Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The Father, The Son and The Holy…Who?

Our history has been selectively written for as long as we’ve been writing it, with the most selectivity occurring around the deliberate exclusion of the Divine Feminine.  There are more examples than I have space or time for here, but let me point out a few:

1.     Archaeological artifacts subjected to carbon-dating have identified worship of female deities as far back as 10,000 years B.C.E.

2.     Cleopatra spoke 9 languages, inherited a bankrupt country and turned it profitable, allowed women to be property owners and granted citizenship for meritorious service to the country.

3.     Victoria Woodhull, not Geraldine Ferraro, was the first woman to run on a Presidential ticket… and she ran for President!  Her V.P. running mate was a freed, black slave, Frederick Douglas.  It was 1872. Woodhull was also the first female stock broker on Wall Street.

But let’s revisit the archaeological finds for a moment.  Somewhere between 10,000 B.C.E. and the compilation of the Hebrew, Christian and Muslim religious writings, those female deities were unanimously and deliberately written out of our heritage… or at best relegated to minor, and sometimes troublesome, characters.

There is a spiritual (and I believe also religious) adage that goes “As above so below.”  Following that logic, what we see manifested here, in our world of matter, must necessarily exist on higher spiritual planes. 

So, here’s my understanding… and my dilemma.

But for the amoeba, wherever there is reproduction in the physical world, there exists a male, a female and an offspring.  If you’ll allow me, more commonly thought of as a father, a mother and a child.  Not once have I ever heard anyone say that an offspring was created by a male and a holy ghost. That being the case “below”… why is it that for 2000-3000 years, or more, we have been repeating and perpetuating a creation story (“as above”) that ignores and even denies the existence, role and contribution of the female?

I like to play with words.  Its a lifelong pastime.  Yesterday I was thinking about all of this and the word “mother” kept going around in my mind.  As I was pondering “why” this obvious omission of the Divine Feminine pervades our history, I was asking “why” when the letter “y” suddenly inserted itself in the word mother… between the “m” and the “other”… so it now read “my other.”  And I paused.  “My Other.”  The Father, the Son and My Other (Mother)!!! 

Much more plausible, isn’t it?

We are living through troubled and transformative times.  We need all the help we can get.  Even someone as near prophetic as Glenn Beck has been on unfolding events, was asking yesterday on-air where is a contemporary George Washington to lead us out of this mess. Beck then said, “Where is he? Where is that leader?”  Immediately followed by my yelling at the radio, “Or she Glenn…or she!”

Yes, we need help.  To that end, I have looked around thoroughly and cannot find one holy ghost anywhere.  But we have a globe populated with Mothers.  If we are pressed for time and cannot re-write the history books, perhaps we can make history instead by resurrecting to full status the Divine Feminine and the necessary contribution She was intended to make, and the role she was designed to fulfill, in maintaining the ongoing balance and harmony of all existence.

Now, I also have an issue with the whole “Son” thing… but that’s another blog, isn’t it?

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Tips on Excellence: Replacing Mediocrity in Our Personal Lives & Government

As I type, news is breaking around the U.S. Government’s takeover/purchase of General Motors. As I listen and read, all I can think about is how hard it is to get anything accomplished at a State or Federally owned/operated agency. Think about Motor Vehicles, Social Security or City Hall for that matter. Ever been in one of those lines or encapsulated in a time warp by the inefficiency and delays? Now, the manufacturing and selling of automobiles is about to fall into the abyss.


I have a 16-year-old daughter who puts just enough energy into everything she does to get by. Even the things she likes doing! She simply isn’t motivated to do more than the bare minimum it takes to get things done. Yesterday, she and I had one more of the many heated discussions that take place around her approach.  Usually, I mention words like “lazy” or “princess” but this time I suggested that her standard is mediocrity.  Now while you may think that was an unkind observation to have (and more so, to share) it was actually the first time I ever saw a light go on in her head around what is usually her dismissal of my complaints that she hasn’t finished what she began, or in the alternative,”finished” with aspects of the task or goal still incomplete.

So what do government and my 16-year-old have in common?  In a word: Mediocrity.

But let’s face it. Such aspirations aren’t limited to my two examples. I could go on. And on. And on.  Blame it on the technology or the pace at which we live, but there is no denying that most people in this country have settled into reduced expectations of themselves and everyone else. 

We don’t anticipate excellence. We accept mediocrity.

So what’s the harm?

Mediocrity, by definition, implies a lack of caring about the end product. It’s about “average-ness” and “second rated-ness.” Its about expediency and profit over quality and value. When you choose not to care about the quality of what you do, when you don’t give it your best, you not only make a statement about what you think of yourself, you also set in motion events that lead to the devaluation of other people, lifeforms and things.

It is definitely a choice you get to make.  In every situation, you have the opportunity to decide how much energy, integrity, and authenticity you will bring to what needs to be accomplished. You get to define and apply the standard that best represents who you are. No one else gets to make that call.

Lowering your standards is the slippery slope that leads to mediocrity, and less. So why do people do it? Because it’s easier and quicker than the effort and time it takes to achieve excellence. So whether it’s about doing the job you’re paid to do, completing your homework, or choosing who you spend you life with, mediocrity gets you something…albeit not something that necessarily enlivens or empassions you… or anyone else for that matter.

Mediocrity doesn’t lead to feeling good about yourself. It leads, ultimately, to not feeling. That’s the slippery slope. Mediocrity is a denial of the Divinity within each of Us.

We exist to awaken and become conscious around Self-Realization. When such awakening occurs, it is to know for certain what remarkably unique creations we are and how the possibilities for our own creations are boundless and endless…constrained only by our vision and an unwavering determination to be the best we can be.


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A Guide To The Unknown

When I was in the 6th grade I memorized a poem by Rudyard Kipling called “If.” It’s been one of those inexplicable occurrences in life that decades later I can still remember every word and have often quoted it throughout my adult life. In case you’re unfamiliar with it here are the first few lines:

  “If you can keep you head when all about you,
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
    But make allowance for their doubting too,…”

May I suggest you take just a few seconds and read those opening lines again because they hold the secret for how to get through the uncertainty and apparent difficulties we are now experiencing personally, nationally and globally.

By now most of us have begun to realize that all of the “experts” don’t really know what’s going on either and, therefore, are unable to “fix” any of it. In fact, it seems the more they try the more enmeshed we find ourselves in, what feels like, quicksand…or at least flypaper.  The confident steed called “Change”  that so many Americans rode into the White House on has begun to look more like a newborn foal, stumbling around the grazing field on obviously shaky legs. 

Which is why Kipling’s “If” is prophetic and helpful.

Almost everywhere you turn, systems that have been in place for decades, centuries or even longer are no longer helpful in creating the ends they were designed to meet. And I’m talking systems that cross all disciplines: economic, political, even spiritual.  This systemic breaking down, or ineffectiveness, is generating a lot of fear. Individuals feel powerless to do anything about the magnitude of the apparent chaos.

So what is it that we can do as individuals? 

Go back and read Kipling again. Really. Read it for the third time. Go on, Just humor me.

The reason I want you to read it three times is to imprint it in your mind. It’s really brilliant.  It’s a road map for traversing this rocky road we find ourselves on because what you can do… what you must do… what you are designed to start small and trust your inner guidance.

What exactly does this mean?

Forget the big picture. Yes. Forget it. Stop focusing on the economy, the country’s problems, the world’s problems. Start focusing on what is closest to home, immediate in your life, and tend to those people and issues based upon what your inner guidance tells you …whether or not it’s what you’ve always been taught is the way to handle life.  When it’s so obvious that no one seems to have the answers for how to travel this uncharted path, why would you listen to or follow anyone by giving them more credibility or more authority than you’d give to yourself and your own perceptions?

    “If you can keep your head when all about you,
     Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

During all of the current uncertainty and coming confusion stay grounded, inner-directed and heart-centered. There will be endless efforts to put the “blame” on various groups and individuals for all that appears to go awry and sometimes that target may even be you. Those are the times when it will be most important to “‘keep your head” and follow those three principles I just set down: staying grounded, inner directed and heart-centered.

    “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
     But make allowance for their doubting too,…”

Maintaining trust in your own capacity to make choices and create a life that is consistent with who you are and what you believe in will also be key. There will likely be more people than you care to think about who will want to tell you that your “way” is clearly wrong and theirs is right.  Allow for the possibility that theirs may be right for them while at the same time holding on with confidence in the decisions you make for yourself based upon your experiences and inner guidance.

We are entering an evolutionary phase wherein each individual will come to realize she or he has the capacity and inner-knowledge to not only handle life’s dilemmas but also to blaze new and exciting pathways in creating a truly unique existence. 

I love this story. A man named Henry dies and goes before God and God asks him how he lived his life. Henry replies ‘Well, I wasn’t as hospitable as Abraham and I wasn’t as brave as Moses and I wasn’t as loving as Jesus. Whereupon God replies: ‘I already had an Abraham, a Moses and a Jesus. Were you the best Henry you could have been?”

Every age of humankind’s development passes through some unique territory. We are passing through the Age of Personal Creation and Personal Responsibility. Creator has encoded each of us with the guidance and energy necessary to live lives that are bounded only by the limitations of our individual imaginations and capacity to love. That encoding has laid dormant for thousands of years but is now being activated.

With courage and the understanding that we are all personally responsible for both what we create as well as how we manage and respond to it, we can move into these times of apparent unrest and uncertainty with the exhilaration of explorers and adventurers embarking upon the only journey worth taking.

For a complete reading of Kipling’s poem, “If”, click here.


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The Power of Certainty

>I’m reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
It’s not the first time. I read it about once every decade as its a great barometer against which to measure where I am in the evolution of my own consciousness. Presently, I find myself pushed to nearly the breaking point by her merciless objectivism and dismissal of all things related to human emotion. I seem able to endure this aspect of her writing, however, because I am simultaneously nourished (it’s the only word I can think of to describe the fullness and satisfaction I feel) by the unwavering integrity of her male and female protagonists…Howard Roark and Dominique Francon.

These two characters also suffer from this emotional detachment that runs through all of Rand’s writings. But, what they may lack in emotion they more than make up for in their dedication, almost obsession, to what they perceive to be the highest good. It is their >certainty that is so compelling…not just for the way it impacts the tenor of the novel, but also the reader. Howard Roark and Dominique Francon don’t know what the word compromise means. On second thought, they have no such word in their vocabulary. Their every breath, thought and physical movement is in alignment with, and in support of, living a Life that refuses to be anything other than fully present and fully engaged in manifesting greatness
So here’s the irony of Rand.

She despises small, insincere people who espouse an allegiance to the highest good yet act in ways that pray at the altar of mediocrity. She admires people who refuse to participate in such fraud and, instead, are willing to face the inevitable aloneness and ostracism that follow from independence of thought. But while she mocks emotion in reverence to the rational mind, it is the passion and certainty of Roark and Francon that captivate Rand and makes them so appealing to me.

In the world of moral relativism in which we now live, it’s the passion, the certainty and the courageous aloneness, not  loneliness, of these characters that truly inspires.
Truth is different for each of us. But the power that drives one toward the pinnacle of one’s own truth is a certainty of the intention combined with a passion to pursue that intention regardless of the cost.

Ironically, this is what drives Islamic extremism as well and provides it it’s successes.  Such believers have both certainty and passion, in infinite measure, and it powers their mission, however misguided it may be. On the other hand, we in the West have certainty and passion about little other than maintaining our materialism and acquiring more…even when more is never enough.

And so in the end we get no more than that about which we are certain.

If we in the West would redirect our certainty and energy toward peace, or healing the Earth, or even one another…there would likely be many more Howard Roarks and Dominique Francons to be found beyond the pages of The Fountainhead and, I suspect, as would the joy of witnessing the harnessing of true power for the highest good of all concerned.

REMEMBER to click here to download my FREE e-book, “Too Many Secrets.”

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To Thy Own Self Be True

>     I was recently in Barnes and Noble, doing what I often do, browsing. I just love walking through those aisles, lingering here and there to take in all that shared knowledge. What struck me during my most recent foray was the proliferation of titles that, in one way or another, proposed or promised direction in “Finding Your Life’s Purpose.”  Such books abound and so do their sales numbers.
    There are no accidents. I live by this belief.
    So the recent calling to all of these writers to develop the topic of finding one’s Life purpose indicates two truths: 1) a lot of people are being “guided” to disseminate a specific message at this time and, 2) a lot of people are ready for that message.
    Let’s explore the message, why it’s so important and why, until now,  it’s received so little attention.
    The message that each of us has a unique Life’s purpose implies that there’s a specific job that each of us is to perform in our lifetimes. If each of us has a job that can only be accomplished by that individual, then to not “show up” for that job is not only to miss the reason we are alive but also to leave unattended a necessary component in the ongoing process of evolution.
    Recently I spoke to a group of high school sophomores on the topic of depression and attempted suicide. I presented them with a history of my life including an attempted suicide 26 years ago. I showed them had I not survived that attempt and gone on in search of my Life’s purpose, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all of the remarkable things I’ve achieved since that time. Since each of those accomplishments was built upon the one that preceded it, all of them combined had brought me to be standing before them sharing my message. That speech…that day…before those specific children…was an appointment in My Life that I was able to keep because I have identified my Life’s Purpose.
    I spread Hope and Inspiration.
    Throughout the day, after my presentation to each class, several students would approach me with tears or heartfelt gratitude for my sharing the intimate details of my journey. My message to them was, and remains, that had I not survived and gone on to find My Life’s Purpose, I would not have been there to provide them with what they needed. When we don’t “show up” for our Life’s unique purpose, no one else does.
    And that makes all the difference in the world.
    Now that we know why it’s vital to find your Life’s purpose, how about examining why something so important has received so little press throughout the ages?
    I think the answer lies in the dark corners of the desire to power over and control others.
    If I know that I have been created by a Creator who has given me an indispensable assignment for which I am fully equipped to successfully complete, and that I am carrying within me seeds of that Creator’s energy, who or what would I defer to in making My Life’s decisions or in pursuit of My Life’s Purpose? No one and nothing.
    Such a conscious and awakened individual leaves no room for it’s manipulation by others or external events.
    Now, knowing that you have a unique Life purpose, and that the absence of that knowledge has been the source of all of your pain and suffering, you can go forward from this moment with the certainty that your job awaits your arrival. It’s compensation is incalculable in monetary terms but priceless in abundance of spirit. Your contribution, through your work is not to a 401(k) plan but rather to repair of the world’s suffering from the pain of separation. Your retirement will not be to Florida but to an eternally flowing river of Consciousness that nurtures All That Is and All That Ever Will Be. Such are the rewards of living You Life’s Purpose.
    To Thy Own Self Be True.
    I suspect Shakespeare knew exactly what he was talking about.

P.S.   Remember to click here to download my FREE e-book “TOO MANY SECRETS”

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A Message For The Children

I’ve been asked to publish a speech I recently gave to 500 high school students in New Jersey on the topic of attempted suicide. Although it is my habit to speak without notes, what follows is my best recollection of the substance of the presentation. Time and space do not here permit me to replicate it in its entirety.

I am a wife and mother of a 14 year old daughter. I am also a former practicing Family Law attorney. Currently, I am a writer and motivational speaker. At age 24 I tried to commit suicide. It is the story of how that came to be and what I have done with my life since that I am here to share with you.

I grew up in an affluent suburb of Philadelphia. My family was financially very well off and as far as material things went, I pretty much had whatever I wanted. To underscore the point, I was given my own car, a Mustang, at age 16 and by age 20 had owned 2 corvettes. In school I was part of the “in crowd” and had lots of friends. My grades were excellent. Outwardly, I seemed happy.

Inwardly, I was living a very different existence.

Despite all of what was seemingly “right” with my life, I was very unhappy. I felt alone in the world. I didn’t feel I really “fit” anywhere or that I understood the game of life. I felt, alternately, not understood at all or at best, misunderstood. While everyone else went about their days with some sense of purpose, or so it seemed to me, I lacked any sense of who I was, what I wanted to do with my life, and most importantly, how to stop the emotional pain.

I went off to college after graduating high school but lasted only 6 weeks. Mostly I cut class and went to the beach. I withdrew mid-first semester (I would have flunked out anyway) and returned home. I them enrolled in a local university but lasted there only one semester before dropping out again. Realizing I had to do something (all my friends were in college) I got a job as a receptionist at a hospital. What followed were a series of receptionist positions until, at age 23, I met a young man at a party whom I married one year later. Eleven months after we married, we separated. We were a bad match…probably the result of how little I knew about myself before getting married. One month after separating, I tried to kill myself by taking an overdose of anti-depressants that had been prescribed for me at the time of separation.

Without belaboring it here, I was miraculously found in my apartment and rushed to the emergency ward, where I had a near death experience. I actually witnessed the doctor and nurses tending to me, pumping out my stomach and trying to keep me from dying. I witnessed it all from some vantage point way up in the air and remember thinking, “Why are they doing all of that to her. Why don’t they just let her go?” Then I felt a sharp “punch” in the middle of my back and “heard a voice” say “You have to go back, Carole. You have work to do.” My perspective immediately shifted from above the scene to being back in my body looking up at the doctor.

I share the details with you solely to impress upon you that I had almost succeeded in dying. It was that experience that I believe changed the direction of my life.  Despite difficulties and challenges that have remained ever since that day, I came away from that experience with a determination to find out who I really was…as opposed to who I thought I should be.

I enrolled in Villanova University at age 24 and graduated at age 28. I worked for a few years, had a meaningful personal relationship, then at age 33 enrolled in law school, graduating at age 38. I began to practice law on my own immediately after passing the Bar Exam and had a successful Family Law practice for 13 years. At age 41, I bought a home and shortly thereafter, met and married my husband. At age 43, we adopted a daughter form China.

Now the important part. What I know from what I have lived.

No two snowflakes are alike. No matter how many there are, each has it’s own unique pattern. You are like a snowflake. No other human being that has ever lived or ever will has your pattern, your unique set of Life gifts and challenges. Because of that, only YOU can live the Life you’ve been given. You are an aspect of Creation. That fact, and your unique nature demands that you too be a Creator of Your Life, not a “regurgitator.” Life does not need you to parrot or mimic the ideas and values of those who came before you…or even those who are here Now. What Life seeks of you is to experience Itself thorough You in ways never before known.

What keeps us stuck, and sometimes paralyzed, is the belief that there is some “right way” to be. Some “right way” to live Life. I can assure you that there are people and organizations everywhere you turn that will tell you they know “the way.” But there is no one way, simply one action that each of us is called upon every minute to partake of and that action is called “choice.” When Life comes knocking, make choices that emanate from your highest Self. For what is right for another may not be right for you. And you can only know what IS right for you experientially. You cannot know it from a book, or movie or even from another person. So to live the Life you were created to live, you must experience it through your unique choices.

Now some of you will think, “If there is no right choice, then anything I want to do is OK. I would answer “yes” if your choices are from your heart and not your mind and if, in choosing, you harm neither yourself or another. You see, there are only two emotions, Love and Fear. Every other emotion is a derivative of one of those. Love feels good. Fear feels bad. If you allow your emotional center, your heart, to be the guiding light that illuminates your choices, then yes, any choice you ever make will be the right one for you as well as the highest good for all concerned.

We all have what I call appointments in life that only we can show up for and if we don’t, no one will. For me, today is one of those appointments. If I had died that day, not only would I never have had all of the rich experiences that followed the attempt, but I would never have been able to keep the appointment with our daughter, which is the reason I am here talking with you today. And if only one of you needs to hear any of this to help you understand how unique, important and priceless you are, then I would go through it all over again. Every moment of it.

People who try to commit suicide don’t want to die. They have simply misplaced hope. They have strayed too far from home, from their inner center, and think they will never be able to find their way back home.

I came here today, and stand before you, as an arrow pointing you in the direction of home and the best part of your life.

Remember Who You Are. Remember Why You Came. Know How Much You Matter. Keep Your Appointments.

And above all, never give up Hope.

P.S. I gave each student a little handout paraphrasing J.R.R.Tolkien:
All that glitters is not gold. All who wander are not lost.”

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Heal The Children

>     The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a three page article on a local high school student who in an attempted suicide, jumped 9 stories from the bedroom window of his family’s apartment and survived the fall. With potentially fatal injuries, he endured 89 days of critical care hospitalization and has recently been moved to a rehabilitation facility. Miraculously he is on the mend. He will live, although the long-term effects of his injuries may not be known for some time.
    As a survivor of attempted suicide at age 23, I have written about the topic in prior blog entries, most recently in the entry “Appointment in Life” about my presentation on the topic to 500 high school sophomores in New Jersey. What shocked me in reading the Inquirer article was the statistic that 1 million high school age children attempt suicide each year. It is the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages 10 to 24.
    Thirty years ago a psychologist and friend, Linda Marcoccia, observed that historically, no society that “abandoned” its children has ever survived. At the time, she was remarking on the astounding number of runaway children in this country. Now that number is matched by those trying to kill themselves.
    Something is terribly wrong.
    I think the children are like the “canary in the mine” analogy. We should look at the runaways and the attempted suicides as an “early warning system” that an environment insufficient to maintain Life is unfolding.
    What has gone wrong and what do we do about it?
    I can only speak to the present day culture of the United States since that is where, and within which, I live (and am raising a teenage daughter, by the way). There are, no doubt, apparent factors gone awry both within the nuclear family and within the society-at-large.
    On the home front, too many parents have abdicated their responsibility to acculturate and educate their children to unsupervised technological creations. It started with television, the technology of choice during the latter half of the 20th century. And while television had its programming pluses and minuses back then, the minuses pale in comparison with the programming of today. To this, add PC’s, cell phones, text messaging, ipods, iphones, and whatever “advances” are on the horizon and you have the basic ingredients for the requisite alienation that is the underpinning of depression and suicide.
    I’m not saying this is the cause. Or even the root cause. After all, I tried to commit suicide during the relatively less technological period of the 1970’s. What I am saying is that as you multiply and compound the factors that create separation and alienation, you also increase the likelihood that more and more people will be unable to cope. At some point, our humanity is subsumed and obscured by the demands, and particularly the pace, of technology. 
    In the broader view, our values have been askew for sometime now. We have as a nation forsaken, if we ever fully valued at all, the stories, examples and extraordinary accomplishments of creative individuals and advanced societies that exemplified the best of what humankind is capable of creating. We teach the advanced sciences and encourage brutal levels of competition at the expense of history, culture, values, ethics, inspiration, kindness, charity, and love.
    The effects of our misguided aspirations can be seen in the 2.5 million runaways and attempted suicides annually.
    Children start out in life unencumbered and unrestrained by social constraints. As the grow, however, they take on more and more of the values and goals of their family and society-at-large. I think what the children are trying to tell us is that the quality of life we are modeling for them holds no attraction. What they are experiencing and feeling is too far removed from what the heart and Soul aspire to.
    They simply don’t see the point in staying.
    I have always been a firm believer that when the student cannot understand the teaching, it’s the teacher’s failure to communicate and inspire, not the student’s failure to learn.
    So, too, in Life.
    If the children are, in fact, our “canaries”…then they are signaling that we are failing at modeling by example a life worth living.
    Starting today, take every opportunity you have to replace expediency with genuineness, winning with allowing, and acquisition with simplicity.
    And know that as you make these changes, the children are watching.

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I Hope You Dance

>     Who could not be moved, and inspired, by the news report of Ben Mathenia, age 7, who noticed his friend and classmate choking and successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver thereby saving his friend’s life? Following my amazement and glee, I got to wondering what factors came together to create that “happy ending?” I’ve come up with three.
    Knowledge. Ben was able to perform the Heimlich maneuver because someone taught it to him. Which goes to prove that we are never too young, or likely too old, to learn. Knowledge prepares us for the unexpected and, by so doing, gives us increased options when faced with unanticipated events and decisions. Even the first grade teacher who was teaching the class at the time said he would have expected Ben to call out “Mr. Miller, someone’s choking.” But Ben was equipped with the knowledge he needed to deal with what Life presented to him. And so he was able to step up.
    Presence. It turns out that Ben learned the maneuver from his father, who had used it on a co-worker. So there are two important lessons in all of this about being present. Although I do not know if Ben saw his father save a co-worker or simply listened while his father reenacted the event, but either way Ben was fully present whichever way it happened, and because he was he took in information that would later serve him and others. Secondly, because Ben is obviously fully present in his life, he was quick to notice his friend’s need and moved to do something about it. Without that presence, the story could have had a much more tragic ending.
    Compassion.  There is likely not one of us who has not walked or driven past someone who was suffering and, while perhaps expressing feelings of compassion, chose not to act on those feelings. When we pause between what we feel and what we think…thinking often turns into rationalization and justification that, in the end, inhibits us from following our innate knowing.
    Ben saw suffering, felt the struggle, had the knowledge, and cared about his friend. There was no time to lose and there was nothing to think about. Coming from a heart-centered place of caring, Ben reached out and his compassion saved a life.
    Knowledge. Presence. Compassion. These are the core ingredients of what happened in that Illinois classroom. There is much to be said about Ben Mathenia and much to be learned from him as well.
    Lee Ann Womack wrote a beautiful song that never fails to inspire me when I hear it…as has Ben’s story. I think the refrain from that song says it all…about Ben…and about what I would wish for all of us.
    “When you get the chance to sit it out or dance…I hope you dance.”

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Appointments in Life

>     Yesterday I was the guest speaker at a local high school, speaking for 6 straight hours to over 500 students in the 10th grade. My daughter happens to be a Freshman at the same school so it made the occasion a little tricky. I was a guest speaker in the Health Department teaching a unit about suicide. I had tried to kill myself at age 24 and have first-hand knowledge and experience on the topic. It was an opportunity the Health teachers didn’t want to pass up…and quite frankly, neither did I.
    While I have spoken privately on the topic over the past few decades, I had never before spoken about it publicly. Having discussed it several years before with our daughter, she was remarkably accepting of my presence at her school and even supportive of it. I take more than a little pride in this fact.
    One of the things I shared with the students, and I shared only what I know to be true from having lived it, is that we all have what I refer to as “appointments in Life” at which we are expected to “show up.” Those appointments are uniquely ours, as are our talents and challenges as well. While it is not always for us to know, in advance or even ever, why we need to be in certain places at certain times, the purpose of our presence in those moments is in support of the overall and ever-expanding consciousness and growth of humanity.
    Heady stuff, I know. But it’s how I see things none-the-less.
    I have spent all the years since the attempted suicide exploring many different roads in search of Who I Really Am. Each road was a choice I made to have the experience I had. Some of those choices were productive and some not so much…but all were my choices made in pursuit of what is true for me. And while I try to find the positive meaning and highest good in all that happens, even I have had my share of wondering if all the adversity and struggle that is a necessary part of Life can be worth it.
    At yesterday’s appointment I finally got my answer.
    As I looked into the faces of those children who were looking back at me with rapt attention, I knew with certainty that everything that had happened in my life happened so that I could be there at that moment and share with them the magnificence of transcending Life’s challenges.
    I have always wanted to “serve” in some capacity and oftentimes have prayed for a way to help me do that. Typically I have expected to find a particular cause or organization to which I might dedicate my time. But standing there yesterday I realized how many ways there are to serve and just what mine looks like.
    My service is one of Hope.
    By opening up to those children and honestly sharing with them both the triumphs and tragedies of my life’s path, and mirroring for them the Beauty and Love inherent in their own, I was able to “pay forward” the gift of hope I was given when I most needed it. For in the end, we are each “way-show-ers” for one another, not only by how we live our lives but also how we choose to reflect the lives of others. Having been both affirmed and denied at various times in my own life, I know well the power, and responsibility, of both thoughts and words.
    There was no financial compensation for my appearance yesterday. But if you could have looked into that sea of faces, as I did, you would feel today as I do.
    Yesterday, I hit the Lottery of Life.

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Born To Teach

>     As we get past the “personality and message” phase of the Presidential race for 2008, we will inevitably come upon the need to decide not by stage presence and sound-bites but rather by depth of commitment to policies and vision. In this regard, the remaining contenders have some common ground over the issues…Social Security, the “War on Terror”, securing our borders, and health care…if not how to resolve them.
    I think the real loss coming out of Iowa was the withdrawal from the race by Senators Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut, not because they each have decades of governmental experience at the Federal level, but because they each understand the importance of eduction and the role that teachers play in the future of our nation. We are no better than the possibilities for tomorrow, and our children are tomorrow. But allow me take this one step further.
    We are all teachers. Each of us, by how we live our lives, is an example, not only for the children but for everyone and anyone watching. Each of us arrives into this world equipped with a unique set of tools to create a world in which we want to live. It’s a great tragedy that most of us relinquish those tools early in life then try to create something brand new with the worn-out tools of others.
    The good news is that our tools are never lost…just “pawned” until the moment we realize they can be reclaimed for a price. The price is to forgo the desire to fit, to belong, to be one of the group, to conform to the way in which others have done things. Conformity breeds complacency and a complacent person is not a creative person. A creative person is one who sees possibilities and, with passion, sets out to manifest them.
    We are all teachers by how we live our lives, not by how we talk about them. I have been trying to get my teenage daughter to stop yelling. But I have been yelling for years. In the past few days, I realized the why of why I yell and have stopped it. In those same past few days, my daughter has not yelled either. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think not. I think that the greatest and most powerful teachings are present each moment we choose between what is good for us and what is not…and consciously choose the good.
    So, my regret over the loss of Biden and Dodd is that they were close to the essential issue of not only our time but all time.
    We must value the teachers of this world much more than we do. For each of us is a teacher and it comes down to valuing self. At the heart of the matter, it matters that by and through our choices we mirror the highest good for those who are watching. The goal is not to have them become like us in any sense other than to be who they truly are and thereby teach by example as well.  
    It was psychologist Carl Jung who said,”One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude
to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw
material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul
of the child.”
    Reclaim your tools, choose wisely, be passionate and teach by example. Tomorrow is watching.

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