Category Archives: Spiritual Journey

When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn

I have known many people who have been forced to take a path less traveled through betrayal, illness, loss, or injury. When I saw their lives being derailed I felt a strong

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Life is Easy Just Follow the Signs

empathetic reaction and tried to provide any support I could. However, there is no lesson better learned than the one you experience first hand.  And this is where I was taught the most profound and painful lesson of my life. I was fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on your opinion, to experience a drastic unexpected turn that shook the foundation of my life.  How did I get here? I took a very mundane trip on a hotel elevator one beautiful sunny day that ended with me in a coma with a traumatic brain and spine injury and my family being told to make necessary arrangements because this may not end well for me. As you may suspect since you are reading these words, the worst did not happen, I survived. The path since that time has been both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The heartwarming moments were the friends and family that mobilized to help me and my family through my rehabilitation and recovery. The heartbreaking moments are the debilitating pain I have suffered from since the accident, the loss of pleasurable pastimes and the drastic change in my career trajectory. I owned my own company, I was a runner and ran several times a week with a group of marvelous women who had become more than running buddies they were my emotional support system. I was a lover of food, my guilty addiction was binge-watching the food network. I own a BMW motorcycle and loved to go for rides with my brother and friends. Not only did I suffer brain trauma but I also suffered spine trauma that has required two surgeries to repair the damage. I have not been able to run since the accident, I have been told by the medical experts I should not ride a motorcycle again, according to the doctors I cannot afford another head injury. I have completely lost my sense of smell which has affected the flavors I experience. So the foods and drinks I enjoyed before do not hold the same pleasure now. I sold my company, my recovery demanded my focus and required an abrupt career path change.

These adjustments due to my unexpected turn, while regrettable, are trivial when all is said and done. But the adjustment I did not anticipate is the shifting sands of my support system. Two friends that were my stalwarts through this whole event both relocated out-of-state. Their sudden absence was difficult for me and my family. That coupled with the more subtle shifting sands of friends connected to specific pastimes and activities I can no longer participate in has been disorienting and disquieting.  As a result, I have come to understand the inherent voluntary nature of friendship that makes it subject to life’s whims and unexpected turns. This path was unforeseen and has required me to release expectations of myself and others, which admittedly is a work in process. I have friends who have put me up on a tenuous pedestal as an inspiration and I have friends who have chastised me for infractions of judgment. Both are uncomfortable realities of my new path. Change is generally distressing for all, those riding out the storm as well as the onlookers. My ask for you dear reader –  be gentle with yourself and others embroiled in change. There are many people traveling unexpected paths and they no longer fit in the box they have been dutifully building for themselves. Therefore to view or deduce them from your own constructed framework or ethos will prove frustrating for all.

I refer to us “unexpected path pilgrims” as phoenixes. A phoenix attains new life by arising from the ashes of its forebearer. There are many of us out there, for those who love the phoenixes in your life, understand the phoenix no longer has their rigid framework, it was obliterated. There is a blessing in that glorious cacophony as well as turmoil. So relating to your phoenix with your own rigid framework will be disappointing. You can both grow from this experience and peek outside your own cage and search for connections in unlikely places not previously explored. If you are only drawn to people who see and experience the world as you do, and one of those conformists suddenly takes you out of your comfortable allegory, it’s scary. Your phoenix may no longer fit in the story you have created. I encourage you to explore a new narrative. I have always loved mosaics, the beautiful randomness of divergent colors, shapes, sizes, and flow that come together to paint a beautiful image is a wonderful example that a change in path or perspective can lead you to an unexpected and powerful result.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading ~ Gautama Buddha

The Sacred Clown

There is a belief among the Lakota people, of a very powerful and important person called the heyoka or as they were called by early European anthropologists, “clowns,” who misunderstood their contrary behavior and role.

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 Because they use their powers to help their people, they are held in great reverence. The heyoka is a lightning bolt that cuts to the truth in an uncomfortable way by inspiring confusion or anger by not following the rules and asking difficult questions. Ultimately their role is to inspire others to a higher place. Being a heyoka is not an easy path, and someone does not “become” a heyoka but is so from birth, they are essential to the sustainable functioning of a tribe.

Essentially by doing the opposite of what is accepted behavior, it teaches the tribe moral behavior by achieving a better understanding of their own foolishness, hypocrisy, and ignorance.

I have been thinking about the heyoka a lot lately, and their role to help us confront our own demons so we may reach a higher calling. I see so many people in disbelief that we are in such a confusing time in our world. Where the social norms we used to follow no longer seem to have a place in our society. People are focusing on what divides us, particularly by using labels. In Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” Alice walked through the wood of no names, where there are no individual names and no awareness of qualities that set them apart from others. Alice loses her identity and meets a fawn who also forgets its identity and accepts Alice completely and fearlessly. There are no distinctions in this place between human and animal, self and other.  The eradication of distinction allows their universe to expand.

Rather than apply labels to dehumanize others’ unconventional behavior, or to make us feel “right” wouldn’t it be magnificent if we used this wisdom to recognize our connectedness. Recognize what we are feeling when we see, read or hear a message by another and how it relates to our own fears, beliefs, and misunderstandings. Labeling is extremely divisive and distancing. Instead of our tendency to separate from each other by applying labels, what if we listen to each other and our unique perspectives. Labels smear your glasses so you will never be able to see the person or their perspective clearly. When we label or base our opinion of a group based on religion, race, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation we have merely stunted our own growth which stunts our collective growth. It is powerful when we can discuss ideas or approaches without labeling or deciding the worthiness of the person in the discussion.

We are barraged with messages of what to think and believe. What is true. Who is good or bad. May I suggest instead listen to your intuition, your gut so we can learn to trust our instincts again rather than seeking from others what is true. And our truth may not conform to others and may have aspects that conform to those who despise each other. Heyoka’s are a powerful teacher and while they taught through contradiction and satire they were honored because of the value they brought the tribe.

“I am a fierce combination of confusing contradictions that add up to magical possibilities.” ― Unknown Author

If I diminish you, I diminish myself and humanity.

My wish for humanity this year and moving forward is the ability to gracefully

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Photo Credit: Onenessmission.com

and respectfully address, challenge or confront ideas, NOT people. Many people engaged in discussions with a compelling argument on opposing sides, rather than a thoughtful discourse on ideas use the statement “you are……, he/she is………they are………” which is frequently followed by a label, insult or disrespectful moniker. We determine the worth of the ideas by the moniker or label we attach to the person. The judgement we use determines the value we assign to the idea. How limiting and suffocating! We are all let down by the potential power of the moment when people are attacked and diminished rather than a healthy vetting of the idea or philosophy. Unfortunately the recent election in America has seemingly given permission to this manner of communication. Please be aware that assigning blame to any particular person, party or persuasion, is not important and ill advised, a wise elder I know says, stay focused on the signal not the noise. Focusing on the  noise, which our ego will compel us to do, will entangle us in a quagmire of stagnation and drudgery. So let us focus on the signal instead and ascend to a more satisfying and expansive world by concentrating on possibility, potential, courage and abundance.

We all have an important decision to make henceforth to truly affect what kind of world we want to manifest for each other; our children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters. We have to resist becoming idle in our comfort zone or paralyzed by our fears. So this year dear readers consider as part of a New Year’s resolution to fly towards a life of exhilaration and authenticity. Let us be mindful in all our interactions and observations to advance each other. Remember this simple approach in our communications both written and verbal; is it true, is it necessary, it is kind, and will it improve humanity.

We all have the ability and power to create our own journey and in turn impact the journey of others. So it is up to us how our journey will be, we can choose a rugged or a flowing path. Things will happen that effect us, but how we perceive these events and take action from there is our choice. Speak up when doing so advances our humanity. When engaged in a challenging discussion scrutinize the idea not the person. Try to avoid “I” or “You” statements, remember the vision of humanity is to focus on we and us. Look for common ground when areas of conflict appear remember the strong foundation we share first and then work through the conflicts. When we see injustice or unkindness be courageous speak up for our vision of humanity. Let us celebrate and spend time with what is refreshing and rejuvenating in our community and lives. Let us encourage fellowship and kindness. Each day focus on what supports this vision, the signal, rather than what doesn’t, the noise. We all seek belongingness and to sustain a peaceful and thriving existence we have to find ways to advance the feelings of acceptance to each other while also advancing our cleverness.

Let us all transform and break out of our cocoons of fear and spread our wings to create a humanity of oneness!

If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other ~ Mother Teresa

The “Us versus Them” Effect

Recent events in our world have left me wondering what happened to the shades of gray in our world. Everything is, pun intended, black and white. It leaves many of us, like me, who live in shades of gray wondering where do I belong in this new paradigm, do I belong? There is a strong message being perpetrated that if you believe in one thing you are obviously against another. For example: you either support law enforcement or you support batman_slapping_robinblack lives matter, you can’t support both; you either support the Standing Rock tribal interests or you support US supplied oil pipelines; you cannot support Donald Trump if you support women, Latinos or Muslims; if you support Hillary Clinton then you do not support the Military; you either support immigration reform or support a great wall construction. I have faith in our humanity that we can dig a little deeper and we are more complex than the Us versus Them Effect allows us to explore.

The list goes on and on but the most important point in my humble opinion is that we have lost our ability to look for what connects us as human brothers and sisters, and instead we are encouraged to focus and judge each other on our differences. Fear has eroded our sense of social empathy, instant gratification has compelled us to judge and react without consideration and contemplation. I am one of those irritating people who have to think about everything. I am open to listen to everyone’s ideas and experience. However, when people give me data that needs to be confirmed I am compelled to check the facts before I form an opinion. It’s the geotechnical engineer in me, I get the soil data and that tells me the information in a small location but not necessarily what is present throughout the entire site. So I use other methods and experience to determine does that small piece of data represent the conditions for the whole site.

I am very concerned about this climate where we encourage people to react quickly, accept information without confirming its validity, judge motives instantly. Where we criticize each other so disrespectfully. I have watched adults criticizing young people harshly for sharing their beliefs because they do not coincide with their own beliefs. So the message that young person receives is “my thoughts are somehow wrong and should not be shared.” That’s not the world I want to foster. I want compassion, kindness, innovation, love and peace. A world where we are encouraged to think for ourselves.

I want to encourage the sharing of information and respectful challenging of ideas. There is an anti-intellectual, anti-science trend I am seeing and quite disturbed about in America. Many members of Congress deny the validity of climate change despite the findings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Our culture no longer values education as many other countries do and it is going to have devastating effects for our children and our children’s children. Schools and college’s primary mission used to be to foster understanding and to educate and more and more I see the trend towards training student to pass tests or for jobs. We can do better!!!

I encourage everyone reading this to engage in encouraging reading and discussion about issues and ideas, not online but in person at a coffee shop or the dinner table. Encourage everyone to read challenging books with ideas that may oppose their own, turn off – the computer, the smart phone, the TV. Go for a walk and discuss world events and ideas to improve the human condition. Reach out to someone who doesn’t look like you, does not practice the same religion as you, or subscribe to the same political ideas as you. See where you connect and what you have in common. It’s always easier to criticize or hate a group when you have no personal attachment. Let’s reach out to each other and recognize what connects us where we have mutual goals, dreams and desires to make this world a better place for all. Smile at strangers, bless those you do not agree with. The next time someone says something that causes an unpleasant reaction in your body reflect on that, think about why that is and then think about one redeeming attribute that person or group has, you will be begin your path to a higher place, a place of dignity and truth.

Rather than being with me or against me let’s start a movement ~ let’s find out where we compliment each other, where our combined energy can create good and raise the tide for all.

We had people of all backgrounds coming together – all races, all creeds, all colors, all status in life. And coming together there was a kind of quiet dignity and a kind of sense of caring and a feeling of joint responsibility. ~ Dorothy Height

 

 

What you think, you become – so bubble those negative vibes.

From a very early age I have always been fascinated by the human condition. Why some people can face incredible hardship and come out stronger more centered and at peace while others literally self destruct. What is the secret?
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I believe it all comes down to what you tell yourself. Those little voices in your head. I have become very mindful of the tapes I play in my head, and notice when they are not helpful. I want to succeed but many times my thoughts are feeding fear and failure. My cousin told me, you have to put a bubble around negative thinking. Now I will admit this sounds crazy, but I get it! Putting a bubble around negative thoughts is not burying your head in the sand, it’s actually like applying sunscreen at the beach. The damaging rays are beating down so you apply a barrier. I need to develop a barrier to those damaging thoughts.

It’s interesting how hurt I am when someone else says or does something I feel is negative. Yet internally I will “take myself out to the wood shed” constantly without reproach. Unfortunately I am my most ruthless critic. I am very quick to forgive others and move on but I do not give myself the same forgiveness.

I know when the voice in my head attacks me or anyone else it is not my highest self. When I am aligned with my highest self and live in alignment with grace, love and compassion the path is gentle. We can use our power of choice to choose our thoughts, to choose our path, to choose our reality.

I see so much self-induced misery in this world. Be mindful of your thoughts what are they telling you? Have you become captive to your negative thoughts? When you listen to those negative thoughts what manifests in your life? Watch the people you choose to surround yourself with, do they facilitate alignment with your highest self?  Are you drawn to discussions about people or ideas? Do you focus on gratitude or grievances?

Try an experiment for one week pay close attention to your internal tapes, when your thoughts become negative gently interrupt those thoughts and think of one thing you are grateful for, it can be as simple as being grateful you are alive. Continue each time to replace your negative thought or grievance with an acknowledgement of gratitude. See what happens and share your experience here.

Take tender loving care of your thoughts, they will guide your life and your experience in this world. You have dreams to manifest let your thoughts lead the way.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Albert Einstein

Be honest, Be Kind, Be Patient, Be Brave and Be Silly!

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Being an entrepreneur in the business of consulting engineering has always been an incredible  journey for me. The freedom to choose a particular path, the creative energy devoted to developing a great team, the excitement of watching exceptional people rise to the occasion. These are the aspects of the business that have always held the highest appeal for me. However, there is a side to the business that is a slippery slope for me and I find myself disenchanted each time I encounter it, I call it the “hobnob façade”. We’ve all seen it and to be honest I have participated in it in the past, and each time I experienced a very unsatisfactory feeling afterward. So what is the hobnob façade? It goes something like this:

“So how is business going?” Says Dean Goldberry, CEO of Initech Corp.

“Fantastic, we are blazing new trails, can’t seem to count the money fast enough it’s pouring in so quickly.”  Says Earl Lee Riser, President of  Dunder Mifflin, Corp.

“We are too, this level of success was really inconceivable to me,” Dean adds enthusiastically.

Earl responds, “we should get together and see how we can join forces and conquer the world of paper and data.”

“Absolutely, I will get in touch with you in the next couple of weeks and we will formulate a plan to seal our deal,” Dean says.

“Well….(as Earl awkwardly fumbles with his phone) I need to get going my wife just text me and our dog desperately needs a flea bath I am the only one who can do it. Let’s get together over a grande sugar-free vanilla latte soon, I’ll call you.” Earl declares as he hastily power walks to the door.

This is a dramatization of real events, the names were changed to malign the guilty, no lattes were actually harmed in the making of this dialog.

All silliness aside, this is a very real, albeit heavily embellished, side of the business that is not consistent with my way of being in this world. I feel the most powerful, the most in sync in this world when I am being honest, kind, patient and brave. I also like to have fun, so I will go along with Ralph Waldo Emerson and add silly to that list. I try to measure my words and actions by those benchmarks. It’s so interesting as I have become more successful in the realization of my intent, life simplifies and my relationships have transformed. I find myself  attracting like-minded souls. The hobnob façade, which used to repulse me, has become a practice of observation and presence. The presence to know I am up to something else, and the compassion to recognize others are on their own journey which has nothing to do with what I am up to. In other words I’m OK and they are OK.

I notice, particularly on social media, this overwhelming need by many to engage in the repulsion of others, I get it, I have done the same in business. I invite us all to consider a new thought, a new way of looking at it, and recognize what bothers you, be present to it and make your choices from there. These moments of repulsion are not an invitation to lay down and roll in that same mud puddle, they are an invitation to be present, to recognize where you are being pulled or repelled from and make a choice from that place. Always, always, always go back to intent and harmonize your thoughts AND your actions, your intention AND your words. Peace out.

 

 “Great intentions become tragic actions when delivered without careful thought” ~ Michael Dooley The author of, Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams.

To Control or Not Control, IS that the Question or the Answer?

heart_water_handsA friend asked me to watch her kids while she was out-of-town and I was thrilled, it felt so good to provide that help that after my shift was up, my ego decided I should call her to highlight my greatness in carrying out this neighborly good deed. However, I did not completely follow her prescribed instructions on the commission of this kindly act. In my mind the end result was achieved, so the response I got…….well let’s just say I was bucked off my high horse. Read the rest of this entry

Bieber’s, and Christie’s, and Miley’s Oh My………Seriously!!!!!

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I consider myself a pretty easy-going person, I really strive to experience my journey and allow others to experience theirs, without judgment, at least I try, ok. Quite frankly as far as preoccupations go, our society has an overabundance of judgers (notice how I am judging the judgers, wonderful isn’t it!!!) So I try to not fill an already overcrowded field. However, today I am wading in up to my eyeballs, and I am owning up to the fact that this post is a complete and mindful departure from how I intend to be in this world. Today I am a big judger. Whew, that long-winded justification certainly makes me feel better how about you??

So buckle your seatbelts here I go. First, I am appalled that we recently had a chemical spill that fouled the drinking water for approximately 300,000 people in West Virginia. That is similar to saying all of St. Louis or Pittsburg were suddenly without water. Further, at the risk of assuming too much, I believe, had it happened in St. Louis or Pittsburg there would be a public outcry along with the kind of political pomp and circumstance we expect when people are suffering, which would have kept this incident front and center. Instead what actually happened when 16% of the state of West Virginia, one of the poorest states in our country, was told not to use their water except to flush their toilets, well, not much really. It did not even warrant the front page of my hometown newspaper or the leading story on our news that night. Huh!?!?! I can’t even begin to understand the hardships people faced and are still facing in West Virginia. These poor people were blithely consuming this contaminated water, no one is certain for how long, before it was detected. Shortly, after the spill the water was declared safe to drink for everyone except pregnant women and then that was rescinded as premature.

I am not even sure where to begin, you see, first we are dealing with a chemical that was never intended to be in drinking water. No one really knows what we are dealing with. I sit in amazement as people are angry with the water company, really?!?!?!? What about the rules, regulations, lack thereof or disregard for, that was perpetrated by anyone along the chain of custody of that chemical?

Folks I am not sure how to properly express this but this is a big damn deal. If you think this could only happen in West Virginia think again the indifference toward West Virginia will bring this injustice to your local hometown very soon.

When I first heard of the spill, it was the next morning after, so I grabbed every newspaper on the counter at the hotel I was at to find out what the heck happened. I expected to see it on the front page, when in fact only one newspaper had an article about the spill, it was one of those small rectangular articles on the third page of the paper filling a gap next to the continuation of a front page article. I don’t even remember the front page article from that day. I do remember I was absolutely incredulous that it was not front page news. I mean Miley Cyrus twerking made front page news, Gov. Christie’s bridgegate scandal made front page news and now Justin Bieber’s latest episode in his ongoing acting out saga is splashed across the front page of the newspaper. These are life changing issues right??!!!?!?!

I found myself thinking it’s too bad it wasn’t a terrorist’s intentional act that contaminated the water, because that would be really sexy and newsworthy and then people would acknowledge the seriousness of this unbelievably tragic situation. The minute that thought ran across my consciousness I internally chastised myself, that’s a terrible thing to think! Really though, what difference does it make if it were some misguided person following a particular fanaticism, hell-bent on hurting others or if it is a careless or clueless business owner? The end result is the same, so why would we rally and become impassioned if it is perpetrated by one and not the other? We actually have more power to change the effect of the latter, so where is our outrage, why the indifference?

There has been such a lack of passionate response about this incident that I find myself wondering, did I unknowingly slip down a rabbit hole and find myself in an alternate reality? As I am typing this I am trying very carefully to keep from typing the obscenities that are bubbling up my throat like bile needing to be expelled to give me relief. I am thinking of all the people, kids, hospitals, schools, and businesses affected and still affected by this spill. Ugh, breathe.

Each time I see that mug shot of Justin Bieber on the TV I find my face getting flush, I see that pompous smile on his face (at least that is what I make it mean) and I feel a mixture of shame, anger and frustration. I feel like answering the call from Howard Beale the fictional news anchor from the movie Network, when he said and I quote “I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” People we need to wake up, we need to decide what is important for us, for our existence, for our kids, for our community. We have too many misguided people deciding what is important for us to know. Twerking, while funny and intriguing, is not important, political folly while filling our need to feel self-righteous, is not making the world safe or more peaceful, scrutinizing a teen-aged train wreck, does not meet our most basic needs.

I mean seriously our water, mother earth provides us precious water which is absolutely necessary for our survival and we foul that precious resource without so much as a whimper. Someone twerking in front of us or our kids, while awkward and unseemly, is not newsworthy. Getting caught in a traffic jam at a bridge crossing, while contrived and inconvenient, is not a tragedy. A young man making bad choices, while a misuse of talent and energy, does not threaten our way of life. But fouling our drinking water does threaten our very existence.  Terrorists frighten me, their ability to destroy life while seemingly detached from the result, frightens the hell out of me. AND I am more frightened by the lack of impassioned response to this incident in West Virginia.

I hope that my fears will be unfounded, when I discover that I simply slipped down a rabbit hole. That the parallel universe I am in, with its complacent and submissive response, is merely an illusion. I hope I emerge from my confines to find out there was indeed outrage, there was concern at the highest levels. That instead of knee-jerk reactions and short-term candy coated fixes, there is deep consideration and thought about what we need to do to make sure that this kind of ridiculous carelessness does not happen again. That in fact our clean water is protected. You will have to excuse me now I have to keep looking for that DRINK ME potion so I can get back to reality!!!!!

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
―     Elie Wiesel

I forgot to download my parenting app, now what????

IMG_0680_2Of all the titles I have in this life the one that gives me the most joy, the most bewilderment and definitely the most consternation is my “mom” role. I blithely dance through life while wearing my other monikers; engineer, sister, friend, wife, and cousin. I mean there are bumps in every road, but in a macro sense I do not find myself shouldering the burden of every decision I make, as much as I do in my parenting role. Questioning not only my choices but my wisdom in making those choices. And by wisdom I mean, do I even have all the necessary marbles in my brain to make this decision? I am not talking about a narcissistic preoccupation centered on how I will look based on this decision, I am talking about a real sense of what the hell am I doing? I mean seriously IS there an app for this?

I love math, so what, you’re probably saying, well bear with me I’ll explain. I view life through a math-tinted lens, when I think about the advice, guidance, criticism, praise and support I give my children I see it this way. My kids are on their own unique journey with or without me it is their and only theirs, I do not posses it, and I believe I do not have a right to claim it as my own. However, like a vector in math I know the slightest, even most minute, change in angle on a vector will have greater and greater effects as the magnitude or length of the vector grows. So the little things that I do with my children, say to my children, advise my children about, acts as an external variable on their path. I believe, please hang with me math-haters, those external variables create slight adjustments in the angle of trajectory and grow in significance the further away we travel from the point of origin. So it sometimes overwhelms me, even with the so-called little things I do or avoid doing as a parent.

I put myself on heightened alert when I tread near my “regret bone yard” with my kids. People who have no regrets fascinate me I wish I could say I have no regrets, but I do, starting with I regret that I regret! I regret how I treated some people growing up, I regret that I did not stick with my chemistry major in my first attempt at college, I regret that I treated my mother poorly at times, I regret that I was not with my grandma and my dad when they took their last breath. Each regret has its own unique circumstances so when advising my children in any areas that overlaps a regret in my bone yard, I ask myself are you advising young Marsia, or are you advising your kids? I could lie and say I always answer my kids but I don’t, sometime I forget to ask the question or I ask and convince myself I am only thinking of the kids, this is where my parenting gets messy.

We all do it even those amazing put together parenting authors and shows, they have their messy moments. My messy parent internal alarm goes off when I start to feel that gnawing uncomfortable feeling. I believe our greatest lessons are in those awkward, uncomfortable circumstances and times in our life. So when I witness myself or another parent pushing kids in a direction the child doesn’t seem to have a passion for, I get that wobbly feeling.

Case in point, my daughter asked to take guitar lessons I was overjoyed! Oh boy one skeleton in my bone yard is the “I wish I would have played a musical instrument regret.” So here is one of those parenting mine fields for me, I start to watch every step so this whole thing does not blow up. I keep checking to make sure my intent is pure, my advise authentic.  Am I pushing her to practice because she needs to learn commitment, to learn patience and realize the accomplishment for that patience and hard work, and not pushing her to clean up my bone yard? It really is a fine line we parents walk, if I am having my children make up for my regrets or if my passion becomes theirs, is their trajectory diverted so off path that their true purpose becomes more difficult to achieve or even see? And what about experience? Are we supposed to ignore our experience, no, but we can’t be consumed by it either. Sheesh, it’s complicated.

And what about failure? I have learned so much from my missteps, can I let my children fail? My mom and dad allowed me and my brother to fail, I can’t imagine what it took for them to stand by knowing full well we would fall flat on our face. I have seen children who are not allowed to fail, their parents make sure of it, I feel such compassion for those parents, but also great sorrow for those children. This has been difficult for me, to let my kids go into situations where I was not sure whether or not they would fail. I still struggle with it every single time. It drives me to distraction when my kids fail an assignment or test, however, my work as a parent is lessened with each failure I allow them to experience because that is where the really learning takes place. I still despise it.

So whether or not I know what the hell I am doing, and I am certain I do not, this is what I do, right or wrong, my parenting litmus test is the way people feel when they are with my kids, if they recall feeling hopeful, happy, or good, I must be doing ok as a parent. It’s the same test I use on myself as a human being.

It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.  All I can do is reach for it, myself.  ~Joyce Maynard

Learning from Opposites

This better work, it's what the guy in front of me did!

This better work, it’s what the guy in front of me did!

A very thoughtful friend who knows I have Seneca heritage introduced me to the teachings of a wise Seneca elder, Twylah Hurd Nitsch. Since then, I have become transfixed by her teachings I want to read and assimilate all her wisdom. She often speaks of truth, the truth within. In an interview with Margaret Wolff she described how we inflict upon ourselves pain and hurt when we avoid our truth within, which also affect our love within and peace within. She also expressed that until we grab hold of the truth and remember our Oneness, which is a truth we hold deep inside each of us from birth, we will continue to learn that truth through opposites.

Now this was where the hair stood up on the back of my neck – she said, “you confront the opposite of truth so you can learn it.” I get in the mud often and bemoan and lament the actions of others I find offensive or disrespectful, but in reality what is really happening? I am learning how not to be, or I am learning how to be, by recognizing what not to be. Think about a time when you watched someone struggle to do something, you see what works and doesn’t work and use that knowledge when its your turn. This concept reminds me of the tough mudder competition I recently participated in, I would watch the contestant in front of me attack the obstacle if they were successful I would use the same approach if they crashed and burned, I did not. So this idea of learning from opposites means that we are actually blessed each time we witness offensive or disrespectful behavior particularly when we recognize it as such.

I know this sounds bizarre but it’s so true. I have witnessed many people who struggle with the truth and my response has always been the same, a mixture of disappointment and pity. Now I recognize they are heyoka’s. The Lakota call those who walk among us and react and move opposite of the people around them heyoka spirits. Heyoka’s violate the ethical rules and societal taboos of the tribe thereby teaching the importance of such rules by creating awareness.

Beautiful and simple yet painful. As I continue on my path in this world I see how the truth really does set me free. The more closely I respect and embrace my truth within, the lighter my load. I recognize now my pious reaction to my heyoka’s is not only misguided it is disrespectful. These people are walking a very difficult and painful path to teach us how to connect with our peace and love within.

So the next time you feel repelled by the behavior of another be grateful that you are blessed to be aware of that behavior and have the ability to choose the opposite.

“It is in vain that we search for an essential difference between good and evil, for their constituents are the same. The crucial distinction lies in their structure, i.e., the manner in which the pieces are assembled. Evil is disintegration, an angry juxtaposition of alienated opposites, with parts always striving to repress other parts. Good is the synthesis and reconciliation of these same pieces.” ~ Charles Hampden-Turner

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