just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness
August, 2019

Change Happens. Some Aim to Deny It or Stop It. Some Aim to Understand It, Embrace It or Slow It.

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
So where’s the caterpillar?

How we approach change determines our politics.  Some of us embrace those things of tradition which we are willing to die for before accepting.  Some of us will refuse to accept change when it’s staring us squarely on our doorstep.  We have certain political leaders today that lead populist movements claiming they can stop change.  There are many religious leaders claiming they can promise a permanence that meets our liking.  There are several health practitioners claiming they can stop the aging process.  Yet, to this date, no one has been able to stop change.  No matter how much money one makes or how much power one accumulates, the body ages, we surrender the body and we say goodbye to all those things we so desperately tried to hold onto.  An education aimed to foster the curious mind helps us face inevitable change.  A spiritual practice strong enough to embrace uncertainty helps us live more carefully, causing less harm along our way.  Education, curiosity, humility, gratitude and a sense of stewardship help us move along the evolutionary/adaptive path with least harm.  On the other hand, when we close our minds and refuse to explore approaches to inevitable change we seem to accelerate the very change we’re trying to hold back.

Those that deny change or believe they can stop it may be called “change deniers”.  They have demonized those who are responsible to meeting change with stewardship as “progressives”, “liberals”, “left wing”, “elite”, etc.  Yet, these labels are not helpful.  We all have qualities of the traditionalist and a curiosity to explore best actions that harm least.  While we are all tempted to think we know, we don’t.  We’re trapped into ‘thinking we’re right’, when the most important thing we can do is to loosen our fixed minds and seek understanding.  Today’s politics no longer work.  We’re caught in the illusion that we can persuade another to think like us.  The Law of Nature shows that the harder we push one way, the more push back we get.  Yet, adults willing to seek best action with least harm recognize that debate is futile.  People will only further entrench in their fixed beliefs as we try to change them, fix them, or get them to agree with us.  

To many, climate change, globalization and technology are accelerating at unprecedented rates.  Those who want to deny change often refer to those who want to face change as evil.  Those who want to face change often refer to the deniers as uneducated.  In my experience, both references are inaccurate and damaging to the health of our society.  Our spiritual traditions have promoted the understanding that we’re all in the same boat.  We all know, deep in our hearts, that we all wish to live a happy, healthy life.  The difficulty comes in knowing and practicing this, aware that our harmful or neglectful actions and thoughts ultimately hurt us.  We can’t build walls to polluted air, nuclear radiation, to refugees fleeing certain death from failed, chaotic states, to ever increasing advances in technology, to an open world market, etc.  There are leaders today pushing the patriarchal notion that they will fix everything.  They claim they can stop change and frequently practice the art of denial.  Those leaning strongest to denying change or stop it are vulnerable to these claims.  They’ve invested in this line of belief much like the people who refused to believe the tonic they bought from a medicine man is worthless given an analysis of its contents.

The label “conservative” has been falsely given to those change deniers.  They promote fear to those who would otherwise seek understanding to inevitable change.  For me, a true conservative is one who wishes to slow entropy through responsible actions.  It’s far from holding rigid beliefs and practices to outdated thinking.  It’s making a human, kind response to rapid change.  It’s calling out greed and gluttony as actions causing great harm to humanity today.  A true conservative has a deep sense of stewardship to a culture’s people, placing a primary emphasis upon food, shelter, safety and sense of belonging to all peoples.  Today’s “conservatives” seemed to be locked into a solid “No” response to change and it threatens our future.  For me, I’m looking for strong leaders who recognize the need to face change with a strong “Yes” combined with willingness and ability to collaborate for actions best aimed to slow entropy.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics speaks to the inevitable entropy of all things.  We can say “Yes” to slowing this entropy, to collaboration for the common good, to participation in an educated democracy of and for the people.  Or we can continue to fight, to disengage, to complain, to let the “No” response dominate our approach to inevitable change.

From Monologue to Dialogue

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Going Deeper

Are you interested in going deeper in your conversations with friends and family?  Are you tired of just talking about the weather, sports, and gossip about other people?  Would you like to engage others in the rich exploration of how we know what we think we know without being attacked?

I’ve studied communication and its disorders for almost fifty years and have found the following system to be the most effective.  It’s been called circle process, conversational cafe and council, just to name a few.  Essentially, the group agrees on certain rules, just like we do for most of the games we play.  It’s no longer about the loudest voice in the room.  It’s about a sincere desire to understand rather than the typical push to persuade.  It’s not about trying to come to a consensus or agreement.  It’s about respect for each other and a deeper willingness to come to an empathetic position of understanding with one another.  So how does it work?

Think of it like agreement to play a sports game.  There are rules that need to be followed, and when it comes to communication success we have very few examples.  Our media, politics and religion are usually fixed in beliefs, in a lack of willingness to surrender a sense of ‘being right’ for the open curiosity found in deeper exploratory conversation.  For dialog to happen we need the following rules to follow:

  1. Calm the mind’s chatter with a few moments of silence, just putting attention to the breath. This sets a common intention to hold a sense of equanimity through the game.
  2. Listen for understanding and surrender any notions of rehearsing a response when another is speaking.
  3. Agree to only speak when holding a talking piece, and agree to speak from the heart, from what comes up at the moment.
  4. Put some attention to ‘what you mean’, ‘how you came to know what you think you know’, and determine whether it’s worth saying or not.  It’s ok to hold the talking piece in silence.  There’s no need to persuade, perform, or fix.
  5. Agree to abstain from persuasion, attempts to fix, advice, judgment, etc.
  6. When speaking, speak, but not on and on.  Agree that each person has an allotted time to speak and a referee (guardian) will ring the bell if a participant’s behavior is straying from the agreed upon rules.  Usually, after a topic has been agreed upon, each participant will begin with a one to three minute expression that doesn’t reference anything any of the other participants have said.  On the second round there can be reference and after two rounds, at a deeper level, conversation can ensue without the need for a talking piece.  However, if the referee believes the rules are not being followed, they can institute the talking piece once again.

7.   Agree to hold the contents of the circle confidential with the intention to cause no harm.

One of the more difficult rules is to abstain from persuasion and attempts at fixing or giving advice. Surrendering our notions of thinking we are right creates a huge challenge.  To get to empathy, we agree to fully listen for the other’s experience, to do what we can to understand.  We’re aiming to hear what they’re communicating without coming to judgment or conclusion.

I’ve done a number of these communication labs and welcome anyone who’s interested in this process to contact me.  In today’s polarized society where we seem to either stop communicating or we just yell at each other, it’s crucial to our very survival as a species to start applying some human rules to how we communicate with one another.

So What’s the End Game?

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
Ants in a sugar bowel.

Impeccable speech first requires impeccable listening.

Monday, August 12th, 2019
Listening from defense and reactivity of for understanding and opportunity?
Impeccable Listening
Creating jobs that are beyond artificial intelligence replacement.