Archive for August, 2007

Bad, Bad Mountain

>    In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about personal responsibility. I thought that was the end of the topic, for now. I was wrong. Today’s CNN’s on-line, headline story has a photo Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy saying, “I’ll never come back to that evil mountain.”
    Mr. Murray is, of course, referring to the Utah mountain under which 6 miners have been trapped for over a week and where 3 rescue workers have been killed trying to find them. Murray has given anthropomorphic status to the mountain, as well as Free Will, and thereby exonerated…or at least assuaged his conscience and himself from any responsibility for the tragedy.
    Not that I’m looking to cast blame or guilt. Not even gross negligence (and I’m a former lawyer!). It’s just that in following this unfolding and very sad story, I read a few days ago that the method/technique used by Murray Energy to extract coal from that mountain is so dangerous that many mine companies nationwide no longer use it.  I’d like to ask Mr. Murray why his company was still using it. I think it’s a reasonable, and highly relevant, question.
    Now I know pursuit of this line of questioning will be more tedious for Mr. Murray and not nearly as compassion generating. The photo of him on CNN is that of an anguished man. This line of questioning will also likely involve a team of my former colleagues digging into business practices and safety standards. Fortunately, I no longer do that work and the job will fall to others.
    What I do now is write about the highest good for all concerned and how we, as contributors to the ever-unfolding and consciousness expanding Universe, can make contributions that positively impact our world.
    Mr. Murray’s statement about the mountain provides us a good opportunity to examine how we abdicate personal responsibility.
    What happened in Utah was not the mountain’s fault. At least not directly and consciously. If you believe that Nature takes care of itself and that it is capable of “retaliating” for damage done to it, then perhaps there is enough responsibility to go around afterall.
    More likely is the fact that we get back that which we put out. We are in wanton pursuit of extracting coal from the Earth without true respect and honor for either the Earth or the people we employ to do the job. We are using methods that are darn near antiquated and, I’d say, primitive in the scheme of things.
    With all the technological advances and all the intelligence in this country, it’s hard to believe that we have not yet developed alternative sources of energy sufficient to provide for the general good. It’s hard to believe that after thousands of years…it’s still all about the money.
    Let’s return to Mr. Murray and Murray Energy. He needs to say that he made a good financial decision and a bad human one. He needs to take responsibility for the method his company was pursuing and why. He needs to reevaluate his role as CEO at Murray Energy and how he sees it going forward…for himself and for the company. He needs to place value where it belongs…not on bottom line profits but on the sanctity of human life. He needs to step up so that all the children looking at all the people in positions of power begin to understand that we as a nation take personal responsibility for what we say and do.
    We are trapped in a pattern of ignoring our obligation to the integrity of every moment and every situation. The Bob Murray’s of this world can set an example of how to break that pattern and create a new one that better serves us all.
    Then none of us will be trapped anymore.

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Good Vibrations

>    The American Medical Association met last month for it’s annual convention and considered, among other things, classifying “technology addiction” as a real mental disorder. I would characterize over-dependence and over-involvement with technology somewhat differently.  I’d call it “Abdication of Personal Responsibility Leading to Severe Energy Imbalance.”
    I know it’s a mouthful but it’s really quite simple.
    The internet is no different than a Big Mac…or in my case chocolate seven-layer cake. There are things in this world that we really want and, in moderation, are just fine for us. Then there are those things that we want which, outside the bounds of reasoned participation, are simply not good for us. Knowing where those boundaries are is what personal responsibility is all about. 
    I belabor the obvious but maybe the obvious needs belaboring.
    If I eat a piece of chocolate cake because it tastes good and I want it, fine! If I eat 3 pieces of chocolate cake and an hour later go back for more, well…not so fine. It’s up to me to know where the point of reason turns the corner and becomes overindulgence. It’s certainly not the responsibility of the American Medical Association to define or treat the exercise (or lack of exercise) of my will power or my Free Will, for that matter. That’s why I have Free Will to begin with.
    That’s the “Personal Responsibility” explanation of my definition of technology addiction.
    The “Severe Energy Imbalance” explanation goes like this.
    Many years ago I was on assignment in Southern California for 3 months and lived in a rented, furnished apartment. I had no television. That simple fact changed my life forever. In those three months I learned the importance of, and the freedom in, not overexposing myself  to energies that interfere with the proper functioning of my own natural, energetic patterns.
    Like the Internet, television is unnatural. By that I mean that the frequency at which they transmit is not in alignment with Circadian (earth) rhythms or our own biological rhythms. Since everything is ultimately just energy vibrating at different rates of speed, it’s important not to overexpose yourself to energies that interrupt or distort your own rhythms. Technology is out of alignment with all natural rhythms and, when overexposed to those energies, we become out of balance.  In reality, overexposure causes us to begin to resonate more in alignment with those energies, which makes it increasingly harder for us to relate to Nature not to mention other human beings.
    When I lived in California without television, I spent more time outdoors, I jogged each morning, I read more, I interacted with people more. I was inner directed and more at peace. That feeling was so profound and so enjoyable it has never left me. To this day I watch virtually no television.
    I do, however, spend more and more time on the Internet, especially now that I write to my blog each day. And I am beginning to feel the adverse effects of it all. I now need to exercise some of that personal responsibility before I find my own energies severely imbalanced.
    Personal respobsibility and balance. That’s the ticket.
    The AMA did not come to any conclusion on this issue at their annual meeting. They have tabled it for now.  I hope for all their sakes they don’t spend too much time between now and their next annual meeting on their computers going back and forth over this issue.
    Otherwise, they might find themselves with what they would call “a real mental disorder.”

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Honoring Self

>    So much has been going on in my life this summer (not all of it intended) that I’ve reached a point of exhaustion. It’s a good time to think about “being” as opposed to “doing.”
    We are so action and accomplishment oriented in our society that we too often drive ourselves to the proverbial “edge” before acknowledging that sometimes it’s better to “just be” than to do anything at all.  I’m reminded of a scene from the Kevin Costner movie “Bull Durham” when, at the end of movie, Costner returns to his love, Maggie (played by Susan Sarandon)and finally express his love for her. Maggie goes into a stream of consciousness monologue about how she can change and what the relationship means to her when Costner interrupts and says, “That’s all fine. And we’ll get to all of it. But right now, I just want to be.” The next scene, and the last one in the movie, is a no-dialog shot of the two of them joyously, freestyle dancing in her living room.
    That’s what we don’t give ourselves enough of.
    Not so much silence and freestyle dancing as permission to just be.
    Just being is about truly feeling our inherent self-worth whether or not we make money or win a competition or excel in school or have a mate. It’s about honoring the temple that houses our Soul and slowing down enough to see and hear and smell the beauty in everything around us no matter where we are.
    In his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, Ph.D. and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes that when served dirty water with a floating fish head in it as the only meal of the day in the Concentration Camp, he was able “to see beauty in the floating fish head.”  Surely his circumstances had so brought him to the present moment and the value of not only the moment but everything around him that he learned this invaluable lesson. Through his writing, he has tried to impart that lesson to us.
    I oftentimes refer to Frankl’s quote when speaking to audiences or coaching one-on-one. But today I think I need to live it. 
    I am very tired (as I started out saying in this entry) and have many things that need my attention. I could keep busy the rest of the day just tending to a fraction of them.
    Instead, I think I’ll close now, go pick up the book I’m reading, and lay down on the couch. Maybe I’ll even fall asleep.
    Regardless, I’m going to love and value myself even though I’m not going to achieve anything more than resting…honoring the temple that houses my Soul.

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Weathering the Storm

>    It’s the 2007 Hurricane Season and the first official hurricane is wreaking havoc on the Caribbean islands in it’s path and is, as yet, headed for the Yucatan Peninsula with winds of 155 miles per hour.  Inhabitants of those countries are being warned to find shelter in special centers set up to withstand the onslaught of extreme weather conditions.
    Once again, there is much to learn from Nature.
    While we are routinely challenged by the mundane stressors of daily life, occasionally we find ourselves challenged by extraordinarily difficult circumstances. It may be illness, death of a friend or loved one, financial reversals, separation, divorce, an accident, or a myriad of other possibilities. Such experiences impact our emotional and mental worlds as surely as these hurricanes impact our physical world.
    Which is why it’s so important to have located, in advance, your “inner center.”
    An inner center is that place within you where you have defined and hold your core values and beliefs. Then, when external events become a drain or deplete your energies, you can gain nourishment and sustenance from within.
    In our society, we are encouraged to find a career, a religion, a mate and financial security.  And while each of these can provide a certain amount of comfort and value during difficult times, none of them can provide the necessary direction in your life to help you become who you really are or can be. That direction is internally generated.
    Back to Nature… where I always go for the big answers.    
    An orchid doesn’t turn to a daisy or a nearby oak tree and ask,”What should I look like? How should I grow?”  To the contrary, it has an internal “wisdom” that guides it from seed to bud to bloom.
    We humans are no different. Each of us has the capability, the inherent wisdom, to grow to become fully who we are as unique creations. However, when we turn to others and take on their values and beliefs instead of cultivating our own, we not only deny our individuality, we set up false hope that somehow others know better than we do what is right for us…what will “save” us.
    Certainty about what you believe and value based upon your own experience, not the experience of others, is how you cultivate and maintain an internal center. Then, when the winds of life come blowing at gale force, it’s easy to go within and deeply anchor yourself to your own foundation.
    It’s the only real shelter from the storm.

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Purveyors of Illusion

>    The DOW Jones Industrial Average has been going up and down like a  roller coaster the past few weeks as news of the sub-prime mortgage market continues to be grim. It seems there’s daily “Breaking News” about sudden large losses followed by just as sudden rebounds.
    What’s going on, you wonder? Is this all a foreboding of things worse yet to come? Should you be withdrawing your finances from whatever investment vehicles you now have them in and converting to cash and gold, well hidden and quickly accessible in case of a collapse in the economic markets?
    Instead of pondering that intense question (bound to give you a migraine) I’ll give you one word to ponder: Hologram. That’s how I refer to all of the “news” we’re fed every day. It’s a giant web of images and, depending on where you’re standing (or how your consciousness is operating), it’s quite the different view.
    I remember in 2001, shortly after my father passed away, I had the responsibility of re-investing certain assets on behalf of my mother who survived him. After several discussions with well-informed financial analysts, I made my decision to invest some of the assets in relatively stable mutual funds. Then the bottom of the market fell out. I watched as the investment lost almost 50% of it’s worth overnight.
    We were not alone. Everyone took the hit. However, while some forcasted yet more dire future consequences and downturns, I just decided that it was a “long-term approach and, therefore, couldn’t be meaningfully evaluated in the short-term.
    This is not a bad analogy for all of Life…which is why I call the news we’re overwhelmed with a hologram.
    If you buy into all the negativity that’s being put out there every minute of every day then you’re going to see one kind of picture. But, if you’re willing to think for yourself and focus your mind and your energies on more positive aspects of existence, then you’re going to see quite another.
    Further, if you’re all about instant gratification, then what’s happening in the moment is all that really matters. Combining a negative view with instant gratification is a recipe for depression and hopelessness. To the contrary, combining a positive view with the patience to allow the longer-term picture to emerge is a recipe for joy and faith.
    Hhmmm…over here depression and hopelessness…over there joy and faith. Now what should I do?
    Well, it’s a no-brainer for me.  How about you?
    Oh, and that 2001 investment? It’s all back and even greater than itS orignal value.
    Maybe there is something to optimism and patience afterall.

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Toys for Tots: The Sequel

>    It isn’t often that I revisit a news story I previously commented on but this whole Mattel/Fischer-Price toy recall continues to be fraught with issues we really need to address. 
    Two days ago, in my blog entry “Toys for Tots” I quoted the CEO of Mattel, Bob Eckert, as stating “Nothing is more important that the safety of our children.” In that piece, I pondered what the world would be like if that statement were universally true.
    Such was the point of my entry, although I did note in closing the irony that all of these toxic and dangerous toys are being outsourced at Mattel’s discretion to China, a country that has no child labor laws.
    On second thought, however, that point needs more than a passing glance. It deserves it’s own entry and this is it.
    If Mattel really cared about children, and not just the financial bottom line, the obvious would occur. They would not outsource to a country that 1)uses child labor and 2) so disregards and devalues female children that their orphanages (and their streets) are filled with female infants, toddlers and homeless young girls that nobody wanted.
    That’s China’s problem. Mattel’s problem is that they are hypocrites. Our problem is that we aren’t doing anything about it. What can we do, you say?
    “Don’t buy Fischer-Price or Mattel toys” comes the reply.   
    Now I know that would put added pressure on you from your child based upon their ongoing manipulation by multi-media advertisements that promote the latest and greatest toy that he or she simply has to have. And I know it makes your life a little more challenging because then you have to find alternative toys with which to engage your child.
    But here’s the thing.
    If you know that the manufacturer is deliberately and willfully choosing to do business in and with a country that devalues human rights and human life, and if you deliberately and willfully continue to purchase those toys and thereby support such policies and behavior, then you become the problem… because you see a better way and consciously choose not to choose it.
    I don’t give advice in a vacuum.
    We have a 14-year-old daughter who I often refer to in my blogs. While she’s beyond the Mattel/Fischer-Price age for the most part, we are still daily challenged to limit, or sometimes refuse, purchases and pursuits that are “in” because not to do so would violate particular beliefs or strong opinions that we espouse. My husband and I hope that in the big picture, seeing us hold fast to our principles will serve her far better than ownership of some trendy and disposable item. So we live the difficulties of choice… but we also live the rewards.
    Did I mention our daughter is from China?
    We adopted her when she was 2 years old. She survived those first two years no thanks to the non-existence of her birth country’s human rights policy…or Mattel’s business practices, for that matter.
    Perhaps that’s why this story seems to stick with me a little longer than most.

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The Politics of The People

>    Lately we’ve been doing some renovating at our house which has required a lot of clearing out and discarding of things that are no longer needed or of service. It has me thinking about our elected officials.
    Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to go on a tirade about how corrupt and awful most of them are (on both sides of the isle) then rant and rave with no substantive idea about how to change things.
    It’s not about them, it’s about us. And I’ve got an idea about what we can do
    As I look back on my life, and also our recent renovations, I see a clear pattern and helpful indicator. Whenever I have accomplished something in my life that was important and meaningful, I did it because I knew what I wanted and placed unwavering focus on my desired outcome. It’s really simple to comprehend. However, putting it into action is another story.
    Those things that I accomplished with unwavering focus had another critical component. I felt passionate about what I wanted. As a result, there was a lot of emotional energy driving both what I was thinking as well as what I was doing about it. That’s really the key. The power of thought and action fueled by positive emotion.
    So, back to our politicians. It is our collective habit to groan and moan about how corrupt and deceitful and greedy they are and how they’re not doing the jobs they were elected to do. But all of our moaning and complaining just gets us more of what we already have because 1) we’re stuck in seeing what we have instead of what we want and, 2) all that moaning and complaining is not fueling anything other than our own frustration.
    What we need is best exemplified by those who founded this country. I’m not talking about a political debate on whether you think the Constitution is a “living” document or whether you’re a “strict constructionist” when it comes to government. Those are red herrings the political analysts and pundits like to throw out there periodically when it’s time to appoint a new Federal or Supreme Court justice.
    I’m talking about the vision, certainty and passion that Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams (and all the unnamed women of the time) had that moved this nation in a unique direction and created a truly inspired governing document. They knew what they wanted and they did what they had to do to make it happen.
    We are headed for a Presidential election in 2008. There are many contenders from multiple parties. What if we stop complaining, decide what it is we really want, generate a lot of emotion around that goal, then take action to ensure we get it?
    I’m certain that if enough of us take this approach, and settle for no less than our vision, we can change the pattern and co-create a candidate whose election defies the odds and the powers that be.
    Certainty! Focus! Passion!
    Now there’s a bumper sticker.

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Toys for Tots

>    Mattel, parent company of Fischer-Price, has stated through it’s Chairman, Bob Eckert that “Nothing is more important than the safety of our children.”
    Imagine if that were true. What would our world be like?

1.  No guns.

2.  No violent video games.

3   No reality TV.

4.  No behavioral altering additives to food and candy.

5.  No seductive, sexually suggestive advertising aimed at teenagers.

6.  No child abuse.

7.  No sub-standard education.

8.  Mandatory life sentences for 1st time child sex offenders.

9.  No weapons manufactured as “toys.”

10. No cigarettes.

11. No culturally encouraged dating by kids under the age of sixteen.

12. No dumping of pre-school-age children in daycare with strangers.

13. No over-medicating of children for behavioral issues.

14. Parents spending time with children instead of buying them off with “things” and using unsupervised TV as a substitute babysitter.

15. No fast food restaurants.

16. No child obesity.

17. No anorexia/bulimia epidemic.

18. The “de-idolization” of youth as a cultural aspiration.

19. The end to exploitative child labor.

20  The end of trafficking in child prostitution.

    So, since “nothing is more important than the safety of our children,” for now let’s just get the lethal lead out of the paint and recall the toys with deadly parts that we’ve turned our attention from in order to manufacture them cheaper in China (using child labor).
    Surely the other 19 issues can wait. 
    I wonder.
    How long can we afford to let the children wait?

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Family Man

>    I was amused to read yesterday that Karl Rove, political adviser to the President, was volunteering to leave the position and was doing so “to spend more time with his family.”
    My amusement was around how condescending and transparent the rationale was. Did he really think that after at least 8 years of being a “political right hand” and strategist to the President of the United States we’d believe he’s concerned about time with his family…or likely more concerned about getting out now that his candidate/President is about as unpopular and ineffective as it gets?
    But let’s take a moment and explore the reason given, because generally speaking, it’s a really important point to ponder.
    How many of you give not only serious consideration to the time necessary to cultivate a healthy family, but also actually devote that amount of time to the goal? If you’re short on either point, you’re not alone.
    We tend to prioritize all the wrong things in our 21st century lives. We focus on work (to keep up financially), we focus on stressing out the children to achieve academically and in extracurricular activities (to give them a leg-up towards college admission), we focus on “looking good” whether or not we are “feeling good” (to be part of the youth culture we revere) and we pretty much banish the elderly to someone else’s care unless they’re financially able to provide for themselves (so that we can have more time to focus on the first three things I just listed).
    So, unlike Karl Rove, we need to spend more time with our families as our first priority, not as an after thought.
    It’s no wonder so many of us feel stressed and have difficulty with our personal relationships…with spouses and children. Just as you cannot successfully cultivate a delicate flower without proper proportions of light and water, so too you cannot hope to cultivate delicate relationships without giving them the necessary time and energy they need to grow to become healthy and longlasting.
    The Universe is always sending us messages to support us in our highest good. I think Karl Rove just provided a really important one. It doesn’t matter whether the reason he gave is true for him or not.     
    What matters is what you do with it.

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Two By Two

>    Recently I was in New York City taping a segment of a TV special created by Gary Null, long time health advocate for alternative therapies and frequent “speaker of truth to power.”  I had never met Gary before and although we spoke of many things during the two days of taping, he seemed particularly taken with the subject of bringing ourselves and our world into “balance” and “harmony.”   
    Gary’s right. We are out of balance. Our lives are spent working at a frantic pace just to keep up financially and technologically. Our consumption of natural resources is with an almost total disregard for their replenishment or eventual depletion. Historically, we live in a seemingly endless cycle of violence in one part of the world or another. Our bodies are subject to more diverse diseases than ever, and yet the inherent capacity to use our minds in innovative ways in order to change our patterns gets little of our time and focus.
    Nature has a built-in balance that, absent the intrusion of humankind, allows it to maintain and self-correct. That built-in balance can be seen in the equal participation by both genders among virtually all species of life. Except us.
    And I think therein lies the answer to why we are out of balance.   For thousands years, according to written histories and religious teachings, we humans have been suppressing and silencing the feminine voice and it’s many contributions. Deliberately denied positions of importance and power, the absence of the feminine voice and it’s inherent gifts has meant the absence of nurturing, compassion and intuition from our world. We have deprived ourselves of vital energy that is intended to work in unison, in harmony, with that which is male. The equal participation of both genders is what harmony would look like and balance would be the outcome.
    I am not a feminist or a liberal or any other label you might like to place upon me for my thoughts around all of this. Labels just make it easy for someone in disagreement to manage their own fear of difference and dismiss another’s point of view.
    What I am is a student of Nature in the tradition of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Christian mystic, biologist, paleontologist and philosopher.  For me, all of the really important answers to life can be found in Nature if we are patient enough, humble enough and wise enough to be open to seeing them.
    Nature is inclusive, not exclusive. Nature makes room for female and male alike. Nature is self-organizing.
    I am not saying that all of our problems and challenges will be solved overnight by restoring the Feminine to it’s rightful place in societal evolution. What I am saying is that unless we do, we are destined to remain both out of balance and out of harmony…both within ourselves and among society at large.
    Oh yes, by the way. I mentioned the philosopher Teilhard de Chardin. Did you know the word “philosopher” was coined by the Greek mathematician Pythagoras meaning “Lover of Sophia”…the Goddess of Wisdom who was seen as the personification and embodiment of enlightenment and inspiration.
    Nobody taught me that in math class.

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