Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

A Child’s Dream is Often an Insight into Society

October 27, 2008


“I was going down stairs to get some water. On the way down a statue of cats came alive and were staring at me.  Down stairs there were two purple jaguars circling around me.  Om my chair there was a sleeping lady with Ron from Harry Potter.  wrapped around her arms and Ron said, “If you wake her up she will kill me.” I said, “what” and then the lady woke up and killed Ron!! Then I woke up.

Most things in dreams make absolutely no sense to the rational mind except the major negative emotion which is, in this case, fear.    It shows the main problem of our time that is a warning to this young 9 year old.   I don’t think that dreams of 9 year olds are meant to be analyzed metaphorically by themselves, but the fear is meant to felt so that they can recall it to someone who may help them through the process.   Unfortunately, it is a communication form that is only beginning to be understood so most children have little guidance about what is going on around them.     This dream starts by the boy going downstairs to get some water.    When you go down in a dream it usually means going to your lower nature rather than your higher one.   Going to get some water means that he is thirsty for a relationship.   The problem is the almost universal problem of young people in the world today.  They go to their lower natures, their ego,  for a relationship rather than their higher nature.   When this is done, their lives end up in fear and separation.

As he goes down the things that were statues come alive and start circling around him.    Animals in dreams can either be negative or positive.   When they appear as negative symbols, then the dreamer can turn his live around by finding their positive opposites.   The negative side of cat in a relationship is its aloofness and turning away from others, and the negative aspect of the big cats is their aggressive nature to tear into others.  The dream tells him that if he takes to his lower path that this is what he gets, aloof and distant relationships or really aggressive and abusive ones.   The final symbol is the mother figure who becomes a killer of a famous fantasy character when she is wakened.

A mother is supposed to be nurturing in real life,   but, in this episode, because he was taking the low road, he doesn’t get nurtured, he just sees horror.  The fantasy character lets him know that he imagines really bad things happening when he is on the low road.

It is often easiest to solve a dream by going backwards from the end of the dream rather than forward.  In this dream he ends up in a situation where he is  witnessing the death of an imaginary character.   This means that he can take the first steps to nurturing positive relationships and feeling alive and positive by being in the real world rather than the imaginary one.   This seems to be a major issue with all of the cultures of the world today.   Because the majority of relationships are built on material values, people slip into a destructive world of imagination rather than being real.    Children are just modeling their parents by slipping into things that distract them from real life.   Parents cannot moderate their children because they, the parents, do the same thing.

So the first step for most people and for this child is to be spend more time in the real world rather than in fantasy land.   It is not that Harry Potter is a bad read,  it is just that our culture spends too much time with him because we have become so atrocious at friendship and love and nurturing.   So then once you can get into the real world of friendship,  then you can take on the positive characteristics of the animal symbols, which in this case, would be to create a circle of friendship and pounce on goals that are positive.   The final symbol, which is the cats staring and being statues, is to be like a positive cat, which is to be independently minded.

What I do to get the symbols to become positive is to take their negative energy and flip them around to the positives.   So a statue of a cat would be like having the capacity of to think independently, but just not using it at all because it is much easier to just go into fantasy land rather than real thinking.    Real thinking is to be able to have opinions and discussions about real problems and then solving them.   And you can only get to the point of being able to have true discussions and openness when there is a circle of extremely positive relationships.

As we remember, the first part of the dream was to go downwards to get the water, which means taking the easy or material way to a relationship.  So the key, which is mostly non-existent in schools and in the world is for people to really desire excellence in having positive relationships.   Most people just do not want to put in the effort that a relationship requires.  They want it easy with the other side giving them lots of rewards.   So the main key to turning around the world culture is to be able to have a strong desire for working on relationships and on staying with the effort that is required.   It is not meant to be easy, but this is exactly what this child expects.

Sends your dreams to richardchastings@gmail.com and get started on change.

Who is Controlling the Future?

August 3, 2008

Last week, our 4th grandchild, Will Shoghi Heins-Hastings, made his transition from the world of the womb to the outside world. I wrote about this in the last posting. Being there at Will’s birth made an impression on me that I cannot put to words because there is nothing quite like holding a newborn. Right now he has nearly no muscle tone, no language, and no outer abilities to make his mark in the world. He relies totally on the his mother for his very life, but when I held him, I felt at complete peace with the world. It was as if time stood still or ceased to exist. I couldn’t get enough time with him, with the feeling of peacefulness and timeliness

It is an extraordinary process and I am left in awe. As my peacefulness gives way to the realities and pressures of everyday life I wonder and worry for the future of my grandchildren because I am absolutely certain that the world we have created is not ready for all of their talents. There is Isabela who is turning 5 and entering school shortly. At her tender years she already has an amazing talent to see a possibility and then put it into action, and with each passing moment she is mastering the art of cooperating with those around her so that the plans are mutually beneficial to all and not just self centered. I am not so naive as to believe that any school encourages the talent of taking initiative or of cooperating with others.

And then there is Diego. Who is controlling his future? At 2.5 years he already has mastered the quality of tenderness and is a classic example of leading with the right brain, his feelings, and with his hands. What will happen to him when he has to trade his right brain for his left or his feelings and hands for his mind? Will there be some support for him?

Olee is about the same age as Diego. You can see in Olee that he is already very sequential and logically oriented. He is not a fast processor because it takes a long time for things to line up. He spends an enormous amount of time on a single thought which mean that long after everyone has moved on or thinking about something else, he has a new insight into the first thought. Will Olee be given the time he needs to process? I wonder.

In the world as it exists now it seems to me that my grandchildren will face tremendous pressures to give up their talents so that they will live out someone else’s dream. They will be asked to live a future that someone has decided for them that is mostly driven by self-interest and materialistic priorities. No matter how great we are at parenting and grandparenting, their challenge will be to maintain who they are, develop their initial talents in a huge way, and then develop new capacities that have never appeared on the planet before in the face of selfish, bigoted, and conservative forces.

What we can do, what every parent or grandparent can do is gain more control of the future. Right now it doesn’t belong to us nor does it belong to our children’s talents and abilities. The first step is to see the positive abilities that our children have and to recognize and acknowledge them on a daily basis. And once it is clear where there is a positive quality then it we can begin to influence its future expression by providing environments for its development and guiding the interactions within those environments. We can actually change who controls the future from materialistic and selfish leaders to our own true selves. We can see who are children are and then guide them to a very positive future by taking over control of their environment rather than leaving it to the current culture. It is a very active process, not a passive one.

You can take your child to a climbing gym instead of the mall, for instance. Instead of just thinking about getting into a good university, we can think of where in the world our children could go to have real life experiences that could teach them the things that don’t exist in books. The future is ours for taking. Will’s birth has taught me that the time is now.

Journey to the Mountain Top in Sabah

April 7, 2008

Sabah is a federal territory of Malaysia, not a state in its own right. It is like the Yukon or the how the Northwest Territories used to be in Canada. It, like Sarawak is located on the northern part of the island of Borneo which Malaysia shares with Indonesia.

We arrive in Kota Kinabalu, K.K. to the locals, on Monday. I had just done a half marathon they day before in KL and the with the marathon of a school year coming to the final months, you can say that Debby and I are close to the wall and tired. Our plane is delayed a couple of hours so by the time we check into the Beringgis Beach Resort it is already 11:00 pm..

Beringgis has a long beautiful flat beach and even though my legs are still recovering from the half, the sand and surf invite me in for a run along the empty beach with the jungle on one side and the South China Sea on the other. It is a relaxing way to begin another adventure holiday.

beach run

Debby wants a day to relax at the beach, so I give her 2 hours before we are off on first adventure to the Garama River to see three different species of monkeys in the lush rain forest that covers the island. Our guide is a 3:15 marathon runner and because he sees my KL half t-shirt we spend quite of bit of time talking about races in Malaysia, the most famous of which is the climbathon up to 4,100 meters a top Mt. Kinabalu.

guides on the river

Later in the journey we will climb the mountain, but now we are in boat for a few hours along another beautiful river in Southeast Asia. It doesn’t get much better than this as they say. Along the way we see proboscus and silver-tipped monkeys as well as macaques. Sabah is a wonderland. It has some of the greatest wildlife adventures on the planet including some of the best scuba diving, which we will have to put aside for another holiday.

grubs big nosed

silver tip

The river trip is quite relaxing and the dinner afterwards looking over the wetlands at sunset fills us with the kind of emotion one hopes to find on a holiday. Quite magical.

sunset dinner

The next morning we are off early for a three day adventure which will take us to the highest spot in Southeast Asia. We stop at one of the local handicraft markets. Debby finds a great bag to carry more things made from the local native people. In the mainland of Malaysia the mix of cultures is Malay, Chinese, and Indian, but in Sabah the majority of people are a mixture of native tribes, like in Sarawak, followed by Chinese, Malay, and Indian. It gives Sabah a different feel, a bit more laid back. The lines between the cultures seem more blurred here and model of integration much further along. Later on, when I am interviewed at a local newspaper, my eye is struck by the interest in integration in America, which moves me, but for now Mt. Kinabalu lies ahead.

Later we have a great nature hike done by a local Chinese botanist who describes the science in the rain forest. Many of the ferns mirror the rain forest of BC and because we are at about 1500 meters now the cooler air begins to resemble our west coast of Canada. We follow the ecology walk with another great lunch, a trip to Poring Hot Springs where we leisure in the healing waters and walk along the canopy of the jungle.

flowers nature hike

butterfly gardens

You may notice or not that Debby is quite joyful and relaxed on the canopy and I am not.

canopy

It is just one of those fears that sneaks up on me so I tell myself that no one is dying and that makes it a wee bit easier. That night we stay in dormitory-like hostel at the foot of the peak in preparation for the next morning up the slope of the mountain. We have a chance to visit with a couple living in Mongolia working for the Peace Corps and then are off to bed.

hotsprings

By 6 am we are awake, 6:30 packed up, and by 7:00 am we are eating breakfast. At 8:00 am we register for the hike and meet our guide.

mountains in the morning Beginning

Andrew and Debby

His name is Andrew, 42 years old, he has two teenage boys, and is a member of the local native tribe of which most of the guides are. He is more like an angel sent to help us every step of the way. In three years he has been up the mountain more than 110 times so he keeps telling us in Malay slow and steady, slow and steady. The first day up the mountain peak begins at the Timphonon Gate which is about 1800 meters and climbs to 3100 which is 6 kilometers from the starting pointing.

Difficult, tiring, grueling, never-ending, painful, excrutiating, continuously upward. These are just a few of the adjectives to describe the first day. Mt. Kinabalu is impressive because like other high places where native people live, it is regarded as a sacred place, and so it doesn’t surprise me when I am with the Baha’i community in KK doing a presentation on dreams that several people share dreams with the mountain in it. The trail is well kept up with covered rest stops every kilometer, not like the snow-covered trail up Crown Mountain in Vancouver, but most of the way up I am thinking of my climbing partners, my son-in-laws, Chris and Shane, and how much they would love to be ascending the Mt. K.. Debby was not feeling very well in the morning and the climb proves more difficult than she had hoped, but in her true character, she musters up every bit of self discipline and determination to reach Laban Rata, the hostel 6 km up from the start. Notice the woman carrying the 20 kilos on her back and passing right by us.

day one end woman carrying goods

sunset laban rata

Because she has had diarrhea and a quezy stomach she is not able to replace the glycogen stores along the way so makes the decision, wisely not to do the summit the next day. By the time we reach the first day’s end we have already made several new friends including a young English couple, a couple for Holland, and a brother and sister from California.

Of course everyone is about the age of our children. People our age usually don’t do this kind of thing. Well there is one man and woman other than us who have some gray hair. We must be crazy, but the fellowship of pain is quite comforting and the dinner quite a welcome. At 7:30 pm we are all in bed because we have to wake up at 2:00 am to make the final 2.5 hour climb of 1000 meters to the summit. Sleeping at 3000 meters is fitful because of the lack of oxygen and many people already have headaches and are feeling nauseous. Debby shivers for awhile and then finally gets to sleep. I know that I have slept because I have a few dreams, but it is not without a lot of tossing and turning. The wake-up call comes and I am nervous but also excited.

Now it is just Andrew and myself and every step of the way I am thankful for his help. I keep thinking of Shane and Chris and hoping they get the chance that I have. Climbing at night with a flashlight is a bit of blessing because you don’t have to see how high things are. The first 40 minutes are quite vertical and I am thinking that if I have to do this for another 2 hours that I am going to be spent, but by the time you reach 7 kilometers of the 8.7 things begin to level out and the hike changes from grueling to joyous. I keep thinking to myself how joyful I feel and how wonderful it is.

At 5:30 am, 30 minutes before sunrise we reach the summit. I will let the pictures do the talking because I think they say it all.

top of the world Andrew Richard

sunrise

Climbing down a mountain always seems like a piece of cake but after a couple of hours of descending one step after another, your thighs go wobbly and so by the end you end up with legs that say thank you, thank you, for stopping. Now 2 days later, the mountain is still a strong memory in the thighs. Every step on a staircase is felt. We have a great buffet waiting for us at the bottom, but I am entirely spent after it. I sleep for part of the trip back to KK.

way down

When we arrive at the hotel downtown, we find that we only have a couple of hours before I am presenting on dreams to a group of Baha’is in the city. My mind and body say no, but the spirit beckons. Who am I to say no to it. Doing a presentation is a lot like climbing a mountain. Before the experience I always have nerves and wonder if things will go well, in the middle I just stay focused and keep presenting, and at the end have some moments of satisfaction. What is so interesting about this meeting is the openness of the people and how willing they are to go after the issues that are presented in the dreams.

Some of the Baha\'is at the Dream meeting

My worry before a meeting is always about the resistance, but in this one, there is no resistance whatsoever. Since a great deal of the community is culturally Chinese, the dreams reveal the weaknesses of Chinese culture, which is mainly about looking for the negative in others rather than the positives to try to get more improvement and then making people fearful of something bad happening if they don’t follow the path that everyone else is on. They are extremely receptive. Fortunately Baha’u’llah’s teaching emphasize over and over and over the importance of inclusion so one of the leaders in the community encourages the native Baha’is to share their dreams, and as always happens their dreams are the solution to the Chinese problems. This is the great Baha’i teaching that including diversity solves the problems that any culture is having. By the time the meeting is finished it is 11:00 pm. So I have been up since 2:00 am the same day and I am buzzing from the meeting and the day’s hiking adventure. What a day! Am I dreaming this? The next morning I am up early again because Kang, one of the local Baha’is, has arranged two interviews with newspapers. So here I am, only 5 days earlier having set foot on Sabah with no plans to do any meetings and now because of Debby’s initiative in calling some of the local Baha’is, I am now doing interviews for feature articles in two newpapers. I must be dreaming. Well both interviews go really well. In the first one the reporter asks me about a dream of her mother who has passed away some time ago and when I explain my understanding her eyes fill with tears, which come to her unexpected especially as an objective reporter. Life continues to be an astonishment. While she leaves the room I notice a framed copy of the front page of an old newspaper with the name Kennedy on it. I ask myself if it could really by about JFK, but think it is probably about a Kennedy in Sabah. So as I approach I notice that the date is May, 1963, just a few months prior to his untimely death. The article is about him delivering anti-discrimination legislation to the Congress of the United States. Later , the reporter asks me about what I think about Obama becoming president. At first I am surprised by the question and I tell her that the Baha’i teaching is to not become involved in partisan politics because they tend to be divisive, but then say, with JFK hanging up in the background, that it is quite incredible that a man who is both black and white could reach the highest office in the U.S.. My eyes begin to well up and I cannot explain the emotion. I explain to her that I did not expect to be so emotional when she asked the question. A day later as I think of the Kennedy article on the wall, I realize how much hope the world had with JFK, that even on the island of Borneo, what he attempted to do is revered. We are truly one planet and I know I am living in a dream. The rest of the day I am meeting with several people about their dreams and difficult issues in life. I look forward to my return, climbing the mountain once again, and hoping that I can help people up the mountain peaks of their lives.

“Let each morn be better than its eve and each morrow richer than its yesterday.” (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)

What’s Missing In Self Discipline is Usually the Self

March 31, 2008

If you go to almost any school in any place on the planet and ask teachers what virtues they would like to see their students have more of,  they will inevitably say self-discipline, respect, and responsibility.    If you ask a group of youth to identify areas in life where they are the weakest,   they will overwhelming say that they lack self discipline.   It teachers and parents want it more from young people,  why is it that it rates last on the energies that most people have?  Why can’t young people have more self-discipline?

It seems to me that when you have discipline,  you will do whatever it takes even to the point of experiencing pain to accomplishing a goal.    When you are doing it for someone else,  you can often have threats hanging over you or rewards in front of you to keep you disciplined,   but as we all know that is not self-discipline.   Self discipline has more to do with accomplishing goals that are set by your true self.

So it seems to me that what teachers and parents and managers most often leave out when asking for more self-discipline, is the other person’s self, the true self.   I suppose it is a relatively new idea in the history of the world which accounts for our lack of success with it.   I think that the historical model is that it is the higher ups on the authority ladder that set the goals, certainly not the young people and rarely from workers themselves.

Whenever I have had difficulties achieving my own goals, it always seems that I am in conflict with an authority figure.  It is as if that person does not want me to have my own goal and then I have trouble seeing my true self achieving it.   The discipline that is often demanded is for their goals, but there is a scarcity in the world of people who encourage others to achieve their own goals.   When you do not have a vivid and clear image of your self achieving the goal, then the discipline mechanism does not seem to be able to work very well.   We can be motivated and disciplined for the corporation’s goals, but not for our own.

It should come as no surprise that the goals of the true self would automatically come into conflict with most organizations at some point for the simple reason that the mess that the world is in right now is the hands a some pretty self-interested leaders.     The problem with being in conflict with leadership or with others is that it tends to blur the image of the true self doing the goals.   The problem with only doing their goals is that it also blurs your own goals.   If you fight, you lose, and if you give in, you also lose.

It isn’t so much that being disciplined for another person’s goals is such a bad thing especially if it has to be with the well-being of your family, but it should be clear that it does not come under the same heading as self-discipline.   And it isn’t self discipline if your own goal is motivated by the ego such as greed or envy or power.   Hitler never had self discipline because he was a slave to his own greed and power.  The image of his self out there was an illusion.   The difference between an image that comes from the true self versus the one from the ego is that the if you stay disciplined for a long period of time toward a true self goal, the goals that you set tend to have lasting results.   The ego goals are always short-lived.

So it turns out that having self discipline requires removing the fear of authority on the one hand and removing self-interest on the other.   When this happens, the way becomes clear to see the true self as you wish it to be.  Then action in disciplined manner follows.

So first I can do a clearing to see the true self and where it wants to go and then I can for it with a great deal of disciplined action.

Maria Montessori Was Right!

March 22, 2008

Over the years Maria Montessori’s worked has received a certain amount criticism for the lack of inclusion of creative play and fantasy. If you are in a very strict Montessori program, even the personification of animals is deemed inappropriate. Well, yesterday I was working with a group of young children on the climbing wall at my school when her idea of having children do real work instead of fantasy showed itself to me very clearly.

One of the children has been bringing small leaves and flower petals to class for about a week now. What I noticed was that every time that he was supposed to climb, he began obsessing on the flower petals and then making up stories about their magical powers. The result is that his muscle development and risk taking abilities are extremely weak. Besides the fantasy, he also uses blaming others if the slightest thing goes wrong like someone else going before him in line.

Yesterday I took away his magical leaf, told him that the magic was in his limbs, and that he was going to climb. So during the climb I went with him every step of the way giving him a certain amount of physical support, but I was there mostly to make sure he stayed on the wall rather than bailing. The result was what Maria Montessori must have often observed. When this young boy was faced with fear on the wall, he wanted to jump off the wall and begged me to let him stop many times. His dialogue with me was about how scary climbing was, but every time he made it to new rocks his dialogue changed from fear to achievement. It is as if he had two voices going in his head, a fear voice and a courage voice. When I was there making him do the experiences, the voice of courage was allowed to start coming out even when the fear was very great. The more he climbed the greater the voice of courage. Given the choice, however, the magic leaves are a much easier route for him because they provide some mild comfort to ease the fearful thoughts. As Montessori put it, the fantasy becomes a defense, a coping mechanism for dealing with the real issue.

Children and adults learn best from real life experiences. Facing fear is an important part of life no matter what age we are. Besides this boy I have had several children begin to cry when the fear was extremely strong on the climbing wall. By keeping them on the wall they push through the fear and then develop strength and courage so that the next times they can do the tasks independently. While they are in the fear it is as if they become different people, but they all love it so much when they get to the achievement and happy that they went through it.

So many adults have just seemed to give into their fears these days and then allowed their children to follow. Of course with adults the fantasy is a whole way of life which includes all kinds of sophisticated strategies of avoidance which people call living. The center of the fantasy seems to be anchored by alcohol and sex. Women also seem to go for shopping and men seem to go for obsessing on their teams winning to get away from facing life. Children have TV and video games, but the real life story of the boy on the climbing wall shows that the fantasy life is a way of coping with fear that is very temporary at best. Maria Montessori was right. Let’s get real and go after our fears.   We just need some support to stay in the experience.

Magic of Children’s Dreams

March 14, 2008

“About a week ago I dreamt that I was flying and then I went on an amazing adventure and it was so wonderful. And then suddenly, in my dream, I went back home and something terrible happened. It woke me up and when I tried to go back to sleep and remember the great adventure, I could only remember the terrible thing.”

This dream was told to me this morning by an 8 year old girl in my wife’s grade 3 class. Debby invited me in to speak about dreams to her children for about an hour today. They just kept telling one dream after another mostly nightmares the whole time and when I had to leave, they just begged me to stay longer so that they could share a few more dreams.

I started the post with the adventure dream because it happens to so many children and so many people. It is really worth writing about. When I explained it to the them, I told the girl that flying and having an adventure meant that inside of her, the part of her that relates to the future is very strong. Flying and adventure are symbols that relate to the future. Lots of children fly in their dreams and they love going on adventures, but what happens to her is what happens to a lot of real life dreams that children have.

When she goes back to her home, something terrible happens. If I would have had the time, I would have taken her aside and asked her about the bad thing in real life. She almost told me in front of her friends, but it is easy enough to guess. Most likely it is the terrible thing that happens to many children, the separation of their parents. In her true self she is a strong adventurer, but like most children, what she needs to keep adventuring is a strong support and encouragement system at home so she can be that way. When something terrible happens, then children get stuck in the past, in the memory of the terrible thing, and then they fear it happening more, and then they can’t venture forth very well.

A positive future works well when the past is supportive. Parents and grandparents represent the past for a child so when they are supportive, then the child can move freely into the future as if it were a great adventure.

This dream shows the difficulty of childhood. The only thing that really holds her back is the bad memory of the terrible thing because she believes that the terrible event will keep her from going forward in life. It doesn’t have to prevent it, but it is difficult to convince a child that. What she needs is adventures, as do most children, because that is where they get all of their new learning. If you know children who have had bad things happen to them, all you really have to do is be there with them to take them into wonderful places in the future. The more they do in the future, the more that they can understand and be told that bad things happen all around, but they can be left behind and then they can move forward in really positive ways.

That is a great lesson for me also. Ok I am off to an adventure tomorrow, but first I am going to leave a bad memory behind.

Encouraging Growth Under Stress

December 15, 2007

I was all set to do a great unit on cooperation with my kindergarten students. They passed through some great work earlier in the semester with courage and determination and attention. It seemed so right. Then one day they came in bouncing way off the walls and the sequence of cooperative activities became a sequence of nagging and sitting kids out. “What happened to my great group of focused kids?”

It is the holiday season in school so I began to wonder why my kids are so acting the way that children under stress behave. Weird!! What is the stress that children feel during this season? I know that when anyone is under stress they regress to a previous stage so that is how I handle the situation. I take the pressure off the students and do things that require less focus. It is a temporary pain reliever; a tranquilizer.

I wish that I could say that this festive season was only positive for my students, but yesterday I had one group play a game that just two weeks ago they enjoyed in perfect harmony. Six children ended up crying and doing regressive behaviors like wanting to pull out of the game because it didn’t go their way. Is this really what Jesus had hoped for?

I don’t want to be critical of Christmas because, for most Christians, or even non-Christians living in a Christian country Christmas has a great way of bringing families together with a great deal of joy. I think that the stress that my students experience is based upon the idea that they are just going to get whatever material thing they ask for, so during the season when there is a lot of hype, they shift from finding their huge joy in play and activity, to the hope that some thing outside of themselves, is going to bring them joy which it may very well do for a few minutes at least.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against presents. Bring them on, but it seems pretty clear to me from this experience that when young people think that they are going to find huge joy in material things, that they become stressed and then stop learning at an accelerated rate. It seems to me also, that they function better and learn more when the activities themselves are the reward and gifts are given in moderation.

So I think that the idea of Christmas should be to keep the gifts simple and have a great time with the activities so that children become a lot less stressed.

Children Are Created to Change the Future and Appreciate the Positives of the Past

December 5, 2007

I have a theory about parenting based upon much of the work that I have done with dreams that the issues that first children face have a great deal to do with changing the way things are in one’s family, and that the last children’s issue are designed to change the culture around them. I am a last child and my mother and her mother were all last children. We just all seem to have a way of not going along with things.

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My mother’s doctor told her, after her spinal surgery, that she wouldn’t be walking in 10 years. That was was more than 20 years ago. She is now 86 and can still out walk almost anyone. She just has a way of refusing to listen to what others believe. She calls it self discipline or having an iron will, but I think that she believes that things can be different than what the culture adheres to and then just goes and does what she wants. Last year at 85 she started doing Chinese brush painting for the first time and now works on it vigorously. That kind of quality is much more than self discipline. It is just looking the culture in the eye and saying, “Get out of my way. You have no business in my life.” I mean let’s face it. Medical school is supposed to be the pinnacle of western education. Thousands of students compete for very few openings in universities, but my mother just decided somehow that they didn’t know what they were talking about. She did let them operate on her which means that there are parts of the culture worth keeping, but she didn’t hand over her mind to the culture. You have to love that.

First children put their issues right in your face because their issues are your issues. The last children suffer for the weaknesses in the culture. It is extremely difficult for us, the last children, not to throw out the baby with the bath water. When I was 18 I was so unaware of this dynamic, that I went off to a military academy thinking that perhaps if I had more self discipline or something like that, that I my life would really be improved. It didn’t take me long before I started to wake up and see that what the culture had created wasn’t working very well and that self discipline was not the issue. What I had a much more difficult time with was how to sort out what was useful and working, and what needed overhauling. I had a huge desire to throw out everything having to do with an ordered life and restrictions because the academy didn’t have much room for things like creativity and expressing one’s opinions. Now I know that there is a great place for being organized and having rules and discipline, and they don’t exclude creativity, encouragement, and intimacy. I personally think that most of my events and classes work best when I spend the time in the organization and have restrictions on what students can and cannot do. When I add creativity and encouragement into the mix, the classes become magical.

What happened at the academy was that too much criticism and unbalanced order began to have a detrimental effect on my character. It forced me into understanding the role of encouragement and creativity, but the negative effects of the academy’s culture distorted how to integrate constructive opinions and order. I was just so compelled to not see their place because of the pain that I felt. This is the last child’s dilemma. I don’t see it that often in first children. They seem to survive the culture much better, but don’t survive their family very well.

The difficulty for us is being able to live and appreciate the positive things in the culture while at the same time trying to change it. We become so dysfunctional by the negative aspects of the culture that we go into a funk that keeps us from doing our part. I just always feel like screaming out about how bad my culture is/was, but I know it has some amazingly positive aspects to it which I can really appreciate. I just wanted to do to the academy what it did to me, criticize it.

Now I understand that changing the culture is much easier than I ever thought by first appreciating and acknowledging the positives around me, and then systematically going after a specific issue that is causing the greatest difficulty.

Juliet is my youngest daughter so I am now in the habit of seeing where she focuses to see what the culture needs to do. If you read her blog, (hoogliart) you can notice that in recent times she has shared with us a great deal about simplicity. So I think I will take her lead.

The “Good” Parent

December 4, 2007

Take this “Good” Parent Test to see if you are living up to the expectations of your culture.

1. I believe that it is the first impression that counts the most. Y or N

2. When I go to the playground, I think more about how my children are going to get hurt so I can protect them than what capacities they are building.

Y or N

3. I believe that the university my children attend determines how successful they will be. Y or N

4. I believe that when my children make a mistake, that I should intervene and correct them immediately. Y or N

5. I believe that telling children about their positive characteristics has a detrimental effect on their character. Correcting faults is more important. Y or N

6. I am a good parent by being vigilant about my children’s faults and correcting as many of them I can. Y or N

7. When my children go out in public, my first thoughts are with how others will perceive them. Y or N

8. I prefer that my children go to Club Med rather than an experience in the wilderness or jungle. Y or N

9. My child can achieve a lot more success by being more outgoing than ingoing. Y or N

If you answered yes to many of the above questions, you are a “good” parent, at least in the norms that are practiced universally in the world. This is what most parents do most of the time and they don’t seem to be able to have an internal choice to do anything different. They aren’t all bad. Being outgoing, having a university education, making a good impression, correcting faults, and being safe are all meritorious.

The problem with this approach to parenting is that its locus of control is in the hands of some cultural idea that may or may not be useful anymore, if it ever was in the first place. The most telling aspect of whether you are being controlled by your own inner true self that has choice 0r by the culture around you is whether or not you feel compelled to correct faults all the time. If you are an obsessive corrector, you have given over all of your control to the culture. This can be extremely harmful to your child’s future.

When Erika, my eldest daughter, was 19 or 20 attending the University of Victoria, she called me up one day distraught and full of tears. When she thought about her own sense of the future and the university she was attending, she could not find a great match. Nothing about her experience was aligned with what she thought she might want to do in the future. She didn’t know what to do. Well when you are a parent and your children are distraught, the great tendency is to become just as dysfunctional and do silly things. Fortunately, at that moment, something inspirational happened between us. I told her that probably the kind of future that she wanted for herself doesn’t currently exist in the culture and that is why it isn’t in the university program, that she should just think of possibilities and not concern herself so much with the university program. It was enough to stop a few tears.

The next day her Spanish instructor spoke to her about the possibility of going to Mexico to study Spanish and also teach some English courses for several months. Then she figured out that the rest of the year she could study art in another part of Mexico. By breaking the cultural mode she was able to become extremely fluent in Spanish and study the style of art that has the most impact on her personal style. As a parent I was lucid enough for a few moments to encourage her to break out of the culture. I stopped being the “good” parent and it paid off.

There were no cultural rules for me to follow to help my children through their university educations. The “good” parent would say to just go along with the system and it will pay off in the end. It just didn’t work. Erika graduated from university with a masters degree and was invited to do her doctorate. It means that for her, there were parts of the university experience that worked, and parts that didn’t. For some children a university education is not the answer because the cultural system is so counterproductive to who they are that it completely stifles them.

When you do not make your own decisions, but allow the culture to decide your fate by following its pattern, you end up being like everyone else in the culture. Some of it is worth keeping, some is not.  You try to correct your children when their thoughts do not match cultural ones rather than encouraging them to live out of their true selves.

Dream: An Alcoholic 5 Year Old

November 22, 2007

Last night in my sleep I dreamt that I was on a path in an unknown place trying to get somewhere. I don’t quite remember where I was going, but it was a social event. Along the way I ran into an abandoned 5 year old who was drinking beer and begging for money from me. It seemed to be something that he was doing often. It felt like he would have just kept pestering me for money had I stayed, kind of like a shop keeper who sees that you are eying and item and then chases you down the street to try to sell it to you, so I decided to leave him.

What is very interesting to me is that I teach 5 year olds physical education so I know a great deal about them and what allows them to thrive. They benefit a great deal from positive attention and chances to develop their abilities in an environment that is both playful and challenging, fun and demanding. What I couldn’t get over in the dream was the alcohol. I ended up abandoning the child because of the alcohol and the begging associated with it. I think I believe that the alcohol is a huge deal, that I can’t reach the child as long as the alcohol is around.

What I am understanding, right now as I am writing this post, is that the alcohol is just coping, that I can just ignore it and do what works, which is to provide environments with a great deal of warmth and energy. Many of my students who come from wealthy families fit into the category of abandoned alcoholics. Their parents work day and night, leave them with unqualified child care, and push them into activities that allow them to end up like themselves, overworked and inattentive. The warmth and involvement in their child’s life are just not present. The children become addicted to video games and TV and the wrong kinds of food and later alcohol to fill up the space in themselves left by the abandonment. As soon as you add positive activity and warmth, the addiction goes away.

It is a fairly simple process actually. The complicating factor is that the entire world culture has become the alcoholic 5 year old addicted to the things that temporarily help forget the abandonment which leads them begging for more money to be able to forget more. My process in all of this is a huge desire to avoid the alcoholic behavior which leaves me out there wandering and not being able to get where I want to go.

The message in the dream to me is that what works with 5 year olds should be the factors that work with the present stage of the world, warmth and positive activities that are both joyful and challenging. What I am having a hard time ignoring is the alcohol in the hands of a 5 year old.

Radical Change means Changing Everyday

October 15, 2007

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Earlier this week I had a dream that goes to the heart of what my blog is all about and what the book I am writing is hoping to communicate that really truly radical change is an evolutionary process of working hard every single day to change my life for the better. In the dream there was a young person who was having a problem in his life so I took out a flip chart and made a drawing and explanation of what the problem was and how to solve it and then told him. When he tried to apply it, he totally failed as if he hadn’t heard a single thing I was saying. I became intensely angered and started yelling what he should do, but still no response.

My dream goes to the heart of the change dynamic. A major change does not suddenly happen with one explanation and then an attempt at an application. This is not to say that the explanation is not important, but it is only the beginning and not the whole process. The big negative emotion in the dream, anger, let me know that there was a part of my self that still needed a lot of work. Anger is the mirror emotion meaning that when you are angry at someone else it really is a sign of having something about yourself that you are having trouble changing. If you already have the quality or process, you can be much more detached and patient.

So then I began the inner work to find what I am so angry about inside for not changing. What I found is that, even though I have made a lot of progress in the issue in the past, I needed to have the quality of being more outgoing with others. Since being friendly and outgoing is a spiritual quality, it means that it is infinite in its actualizations. It means that no matter how much I have worked on it, there will be more ahead.

Why I need to be more out there is clear in the dream, because I am in the role of being a teacher and helper which means that I can’t hold back with people.

Changing always means having the goal of actualizing more of your true self and working with the negative energy inside that presents the issue. So after the dream when I realized that I was so impatient with the change process, I practiced being patient and encouraging in my classes and the effect was amazing especially with the really weak students. I realized that I could set what I initially thought would be too small of a goal for them on the first day and then increase the goal each day thereafter. I began to notice the progress in the students who were having a great deal of fear. Every time they approached the climbing wall and made one more step or made a big effort I let them know.

Then all of sudden, in one class, three boys climbed up to a place where they have to have to ring a bell and then jump down onto landing mats. This was a great deal more than I had expected, but the really interesting thing was that my class arrived early so that sat and watch the boys do their acts of bravery and receive due recognition. Immediately when the new class came in, a young girl, who had not done very much up to that point, came up to me and asked me if I could help her ring the bell. I said, “of course, let’s go for it.” And she not only rang the bell but she worked much harder on all of the tasks for the rest of class. It was a magical moment for her.

The point is that radical change is about staying in your process and working each moment to get better. Pretty simple.

How to Transform Your Child’s Nightmares into Amazing Capacities

September 15, 2007

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It is not surprising to me that after I wrote my last post about Godzilla and the principle of opposition that, without having read the post, someone sent me an account of their 3 year old child’s nightmare with a dinosaur. The dream is as follows.

“I dreamed that a dinosaur was chasing me – it was big with blue skin that was really bumpy. And was scared, so I went into Mummy’s room, and I could see Mummy sleeping under the covers, but when I pulled the covers back, Mummy was a pirate! And she had a knife! I was so scared that I ran away from her, but he started chasing me so I jumped out the window. Mummy the pirate followed, and then killed her. “

This is what I wrote back to the mother with her permission.

“A dinosaur represents a huge fear of negative evil, reptilian, which means that it doesn’t have a lot of positive ambition and it is very old like dinosaurs. When you have a dinosaur in your dream, it means that you have huge potential and drive to go for really big things that that are positive. Think of it as a negative sign whose solution is really positive potential.”

“As a parent you can to do 2 things that will really make facilitate the development of your child. First is to acknowledge the fear and give your child lots of comfort and assurance. ‘That was so scary. etc.. ‘, but in your mind at the same time you are beginning to think of what the solution is because reassurance is only short term and can only go so far. The solution, that she has a big bright wonderful future, is long term. So you can start planning for how she is going to have a big bright future by seeing the signs of it in her spirit and then providing the environments she needs to develop it. Both processes are important, but the second one is sooo much more difficult than the first. Many parents do not even do the first process of acknowledging the fear and the dinosaur. They do everything possible to deny the experience hoping that it won’t reoccur. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that most people do not understand that the principle of opposition. Once you understand that the negative has a positive opposite that can be brought out over time, then it is much easier to be empathetic and patient with the nightmare. Culturally speaking most people do not believe that their children have incredible potential because in the history of the world we have been mostly led by tyrannosaurus rex. T-rex doesn’t like people who may challenge his leadership.”

“When she sees you as a pirate that has a knife that kills, it is because she needs exactly the opposite from you and also eventually from herself. She needs someone as a mother who is life giving and nurturing and sees her gems and provides environments for the gems to come out and then also acknowledges the gems when they are inside and when they start coming out.”

“One more thing. The blue skin that was really bumpy means that she sees the dinosaur (the fear) with a lot of clarity. To solve the problem you can have her see who she is in a positive way very clearly as well so that she can begin to generate a positive future and become enthusiastic about going for things. The clarity is also an indicator that she has the ability to perceive the negative aspects of the culture very clearly. This means that if she is guided properly, she will readily be able recognize people who are dishonest, who are trying to take advantage of her, and are ambitious for their own greed.”

“Windows are symbols about vision because you start from inside of your true self and then look out into the world. Your house in a dream is a symbol of your self and so a window is the vision onto the world. What a child would normally do is look out a window, see possibilities of play or something like that, and then run down to do the activities, but in the dream she is so scared that she jumps right out of her vision.”

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“Vision is an essential part of the development of a person’s will because they get an idea in their mind ( a window of opportunity) and then seek to achieve it. Fear of the dinosaur drives out the positive envisioning process.”

“What you can do to help her is to ask your own self the following question. What is the part of me that is acting out of the negative culture that is fearful of envisioning great possibilities?”
“Then you can begin to change that part into positive capabilities that will support her. The negative cultural aspect of yourself is the pirate in your/her unconscious that comes through the dream.”

“What I would guess is that there is something in your own envisioning process that has been affected by the culture.”

Last notes: My experience is that people dismiss their nightmares or just try to forget them because of not knowing about the opposition principle. When you have a nightmare, it is a sign that you have a great deal of fear and very little of the capability that the dream is calling forth. My personal practice with nightmares is take as much time off the day after so that I can begin the work on the new capability because it is like an infant at that point. By doing this process you can actually become excited about a nightmare because it means that you are going to develop something brand new. If you dismiss the nightmares in the dream world, then they have a tendency to appear in the actual world.

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Dreamwork and the Principle of Opposition

September 12, 2007

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In Chapter 11 of Dreams for Peace, (see Hastings) Godzilla comes into someone’s house causing panic and huge fear where everyone ends up fleeing for their lives. Some don’t make it. It is easy enough when you are doing the initial dream analysis to see that the dreamer is running away from a perceived fear of something that is large and evil. You have a fear and it makes you start avoiding. This is the pattern. You can find this kind of information in most books about dreams.

What you don’t find is a good theory about solving dreams. About 10 years ago when I was doing dream work with a lot of adolescents on a daily basis, I discovered a principle which I call opposition. It certainly isn’t a new principle because it can be found in great writings of every major religion. The principle, briefly stated, is that we all have a true self, which is eternal, positive, and oriented toward service to humankind, and we also have an ego, which is the animal or material self that will one day die. The ego, because of its protective and survival orientation is prone to all of the negative emotions especially fear. When the ego is not subordinate to the true self, it tends to cause all kinds of harm and mischief. Godzilla, for instance, is a symbol of a big ego that causes great evil.

The major problem with most contemporary practices in psychology is that they do not see the true self as the solution to the ego. The true self is unlimited in the number of positive capacities that it can express, while the ego is its mirror opposite in its negative destructive abilities. Dreams are either an expression of the true self or an expression of the ego. Sometimes there are dreams that express parts of both in the same dream. Godzilla is an example of dream about the ego. It could be as a result of personal experience, of family upbringing, or of cultural origins. What most people need after a dream like this is an analysis, but what is even more important is a solution. We have to ask ourselves what is the solution to Godzilla.

In the Baha’i Writings there is a famous quotation that goes like this.

So far as ye are able, ignite a candle of love in every meeting, and with tenderness rejoice and cheer ye every heart. Care for the stranger as for one of your own; show to alien souls the same loving kindness ye bestow upon your faithful friends. Should any come to blows with you, seek to be friends with him; should any stab you to the heart, be ye a healing salve unto his sores; should any taunt and mock at you, meet him with love. Should any heap his blame upon you, praise ye him; should he offer you a deadly poison, give him the choicest honey in exchange; and should he threaten your life, grant him a remedy that will heal him evermore. Should he be pain itself, be ye his medicine; should he be thorns, be ye his roses and sweet herbs. Perchance such ways and words from you will make this darksome world turn bright at last; will make this dusty earth turn heavenly, this devilish prison place become a royal palace of the Lord — so that war and strife will pass and be no more, and love and trust will pitch their tents on the summits of the world. Such is the essence of God’s admonitions; such in sum are the teachings for the Dispensation of Baha. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 34)

Spiritual writings are, by their very nature, solution oriented. In the above quotation, described as the sum of all the teachings for this age, the solution to blame is praise, the solution to poison is honey, and the solution for thorns are roses. So if we look at Godzilla, based upon the above quotation, he can be described as a terribly destructive force that wreaks havoc everywhere he goes. Where psychology has come to thus far as a practice is to recognize that Godzilla is an evil force causing untold destruction, so therefore, lets kill him and everything will be just great. So we kill Godzilla, but because we haven’t done the solution of opposition as in the holy writings, sooner or later, Godzilla’s uncle pops up and starts the same thing all over again.

Being solution oriented means doing the opposite. Great destructive powers are solved by great constructive and healing powers. When the world trade center was destroyed in New York City, the immediate response was to go after Godzilla. Countries do have the right to protect themselves, and there is a benefit from killing Godzilla, but no one seems to have responded to him in a solution oriented way by going after huge positives.

Whenever I have a dream that is negative, I almost immediately begin by flipping the negative images in my mind to their positive opposites. This tells me almost immediately what kind of actions to take in my life. You can try it. If you are being attacked by a poisonous snake in a dream, you don’t really need to worry so much about what a snake means. What you need to do is to change from being poisoned to being healing. Maybe there is a lot of vicious backbiting at work. You can do healing work by finding people to praise and honor.

There are a lot of interesting clues that you can get in dream work if you learn to pay attention and then apply a solution. If the dream is dark, then it means that you need to bring more light into the world, maybe shedding more light. If there is a large negative, then you can go for a very large positive. If everything is going really fast, then you can work on slowing everything down.

The Right Brained Dyslexic ADD Planning Tool

September 10, 2007

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If you have ever walked around with labels like very creative but extremely disorganized, dyslexic, distracted, hyper, or ADD, this little tool may help you out. You first have to realize that most people with such labels organize on the basis of space, not on time. This is a big key. All of the courses of time organization or other organizing schemes won’t work for you so don’t feel bad if you have organizers that don’t have any marks in them. Most of them are for people who organize on the basis of time.

People that lead with their right brain tend to process by seeing the whole picture and then making connections between things in the picture. Left brain processors organize themselves according to lists and sequences. They make a list and check it off one at at time. They are greatly loved by teachers because they follow directions well. Most people can do some of both, but those with a more severe right brain style really can’t do lists. They have never read a technical manual but know more about computers than anyone because they can just keep experimenting and making connections. The only time they look at the manual is when they absolutely can’t figure something out.

So when you are right brained or ADD, you need a different type of planning tool. You need something where you can see everything all at once and then just start doing things that seem most important. One way to do it is to just write things on a piece of paper as if it were a picture, not a list. You can remember a picture, but you can’t remember a list.   There is a dynamic that happens in the brain when you can see the whole picture and stay focused on it that leads to a lot of action which is not necessarily sequential but still accomplishes a great deal of work.  It doesn’t seem to be present in right brain processors when they are given a list and a calender where you have to turn pages.

Personally, I think that the less organized the paper looks from a left brained perception, the more likely you are to accomplish more.   I would suggest writing at different angles with lots of lines and shapes.   I personally find things like mind maps a little too organized and contrived.   I like to keep all of my papers on top of my desk strewn all over the place because as soon as I am done with a  project and file the papers away or stack them neatly, it is like a death notice to the project, something like a cemetery.

The best device for a telephone list for me is my cell phone because a large percentage of my ideas come to me when I am speaking to others away from my office.   By having a lot of numbers in my cell phone I can start working on a project immediately.

The Killing Fields of Criticism

September 10, 2007

There used to be a popular notion in the practice of psychology that you could give criticism to a person by separating the behavior that someone is doing from who they are as a whole person. The theory evidently is that by doing this you preserve the person’s self esteem, that is, they won’t feel bad about themselves when their behavior is criticized. Someone had this wild notion that a person’s behavior is somehow separate from themselves so you can mess with the behavior all you want and the core of the person will go unaffected. Ok I am Johnny on the playground, and I want to score a goal really badly. I run up to the person with the ball and trip them so that my self interest can be served. The old notion would have us believe that I just have to change my behavior of tripping because the core of me is this perfect child that doesn’t need to change on the inside, that somehow inside I already know how to play enthusiastically and also think like a member of team and play by rules. I think that the idea is that if you stop the negative behavior, stop the tripping in this case, and give the child a new behavior, that he is somehow going to change.

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The first half hour that I ever entered school I was given a pair of scissors to cut on a line. I just remember how much of a blur the first days were and how overwhelming the new experience was. So the teacher gives me some scissors and asks me to be a choo-choo train staying on the track by cutting across the paper on a line. Well, you can imagine the outcome. Being overwhelmed with wandering attention my train derailed. So what does this brilliant teacher do? She makes sure that I know that my train went off the track.

If you have ever watched the national team from England play soccer, you will be able to see just how devastating criticism is. The English press puts constant pressure on the national team to perform better. They criticize the players and coaches constantly putting them under enormous pressure to succeed. The national teams usually react to the criticism with what science has already discovered about performance. They always usually find a way lose when they are in a pressure situation.

Criticism is the act of seeing a behavior that is negative, according to the criticizer’s point of view, and then expressing it. The way I think about it is that it is the lazy person’s way of getting attention and advancing. For a writer or journalist using criticism as his main tool means that he advances on the backs of other people’s mistakes. It is the easy road. It is how journalists kill other people’s spirits out of their own self interest of getting to the top. Politicians, social climbers, parents, and people trying to move up corporate ladders all do the same thing. Criticizing gets a lot of fast attention, it makes others look really bad, and it destroys people’s spirits. It also takes the pressure off of your own performance and puts it onto others.
The more difficult road, the road less traveled, starts and ends with the belief that people have unlimited potentialities that can be actualized. It believes that change is possible. How many of us have been called into our boss’s office to be told how we screwed up and to not let it happen again or else when what we need to hear are acknowledgments of positive observations and the belief in positive change.

And then there is the ever popular acknowledgment of an event that goes like this from the leader. “Well that was a great event. Congratulations. There is just one little small thing.” And then the leader goes on for 5 minutes about the small thing. What is it about leaders who think they have the right to criticize every little thing? Why has the research on the effects of criticism gone so unnoticed when it has been consistently shown to cause such major damage? It must be about laziness and the lack of self control and self discipline.

Here are some interesting things from the research on criticism on why constructive criticism doesn’t work. 80% of the people who are criticized go into a negative non-resourceful state when they are criticized. Of the 20% who don’t feel really bad from criticism only 10% can keep the criticism dissociated so that they can judge whether or not to use it. This means that almost everyone takes criticism personally even when the criticizer says I don’t want you to take this personally. Most people just feel bad and get more non-productive from criticism.

There is also some interesting research on work in elementary school classrooms and in marriages that found that the magic number for positive encouraging comments in ratio to correcting or more negative ones is at least 4 to one. That means four positives to one correcting. When the ratio was 2 to 1, students felt like the classrooms were very negative. Marriages where the ratio is 4 to 1 last much longer than those where the ratio is much lower.

This does not mean that there is no place for critical comments, but they don’t seem to have the intended effect unless the environment is 80% positive. So maybe, instead of losing self control and blurting out negative comments, it may be good to practice some self discipline by keeping our big negative mouths shut and opening up the positives ones.

Organizing Your Emotional Space to Get More Time to Play

September 8, 2007

I was very inspired when I read my daughter’s blog about sorting beans with Olee, our grandson the other day. See http://hoogliart.wordpress.com. I think Maria Montessori was one of the first educator’s to see how organization of space really gives children a great deal of freedom to play and explore. Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to work together with a number of my colleagues to apply her teachings. What happened was quite incredible!

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Being a product of the 60s you can imagine that I might have some difficulties conceptualizing how play and creativity can work together with order and control. The 60s were instrumental in bringing out the evils of leadership by control and self interest so for many people of our era, when we think of conrolling an environment, we think of people who had the wrong motives. Organization for accumulation of selfish desires still may be a huge reality in the world, but yesterday it finally clicked for me why order is so important when you are doing something for the right reasons.

The event that we planned was a swim meet for students from grades 2-5. We had four hours, two two-hour sessions to complete 110 swimming races. What was incredible to me at day’s end was that we finished each session 20 minutes early. That is two groups of 160 swimmers each. You can do the math, but however you calculate, that is a lot of play in a short period of time. When I think of about it, it was all about the organization of space. Military order paled to us yesterday.

We planned where students had to sit while they were waiting for races to be called, where they had to sit after their races were called, which lane they were to swim in, and where they were to go when they finished each race. The adults all had a program with the list of all races and lane assignments, the volunteers all had written instructions of what to do at their jobs, and well if you have ever done a swim meet or track meet, you know that it takes a lot of people and organization. Because of the organization all the athletes had to do was to focus on their play, the swimming. The heat numbers were written on their arms so all they had to do was listen for their heat, go to the marshaling area, and then jump in the pool and swim. They were absolutely wild with enthusiasm and joy.

The results: Every child in the school participated in at least one to four races and everyone received at least one ribbon. It was magical. We even had to take a 10 minute break in the 2nd session because of thunder and a small amount of rain, but still we finished 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

The planning group was extraordinary. Everyone worked together with no self interest, just the joy of doing great work. So a day later I am thinking about the excuse that I have already mentioned previously in other posts, that people say that they don’t have time to play and now after yesterday, I am certain that the issue is not about time but the fear of being in the play space.

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Unlike most children who can’t be held back from play, many adults seem to be blocked when it comes to participating in play. For them it is emotional. The underlying emotion that inhibits play the most is the fear of being criticized. Children are immune to its deadly effects for a time mainly because they are around other children who love to play, but gradually they drink in its venom especially when other expectations in their lives like academics are raised until the joy of play is sapped right out of them.

The key for me in recapturing the joy of play of childhood is the ability to organize the emotional space in my life, to bring order to my emotions so that my positive energy can shine through. Criticism is the great epidemic of our time, far more deadly than any pandemic the scientists may predict because it kills a person soul and their bodies. It is so commonplace that it is even often regarded as a virtue, but it kills nonetheless.

What is the vaccine that will get adults back in the pool and into play? It is simple. Find something positive about yourself and others and say it. This changes everything. You just let go of the negative thoughts that come in by dealing with them on your own in your meditation or with the help of others, but you don’t express them in an aggressive way outward. When you recognize positive things that are happening, you express them outwardly. This has the effect of making play very inviting. Then people can experiment and make all kinds of mistakes and the great learning and fun can happen.

Where is God?

August 31, 2007

I am not sure if many people have reflected on this question on where God is, so I decided to throw out a few thoughts to share some of my observations. What I have observed is that the location of God seems to move around according to the cultural context.

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In the Judeo-Christian culture that surrounded me growing up I learned that God was a man in the sky. That was in the 1950s in California. I am not sure if he is still there in California. He may have moved to the mall because people seem to do their worshiping there. However, when I first learned to pray, I learned that God was up there watching over us. I can remember pictures in the Old Testament, which is really the Jewish Torah, about seeing an older man in white beard with white hair sometimes looking pretty peeved at the world. I can understand the Jewish notion of God, because it was the purpose of Moses to unite the tribes of Israel through the application of law in a just manner. Justice means that people are not higher than the law. The law is higher which keeps people’s egos lower. Prior to this time the rulers were above the law. Many of them still are, but that is a different story.

In the 1980s I began working on a Cree Reserve in Alberta, Canada which had the effect of radically altering my view of where God is. For the Crees God is a woman who supports and nurtures all life. Her spirit manifests itself and communicates with us in all things in nature. For the Jews God created order through a set of laws and became a man, but for the Crees God is our mother living in the earth. Could God be in both places at once?

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When I read the New Testament which is really the teachings of Christ and then some elaborations, I find that what Jesus was trying to teach was love for one another. He seems to have moved God out of the sky and into the heart, but since you can’t have order without law and justice, God needed to remain in the sky, but also in the heart. Now Christians also have the third place for God which is in the spirit, the Holy Spirit. Hence, Christianity evolved into what they call the trinity. There is God in the sky keeping things in order through justice, God in the heart which brings about love and connection, and God in the spirit which brings about communication and guidance. Before I get to where the spirit is, I just have to say that I am a little bit perplexed as to why the Christians forgot to add the mother like the Crees. For that matter, the Jews abandoned God as a feminine figure as well. Maybe that is why it so hard for the equality of men and women to take root even in western liberal cultures. Could be the source of Jewish mother’s guilt as well.

God may have always been there in one form or another, but the real impetus for God being an invisible force came through Buddhism six centuries before Jesus. God practically disappears in Buddhism because of Buddha’s emphasis on people doing their own internal work rather than relying on things outside of themselves. Buddhism is about detachment. Through meditation and other practices one is forced inward so that the spirit within can communicate and be released into the world to do positive action. In Buddhism God is both invisible and internal.

So we have God being up in the sky, in the earth and nature, in the heart, and invisible and internal. What makes it even more complicated is that with atheists, God is nowhere at all and with agnostics God seems to be there on occasion or in the fog.

Islam and Christianity share the same heritage so whatever is true for Muslims is also true for Christians. The difference is that Muslims do not allow images of God or messengers which is a movement toward God being transcendent, which means that all description of God being in time or space is pure imagination. This also, is the Baha’i view of God which means that it is helpful to imagine where God is terms of virtue, but description of God is beyond all comprehension.

If true religion were ascendant, then it would be very easy for everyone to be in absolute harmony learning and integrating things from each other because virtues have no difficulties working together. Justice and love, detachment and support, and inspiration and acceptance all can live together without difficulty. The problems seem to occur when the egos take the place of God. For instance, instead of God being in the sky administering justice with the rule of law, men put themselves in the sky and do whatever they want whether they be tyrannical leaders such as Hitler, tyrannical CEOs, or tyrannical parents or teachers.

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Instead of having love for one another and treating each other with mercy, charity, and kindness, people take the place of God in the heart with lust of sex and power. And instead of going inside to deal with your own spirituality, people seek material satisfaction outside of themselves through material means.

Likewise, instead of relying on spiritual teachings for support such as sharing and generosity, people put their own superstitions in their minds to keep development from happening. Superstition is ultimately an attempt to keep God out through controlling weak minds.

What I think is that if we use the paradigm of God taking over various domains of human beings, you can analyze the weaknesses in religious structures and then change them. For instance, for God to take over the domain of the heart the religion has to place a major emphasis on artistic beauty as expressed in painting, architecture, music, and theater and it needs to look at the quality of loving relationships in the community so that there is kindness, mercy, and attraction. But God still has to be in the sky, not man, for love to take over the heart, because justice is a precondition for love to spread.

Further Notes on Leadership: Dealing with Frustration

August 28, 2007

In my last post I was writing about a 5 year old boy whose primary presenting negative emotion is frustration. Frustration is what you feel when you are trying to accomplish something, but you are not making the progress you were hoping. It is different than disappointment which is feeling you get after the experience is over. With frustration you are still trying, but still failing.

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The spiritual solution to frustration is always in the area of the virtues associated with patience. Patience is the ability to slow down time to a standstill so that other solutions can appear or other things can happen first. If you are frustrated as a student or an athlete, it usually means that you are not patient enough to try new strategies or solution because you are too rushed to get to the goal. To overcome frustration there is always a slowing down process so that new solutions can enter.

When frustration presents itself into a situation like my 5 year old, it usually means that there isn’t enough patience in the environment. This is sooooo interesting!!!! In the meetings I have done on dreams I usually put out cards with the names of virtues like courage, enthusiasm, honesty, compassion, etc.. I always put out 2 cards that say patience as opposed to putting out only one of every other virtue. Both patience cards are always taken.

So why is frustration such a big issue and why do we seem to need a lot more patience? It should actually come as no surprise because the more sped up the culture gets, the faster we go to keep up with it. We can’t slow down to find new solutions because we are already in the super fast lane.

I think the real key is the ability to slow down internally. So here is the epilogue of my 5 year old which is what I think leadership is all about. All of his teachers, the school counselor, one of his parents, and the nanny all got together for the purpose of discussing what we could differently. The meeting lasted for over an hour. Everyone was allowed to share openly and frankly. It was an extremely positive environment where a few decisions and a lot of suggestions were made.

So today he came to class and participated fully attending to every activity. He was quite amazing. His coordination still is not great, but he is on the right path. A little bit of patience, i.e. slowing down, seems to go along way.

The group showed how a decentralized process can work. The people closest to where the actual action is take the authority to work together to improve a problem situation. Everyone is given a voice, everyone listens to each other, and then change begins to happen.

The Leaders We Are Looking For Are Inside Our Ownselves

August 25, 2007

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Last week during one of my physical education classes with my 5 year olds I witnessed and incredible act of leadership that left me with a great feeling of hope. I have a young boy in one class whose frustration tolerance on a scale from 1-10 is minus 6 or 7. He has had a melt down in each of first 5 or 6 classes, but during my last class something interesting happened. I had the students work in pairs throwing and catching balls back and forth. Now my frustration boy had had almost zero attention in other tasks, but on this day he was paired with someone who had almost no English which immediately thrust him into a helping position. He watched the task, decided he could do it, and started working with his partner. He acted extremely patient and encouraging with his partner, showing him what to do and being the perfect leader. I was shocked, but so pleased that I immediately wrote it down in my notes after class because it was the first really positive sign that he had ever shown.

I am not so sure what happened inside for him to make that kind of click, but it was clear to me that he had become a leader on that afternoon because he was practicing the virtue of helpfulness. It just made me realize that leadership is no longer a function that can be described as a top-down function. We seem to mostly make jokes about those who still are appointed to positions highest up on the hierarchical ladder because leadership can no longer be directed by one person, if it ever could. Those who try to force their wills by reason of position have found themselves isolated and unsupported. Their days are obviously numbered. The only people who are thriving are those that have turned decision making into a collective process and worked to empower members of an organization through capacity building and decentralization.

The world has turned upside down on its head because now the best leaders are not those who are decisive and willful, but those who support the development of leadership and decision making abilities in everyone in the organization. My 5-year-old melt down specialist became a leader in my class. How can I support him to be a leader all the time?

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Sometimes It is Much Better to Be Late

August 16, 2007

Warning to North Americans and Europeans: This posting may create some negative side effects to your cultural selves.

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This morning I did something interesting. I actually listened to my own advice. I had invited a few colleagues from other schools to a planning meeting to schedule games and other sports events. The meeting was to be held at my school in my office. At 6:30 am this morning I realized that my office was the wrong venue, that it would be full of distractions and give me the rushed feeling of all the little tasks that I do each morning. So I sent text messages to all of the participates and told them to meet at the local Coffee Bean.

Shortly after I arrived at the Coffee Bean, one of the others came. The third said he would be late so it gave the first to arrive and myself time to chat about our lives. We didn’t talk at all about sport or schedules or anything like that. We talked about babies because his wife is now 3 months pregnant and it has already changed his life in very interesting ways. When the third person came, he apologized for being late and didn’t go to get any coffee because he thought that maybe we should start the meeting. We told him that we had all of the time in the world, to just go and get what he wanted.

The meeting went longer than maybe any of us planned so just for good measure I stayed longer and chatted some more with others when the meeting was over. I began to practice the process of disregarding time so that I could be in the space that I wanted to be in. It worked spectacularly because I accomplished not just one task, but also another. We scheduled the games and we became closer. Had I not disregarded time the chance to have a better relationship with my colleague would have passed.

So when I taught my classes with my 5 year olds today, I did the same thing. I decided that I could just stretch time inside myself, and get my students into a really positive space. What happens to me usually is that I tend to get worried that my students are not going to pay attention, that they are going to just goof off and do their inappropriate things. I decided that I could relax and slow myself inside and pay attention to how I wanted the class to go rather than what might go wrong. It worked amazingly like nothing I could ever do in previous years.

Slowing down time seems to help me relax and get into the right space. It may seem strange to be able to think of time as being so flexible, but we all know how long time seems to drag when we have to listen to boring speakers. The most important aspect of being able to control the space you are in so that it becomes desirable is one’s ability to disregard time, and the first step in disregarding it seems to be to slow it down by relaxing.

You don’t always need to be in a hurry and sometimes being later is much better than rushing.

Interpreting Your Own Dreams 5: Defying Time

July 29, 2007

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My mother turned 86 this year.  By all accounts you would think that her life would be on the downswing.  Not so.  After having painted in oils for a number of years, followed by the less forgiving medium of watercolors, she recently began the most difficult of them all, Chinese brush painting.  It requires a very steady hand and great mental preparation before the brush hits the fragility of the rice paper.   If you know my mother, you know that she often complains out loud about the arthritis she has in her hand and all the aches and pains in the rest of her body.   She still walks more than a hour each day, cooks, cleans, and does a series of strength and flexibility exercises.   Teenagers would be envious of her energy levels.   20 years ago when she had back surgery to fuse a couple of vertebrae the doctor told her she would have about 10 years before she would be in a wheel chair.

Janet, my sister-in-law, put it this way.  She rules over her body.  She is a major anomaly.
If you know anything about my mother, you know she has high expectations for herself.  She could never hire a maid or extra help because she can out work them even approaching 90 and the quality of her work is just too high.   I feel sorry for the gardeners.  If you have read the last posting about the two worlds of time,  you can see that despite the fact that my mother lives in the world of clock time,  her spirit soars in the other dimensions of time.   Her body aches, her ego grows impatient with the lack of will in others, and she complains that she isn’t as good as she used to be, but her spirit just keeps marching forward, learning and developing as if she were 20.   You can’t have a better role model than my mom.   She demonstrates a basic principle of spiritual growth, which is the recognition that the ego is present (the arthritis is there), but she doesn’t let it rule her.  She allows her true self, the self that lives beyond time and space, that produces great art and prepares huge feasts, to be the sovereign of her life.   I am sure that my mother feels a lot of pain from the arthritis, but it is only because the dreams of her true self are still so high and way beyond the reach of most people.   Most people would have given up the brush long ago, but she continues to defy time with great dreams.

Interpreting Your Own Dreams 1: The Feelings

July 20, 2007

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There are 3 things that I look for when I am listening to a dream especially my own, the actual story or content of the dream, the structure of the dream which is like the syntax, and the feelings that accompany dreams.

In almost every dream meeting that I have done in various parts of the world the most common question I hear is, “Why can’t I remember my dreams?” or “How can I remember my dreams better?” The simplest answer I can give to people is to start paying greater attention. In the great majority of cases people remember their dream the very next night after the meeting. It is sort of like the greatest 2 labels or our time, ADD and ADHD, which are just fancy ways of saying that it is difficult for people to slow down and listen to what is happening inside of themselves. What I can see is that the western influence on the world culture has made cultures with attention deficits. Most people have stopped paying attention to what is going on in the inner worlds because they are busy trying to compete in the outer material world.

If you are “ADD” about your dreams meaning you don’t remember them, the best place to start to recover your memory in the dreaming process is to begin mapping or journaling about the feelings that have when you wake up in the morning. Every dream, like every experience leaves an emotional marker, whether it be negative like anxiety, grief, fear, anger, guilt or embarrassment or positive like joy, excitement, love, determination, confidence, calm or patience in positive ones.

It is much easier to remember your emotions than your thoughts because your thoughts are a combination of pictures, sounds, and words in your mind, whereas feelings lodge themselves into various parts of body that have sensations attached to them. However, the biggest problem most people have is that when they wake up in the morning, they are already brushing their teeth or onto the day without having had any reflection time.

Dreams are like the code for what the best direction your life ought to go right now. If I am not paying attention to what is happening in my dreams, which is a before time experience, then I will probably be experiencing the consequences of my life in real time. Dreams are designed to give you information ahead of time so if you can solve them, they save a great deal of suffering in real life.

Of the three elements, content, structure, and emotions the easiest to process are the emotions because when you feel the feelings you are experiencing rather than avoiding them with loud music or alcohol or rushing around being overly busy, they trigger the thoughts that help you unravel the mystery of your own life.

If you have not done very much process work or worked on your issues and negative emotions, you can be absolutely certain of one thing. The first negative emotions that appear will be aimed at solving the problems of having grown up in your own family. Family is always the first issue to arise which is probably why everyone races out of the door in the morning. They don’t want to have to face their families. The simple reason for these emotions to appear first is that the family is the core unit of every society and culture. I have never met anyone who survived childhood without a wheelbarrow full of family issues.

If you are going to process workshops to make more money or improve your relationships or get better grades or better scores on your golf game, you are always going to be taken back first to your family of origin when the negative emotions arose. It is a universal guarantee because the first priority of everyone’s life, whether they want to do it or not is family. If you have been ripped off by your family, then your job is to not rip off the next generation. When you stop being ADD which rushes you off to work, you are going to be asked to improve your family life. This is always where the most pain is.

The simplest way to start is to just recognize the feeling. What am I feeling? Negative emotions are first in line because they are the markers for where to start the growth and solve the problems of the former generation. When you remember the feelings, then the content memories of the dreams begin reappearing.

The next post: Mapping the Syntax

Fighting the War on Terror Internally

July 19, 2007

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Last night I dreamt that my son-in-laws and I were behind the lines in pre-World War 2 Germany doing undercover work against the Nazis.  At every turn we were nearly brutally murdered, but somehow we managed to escape only to find more threats more numerously as the dream progressed.

When I awoke from the dream, I realized that I am still living my life as if the Nazis are in power when in reality they lost.  The key for understanding the dream for me is the realization that despite the fact that we still have Nazi-like CEOs and leaders who have no qualms about getting rid of people by the truckloads, in the end, they always lose.  This means that they have already lost in the future even while they are in power in the present.

I can be confident that the power mongers of the present are going to be gone in the future because they always lose.  Napoleon lost.  I think that says it all, but what I tend to imagine is the possibility of another Napoleon or another Hitler terrorizing the world.  I forget that Napoleon lost because, in the end, he had become too arrogant with power and had created too many enemies.

Whoever I am terrorized by is going to lose because they will create too many enemies that will eventually bring them down.   What this means is that I can be very enthusiastic about going after positive strategies like cooperation and unity because I am now certain that the present-day Nazis are going to lose.  The reason that they are going to lose is that they are going to create too many enemies.

What the world seems to have plenty of is the number of “soldiers” it takes to bring down a tyrant, but what it seems to be lacking are people who have the positive strategies that replace the tyrannical one.  The despots just keep reappearing and keep re-losing.   We know how to get rid of tyrants, but we don’t know how to build a world based upon positive values.   It was relatively easy to overcome Saddam Hussein, but there are not enough positive models or strategies that replace sectarian violence and division.   It was easy to get rid of the Taliban, but it has proven not so easy to build a just society.

Here is one strategy that we all might find interesting.  My 2 son-in-laws and I share it together.  It is sort of like a modern day version of the three musketeers.  I think that this is why they appeared in the dream.  It goes like this.  When you get invited to do something positive, you say yes.  Take yesterday for instance.  It is late Wednesday afternoon pouring rain in Vancouver in the summer.  Well, normally we play soccer together on Wednesday evenings, but I am looking out the window and thinking that there is no way I am going to play soccer tonight. I am part Malaysian now. This is against my culture to play in the cold rain.  I just want to sit on the couch and relax.   Shortly thereafter Chris calls and says the fateful words, “So are you going to play soccer with us in the rain tonight?”  I am thinking he is crazy, but I say yes anyway.   When we are walking to the court, it is still raining, there are large puddles of water on the court when we are warming up, and a steady rainfall during the first 45 minutes.   After awhile the rain stops, the puddles diminish, and we have a great time.  On the way home I feel great.  We sit and reminisce about how great the night was.

Then I remember the day before and how my daughters worked their magic on Debby, my wife.  It was raining on that day as well, but my daughters joyfully announce that they are going hiking to Lynn Canyon.  Debby replies by saying that she is not going because she is fearful of a getting a cold.  Everyone else keeps moving forward with no fear of the rain whatsoever.  Finally Debby gives in and starts talking about what kinds of clothing she could bring to stay warm.  She goes and has a great time.

I guess it has a lot to do with finding people that you are really close to and then just doing things together that are positive for everyone.   Sounds pretty simple.

Enjoying the Ride

July 18, 2007

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Yesterday while our family was hiking in Lynn Canyon with our three grandchildren, I received some really great lessons about life. It was obvious to Chris, my son-in-law, and I that the purpose of the trip was to get to Lynn Canyon as fast as possible in our cars and get to the end of the trail on foot as fast as possible as well. On the way back we started talking about the way that all of the children had a much different way of approaching the hike.

Maria Montessori would have been proud of Erika, my daughter, because her daughter, Isa, was interested in going off the trail when she spotted something interesting. She wasn’t interested in the speed of getting to the end of the trail; she was enjoying everything that the trail had to offer. Erika just allowed her to lead rather than rushing her to the end.

Midway through the return trek back Chris and I stopped, looked up a hill, and started talking about how Shane, my other son-in-law would approach a hill versus how we would do it. Shane would take a long time to look at the hill, see all of the interesting rocks to climb over and things to do, and then systematically go after each one enjoying fully how to make his way over each rock. Chris and I admitted that we would just take the fastest path and rush up there as fast as we could. Shane enjoys the whole experience. We just rush to the end. We tend to miss the middle. We started talking about being too goal oriented rather than more process oriented.

Chris and I thought that the end of the trail was the goal, but the children taught us that the real goal was experiencing fully all of the things along the way because that is where the real growing and learning is. No one taught them how to enjoy the trail. They just did what comes naturally to them.

So I started thinking about how the world is dealing with global warming and terrorism and poverty and inequity and it made me realize that the feeling I get from the discussions and concerns is the need to rush to the end so that the problems will be finished. I am not enjoying the ride because just like the world, I am trying to end a negative, the pain of going up the hill, rather than enjoying all of the learning and growth from facing the challenges so that new positives will emerge.

Slow down and enjoy the ride. That is my new mantra for today.

More Friend to me than I am to myself: Isa

July 11, 2007

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There is a prayer in the Baha’i writings that many Baha’is use often. The last line says, “Thou are more friend to me than I am to myself.” This prayer deals with the anxiety of an uncertain future and the ability to embrace it. When I read the prayer and meditate on its implications, it seems to me that when I am facing uncertainty, the quality that I need the most is friendship.

After I was fired from my job in Brazil, my wife and I spent the following year in Vancouver with our children and our granddaughter, Isabela. Isa (the name we call her by) was only 11 months old when we arrived late in the summer of 2004. She would prove to be a great friend to Debby and I. Debby loves gardens so the way she spent many hours was to soothe her soul in the many beautiful gardens in Vancouver. Isa was usually at her side. For myself, I came to know every park in Vancouver and when the winter came I joined Science World so that we could have a place to walk in the winter. Isa and I took our picture together for the membership card and spent many hours there.

Debby and I had an uncertain future because we were unemployed for the whole year. In fact everyone in the house became unemployed that year, but we always had someone who never judged us and who was always willing to go on whatever outing we had in mind, Isa.

Now in summer of 2007 I am employed, my future is a bit stabler or so it seems, and I am in Vancouver with Isa again. Yesterday we had a great walk together to the store looking for some corn on the cob. Isa is almost 4 years old, and now, besides being willing to go with me to all kinds of places, she is a great conversationalist, a true companion. There is nothing shallow about her. Her questions are all why questions. She doesn’t talk about trivial things. Why is the flower blue, grandpa? Why is the starfish painted on that sign? Nothing I can answer, just questions to ponder.

When we get to the store, we buy some fresh strawberries along with the corn. On the way home, we stop by an outdoor wading pool in a local park, she throws off all of her clothes and dances through the water. I follow her (keeping my clothes on).

As we eat one more strawberry, I tell her how happy I am to be with her. She says that she is really happy too.

I know now what to do when I am anxious about the future. Find Isabela and have an outing because she is more friend to me than I am to myself.