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Radical Change moves

December 14, 2008

I have moved my blog to the following address. See you there.


Traveling in a Dream

November 24, 2008

In one of my last posts I wrote about the four elements, earth, wind, fire, and water as they relate to dreams.  In this post the focus is on transportation.   The purpose of the four elements is to give you an indication of what kinds of qualities that you can be working on to improve your character and hence, have a much stronger true identity.   Traveling in a dream gives you some indications about how to move from the place you are at now to the destination that your true self desires.     It is important to emphasize, before discussing the symbols of travel, that there is a difference between having a destination set by your ego versus a goal that originates from your true self.    If you don’t get the distinction, you miss the whole point of dream study.    If you are from North America,  the cultural thought of submitting to a higher self or higher authority may just be something that you really resist.   US culture was founded on the idea that you can’t trust people who have a lot of power because they tend to use it for their own selfish purposes.  What this translates to in personal development is that you should be able to have the freedom to go after whatever goal you are seeking as long as it doesn’t harm anyone.     So a large percentage of the population pursue goals that have almost nothing to do with what their true selves want.  Sex becomes more important than relationships and money is more important than service, for instance.   The difficult concept for those of us of American origin is the idea of submission.   In spiritual terms this is known as surrendering the will of your ego to the will of the Creator, and in personal transformation work it is about pursuing goals of your true or higher self instead of abasing yourself with egomania.

Having grown up American, I have to say that when I learned how to do this process it was a huge turning point in being able to do my own changework because it helped me to have a lot more clarity about which direction my dreams were pointing to.    The symbols around traveling help to clarify the difference between the ego and the true self very elegantly so they are worth attending to.   If you have read my other postings, you might have already learned that when you have negative emotions in a dream, it gives you information about your ego, whereas positive ones point you in the direction of your true self.    Here are some of the common symbols people have around transportation.

Cars:  In most cultures cars are the chief means of transport to get you to your destinations in your daily life.  There are exceptions, but generally we use cars to get us to work, to shop, to transport our children to their activities, and to do recreation.   It is a symbol connected closely to our daily experiences.  There are exceptions because we also use cars for holidays, but they are more likely to come into play when you have an issue around getting somewhere on a day to day basis.   A car is closer to home than, for instance, traveling in a plane so when a car is in your dream, it often brings up issues of getting to short term progress rather than long term.    Often people, who might be driving, are in the passenger seat when a car is out of control.   This  is an indicator that they need to take more control in their lives.   A crash can signify either trying to get somewhere too fast, not showing enough care, or that someone else is leading you in a dangerous way.

Planes:  Planes travel in the air which in symbolic terms have more to do with going after a longer term goal because they are further away from home.   Oftentimes the issue with a plane is that of running out of gas. This is because when you start a project you may have a great deal of enthusiasm, but then burn out after awhile.  You need a way to sustain enthusiasm despite setbacks and difficulties.  Not being able to get off the ground is a problem of not having enthusiasm in the first place, whereas a mid air crash might be having too much enthusiasm that is not balanced with wisdom and care.    Flying on your own is different than flying on a plane and has a more to do with the benefits of freedom as opposed to getting from one place to another in your life.

Boats:   Being in water on a boat shows you issues related to working together as a group to reach a goal as in the metaphor we are all in the same boat.   If you are rowing a boat alone, but it is a positive experience it can mean that you are doing your part to make the group function and reach the goal.   A sinking ship may signify that something is wrong with the way the group is being lead.

Bicycles:  Bicycles differ from cars in that you get to where you want to go through your own efforts, so if you have a positive dream on a bike it could mean that the dream is asking you to make stronger daily efforts.   Racing down a mountain on a bike out of control means that you probably need to develop skills along with your courage.

Motorcycle:  A motorcycle is a vehicle that manuevers a lot easier than a car and has a lot more openness to it so a dream with a motorcycle may be that you need to have a free feeling while dealing with your goals and also the able to manuever much quicker.

Trekking:  Taking a trek has a lot to do with the quality of determination and the wilingness to commit over the long term to reach a goal.    The general rule is that the longer the journey the more determination is needed, while a short journey needs a lot of enthusiasm and courage.

25 Years is Only the Beginning

November 15, 2008


This is something of an adventure story. You see back in the early 80s I was studying with one of the great mentors in my life, Dr. Daniel Jordan, who had created a model of education called Anisa. In the Anisa Model we believed that human beings have unlimited potentialities and that we should combine a strong philosophy of education with the best that science had to offer in terms of research. In October of 1982 Dr Jordan died which was quite untimely for me since I was just beginning my study and collaboration with him. I thought that I would be working with him for a long time, but suddenly it was over. He was gone. By the spring of 1983 it was clear that the project at the university would not be supported, so many of us began looking around for other places to implement Anisa.

We ended up receiving a job offer on a First Nations reserve outside of Edmonton, Canada so in July of 1983 we left our country, the USA, and set out. A few weeks ago I started doing the math and realized that it had been 25 years since we had lived in the US. When I went to study with Dr. Jordan in 1980, I had hoped that I would be able to move to Latin America afterwards. It was always my dream to leave the US and live abroad. Now we are 25 years forward from when we left the US, having spent 16 of them in Canada, 6 in Brazil, and now we are on our 4th year in Malaysia.

Here is my story. I was really reluctant to leave California because I loved working on the model and loved the San Diego area. When I arrived in Alberta, I thought that where we were living was an armpit, but then I ended up really loving the work and loving the Cree Reserve so I again became reluctant to leave. Then my eldest daughter, Erika, decided that she wanted to go to the Maxwell International Baha’i School on Vancouver Island so when we inquired about jobs, we got them. We ended up being on the Island for 9 years and God knows the story. I was reluctant to leave. So He gave me an easy way. We were fired or restructured out. After a year of hanging out on the Island receiving unemployment insurance, we set out for the next leg on the journey, Brazil. This really is a story of reluctance.

I guess you know what I am going to say now. Brazil is so much a part of me that I often still dream in Portuguese. I thought that when I moved to Brazil that this would be it. I am just going to stay there for the rest of my life. Well, about 6 years on, the school decided to move in a different direction than the one we were in, so they asked us to leave. I think that is a really nice way to say it. Brazil has a way of stealing your heart so when we received a job offer in Asia after hanging out in Vancouver running along the seawall and going to parks with our granddaughter, Isa, for a year, I was really reluctant. I didn’t really think that Asia would be a nice place to live. How could I have been so wrong?

Really, sometimes I don’t get it with myself. I love to go on all kinds of adventures, but I am really reluctant to leave where I am. If God decides to grant me another 25 years, I think I am going to have to work on my issue of reluctance because I have had 25 wonderful years of adventure and I am just only beginning to meet a small fraction of the rest of the world.

Baha’u’llah has repeatedly exhorted us to regard the world as one country and mankind as one family. I’d like to think of moving around in the world as if I were moving from one state to another in the US visiting family, but I see that I still have a long way to go to get to His ideal.

Happy 25th to us.

Reflections on Being the Third Child

October 22, 2008

Baby Fiona was born today.   She is the third in her family,  like her grandfather.  That would be me.   Her parents named her Zaynab in between what people will call her and her family name.   Zaynab is an historical figure in the history of the Baha’i Faith. She was a village young maiden, who during the time when the newly born Faith of the Bab was being attacked by the Persian government’s army in the area of Zanjan, she decided that she would join the fight to defend her Faith.   In those days women were not allowed to be combative soldiers so she dressed herself in men’s clothing and joined the ranks.   She became so fearsome that even the very sound of her voice raised in a battle cry would cause the Persian soldiers to flee the battlefield.   Such was her courage.  Such will be your courage, Fiona Zaynab.

As a third child Fiona Zaynab, you will have some definite advantages.   Although Erika and Chris will have high expectations for you, the fact that there are already two others in the family will give you a certain amount of freedom because they just can’t watch over three the way they watch over two.   It is a place for your independent mind, for choosing the road less traveled.   Being a third child just seems to allow you go your own way, at least it did for me because I always felt a lot of support from the other family members that it was ok to try to do something different.   I see you in the first few moments in this new world that you has been born into and then imagine all of the great experiences you will have in doing that for which you have been created, all of the support you will have to be exactly who you are,  and all of the history of those family members who have preceded you, ones that you or I have never even known.

Your grandmother and I were a bit surprised when your mother and father decided to have you, the number three child, because much of the world these days rarely goes past two and a country of over a billion has even stopped at one.   But the threes have a special gift.  You are both in your family and free from it at the same time.  You will be free from convention and ready to explore all that is wondrous and new.     You will crave the unexplored parts of life even as an addict craves his drugs.   It is already so apparent in your complete tranquility, Fiona.  You are surrounded in love and support and this will set you free.

I leave you with a prayer for the first days of your life, Fiona, and long for our first of many adventures together.   “O Thou most glorious Lord! Make this little maidservant of thine blessed and happy; cause her to be cherished at the threshold of thy oneness, and let her drink deep from the cup of Thy love so she may be filled with rapture and ecstacy and diffuse sweet scented fragrances….”

Abdu’l Baha

Children’s Dreams #1 Giant Mutant Worm

September 17, 2008

“One day I had a dream that a giant mutant worm tried to eat me. When I was sleeping I heard a noise outside.  I went outside and couldn’t see the giant worm.  It was right behind me.  It tried to eat me, but when I turned back, I woke up because I was so scared.”

Understanding dreams is the same as reading a book, only instead of narrative, the language of the dream is metaphor.   It is helpful to know the child who is being described in the dream because it adds the kind of detail that the dream doesn’t fully give,  but it is not totally necessary.    When you can read the metaphor, you can understand the meaning of the dream.   You can also read what is known in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) as submodalities such as size, color, shape, speed, distortion, loudness, texture, pressure, etc..

Since children live in a land of giants, that is, everyone is much bigger than they are, many of their fears are registered by the submodality of size.  In this dream,  an animal that normally lives underground and is very small is transformed into huge proportions.    This is what makes the animal so fearful.   If it were small and in the ground doing what it does best, it would be creating air in the soil.    A positive worm helps by making the solid earth have more air.   It puts space between the particles in the soil so it isn’t so compact.   In the metaphorical world, the world of non-physical reality,  soil or earth represents some of the qualities that teachers love most such as perseverance,  responsibility, and reliability.    What happens to many children is that under the pressure to perform their earth like qualities, they become extremely compact and then they have a hard time achieving excellence.    The way a positive worm helps is to make things much lighter by giving more air.   In the metaphorical world this is something like having a sense of humour.   So you can say that a positive worm can dig into places where people are feeling compact because of pressure and then make them feel light.  Laughing makes it easier for them to achieve because they get a lot looser.

A negative worm is someone who makes his way into a person’s space and then makes them feel bad about themselves.   You can see from the drawing above that the child and the worm are drawn together which means that the child has become the negative worm that is ruining other people’s lives rather than helping them.   If the two were drawn apart from each other, you could assume that the worm was someone else.  But this child has really become a worm and now the worm is even going to get him.

Fortunately he wakes up when he sees that the worm is about to get him.     What I told the child was he needed to stop being a worm and start being more positive with others.   He could even start telling more jokes to make people happier.   It wasn’t a shock to him that he was a negative worm.  He knew it.  By turning around and seeing himself as a negative worm it woke him so that he could start to become positive.

Reading a metaphor:  To read a metaphor you simply ask yourself,  “What is a …..?”  Then you start differentiating the elements of the metaphor.   After you have analyzed the elements, then you can begin making equivalents with the non-material world.    Most living things have a positive and negative side such as a shark can either be frightening or it can be a metaphor for biting into new things.

The metaphor of sleeping means being asleep in your life or being unaware of his positive self.  He was so busy being a giant worm that he couldn’t recognize who he was.   But now he knows that he doesn’t have to be the worm, that he can be positive and do helpful things with others especially making them laugh.

Transforming the Worst to the Best: Is It Really Possible?

August 25, 2008

I learn a great deal of life lessons by watching sports so when I stayed glued to the TV for nearly two during the Olympics,  there was one moment that struck me.  The finals in the men’s basketball game was between the USA and Spain.    Spain played a magnificent game and made it close during the whole contest, but in the end they lost to the US team.   When the game was over Kobe Bryant, one of the US stars, hugged the star of the other team, Pau Gasol.    It was a great moment that two rivals could at the end of hard fought competition embrace.   Outside of the Olympics the two play for the same professional team, the Los Angeles Lakers, so they no doubt already have a great friendship.   But when you see players from the opposite teams hugging each other at the end of a game,  you have to believe that we have been through a huge transformation without being aware of it.

There is the mandatory handshake of course, for sportsmanship, but an embrace is a kind of recognition, that though we are rivals and the competition is intense, in the end we respect and admire each other.   When the decathlon and heptathlon events are completed after two full days of competing,  all of the athletes embrace and then take a victory lap together around the field.   There is the gold medal winner,  which is what the world wants to see, but there is also a great feeling of love between the athletes that transcends the old boundaries.    We don’t choose our countries of birth,  but we do have a choice about embracing change and knocking down old beliefs and old patterns.

So when you find the worst thing about yourself, you can be change it into the very best quality,  by first believing that it is possible.   Who would have believed in the 19th Century that a descendant of a slave would be the most recognized person in China, Kobe Bryant.   And who could have also believed that a white person would embrace him as a brother?   It has happened and we have lived to see it.   If a descendant of a slave can rise to be the most recognized person in a country of 1 billion people,  then what can we do?

It is a staggering question?

Transforming Your Worst Quality to Your Best: part 1

August 6, 2008

I am just one of those persons who was born under the sign of Taurus that can get really stubborn about certain things. On the bad side I can become extremely stuck by being determined to accomplish something that is largely a waste of time like trying to change the mind of a leader. However, it is with the same tenacity that I have found that a great many things about personal change that people used to believe just are not true. One of the problems about doing change work is what seems to me to be a certain “arrogance” in the culture of scientists. I just think that there are a whole host of mental problems that psychologists and psychiatrists have not yet found out how to transform very well, but instead of admitting that the techniques and procedures have not yet been discovered to deal with them, they are often put into categories as unchangeable and then given drugs to fix the symptoms. And when new techniques are offered, the scientific world is quick to reject them because of the loss of an economic advantage or worse an advantage of power.

In the process of doing change work I have found some things to be very helpful so I am including them here hoping that others also find them helpful.

The Sequence

in listening to over 10,000 dreams from people of all ages and then assisting others to make changes I have found that the transformation of a really bad quality like a huge fear into a very positive ones like courage or honesty follows a very sequential pattern.

Step One: Negative times Negative

Most people that I have dealt with want to change the worst negative energy that they have because of having carried it around for so long and not being able to do much about it. People usually don’t ask to change something that is a small annoyance. We only really go after change when the negative energy has severe consequences attached like the break up of a marriage. It is much better to go after change on a daily basis because there is so much positive energy that can be made manifest in our lives.

What I have learned is that each positive quality carries with it a negative opposite that remains firmly fixed in the ego even to the extent of becoming part of one’s identity. When we have carried negative energy around for a long time and given up on changing it, then we start describing it in ways that are part of our character. People say some really silly things like “I am not one of those people who are adventurous”, and then they become excluded from a whole host of experiences or “I could never just walk up to a total stranger and start a conversation.” When it is ready to change to a positive quality, it first announces itself as formidable force. In a dream it is often like a nightmare or something extremely negative like being shot and killed. In real life the fear presents the consequences in actual occurrences like missing opportunities because of shying away from them. Most people, often supported by psychology, stop the process of change even before it begins by believing that the energy is unchangeable or part of a set of genetic predispositions that you can’t do anything about. It is like fate or destiny that you have this terrible curse.

The big key to moving forward from the all negative stage is the belief that as soon as any positive progress is made even if it is only understanding, it is a positive change. If you start out at 100% negative, but then get an understanding that makes it 99% negative, then the transformation has already begun to occur even though in the real world nothing has really moved. Just imagine that you could make a 1% change everyday on an issue that you have been carrying for 50 years. That means it will only take 3.333 months to have a brand new quality. I think that maybe what has blocked psychologists and doctors is that they are not capable of seeing the changes happening in the inner world before they appear in the outer world. Persisting with the change work is probably the single most valuable ability because the 1% each day gives you new energy and new teachings that are gradually incorporating into new patterns of energy that are positive.

Step 2 Negative and Positive Together

Somewhere along the process what happens is that your life begins to change in a positive direction that is producing fruits in the outer world. Maybe you can speak with the neighbors now. However, you may only be about 50% into the completion cycle. The dreams you have will be partially negative and partially positive. They tell you to start acting outwardly and keep persevering inwardly. It would be like being able to speak the member of your church, but still have a difficult time relating to people of other faiths because of some fear or mistrust.  Your inner self will want you to keep persevering until you get to a completion of a cycle of energy,  so it is important that once you have made significant progress to keep going.   Negative energy is persistent and insistent.   It will not stop asking for change and it will not stop making you feel bad until you change.  So at this stage it is important to keep adding.

Step 3: Positive times Positive

At this point you have done all of your change work for that particular quality so now you can apply it freely in service to your family and community and are ready to move onto a new quality. Since very few people ever get to this stage, there isn’t much written about it. When you have positive dreams that don’t have negative aspects to them, they give you the message to act on the energy in the outer world, whereas in stage one when you have a nightmare, outer action is not appropriate. In overcoming shyness this would be like being able to travel the whole world and meet people from all walks of life with ease and comfort.    If you get to this stage,  it means that the pattern has become so integrated into your character that you often forget that you ever had the issue.    Later on the quality will reappear at a higher level, but now you are ready to do positive things with the new energy.

Step 4: Physical correlates

When you are involved in a change process, the body will have stress reactions that cause illness. When your body is under stress because of a fear for a long period of time, it ends up becoming ill and giving up. So when you first start the change process from a negative ego state to a positive quality, you will probably already have some illness connected with the ego. If you get physical assistance, like medication or supplements, it is important to realize that the medication will only temporarily take away the stress. If you have a negative mental pattern that is enduring, a drug won’t take it away over the long term. The physical support can be helpful because it can keep you in the process of changing, but physical cures themselves do not change a negative pattern of energy. Alcohol is a good example. You may feel looser and more social by drinking and even more relaxed, but when the alcohol leaves the body, the same mental pattern will take over again. Alcohol is a good way to stop the process of growth, but some form of physical support may be useful if you desire change.

The best results with herbs and remedies seem to come to me right after I have made a change even if the change is small. I think that what happens is that as the mental patterns change from negative to positive, then the body relaxes from the stress and is more open to healing.

Embracing Uncertainty

May 19, 2008

It is 8:00 am, the starting time for the track and field meet, in Shah Alam with 8 international schools, over 500 athletes. I am excited and extremely nervous. Nervous because in my head I see the judgmental eyes of my colleagues ready to pounce on my mistakes. They have always been supportive of me and others, but the thought of something going wrong has a way of growing inside of me and it frazzles my nerves. And then it happens. The equipment for the high jump pit has not arrived because the driver has lost his way. In track and field planning, timing the events in your organizational mind ahead of time is everything, and now the events are 20 minutes behind schedule. The only strategy left is to wait patiently, but with each tick of the clock the eyes of judgment grow inside and with it increased tension and energy drain.

As the day wears on the meet becomes a series of mistakes and successes. The 1500 meter races and the 4 x 400 meter relays seem to drag into eternity, but all of my predictions about the timing of events are right on except the high jump. At the end of the day we finish early, the overall purpose has been achieved, and the athletes are excited.

As I reflect on that day and other events that I have planned including my daily classes, I am struck by the reality that however much planning and organization I put into an event such as foreseeing possible problems and having solutions for them, there are always things that happen that are unpredicted. It seems to me that when I am the chief organizer of an event that I need to have two capacities that greatly support each other. One is to be a meticulous planner where I have an excellent sense of how the event is going to flow, and the other is to be able to solve problems instantly on the field in time so that the flow continues. It is easy enough to predict some of the variables in a track meet in a tropical country. We know that there will be dehydrated athletes, for instance, so I can plan a strategy for taking care of them. I also know now that in the third world local officials may have to answer to a different set of rules than in the western world, so I now can plan for that variable. But as controlling as I am of variables I still need to be able to embrace the uncertainty of the day in the present tense. I need to have the ability to deal with things as they arise on the day.

In planning ahead of time for an event or an organizational scheme the strategy that works best for me is to look into the future, see the purpose of the event, and then lay down a scheme based upon my own past experience and the experience of others. Going back and forth from the future to the past in collaboration with others works extremely well.

The other capability, which is the ability to solve problems in the present tense, seems to first and foremost require an openness to believing that where things go astray in the present is where the new personal and social growth is. Being in the present tense fully allows me to see what is happening and adjust to the current reality, and then see where the new learning is. If you have the first capability, which is being able to plan ahead of time, but are not good at the second one, being present, then you will either not do the events again in the future or be so obsessive about the planning and perfecting everything that everyone around you gets turned off.

Being present seems to allow me to embrace the uncertainty as if it were destined to happen so that I could learn from it. It also seems to replace anxiety with the feelings of wonder and awe so that I can both feel great about the event and also grow from the lessons learned.

This coming year I am planning a huge swim meet for the same set of international schools so having never organized a swim event of this magnitude, I think I will embrace the wonder and awe instead of the anxiety. What a day it is already!!!!!

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.


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.


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


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)

Encouraging Growth Under Stress

December 15, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 5, 2007

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Flinging your Life Away

November 4, 2007


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?


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.


Getting My Inner Camera to Work

September 29, 2007

During the last week or two I have several challenges in my work about getting photos taken and then downloaded for applications and printing. One of the interesting things that is happening is that the school has a very expensive camera so that events can be recorded and used in the yearbook. Recently, when I asked to use the camera at one our important soccer tournaments out of town, I was refused permission for its use. And when I asked for the A-V technician’s time to take some photos even at local games in the school, I was also denied permission. So then one of the students volunteered to go to the soccer tournament out of town and take photos with a cheaper camera, but now every time I go looking for her to download the photos, she is nowhere to be found.

Under normal circumstances I would become angry and give the administrators a few choice words of how stupid they are acting. I did try it. It didn’t work. So now I am facing the fact that there is a part of me inwardly that is somehow not allowing the camera work to happen. In order to do this change work it is important for me ot think of photography as metaphor for my inner process. What photography does, through the use of a camera, is to record images of things. In my case the need is to record images of specific events. It can be extremely motivating for others to see action shots in a slide show or posted photos on a board or in a book that spurs them on to even greater achievement. Because I am having problems in the photographic process, I can assume that something is wrong with my own inner recording process which means that I can’t take and remember images in my brain very well.

My memory for visual content is having a difficult time working. The first issue is connected to authority. In the outer world I am not allowed to have access to the camera or staff to assist me. When I get a cheaper version of what I want, it turns out that the person taking the photos is irresponsible.

To solve the memory issue, the first thing I can do is give myself permission to have really beautiful and exquisite memories by realizing that the authority for my memory rests within myself, not outwardly from protective administration. Isn’t that an interesting revelation that I can just give myself permission to have wonderful memories. The second issue seems to fall right on the heels of the first. If I have permission to have beautiful memories, then my inner camera will record things with very high quality of color and clarity, but because I don’t give myself permission for the highest quality of memories, I tend to have cheap memories so I just become irresponsible with them and forget them.

What this means is that motivation to get to a higher level of performance in every endeavor depends upon a high level of memory recording. When I give myself permission to take excellent photos in my mind of events and actually do the mental recording, then my motivation goes sky high.

If this is true about memory and its effect on motivation, then I have to examine how it happened that my mind was allowed to have such cheap memories and then become irresponsible and unmotivated. What I realize, as I reflect on the question, is that I believed that people outside of myself were responsible for giving me great memories by telling me how wonderful my performance was. Now I understand that I can be in control of my own memory by doing the recording myself.

Radical Change and Space: Good Morning Vietnam!

August 8, 2007


Last April my wife and traveled to Vietnam.  So here I am in the middle of Hanoi about 9 am in the morning faced with the challenge of crossing a busy street with 2 million motorcycles and no traffic lights.   This could possibly be a North American’s worst nightmare because in the U.S. pedestrians have all of the rights even when they are wrong.  Not so in Hanoi.   So I do the illogical thing and it works.  I just start walking slowly across the street without stopping.  No one hits me because they seem to know how to make space for what is happening around them.   For some reason my intuitive mind already knows this before I take my first steps.

This exercise in walking across the street fascinates my mind so I begin to think about how they are able to give me the space to cross the street.   In their minds they are trying to get from one space where they began their journey to another space where they will end it, but before they start they seem to already understand that there are many other people in the space who are also doing the same thing.  It is as if a whole culture has built itself around the idea that you can move from one space to another and respect others who are doing the same thing.

In the western materialistic world the space thing seems to be about how much space you can take up and then protecting the space that you call yours. Your worth is calculated by how much space you have in the most highly valued areas.   Financial worth is not calculated by how much space you are able to share or how well you live in the same space with others, but how much space you own.

What seems ironic to me is that 90% of pop music and a large percentage of the movie industry focuses its time and energy on the value of closeness, i.e. love. which is the ability to be in the same space at the same time harmoniously with no concern whatsoever about ownership.   So, on the one hand, a part of us  values being in the same space at the same time, but the material world values separation.  If you have a lot of material space, you are worth a lot of money, but being able to share a space is not valued financially at all.  What if, instead of the amount of space being worth lots of money, the ability to share space was what determined your wealth.  Now that would be radical change.   Let’s face it people who share space well are the happiest and lead the best lives.

Have you ever noticed that dance clubs where there are so many people that you can hardly breathe and the music is so loud that you cannot have a conversation are the ones that are most valued?  What is that about?  Not too many people like to dance on a big dance floor where there are not many dancing.   There seems to be too much space which is quite discomforting.

I am just wondering why one of the world’s largest real estate moguls who has had several divorces is seen as so successful.  There are so many of his books in practically every bookstore in the world lauding his value.  So he has a lot of material space, but he doesn’t know how to share space very well.  Is that what we call successful?   I guess you may have surmised that I won’t be reading any of his books.

I am not all that against having a space I can call my own, but I really love sharing my space with others.   I have lived in the same room with my wife for the last 33 years.  Now that ought to be worth something.  Don’t you agree?   It’s certainly better than owning half of city,  but not being able to live closely with others.

Let’s see, the wealthiest man in the world is trying to give away most of his wealth to solve the world’s problem.  You gotta love that, but will he share the space of who decides what to do with the money?  I think maybe sharing space and the wealthiest man in the world is an oxymoron in today’s world, but you gotta love that he wants to give it away to help others.   Hmmm. Another radical change, sharing the space of decision making.   How many CEOs want to do that?

I wonder what other kinds of space we can share.

Keep Your Big Mouth Shut

July 3, 2007


Today we crossed back from Vancouver Island to the Mainland and Juliet, my daughter told me that I should write more about my methodology. In my last posting I said that I would write about guilt, but I will save that for the time being.

The first principle of the method is simple. Just keep your big mouth shut.

Simple, eh? Every teacher and every parent usually has one big issue in raising children and that is discipline. It always gets the most agenda time and the most print. Well, here is the solution. Have enough self discipline to keep your big mouth shut when you want to give advice to someone or criticize someone in order for them to change. If you never learn anything else from any book or anyone about parenting or your relationships, learn this. Keep your big mouth shut. Don’t even worry about what comes next. Just keep your big mouth shut. Everything will get better.

If you want to go for major transformation, then keep your big mouth shut about the negatives you see in others, and just say the positives. They will change right before your eyes. This takes a phd. amount of self discipline, but if you want to have friends and great children and a successful marriage, just do it.

If you want to change the world, then do the following. Keep your big mouth shut about other’s negatives, see their positives and acknowledge them, and then work on your issues. The world will change right before your eyes. If you are a teacher, your students will start having self discipline because you have it.

Self discipline begins with the simple step of keeping your big mouth shut. It is unbelievably hard to do, but it is a complete waste of time to focus on how bad others are. Pay attention to changing your own weaknesses, but not others.