not underestimate his potential for destruction, even if it meant self-destruction as well. Something essential in him was destroyed many years ago. When you are young, you think yourself invincible. There is no moderation here.

Synchronicities

iceberg new 12I awaken from a powerful dream about a family member, and two hours later I receive great news from a closely connected relative. I am having dinner conversation at home on a particular subject, and the very next day I receive an email from someone in my distant past related to that very subject, or I turn on the television at random and see a program about it. Furthermore, on the same day I receive the email that triggered memories of past trauma, I witness similar behavior in the supermarket on the part of complete strangers.

A few years ago, days before my granddaughter moved from our home as a starry-eyed young adult thrilled to be finally on her own, her beloved cat died quite suddenly, on some deeper level setting her free and actually helping with her fresh start. This week close friends lost a beloved animal just as they were embarking on major transitions in their own lives. When I was having trouble leaving a job many years ago that had become unhealthy for me, my pet died on my birthday. I finally left the job a short time later. In addition to raising questions about the nature of animal awareness, these stories reflect a form of synchronicity, often associated with marker life events, often disturbing, and sometimes awesomely wonderful.

These are all personal stories, but there are other synchronicities as well, and on a much grander scale. Unlike the loss of a beloved pet that cannot help but be noticed, and that touches the heart in very personal ways, these larger political and cultural synchronicities often go unnoticed, or at least uncorrelated. During the Clinton administration when the President  was under fire for inappropriate behavior, there were unusual storms and geological activity centered in Arkansas. There have also been more normal, but amazingly synchronous topographical events that correspond with political goings on in the U.S. and abroad, including Europe, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and other countries. I would still love to see correlations between the 2010 volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, for example, and the political landscape  throughout Europe and the world. That eruption occurred at the height of the global financial crisis. Get it? “At the height of…”

We pay a lot of attention to New York City here in the U.S., but ignore a relentless stream of land, business, and weather events that centered around Texas during the second Bush administration and afterwards. These other happenings are much harder to track, as they are multivariate and currently there appears to be no scientific attention given to correlations between weather patterns, for example, and political events. At least I am unaware of any such research. As a professional intuitive I notice these things, and often chuckle or weep when I see what cannot be considered “random” at all. Can I prove this assertion? Not yet, but I am working on it. Where are the researchers out there???

The Book – Seven Seconds or Less: From Gut Feeling to Bottom Line…

SSOL_COVERHCBlog - Version 2Helen’s book on applied business intuition is available in hard cover, paperback, and kindle versions online at Balboa Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Below are links to three online bookstores:

Amazon.com:    http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Seconds-Less-Challenging-Business/dp/1452579962/ref=gfix-ews-form

Barnes and Noble:    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-seconds-or-less-helen-l-stewart-phd/1116964564?ean=9781452579962

Balboa Press:     http://bookstore.balboapress.com/

All means ALL!

To whom does the right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness belong? Citizens, non-citizens, certain classes of citizens or non-citizens, certain countries, only the chosen by whatever definition is prevalent at the time? What about the rights, if any, of the unconscious, unaware, and even inorganic, such as the planet itself?

In 2013 I was immersed in reading reviewer comments for my forthcoming book on business intuition. The editing process converged with television programming related to the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington: what the march meant for African-Americans, for the country as a whole, and for the world. In the foreground of my awareness, a book reviewer was asking me to explain my use of the term “unified field” as it relates to intuition. In the background, participants in the original march and journalists asked and answered questions about what really went on during the Civil Rights Movement, a field that was both unified and dis-unified. What did those actions mean at the time?

Following the official ceremonies, blogs praised or slammed who was asked to speak in commemoration of this historic event, or who was excluded from speaking for a variety of reasons. Why was the only “boo” I heard during the ceremony directed at a woman representing the gay community? Why were there any boos at all? What about people and ideas that were “in and acceptable” in one historical moment, but “out and unacceptable” in another? Towards the end of his life, Malcolm X inched towards a more inclusive and non-violent stance with regard to white people; towards the end of his life following unsettling episodes in the north, Martin Luther King, Jr. inched towards considering the need for armed self-defense. Both were gunned down.

Similar questions could be posed about countries and ideologies, components of a very different type of potentially unified field. Who is not worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Who “deserves” suffering and poverty because of their relative place on somebody’s list of acceptable categories? What, if anything, can truly exist outside the cosmic unified field, the foundation of an ultimately collaborative and aware All That Is?

I realized that any effort to cover everybody and every thing in any single list would inevitably forget or exclude some important element of our universal ecosystem. During my labor relations training I learned this early on: the trouble with making lists is that there will always be someone or something inadvertently left off the list, or on the wrong side of somebody’s “red line.” It is better to avoid making lists of desirable “wins” or “losses” altogether, if possible, and to focus instead on the sentiment and fundamental intention of the parties involved in the negotiation process: a good and reasonable retirement plan, or appropriate faculty workload, or basic food, shelter, and clothing, or financial soundness, or national security. And then it hit me in a flash of insight: “All” means ALL.

So as of today, I am starting my own movement: “All means all.” Period. Whether it is the universal capacity for intuition, the capacity for violence and suffering, the capacity to feed all life, the possibility of meaningful and creative work, or the capacity for lasting peace – all means all. There are no ifs, ands, or buts in those three words – all means all. Furthermore, there are no conditions: current or earlier political and social views, current or past off-the-wall behavior, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, geographical location, financial resources, education, skin color, clothing, hair texture, weight, food to be eaten or avoided, eye shape, body type, place in the phylogenetic system, or place in the food chain. Oops, there I went again, making lists. Even a quick read-through showed me immediately several categories I had overlooked in my effort to include everybody and everything. All means all. No more and no less will do.

I’m not much for political posturing, but I think it is finally time for me to start a new T-shirt slogan at the very least, if not a full-blown political campaign: All Means ALL!!

The Importance of Surprise and Trust in the Intuitive Process

ElementofSurpriseKFS

Surprise is the single most important clue that you have stumbled into the realm of the intuitive. Often what doesn’t make any rational sense right now makes a whole lot of sense in the larger scheme of things, but you won’t be able to know for sure until later.

In the meantime, you have to trust yourself, go with the first thought that comes to you, detach from the outcome, and just wait to see what develops. That’s the tough part: the waiting for confirmation that your hunch was or was not on target. When there are lots of dollars and huge reputations at stake, the waiting for corroboration can seem like an eternity.

That is why trust is at the top of the list of intuitive tips: trust in yourself, and trust in the fundamental good intention of others. If anything can derail accurate intuitive information in a heartbeat, it is the lack of trust. Trust does not mean that you throw away your natural skepticism, or that you stop looking for corroboration through rational methods. Trust means that you are willing to suspend disbelief for a moment, just long enough to dart out into the universe and pick up something that might be useful in resolving the issue at hand, something that all too often might be ignored.

[Excerpt from my book on business intuition entitled Seven Seconds or Less: From Gut Feeling to Bottom Line,  published by Balboa Press, Fall 2013.]

Boston Marathon Events

On the record: the Boston events reflect acts of domestic terrorism that are Tea Party and militia based.

There is always the possibility that external groups can make events appear to be triggered from within, and also the possibility that domestic groups can attempt to make events appear to be triggered internationally. In addition, in light of recent international events, North Korea must now be included into the mix with Al Qaeda when considering the source of any such public attacks.

Nevertheless, I believe and go “On the Record” stating that the Boston Marathon events are domestically based. I also feel that there are more locations linked to the Boston Marathon, and to the Patriot’s Day holiday, yet to be discovered and uncovered.

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