Landmark Forum

Christmas 101...

<My first impulse was to call this post ‘Uh-oh. Christmas: here we go again!’>

It’s a couple of weeks before Christmas as I write this. Oh, Christmas – season of emotional confusion & messiness, & (in some cases very likely) emotional blackmail, even. (What fun! Not…)

Season of all our wanting & neediness to reach preposterous levels – & our dissatisfactions & pain, also.

The emotional complexity of this time of year boggles my mind! Stirs up my own emotions & emotional neediness like some great big bubbling, messy stew. And has, now, for more years than I care to think about.

I can’t help but wonder: do Jews & Muslims experience this season (or any season) in this same way?? Is this great big annual mixed-up, emotion-laden season the sole province of “Christian” people? (quotation marks because I & so many of us are, of course, merely “cultural Christians.”)

Christmas has always been a bit loaded for me (&, I think, for many). It seems to be all tied up with nostalgia – nostalgia for those “perfect” Christmases we had as children. (Ha! Since so many of us come from dysfunctional families, I think many readers will “get” that little ironic chuckle of mine there.)

A long-time un-fan of waste (of any & all kinds), & of this culture’s excessive consumerism, Christmas has long been an ambivalent time for me.

I want it to be about family, & love, & togetherness, & laughter, & preferably some snowy activity such as skating or tobogganing, with a little (or even a lot) of chocolate thrown in – & truthfully, I’m grateful to be able to say, I do spend some very enjoyable Christmas days – but the weeks of agonizing over who is going to be where (divorce, eh? That gift that keeps right on giving…) & what to get for everyone & … the angst, the angst! Sheesh!!

This year is proving no exception. We families of divorce have our awkwardnesses to navigate, year after year after year. It’s a real bummer. This year’s crop of personal angst (details not important) is helping me “get” a few things, I think, about the “human condition.”

First off, & apologies in advance for the offence this will very likely cause to some, but I do not believe for a moment that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Christmas celebrations are really about the big blow-out human beings have been having to celebrate the end of that painful trajectory of growing darkness – those days that grow shorter & shorter until December 21st. Our species has apparently been hosting big bashes at the time of the winter solstice for … a whole heckuva lot of years!! (Do look this up, if you like. That’s what Google is for!!)

So, wanting to “party” at this time is practically primal. It’s virtually wired into us.

All the gift-giving … baloney… All the hoopla & the excessive consumerism – that’s just modern-day nonsense.(1)

I have my own theory about Christmas – first floated in 2006 in one of the “Letters to My Daughters” collection I was then working on. I keep fine-tuning this little theory, & recent/current events are adding more ingredients to the mix.

I think what really comes out in (many of) us at Christmas is the pain of our abandonment. I believe we all have feelings of pain & abandonment; every last one of us, one way & another. It’s a matter of degree.

Long story short?

We human beings evolved to be tribal creatures. We need more than these ever-so-aptly-named “nuclear” families. On the big picture, geological time scale, we only walked out of those caves yesterday afternoon. You get what I’m saying?

Not only do we each have our very own personal experiences of abandonment, we feel abandonment/alienation as a species.

We feel lonely, alone, adrift, isolated, alienated. Why? 10,000 years(2) of living in opposition to our very nature as tribal (communal, if you prefer) creatures have left us feeling this way.

Don’t buy this? Well, you don’t really have to.

Bring it back down to the level of the personal. To Christmas, & our nostalgia & our neuroses & our angst – every year, like clockwork, at this season.

As I alluded to, some recent/current “stuff” in my own life is helping me rassle with this. On the personal level – on the very down-to-earth, Janet McNeill level, I am rassling with it all, trust me!

& I am “getting”:

  1. I have emotional pain that rears its head for me most particularly at Thanksgiving & Christmas.
  2. Divorce is a very generous contributor, in my case, to this annual angst. There is simply no getting around that. No point pretending it isn’t so.
  3. In my pain, it is very tempting to lash out. To want to “punish” someone else for the pain I am feeling inside me.
  4. This emotion of wanting to spread the pain around (“Misery loves company,” hmm?) is very…real. (Can you say “war,” anyone?? Can you say “So-&-so just did such-&-such; let’s whack her/him/them with a 2 x 4, or a rocket launcher, or a missile, or a nuclear bomb,” or…you’re getting my drift, hmmm?)
  5. I can’t just “talk myself out of” the pain that comes up sometimes over some of this ancient or more recent or current personal slights & slings & arrows. It does seem to help an awful lot, though, to be fully honest with myself about what I am feeling – & sometimes even to articulate it out loud.
  6. And then do my best to take that understanding of my own self, my own situation – my own emotional conflictedness…to understand better what other people are feeling – without making them wrong for their feelings.(3)
  7. Because being petty & mean-spirited in my own “personal life,” & acting as though making other people miserable (punishing them, in essence) will make me feel better is only so much futile nonsense. It doesn’t work... That way does not lie happiness.
  8. So. I know I have some more figuring out to do. The nuts & bolts of this year’s Christmas remain to be fine-tuned. I’m hoping that some of my understanding of the “big picture” (millennia of celebrations at the time of the winter solstice; universal feelings among human beings of loss & abandonment; the state of life here on Planet Earth at this so-very-sobering time in human history) will help me out on the personal level. I need to be sensitive to – mindful of – my own emotional … stews; to know with certainty that making others miserable will not make me feel good; and to figure out how to balance simple honesty about the challenges that rise up at this time every year with sensitivity to everyone else’s personal share of emotional ambivalence & pain…

& try to have some fun!! I do believe the blow-outs we human beings have been having at this time of year – for millennia now – are really all about what some brilliant thinkers(4) say the whole point of human life on Planet Earth actually is:

Celebration!!

Janet

p.s. Over the years, I’ve written environment columns for several small town newspapers. The most recent one was the North Renfrew Times, during the Deep River phase of my life. A few of these columns can be found under the NRT Columns tab. The one that springs to mind right now is ‘Transforming Christmas.’

p.p.s. I just came across a scrap of paper that reminded me of Sister Joan Chittister’s phrase that describes our current way of living. “Pathological individualism.” Bang on, I'd say!

p.p.p.s. I came up very recently with a thought that maybe I should share here. It was this: The human tendency toward pettiness should never be underestimated. You can quote me on that! It came up while I was out on one of my daily walks. I had an episode of personal pettiness come over me, & up sprang those words…We can all, of course, resort at times to pettiness & mean-spiritedness. But it never really makes us feel good, does it?? I think we tend to feel much better when we strive to be big…not when we get all caught up in unpleasant “little me” stuff.


(1) & btw, if you have not already watched the brilliant little animated show “The Story of Stuff, get thee to it & watch!! It’s funny & very smart & packs one heck of a punch into a few short minutes’ viewing. Highly recommended!!

(2) Other posts have dealt with this 10,000 year idea:

(3) The way we so often make other people wrong is a key concept I took away from my Landmark Forum (LMF) experience. The blog posting ‘Landmark Experience is relevant here, but I think in that post I may have failed to mention this insight about how we make other people wrong, & how this really doesn’t help any of us a whole heck of a lot…

(4) I think both Matthew Fox & Thomas Berry have written about this. & they are (were, in Berry’s case) big, BIG thinkers…

Looking Stupid

<June 28/08>

I’ve written elsewhere about “looking good,” & how the Landmark Forum folks say that’s what our lives are pretty much organized around. For sure, I think they’re onto something big...

We dread looking stupid, don’t we? You can try & tell me you don’t care about looking stupid. For one thing, I won’t believe you, & for another, if you are one of those exceedingly rare people who really doesn’t give a darn about looking good/looking stupid, I’m going to tell you you’re so rare as to be merely the exception that proves the rule (maybe from another planet, even!)

I know darn well how badly most of us dread looking foolish. It’s possible I’m a little less obsessed about “looking good” than most folks, but like pretty much everyone I know, I sure don’t exactly relish looking stupid.

When we feel as though we look stupid, what is it that's really going on inside us?

I think we feel alone.

I’ve thought lots about feeling alone – & I’ve felt alone. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt not just alone – not just lonely – but abandoned; bereft. It’s the worst possible feeling I can imagine.

I’d better not get started here, or I’ll be off on a lengthy lecture about how human beings evolved to be tribal creatures, & how bereft I think we’ve all felt ever since we abandoned our tribal existence, 10,000 years ago…

When all I really set out to talk about was how awful it feels to feel or look stupid, & how very, very hard we work to avoid that sensation. Actually, I think the more we try to not look stupid, the more stupid we sometimes wind up looking. Y’know? I suspect that this feeling/looking stupid business, & also the feeling alone part, are all too darn common.

I’m going to point out that I’m writing this little item on July 1st weekend, & that all the “long” weekends – the holiday weekends – the “family” weekends – bring up complicated emotions for me. For a variety of reasons I needn’t go into, I generally wind up feeling somewhat alone/abandoned on these weekends, & that can make me feel as though I “look stupid.” Fortunately, I do a lot of talking to myself about this kind of stuff (stern little “pep talks”), & I keep it pretty much under control…most of the time.

It might be useful for all of us to do a little honest delving into our thoughts & feelings about “looking stupid” – because I think when we’re caught up in worrying about looking stupid (which for all I know is, for some folks, a lot of the time), we’ve got ourselves hemmed in by fear.

We become afraid or incapable of relating honestly with people, & we wind up doing or saying some pretty dumb stuff that actually probably does make us look stupider than if we just acted like who we really are, & owned up to the truth. What is the truth? We’re all lonely sometimes – lonely, insecure & afraid, & we all need to surround ourselves with people who help us feel good about ourselves, instead of trying to make us feel bad, or stupid, because of their insecurities.

And, we all act stupid sometimes. We all do dumb stuff, we all make mistakes, we all have vast holes in our knowledge, & we all want & badly need to be loved, accepted, affirmed & appreciated.

As long as we walk around being incapacitated by our need to “look good” & not “look stupid,” we’re liable to continue to do – & say – lots of pretty dumb stuff. Including some seriously planet-damaging things…

I say, let’s all work at finding ourselves a tribe – one that not only helps us feel good about ourselves (& each other), but also helps make the world a better place for all of us, while we’re at it.(1)

Whaddya think?

Janet


(1) F.R. Scott, poet & professor said, “The world is my country. The human race is my race. The spirit of man is my God. The future of man is my heaven.” I think people for whom that resonates could maybe constitute a tribe…

Telling the Truth: Too Many ‘Elephants in the Room?’

<June 17/09>

I suppose anyone who’s been reading this blog has already clued in to the fact that I’m a truth-teller. I can’t tell you why I’m a truth-teller, ‘cause I really haven’t any idea – except that I don’t know any other way to be. It’s the way I’m wired.

There seem to be a whole lot of truths we don’t want to tell in our culture. It starts in our families, when we’re very young & the great roller coaster of life is just getting underway.

Truths we don’t want to tell take in things like “Oops! My family appears to be a great big MESS” to sexual abuse by people we ought to be able to trust, to realizing our parents (gods & goddesses to us when we’re little, by the way) don’t love or affirm us or treat us fairly, to “Daddy/Mommy doesn’t love me” to “Mommy tells a lot of lies” to “Mommy/Daddy seems to love So-&-So better/more than s/he loves me” to “Mommy/Daddy sure isn’t around much!” etc., etc., etc.

But it’s crystal clear to us from a pretty early age that these truths we’ve figured out (& let’s face it, we’re darn smart even when we’re only four years old) are not supposed to be coughed up at the dinner table.

We start on our careers of truth-stuffing pretty darn young, hmm?

It keeps building as we get older, of course. More & more truth gets stuffed & more & more lies get told. It’s probably a miracle any of us can tell the truth at all – & of course, largely we don’t.

Our culture is founded on lies & half-truths.

There are a lot of “elephants in the room” – in our families of origin, with our partners/spouses, in our families, & in our world at large.

The fact that our species is headed for a gigantic “Kerpluie” experience (to put it rather politely) is a pretty closely-guarded secret, for example, & it’s an elephant no one really wants to acknowledge. It is not considered, shall we say, a fit topic for cocktail party conversation.

I think the roots of our loss of truth-telling probably go back to when we moved away from tribal life & into so-called “nuclear” family units (for most of human history, we lived in small social groupings in which we were highly interdependent & had a very strong sense of community).

I don’t mean to suggest life was perfect or smooth or “easy” when we lived communally as gatherers/hunters – but I’m also willing to bet the B.Q. (bullshit quotient)(1) was a whole lot lower back in those days…

Me, I think it’s very, very likely we would not be poised on the edge of “Kerpluie” if we had not made that choice 10,000 years ago to move away from interdependence & community & onto a path involving the worship of technology & patriarchy & a passionate embrace of so-called “progress” – leading us inevitably, it seems, to the mess we now find ourselves in.

But hey! Here we now are, hmm? For good or ill.

What are we to do??

Do we keep tiptoeing around all these damn elephants – or do we start acknowledging their presence?

As a dyed-in-the-wool truth-teller (& a great admirer of truth-telling writers of all description & especially of Anne Lamott & Elizabeth Lesser & Joanna Macy)(2), I’d like to suggest we try out some serious truth-telling…for a change.

At this point, I’m not at all sure that all the truth-telling in the world can save our butts – but I'm pretty sure it will make us all feel a whole lot lighter – & I suspect it will help us feel a whole lot more authentic, too. Authenticity has a very nice ring to it, I always think…(3)

If we’re going to go down as a species – & this seems increasingly possible/probable (I’m not trying to be depressing here, okay? Just honest) – let’s at least do so with our eyes (& minds) open, & keep the BQ to a minimum.

This is still, I hasten to point out, a very, very stunningly beautiful world here, this Earth of ours. And friendship & love & lovemaking & singing & service & the countless beauties of Nature and …oh, lots & lots of things…are still utterly grand & wondrous & wonderful.

This life – all the way along – should always have been more like a party, & less like the joyless dirge too many of us have made of it.

It isn’t too late. Let’s start telling the truth!

And let’s enjoy the party!! And each other…

Janet

P.S. I recently attended a Joanna Macy speaking engagement in Toronto. She was awesome… One of the things she said was that telling the truth is like making oxygen. Ah……I needed to hear that! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Joanna Macy…for that, & for so much else…

P.P.S. The truth can be a little scary, of course. That’s one of the reasons we avoid it so strenuously. There are two items on this blog that speak to the topic of our fear & despair – our despair & our fear that we cannot handle telling & living with the truth. They’re called “Despair and Empowerment,” & "Despair & Empowerment: The Movie."


(1) A fun term I came up with in my one corporate work environment, where often the BQ was already off the charts by 10 am…

(2) There are tons of other truth-telling writers; far too many to try & list here. Feel free to check out 2 lists of recommended reading under the ‘Recommended’ tab on this blog.

(3) It seems only fair that I acknowledge the Landmark Forum here for the many lessons I took from my own LMF weekend. Authenticity is a key concept in the LMF experience. You can see more about my LMF experience in 2 places on this blog: under the ‘Recommended’ tab, in the item '3 Great Opportunities for Personal Growth' & also one entitled 'Landmark Experience'.

 

Parents from Hell & 1 Almost Effortless Weight Loss Tip

<Dec. ‘07>

[My original catchy title for this essay: "Mothers from Hell, Fathers from Hell, & One Almost Effortless Weight Loss Tip." - too long, so I've had to shorten it!]

Like so many of us on the planet, I had a “father from Hell.” I’ve spent more than a little time in my life thinking about how rotten he was and how much damage he did to me, my mother, my brothers and sister and then also, Heaven help us all, to his second and third wives, step-children, and my half-sister.

Fortunately, a few years ago, I managed to put together in written form an item in which I enumerated the gifts my father had (inadvertently) given me. It was surprisingly long, and I have to say that thinking it up and writing about it was an exercise that helped give me a slightly different take on the nature of parents and parenthood. Hmm. And personhood, I suppose you might say…

I suppose to be fully truthful here, I must also add that the gutwrenching experience of going through a divorce has helped me to … soften up … and be readier for some of these amazing and powerful “letting go” abilities I seem to have picked up in middle age. Then too, while getting counselling around the time of the marriage break-up, I learned some things about my father that helped me grasp that there were reasons why he was the way he was. He had not come out of nowhere… None of us do, hmmm?

For the past year or so, one of the recurring themes in my life has been mothers from Hell. There appear to be quite a few of them.

Now, I do a lot of reading (really a lot!), and plenty of writing too (these are among the “gifts” from my father, who loved to read and always had plenty of good books around).

I also take full advantage of self-help, personal growth experiences such as the Landmark Forum and the Art of Living courses – both of which I highly endorse and am convinced pretty much everyone I know could derive considerable benefit from (the former with one or two qualifications; I’ve written about the Landmark Forum, so you can read about my experiences with it).

One of the gems from the Art of Living courses was this:

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is a choice.” (1)

Chew on that one for a moment, Gentle Reader…

Our parents (and/or our spouses and/or our employers, in some cases) have the potential to mess us up quite a bit.

It’s up to us (as adults) – to stop the abuse – which in so many cases is really mental self-abuse…

We re-play and re-play endlessly our nasty childhood tapes/memories and/or more current negative “scripts” – wallowing in self-pity and self-flagellation, and revelling in our own victim-hood.

Ugh. Whatever turns us on, hmmm??

Wonderfully wise, witty and inspiring writer Anne Lamott had a character in one of her novels say, “Holding onto a resentment is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” (2)

This is so brilliant. It is so true!!

Well…

There are large and unprecedented developments taking place on Planet Earth these days (only a slight understatement, hmm?).

Our helping (and healing) energies and efforts are sorely needed.

Get thee to a bookstore (or library) and start reading Eckhart Tolle, would you? The Power of NowA Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment and A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose – will blow you right away.(3) In the best possible ways…

I mean it.

Change begins where YOU are.(4)I mean that too.

Enough for now…

********

Yikes! I almost forgot the almost-effortless weight loss tip!! Here it is:

Start being honest and forthright with someone (or even better, everyone!). Start talking. Start telling the truth. Women have long known that conversation with a woman friend can mean the difference between craziness and sanity – between drowning and being brought safely back onto shore.

Men need to learn this too.

Talk – talk – talk. Tell some truths.(5)

And come away feeling 10 pounds lighter.

I mean it…

Janet

P.S. I do highly recommend the book Becoming the Kind Father – A Son’s Journey, by Calvin Sandborn (New Society Publishers, 2007) for all men, women, mature children interested in understanding patriarchy and its long and nasty legacy, and any other creatures capable of reading books (have I left anyone out??). I think it is a very, very important book for all of us to read….


(1) There is an essay with that title on this blog, too.

(2) Crooked Little Heart, Anne Lamott, Anchor, 1998.

(3) Whatever your religious faith – or utter lack thereof… A New Earth is the more recent book of the two, and perhaps the better to start with…

(4) Also emphasized in one of the Art of Living courses…

(5) Do be a wee bit discriminating about those to whom you spill your guts; not every single person on the planet is equally well-intentioned. Tons of us can be trusted! Just not every single darn one… Your own guts will give you good guidance…

What We Focus On, Expands…

<Sept. 2006>

I’ve had an “Aha!” moment this morning, and I want to pass it on, because I think it’s potentially pretty useful.

In a workshop I attended a couple of years ago, the powerhouse of a woman who was leading it said casually, “What we focus on, expands.”

I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’ve written about it elsewhere, but somehow, this morning, I feel as though I REALLY got it…finally…right in my guts. We can grasp things in an intellectual sort of way, but until they grab us by the entrails, as it were, we don’t really “get” them, do we?

It’s largely a timing issue, no doubt. It’s clicking for me in a big way right now because of the books I’ve been reading (The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness, by Pema Chödrön; Loving What Is, by Byron Katie and If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland) and because of a little (or, perhaps, not-so-little) tailspin my boyfriend and I are caught up in right now. Also, because of something my daughter and I talked about yesterday, and a letter I wrote to someone else recently.

Generally – about 99% of the time – I am probably the happiest person you’re liable to meet. I’m able to take joy from small things other people don’t even seem to notice (the sky, the clouds, the birds, squirrels and chipmunks, the rocks, the trees, the river…). I worry some, but my mind does not default to worry and stress and fuss, the way it seems to for so many people. Of course, there is my daily (almost daily) active practice of gratitude that pretty much turned my head (and life) around when I decided to stop focusing on what I did not have in my life (what I had lost) and worked at regularly enumerating the many things I do have and need to be thankful for (this was truly life-changing – transformative – for me!).

What I discovered when I began to do this was that, slowly but surely, my attitude began to shift away from, “Oh, poor me” to “Oh my goodness – what an incredibly fortunate woman I am!”

The way I now conceive of it is that, if I choose to fill my head with positive thoughts, the negative ones get squeezed out due to a simple insufficiency of space.

So, 99% of the time, I am happy – energetic – joyful – content – cheerful. People seem to enjoy being around me, and this delights me to no end. I think it’s because I have a (mostly) positive and cheerful attitude. It must also be mentioned that I’m an Aries person. We are said to be “the infants of the zodiac.” Some of my naiveté and cheerfulness and friendliness and energy and ability to “live in the moment” are 100% natural to me – just plain inborn. Grace. Lucky me!!

Back to what we focus on…

I can look back in my life now, and see times when I was clearly focusing quite a good deal on negative thoughts. During my days in the correctional business, for example, cynicism and suspicion were, perhaps not too surprisingly, pretty big players. During the first few years of learning about the depth of the environmental crisis, anger became paramount. Of course, emotions are complicated critters; sometimes we start with one and before you can say “Jack Robinson,” it has quickly morphed into another. Pain or disappointment or worry or hurt or resentment can turn very quickly into anger, for example. Say your child or spouse is really late getting home, and you’re worried sick. S/he arrives, and you explode in anger. Worry transformed into anger, lickety-split!

After a marriage goes belly-up on us, especially when one is the “dumpee,” we can certainly almost lose ourselves and drown in these negative emotions and thoughts. We can be sucked into a spiral of pain and sadness and despair and self-recrimination, and wind up feeling (and acting) as though our self-esteem were in the toilet. Been there!

What we focus on, expands.

I’ve also grasped recently that anger has a tendency to recycle itself. When I keep anger and resentments bottled up inside me, they keep on expanding and growing and fuelling themselves (and me) in a surprisingly persistent fashion. I once saw at fairly close range how truly deadly repressed rage can be; had an extreme case of witnessing how literally murderous it can be. Not a pretty story, that one…

But here is what my “Aha!” moment was about this morning. The boyfriend and I have this tempest in a teapot going. I feel as though he has mistreated me. No doubt he believes I have mistreated him. Familiar scenario, anyone??

So I wallow in my own feelings of resentment. Pretty soon, I’ve dredged up other, older past hurts, and my current case of resentment gradually expands. Instead of this being a relatively minor incident, it grows and grows and has pretty soon ballooned to ridiculous proportions. Now I’ve become absurd…even to myself!

Here is another neat insight (I think). When I was in Malaysia a few years ago, I stayed in a luxury hotel with a huge, impressive lobby large enough to park a couple of Mack trucks in. There was a front entrance – but no door. The place was wide open, 24/7. There was no back door, either. I was told this was because the building could better weather severe storms that way. The pressure wouldn’t build up inside and cause an imbalance that would lead to an explosion (or implosion).

I suspect we human beings are constructed in much the same way. If we keep ourselves opened up, the storms can blow right through us and be gone. Dissipated. Vamooshed.

If, on the other hand, we hunker ourselves down and don’t let things pass through us and be gone; if we hold tight and solid and firm and very determined to hang onto our hurts and pain and losses and resentments, the storms rage on inside us. On and on and on, like pus from a wound that needs to be lanced. We poison ourselves from the in-side out.

Ugh.

We human beings are certainly complicated critters! We all of us have childhood baggage we seem to hold onto for dear life. We guard it jealously (though perhaps mostly unconsciously). Not-nice things we experienced as children that caused us to adopt an “Oops – time to hunker down!” stance.

It served us well as children. It got us through!

But it doesn’t really serve us so very well now, does it?

I do believe hormonal activity plays a significant role in our lives as well. PMS, perimenopause and menopause throw real curves at us. I’m convinced that fluctuating levels of hormones inside us contribute to women’s (sometimes disturbing) internal mood swings (and thus, of course, the Pill can really play havoc with our emotional thermostats, since it’s all about manipulating our body’s hormones).

It’s a complicated life, hmmm?

I think there’s a need for each one of us to “connect the dots.” Our own personal dots. When we learn to understand our own internal workings a bit better, the world outside us simultaneously becomes easier to fathom as well.

As Gloria Steinem and the 1970’s-era feminists famously used to say, “The personal is political.”

It is not an accident, not a coincidence, that at this time when the outer world is a mess and pretty much falling apart around our ears, our families and marriages and relationships are doing the same. Not a coincidence that rates of depression and alcoholism are skyrocketing at this time.

What we focus on, expands.

If we want to transform the world (surely all of us do?), we have to start by transforming ourselves. We need to learn to tone down the inner workings of that ridiculous “drunken money” inside our heads (meditation helps a lot with that, so I’m told).

Because if we focus on negativity, judgment (of ourselves and others), resentment, pain, anger, loneliness, despair, and rage – well, they will surely expand to fill us right up!

If we turn our gaze instead in a positive direction – toward gratitude and appreciation of what a beautiful Earth/world we live in, and the amazing qualities of the human spirit (resourcefulness, indomitability, strength, resilience, courage, creativity, love, energy, generosity) – we transform both ourselves and the world around us.

It’s our choice! Focus on negativity, nurse resentments and grudges, judge everyone around us (including ourselves) harshly and continuously, immerse ourselves in daily doses of all the world’s “bad” news, or…

Begin focusing on gratitude and beauty and joy and what we amazing human beings are capable of when we set our hearts, minds and spirits to it…

You don’t have to take my word on this, of course, but you might want to give it at least a moment’s thought. I am one of the happiest people I know, and although I earn less money than almost anyone among my rather wide acquaintance, I often think to myself that I am the wealthiest woman in the world.

Not such a bad way to go through the days and weeks, hmmm?

Janet

P.S. There are some practices, habits and books that have really helped me a lot. I recommend all of them.

# 1. Frequent, preferably daily, walks. Frequent attendance at beautiful places such as, in my case, the Ottawa River (but the Earth is beautiful quite abundantly. Wherever you live is no doubt beautiful in its own unique way).

# 2. Attendance at a Landmark Forum. I found the one I went to a year ago very worthwhile. It was somewhat expensive ($500 for the weekend; three full, exhausting, inspiring and worthwhile days of learning and personal insights), but I figure I’m worth it. So are you! (see recent posting on this topic.)

# 3. Books. Books, books, books, books, books. I am a serious readaholic…

* anything by Pema Chödrön

* Loving What Is – Four questions that can change your life, by Byron Katie

* The Hidden Messages in Water, by Dr. Masaru Emoto

* If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland (especially if you want to write, but even if you don’t!)

# 4. I don’t watch TV or read newspapers. I catch all the necessary bad news I really absolutely require from occasional Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio listening (the CBC, btw, is one of Canada’s really grand treasures).

# 5. I find Buddhist thought very, very interesting, challenging and useful.

# 6. I’ve been learning – partly as a result of the aforementioned Landmark Forum, and partly due to my exposure to Buddhist thought – to remind myself often: “It is what it is.” This phrase is a remarkably sanity-inducing one, and I use it often. When there are stubborn circumstances that frustrate, annoy or infuriate us, and if we cannot change them, let us just sigh, perhaps, and say, “It is what it is,” and then get on about our business. Not much point in letting everything drive us crazy, is there?

# 7. I often belt out songs while working in the kitchen. Pretty tough to remain unhappy for very long, while singing, hmm?

Landmark Experience

<drafted in October 2005>

It's 3½ years ago now (i.e., Oct. 2005) that I took part in a Landmark Forum weekend. This was a very memorable and, I’d have to say, even life-changing experience.

It was inspiring – enlightening – exhilarating – powerful – emotional – draining – empowering – & transformational!

While there, I gained some major insights about human nature & human society, & also about my own life, shortcomings & unfortunate tendencies.

The language of the Landmark Forum (LMF from here on in) is that we are each “whole, complete & perfect” – a most affirming concept; a valuable, empowering, wonderful, generous concept. One that many of us are able to grasp (if at all) only in an intellectual sort of way. Down in our guts, it probably feels pretty un-graspable for most of us, I suspect…

Importantly, the language of the LMF is not about fixing. However much we may feel broken, we are assured that we are whole, complete & perfect, & that the LMF is not about fixing ourselves (or anyone else!) – it’s about transformation.

Other key LMF terms are authenticity (we learn that many of our relationships have been inauthentic) – possibility (we learn that when we begin to behave authentically, we create possibility) – & integrity.

The LMF weekend is constructed as a series of conversations. The leader has her/his pieces of curriculum to cover (& it’s fairly powerful stuff!) – but much of the real gut-level learning comes from listening to people at the microphones talk about the experiences & lessons of their own lives.

It’s a very emotional weekend. Sometimes the people at the microphone cry; very often those listening cry as well, as I did on more than one occasion.

A key piece of learning that emerges is that all of us have been hurt in our lives – & that, while the circumstances vary widely, the hurts – the emotions – are very, very similar (or the same) from one person to another.(1)

What an amazing (& transformational!) experience to learn that not only is none of us alone (although we sometimes feel that way), we are all in good company – in very, very abundant company – as human beings who have been damaged or hurt.

I ought to point out that not everyone in attendance at a LMF weekend does choose to get up to the microphone – that’s a choice not everyone makes. Some of us (myself among them) learned from the experience that there are some of us who may sometimes need to do a little more listening & a little less talking…a bit of a paradox, in that the power of the LMF is in the magic of listening to & participating in conversation. The power of conversation is very much a strong feature in the LMF…

Another powerful lesson for me during the LMF weekend was that not everything that happens is all about me. This was a huge opportunity & lesson for me. I learned it as the result of a rather negative or charged dynamic that seemed to have sprung up between the LMF leader & me.

This woman seemed to turn a “disapproving mother” face on me, for some reason. I had evidently said something to her that offended her, & for the rest of the weekend she was impatient & curt with me. This was a bit of a challenge for me to deal with, but I got quiet with it, said to myself “Hmm. This feels really, really, really uncomfortable. I wonder, what am I meant to get from this experience?"

What I learned was very valuable. I realized that the “Disapproving Mother” face the leader kept turning on me is probably the very same face I have turned on some of the important people in my own life – & that it sure as heck can’t be a whole lot of fun for them, either!

What I gained from this was a very powerful lesson about mirroring. This woman held up a mirror for me & helped me see something I very much needed to see. It made relating with her pretty awkward – pretty uncomfortable – but hooey! – did it ever teach me an important lesson! This in itself is, I think, a pretty important lesson for all of us. The people in our lives do hold up mirrors for us. If we’re too afraid to look into them, we 'll miss grasping things we'd do well to grasp.(2)

One very key lesson we learned during the LMF weekend is that a lot of what we do in our lives is really a reaction to events that took place a very, very long time ago – that whatever it was that took place, we created a story about it, & we have lived our lives as a reaction to that story we constructed decades & decades ago. In doing so, most of us have robbed ourselves of a great deal of energy, vitality & possibility.(3)

Possibility is a word that comes up a lot in the LMF. “Rackets” & “strong suits” are also discussed. We’ve all created “rackets” that we play out endlessly. For example, a lot of us who were damaged by the behaviour of our parents have learned to play the “Look – see how strong I am now!” game in reaction to our life circumstances. This one has been a significant one in my own life, I reckon. Other ones I can think of are the martyr & the “Oh poor me” victim racket. Plenty of us are caught up in these – or our parents were, & many of us have created our own roles & rackets in reaction to their rackets.

A unique element of the LMF weekend is the frequent exhorting of participants to make contact with family members/loved ones, to begin the work of being authentic with them – then reporting back to the group. (When I attended, there were about 135 in the group, &, as I say, not all went up to the mikes. Too, some folks dropped out as the weekend proceeded; for some, perhaps, LMF methods are not quite their “cup of tea.”)

Creating authentic relationships in the present is a way we can put the past back into the past, where it belongs, & eliminate the endless dramas many of us choose to create in our lives from day to day. This creates vitality & possibility, & who among us can say they don’t want a piece of that? It’s about creating the kind of life we want to live now –  moving into a future of possibility, & not living so much out of our past that we create a present & future that are virtually repeat performances of our now-distant (& not always very pleasant) past.

Another teaching of the LMF is that, when we live out of our past, we tend, among other things, to “make people wrong” – something I know I’ve done plenty – & see many people around me doing also – so reflexively that they are perhaps not even aware they're doing it.

At one point in the LMF weekend, our facilitator led a meditation in which she asked us to confront our fear. I have no way of knowing what others saw or experienced during this meditation – I know that it was a moving & powerful & emotional experience for me. I re-visited a childhood incident – & then recalled a rather significant dream I’d had just before the LMF weekend. What I realized was that some of the fear I experienced in childhood had led me to circumscribe my own potential as an adult – & that, 40 or 50 years later, it is surely past time to drop that ancient fear!

There are some other key, highly useful learnings in the LMF. I can honestly say I can’t think of a single person I know who would not benefit from the LMF experience!

I think far too many of us drag around baggage, wounds & experiences from our childhoods into our day-to-day lives – ancient hurts & grudges, resentments & pain – that hobble our present & our future. Most of us live our lives out of an old, old story that is not merely terribly out-of-date, but also highly unhelpful to us as we attempt to live now. It’s kind of like trying to drive a car down the highway while never facing forward – always relying on the view in the rearview mirror. This way of living limits not only our own selves, but also our relations with the people we love the most.

For me personally, the three LMF days taught me some very useful & practical concepts that opened up for me distinct hope for possibility in my relationships – as well as helping me understand better how so many of us limit ourselves as individuals, & even how we limit ourselves as a species. Real personal & life transformation can & do emerge for some of us as the result of a LMF experience.

In my case, a friend who’d “done” the LMF weekend had offered to pay my way for me (I was in a pretty unstable financial situation at the time). She was convinced that I am “worth it” – & I agree. I am worth it.

I think you are too. We all are. I also know that transformations of a variety of kinds are very much needed here on Planet Earth, at this unique time in human history.

Ask yourself this: what do you have to lose?

Janet

P.S. This is not the only kind of powerful emotional learning experience I’ve had. I’ve also taken part in one-on-one counselling on several occasions. As well, I’ve attended other kinds of workshops. I recommend all of these, including the Art of Living courses & the couples’ workshop on ‘The Dance of Wounds in Couples’ Relationships’ that I attended at Serenity Renewal in Ottawa. Each of these has helped me gain insights for which I’m very grateful. I’m pretty convinced our personal growth is meant to be a lifelong process. These days, I'm reading, re-reading & re-reading yet again, Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose – & also listening (over & over) to his audio CD’s (gaining new insights each time!). This is a very, very challenging world we live in, & it’s also a uniquely challenging time in the history of our species. I think most of us need all the help we can get!?

P.P.S. The posts 'Looking Good' & 'Looking Stupid' may be of interest, since both arose out of musings about LMF concepts.

(1) This was reinforced for me at another weekend workshop I attended – ‘The Dance of Wounds in Couples’ Relationships’. One key emotion I’ve come to think is universal is a sense of abandonment. Many of us have experienced emotional or literal abandonment in any one of a number of possible ways. Our experiences vary widely, but our emotions are very much shared… Feeling abandoned leaves us feeling lonely – scared – unsafe – & alienated. I suspect every human being on the planet has felt abandonment deep in her/his guts at one time or another. It is not a sensation we want to feel often…

(2) I do feel the LMF leader’s behaviour toward me was inappropriate & unprofessional, & it made me sad to think how this tendency on her part (I was not the only one who seemed to meet with her disapproval) probably really did a number on anyone who had actually grown up with a disapproving mother & who was struggling with self-esteem issues as a result. I wrote her a lengthy letter after the weekend to tell her of my thoughts. Like so many things in life, negative situations can lead to great learning. I wish she hadn’t behaved this way…and yet, happily, I was able to gain quite a lot from it.

(3) Of course more recently, many of us have heard much the same kind of message from the inspiring & amazing Eckhart Tolle & his books, CD’s & Webcasts with Oprah….

Ditching the 2 x 4’s…

<August 2007>

A lot of us seem to understand these days that a new era is coming. We know that our personal lives seem less and less “under control” – that big forces are at work in the Universe, on the Earth, and in our personal lives. (Plenty of people don’t seem to realize any of this stuff, too, of course, but these folks are not liable to be reading any of the things I write about anyway, hmmm?)

As we get older (I’m 54 as I write this), we seem to have to “get” the lesson that we are able to “control” very little in our lives – much less than we once supposed – although a lot or perhaps most of us sure do try very hard to control all kinds of things!

“Letting go” is a concept, then, that most of us seem to have to learn to grasp – only if we want to lead reasonably contented lives, of course! If we’re prepared to live with endless, daily, constant frustration and anxiety because everyone around us drives us crazy with everything they say and do and their utter unwillingness to do, say and think precisely what we want them to do, think and say, more power to us!

Me, I like to be happy on a more or less continual basis, so I’ve worked a fair bit at learning to “let go.” I’m no expert at it or anything; like everyone, I sometimes get irritated with a variety of people’s attitudes & behaviour & with lots of the stupid stuff (and worse!) that goes on on the planet. I just do my best not to let it get the better of me (after all, what we focus on, expands. What do we want to have expanding inside us?).

It may be helpful too if I admit to the fact that I’ve spent my fair share of time in this life trying to run things – control things – more than was healthy for me (or, no doubt, for the people around me!)(1) As a long-time environmental activist, I will always find plenty of what takes place here on Planet Earth not merely irritating, but sometimes crazy-making to the point of occasional near-despair! (2)

But life events have conspired to make me realize I am not the Great Big Boss of the Whole Darn Show – or even often, seemingly, of my own!?

I’ve become grateful for the lessons I’ve learned in this regard, although some of them were mighty painful ones (did I say painful? Gutwrenching would be a little more like it…).

Lately, the way I see it is that most of us seem to be born with a bunch of 2 x 4’s rammed up our rear ends. I think our life lessons are really mostly about the work of getting the durn things out.

Some of us have more than others, of course. Some of us seem to have a whole fleet of them!

And I have compassion for such people. Plenty of compassion, because I think it’s very hard (impossible?) for these people to be happy very much of the time.(3)

I want to come up with some words of wisdom on the 2 x 4 extraction process – and I know I can’t very well recommend that everyone get thrown against a wall or have her life blow up in her face (these are the very kinds of things that often break the 2 x 4’s down, so they begin to dissolve and fall out, of course).

I can leave you with a couple of great sayings that might help, and a book recommendation.

Anne Lamott had a character in her novel Crooked Little Heart say, “Holding onto a resentment is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”(4) Holding onto resentments is one of the ways we keep our 2 x 4’s firmly embedded (not to mention making us at least a little crazy, and maybe even sick!).

Julia Butterfly Hill has a lovely prayer: “When I pray, I ask for guidance in my life to be the best person I can be, to learn what I need to learn, and to grow from what I learn. Always when I pray, I ask to let go. Letting go is the hardest part.” (5)

And there is a quite lovely book called the Little book of Letting go – a revolutionary 30-day program to Cleanse your Mind, Lift your Spirit and Replenish your Soul, by Hugh Prather, that I also recommend…(6)

I’ve also taken part in two personal growth experiences that gave me some great personal insights:

The Art of Living – Powerful exercises (involving yoga and a breathing technique, but not limited to these) that give us insights and lessons about how to live our lives more joyfully. Level 1 left me feeling as though my emotional innards had been scrubbed clean. A very good friend of mine told me that when she took Level 1, many years ago now, she felt some serious old childhood crud fall right off her, and that the experience definitely changed her life. Gotta love that! www.artofliving.ca

Landmark Forum – I attended a LMF weekend several years ago & feel it helped me gain quite a few insights about myself & about the world. http://www.landmarkeducation.com/section.jsp?top=21 Landmark is rather controversial. It’s not everyone’s "cup of tea," for sure. You can read about my LMF experience here

I can’t think of a single person I know, by the way, who would not benefit from either or both of these powerful personal growth opportunities. In the Landmark Forum there is an anti-spiritual bias that I find puzzling, offensive and wholly unnecessary; however, I believe in mining every experience I have for its value, and given how much I’ve gained from both Art of Living and Landmark Forum workshops, am happy to give them both thumbs up!

2 x 4 extraction is, I suspect, a lifelong process. I like to think I’ve shed a few of my own big ones along the way – and I’m here to tell you, life is a good deal more comfortable and fun, the fewer of the darn things there are stuffed up back there. Lighter, more open, free-er, more joyful… What’s not to like about that, I ask you, hmmm?

Janet

P.S. The essay ‘Ditching the Poverty Mentality’ covers some ground that may also be of interest.


(1) Just ask my ex-husband and children!

(2) I will also confess that I occasionally get so “low” that I take a day off; I have what I call a “bed day” (not a bad day, a bed day). Generally, after a bed day, I cheer up and get my “can do” energy back…

(3) I’m also very well aware that the 2 x 4’s wind up there for a reason. So many of us had such difficult childhoods, and difficult childhoods are fertile 2 x 4 creators, hmm?

(4) Crooked Little Heart, Anne Lamott, Anchor, 1998.

(5) The Legacy of Luna The Story of a Tree, A Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods, July Butterfly Hill, HarperSanFranciso, 2000.

(6) The Little Book of Letting Go – a revolutionary 30-day program to cleanse your mind, lift your spirit and replenish your soul, Hugh Prather, Conari Press, 2000.

Ditching the Poverty Mentality

<July 2008>

I’m pretty convinced that most...or at least a very very large number of human beings...live their entire lives stuck deep inside a “poverty mentality.”

We think, focus on & obsess over what we don’t have – what we’ve lost, think we can’t do, don’t have, or can’t afford.

Is it not so??

I must hasten to add that this disease (for surely it is a disease, & it is epidemic) afflicts the materially well-off every bit as much as it does the financially poorly off. I once heard that Bill Gates – the richest man in the world, is he not? – when asked if he had enough money, replied “Not quite.” If that is not some kind of illness, I don’t know what is

I’ve met people with lots of money who are every bit as deeply mired in the poverty mentality as the folks I know who have very little of it indeed.

So, the poverty mentality is really a mindset (or attitude) then, & mindsets and attitudes can be changed. We are each in charge of our own attitudes & mindset (are we not? If not, then who is??) – & therefore, if we genuinely want to “ditch” the poverty mentality, this is quite clearly our own choice.

Perhaps personal examples speak the loudest, so I’ll share some of my own experiences in this regard:

I was born into what I now see in retrospect was a family of some privilege. (1)  My father was an airline pilot & made a pretty hefty salary. We lived in a big house on a nice lake (polluted, but I digress) & we belonged to both the local Yacht & Golf & Country Clubs.

However, there was a distinct, continual attitude of lack that pervaded the atmosphere in our home. We lived “on the cheap” compared to the other airline families in our social circle (my father lost an awful lot of money on bad investments), & I learned early & well the important lesson that money really does not bring happiness.

This lesson picked up in childhood has served me rather well in life, I must say. I live on less income (by a very, very long shot) than most folks I know, yet I also feel rich (many folks I know, who have lots & lots more money & "security," certainly don’t seem to…).

The poverty mentality is a stubborn little critter, though, & it does rear its ugly little head from time to time, still (as in, this morning, when I was paying bills & juggling money. I do have to have stern little chats with myself at such times, to remind myself not to get bent out of shape over ridiculous, petty nonsense. These stern little chats can be most helpful on this score – & on others I could mention).

What I wish I could get across to people in a really crystal-clear way is that wealth has nothing whatsoever to do with money, & that an abundant life is a possibility for each & every one of us.

It’s a choice.

My life is rich & abundant because I focus on gratitude, “follow my bliss,” have gobs of great people in my life, do lots of challenging & rewarding work (most of it unpaid) that I love doing & feel appreciated for, have a deep appreciation & love for our beautiful Earth, sing & walk often, & hang out with others who see the world in much the ways I do.

The people I hang out with & enjoy the most focus on possibilities – not limitations. We focus on what we have – & what we can do and be and achieve – not on what is impossible, unattainable or un-doable.

I think human life on this planet – for the past 10,000 years, anyway – has been a fear-based exercise in trying to control this, that & the other thing – when in fact, if we loosen up & open up & recognize that we are not in fact in control, but do have access to enormous power (of a positive nature) – all things become possible.

I’ve had a lot of excellent help along the way, of course, to help bring me to these realizations. Inspiring books, great friends, fantastic conversations, challenging life experiences and some very helpful workshops.(2)

Life is not meant to be about hogging & hoarding & controlling – at least I’m utterly convinced of this.

I think it’s about generosity & compassion & caring about others & the Earth – & a deep, deep inner faith & conviction that it’s a wildly abundant Universe that actually appears to be constructed in such a way that we can indeed receive what we really desire – unless we’re all tied up in knots inside that darn poverty mentality that insists we cannot have what we really want. (3)

I do know that the more generous I am as I go about my days – with my insights, energy, work, money & ideas – the more I receive. I could tell some amazing stories about the generosity shown to me by my friends, that frequently blows me right out of the water (perhaps I’ll do so elsewhere; this essay is long enough already!).

I hope more of us begin doing our very, very best to learn to ditch the poverty mentality – to focus on gratitude & possibilities. I think we’ll soon be astonished at the miracles both large & small we’ll begin to see happening around us!

Janet

p.s. The essay ‘Ditching the 2 x 4’s’ covers some ground that may also be of interest.

 

A Few Relevant Quotations:

“Wealth is something you acquire so you can share it, not keep it.” LaDonna Harris

“The miracle is this – the more we share, the more we have.” Leonard Nimoy

“The real measure of our wealth is how much we would be worth if we lost all our money.” – The River of Life

“Your wealth is where your friends are.” – Plato

“We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.” – Thomas Berry in The Great Work – Our Way into the Future

“The universe oozes with power, waiting for anyone who wishes to embrace it.” – mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme, author of The Universe is a Green Dragon, quoted in Matthew Fox’s The Coming of the Cosmic Christ – The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? … We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” – Margaret Young, quoted in Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Abundance is not something we acquire. It’s something we tune into.” – Wayne Dyer

“The miracle is this – the more we share, the more we have.” – Leonard Nimoy 

** Gratitude-related quotes & postings here 


(1)  Privilege is a relative term. Compared to many families, mine was not so terribly privileged. For sure, we did have baby blankets to come home in from the hospital, when we were born. A recent story in my small town newspaper tells of a local Rotary project to collect baby blankets for babies born to South American families who don’t have enough money to buy any, and who must take their babies home wrapped in newspaper. This story can help us begin to get a bit of a grip, I hope, on the meaning of the word privilege. I also love to quote Irish poet, philosopher & former priest John O’Donoghue, who said, “We are privileged, and the duty of privilege is absolute integrity.”

(2)  E.g., both the Landmark Forum & the Art of Living have helped me greatly. So have counsellors & other workshops & things... The blog post '3 Great Opportunities for Personal Growth' speaks to some of these experiences.

(3)  I also suspect quite strongly that our desires need to be strongly held & well articulated, & I at least have a strong wish that they must also be of a positive & not wholly selfish nature…

 

Looking Good!

<October 2006>

About a year ago now, I attended a Landmark Forum weekend at which those of us in attendance were encouraged to articulate what we see as the central underlying or organizing principle of our lives (& those of everyone we know).

After we all hemmed & hawed & beat around the bush for quite some time, our fearless leader said two words: looking good.

Ka-boom!

So much of what we spend our lives engaged in is really an endless attempt at “looking good.” Is it not so??

Oh, of course we do all kinds of wonderful, worthwhile, laudable, lovely & necessary things too. We do great jobs & are devoted parents & we do great socially-minded projects.

But at bottom, the single major preoccupation of most of us in western civilization is “looking good.” Our houses & cars, our clothes & vacations, our yards, & certainly our public face is mostly about “looking good.”

Madison Avenue (by which I mean the advertising business) realized this decades ago. Advertising & television & media in general have spent decades making a bazillion dollars out of pushing product – all of it designed to make us … look good.

The way we dress, the make-up we wear, the obsessive zeal with which we look after those “perfect” lawns & houses – the way we go around in society, always asking “How are you?” & answering “Good thanks…and you?” – we are all very, very busy doing our best to hide – & hide from – those dysfunctional childhoods & families & our (often) currently dysfunctional relationships…& world…

And our pain & our loss & our loneliness & the deep, deep holes inside us, & our gnawing homelessness (yes, I believe many of us who have very comfy homes do indeed feel somewhat homeless…).

We live in a world that worships style over substance – appearance over reality – & by the time we are…hmmm….about seven years old or so? – we’ve grasped that the really big game here on Planet Earth is “Looking Good.”

So we work hard at it. Very hard…

Most of us are pretty good at the game; some of us are experts! We certainly all look up to those celebrities & sports figures & Big Business types who seem to have it all together; after all, they have lots of money & for sure they…look good.

“Looking good” can hide a multitude of sins: sadness, broken hearts, pain, loss & loneliness.

But we don’t really want to know what’s underneath; it’s only the packaging that matters.

Don’t take my word on this. Think about it. Poke & prod at it & see what it yields up for you.

Think too about the kind of world we might be living in if we could all begin to re-direct all that energy we expend on “looking good” into pursuits such as being good – being strong, & resourceful, & helping others, & maybe even “changing the world” (which means changing ourselves as well, of course).

There is magic all around us – we human beings truly are capable of quite amazing feats! But when we spend all of our energy & time on money-related pursuits that are really aimed primarily at making us “look good,” the magic is not so very easy to invoke...

Janet

p.s. If you don’t think you’re one of those people who is obsessed with “looking good,” could be you’re right. But muse on the way most of us spend buckets of money on clothes that are, frankly, mostly about “looking good.” Hairdos. Women (& men) not wearing hats when it’s 30 degrees below zero (for one small example). What are these things about, if not trying really hard to “look good”? There’s also the way we are all so afraid of being caught making a mistake, & “looking stupid.” Why are we so afraid to look stupid? Because if we look stupid, we’re not “looking good”…