Friday, February 28, 2014

Are You Too Busy to Be Happy?

We tend to believe if we’re busy enough, feeling happy or significant will be the result; but this all depends on us, as individuals, doesn’t it? So, we need to figure this out for ourselves.

An image was posted on a social site that said: Stop the glorification of busy. This reminds me of how much emphasis we put on what people do versus who they are, and how happy they are. There’s a theme running through our psyches that says we have to be and or stay busy or we’re not living up to our full potential. Underneath that is the other theme: concern about what others will think and say about us. Society-at-large claims to admire people who are on the go all the time, who live in the fast lane, who “live large.” The implication is that if you don’t fit into that mold, you aren’t someone special; your value or worth is less, according to those parameters.

I saw someone I hadn’t seen in years, which meant we had catching-up to do, so I asked about her children. Her conversation went something like this (all identifying information has been changed): “Mark is working for Acme Insurance. He’s a department manager. His wife, Anna, works at Booker Bank. She’s the loan manager. Their older son, Steve, is the floor manager at Estates Antiques. Their younger son, George, is the top salesman at Luxury Cars. Their daughter, Angie—” well, you get the picture. As the time passed, I asked more specific questions, but one thing stuck in my mind: how happy someone is, is rarely the first thing someone says about another.

We put so much emphasis on what people do when we could put it on who they are and how happy they are. How much admiration do we have or value do we place on someone who is genuinely kind, caring, and happy, and has a job, say, as a personal assistant, a cook, or a housekeeper? Or, we might comment, when asked how a mutual friend is doing after a move to a new town, that the move was a bold one; that we believe in our friend’s abilities; that we know there will be adjustment time involved, but that our friend possesses what she or he needs at the inner and outer levels to make life a good experience in the new place, rather than what work our friend is doing. 

There’s a story you may be familiar with about a business executive who visited a coastal village. He had a conversation with a local man and learned the local man got up in the morning when he wanted to, took his small boat out for an hour or two and caught enough fish to sell for money his family used, then spent the rest of the day and evening with his family and friends, where they all enjoyed each other’s companionship. It was a simple, easy, joyful life the local man described.

The executive launched into a discussion about how the man could get more boats over time and create a huge, profitable business. The executive was in his element during this conversation: Building businesses from scratch and growing them was his expertise and passion. The local man listened carefully then asked why he should do that. The executive explained that with proper management, the man could sell the company and retire in twenty years with enough money that would allow him to get up in the morning when he wanted to, fish when he wanted to, and spend as much time with his family and friends as he wanted to. The local man replied, “I do that now.”

Someone posed an excellent question about this story: Which man was happy? What’s your answer to that question? The question-poser’s answer was an intriguing one: Both of them. What made each man happy was different. One man liked to stay busy in a particular way to feel fulfilled; the other liked to stay just busy enough to feel fulfilled. Each man had certain responsibilities they had to attend to, which they did, and you can bet that each man had challenges they had to meet in life, but they knew what made them happy and lived it.

We put so much emphasis on what we and others do and so little on what makes us genuinely happy. We keep ourselves busy, either with genuine responsibilities, some of which we probably could delegate, or with busywork, so we can appear productive to ourselves and others. Never confuse activity with productivity. We trap ourselves in that vortex far too often and too easily, either with physical activity or mental activity.

One friend of mine had the thought instilled in her that if she took the time to read a book for her own purpose or pleasure she was guilty of the sin of laziness (I just heard the collective gasp of avid readers). So she worked and worked and did and did, all the time. She and I had many conversations about this, until she was finally able to find the courage to read a book. She was in her 40s before this happened, and she did so under the disapproving gaze of the person most adamant about it being a lazy person’s thing to do, as she took her turn to sit with him in his hospital room.

My father was a workaholic. My mother was always doing something. Neither ever sat and watched TV without doing some other task at the same time. It’s no surprise I too became a workaholic, until a health matter put an end to that. It took me several years to move past denial of this, as well as continuing to push myself to the borderline critical stage, before I really got the message. Then it took another year or two to figure out how to live and function in a new way, and to see the gifts that came with this, such as a different level of creativity, because I could no longer afford to be active without being productive. It was especially challenging to deal with others who couldn’t comprehend or adapt to this new “reality” for me. Comments were often harsh. Eventually, I had to not care what others thought. It shouldn’t take a health matter for us to not care what others think or to choose balance for ourselves and our lives.

We have been programmed to believe if we are busy enough, it will lead to happiness. Why? Because if you’re busy, you must be being compensated, right? And if you’re compensated, you must be able to afford stuff, and stuff makes us happy, right? Yet, some of the busiest people are the most under-compensated and some of the best-compensated people are some of the unhappiest.

There’s also the aspect of strengthening our spiritual side to consider. How can we do this if we never sit still long enough to hear the deeper messages or to balance and recharge our energy, or to nurture our connection with the One Consciousness? We also need to consider the mental, emotional, and physical drain on us that can happen when we don’t have that balance in our lives.

Do you identify with who you really are, or with what you do and are experiencing? Do you project this onto others, as well? Maybe a good question is: How happy am I in general? Do I make time to not be busy so that the other parts of my life are fulfilling and joyful? It’s time to stop the glorification of busy for ourselves and others and embrace life and its many facets, and determine for ourselves what makes life a happy experience for us. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.   
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

Friday, February 14, 2014

Are We Becoming Spiritual Orphans?

The current movement to awaken or enhance spiritual consciousness has been ongoing for decades. Are we doing as well as we might with this, or could we do much better?

I saw the opening text scrolled on the screen for the movie “Anthony Adverse” (which I chose not to watch) that ended with the sentence, “They were spiritual orphans.” Spiritual orphans—what a term; it intrigued me. My dictionary includes the definition of orphan that you might expect, of a child whose parents have died. There was another definition there, as well: “a product that is medically valuable but is not produced because it lacks a profitable market.” And there was the verb form: “to cause to become an orphan [orphaned by the war].”

Using the standard definition, I’d say a spiritual orphan is a person whose feeling, intuitive Heart guidance has been disconnected or diminished, or its existence has never been realized or developed: it isn’t working right, for whatever reason, so the innate guidance isn’t fulfilling its function. As for the second definition, you could say the lack of a profitable market (public recognition and receptivity) holding the product that has value (the full expression of spirituality) back from or for widespread use is the ridicule or dismissal true spirituality receives from mainstream and experts.  

Looking at marketability a different way, no one would argue the fact that books and other items focused on spirituality have been produced and are still a profitable market, but the items themselves are not spirituality, and using the items does not guarantee spirituality as the result. How do you obtain spirituality, or find it to obtain it? Here’s a quote by Rumi that answers this question simply and well, though I make a specific statement about this later on: “I looked in temples, churches and mosques. But I found the Divine in my heart.” You could say, “I looked in books, listened to tapes, and attended seminars. But I found my spirituality in my feeling, intuitive Heart.”

If you ever feel like a spiritual orphan, you might consider whether you approach spirituality solely or predominantly through your left-brain (logic, analysis, seeing just the “dots”). If so, this is a big part of the disconnection or lack of connection you experience. You can’t get to spirituality through the left-brain. You have to use both the right- and left-brain in combination with the feeling, intuitive Heart.

Every bit of information—conscious or subconscious—that you receive becomes a code that your brain, your biological computer, decodes and acts on or stores for reference. This includes information you don’t necessarily recognize as such, which includes commercials, ads, movies, billboards, symbols and logos, video games, and so on: everything you take in through your five senses is code that your brain processes, including subliminally, and possibly believes without question. Just as you are what you eat, you become, in some way, the information you ingest, deliberately or not, as well.

Think of it like this: each side (and part) of your brain has its own software, so to speak. The right side is coded for feelings (love, compassion, and empathy), intuition (expanded awareness), no time-no space awareness (you’re in the Now rather than the past or future), and realizing the bigger picture (holistic viewpoint, connecting the “dots”). But too much right-sidedness doesn’t allow you to put what you receive then decode into order or practical application (you feel unfocused, you drift along), which is where the left side comes in; but it’s meant to be a servant to the right side, not the dictator or ridiculer it can become.

If you process solely or predominantly through the left-brain, you might believe anything or might discount what you ought to believe, even if it defies what you’ve been told (e.g., Intuition is real, valuable, and felt vs. intuition doesn’t exist, or is nothing more than an advanced form of logic). If you decode information received solely or predominantly through the right-brain, you might interpret information according to what it is you prefer to believe about it, even if it defies or ignores reality (self-protective denial), or not be able to figure out what to do with the information (inertia based on confusion that results from conflicting beliefs or resistance, perhaps).

Even if you manage to use whole-brain thinking (or don’t), you still need to include the emotional, intuitive Heart, which reveals a Divine Trinity we humans are capable of but seldom use, mostly because it isn’t taught and we aren’t taught that it is who we inherently are. We look for spirituality; but where do we usually go to look at and decide on what the Truth of spirituality is? The left-brain. Jonathon Miller-Weisberger said, “It is necessary to perceive truth with the heart, not just the mind.” It’s the same for our spirituality.

Using intuition (expanded awareness) as our example, the fact that it is real is in direct contrast with what the left-brain is programmed and conditioned to believe (or is believed evil by some), so intuition is difficult for the left-brain to accept, much less use (a real contrast is that intuition is dismissed by the establishment but used by governments). Depending on your conditioning, you might believe everything you’re told by the “experts,” without question; and if the experts’ “facts” change after several years (or months), you’ll believe those as well, without question.

Your feeling, intuitive Heart is where Truth resides. The ancients who understood this maintained that our innate, true intelligence was found in the Heart, not in the brain/mind. The Heart filters out programming and tells you what you really feel, as well as what is going on energy-wise—even ahead of you seeing evidence, as opposed to the left-brain telling you what ought to think or decide the Truth is, based on your programming.

While living in New York City, someone asked me to take a road-trip to Louisiana. I went back and forth with logic about this (I did want to go, but not with that person) until I finally decided to leave all thought out of it and ask my Heart what it had to say. I got a resounding yes. I e-mailed the person and never heard back. Two days later, someone else contacted me and said he’d pay me a nice sum and all expenses to ride with his girlfriend, who was driving to Louisiana for an extended stay, and would arrange and pay for my flight back. Of course I said yes. My intuitive Heart knew I was to take the trip and that there was a better deal that would be offered. My Heart’s yes was not about the first offer, as my left-brain believed when I got the answer, but the offer I didn’t know about yet.

But we seem to continue to move further and further from listening to and operating from our Heart. The further away we move from our feeling, intuitive Heart, the further we are from being connected to the spirituality that is inherent in us and that we so deeply desire—and need. But here’s what we must Know: spirituality is not something we obtain; it’s something we already are. But we forget or never learned this, or it’s blocked behind so much that we have been taught and told. This is why listening to our Heart is not necessarily easily done: because so many others have forgotten this or have in some way been disconnected from this Truth, and they have been or are our experts, teachers, and examples.

This leads me to the verb form of orphan: to cause to become an orphan. When you see some of the stories about what’s going on in the world, do you consider them with your left-brain or right-brain only, or also with your Heart, which tells you “This isn’t right”? I saw an image that has stuck with me, of a very young black child curled into the fetal position on the dirt, belly swollen from starvation, still alive but barely. Two yards behind the child was a vulture, waiting. That was the moment when I grasped that we can look for our spirituality as far and wide as we wish, alter our appearance to look the part (as though true spirituality has a look), or do all manner of methods or practices, and still miss the fact of it as our true nature and our responsibility, because of where else we’re looking—or not looking. In this way, we all risk becoming spiritual orphans in some measure.

Perhaps the inundation of all that’s going on in the local and global communities, most of which makes no rational sense and demonstrates lack of Heart and spirituality, is contributing to making spiritual orphans of us all in some way, bit by bit, drip by drip. The more this inundation continues the more we move away from appropriate response and into overburdened senses; and our feeling, intuitive Heart becomes dulled as a self-protection mechanism. The more we move into this dulled way of being, the further away we move from not just the Truth of our spirituality but also from being and living as who we really are.

We are points of Divine Consciousness dreaming a physical experience. This statement is not airy-fairy; it’s a quantum physics fact that no one in-the-know argues with or can (any longer), but is still not being incorporated into our collective dialogues to expand our understanding of the true nature of reality and ourselves: there is only the Spiritual that exists; physical and spiritual are not separate, they are one and they are Spiritual. The way back to the Truth of who we are, to our spiritual nature, is through the feeling, intuitive Heart.

On YouTube is a 9-minute video of Erica Goldson’s 2010 high school valedictory speech. It is worth watching to hear how she explains what education is and does today, how it robs the upcoming generation of what’s needed to make a difference and to have a fulfilling life. It’s an articulate, well thought out speech from one individual who saw what-is, who proclaimed the Emperor has no clothes on, and pointed out that there are many who either see only what they’re told to see or ignore the fact of what they see. It’s brilliant, and I hope you watch it, because what she says about how students are being trained to be workers to fit employer needs rather than critical thinkers and creators, ties in with how we are being numbed to seeing, listening, and feeling with our Hearts. Look at what’s going on in schools today. Are we teaching upcoming generations that they are intelligent, creative, conscious, spiritual beings or are we teaching them to be spiritual orphans? However, it isn’t just the system. What do our own examples show them?

We might start to connect some dots using our whole brain and Heart. For example, you might read this article online: “Harvard Study: Fluoride Lowers Children’s Intelligence By Seven IQ Points,” which discusses the proven, stunning negative impacts on the brain and body in all age groups. The idea that toxins are used in this way (and in far too many other ways), despite controversy since it started, impacts us on the feeling, intuitive level, which is another form of spiritual orphaning: our left-brain argues that no one would do this knowingly (but it’s done); our right-brain doesn’t want to believe it is happening (but it is); our feeling, intuitive Heart knows it for what it is. But will we listen? 

The movement to awaken spiritual consciousness is ongoing, but is it or will it happen fast enough? It’s up to us, isn’t it? We can improve and expand our consciousness and spirituality by simply ceasing to do whatever is opposite of that, but we have to know what that is. Our feeling, intuitive Hearts can tell us, if we’ll listen and if we’ll act. Then we can be examples for others and the next generation and the next. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate. 
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

Friday, February 7, 2014

Natural Chaos Should Not Be Feared but Embraced

We rely on rules to prevent chaos, but do rules ever get in the way of what’s natural? Is chaos ever a good thing?

We resist and or fear both unnatural chaos (for good reason) and natural chaos (because we’ve been conditioned to), so we rely on policies and rules to ease individual and collective fears and, we usually hope, to smooth life’s path. How’s that really working so far? Can we go too far with this? Can chaos ever be a good thing? What if natural chaos actually contributes to desired improvement? Let’s see.

I read an article posted on a social site: “School ditches rules and loses bullies.” It was a fascinating and revealing account of an Auckland, New Zealand, school that, as part of a university experiment, got rid of the playground rulebook (and all rules, which was beyond what the experiment required) that had been created to do what you might expect such rules to do: protect children and property, and maintain order. The astonishing results of the no-rules experiment were there were fewer injuries, less vandalism, and a significant drop in bullying. Also, concentration levels in the classroom increased. Could this remarkable result also apply outside that school’s environment, for all of us?

Principal Bruce McLachlan said, "We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over." This return to what it was like before health and safety policies began to rule at the school led to the re-realization that the activities and fun children create when allowed to, without numerous restrictions, kept them so occupied and creative that the time-out area was no longer needed, nor were as many teachers required to keep watch. "The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It's during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school." The children were happy, and parents were happy because their children were happy.

The article went on to comment that a certain amount of risk-taking develops parts of the brain and develops the ability to work out consequences of actions. "You can't teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn't develop by watching TV; they have to get out there."

Interestingly, the comments that resulted on the social site posting were equally revealing. One person was insistent (despite the proven results) that without rules, bullying would increase. The poster (both a mother and in the educational field) replied that children would learn consequences of actions and to defend themselves; and that in adulthood there is no teacher to run to. A replier to the poster’s comment stated that because he’d always had an adult to take care of everything for him when he was growing up, as an adult he doesn’t know what to do in certain circumstances. Another replier feared that children would be punished for standing up for or defending themselves, as had been her experience (which mimics what does happen in society at large: for example, a resident can be sued by a thief injured while breaking into the resident’s house).

The replier concerned about a potential (or, in his opinion, inevitable) increase in bullying wrote: “I get all that, but I think that no matter what, there would still be bullies. I know I, for one, would see this as an opportunity to be an even bigger bully. No rules? Then there would be more punishment for disobeying me. I’m not trying to say it’s a good thing, but I think it could lead to some not-so-good things.” The poster replied, “That’s the society we’ve become. You’re right. It’s kind of scary, not to mention that kids allowed to explore and make their own mistakes are often the ones that are inventors and the great thinkers. It would be a different world if we were allowed to just experience life, rather than just doing what we’re told.”

At this point, I added my two-cents-worth: Bullies happen—in the schoolyard and in the bigger world. They can legislate behavior all they want in both venues, but there will always be those with either the primary psychosis (from birth) or secondary psychosis (from conditioning), who act out as bullies. The only thing legislating behavior does is oppress those who don’t need the rules in the first place, those who know how to behave or who figure it out as they go—who figure out that they have a choice: find a way to co-exist as peacefully as possible or get into trouble. They can legislate behavior out the yin-yang, and it’ll still be the bullies who come out to “play” while all the others are following the rules—the unnecessary rules. It’s a matter of how much freedom will we give up because there are bullies in the schoolyard (or the global environment) who don’t play by anyone’s rules.

Natural chaos and unnatural chaos spawn different experiences and outcomes because of the energy and motivation inherent in each. In the matter of Prohibition, a law put into effect in the U.S. in the 1920s and pushed for by those who wanted to control others’ personal choices, specifically alcohol consumption, the unnatural chaos created by the imposed rule resulted in an escalation in organized crime and other crime, violence, and imprisonment. In the matter of the school and playground experiment, the natural chaos created by removing the rules so children worked things out for themselves (within reason, as they were children) resulted in enhanced self-learning, self-modifying, creativity, harmony, productivity, conflict resolution, self-governing behavior, and focus and attention. Although the article didn’t mention this, it’s difficult to imagine that a boost in self-confidence and self-reliance was not also a result.

How much of the chaos happening in the world now is actually caused by more or certain rules or policies being added or remaining rather than going to the true root of the matter and addressing the individuals causing the real problems? It’s become the “norm” in society to treat symptoms rather than target the true cause, be it alcoholism or health or whatever. It’s also become the “norm” to make rules everyone must follow, not just those who actually need proper and effective attention. It’s like what sometimes happened when I was in school: one student misbehaved and the entire class was punished.

We’re in a society that rewards people who follow the rules, even the nonsensical or infringing ones. The “rewards” are that they don’t get penalized; they get proverbial pats on the head; they get to feel superior to rule-breakers (or be envious, depending on the rules not followed). We have a profusion and confusion of rules, and the letter of the law tends to be followed rather than the spirit of the law. At a lower point on the gradient, specific utensils are to be arranged in a particular order and used as appropriate when you dine or you’re thought to be unsophisticated, low, less. At a middle point, stop signs at intersections are to encourage safety and avoid confusion; but if it’s three in the morning, no traffic anywhere, with clear visibility in all directions, and you slow or pause rather than stop, you could get a ticket because you broke a rule. At a more extreme point, something is legal in one county or state, but illegal in another; legal in one country, but illegal in another; immoral for individuals, but moral (or deemed acceptable) for those in positions of power. There are personal-choice decisions made for us that we should be responsible to make on our own.

If everyone everywhere learned and followed the moral compass to never steal or violate in any way the life, property, and security of anyone, and taught this to their children, what need of rules would there be? Who would need to create rules, and for what reason? The replier to the post about bullying believes the world would be an even more unsafe place without lots of rules and perhaps even more of them, then went on to explain why: because without them, he would be abusive or more abusive. During the experiment, I venture to say that any bullies who did attempt their behaviors with the children in the schoolyard were dealt with by the children.

For those who ignore moral right anyway, there is usually only one way to deal with or stop them: deterrents regarding their own well-being, to give them pause before they choose to exhibit such behaviors or to help them correct behaviors. This may sound harsh to some, but it’s akin to preventive healthcare. In the school experiment, it’s possible that several children stood together to oppose a bully who then backed down, or perhaps they refused to include any bully in activities and play, until the bully chose to behave better and did, and perhaps demonstrated a sincere desire to contribute in a productive way.

If some people never broke or ignored certain and, particularly, unnecessary rules, including academic; never thought outside of the creativity box; or colored outside the lines, we’d have a poverty of inventions, innovations, improvements, and cultural arts. We could, indeed, become better problem solvers than we currently are, individually and collectively. Natural chaos brings our attention to where problems or issues exist so we can resolve them in a beneficial way—or is supposed to. But so many, as with the replier, hold the belief that mankind in general, as individuals and as a collective, are incapable of controlling their behaviors and actions or of truly knowing and honoring the difference between moral right and wrong, so must have rules imposed on them/us. All we have to do is look around and realize this is not wholly true or accurate. Yes, there are those who seem not to possess a moral compass or would act against their moral compass, but they could be addressed individually, as needed. Their unnatural chaos tendencies could be managed. And if you think about it, those who do not follow a moral compass are outnumbered by those who do.

Natural chaos causes inventions and innovations to flourish, as has happened throughout history: We have no cause to fear it, but every reason to embrace it. As Plato said, “Necessity … the mother of invention.” Chaos is a teacher, including teaching us what not to do. Fear of chaos can lead to the death of imagination, and to the end of freedom, on a school playground or in daily life. Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither, and will lose both.”

The school experiment demonstrated the positive results of natural chaos and the freedom to address it that leads to better self-governing, personal responsibility, and improved creativity, productivity, and cooperation required for quality problem solving and as-peaceful-as-possible co-existence. The rules had, previously, created something of a mental, imaginational, and socially restrictive enclosure for the children. The absence of the rules opened “doors and windows and skylights” to let freshness into their minds. It opened a beneficial level of freedom for the students, teachers, and, yes, even most of the bullies.

Imagination and freedom of thought, word, and action—guided by moral right and Natural Laws of the One Creator and a mutual understanding and agreement about these—are needed to create, including to create a better state of existence if the one experienced isn’t working as well as it could. We, as individuals and a collective, have an obligation to ourselves and others to work on and increase our consciousness and awareness so that rules are not required for peaceful co-existence and quality of life. The school children in the experiment proved—or rather, reminded us—that this is possible. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.           

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer