The Power of Peaceful Protest

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I woke up this morning and shortly thereafter, “All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance” was playing in my head. I still miss John Lennon. He was a messenger, another man born before his time whose life was cut short because of it. I walked a couple of times in peaceful protests against the Vietnam War and we sang those words, “All we are saying is give peace a chance,” over and over. The marches were heartfelt by those longing for a shift in consciousness from warring to side-by-side peaceful living. It IS disappointing that all these years later, we are worn down by the lies, cruelty, power-hunger, racist autocratic behavior and thoughtlessness of those in power in the U.S., but they are precisely why it is NOT time to lie down. We need to take to the streets, peacefully and powerfully, letting them know we refuse to accept their darkness. They will either wake up to their own light within, or leave.

That is our power–if we first commit to finding peace within. It’s the only way; peace doesn’t come from outside of us. And peace has to be more important than our pride, positions or personal beliefs. We need to believe that everyone deserves to live in peace, and we have to speak up. I don’t know how to ‘overthrow’ those who press down other people for financial gain or utilizing some ‘ism,’ but Gandhi did and so did Martin Luther King, Jr. Peaceful, centered-in-love, protest is a more powerful force than tanks and guns and ammo—hands down. We just have to want to live in peace with all our hearts and to desire the same for others.

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Non-Violence or Violence?

It’s hard not to think about the anger exhibited across our country now, on both sides of the political fence. If some force IS trying to divide our nation, it’s doing a darn good job. In my town, several of eighty protesters were recently arrested in a run-in with cops. This after 15,000 diverse people marched together peacefully on January 21st.

I realize how different their angry words and actions were from Martin Luther King’s non-violent protests. Can you imagine what would’ve happened to the all-persons-are-equal-movement if African-Americans, and those of the same mind, had marched through the streets angrily shouting with bullhorns and waving damning signs? We have a very long way to go on the issue of racism but if MLK Jr. had led angry mobs, we would’ve gone backward, maybe even further back than to the days of slavery. In order to be effective when working for positive change, we set out from a peaceful place of understanding that all points of view must be represented and that compromises will be made. When our motives are sincere and not selfish, good change happens.

As for the issue of everyone (except those earning the minimum wage) paying taxes, we live in a great country made of people who have always known the importance of public education and transportation, of health care and Social Security retirement, of the roads that connect our states, and of a strong military to protect our country. We are blessed to live here and to do our part for our country–and to share with those who have not been as fortunate as us, who only need a hand up. We need to remember that until we have listened to another’s story, we usually don’t know what we’re talking about. Let’s make peace, not war.

Why Not Make a Difference?

Rundown white house, no glass on windowsDo you shudder and turn away from people struggling to survive, flipping past the TV commercials about the desperate lives led by people who have little or no access to clean water, food or shelter?

In the 1950s parents often said, “Clean your plate. There are children starving all over the world.” Not understanding what this meant, I never told my children to eat because of starving people. Today I understand: We are all connected because we are all children of a Divine Creator.

Our consciousness is connected to hurting people, even if we don’t know or believe this, and they are connected to us as a part of their consciousness. We may turn away from pictures of their poverty; and they may feel every American is rich because our homes have piped-in water and electricity, with a nearby market in most neighborhoods.

To me, the most significant thing about the imbalance between the haves and the have-nots is that it is very difficult for people struggling to survive to evolve spiritually. They may not believe a benevolent Creator exists, or they may decide if there is one, they hate Him. I am sure some of them fall to their knees every night, praying for a break, a chance, for their families.

I don’t understand how capitalism came to be so warped and rewards so well the highly educated and the business-savvy, while leaving so many others behind, especially in America. There has to be a better way, a way of the heart with the head that acknowledges all people are sons or daughters of the Divine, and only need a hand up to transform their lives. To those who have so much more than you will ever need: Why not learn how to make a difference in the lives of those who long for only the most basic of needs? The rewards for ‘teaching them to fish’ are life-altering.

What Are We Supposed To Do With Our Lives?

umbrella, childrenWhat is the purpose of life? Is it achievement–family–power–philanthropy–accumulation–friendship–love? How long have humans really lived on the earth? Why do we suffer? Were there any ‘Golden Ages’ in history when we understood who we were—children of God—and we lived accordingly? About how-to-live: Where is our step-by-step, in-the-trenches guidebook that covers being human, because we’d sure like to see it!

You know how stories of courage and honor and perseverance inspire us, and how stories of deceit, self-seeking and cruelty don’t? Why are we made with both the seeds of light and the darkness within us? Does it matter why? Or is the important question: What are we supposed to do with our lives? With our free will?

I often wonder if ‘mythological’ places like Atlantis were real, because I think I’ve dreamed about it. For a while, it seemed an enlightened society, but the story of its collapse is a familiar one: Misuse of power destroys the civilization. It’s the story that matters anyway–a reminder that universal laws do exist.

Are today’s erupting volcanoes, massive hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought, fires, torrential rains and flooding, cyclical in nature or signs of our times? We all know deep down that humans are no match for Mother Nature, and all cultures have stories of the earth being cleansed of us.

We humans seem intellectually, emotionally and spiritually challenged–only thinking of ourselves doesn’t seem to have gotten us very far. What if one of humanity’s tests is how we care for each other, for all creatures and for our home planet, as we live out our lives?

What can we do when living in a troubled period? Slow down our minds. Breathe deeply. Step back and look at the bigger picture, which includes our neighbors, our community, our states, our country, our world. Pray and meditate to connect with our Creator. Can we see the light within us and in others, or are we thinking food storage and guns and ammo? The size of our weapons is no measure of a person, or of a country. The size of our hearts and how we express love, charity and mercy, are. If we so desire, we can create a higher way of living that includes blessings for everyone.

As the Talking Stick Moves Around the Circle…

talking stickThere’s been a lot of commotion around political gatherings this year—bullying, shouting of offensive names, and holding up of cruel signs. I wonder what purpose this serves? In my own life, I’ve noticed that shouting, name calling, and attempts at intimidation have had only a negative effect.

I wish it was easier to understand the motives and intentions of those who use offensive stereotypes. After all the years we humans have lived on this planet, negative intolerance is the best we can do? In a time of crisis? To me, this way of seeing indicates someone or something is off-balance.

There are genuine ways to communicate what is important to us. Take, for example, the Talking Stick, used in some Native American societies. The participants sit in a circle and only the person holding the Talking Stick speaks. All others honor the speaker by listening attentively, reflecting the value of each person’s point of view. Imagine the quiet created by a circle of eyes and ears focused only on you and your ideas regarding an important subject. The speaker has no choice but to be her authentic self, to share sincere thoughts, feelings and even possible solutions. As the Talking Stick moves around the circle, a higher spirit of cooperation, insight and wisdom is engendered. From this quiet, genuine and inspired gathering, concerns are understood and solutions appear.

Can you imagine this type of communication at office meetings, or town hall gatherings? Each of us can be a fount of wisdom, should we choose to become aware of our Creator’s hopes for humankind, which certainly do not include spewing hateful opinions and condemnations of others. God is love. God is peace. God is goodwill. Let’s open up and see all that we have in common, build some bridges, and gather together with mutual respect and kindness. Today, let us commit to being more like God in every way that we can. In this way, we each can and do change the world.

Who Are You? What Have You Learned? What Difference Have You Made?

MaidI saw Oprah, on several occasions, pick a person from her audience and ask them for a short version of their story: “Who were they, what had they learned, what difference had they made?” Powerful stuff, I know, because friends and I co-published a small, community newspaper for 12 years, and whenever we posed those questions, something incredible happened.

Because we cared enough to ask, their hearts and minds opened and they blew us away with their experiences, insights and plans. We filled an issue with the answers of people we asked those same questions: Who are you? What have you learned? What difference have you made? The heart-responses of a maid we came upon cleaning a large public restroom were as significant and inspirational as the governor’s.

Those really are the important questions, aren’t they? We can change any conversation to a communication with them. We yearn for true connections, we want to bring down our walls–but these are really scary times. While that is true, fear and hopelessness are mind-bullies that can turn birthday balloons into hot-air balloons—and toss us about as if they are in charge.

Did you ever tell anyone, “You’re not the boss of me!” That’s what we’ve got to do with fear and hopelessness: “Scram! Out! I’m the boss of me!” Maybe then we can take a virtual hammer to our ‘protection’ walls and actually go somewhere to do something for someone else. We’ll have made a difference for another and have the satisfaction earned by giving.

Isn’t it really something that God created all of us and needs every single one of us–that we all matter? We may think we don’t matter, but we couldn’t be more wrong. We are loved beyond measure as individuals, and what He/She most needs is our insight, our cooperation and our service. I picture God looking down on Earth and smiling at the light and sparkling colors where we’ve each laid in our own small piece of His cosmic patchwork of Light.

We Don’t Have to Take Everything Personally

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The Observer

Have you ever noticed how something sets you off and you let loose on someone, not just about the thing that set you off, but everything that ever set you off? That’s because, quite often, our upsets are stored in a dark pool inside us. Some of us may be more just or more organized than others, and we only yell at Person A for Person A’s wrongdoings; some of us just let go on everyone for everything.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. There is a school of thought that teaches there is nothing that can upset us unless we allow it to, unless we give another’s actions power over us. The idea is that we are in charge of ourselves: what we think, what we feel, what we say and what we do.

This is serious business, accepting responsibility for ourselves. It’s a powerful life philosophy because we can completely transform our lives. We can stand back, breathe deeply, look around as if we were watching a movie, no longer an actor, but an observer. From this vantage point, we can see the girlfriend wasn’t cheating on the guy, she had just stopped to help someone with directions. As a movie-goer, we see the boss is worried about her own job, not our production like she said. As an observer, we see the guy’s face when he cuts us off in traffic and we realize something is terribly wrong in his life.

A shift like this means we don’t take everything personally. We see there is a lot going on that has nothing to do with us; and for the things that are related, we can choose upset, or to consciously look a little deeper. From the deeper place, doors to communication open; understanding grows, forgiveness develops, wisdom increases, and life changes for the better.

It’s not easy to make a change like this. But it certainly is possible and it’s very worthwhile. We know ourselves better and we know others better. We see how much we all have in common, not how different we are. We are all human beings with the same basic human needs. It is just our small-egos that tell us differently.

Healing Our Country is a Group Project

Untitled designMaking our country a better place really is a group project.

Stored in our hearts is our own part to play, our piece of the Creator’s patchwork quilt that cannot be completed without us.

Hearts full of delight will run on ahead, and others will wait at the end of the line for stragglers.

Some hearts will know how to clean the air, others the water, and still others how to repair the forests and ecosystems. It will seem like magic, because it is.

Some will pass out blankets for the journey; others will cause manna to fall from the sky.

The peacemakers will lead and inspire us, while some will choose mischief.

We each have tasks to complete and truly, no task is better than the other, for we’re all in this together.

We’re all in this together.

We’re all in this together.

We’re all in this together.

We Were Made For These Times, A Guest Post by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Clouds WavesMy friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Full post: Here

A Broader, Gentler Way to See the World

watering the worldI wish that as we age our hearts grew gentler and more open. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that with more experience we would better understand being human, and pass on our wisdom to younger people? I’ve met people who grew kinder as the years passed, but I’ve met others who protected their shrinking hearts with walls and became afraid of the world. It’s easy enough to do today, isn’t it?

I understand protecting our hearts because I have curled up inside myself at certain periods in my life. I also see the need in the world for love and kindness because something inside me awakened. I think it’s because my own need to heal and perhaps to help others heal was so strong that a soul-seed took root and then blossomed within. It is just a little flower of light, but it is enough that I saw this seed inside all of us. All of us!

To grow our own little flower of light, we have to stand up to our stubborn, fearful thoughts like a baseball umpire: “You’re OUTTA here!” Every time one arises, we toss it out and replace it with its opposite. If the thought is, “I hate my job,” we replace it with, “I SO appreciate my work.” Sometimes it’s a co-worker or boss. Years ago, I was telling my therapist that some people are just plain mean and she said she once believed that, too. Then, at a conference, she learned something about ‘mean people.’ The speaker said, “Every time you see this person, find something pleasant to say, like, ‘Nice tie, Bob,’ or, ‘I like your new outfit, Mary.’ No need for more than that,” the speaker added. “And watch what happens.”

My therapist knew exactly who she’d practice on. She kept at it and at first her ‘mean boss’ was surprised, then cautious. Then he began to smile when he saw her and eventually he said pleasant things back. The man she thought mean to the core and hopelessly irredeemable was a nice guy. He was only protecting his heart–and a gentle touch helped bring down the walls.

What have we got to lose, anyway? Our fearful, tunnel vision? Good. Let’s toss it and reward ourselves with a whole, new, broader, gentler way to see the world. It surely can’t hurt.

We Can’t Ignore the Reality of What It’s Like to Be Black in America

blackwomanMichael Whaley, a black former Marine, says in this video America should be one family, like the armed services he was a member of. He says that the Black Lives Matter movement promotes racism, which it probably does in some places. I agree with Michael that we should feel we are all one family and I wish everyone was as enlightened as he is. But there is a thread that runs through our country–such as KKK members who say black people are descended from animals–that is filled with hate, suspicion and fear aimed at black people, and this causes disproportionate dangers and harm to them. Of course all lives matter–that is God’s Word–but saying that to a black person when he says “Black Lives Matter” is ignoring what every black person must face every day when he or she walks out the door: “Will I be attacked in some way today because of the color of my skin?”

I was at the grocery store one day when a tattooed white man with a shaved head turned on a black woman in the line and raised his fist and shouted very offensive names at her I won’t repeat here–just because of the color of her skin. His face was red with rage and his veins were visibly pulsing. Everyone was scared. I can’t imagine how she felt. I don’t know where the courage came from–I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that there were many people in the store–but I stepped out of line and said, “Sir, that’s not necessary.” He looked at me, turned and kept shouting. I said it again and again until he finally stared at me, turned and left the store. I know those words sound lame, but they were the exact words needed for him to stop shouting. The woman waited for me to come outside and thanked me. I felt so bad that she had to carry the burden of not knowing when the next person would turn on her–and that’s how it is for every dark-skinned person in America today. Yes, we have come far from slavery and yes, also, we have far to go.

I joined the prayer vigil today from San Diego online and it is my sincere prayer that we Americans will begin a dialogue that includes a meaningful change in how black people are seen and treated in America. We all need to look at our own prejudices and decide to grow–especially our police who are charged with watching over us, because they can cause such great harm in just a few seconds. With the power of life or death comes great responsibility. And we must stand up to the hate groups in this country that fan racist flames. Here is a link to a list of them–892 of them: Map of Hate Groups in America. They are real and they would tear our country apart if they could. All lives do matter, every single one, for inside each of us is a soul striving upward and it is our job to help each other, not mow each other down. There is something of great value here worth fighting for.

To Resist Racism, Hatred and Fear

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Alton Sterling was killed by police

One thing we can do to resist the poisons of racism, hatred and fear is to look within at our own fear of those different from ourselves, and then reach out with respect and kindness. Our individual thoughts and actions make a powerful difference to the whole. Another thing we can do is to speak up when we hear stereotyping and racist ideas. It takes courage, but it cancels the dark thoughts projected as truths. We can and do make a difference in what happens in the world.

A report from ABC news: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/police-shootings-black-men-stir-fears-anger-blacks-40419618

Will We Wear the White Hat or the Black Hat?

DNA GuySometimes I think of each of us as a storybook. Some of us are like the indestructible, hard cardboard books we give to little ones after they can sit up. Some of us are like the soft, padded plastic-covered first books that float in the tub. Some are long, complicated books like War and Peace, others of us are like a tender romance with a happy ending. Still others of us are mysteries, even to ourselves. 🙂 And just as story-plots can twist and turn and surprise us, what is coded in our DNA can do the same.

So, what is coded in our DNA?

I suppose a portion of it is the sum total of all of us, that the memories of all human experience are inside each of us. And then there is that which makes you, you, and me, me. This is likely how we all know both good and evil. Within us are both the higher expressions of humanity that call to us like soul-stirring music, and the shadow-self which pummels and tempts us, reminds us that we are low-lifes who should stop fighting and submit.

We are complicated and so is life, yet it unfolds in logical stages pretty much the same for all of us. We’re born, we grow up, we become adults who produce, climb the hill, reach the top aging all the while, grow old and then we die. The first time I read “from the day we are born, we march toward death,” I felt like I’d been slapped in the face. But it’s true.

Though our life spans are pretty limited, our possibilities are not. Our DNA potential is not the end of the story—it’s the beginning of our story, for we are the writers of our own screenplays. While it’s probably true that every possible variation of the human story has already been written, we still get to choose the settings of our lives, the characters in them, our dilemmas and our solutions. What will be the thrust of our lives? Each of us must answer that for ourselves. Will we wear the white hat or the black hat? Will we create a loving family, or an empire built on the backs of others? Will we mostly give or mostly take? Will God be in our lives or, for the time being, will we go it alone?

We are built to tap the universe from within and live extraordinary lives. We humans are like new buds on a rose bush—pretty colors, but tightly wrapped. When we unfold into the best we can be, we find the beauty of the entire universe in the perfect rose that is us.