Thursday, August 31, 2006

What to do on Labor Day

Have you ever thought about Labor Day? Do you think about it as anything more than just another 3 day weekend? Or perhaps the end of summer? Please consider:

Where else but in America would there be a Labor Day? Not a holiday celebrating the life of a powerful or influential dead person, or commemorating a major struggle or battle (lots of dead people!), but a holiday celebrating the contributions of millions of everyday heroes, including you and me.

If you swing a hammer, Labor Day honors you. If you flip burgers, Labor day honors you. If you analyze a company’s books for a potential lender, Labor Day honors you. If you write software, Labor Day honors you. If you raise kids, Labor Day honors you. If you raise corn or cattle, Labor Day honors you. It honors the contributions you make to the strength, well-being and prosperity of our country.

So take some time on Labor Day to appreciate yourself, the contributions you make, paid or not, to your family and your community and your country. Then appreciate the contributions of those around you — the mail carrier, the checker at the grocery store, the people who built your home and grew your food. We are all in this together. It is our collective vision, our collective voice and our collective service that makes this country what it is, and what it can be.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Are you a victim of pluralistic ignorance?

The latest polls show that 60% of Americans disapprove of the war in Iraq and want us out. And yet the Republican talking points, as mouthed by Cokie Roberts last Sunday, include “anyone who doesn’t support this war is part of the ’radical left fringe’”.

How can 60% of the population be the fringe of anything? Last time I checked, 60% was a majority, which is to say, the CENTER of public opinion.

How do they get away with this? It’s called pluralistic ignorance. This is the tendency to believe that one’s attitudes are out of step with those of one’s peers, even when everyone’s behavior is the same. And according to Princeton researchers, “those who feel deviant from a perceived norm are reluctant to challenge it.” That is, if you believe everyone else supports a war, but you don’t, you’ll be less likely to speak up. Which means, that all those others who agree with you, but don’t hear you challenging conventional opinion are likely to believe that they’re out of step. Which means that they don’t speak up. And on and on, in a vicious cycle.

In the same way, over half those whose spouse has died report being visited by that spouse after death — and yet contact with those who have dropped their bodies is considered unique, odd or perhaps unbelievable! Again, if you believe you are the only person who is having this contact, then you will be less likely to tell people about it, for fear of being thought odd or wrong. And so a common belief goes unchallenged long beyond the time when most no longer believe it.

How do we combat pluralistic ignorance? See what you see. Hear what you hear. Know what you know. And speak up! Tell other people about what you now believe, whether that’s about an anomalous experience or a political belief. You might be surprised to learn that you’re not odd or out of step at all.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What are you afraid of, anyway?

Terror (n.) - 1. Intense fear

Fear (n.) - 1. A feeling of anxiety or agitation caused by the presence or nearness of danger, evil, pain, etc.; timidity; dread; terror; fright; apprehension

Terror, and terrorists, and fear, including the political uses and abuses of it, are on everyone’s minds and lips these days, so I thought we should look at and talk about fear.

I know no one wants to talk about it. No one wants to experience fear. I used to teach an exercise in emotion recognition, in which students worked in pairs. One student was to experience an emotion by recalling an intense experience of it and really stepping into that experience, recreating it for him/herself. The other student was to notice what they could psychically of his/her partner’s emotional state. Of course, people were thrilled to recall joy or love. Impatience wasn’t too bad, nor was anger. But people REALLY resisted feeling fear, even when I promised to replace it afterwards with a wonderful feeling.

Admit it — you’re all afraid of things all the time. Maybe you’re afraid your teen won’t come home tonight, or you’ll lose your job, or you won’t have enough food for your party, or a dog will bite you, or... (fill in the blank).

The fears that we run from, run our lives. A good friend of mine was bitten by a dog as a child, and is still somewhat afraid of dogs, so she avoids them. I mean, crosses-the-street-so-as-not-to-be-near-one avoids them. Now, most dogs are friendly, and if she watched dogs at all, she’d figure out their body language pretty easily -- the ones that look up at you and wag their tails are friendly and just want love and petting, the ones who snarl at you are, in fact, best avoided, and most of the others aren’t particularly interested in you, so they’re safe as long as you don’t go out of your way to bother them. If she paid attention, she would learn to look at a dog, judge its friendliness and act accordingly. The fear would dissipate, replaced by intelligent judgment. Direct your attention to that which you fear, really examine it, and the fear will dissipate.

What is she afraid of, really? She’s afraid of being bitten again, which is to say, she’s afraid of physical pain, as well as the emotional pain (in this case, confusion and abandonment) she experienced when being bitten as a child.

In my experience, and I’ve dealt with lots of my own fears, as well as those of many friends and clients, is that most fears really are an unconscious fear of death. How do I know? When I ask people what they’re afraid of, they answer, and then I ask, “if that happens, what then?” And they keep answering, and I keep asking, until there’s nothing else. And generally the answer is death. If you believe that your soul exists after you let go of your physical body, how bad is that anyway?

Another big fear is emotional or physical pain, so bad that death would be preferable. First, most emotional pain, if you keep asking, “what then?”, becomes the fear of death, either for oneself or a loved one, which often becomes fear of abandonment, which becomes fear of your own death. Again, if the soul exists without a body, and you “die”, how bad is that? Or if the other person “dies”, then they aren’t really gone — we just need to practice communicating with the discarnate. As for physical pain, it is mostly temporary. I must admit, though, I haven’t got an answer yet for long term physical pain. (If you have trouble with really seeing your own fear, get someone else to help you. Fear is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s hard to see the mote in your own eye.)

The next question is, how likely is this to happen? And the answer is generally, not very likely. And if it is likely, aren’t you better off looking at it, so you can figure out what to do to avoid it, mitigate it or deal with it when it happens?

Now we’re supposed to be afraid of “terrorists”. Hmmm... What does that mean exactly? I think it means we should be afraid of being randomly murdered, i.e. be afraid of dying, or at the very least wounded, or afraid that someone we know will be randomly murdered or wounded. Again, how bad is death? And how likely is this, anyway? About 3,000 US residents, of a population of around 300 million, were killed in terror attacks in the last 10 years. That is, the chance of this happening to you this year is literally 1 in 1,000,000.

So when you’re afraid, ask yourself three questions:

What am I afraid of?
If that happens, what then? (and keep on asking this one)
How likely is this, anyway?

Monday, August 14, 2006

How to end war (modest, aren't I?)

The source of all conflict is one of 2 things:

a belief in, and fear of, scarcity, or
fear of being wrong,

both of which result in feeling unsafe.

How do these create conflict?

A belief in, and fear of, scarcity causes people to attack to get what they believe there is not enough of. That might be a child who lies about the bad things her sister did because she believes there is not enough parental love to go around. It might be a farmer who steals a sheep because he believes it is the only way to feed his family. It might be a country who attacks another because of supposedly scarce resources of oil.

We know these are false — there is always enough love in the universe for everyone, because the universe is made of love, there is generally more than one way to feed a family, and there is more then one source of energy to power the world (the inexhaustible sun and wind come to mind, but there are other possible, less pleasant sources as well.) And that belief in scarcity causes those who are attacked to defend themselves, their families, their possessions and their land. I might add that the belief in the scarcity of life (i.e. that you only have one) and the scarcity of love (you can only love a finite number of people, who are related to you by birth) compound these defenses.

Fear of being wrong is the same as the need to be right. Who hasn’t needed to be right, whether it’s about the toilet seat being left up or put down, or the best career path for my child to take, or which direction the country should go? Being right makes you safe, doesn’t it? If I’m right, if I know, then all will be right in my world. Thus religious certainty becomes important. So if “God told me to” do whatever, then I’m right, which makes me safe. And if I’m wrong about “God’s message”, then what else am I wrong about? What can I be certain of? How can I possibly be safe? My world falls apart. (For a good discussion related to this, read John Dean’s “Conservatives without Conscience”, Chapter 2.)

So when you are angry, or hostile, or feeling anger or hostility from another, ask these questions:

1. What specifically am I afraid of?
2. What is there not enough of?
3. What do I “have to” be right about?
4. What do I need to feel safe?
5. How else could I get what I need?
6. What might my opponent, also known as my partner in this, be afraid of?
7. What does my partner think that there isn’t enough of?
8. What does my partner “have to” be right about?
9. What does my partner need to feel safe?
10. How can I help my partner get what he/she/they need?
11. How are we aligned?

You may find that anger or hostility are completely unnecessary.

Believe that there is enough, in one way or another, and you will find it. Accept that you don’t know, and you’ll find peace.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our connection

Last week, my radio show only had two calls, when what I really want is 8 – 10! The last time that happened, which was several months ago, I was totally bummed out, thinking, “What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with my show? Is anyone even listening?” This time, it was very different. I enjoyed doing the show anyway, and I left feeling totally energized, absolutely knowing I had done the right thing. What changed between the 2 shows?

On an external level, a couple of things changed. First, I had an interview scheduled for half an hour, so I got to talk to someone I find interesting. And I figure if it’s interesting to me, it’s probably interesting to those listening. So that was fun. Second, in between those two shows, I’ve had a few people call and email to tell me how much they enjoy the show, and that it’s helpful to them. It helps to remember that on a slow day.

But more importantly, I could actually feel positive energy coming back to me from people I can’t see, haven’t me, haven’t even talked with. It’s like a wave arising in me, buoying me up from the inside, with the certain knowledge that I did something right. This is new for me.

Yes, I know I’m part of all that is, and connected to each person on the planet. I know that I’m often connected to someone that I’m not in front of, next to, or talking to at any given moment, so that I’ll think something, and then the other person will do or say what I’m thinking, without me communicating it to him or her. For example, a couple of weeks ago, someone on this list, whom I’ve never met or even had a phone conversation with, asked if she could include my piece on manifestation in her monthly on-line magazine. Of course, I said yes. When I sent out last week’s “Zen Boogie”, I thought she would like it even better, because she lives on a beach in Belize. Then I thought, too bad she’s running the chair piece, since I know she’ll like this one better. And I just let it go. And then, there was “Zen Boogie” in the magazine! (I really love this magazine — all the articles in it are wonderful, and even the art is lovely. You can check it out at

But this “radio effect” is different. It’s being connected to lots of people I can’t even identify. That is, I don’t know them in any conscious way -- don’t know their names, or their faces, or their voices. Nothing. No conscious connection at all. Yet somehow, when I reach them, their energy reaches me. Wow! Yes, it could be my guides “telling” me that I did a good thing, but they’ve done that other times, and it feels nothing like this rush. I’ve heard that performers get this from a live audience — now I know why they perform. And I wonder, do they get this if they, say, record a television program and it gets aired later? Do they feel an energy rush when it’s on the air? Do they get it when it’s rerun?

That energy hit is part of what keeps me going back for more. And I’m sending it right backatcha.