Seeing the best in life's challenges

Who Do YOU Think You Are?

“Tell me about yourself.”

Where to begin…..I think it is easier to start with who I am NOT:

I am NOT what you see.  Oh, it’s easy to identify me that way.  I have a distinctive body type.  I have a certain preference in the clothing I wear.  I may or may not wear makeup.  I changed my hair recently.  Probably the most authentically “me” thing I wear as much as possible is a smile.  What you see might give you some clues about what I like and what matters to me, but none of it is really ME.

I am NOT what I DO.  I could tell you about how and what I did in school.  I can tell you about my hobbies.  Contrary to popular opinion, I am not what I eat, LOL!!  I can tell you about the different jobs and volunteer work I have done.  I can tell you that I am a mom.  You might pick up some more clues about who I am, but still…..what I have DONE is not who I am.  You might learn more about me by watching how I interact with other people and in certain situations.  More clues.

I am NOT what I have.  The things around me don’t define who I am either.  It’s all just stuff.  Because of the stuff I have, you might make some assumptions about me – and they might be true and they might not be.  I am not the car I drive, or the toys I play with, or the house I live in.

I am NOT what I KNOW.  Yes, I have an active mind, and I am interested in a variety of things.  This is a reflection of who I am, but these things still don’t define me.

I am NOT my successes and I am NOT my mistakes.  Yes, I have learned from these things, but they are just experiences I have had.

I am NOT my religious affiliation or my belief system, my zodiac sign, my numerological profile, my age, my birth order, my IQ, .. .

You might know all kinds of things ABOUT me, yet still not KNOW me.

Are you getting disinterested or frustrated yet?

I struggle with how to answer this question “Who am I?” because words cannot describe to you the soul that I am, the ME that I have come to know.

The only accurate answer I can come up with is this:


This process of discovering who I am NOT, is what has led me to the understanding of that statement.

Now, I get it.

To KNOW me, is to KNOW without words.  To know me is to feel me and understand me on a deeper level.  I am a soul of energy, of love and light.  I am quirky, serious and playful, and I yearn to connect and be understood.  I am ME.  I had to get to know ME first, before I could show ME to others.  Part of getting to know ME, was letting go of any remaining attachments to the superficial things that I am NOT.  So, I’ve been practicing that.   And I am extremely lucky to have other Souls that are letting me get to know THEM, as they go through their own unique process of knowing themselves in a deeper way.  It’s great fun!

So, now, let me ask, because I want to KNOW…..

Who are YOU??



Go Within or Go Without ? (that’s what it’s all about!)

This play on words is fascinating to me!

When we say “go within” we are talking about self-reflection, deep thinking, trusting yourself, intuition, understanding yourself, all that kind of stuff.  Finding yourself, if you will.

Out is simply the opposite of In, right?

So why, when we say “go without” does this mean a lack of something, rather than merely looking outside oneself, looking externally for the answers?  Is deep reflection impossible “out”-side of oneself?  Does external focus automatically come up short?

Well, maybe these words are more meaningful than we realize.   Hmmm…..

In our world, we are used to looking for answers from others.  From experts.  From someone who has done or experienced things before.  From books and blogs and articles.  In school, we teach our kids by talking at them, by telling them “the way it is” and by asking them to repeat back what they are told.

Maybe this is why it feels like something is missing…

How can we understand the world, if we do not first understand ourselves, who we are, and how we interact with the world?

When we start to look “within,” that is when we come to understand more and more, in leaps and bounds.

Rather than being flakey or weird, internal focus on understanding who you are is an essential part of the path to happiness and wisdom, and to spiritual maturity.  This doesn’t mean you ignore what’s out there in the world, or what others have to say.  It does mean you take the time to think about and process everything on your own.

This ties into the idea that only following the rules (which are external) prevents a person from becoming wise.

In truth, the process is more circular and cyclical, not one direction more important than the other.

As a matter of fact, didn’t we all learn that the Hokey Pokey is What It’s All About????

In and Out, In and Out, Shake It All About!!!

We live in the world, and we experience everything in the world.  That external stimulus affects each one of us, and affects us internally.  We are each blessed with a physical body that thinks, feels, and knows, if we are willing to listen to it.  If we pay attention to that internal feedback, and work with it, think about it, process it, be aware of it, we can learn a lot about ourselves as individuals and grow and learn as a result.

Then, with this newfound understanding/knowledge/wisdom, we go back out in the world, are that much more aware, and then we “shake it all about” and experience some more.  Maybe we interact with others differently, based on our increased wisdom.  Next we gain more external feedback, which leads us back “within” to process yet again.  (This is not only my  thought — just google “what if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about” and you will see there are others thinking the same thing in their own way!)

Too many times, people fail to question the message “that’s just the way it is” or “just deal with it.”  Or people are told they “shouldn’t” react or feel the way they do.  If we ignore our reactions, feelings and thoughts because some external source told us to, or, worse yet, accept that our internal reactions are “wrong,” well, this can lead to a lot of problems.

No one is going to force us to work on the internal part, but without that part of the cycle, we won’t move forward.  We have probably all observed people we know, who seem to get themselves in the same situations, again and again, and they don’t understand why this keeps happening to them!  (And of course, we all do this at times, it’s just easier to see in the mirror!)  In these situations, people aren’t doing the work of processing their experiences internally, reflecting on their actions and reactions, and learning from the process.  So, they doom themselves to repeating the same scenarios over and over.  They get stuck going round and round at the same level indefinitely.

Hey, the Hokey Pokey is fun, but not so much if you don’t keep switching it up!!

hokey pokey pic


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For quite some time now, you have felt how the surge of energy has increased, and with it, things have started to manifest. For some of you, these manifestations seem to limit themselves to some physical outbursts of irritation, and mayhaps some rather intense emotional ones as well. But for others, things have started to seep out in the open, and even if some of these signals may seem feeble at best, they are in fact only forerunners for what is to come. And on the best of days, you will all feel this deep certainty within as you will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this world that you inhabit has already changed beyond recognition. Not on the thin film of illusion that still covers it, but deep within the core. And deep within the core is where the truth is, as the rest is only a projection, a film still running to make you all think that it is business as usual.


But what is ”business as usual”? A continuous cycle of fear and greed that have fuelled each other for so long. Well, that cycle has been broken, and it can never be put back together again. For you are no longer willing fodder to this machinery of endless consumerism, for you do not buy into their vision of happiness anymore. For you have seen through all of this glitter and glam, and you have realized that true happiness comes from something else, something that is so profound, and it resembles nothing that can be bought for money. For that is what has been holding this charade together in the first place, this idea that true happiness comes from partaking of all of the worldly goods that are being displayed in the glass windows in any store. And the idea that you simply cannot be happy before you have it all is one that has been driving this wheel of fortune for generations. But there is not enough of anything, whether it be money or objects, that will quench this thirst for something to fill that giant void inside.


And so it has been going on and on, in this endless quest for fulfillment and redemption. But the only thing coming out of this, is more fear and then more greed, and the two have fuelled each other in such a way it has driven mankind, and with it Mother Earth, to the brink of self-destruction. But you have halted in your tracks, pulled off this yoke that has been pulling you ever forward towards this precipice, and you have started to push this momentum in a very different direction indeed. And now, the rest of this machinery has started to feel the effect from your new gravitation. For it is just like a magnet that is being pulled along by a seemingly invisible force, as your energy is starting to have a profound effect, not only on your existence, but on everything that exists. For you are not just single individuals making a new choice about your own way of life. You are also powerful generators of a field of energy that is starting to affect everything within a large radius around you. And even if you are small in numbers compared to the rest of the population on this planet, your field of influence is already powerful, but it is also growing by the day.


So now, you are pulling more and more into your field, and by your very presence, you are also affecting those around you, and by that, maximizing the effect these new energies have. For you are the anchors, and through you run the current that is amping up the volume on this whole globe. And you are all starting to hum just like an electric generator is emitting a low, but continuous sound as it generates that invisible power. So do not think that you are just a small drop in the sea of humanity. No, you are in fact as effective as superconductors, and you are putting out a steadily increasing amount of energy that is slowly but surely making its mark on everything around you. So yes, you are all busy changing the world, even if you at the moment feel you are barely scraping along yourself. For you are all powerhouses, and the combined effect from all of these amazing fields of energy is nothing short of miraculous. And now, you have already gotten the first glimpses of how this energy is literally starting to pull the old illusion apart. For this flimsy structure holds no power against the one you are wielding. For your power comes from the heart, and there is nothing that old fear based power structure can muster that will be able to staunch the flow from all of you.


So know that change is already here, and it will continue to grow in speed and intensity as the old structures will continue to crumble at a speed that many outsiders will look upon as an alarming rate. But you will know better, for you will know that this was a long time coming, but now it is finally here. And when the old dies down, the new and healthy shoots will emerge, and with them, a whole new structure will emerge. And this structure is not a flimsy illusion like the old one, for this structure has been build to last, and as such, you presence here on this planet is also guaranteed. For what will emerge is a way of life that is sustainable in every sense of the word, and then, you can create a brand new world where you and your planet will cohabit in peace and harmony forever.

aisha north

For quite some time now, you have felt how the surge of energy has increased, and with it, things have started to manifest. For some of you, these manifestations seem to limit themselves to some physical outbursts of irritation, and mayhaps some rather intense emotional ones as well. But for others, things have started to seep out in the open, and even if some of these signals may seem feeble at best, they are in fact only forerunners for what is to come. And on the best of days, you will all feel this deep certainty within as you will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this world that you inhabit has already changed beyond recognition. Not on the thin film of illusion that still covers it, but deep within the core. And deep within the core is where the truth is, as the rest is only a…

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Learning How to Let Go

As parents, we want the best for our kids.  Of course, what we think of as “best” doesn’t always agree with the way our kids see it.  Each individual develops their own perspective on the world, what’s important, what’s “good” or “bad” and we don’t necessarily want these views to be questioned.

At some point, our view and the views of our kids diverge.  They have grown up in a different world than we have.  They have their own experiences, personalities, interactions with the world and other people, and they are forming their own paradigms.

It’s so easy to let these differences turn into an argument about who is right and who is wrong.  For all those years, when the parent was “in charge,” the parents could lay down the law and the child had to obey.  The parent was right, no questions asked.  This inevitable transition for a child, to begin making his/her own decisions, can be very tough on parents.   It’s hard to let go.

Our world is SO entrenched in determining what is right and what is wrong – this is such a deep-seated assumption – that to move beyond this assumption can be really, really tough for people.  See my post on Conflict.

No one likes to be told they’re wrong…..and especially to be told you are wrong by a “defiant child” can trigger all kinds of negative reactions.  A parent might see their role as “being in control” and to let go of this is hard.  If you see the world in black and white, right and wrong, being challenged is a threat, and one automatically goes into fight mode.  Go down this path, and it’s very hard to retreat.  Someone’s gotta lose.

Sure, parents are supposed to be the ones who are mature enough to see this coming, to self-reflect, to prepare themselves.  But people are people, and part of what children learn as they grow to become adults, is that we all have our weaknesses and imperfections.  We all have our baggage.  Our parents are not perfect; they are human beings just like we are.

So here’s an idea for young adults to consider:  you may have to gently help teach your parents how your new relationship is going to work.  You may have to be the one to step it up.  Don’t expect this to be easy, but it will be worth it.  And only do this if it makes sense and feels right.  I only ask that you think about this, then make this an opportunity to use your own sense of what is appropriate for you, to decide what to do.

YOU:  Mom, look, I know you are upset at this decision I made.

MOM:  I sure am, @&@^$%$%#^@*, etc. etc.

YOU:  OK, well, I want you to know that I understand how you feel and that you are upset and I respect your right to your opinion.  It’s just that I am trying to work on becoming independent and making my own decisions.  This is very important to me because …..

MOM:  If you do this, I’m going to ……  If you do this, (bad things are going to happen….)

YOU:  I understand what you are saying.  I would love your support in this situation, but I understand if you can’t give that to me.  I am willing to be responsible for what happens in the situation, but it’s important enough to me that I have decided this is what I am going to do.

 Of course, this could go on and on with no improvement or resolution.  The important thing is not to get sucked into being emotional, angry or hurt.  If you want your parent to respect you, you have to give them respect.  If this is a completely different dynamic than you have had, your parent will be really off-balance and will probably be very uncomfortable and maybe threatened.  You will have to keep this up through a lot of crazy stuff before they will finally realize that you are different, you have matured, and that the relationship is going to work differently now.

If you do not reciprocate with the anger, fear, craziness, emotional reactions, the situation is less likely to escalate.  If you can keep this up, your parent might (maybe for the first time in their lives?) have the opportunity to have a real, trusting, non-confrontational relationship with another person.  How new this could be!  They may not believe that this kind of relationship is possible.  You may be the one person who rises above and makes a difference and changes the pattern.

I know you are strong enough.  What do you think?


Love you, Cupcake.  You are a brave girl!!

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A Bullying Story from Real Life

I want to share a story I heard yesterday, about a situation where a girl was bullied in a high school.  I know from experience that this is not an unusual situation, but it might surprise you.

Let me set the stage.  This situation occurs at a small, independent (read “parents are paying a good chunk of money for their kids to go here”) school in an affluent suburb.

OK, so here it is:  a girl finds sticky notes in her locker that call her bad names.

So, the usual suspects (consisting of about a half dozen boys) are rounded up and questioned about this.  Their parents are called and told about the situation.

One boy gets home and his father asks about what happened.  The boy says he knows absolutely nothing about it.  This father takes this kind of thing very seriously, and he tells the principal at the school this.   The father asks some questions to get a better sense of what is going on.

Father:  My son says he knows nothing about this.  Can you show me the sticky notes?  I can tell right away if it is his handwriting.

School:  Oh, we haven’t seen the sticky notes.

Father:  You haven’t?  Well, what did the girl say to make you think my son had something to do with this?

School:  Oh, we haven’t talked to her, we didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was.

Father:  Then how do you know about what happened?

School:  Another girl told us about it.

Based on no solid information, this group of boys has been singled out and accused of bullying a girl.  They were not accused by the “victim” of the bullying, and probably not even accused by the tattle-tale girl.  The administration concluded that these boys are up to no good and assumed it must be one of them.

But here’s the kicker:

It turns out that the “victim” is the one who put the sticky notes in her locker – she was unhappy at the school and wanted her parents to take her out.

There is a very real problem here.

It seems that we unconsciously label kids as either “victim”-types or “bully”-types.  The vulnerable, insecure, unable-to-speak-up types are automatically victims, unable to speak about their troubles, unable to stick up for themselves.  We treat them with kid-gloves.  There is a lot of fear and angst and drama surrounding our view of these kids.

My question is: are we serving these kids’ best interests by treating them like this?  I think they deserve our support – we need to help them gain self-confidence, feel good about themselves, maybe get them some counseling.  Learning how to speak up for themselves and be self-advocates would be of huge benefit to them.

On the other side, we view the kids who are reasonably confident, who are not afraid to speak up, who are louder, as automatically being bullies.  We are way overly suspicious, even when there is absolutely no evidence or reason to believe they have done anything wrong.  A kid who speaks up or who (God forbid) doesn’t cower with fear at confrontation or at an authority figure, is automatically the bad kid, the one to be feared.

This culture rewards victim behavior and punishes confidence.

We are discouraging kids from being confident.

I happen to know these boys personally, and they are not bad or mean, or bored enough to plan out this kind of scheme.  Sure, teenage boys do some dumb stuff without thinking it through, but that is not the same thing as intentionally aggressive, mean behavior.

Yes, there are real bullies in Real Life.  I do not mean to diminish that fact. 

But our definition of bullies seems to have gotten way out of whack.

And I find it SO interesting that these incidents are not even reported by the supposed victim of the crime.  We have fostered the behavior of the tattle-tale who likes to stir up drama.  Anyone else have a teenage girl? – then you know how this works.  Mine tortures her sister this way all the time.  Rewarding drama-provoking behavior can lead to no good.

If we become so afraid of and obsessed with bullying and assume it’s everywhere, we will find it everywhere even when it doesn’t exist.  Is this really the atmosphere we want for our kids?

Izzy Kalman wrote a great article on just this kind of thing, A New Kind of Bullying:  Bearing False Witness.

Because I know you might not click on that link to read the article, I am copying it below 🙂 :

A New Kind of Bullying: Bearing False Witness

by Izzy Kalman (November 2005)

Are you concerned about kids being bullies? Do you wish these evil children would stop their immoral behavior?

Parents, along with just about everyone else, unanimously favor anti-bullying policies. But how would these parents feel – especially those who believe in the Bible – if they discovered that their schools’ anti-bullying policies are leading children to widespread violation of one of the Ten Commandments – one that is no less serious than not stealing nor committing adultery?

A New Kind of Bullying

The kinds of bullying we commonly hear about are insults, threats, shoves in the hallway, rumors, exclusion from cliques. However, there is another kind of bullying that is far more pernicious and is becoming increasingly common. In the following stories from my casework the names have been changed, but the deeds remain real.

Ten-year-old Billy enters the school bathroom and sees a classmate, Jason, calling his friend Vinny “gay.” Vinny laughs and playfully punches Jason in the arm. Neither Vinny nor Jason is angry, and they are laughing as they leave. Billy informs his teacher that Jason and Vinny had a fight in the bathroom. Vinny’s mom gets a call from the teacher informing her that he is getting detention and risks being sent to a special school for delinquent students if he engages in such violence again. (This was a second incident for Vinny; a few weeks earlier, after a kid took his book, Vinny poked him with the eraser end of his pencil. The current incident was a first-timer for Jason, so he wasn’t being suspended.)

Brandon, a gentle, socially naïve seventh grader, has long been picked on by a group of tough kids. Theresa, an eighth grader who hangs out with them, decides to be clever and tells the school principal that Brandon made a sexual remark to her. A policeman shows up that evening at Brandon’s house and arrests him for sexual harassment.

Roland, a black fifth grader in a predominantly white school, tells school staff that Scott called him the “n” word. Scott gets detention though he didn’t say any such a thing. This is the third time Roland has pulled off this trick on Scott.

These are not isolated cases. Do your own investigation and you’ll find they happen frequently in schools that encourage students to report incidents of bullying.

What does this have to do with the Ten Commandments?

Most people, including secularists, accept that the Ten Commandments, particularly the last six, are basic principles for living a moral and civilized life. One of those Commandments, however, is different from all the others because it relates to behavior in a specific place: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” This relates to lying in a court of law. We’re not commanded “Thou shalt not steal in the marketplace,” or, “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife in the Temple.” Why have a Commandment specifically about lying on the witness stand?

This Commandment is widely misunderstood. Most commentators believe forbids all lying, which is why so many adults treat their children like major criminals when they don’t tell the truth. However, it would have been very simple for the Bible to say, “Thou shalt not lie.” But the Bible didn’t do that because lying is not always the wrong thing to do. Sometimes a “white lie” like, “No, you look fine in that dress,” or “Hey, it happens to the best of us!” is the proper thing to say. And sometimes it is definitely immoral to tell the truth. For instance, a hate-filled person asks you the location of a person he is seeking to kill. Telling him the truth would make you an accomplice to murder.

Courts: The Foundation of Civilization

The reason for the difficulty understanding this Commandment is that we don’t realize that courts of law are the foundation of civilization. Having been born into civilization, we all take the legal system for granted. We can’t fathom why a special Commandment would be required for lying in court. However, from the beginning of time until the advent of modern civilization, we lived tribally in nature, where “might makes right.” We handled our problems with each other ourselves, meting out justice much like a Mafia family. But with the crowding and complexity of civilization, we can no longer take justice into our own hands. If we were to continue resolving our disputes by “might makes right,” there would be rampant violence and pandemonium. So we appoint courts with (hopefully) wise and principled judges to determine if a crime has been committed and what the punishment should be. Without a legal justice system, therefore, civilization literally could not exist.

Using the Courts to Bully

While Civilization establishes courts to replace personal vengeance, it becomes possible for citizens to use the courts as a weapon of violence. All you need to do is testify to the court that someone committed a crime, and the court will make that person suffer. Why risk hurting someone with your own fists when you can get the legal system to do it for you?

A legal justice system can function only if it’s based on witnesses telling the truth. Since it’s so easy to abuse the legal justice system, lying under oath must be deemed an unpardonable crime. The Commandment against bearing false witness, therefore, is a pillar of civilization.

Punishing the Liars

What then, are we to do to a witness who lies under oath to get someone else punished?

The Talmud, a collection of ancient Jewish law that interprets the Bible, provides the perfect solution: We do to the false witness what he planned to get the court to do to his victim. For instance, if the false witness plotted to have the defendant receive lashes, the false witness is to receive lashes.

Punishing false testimony in this way makes witnesses reluctant to lie. And since the punishment perfectly fits the crime, it makes the liar understand the gravity of his evil intentions.

How schools encourage kids to give false testimony

Now that anti-bullying policies are requiring schools to function as courts of law, investigating and punishing all acts of bullying between students, kids have discovered how easy it is to manipulate the system to get other students in trouble. And the adults eagerly invite this behavior! We instruct our students that they must tell when they’re bullied or witness bullying. Some schools even punish kids for not telling!

More and more schools are adopting an anonymity policy allowing students to report bullying without identifying themselves. This enables kids to get others in trouble at absolutely no danger to themselves. Just put a note in the “bully box” and watch the adults torment other students and their families! This is much more fun than punching kids or threatening to beat them up after school, and carries none of the risk.

Of course schools don’t instruct kids to lie about bullying, but what do they do to discourage it? Do they say, “You must tell on bullies. But if you lie, you will be punished as badly as you wanted us to punish the bully.”? Of course they don’t! Who would dare to report bullying under such circumstances?

No, schools are not instructing kids to lie. But when you reward a crime while doing nothing to punish it, you are in effect encouraging it. And you become morally responsible for that crime. As an old Jewish saying goes, “The hole [in the wall] – not the mouse – is the thief.”

To Teach Children to Act Morally, We Have to Act Morally

If we want our kids to be moral, then we have to start with ourselves. Recognize what our ancestors understood thousands of years ago, that bearing false witness is the worst kind of bullying. It’s time to get rid of the slogan, “Telling is not tattling,” and teach kids the gravity of trying to get others in trouble. If you have a problem with someone, talk to them directly; don’t involve the authorities unless it is absolutely necessary.


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Multidimensional Success

Written by Gillian MacBeth-Louthan

Success comes in the form of 6 billion flavors. It is not just vanilla or chocolate with a few sweet sprinkles. It is not something that can be defined by a dictionary, a teacher, or a parent. For the very essence of success is so multidimensional it reaches far beyond earthly understanding. 2013 redefines the word success some days counting the seeds other days counting the bounty.

Success for each person on planet earth is different and cannot be monitored or measured along side of anything or anyone.  Some day’s success can be as big as a mountain, other days it is as small as a cell.   We are born being trained by our parents and peers to walk quickly into the town of ‘Success’. We were instructed to marry, to build, to birth children in the perfect town of ‘Success’. We seek to love one another, be happy and die in this holographic image of what someone told us success should be!  We plant our crops, and our ‘o so short’ future in some one else’s definition of what success is, and then we wonder why our trees don’t bear fruit that is aligned with our souls desire.

The direction of success is changing continually, following our hand signals.  We wave it forward one day, ask it to come to a screaming halt the next, and cry in the wee hours of the dawn when we don’t feel its presence.  Success like love or joy, has become a living entity. One that does our bidding on a daily basis. Success is never the same two days in a row for anyone.  One day you might feel successful if you make a big sale, the next day success may be finally getting the splinter out of your finger.  To a young mother success is a baby finally sleeping through the night.  To a senior citizen success is waking up in the morning.  To some, success is retiring, to others; success is getting their first job.  Success is chameleon like in quality changing day after day from person to person.  How can we ever judge what success is by looking at another?

When we first came to earth we came with a soul agenda.  A cosmic list of sorts describing what our soul needed to finally feel it had achieved success while on earth.  We are driven by this internal list.  Searching for the ‘one’ thing that would solidify and document that we had been successful on our journey to earth.  Many times we have returned to earth just to make up for what we saw as failings from previous incarnations.

It is time to awaken to the subtle nuances of what success truly is.  It is a time to count the wonders, miracles and small successes in our day that oft times we over look.  Within every experience you have ever had, lives a miniscule particles of success.  The first time you walked or talked as a baby. The first time you threw a ball or caught a fly ball. The first time you kissed, the first time you drove, your first job; are all success filled memories no matter what the outcome seemed to be.  Round up all of those ancient successes and herd them into the present.  Line them all up and look closely at how many successes you truly have had. Drink in that personal blend of success smoothie. Most people focus only on the failures and magnify them to the ‘Nth” degree, so that they overshadow all else.  In your beautiful rose garden of life do you only look at the weeds or do you ever just see the roses?

Redefine what you think success means to you and only you. Stop holding your life up against the beveled glass of the mass consciousness. Personal truths become distorted when held up to the light of someone else’s porch.  When you see only your shortcoming you will always come up short no matter how tall in the saddle you may look to others. Get on that high horse (even if you need a ladder) and take a good look at your life.  You were created to succeed. When you focus on what you ‘do not’ have, you will never have enough. When you focus on what you do have you will always have plenty.


The Beauty of Conflict and Disharmony – A New Paradigm

Conflict, noun

1. A state of open, often prolonged fighting; a battle or war.

2. A state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests; a clash.


Conflict seems to be the theme of the day for me lately.  And I find the first two definitions above to be very interesting when I start thinking about what conflict is about.

It’s the second definition that seems to be the root definition of conflict.  The existence of disharmony between individuals is the underlying reason that fighting and problems occur.

A basic assumption to put us on the same page: no two people act or think exactly alike.  We all have different backgrounds, different experiences, different personalities, different priorities.  Disharmony between people is inevitable, a part of life that just is.

Yes, we are all equal, but we are NOT all the SAME.

Question:  Is it a foregone conclusion that, when there is disagreement, a fight automatically results?  Is this kind of conflict inevitable?

I find that many people avoid dealing with conflict.  But this doesn’t mean that disharmony doesn’t exist for them – it just means they either don’t acknowledge it, or they avoid it altogether.

For illustration purposes, I am going to describe two ways of dealing with disharmony that are very different.  I’m not saying these are the only two approaches; rather, I’m just thinking about how people handle disagreement and how these ways affect how we all get along.

The Old Way of Conflict

A common way of thinking about disagreements is based on determining who is right and who is wrong.  Much of our world uses this model.  Our entire legal system depends on laws that tell us what is right and what is wrong.  Our practice of having authority figures, whether it is in business or in schools or in sports, is based on having certain people who are “in charge” to enforce what is right and acceptable, and to discourage or punish what is wrong.

This is a paradigm that is so pervasive, we rarely question it, especially those of us who have personalities that tend to “get along” and not make waves.  It can become such a priority to avoid conflict, that we lose our ability to have a unique perspective or differing opinion of our own.

In families, the dynamics can work the same.  Either one or both parents are “in charge” and what they say, goes.  Usually, the children are expected to obey and follow the rules.

As long as the laws and rules are agreed upon and considered reasonable by all the parties involved, the kind of conflict in the first definition usually is minimal. However, this paradigm can result in situations where certain individuals can use their personalities to overwhelm and manipulate others.   Groups can attempt to control other groups.  “Being right” is justification for wars and invasions.

We all know that, despite the best of intentions in setting rules and making laws, disagreements and disharmony still exist, even in peaceful situations.  So, then, in these situations, we see visible arguments about, guess what, WHO IS RIGHT and WHO IS WRONG.

Those entrenched in this way of thinking tend to view others with suspicion.  Those who disagree with Old Way Thinkers are assumed to be of the same mindset, which means they are going to fight to be right!  Whether intended or not, Old Way Thinkers assume others who have a different view are judging them.  A New Way Thinker could be the most tolerant, open-minded, gentle person, but if they disagree with an Old Way Thinker, they will encounter animosity anyway.

Now, if we continue with this old paradigm of handling conflict, can there be a solution that is acceptable to both sides of the argument?

Well, not really.  In a black and white world, there is no grey.


To break the cycle, we have to move beyond this paradigm.  This stalemate is the reason we have come up with such concepts as “Agreeing to Disagree” and “Win-Win Solutions.”  This is where compromise comes in.

There are many shades of grey, in fact, there are many colors in the world!

Where My Personal Experience Comes In

I grew up in a mostly harmonious, conflict-avoiding household.  From my perspective, my parents had reasonable rules and values.  If I had a different view, it really wasn’t that different, and I kept it to myself.  It was no big deal.  I did what I was supposed to do, and didn’t cause problems.  This made for a mostly conflict-free environment, which sounds great, right?

The only problem is, I didn’t get to practice handling conflict.  So when I encountered others out in the world that did not operate under the same set of assumptions, I was not prepared.  The best thing I did was to marry into a family with different viewpoints and which had a more direct method of verbal communication.  I had to learn how to speak up, explain my viewpoint, and balance conflicting ways of being.  Yes, it has been uncomfortable at times, and it has been work, but I can say that I have become very skilled at dealing with conflict.  I am NOT saying I have become skilled at proving I am right, or at convincing people to see things my way……instead, I have become a better communicator, better at clearly stating my view, and better at listening and understanding others.

After adding three children to the mix, the lessons in conflict management have only multiplied.  I live in a family of five, with five unique and strong personalities, five sets of goals, five…ideas of what is right (?).  Hmmm…

What I have noticed is that if individuals are too entrenched in the Old Way of Conflict, they will not compromise or be able to accept another view, a conflicting opinion, an alternative way of being or doing.  The Old Paradigm of Conflict can provide so much emphasis on being “right” that individuals are compelled to IMPOSE their own views or ways on others.  They see the world in absolutes, so they cannot and will not compromise.

Others who are not comfortable dealing with conflict, may just clam up and say nothing.  The person may be so sure that others will try to convince them that they are wrong or judge them, they will not even engage.  The thought of facing conflict may be so scary or unfamiliar that it is impossible to have a conversation about a disagreement or misunderstanding.  The disharmony remains indefinitely.

I would say that all people have personal absolutes, lines that they will not cross, things they would never do, situations they would not accept.  But I think it is important to differentiate this fact from the need to impose these absolutes on others, or to find it unacceptable for others to disagree.

For me, this is the primary difference between the Old Way and New Way of Conflict – whether it is acceptable or not to IMPOSE one’s views on others.

General agreement on a rule or law, for example, that is for the benefit of all is fine, but a rule or law that imposes the views of one group on another is a different matter.  I’m avoiding using specific examples here, because we tend to have such strong attachments and emotional responses to specific issues and I don’t want to distract from the basic principle.  But let’s not fool ourselves that these things are easy to determine or generally agreed upon.

The New Way of Conflict

As a result of my personal life experience, I have embraced a New Paradigm of Conflict, and I see a similar approach emerging with others I know.

There is a basic acceptance that each person is unique.  Instead of having a focus on the right way and the wrong way, each individual attempts to remain true to a personal way of being, thinking or doing, along with a respect for others to have their own.

Instead of seeing differences as “disharmonious” they are viewed as, well, different.  And, even better, complementary.

Each personal point of view is developed with thoughtfulness and a focus on the “greater good”.  A person is always open to reevaluating their conclusions, based on new information and experiences.  No one “digs in their heels.”

No one imposes their own view on others.  When viewpoints are shared, the goal is about understanding, rather than convincing.

Because there is mutual respect, there is no reason to be defensive or offended when listening to another point of view.

When there is misunderstanding or unintended consequences, what results is direct communication, questions and answers, all with the goal of clarifying meaning, intent, emotional reactions and what was experienced.  There’s no drama.

As individuals become comfortable having their own unique perspective, and respecting other’s views, it becomes easier to share.  Without the threat of being labeled “wrong” and knowing that others will not become defensive, it actually becomes very interesting to get to know how others think and why.  It becomes fun to share ourselves and come to understand others.  What a relief!

One gets to the point where, instead of having automatic fear responses to differences, there is only curiosity.

We don’t have to automatically fight when there is a disagreement.  Instead, we can celebrate our diversity and be enriched by the views of others who have experienced things we have not.  We can learn from each other.

Imagine having the benefit of wisdom gained by a diverse group of people who have had experiences completely different than your own, to expand your scope of wisdom beyond your own life experiences.  Imagine feeling safe in being authentically YOU, in being celebrated for your own unique perspective, rather than being made to feel wrong because you are different.

So, next time you encounter a conflict, notice which is more important to you:

Is it to be RIGHT or is it to UNDERSTAND?

Some questions to think about:

Are you comfortable disagreeing with others?

Are there certain individuals that you aren’t allowed to or think you shouldn’t disagree with?

Who makes you feel “wrong” if you speak up to them?  About what issues?

Do you respect the opinions of others?

Are your personal opinions based on what you have been told you SHOULD think, or have you come to these conclusions based on personal experience and thoughtful reflection?

When someone says something you don’t agree with, do you automatically argue?  Do you feel that you must defend your opinions and actions?

When someone tells you a story, can you just think, “hmm…interesting” without jumping to a conclusion?

What are your personal “non-negotiable” items?  Do you think everyone should have these same principles?

When faced with a conflicting opinion, is your first thought “That is WRONG!” or is it, “Geez, I do not UNDERSTAND that!”

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The Big Stretch

I am feeling stretched these days.

On the one hand, I have a busy, regular life full of taking care of a household and family.  An old house that always needs something.  Kids to listen to, to drive places, who push me to constantly develop my parenting skills.  Lunches to make, dinners to plan, clothes to buy.  A relationship to work at, extended family, with issues of their own, to be there for as best we can.  Dogs to snuggle with and to feed, dog hair to vacuum, and other related, not-always-so-pleasant cleanup duties.

On top of that, work issues.  Bills to pay, taxes to prepare, questions from the accountant to answer, meetings to attend.  Applications to finish, deadlines to meet, negotiations to deal with, budgets to finalize.  Tenants that lose heat, lights that go out, regulations to be met.  Snow to shovel, trash that shouldn’t pile up, conflicting expectations and needs.

Look, I have a great life by anyone’s standards.  I am not complaining – just pointing out that the everyday activities of our lives can keep us pretty busy.

And the busy-ness can keep us occupied enough that we forget that there is more.  We assume that we have no choice, “That’s Just the Way It Is”, we continue blindly onward, not really seeing ourselves, and never questioning the Box of Rules that surround us.

For women, especially, we can forget to take care of ourselves.  We put our families and our kids first, and work, and it seems selfish to make time for ourselves.  I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

But it’s the whole spiritual side of who I am and the reasons we are all here that calls to me more and more.  And this is the Big Stretch.


You know, when you are tense, it’s much harder to stretch.  It helps to relax and let go.  This is true for your physical body, and your emotional body, and for your Soul.   And it’s hard to stretch if you are inside of a box.  I’ve put the silly Box of Rules in the recycle bin, because I find I have no use for it anymore.

The more I focus on my Soul and think and learn about Love, and the ways of God, and the beauty of Life and the miracles that occur all around me all the time, the less motivation I have for the silly busy-ness of everyday life.

More often, I enjoy each moment.  I focus on what is happening RIGHT NOW.  I think less about how things used to be.  I worry very little about what is coming next.

This can feel uncomfortable, paradoxical, new, backwards.  I’m stretching into a new shape that feels very different.

It’s not that I don’t care.  Everyday life just seems less consequential.  I feel removed from it, like I am one person, a Soul, who is observing the other person, a Body, going through the motions.  I do what must be done, but the attachment and emotion is gone.  The fear and worry are gone.

How long will I stretch, and how far?  What shape will I become?  Is there a snapping point?  It’s interesting, I have had conversations with several people recently who say almost the same thing:  they are trying to figure out who they are going to be in Part B of their lives.  And the common theme seems to be uncertainty of the details yet a knowing that something will be different.  Out with the Old, in with the New.

Just when I think I can’t stretch any further, it seems that I do.  So, onward and upward.  We shall see.

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