Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

Four Elements in Dream Analysis

October 29, 2008

Most of the cultures and religions in the world have classified spiritual energy into four categories which are  the heart, mind, body, and spirit.  Jesus said, for instance, that we should love God with all of our heart, mind, spirit, and strength.  In dream language or mythological language such as in native stories the four types of energy are most connected with one of the four elements.   The heart is connected to water, the body or one’s strength to the earth,  the mind  with light and fire, and the spirit to the air.  When you have a dream, what you can often do is to look to the elements that are most significant in the dream and then realize that those represent the areas that the spiritual world is calling on you to develop.

The spiritual world only ever requires that you work on one energy at a time so when a dream presents one of the elements, you can be certain that that particular element is the one you need now.   So if, for instance, your house is on fire in a dream, you can be certain that something is wrong with the qualities of your mind. The mind is supposed to be a source of illumination which requires a metaphor like a candle or other positive forms of light.   Your dreams will try to get you to develop the spirituality of the mind which include things like patience, calm, tranquility, and detachment.  When you have the spiritual qualities of the mind, then guidance and intuition seem to pour in easily.

If you have water in a dream, the first thing that can come to your mind is the need to focus on your relationships.   Water has so many forms in the world because the heart has so many qualities it needs to develop.   It is the least understood of all the elements because it is often associated as a feminine rather than a masculine quality.   It is the quality most spoken about in all of the religions of the world and yet is virtually non-existent in schools.    There is a lot that can happen with water in a dream.  It can be a flood, a tidal wave,  a storm, a rough sea,  a babbling brook, a placid lake,  a drink,  or a fast moving river.    When you have a water dream, it is important to note whether it is positive or negative.   If it is positive, then the dream will be encouraging you to recall the quality that is associated with the dream.    If you are white water rafting and having a great time,  then the dream may be asking you to reach out more courageously to others.  If the you are going down a wild river hanging onto a board and frightened to death,  then it could be a symbol that your relationships are just completely out of control and moving to fast.

The element of earth comes into the dream world when you need to have the qualities associated with strength such as fulfilling your commitments, staying with a project to its end,  developing abilities and skills from the ground up, and doing things that are extremely difficult.      The earth is the most solid of the elements so you may find that you are having difficulty climbing a mountain, which would be associated with having difficulty reaching a goal.  Cars are one of the forms of transportation on the element of the earth which symbolize trying to get from one place to another such as trying to become more competent in your work.   If your car breaks down or someone else is driving it,   it means that you are having difficulties getting to where you want to go.  You could run out of gas or be reckless and crash, or someone else is directing your life and career rather than you.     This element tends to be the one most praised by the culture as we know it because when someone is reliable, trustworthy, and hard working it makes everything in society work better.    Leaders who are concerned about their position at the top will love this quality in their workers, but when it comes to the next quality, air, they will likely be very threatened.   I am absolutely certain that the reason that the earth is so popular over the others is that it isn’t a threat to autocratic leadership.

Air is connected to the spirit which is represented in qualities like enthusiasm, optimism, idealism, vision, courage and hope.   Some of the common dreams involving air are flying dreams,  dreams where you are falling, and dreams with lots of wind.    Air is a lot like the heart, in that it isn’t often taught, but it is much more threatening because it is associated with doing new things which people interested in keeping the status quo do not like.

Here is a list of things which each element that you might want to explore.

Air

Flying is often associated with freedom of action

Airplane is a medium in the air so it represents using your air-like qualities such as lightness and enthusiasm to accomplish goals that are new and a bit more radical.

Falling usually means falling from grace.  Falling from grace comes from not trusing in the Spirit as an extremely positive force that is always supporting you regardless of whether you deserve it or not.   Falling comes when you feel like you don’t merit things.

Wind usually tends to hold you back from rushing forward toward your vision.  The wind should be at your back instead of in front of you.  When you analyze a wind dream, imagine it at your back and then just let go of your hesitation.

Tornado is a symbol of how people take a small rather insignificant thing and then spin it until it becomes really destructive.   Tornados are what incompetent leaders use to get into power.  They find small things in others that are negative and spin them in others ears so that others get really fearful and make that person the leader.   Tornados happen where the values are more earth like the prairies.   They tend to pay attention to small things that aren’t true rather than investigating them fully.

Hurricane is a symbol of leaders who are trying to be god-like.   The association with God is that they originate in the ocean.   This is the same as a cyclone.  Hurricanes let you know that the relationship with God is being replaced by a leader who wants power.   When you dream it, it is a warning.

Fire/Light

House on fire- many people have this dream when they try to use thinking all the time instead of other energy like relating energy.   The mind needs to cool to think well and be objective.

Light:  generally light is the source of illumination.   The negative side of light is darkness which is the absence of light.   When things are dark, it means that they need to be illumined with light.

Candle:  a candle is a soft light which is what you often need to find guidance or answers as opposed to really bright sunlight which may be overwhelming to the mind.   People often meditate to candle light because it has a way of letting you go inside and find answers.  The biggest mistake with the mind is to fret about finding an answer.   Many people don’t realize that the spiritual world will guide you when you need it and will withhold guidance when it is unnecessary.  It is part of the formula of trust.

Forest fire:  a symbol of how wrong thinking destroying growth and uprightness.

Unlike other elements where there are means of transportation associated with the energy,  the element of light requires remaining still.

Water

Tsunami:    Cultural negativity in relating such backbiting, gossip, and criticism that is sustained by extremely negative and authoritarian leadership.    The opposite and positive force is encouragement which is sustained by finding positives in others and acknowledging them.

River:  raging river with a bridge is the problem of getting from one place to another in your life by crossing over lots of angry people.   The key to successfully dealing with anger is to not get pulled into the river.

Ocean:  The ocean is the symbol of the world of God because of its vastness.   A violent sea represents being out of relationship with the Creator.  I often substitute the spiritual world for the world of God. In my mind they are interchangeable.

Glass of Water: is a symbol of getting in relationship with oneself.   When you are thirsty in the desert, you are out of relationship with self.   The great majority of people are chronically dehydrated which has something to do with not being able have a positive relationship with themselves.

Shower is about cleansing oneself or purifying oneself.  Trouble showering means having trouble with motives either your own or others.

Toilet is the place where you let go of negativity that comes in and is meant to flow out.

Rain is a symbol of for what you to assist relationships to grow.   A drought is not enough relationship and a torrential rain is too much relationship.

Earth

Transportation on the earth:  many dreams in this realm are about moving from one place to another such as climbing a mountain,  driving in a car, going on a train, riding a motorcycle,  running, walking, biking.

Progress is made on the earth through effort.  When you are in the air and traveling like in a plane it is effortless, but on the earth you need your determination to go from one place to another.   Much of what happens is overcoming obstacles like big boulders or rock cliffs to scale.    You develop in this area through lots of repetition, doing the difficult thing,  always developing new skills.   If you are in a foreign country where they don’t speak your native tongue, then you need effort by practicing the new language a lot.

Earthquake:  your life if being shaken up, which means you need to get on solid ground.

In the next post I will write a little about buildings such as houses.   I would love to hear your dreams so please feel free to write me when you want to know what they mean.

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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.

What I Learned About Power on My Sunday Morning Run

October 5, 2008

I like to reserve Sunday mornings for my long runs so today I decided that it was time that I give myself a challenge by upping the distance to 21 k.   I haven’t run 21k for awhile, but I have been gradually increasing my activity level in the last few weeks so when that happens, the thought of a longer run just automatically enters.   The run was going quite well, but 21k is 21k. (long)   I started playing around with some nlp things about encouragement and relationship and finally power so I thought I would share them here in the case that others might be interested.

The really interesting thing about whether I was dealing with encouragement or relationship or power was that when my inner self was negative, then my outer self became tense and, hence the run became more difficult.   The more positive the relationship I had with my true self during the run, the more relaxed I was and the better I felt.  It seems quite simple and obvious,  but here is how it played itself out.   The nice thing about running is that it is an activity that you can do by yourself and in order to do it you need to have a good relationship with your own self.   So the first issue that came up was that I was trying to get someone else to have a positive relationship with me and then I found my mind trying to play with the pattern of how to get them to have a positive relationship with me.  What I realized was that I could have a positive relationship with my own self, so I dropped trying to get others to have a positive relationship with me and then suddenly an image of me running along beside me as my best friend just popped like we were running arm in arm.   At that point my body really relaxed and I just felt so great.  This was somewhere about 8-9k into the run.   I kept that image for awhile and then another issue showed up further down the roade which had much more to do with encouragement.   Encouragement is more like a positive voice that keeps you going so when the issue came up,  the voice was quite negative and critical and really didn’t want to have a relationship with me.   As I let go of the negative voice I found that the encouraging self appeared on as if it were on a bicycle next to me riding in a really relaxed way.   The encouraging self just gave me a nice plan and allowed me even more relaxation.   This happened around 12-13k.

Somewhere around 15-16k I started feeling really worn out and tired. It was already about 30 C.   I was filled with thoughts about trying to get people in authority in all kinds of situations to become powerful in a positive way to make things better.  This is a huge recurring theme in my life so I knew that since the relational and encouraging work had gone so well that I would give my powerful self a go.    What was interesting was that while the relational and encouraging selves appeared like images beside or near me, the empowered self was inside me.    I could feel it working on me feeling my body and my strength while I was running, but at the same time it was telling me where to relax.   At 18-19k I was still running at about the same pace that I was at 8-9k even when I had slowed down when the issue first appeared.

As I stayed with the empowered self it began to remind me of past runs that I had made at distance and started to get my body to run like those runs rather than running fatigued and slowed down.   So what I gained from the last part of the run was that empowerment arises when you feel your strength inside as if you are very relaxed but also feeling how strong you are.  It seems to come when I can change the focus away from other people’s power to my own memories when I felt strong in the past.

In summary, relational energy seems to be right beside me, encouraging energy is near but the focus is more auditory where as relational is visual and kinesthetic,  and empowered energy seems to be very kinesthetic feeling of being relaxed and strong at the same time that is generated from a positive memory.

If you try this exercise,  first just let the issue appear, spend some time analyzing it, and then let go of the negative energy so that you can acquire some of the positive energies.   Besides the three mentioned there is also a fourth energy, the enlightened self, which is more about guidance.   It has more to do with the issue of not finding your way, but it was not on my journey today.   When you find yourself lost or on the wrong path or on a path that someone else has lead you to, the issue usually has something to do with purity of motive.

Happy running!

Getting the Best from My Self

September 12, 2008

I realized not too long ago that I was really tired of being in conflict with leaders  so today I made the decision that instead of focusing on them, that I would place my attention entirely on going for my own goals rather than fighting against theirs.   As I am writing this right now it just seems so simple to come to this decision, but it has taken decades for its arrival.     I think that I must love the fight.  It is so tempting almost like a drug.     This morning I was about to write one of those tantalizing treatises to them about the worthlessness of what was happening.   I pounded out a few paragraphs with rapid key strokes.    Then, about three quarters of the way through the outpouring I realized that it was high time that I began plowing my own row, swimming in my own lane, my own race.

So instead of having negative feelings and interactions with them,  everything flowed amazingly well today.   All of my interactions with the old enemies were suddenly friendly.     Did they change miraculously?  I think not.    The decision seemed to change everything.    It was strange almost like being in never neverland.    The day was extremely joyous.    I think that I must have put out a really bad vibe to the enemies before because when I decided to change,  they suddenly became friendlier and easier to work with.   Very strange!

So I began to think about how I might get the most out of myself and then a young woman told me a dream that she had about going on a road to an old house where she felt really great.   Well an old house where you feel positive in a dream is a place in your old memories where you feel great.  So I began to remember some of the best events I have initiated.   Here is one.  Look at the two teams just really happy together.

So the next process I am going to work on in getting the best out of myself is to remember positive experiences as if they are still fully alive and happening right now and then just do more things.

Hmmmm.   Think I will organize a big trip.

Transforming the Worst Quality to the Best Part 2 Joyfulness

August 17, 2008

Transformation of an extremely stubborn energy into a positive one is nearly impossible unless it is understood that the negative energy fixed in the ego is learned very rapidly and holds on tenaciously. Of all the negative weapons that people use to stop growth the one that is the most effective killer of change is criticism. It is hard for me to imagine any long term negative pattern of energy that has not been either begun or sustained by criticism. The problem that most of us have, which is about 80-90% according the research, is that we believe criticism much more readily than we believe positive comments. We are much more like to respond to someone saying that we can’t do something than saying that we can. I am absolutely convinced that most of the psychological profession as a whole does not understand how much more powerful even the slightest negative comment can be in creating a negative life long negative pattern. Because of not understanding it I think that there is a great tendency to blame things on genetics or physical things that really have their origins in criticism. There are hopeful signs in the world of psychology, but the power of negativity doesn’t seem to be fully validated in the scientific community as a whole.

The difference can be seen in a great number of schools in the world. When children enter school almost all of them hope for a teacher who is kind and encouraging and loving, while school leaders are usually focused on discipline, respect, and staying in a straight line. A child’s first priority when he or she enters school is never about learning. It is always about whether or not he or she will have close friends. A teacher or leader who focuses almost exclusively on following procedures creates a kind of poisonous soup that leaves children with patterns of coping rather than ones that allow them to thrive. This happens because, when the focus is on procedure and not on the child’s priorities, then the teachers tend to use a great deal more criticism and negativity to control children. Of course, the best methods combine the priorities of the child with great organization. I think that if leaders would smile more and focus more on their relationships with their staff or students, that people would tend to work much harder. It is the criticism that usually stops productivity and learning because it creates fear and lowers one’s belief about oneself.

What happens when people are criticized, is that they focus on what is being said such as, “you are so lazy”, then they believe what others tell them, and then they stop acting. What most people do not realize is that in the environment of the poisonous soup which is what most families, workplaces, and schools are, that it only takes a person one comment to believe the negative statement. Then they are finished. Unless we understand how powerful the negative messages are, we have a huge tendency to undervalue their force. It is not easy believe that one comment can stop progress, but it happens all of the time.

The key to change is actually not in the future, but in the past. What we need in order to change anything is first a set of very strong memories of experiences that are positive in our past. As soon as we are criticized, the tendency is to lose our memory, focus on the negative, believe it and then stop. When we have positive memories, then we become inspired by them and then set new goals and go after them. Criticism creates tension and stress, whereas remembering positives allows you to relax and energize. The process of helping yourself or others to remember positives is called encouragement. The way to practice encouragement is to be looking for positives and then acknowledge them. 90+% of the world do exactly the opposite. They look for the negative and do self criticism and criticism of others and then they stop their growth. It is deadly.

The key to change is to recover positive memories and then to acknowledge them. The question I can ask myself is, “What did I do positive today?” This question will end up inspiring me and giving me motivation to set more challenging goals and go for new things. Most leaders have the procedure of inviting you into their offices to tell you what you did wrong, so then, because they have the power to fire you, you make the negatives much larger than they are, and then you become paralyzed from change. People change when they remember the positives about themselves. Positives tend to be remembered when they are acknowledged. You can self acknowledge positives by reviewing them each day in your mind and then even recording them.

The poisonous soup that destroys a person’s ability to go after meaningful goals is created primarily by one emotion, jealousy. Jealousy is the feeling one gets when something that you have is under threat of being lost. While it is often associated with relationships such as jealous lovers, it has some of its deadliest repercussions from people in power or authority. In most cultures it is so bad that most people just learn to make whatever dreams that they have much smaller. What happens to leaders who are plagued by jealousy is that they usually have risen to the top through negative means such as criticism of a current regime or boss. When they are in power, they are in constant fear of someone from lower ranks taking over their position because this is how they came to authority and power. When you perform extremely well in a job or in your family, you are more likely to get criticized and harassed than when you do mediocre work because as soon as you get recognition for your efforts, the leader will become fearful of losing his position.

In most families jealousy takes over because the mothers feel like their children are going to take some of their power, authority, and recognition when they do well. So then they criticize them more and more even if their children are the very best. What most people have learned to do culturally is that when a leader becomes jealousy, to automatically turn on the mediocre button by making their aspirations smaller and hiding in the woodwork. If you have ever been in a situation where a leader flexes his power against you personally out of jealousy, you can just watch others pull away from you and lower their goals so that they also do not become victims.

Sometimes jealous leaders like to single people out to get temporary recognition such as when a huge amount of resources are invested in a few athletes so that they can win gold medals, while almost nothing is spent on the development of the group as a whole. As soon as you have won your gold medal and are no longer useful, then you will be discarded along with the rest. Usually it is when you are most successful, that jealous leaders turn on you.

I am very convinced that in order to believe that you can change what is the worst or the weakest part of your character that you also must be able to deal with the fact that transformation is such a threat to the way that leadership is in the world that you are going to be seen as a huge threat. If you think that most psychologists actually want you to have a huge transformation, you just have to wake up and see that a big change is a huge threat to them primarily because they have amassed a certain amount of power based upon their position. When people have a position of power, they often get hooked into their own ego which then entices them to use power over others rather than developmental principles and research. People in a position of power more often than than revert to power over more positive energies because they become to attached to recognition that the position gives them and also become addicted to the power.

To change yourself it is important to avoid the great temptation of getting into the power struggle. People in position are looking for a chance to exercise power because of its addictive quality. The more they use it, the more addicted they become. They don’t mind losing relationships with people because what they after is the high that power gives them. The huge problem that I have had dealing with people with power issues is that I always want to get into a fight with them because I think I have better weapons that are based upon positive principles, but I have always lost. You can’t deal with power hungry people by getting into a fight with them. You will always always always lose. There is a solution, however, and it is quite surprising.

The energy that ego power cannot deal with it at all is the virtue of joyfulness. What I have usually done which has been a complete disaster and failure is to see inside myself that I have a higher spiritual principle as well as the scientific research to back up my logic. When I get into with the people in position, they normally use two arguments against me. First is that I am causing disunity by not agreeing with them, and second, that the organization is not ready for change. They usually act on the disunity clause. “You are either with me, or you are against me.” It is hard to fully appreciate the use of power, however, unless you understand that it is addictive and people in power get a drugged response from using it. You are not allowed a differing opinion because they do not want change. My problem has always been that I believe that I can win the fight, but I lose because it is not about principle, it is about power.

Joyfulness is the virtue of really allowing you to be totally involved in the present tense. People oriented toward power attempt to cut off the future mostly by the threat of termination. They have no weapon for the present tense. Joyfulness allows you to take advantage of what is available and make it much more positive than was ever dreamed possible. Whatever situation you are forced into in life by reason of the injustices of power or greed, joyfulness, if used fully, can find a way to take advantage of the current situation and make it so positive that it changes everything. You can only take full advantage of the virtue of joyfulness if you can submit to the present tense and what is available now. What power leaders take advantage of is that most people cling to hope when the appropriate solution is joy.

Hope is the virtue of seeing a positive change in the current leadership, which is ok to have if there were not power hungry people ruling things, but they are so good at destroying hope and getting so high on it, that to cling to it just causes pain. The present tense can give you huge energy stores by taking advantage of what is available now rather than sitting and waiting for some benevolence that is never going to come. The present tense is where it is at, but it needs to be realized that not every possibility is available in the present. The set of all possibilities are available in the future, but in the present tense one must look for what is available and then act fully into it. By acting fully in the present tense with great joy the jealous leaders become befuddled because they get the drugged effect from cutting off the future.

The hard thing to do in the present day world is to actually increase activity with joy because one tends to become demoralized by injustice and ego power. It should not be surprising that depression started becoming a trendy mental problem at about the same time when the salaries of leaders in comparison to other workers went sky high particularly in the U.S.. It is well known now that a strong middle is what makes a strong economy and a stable country, but people at the top tend to love their power and like using it. Still is acting with joy in the present tense, huge joy, that power can do nothing about.

If the worst quality in the world is bad leadership trying to maintain things as they are for their advantage and then using power as a drug, then the best quality is acting with joy and increasing positive activity.

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.

Embracing Uncertainty #2: Bringing in the New Baby

August 2, 2008

I was really struck by something the other day. Sen. Obama, the U.S. presidential candidate, was in Europe proclaiming that he was a world citizen, that there is a huge need for cooperation if we are to solve the issues of the day, and that he wanted to work together with others. When I read the article on the CNN website, it started out in this positive vain, but then the report changed the focus from him attempting to promote cooperation ( a value that everything single teacher in the whole world starts to work on in day one of a child’s schooling) to reporting about how the other candidate didn’t think that he had enough experience and that his speech was just campaigning. So I asked myself why would CNN change something that everyone wants and promotes to trying to make it seem like Obama was full of self-interest. The only answer I can really come up with is that CNN and other news outlets have already decided that it is the presidential race that makes money so therefore, it is more newsworthy. They are not interested in global cooperation, they are simply interested in making a lot of money in the guise of reporting the news. It also lets me know that when I attempt to go for a really positive end in the world today that the biggest obstacle seems to be self-interest in the guise of something else like fair reporting. I don’t really see news agencies interested in the truth, but they seem to be able to pretend like they are. I think that they have pretty much decided that the truth is not going to make them a lot of money so they focus on what will make them money and then make it news and then call it the truth.

This posting is not meant to be a blasting of CNN, although it is easy enough to do,  but rather on the dynamic of why it is so difficult for new ideas to  be brought into the world.    Well, something really wonderful happened to me since I started writing this post.  My fourth grandson, Will Shoghi Heins-Hastings was brought into the world on July 24th shortly after 10 pm in Vancouver.    I have been overseas for the birth of my other three grandchildren,  but during this birth I was with my daughter, Juliet, during some of her early contractions and drove her and Shane, her husband, to the hospital for the delivery. Juliet has a special way of describing her life experiences that seems to be able to capture an entire experience in a few words.   After having spent more than two hours in the last phase of labour with extremely intense contractions that were on for 45 seconds to a minute and then off for 30 seconds and then back on again,  worrying that she may not be able to have a natural birth because her first child was a c-section, and being somewhat anemic during the last phases of her pregnancy, she  told  Shane that  she  had felt like she had just been through all of the Navy Seals training regime in two hours.  After the delivery, when our whole family was there in her hospital room, you could see how wonderful she felt despite the pain.   The only thing that comes close for me has been running a marathon, but it whithers in comparison to what she just had accomplished.   At the end of the marathon you feel a great deal of satisfaction and a great deal of pain, but you don’t have a magical new soul at the end.   Juliet brought this wonderful new being into the world after having carried it for over nine months.

I couldn’t get enough time with Will during the brief week that I had with him before having to return to Malaysia for work.    I am sure that I will have lots of adventures with him in the future, God willing, but those moments shortly after his transition from the womb into this world, have been quite unmatched.  I feel so fortunate to have been there.     Will is now completely dependent upon others for his new life.  His mother and father will spend endless sleepless hours with him so that his own will can be galvanized into a life that will be beneficial to the human race.

When I grew up in southern California,  I never dreamed that I my national identity would be anything other than American,  but gradually my life changed.   When I moved to Canada in 1983, I learned to be a Canadian. Now I love Canada.  And when I moved to Brazil in 1998, they almost always referred to me as estranjeiro (foreigner), but  in my heart I became a Brazilian.  There is absolutely no question for me that Brazil is my home.  The government doesn’t recognize me as a citizen of Brazil and most of its people will not consider me Brazilian, but I am.    And now I live in a new country, Malaysia.     I have been here for three years.    Before moving to Asia,  I had no desire to be here.  I wanted to stay in Latin America, but God seemed to have other ideas for me.    I didn’t realize how much I loved my new country until I reached Tokyo on the return trip from Vancouver.   When we boarded the plane from Tokyo to Singapore,  there were a lot more familiar people in the boarding area.  By that I mean Malaysians and Singaporeans and by the time we arrived in the Singapore airport,  I just felt so relaxed and at home again.    Am I really becoming a world citizen as Sen. Obama is encouraging me to be?

Giving birth to a new identity as a world citizen is not an easy transition, but I know now that when people ask me where I am from, it is not an easy answer anymore.   I use each one freely, but I still haven’t used the identity as world citizen yet.   When will it come?   Well I am no so sure that CNN is ready for Americans to change to make a transition from strictly national to a more global identity.   I don’t think they see it as financially viable yet, but some Americans, even presidential candidates, are warming up to world citizenship and giving birth to its possibilities.

I am sure that Will will have no issues with calling himself a world citizen because the world he has been born into in 2008 is much smaller than the one I was born into more than a half century ago.   It is only going to get smaller and more connected.    That is a certainty.   The animosities and rivalries and conflicts that CNN revels in are all fading one generation after another.    Who would have imagined in the late 1960s during the height of the cultural revolution in China that they would one day be inviting the whole world to its doorstep, but it has happened right before our eyes.

Embracing a new idea like world citizenship brings with it a great deal of uncertainty.   What will happen to my job, to my social security,  to my benefits if we are all members of the same country, earth?   Well, one thing is certain for me.   The earth is my neighborhood and my new grandson, Will, and I are going to get to know as many of our neighbors and do as many adventures as we possible can.   I hope you are ready Will and I hope to meet all of you along the way.

JFK Quotes

April 15, 2008

In my last post I mentioned seeing a newspaper article about JFK in the interview room of a newspaper in Sabah so I decided to look up a few quotes from JFK and post them here.  Enjoy them.

A child miseducated is a child lost.

A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.

A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today – and in fact we have forgotten.

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.

If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.

Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.

The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.

Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.

Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes… can no longer be of concern to great powers alone.

We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.

When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.

And so, my fellow americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

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.

The Myth of Ownership: Who Really Owns Space

March 26, 2008

I am writing this post because I had an interesting phenomenon happen to me today as I was working.   When I began thinking about being creative and spirited in my job,  I kept getting a negative image in my brain of one of the administrators and what that person might say or do to hinder the creativity.  As I began to meditate why he was their in mind,   I realized that I believed what most people must certainly believe, that the space belongs to the owners or people who are designated authority so whatever they think is what I have to overcome.

This puzzled me a great deal because I just thought that there must be a different solution.  How do I get him out of my mind and still have a certain amount of respect for property rights?  Well, this is a difficult challenge for me because it seems like whatever I do, he is there.    It turns out that what this person really cares about is rules and order and people following procedures.    He seems to spend every waking moment getting people to do things they way he wants.    So if I don’t get something in right on time, he is all over it.

What he doesn’t seem to care too much about at all are the actual creative things I do with the students.   This means that if I get things in on time and do fire drills correctly, then everything else is free and open.   I think I can live with that.   I can give him the 5% attention that will make him not have a heart attack so that I can spend 95% on the students doing interesting things.

I think that maybe the hang-up is wanting him to care more about some other things rather than mere organization, but then maybe that is the best he can do.  I seem to be able to drop him out of my mind by letting him have his control issues, accept that that is where he is at, and realize that he has left open the door of creativity wide open to do whatever I wish.

Another way to say this is that he has chosen to own the way everyone lines up and how to turn in forms, but he has left the ownership of creativity to everyone else.  I own the creativity.

If I enter someone else’s house, I can respect their property and level of noise, etc., but they are probably going to give over to me certain things that I can own.    They can own the noise level and the order in the house, but they usually will share certain aspects like friendship and helpfulness.   I can own the friendship and helpfulness and then use it freely to make the space much more enjoyable.   I can own courtesy and I can own kindness and generosity.  These things I can bring freely into the house as if the house were mine and then the house is mine while still belonging to them.

When I bring in bad manners and negativity,  I am usually not invited back because the owner doesn’t allow that in the house.   It is no longer mine.  In Latin America there is a saying, “mi casa es su casa”(my house is your house), which implies mutual ownership, but it is all predicated on the visitor having a great deal of courtesy and respect for the owner.   The owner agrees to share the ownership because the qualities of friendship and love and warmth that can exist are much better than living in loneliness.

I find it very interesting that the great prophets of God that founded huge religions like Buddha and Jesus and Muhammad were never interested in owning things or property.  They only ever seemed to concern themselves with bettering the space where others were.  Jesus told His followers to give Caesar his due.  They were then allowed to pay attention to the hearts of others.   This seems to be where the real ownership lies.

Who occupies my heart?  I think I will meditate on that.

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.

Raising the Bar Means Raising the Participation

March 14, 2008

On the playground at my school we have a set of monkey bars and rows of rings that students can play on to develop their upper body strength.   This year I set the goal for all of my kindergarten students to be able to do the rings and monkey bars.   Since they are both suspended off the ground, the students  always have to face the threat of falling, which happens all the time.  It is about a two foot drop so it is very rare that anyone feels hurt.    Nonetheless, the fear factor has kept a certain percentage of the children from really going after the goal.  Today something really great happened.  In one of the classes,  a group of girls decided that this was their day.   All 5 of them made it across the rings and then they came running over to me to announce their triumph.

There is nothing really all that technical or difficult about the teaching.  First  I have the belief that all of my 5 year olds want to make it across the bars even if they say they don’t.  When the students say they don’t, they are talking out of their fear or the messages inside already that say they can’t because of their size and lack of strength.   I just say to myself everyone can do this and everyone wants to.

When people say no to activity like running or walking or trying a new sport,  the no usually is coming from fear.   Inwardly everyone wants to participate fully in life because this is what it means to human.   What I am learning this year from my 5 year olds is that I can turn down the volume of the no or just not listen to it at all.   When I am feeling fearful about doing something new which makes me hold back, I understand now that it is the fear in me that is doing the talking and not the active, participatory full of life part.

The fear has many names and voices like the fear of making a mistake and being laughed at, the fear of not being very good even though I put in a hard effort, the fear of being turned down by others, the fear of being injured physically or emotionally, the fear of being put down, or the fear of looking bad.  What I realized recently was that the fear can have a strong voice in me and it can often win.   So instead of listening to the strong voice of fear I can turn off the volume and instead see the part of me that loves to participate more and go for it in myself and others.

In the country that I live in right now, Malaysia, I find, that despite it being a democratic and pluralistic society,  most people are not encouraged to give their opinions or express their creative ideas for the betterment of the group.   In fact it seems to have been quite discouraged as it has in other parts of the world.   Whenever I do a workshop in Malaysia and ask for opinions, they are not forthcoming immediately as they would be in North America because there is still a great deal of fear associated with participating in a democratic way.   In authoritarian cultures people hold back their opinions to protect themselves from getting shot.   Transitioning from an authoritarian form of culture to a participatory one is not without its challenges because when someone has a good idea, they keep it to themselves out of fear even if the authority figures are not so strong.  The memory of the need to not participate can be so strong and be so loud that people just hide away.   This was undoubtedly one of President Bush’s biggest mistakes and why the initial armed victory did not bring immediately results in Iraq.  The inward fear that has been sustained through hundreds of years of authoritarian rule is slow to give way because the culture of participation is such a weak force.   One tyrant just replaces another.

The great majority of leaders who find themselves in a position of power and recognition usually make the wrong decisions when it comes to participation.   Instead of being an encouraging force they tend to a stifling force because when a culture in an organization or country moves toward more participation it automatically means that power is shared.   This is much better for a culture because it means that more people can become more capable and do much more.    It is simple when you think of it in terms of a running race.  In an authoritarian culture the only runner is the leader.  Everyone else sits around a watches and only does stuff to support that leader’s run.   Well you end up with one person with a lot of ability and everyone else with very marginal abilities.     In a participatory culture everyone runs and everyone’s running is valued and recognized even the last place person.   The leaders do everything they can to mobilize everyone into running so that they can all become better.   It is pretty simple.

If you are a leader and you are at a meeting to discuss the future of your organization,  you can take a look around and see how many people are participating in the decision making and betterment of the organization and then you can just find ways to encourage more people to participate.   Its easy.

Successful Events #3 Solving the Worst Problem

March 7, 2008

When I was a principal of an elementary school,  I used to meet with individual teachers quite often.   Inevitably the question that I would ask them to answer was to identify for me the worst problem that they were having in there class because I knew that if they solved the worst problem everything else would get better.   No one gives much attention to the minor problems or puts much energy in them, and no one goes to therapy for relatively easy things to solve.    We all want to have the big stuff dealt with.   I learned that the best way to start working on the worst problem with teachers was to just ask them what it was.   They always told me.

The logic for dealing with the worst problem is quite simple.   The worst problem creates the greatest amount of negative energy in a group or event or meeting or in oneself.   When you solve the worst problem,  it automatically invigorates the environment of the meeting with positive energy.     Most of us have the problem of having to attend meetings that are largely one-sided, that is, they are planned by leaders who have their own agenda to meet their own self interests.    We are the ones excluded from the meeting because they are not thinking about us.   They are not anxious to hear our most pressing issues because they are only interested in addressing their own issues related to their own desires.  It is pretty sad, but that is the way most events are run.

If you are in charge of meeting,  then the planning process is simple.   For instance, some times I am asked to plan a meaningful event for a holy day.  So I ask myself who is likely to be most excluded or have the most difficulty at the event.  Usually it is children, but it could be someone who doesn’t speak the language very well.    For some reason, as soon as I include the children by making the stories more visual or simpler or add a lot of activity in the event, then everyone loves the event because prior to that the children were the big problem that took focus away from having a meaningful experience.

The world’s worst problems seem to be connected with leaders who have nothing but self interest so that  the ability to plan successfully is often usurped by their selfishness or undealt with fears.   When I give into their fears, the events become diluted and lose the vitality necessary to make them successful.   Most leaders don’t want to have to deal with the most difficult problems people are facing, and the further down you are on the economic or or social ladder,  the less agenda time you will get.     What leaders want is for  recognition and resources to flow to them.   What I found by asking teachers what their greatest problems were, was that most of the problems weren’t even in the classrooms, but at home or in a personal relationship.  So then I would talk to them about their relationships outside of school and then suddenly their teaching would get a lot better.    It is so simple.   Positive energy is positive energy.   When it is released, it affects everything in a positive manner.

My worst problem in my classes  nowadays tends to be children who are trying to get undue attention.  It is not surprising since that is the world’s model of behavior right now in shows like ______________Idol or Amazing Race or Fear Factor.     When I give them a small amount of discipline so that they can refocus on tasks instead of trying to show off and get everyone’s attention, then the whole class suddenly works extremely hard.    The positive energy goes to achievement rather than to “look at me”.

Well, it is pretty hard to discipline an out of control leader, but you can attend to areas where they are not.   The world’s leadership doesn’t like to pay attention to people who have been the most excluded because the leaders are the ones who have made them that way.    However, since the leaders are not paying attention to the most excluded, it means that the work there will improve the fastest when it is attended to and the benefits will generalize to all parts of society.   Just ignore the leaders and go for the real issues.  This seems to be the key to success these days!

Successful Events 2: Keep the Big Mouths Shut

March 5, 2008

A few years ago I attended a wonderful physical education conference in Rio de Janeiro. Besides myself and a couple of other people the entire conference participants were Brazilians. The wonderful thing about the conference was that it was highly participatory. We did outdoor problem solving courses, martial arts, and ultimate frisbee to name a few. However, part way into the conference someone gave a lecture on something that I can’t remember. During the lecture about 50% of the group was sleeping. I remember everything about the other workshops that were active, but I can’t even recall the subject in the lecture.

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People rarely remember the words of even the greatest speeches and the most important ones that have ever been spoken are often very short. People remember the events where they were able to participate fully. If there is to be speaking, it is much more effective in small groups where everyone has an equal voice and where they are able to share personal things.

Last year I sent one of my volleyball teams to a local tournament. After about 30 minutes of play, the whole tournament stopped, some dignitary walked in and proceeded to speak for about 40 minutes. As hard as I try I cannot think of a more ridiculous way to plan an event. Who cares what he has to say? The players certainly don’t. Who was he speaking to? The air?

My rule is simply this. Very few speeches and lots of interaction and activity. I think about planning an event as if the group were 5 year olds. I have 5 minutes at the most for talking before they need to get involved in activity. How many times have you gone to boring events where people just get up and give speeches in order to self-glorify themselves? The days of long speeches are long gone. Let’s get over them.

One of my real pet peeves these days are the LCD projectors where people hook up what they are going to say to a computer and then project it for everyone to see and then they read it. What an abuse of good technology!!!! I think they were designed to show interesting pictures, not boring outlines.

The key to planning events is getting people involved and the best way to keep people from being involved is through a lot of speeches. It is how to put people to sleep. Let them have a real experience!!!!

How to Make Every Event Successful: part 1

March 2, 2008

A little over two years ago I started working in a new position as athletic director in an international school in Malaysia with students K-12. One of the first challenges I faced was with the elementary swim team. We had a relatively small team which practiced a couple of times per week so that students could participate in other activities as well such as martial arts and dance. Early on in the year the team was invited to participate in a triangular meet with schools twice our size and whose teams practiced 5 days a week. Some of our kids couldn’t even dive off the starting platforms.

swim-1.jpgNeedless to say they didn’t perform that well in comparison to the other schools. A week later I had a number of parents entering my office and wanting me to make my program like the other schools. When I met with a whole group of them, I made the mistake of saying that I had never been in a school with a swimming program. You can imagine how they felt about that!! I let the season continue just observing without making any changes at all. When the season was over, another colleague and I got together to produce a new strategy that has since left everyone really excited and the parents extremely happy. Between the two of us we called our meets the Crappy Schools Swim Associated because we decided that during the following year we would only participate in meets that we planned and set the model for. We invited 3 other schools who were on or slightly above our level and then organized a new type of meet.

In the meet we gave awards to the first 3 places in every swimming heat which was something like 70 heats per meet. When we added relay events we ended up giving away almost 250 awards. Prior to that the only time that the swimmers got awards was during the annual city meet with 9 other schools where medals were only given to the top 3 in each event. In that year only 2 kids had won awards in the whole season. So what were our results? Almost instantly the parents thought we had a wonderful swimming program and since that day, I have not receive one complaint about the program. It turns out that parents and students really don’t care about who is first overall. They just love getting ribbons and when you make it much easier to win, the pressure just eases right off on the program. And what was even more gratifying is that the times of the swimmers just kept getting better and better with each meet, and they all began practicing a lot more on their own as well.

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Now if we would have played the game that a lot of people play when they are planning, then we would have “shoulded” on ourselves. Shoulding on ourselves would have meant that we try to do what the other schools do by having a program like theirs, but we did something else that was a little more radical. Instead of reserving winning for the top we increased the ability to win at all levels. In the second year of the new program we added a swim carnival for every student from grade 2-5 in the school and did ribbons in the same way. It caused the team to grow from 25 the year before to almost 60 swimmers.

The principles that we used are not particular to swimming or sports. They can be applied to any situation to bring great success. Most people base the planning of a sporting event on the Olympic Games. They only give awards to the top three athletes, base all of their pride on whether or not one of the three awards are won, and try to copy their programs based upon those who are winning the top three awards. So a lot of effort goes into the few athletes at the top who are gifted athletes. The ones at the bottom drop out because early on they have decided that sport is not for them. The same thing happens in every other discipline in most schools as well. In American based schools the goal is to go to an Ivy League school like Harvard. The programs get designed to be one of the few at the top. The people in the middle or bottom are largely forgotten. The glory of the school is based upon how many of the few at that top make it to an Ivy League school.

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But what makes you successful is the first principle of planning which is to be able to detach yourself from the way everyone else does things. This is not easy thing because everyone wants to be part of the gold medal winning team or filthy rich. But let’s face it, the world and everyone of its nations have failed completely in narrowing the gap between rich and poor. If you go into any bookstore in the world, most of the books are written by the one or two people who made it to the top. If you read the book and follow the prescriptions, you too can make it to the top.

The radical approach to making events successful is to plan for those at the bottom and the middle. If the event is like the Olympic Games where only top is awarded, then the event is not about change and growth. It is simply about recognition and glory. Sadly, most organizations and most events are still run this way. The problem is that the ones at the top get lots of recognition, and then can’t understand why others become disenfranchised and apathetic. They write books about how others can be like themselves, but the glaring fact that the discrepancy between the top and the bottom has grown so dramatically only shows the extent of their failure. I think that most of the people at the top really don’t want people in the middle recognized and rewarded because they have the false belief that they are going to lose some of their recognition by doing so. Our experience proves them absolutely wrong in their thinking.

The key to making an event successful and transformational is to think about how to reach the people who are normally the most excluded. In our swim program the athletes who were the most excluded were the ones that had made a lot of effort, but were never rewarded. We simply put them in races against others with similar ability and then awarded them in the same way that we recognized the top. The top swimmers all received the same number of awards that they normally would have received, but now everyone else also had more chances for the prizes. Even the slowest swimmers got awards. The result is that everyone stayed motivated and everyone improved.

So when you are planning something like a meeting to discuss the future of the company or the family vacation, the emphasis should be on how to include the ones who are normally the most excluded.

Who Do You Work for?

February 4, 2008

I just spent more than 30 hours during the weekend as a tournament director for a high school tennis tournament in which 9 schools from all over Southeast Asia participated. At the end of the day there were more than 200 sets played. We began our days at 6:00 AM and finished around 10:00 PM. We had just enough time to eat some dinner and hop into bed.

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This morning is a school day, but I am way too tired to be in school so I decided to call in for a substitute for my classes. Before I called in I had some feelings of guilt as if I were so weak for being so tired and not being able to keep on going despite the exhausting days in +30 temperatures managing all kinds of variables including rain delays. The guilt of not being strong enough was haunting me so I began to do some reflection of where it was coming from.

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The question that keeps resounding in my head is that of who I work for. During the tournament I kept feeling pressure from various people to shorten the tournament especially for those who did not qualify for the semifinals. As I felt the pressure I kept reminding myself that the games for 8th place are just as important for those players as the games for first. The tennis players just want to play lots of tennis. They love being on the court. After a rain delay on the first day we ended up playing two hours after the original schedule. At 8 PM all of the courts were full, the lights were on, but there were only 2 official matches left. Everyone just kept playing despite the fact that the schedule was over.

During the second day God stepped in as if to validate my feelings. Just when the final matches were to begin to decide champions and third place, it began to pour rain and didn’t stop for the next 6 hours. The third place matches got canceled and the first places ones went indoors and were shortened considerably so that we could finish the tournament. So in the end it was the 5th to 8th places that got the best court times and had the most matches. It was if God were saying to me that everyone is important, not just the champions. Everyone deserves and should get his time on the courts and when I am doing my job correctly, in His eyes, no one is singled out for more time than anyone else.

But why do I feel guilty about not going to work when I worked such ungodly hours so that everyone could play? It dawned on me that the pressure is to favor the people at the top. Be it the first place players, the director of the school, or whatever head of something, they tend to believe that they should have more time and the best resources and everyone else should serve that end. The lower down the ladder we are, the more we tend to serve whatever they want, hoping that that we will get our time on the courts. They usually don’t give it because they are more interested in their position on the ladder than on giving everyone a chance.

Part of me is working for all of the players including 8th place, but another is just serving the top and their selfish aims without realizing that they have no thought of mine. They just expect me to do whatever they wish.

At one point in the tournament one of the coaches of the top four teams became upset with me when I told him that we had moved the semifinal match up and they had to get on the court. If was as if he thought he should have special privileges and I should give the team more time. I held firm and the team did fine without special treatment. It just proved the point that all leaders should know. People at the top don’t perform better with special treatment. They do equal or better when they have the same privileges and resources as everyone else.

I just need to remind myself that I am working for the 8th place players just as much as the first place ones. I am very grateful that the rain came when the showcase games were supposed to happen. The tournament was a success because of how treated 8th place, not how we treated first.

Cambodia: A Wayfarer’s Journey

January 4, 2008

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It is hard to imagine another place in the world that has suffered as much since the 1970s as our neighbor to the North, Cambodia. Barely a decade has passed since the series of invasions and the horrific civil war have ended. As we are flying into Siem Reap (literally Siam Defeated) my expectation is once again altered as in every other new country that I have ever entered. The airport visa system is extremely well organized and efficient, the airport new and attractive, and the money exchange process quite easy.

We arrive on Christmas Eve, take our first adventure with a Muslim driver, in a country that is 90% Buddhist, and whose greatest attractions are largely Hindu. The gentleness, warmth, and togetherness of the people make it difficult to imagine the millions who were slaughtered by their own hands. Peace is a great blessing to a country and being in Cambodia on Christmas in a peaceful place is a great blessing for us. Santa couldn’t find reindeer in Cambodia so he came in an ox-cart.

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Tonle Sap Lake is the home to floating villages. It is poor for sure, as we enter we pass house after house 3- 5 meters off the ground to protect from the rising waters in the rainy season. We are in the dry season but there is still enough water for the floating structures. Debby and I are the only passengers on boat designed for about 12. The young children are in school making the universal noises that they make everywhere in the world. What is different about these children is that there school house is floating in the water, buildings on barges. Even the basketball court is a floating structure. tonle-sap.jpgThe houseboats are simple structures, the life even simpler, but Debby and I notice almost simultaneously, the bougainvillea and other flowers on the smallest of places. Beauty and its attraction does not belong to the rich. It is found in all classes. It is a lesson that will test me again.

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I am writing this journal on leaving Siem Reap on our way to Battambang in a bus occupied by 80% Cambodian and a few gringos like us. The bus has just stopped by side of the rode adjacent to a rice field. The bus driver yells something out in Khmer and many get off the bus. They go out into the field men and woman alike and have a pee break. Debby follows. They all return to the bus and now we are on the bumpy road again. Life is still simple and uncomplicated. Wealth will no doubt come to Cambodia quickly as it has to the rest of Asia. It is easy to see. One day soon the buses will all have toilets and this part of life will disappear. I wonder if Isa and Olee and Diego, our grandchildren, will have this chance to pee by the side of the road. So I put this in my memory that simplicity has its place.

The Ruins at Angkor

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We have two days to visit and study the vast temple complexes of around Siem Reap, the center of an empire that once covered most of Thailand and Vietnam. So as I am thinking about how to learn about the great empire, I am imagining myself walking through the ancient structures with a guide at my side who will answer every question of my inquisitive mind. And this is the plan. We have some contacts in Siem Reap through the Baha’i Community there and even a couple who we decide to hook up with on this journey to the past. But as fate would have it somewhere between leaving Siem Reap, getting our 3 day pass, and arriving at the first temple site, we lose the guide and the other couple. My inner process has a huge flare up because my expectations of how to proceed through the ruins quickly vanishes before my eyes. Debby asks me how long I am going to have my attitude. I tell her that I will deal with it somehow. Somewhere in the midst of my disappointment I pull a “Juliet”. (Juliet is our youngest daughter and pulling a Juliet to me means being aware that something out of the ordinary needs to happen). I say to myself that if I really needed a guide on that day, the guide would be there. As we leave the first temple and proceed to the next, my inner guide begins to awaken, but I still have a bit of the old expectations. elephant.jpgThe next stop is an ancient reservoir. My attitude says what do I want to see a reservoir for, but inwardly I begin to see the things that a guide could not show me. The place where water is stored is surrounded by beautiful sculptures and intricate carvings, and then I begin to see the real Angkor for the first time. Why would a culture, nearly 1000 years old build a place to store water as if it were a holy temple? It seems to me now that the organizing principle of the culture is beauty, an attempt to transform the ordinary into the sacred. The symbols around the reservoir make it clear to me that it is a place of healing, that the waters are sacred, and that the lure is beauty.

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As we enter the next temple my attention is drawn to Apsara, the feminine divinity that is shared strongly in these ruins in both Hindu and Buddhist structures. Everywhere you go Apsara is with you. The masculine images pale in Angkor in comparison to the quantity of feminine ones, which reinforces the value placed on beauty and other feminine qualities. We end our first day with a visit to the temple where Lara Croft Tomb Raider was filmed. laracroft.jpgWhen the French colonized Cambodia in the 19th Century and then began to do archeological work. Much of the temple structure had been overrun by the jungle.lac2.jpg That night, after having discovered some of the mysteries of the ancient past, we head to downtown Siem Reap, and eat burritos at a Mexican restaurant with some friends from KL. It reminds us that world has grown small.
After having gone through my crisis with the guides on the first day, I have decided that on day 2 that I will not force the hand of the inner world. We plan for a guide again on this day, he shows up, and remains with us the entire day. Life is mysterious. Visiting the sites of Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat with a guide to explain the history and significance was how I had imagined the first day.angthom1.jpg Although Angkor Wat is the most famous temple structure, our favorite by far is Angkor Thom, built by what seems to have been a very benevolent ruler.guideme.jpg It is a Buddhist structure, whereas Angkor Wat is Hindu. The smiling Buddha seems to reflect our feeling here. smile.jpgTo end the day we take a small hot air balloon ride, which gives us a panoramic view of the things we have taken in at ground level.

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Battambang

Our purpose in visiting Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia, is to meet some of the Baha’is in the area and do a couple of presentations. Our first experience happens on the back of motorcycle. It is not unusual to see a family of 5 riding on a motorcycle. wedding1.jpgWhat we would have been so judgmental about only a couple of days previously we are now doing. There are three interesting projects in this area, CORDE, UniEd, and Gems International School. CORDE is a development project that teaches people in the villages English classes combined with materials that are oriented toward positive values such as service to the community. corde1.jpgFamilies donate part of their land to build a classroom structure and then funds are raised for the building. corde2.jpgExcept for the directors of each building all of the teachers are volunteers who have gone through the coursework previously. Even some of the Buddhist monks from the area are volunteers. They are all quite enthusiastic about doing the work. UniEd is a small university of about 70 students. One of the problems of Cambodia in its transitional period is that students have to pay a fee that is quite exorbitant in order to pass the high school exam. UniEd created a more open entrance policy that doesn’t require students passing the high school exam. It also teaches all of the classes in English, which allows Cambodians the students to take advantage of resource people and instructors from outside of the country who don’t speak Khmer. Gems Intl. School is a kindergarten, which is also English based. The topic about which I am speaking at UniEd is moral leadership, which means leadership that is more group oriented and based upon positive values and the development of capabilities. The night before the presentation I have a dream in which I am truck driver. In the midst of the dream a King Kong like character is brought into the truck, breaks free and then tries to cause lots of havoc. It takes me about an hour to go back to sleep after the dream because I realize that it is the history of leadership in Cambodia. During my presentation I use the metaphor of the dream for nearly the whole first hour. Later when we are in Phnom Penh, we hook up with one of the Baha’is who attended the talk. sano.jpgHe is there to meet with other NGOs about some projects he is doing so we decide to have breakfast before he has to go off to his meetings. He tells us that he has to talk with us about his King Kong issues, which let me know that the metaphor presented in the dream really works. In the afternoon after my presentation at UniEd, Debby gives a presentation to parents at the Gems School about the Virtues Project. gems1.jpgWhat she teaches is quite revolutionary for parents everywhere, but particularly in Asia, that when you name positive virtues in children and call them to those virtues, rather than belittling them with constant nagging and criticism, that they become those virtues. parents.jpgShe gets them to begin making a commitment to that promise and promises them that she will return.

Our time in Battambang is mainly about making Cambodian friends. We have planned to leave the area on the 30th, but the Baha’i friends encourage us to stay for a wedding of a young couple. These pictures tell that story.

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Phnom Penh
I wish that I could share more of Battambang, but my pen would die of exhaustion and so would you. When I was a young man in high school, I attended some Christian gatherings, one put on by an organization called Young Life or something like that. I loved the activities they did until it came to the part where they said that Jesus was the only way to God, that if you didn’t believe that He was the only way, that you would go to Hell. I remember quite clearly thinking that there were a large number of Buddhists in the world and that I couldn’t see how God could condemn them all to damnation. Cambodia is a country that is 90% Buddhist. The people are gentle, hard working, and family oriented. Being with them in friendship is a heavenly experience.

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The air-conditioned bus to Phnom Penh is freezing. Debby has to put her feet in her day pack to keep them warm. We pee again by the side of the road and later stop for coconut rice served inside a bamboo stick. The prices in Cambodia for things are really quite unbelievable. For $2-3 you eat really well. The Khmer food is not so spicy like Indian or Thai food so if your palate or gut cannot take it, Cambodia is a great place for you.

We arrive around 2 pm in the afternoon, make our way in a tuk-tuk to the Burly Guesthouse, tuk-tuk.jpgwhere for 13USD per day you can get air-conditioning and cable TV. I even see part of the Rose Bowl one night, but since it doesn’t begin until 10:30 PM local time, I fade after the first quarter almost like Illinois. We had met a couple, Sherif and Shaku Rushdy in Battambang, who had been living in Croatia and now Kyrgyzstan doing lots of development work throughout the world. They also know Shane quite well, so we spend New Year’s Eve with them. Phnom Penh is really vibrant for us. rushdy.jpgWe walked along the riverfront, eat more burritos, enjoy the festive atmosphere. Jan. 1st is a national holiday so it seems as though everyone in the city is out to enjoy the New Year’s party. Fireworks begin at midnight but we are already in bed for an hour by the time the noise begins.

There are 2 big markets in Phnom Penh, the Central and the Russian where you can buy name brand clothes from the local factories that make them like Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Boss, Camel, and others for unbelievably low prices. A dry fit Tommy Hilfiger shirt is $5. market.jpgNeedless to say a certain member of our family is extremely excited during the times we are in the markets. The afternoon after we visit the Central Market I give a workshop again on the topic of personal transformation at the Baha’i Center. trans.jpgThe woman in charge of the Center, Yvette, is a Cambodian who had to flee to Vietnam during the Pol Pot regime. Her uncle was a general in the Cambodian army before the Khmer Rouge so when the takeover happened in 1975 the new government invited all of the old leaders to join the new army and promised them positions. Instead they were all shot.

Debby and I didn’t visit war sites in Vietnam where we were last year because Vietnam is sewn into the fabric of our souls from when we were young. There are no words yet created to describe the horror of the Pol Pot Regime. Day 3 in Phnom Penh is our pilgrimage to one of the worst nightmares of the 20th century. It is difficult to experience, sobering, draining, and difficult to return to joy afterward. The Toul Sleung Museum is our first stop, which is school that was converted by Khmer Rouge into a prison where they brutally interrogated people to extract information and then later killed them. Our guide takes us through each room and explains the methods. photos.jpgThere are hundreds of photos from small children to older persons who were all tortured and killed. The regime made a habit of photographing the victims so that everyone would believe that they were doing the killing. Such was their perversity. Pol Pot was so extreme and paranoid that even killed many of his own soldiers. At the end of the tour I ask our guide about what her experience was. She explains how she was only 14 that her father was a member of Parliament, her mother a French teacher. She is forced to walk from Phnom Penh to nearly the border in Vietnam, a journey of nearly two months. Her mother and father are murdered as are her grandparents. Only many years later does she find that her brother is in San Diego. In the commune where she is forced to do slave labour she is sick all the time, an illness that continues until today. The nightmares also continue so she takes medication each night to sleep. Debby and I are holding back our tears, but we are moved beyond that which we can explain. She calls her daughter and niece over to us who are both vibrant and enthusiastic young people. woman.jpgWe share a few moments together and try to find a way for her to meet some of our new friends in the city.

During the meeting on personal transformation the day before I talk for several minutes about Debby’s story and some of her difficulties as a young woman. After the meeting I tell Debby that I was feeling the presence of her father, which I feel again in the prison.

After the prison we hire a tuk-tuk to take us out to one of the hundreds of Killing Fields in Cambodia. grave.jpg This one is located 15 km from the prison in a place that is strangely peaceful and serene with a beautiful lagoon, but what happened there is quite the opposite. Pol Pot only died in 1989 from natural causes because the only way to get peace in country after the Vietnamese left was to give amnesty to the Khmer Rouge. Many of the regime are in prominent positions and it is only within the last few weeks that some of the major players have been arrested and face trial for crimes against humanity. After the very sobering morning we wonder how we are going to get back to some measure of joyfulness and yet not forget what we have seen. I think about the all of the young boys who were forced to be soldiers and kill incessantly and what it will take for them to be rehabilitated. It is a staggering thought.

We eat lunch at a restaurant called Friends, which is a project to take young people off the street and give them meaningful work. Cambodia has become the land of NGOs, some positive and some not-so. The lunch is a good transition from the morning taking us from the worst degradation to the hope.

royal-palace.jpgAfterwards we visit the huge royal palace and National Museum. In the evening we visit the Baha’i Center again and sing songs and play some cooperative games making more friends with our favorite age group, teenagers. coop.jpg

During our flight and taxi ride home we talk about how amazing the trip has been, how different than our other holidays, and how grateful we are. We are wondering and hoping for an early return.

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Accelerating Change By Making Friends with Your Enemies

December 20, 2007

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I have met with many people in recent weeks who seem to have the same brutal energy affecting them strongly when they are in the midst of trying to change their lives. They seem to be caught up in the cultural myth that says that if I get enough love, then suddenly my life will be somehow magically transformed into a blissful paradise where everything comes easy. I think it is something like being happy-ever-after.

There is only one problem with the strategy. It doesn’t work. Whenever I have tried to get love from someone else or in a relationship, the very best I ever have is a temporary feeling that feels great for a very short time not unlike a drug. As soon as the person is not there or has to deal with their own problems or is busy trying to get the same from you, then we both end up in a sea of negative emotions. This idea that someone else is going to somehow fulfill me or two halves make a whole, etc., etc., is so difficult to break out of because it is just so prevalent.

I am not sure how anyone ever makes it through this mire. The problem is that we try to grab some warmth or closeness from someone else because they may be very attractive. Everyone else does it so why don’t I do it too? That seems to be how most of us think. The other day I was thinking that if getting love from someone else is only a temporary thing which doesn’t end up working in the long run, then maybe the place we haven’t looked for true joy and happiness is in the process of dealing with our enemies.

Let’s face it. Our friends can’t be there all the time to give us our fix of love and support, but who always seems to be there rain or shine is our enemy. Our enemies are so faithful that even when they aren’t there, they are stuck in our minds. What do most people do when they are with their friends or come home from work? They complain about their enemies whether it be a colleague or a boss or our spouse or the leader of the country. In fact the more you think about it the more enemies act like how you want your loved ones to act. They stick to you like glue and are there rain or shine. Hmmm.

I have to say that my arch enemy for as long as I can remember is authority figures. Bad authority seems to follow me around like flies to …. you know what I am talking about. And I seem to love to keep them as the enemy. They are so convenient. I love to go after new ideas and make changes wherever I am, but the authority figures seem to love keeping things as they are evoking conservative strategies so that they can hold tightly to the reigns of power and control. Why won’t they just go away? Why do they show up wherever I am?

I know the answer. Not too hard to figure out actually. The answer is that inside of me I am a closet conservative right winged control freak at least there is an energy inside of me that acts that way even it is not a part of my identity. So if I am to change it, I can be, instead of an enemy who fights it, like its best friend who listens patiently, non-judgmentally, and shows unconditional love. After all, if I am holding onto not changing, trying to stay in one place, then I need the closest of companions to help me through this energy. It isn’t that being a control freak is acceptable to me, but it is more that being a friend to the energy will allow to do what it really wants to do which is to change into something that is wildly radical.

I think I get it. On to some reflection, deep process.

This quote really helps me out when I think of the process of change.

Recognize your enemies as friends, and consider those who wish you evil as the wishers of good. You must not see evil as evil and then compromise with your opinion, for to treat in a smooth, kindly way one whom you consider evil or an enemy is hypocrisy, and this is not worthy or allowable. You must consider your enemies as your friends, look upon your evil-wishers as your well-wishers and treat them accordingly. Act in such a way that your heart may be free from hatred. Let not your heart be offended with anyone. If some one commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him. Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them, and if you wish to give admonition or advice, let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the bearer. Turn all your thoughts toward bringing joy to hearts. Beware! Beware! lest ye offend any heart. Assist the world of humanity as much as possible. Be the source of consolation to every sad one, assist every weak one, be helpful to every indigent one, care for every sick one, be the cause of glorification to every lowly one, and shelter those who are overshadowed by fear.

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace)

When the Truth is Inconvenient

December 15, 2007

The other day I was having lunch with some of my Chinese Malaysian colleagues when one of them ask me an interesting question. “Do you believe in standing up for the truth?” one of them asked to me.  It seems like such a straightforward kind of question, but it is often more about wisdom than courage

Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith answers the question this way.

“Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it.”

In answering the question to my colleagues I told them that saying my version of what the truth is takes a lot of wisdom so, in most cases, I chose my battles where I think I may have a chance of affecting the outcome in a positive way. I usually don’t fight for something if I don’t think my actions are going to make a dent in the way people think.

Having said that to them I told them my stories of being fired when I acted counter to the normal wisdom I would usually display. I don’t think anyone can accuse me of playing politics by saying things that will please the leaders, but I do realize that there is value in holding things back at times.   It is not easy to know when to use restraint  when I want to let it rip.   Most of the times I see that the leadership is very conservative or protective in certain areas so  I don’t go to those areas to voice to many opinions.  If they ask for an opinion or for consultation on an issue in a sincere manner, then I feel I have a responsibility as a part of the group to voice my opinion.   Many leaders are comfortable and open and give a lot of autonomy in some areas and then very protective in others.   Wisdom requires that I study a situation to understand which is which.

There are times when I have had to throw conventional wisdom out the window.   It has happened to me when I am faced with a hostile takeover  of the forward thinking philosophy I am working with by a more traditional one posing as forward thinking.

I have been in three different schools where hostile takeovers have occurred.   These were all privately owned schools, but public ones run the same risk as in the U.S. with their “no child left behind” legislation.   If you have a forward thinking philosophy in an organization,  its very nature will mean that it makes mistakes in its efforts to pave new ground.   The wannabes (those doing the hostile takeover) are lying in the wings ready to pounce because they are so envious of your success that they want a part of it even though they don’t want to do the work that you have done.    They know exactly what to do.  They criticize the mistakes, blow them up in such a way as to convince others that the organization is falling apart, and then walk in and take over.

The first time this happened to me I was sitting in a meeting after the school had already been dismantled behind our backs.   I just stood up and told the leadership what I felt.   It was so exhilarating, but I also knew at that point, that the takeover had already occurred.   Fortunately I was able to find work to continue the philosophy in  a different country.  The hostile takeovers of the other two schools where I worked did not happen until about 6 years into those programs,  but the patterns were all very similar.    At the time that the take overs began to happen, was actually the time that I felt that I was doing my best work, but their untimely intrusion made me throw caution, restraint, and conventional wisdom to the wind so that others in the organization could begin to see what was happening and perhaps survive.  As unqualified as the wannabes are in the new philosophy I have to give them a great deal of credit in how to manipulate opinion and use power and even sound like they are intelligent.   They have the ability to fool many people, enough at least to  get themselves into the leadership.     I was forced out in a hostile manner twice because of the wannabes.    I don’t regret my speaking out even for one second despite being fired and left without the possibility of work for a year afterwards in both cases.    In all three cases the hostile takeovers allowed me to leave one country and then find work in another.   I may not have had such rich experiences if it were not for the firings.

The schools and those who did the firing have not been as fortunate as me.  Two of the schools have closed and the third is down 40% in enrollment.   They turned their backs on the new philosophy and just lost their way.   Their expediency was their own suicide note.

I can honestly say that I really didn’t know what I was doing when I spoke out against the hostile takeovers.  I acted mostly on intuition.   I think that my being fired was already calculated by those doing the takeover so I think that the speaking out may have been aimed more at those left behind than to the thieves who took over the organizations.

Strangely enough I now work in an organization whose philosophy and practice is quite traditional rather than being in one whose philosophy is different than the culture’s mode of operation.    I don’t often feel compelled to fight or stand up for stuff because a hostile takeover would be an oxymoron in a traditionally based organization.    It is not under threat because it doesn’t put itself out there in a culture-challenging way.    So I try to operate here more with wisdom than with trying to save it from a takeover.   Standing up and speaking out has its joyful moments.  There is nothing quite as exhilarating as putting pressure on  wannabes to admit what they are doing.    Wisdom is more like having a mathematics teacher put a very difficult problem on the board and then giving you a semester to solve it.   As you act with wisdom everything and everyone around you changes, but you are not the target of the deficiencies of those around you.

Baha’u’llah’s challenge to us in using wisdom may well be much more difficult than speaking out against an inconvenient negative truth.

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.

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.

Accelerating Change 3:Dispelling the Myth of Who Can Do Therapy

November 20, 2007

I have to admit that I have been so anxious to write about this subject for a long time. Sometime in the 20th century (it seems so long ago now) it was decided that as a professional you shouldn’t do therapy with a relative or with someone that you are in love with. Who were they trying to fool? It is in the same category of thinking that requires teachers to not get too close to their students less the students become disrespectful. Who invented this stuff? The very best coaches know how to get very close to their athletes and still work them very hard. Getting close to someone is more like a prerequisite for people working hard rather than a hindrance.

My wife and I have been married for 33 years. We are still in love with each other, but that love does not mean that we cannot be objective about our lives, where we are going and speak very frankly with each other. Love encourages frankness and openness. Everyone in our family does therapy together. We use all the same questions as a therapist, go very deep, and get great results. No one has a license.

The logic is easy enough to explain. Intimacy is a virtue. It simply means the ability to get closer to another. Problem solving is about being objective and detached which means putting distance between yourself and the problem.   To be a therapist you need to be able to become intimate to people and keep the issues at a distance, and you can become extremely effective by doing them both at the same time.   This is actually what science is all about also being in love with the search after truth and then doing the searching.  It means bring the relationship in where it has a lot of warmth and keeping the problems far enough out so that you can see them.

So where does the myth of distancing oneself from a client come from.  I am sure that it is not too far away from what owners do when they do restructuring so that they can fire a lot of employees but give themselves a big fat paycheck.  If they are distant from their employees,  then they can become self serving.   If they are intimate with them, then they will be much more willing to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of others.

I am thinking that the clergy have an awful lot of do with our distorted ideas about what is ethical.   What is a pulpit about anyone?

Trusting in God: What Does it Mean?

November 7, 2007

Last weekend at the Baha’i School in Kota Tinggi I went to a workshop on virtues and discovered that I needed the virtue of trusting more, especially trusting in God. So I am reflecting on it here to see what it means.

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When I was teaching ethics classes in Brazil, I used to do a unit on how God is perceived according to the various religions in the world. One of the groups of students that interested me a great deal were the Marxists who claimed to be atheists. Their complaint about religion, which is quite valid, is that they saw a lot of people lighting candles and praying, but then just waiting and hoping for God to act rather than acting themselves to get things done. I think that the materialists have the same complaint as well. Marx saw organized religion as a drug which kept people from acting. His hope was that people could be stirred up and start acting rather than being victims of the class system. Unfortunately most of the movements of left proved to be failures because they never allowed people to act as he had envisioned. In countries like China or North Korea God was replaced by the leader of the country who people came to worship. Materialistic cultures, led by ideas from the right have had no shortage of initiative and action, but the lack of spiritual and ethical values, replaced God with things. People rely and trust in things.

Trusting in God for me seems to be the ability to see myself acting with virtue to achieve positive ends and then actually taking steps toward the vision. Trusting in God means trusting in virtue or trusting in the positive spiritual teachings like love. It seems to require a vision of a positive spiritual possibility combined with visualizing oneself with spiritual qualities and then acting energetically. It seems to me that at the moment that the three inner processes come together that there is also a simultaneous connection to the larger Spirit, which we often call the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit has its own will, which is far better than our own, it guides and directs as it pleases. The magical things that people often wait to have happen don’t seem to occur by praying and sitting around for things to happen, nor by reflecting and coming up with good solutions, nor by action alone.

There seems to be a great deal of power in the combination of the three. So for instance, I want to begin a new program, or start a project, or create a new institute. I first can get a glimpse of the program and its positive purpose, then I can see the picture of myself acting in the program with a specific quality like creativity, then I can begin to act vigorously to realize the vision. The moment that I act is the moment that the larger Spirit enters which begins to change everything in a fundamentally more positive way.

The trusting part is connected to the belief that God will assist all those who step into the arena of service. The most difficult part for me, which may not be for others, is the ability to see myself with the processes or the qualities that are required in project. Right now I am working on visualizing myself as having a lot of expressive qualities. What I am finding important, which you may wish to also try, is visualizing as a dissociated image, an image outside of myself or me acting positively.

The three steps are 1. creating a vision that is positive and spiritually oriented 2. seeing yourself with the initial qualities that make the vision work and 3. acting vigorously.

Flinging your Life Away

November 4, 2007

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Debby and I just returned from the Singapore Baha’i Summer/Winter School in Kota Tinggi in the south of Malaysia at an eco resort called Kota Rainforest Resort. The chief organizer said you can call it winter or summer because if you know this part of the world, there is really no difference.

They asked me to do a presentation for 90 minutes each morning so one of the things I did was to choose the following quote and then have small groups reflect on it.

Now is the time, O ye beloved of the Lord, for ardent endeavour. Struggle ye, and strive. And since the Ancient Beauty was exposed by day and night on the field of martyrdom, let us in our turn labour hard, and hear and ponder the counsels of God; let us fling away our lives, and renounce our brief and numbered days .

The struggle and the striving is, of course, for a better world, for the coming together of the entire human race as one family, for the elimination of prejudice of all kinds, for the equality of men and women, and for universal education to name a few.

So I had everyone reflect on the following questions and experiences.

What does it mean to fling your life away?

Remember a time when you flung your life away. What was the positive outcome?

What is keeping you from flinging your life away?

If you could fling your life away, what would you do?

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Of course, flinging your life away does not mean committing suicide or doing things that are irresponsible. It simple means to fling away the life that we are all attracted to of false promises that has been created by the negative culture of those with self interest and greed and instead live the life that will cause the uplifting of humanity.  This is the great desire of most of us, but it is very easy to be caught up in the mundane and the pursuit of transient reality.   We were especially happy to meet some of the Baha’is from Vietnam and Iran because of our history with Vietnam and because of the constant persecution of the Baha’is in Iran who still have no rights.

These questions aroused a great deal of thought amongst the participants because most of us find ourselves wishing we could do more to further the cause of the coming together of humanity into one family. I leave them for you here should be interested in a doing some flinging.

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