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.


Why is Being “Right” More Important than the Truth?

Breathed Into BeingWe all have a tendency to suspect people and things that are different from ourselves. (Maybe this is a remnant of an innate instinct for survival. If so, only a shift in consciousness will cause us to look deeper.)

The thing is, it’s too easy to not listen to each others’ stories and label others and their behaviors with overused, derisive names. And in the face of blow-back, politicians have learned how to promote our suspicions of others using suggestive words, instead of the stereotypes. They know us well–there’s always been mistrust between generations, but in our time, the race, religious and political issues have intensified beyond anything we could ever imagine. Why is that? Why don’t we respect and listen to each other? This rejection of ‘the other’ only fuels hatred and the destruction born from it.

Why is it so important that my opinion, or yours, be shouted above all others? When we’re harsh, critical and judgmental reflexively, why can’t we see it? Why has being pompous and “right” become more important than seeing the truth–and the solutions to our problems? Where have all the thoughtful people, the peacemakers, gone?

We Humans Are So Much More Than Our Sexual Preference

Kairos artIt’s easy enough in this world to believe we’re not living a life, a human story, that matters. But think about it—think about the enormous potential within all of us for love and goodness and compassion. Think about family and good friends and how the circles grow larger and more inclusive as we live out the course of our lives. Think about how complex each human being is, and how we are all so much more than our sexual preference or our politics.

We each make such a powerful difference in the world–our thoughts and actions building our lives–and we may not even know it. Let us find precious seeds of hope within ourselves and spread some of that magic at this most needed time.

Live and love in peace, and bless others so they may share in the same. It’s why we are here.

The Spirit of America is Dying

RunnersI thought it was pretty awesome when President Barack Obama was elected: I was worn down by the previous administration’s policies, the divisiveness in Washington, the lies about nuclear weapons in Iraq, the wars, all the lives lost and massive numbers of injured soldiers and lives, and the billions of dollars the wars had already cost. Then came the crash of the stock market at the end of 2008, which led to so much loss for so many Americans. It’s important to note here that no one person could have taken the helm in January, 2009, and had all the answers for America’s problems. But add in absolutely NO cooperation in Washington, D.C. for eight years and here we are, a country breaking.

I was happy Barack Obama was elected because of the way he thought and that he could see potential for healing and the bringing together of all the American people. I was ecstatic that I would live to see that coming-together day.

Instead, voices grew sharper and are now so extreme, I often think, “That’s crazy talk!” If only those shouting the loudest realized that we cannot hatefully indict others of something unless it lives inside us, too. It is our own beliefs that gnaw on our minds, keeping us fearful and paranoid, causing us to accuse others of what we ourselves are.

Those of us who can see the good in others no matter their race, religion, country of origin, etc., need to speak up and call hateful speech what it is. We have one Constitution and it is for every American citizen, not just the privileged few, those who believe it exists for their race or skin color, their religion, or their sexual preference. Truly, the United States of America will cease to exist if hateful speech and actions win the election in November.

There are no perfect humans; we all have flaws and idiosyncrasies, whether Democrats, Republicans or Independents; Christians or Jews or Muslims; or black or white or brown. The spirit of our country is dying and we all need to open our minds and hearts to the solutions that will bring peace and prosperity back to our country and to every citizen.

Why? Because we are beloved spiritual beings in physical bodies that need care. Our Creator doesn’t see skin color or country of origin. He sees our hearts and souls and our hopes. He wants peace–He does not want us to hate each other. He wants us to help each other. We can call hateful lies and spiteful opinions ‘truth’–but that doesn’t make it so.

We Can Heal the Rifts Between Us

Sometimes we humans get stuck in righteous indignation: ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ Most of us do this to some degree—about a pet idea, a philosophy, a rule or personal law. It’s human nature—but it’s not the best in us. When we think, ‘I’m not budging from my position,’ we’re stuck in our self-centered muck. In most situations, living effectively is inclusive and about building a way forward together.

The inspiration needed to solve our problems is not born of shouting our opinions, no matter how grand the surroundings. Insight grows from looking within, from listening for the still, small voice we call our conscience or guide—and that is the crux of the problem. When we’re focused on solely our own agendas, we may as well not have an inner guide. The effect of ignoring our highest selves is the same as denying our highest selves.

Repub Dem FlagThe truth is, neither of our political parties has it right because they will not cooperate, and this is a sad state of affairs for the American people. Our country’s problems are monumental, and for some reason we love to listen to politician’s campaign promises as if we believe them. They know how to wield the power they’re given, but they wield it selfishly, without consideration of our constitution or the American people. They call this the American Way. It’s a game and they play it well, calling us ignorant buffoons behind closed doors.

Answers are born of sincerity and listening, of inspired brainstorming. We need successful businesses to provide good jobs and we need homes, quality educations, the opportunity to live with stability, real health care and love for the health of the land/water/air we depend upon. (Some children need food. The children of America belong to all of us and they need, they deserve, our wise and responsible care.)

We need to want to heal the rifts between us–rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, Christian and non-Christian, educated and uneducated, white collar and blue collar, male and female–in order to re-establish a true democracy and an economy based on invention and providing quality products and services–not on the complex manipulations of the elite and their ‘financial instruments.’ Most Americans, as far as I can tell, are not ‘driven.’ We can’t keep up with financial maneuvers necessary to accumulate vast fortunes–we just want to live decent lives of meaning, shared with family and friends.

If we’re going to have those decent lives of meaning, we’re going to have to get involved and speak up. We’re going to have to voluntarily pull the wool off our eyes and stop pretending that someone else will fix our problems.

Ever Wonder if Angels and the Dark Lord Affect Us?

Guido Reni's Archangel Michael Tramples Satan

Guido Reni’s Archangel Michael Tramples Satan

I am a fan of fantasy stories, the kind where one person is handed an impossible task and, after overcoming incredible doubt and fear, accepts his/her calling to defeat evil; then, with the help of friends, the hero finally overcomes hopeless odds and Love and Light are restored to life–again.

Yet, I’ve often wondered why these tales are so heart-poundingly full of great battles between dragons and elves, dwarves and giants and knights, and magic that is wielded by both the forces of light and darkness. Were hobbits and orcs ever real, or are they mythological creatures of imagination? What about angels and a dark lord? Don’t you wonder if they really exist?

I wonder if some of them, anyway, aren’t characters who play all the parts of ourselves, who reflect our ongoing inner struggles to understand the purpose for birth, for life and death, and for both goodness and heartlessness. We ask, ‘Who am I?’ and haven’t all of us wondered at times if we are more good than evil, or more evil than good? And, do we have the answer right? How would we know? Do forces of goodness ever influence our personal behavior? World behavior? How about forces of pure evil? Have you ever felt the darkness within yourself? And what does who we are right now mean in the long run? And, could the ‘long run’ include living more than one life on Earth?

Ahriman Sculpture by Rudolf Steiner

Ahriman Sculpture by Rudolf Steiner

To me, our day-to-day lives seem kind of boring—no battles with dragons or meetings with elves or sweet-spirited hobbits. (Of course, I rest at home all day. I’m not out hang-gliding or skydiving; if I was, maybe life wouldn’t seem quite so repetitive.) I’ve come across some websites and blogs, though, whose authors propose that we are about to be visited by beings from other worlds, beings who have been helping us for a very long time and are about to take things to another level, transforming–with our commitment to Love–greed to generosity, intolerance to compassion, self-importance to humility.

I don’t know about you, but learning that there are doorways to higher worlds sounds pretty good to me. The evidence for evil in our world tips the scales heavily to one side. I know we each have to do our own work, but I’m also ready to meet the beings of light we thought maybe lived only in our imaginations. I’m ready for healing–yours, mine and ours–and for Mother Earth to evolve, too, just as the Light intended.

A Blessing For Peace from John O’Donahue, A Guest Post from Mike Hopkins

As the fever of the day calms toward twilight
May all that is strained in us come to ease.
We pray for all who suffered violence today,
May an unexpected serenity surprise them.
For those who risk their lives
each day for peace,
May their hearts glimpse providence
at the heart of history.
That those who make riches
from violence and war
Might hear in their dreams
the cries of the lost.
That we might see through
our fear of each other
A new vision to heal
our fatal attraction to aggression.
That those who enjoy
the privilege of peace
Might not forget their
tormented brothers and sisters
That the wolf might lie down
With the lamb,
That our swords be beaten
Into plowshares
And no hurt or harm be done
Anywhere along the holy mountain.
~ John O’Donohue ~

Restorative Justice in Oakland

Fania Davis,  YES! photo by Lane Hartwell

Fania Davis, YES! photo by Lane Hartwell

Nelson Mandela’s adage, “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends” captures the profoundly inclusive nature of restorative justice (RJ).

The hallmark of RJ is intentionally bringing together people with seemingly diametrically opposed viewpoints—particularly people who have harmed with people who have been harmed—in a carefully prepared face-to-face encounter where everyone listens and speaks with respect and from the heart no matter their differences.

The talking piece is a powerful equalizer, allowing everyone’s voice to be heard and honored, whether that of a police officer, a judge, or a 14-year-old youth.


The Power of Kindness

Helping BasketI remember when the movie Pay It Forward came out and how it tugged at our heartstrings. A national movement to practice random acts of kindness took off because of it. I’m not sure when it faded from our national attention, but I think many people kept practicing kindness. The smiles, and sometimes tears, returned to the giver were addictive.

What’s so interesting about kindness is that it takes so little effort to make a real difference for others. The effects of our kind acts seem to be multiplied and what we thought was only a smile, or holding a door, becomes more than the act itself. You’ve probably heard the true story of the boy on his way home from school who stopped and helped a classmate pick up his books—the classmate, who was being bullied, was on his way home to kill himself, but because of that one act of kindness, he didn’t and he went on to lead a meaningful life. The effects of kindness are like the ripples radiating from where a rock hits water. The circles widen and encompass everything.

It seems like we’re powerless pawns of corporations and our government, but this isn’t true. How can a business or government capture our spirit? They can take everything material for themselves, but they cannot touch our souls if we don’t let them. In the face of all the negative news, we can practice kindness at school, at work, at play, anywhere and everywhere. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, inspiring us to do good on its behalf. Show them what Love is, it whispers to us. You have the power to change the course of others’ lives. We can be powerful instruments for good.

A Giant Umbrella of Love

Little Umbrella

You know that old saying, ‘It takes one candle to light a dark room’? We’re like that one candle, even when we’re feeling mostly down and dark. Our little spark of life and light within is all we need to brighten our hearts and minds. Why? Because it’s a cord back to the Source of light and love and comfort and peace. We may flounder and feel lost at times, but we’re always connected to the Great Being that made the universe. Surely the being who breathed life into us, mounted a rescue mission for us and created a home planet for us while we are away, knows our needs.

The story of life truly is a great mystery. Why are some lives long and others so short? Why are some people strong and others disabled? Why are so many homeless people sleeping on the streets of our town and why do so many children go to bed hungry every night? Everything happens for a reason—that’s another old expression—and I accept this as true, because we are the co-creators of our lives, with our thoughts and actions having amassed and ferried us along life’s river to wherever we are this very moment.

But is it enough to dismiss people with problems, people who, like you and me, are sacred beings, children of God? I think of Mother Teresa’s work in India, where those who have nothing are left to die in filthy gutters because this is their karma—except for the souls she and her Sisters brought/bring into their care-center to die, loved, clean and with dignity. Great acts of love can transcend karma by triggering self-forgiveness.

When Jesus spoke of ‘the least of these,’ he meant people with problems, those who have lost their way, who have not survived well the trauma of their lives, even those who have mistreated others, because they are most in need of love and forgiveness. We can rise above tough upbringings and circumstances, but often not alone. We may need to hear that we matter, that we’re also loved and valued, because only when a person knows his true value, can he fulfill his purpose in life. No matter the karma, why not open a giant umbrella of God’s Love and bring everyone under it, where we’re all connected by compassion and serving one another? Wouldn’t that light up our world!

We Can Do Better

Women TogetherWe’re experiencing an epidemic of protecting our own views, without consideration for the other’s ideas–or what is best overall–and this tears apart relationships, from friendships to a government of two uncooperative parties.

If we take a look at the history of humanity, only a few enlightened teachers have been born to teach us about authenticity, intention, the power of our thoughts and actions (and their effects), and the value of cooperation. It would appear that those teachings have been wasted on us, but I don’t think that’s true. Our current situation reminds me of being pregnant and the baby, the new life, grows until it can no longer be carried and must be born. We’re in labor, at the really hard part where the shoulders have to be coaxed through an opening not quite large enough for them to pass. But they do!

When the new life is born, we’ll look at each other not as insane enemies (which I’m embarrassed to admit is how I feel sometimes) but as other parts of ourselves. Whenever we’re defensive, thinking or acting separately, we’ve pulled away from the higher truth that we’re made of the same essence, that we’re all children of the One Creative Force. Of course, we can choose to raise our own opinions up and look down on others, but it won’t solve our problems. We obviously can’t work them out on our own: We need to seek the answers from the highest and best parts of ourselves. We need quiet time for prayer and meditation, to go within, from where the problem-solving, inclusive, inspired and healing answers are born. We need to do better, and we can.

The End of Intolerance

Intolerance pictureImagine the pain of being born into a body that is often a target of violence or torment: dark skin, too large, toothless; obviously disabled, diseased or homosexual; or simply being a child at the mercy of someone bigger and stronger than you. Most ‘light-skinned, right-sized’ people with no obvious differences will never understand what it is like to be hated or persecuted for the bodies we live in.

I’ve had African-American people, men, women and children, see me coming toward them as I walked my Akita-mix, Max, and move quickly away from us. “He won’t bite, I promise,” I said. One woman answered, “Uh, HUH,” and she crossed the parking lot. One man turned after I spoke and said, “Lady, when we see a white person with a dog, we know to get out of the way.” In high school, I read a book called Black Like Me. The journalist, who believed black people exaggerated their racial problems, died his skin black. I can’t remember how long he remained black, but he was shocked by how differently he was treated in the same places he had always hung out, and by the dangerous things that happened to him.

My friend, Anita, says that we each live at varying levels of awareness that are measured by how much we focus on ourselves, our thoughts and opinions, and our desires, and this determines whether or not we even see the needs of others. She’s right, of course, but don’t you wonder if we can do better? Underneath our skin, we’re all the same—same bones, muscles, organs and minds. We separate ourselves by race, country, religion, gender, education, and politics, but these are false barriers, for our bodies were all created by God, to be vehicles for the souls granted us by our loving Creator. This means we all carry within us the potential to be helpers and healers, peacemakers and way-showers to the place where there are no more broken hearts. When every human being on Earth is valued and all hearts are healed, we will know that God lives among us.

In times like ours, we must stand up for what is right. Intolerance must come to an end before peace can reign on Earth. And peace is our destiny.

What is Important in Life? What isn’t?

share journeyThe problems of our country, of the world, cannot be solved by our lower- or shadow-selves, but the temptation to do battle, to shout our opinions—the temptation toward self-righteousness—can override our “better angels,” as President Lincoln called the best in us not so long ago. Our petty-selves can’t see the higher road and, frustrated when ignored, they keep stirring up trouble like kids sometimes do, because negative attention is better than no attention at all.

My “better angel” reminded me of these things a few years ago:

What isn’t important is the size of your house.
What is, is the greatness of your heart.

What isn’t important is your station in life.
What is, is the love of family and friends.

What isn’t important is the car you drive.
What is, is the authentic journey.

What isn’t important is your fashion sense.
What is, is your sense of compassion.

What isn’t important is what you’ve amassed.
What is, is the difference you make.

What isn’t important are your opinions.
What is are your insights.

What isn’t important is power in this world.
What is important is sharing the power of Love.