Sunday, January 29, 2017

How to Be a Hero: Lesson 2

You've gotta care! Yes, I know you care about people who need. But the thing is, you've got to care enough to actually take action to meet the need. That's not as easy as it would seem.

Think about this: Near where I live there is a park that has a shallow fish pond that is about the size of a small swimming pool. But it is not inviting for swimming as it has muddy bottom strewn with leaves and stuff. And there are a lot of fish there. It is intended for a fishing pond for children, where they can fish without a license if they are under a certain age. 

Nearby is the playground and the playground equipment - swings, sandbox, etc. And there are benches there for the grownups to watch the children play. The fish pond is also surrounded by benches here and there where grownups often stop to chat or read in the green space of the park.

Imagine this day you are walking in the park, taking a shortcut to your destination. You have on new walking shoes and a new sweat suit and are rather in a hurry because you are running late. So the shortcut through that end of the park will save you time. All the kids and grownups are at the playground and there don't seem to be any folks by the pond - except a toddler fascinated by the fish. 

As you hurry across to the edge of the park you hear a splash and turn to see the toddler in the pond and unable to get any footing on the muddy bottom. The child is under the water and no one is around but you. 

The question is, would you go into the pond to save the child? You are thinking as you read this,"of course I would." But your new shoes and sweat pants will be ruined. "No matter", you are thinking. I'd get the child out of there." 

At that moment you care more about the child than you do about your new clothes/shoes. After all, the clothes and shoes are replaceable. You didn't even hesitate to act in this case. You cared.

Now, think of this: More than eighteen thousand children die of hunger everyday. That is 18,000 children! Would it be worth the cost of your shoes and sweat pants to save a few of them? Why is your response to them different from your response to the child in the pond?

I know you are a caring person who probably supports some charitable efforts. Americans are, you know. According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, in 2008, found that between 1995 - 2002 the American people gave 2.2 percent of the gross national income to charity. This is more than any other country. The USA is also the richest country, so most of us could afford to do even more. So why don't we? 

Perhaps it is because we don't (or won't) see the needs with our own eyes. Maybe because we perceive so many of our wants as needs and tell ourselves we can't afford to give more. Maybe because we are busy people and think we don't have time to do anything. Maybe because we just have so many things to think about that we don't often think about helping others. Maybe you can tell me why more people don't give more. I'm really curious, so if you have ideas please share them with me.

Of course, hunger isn't the only need in the world. But extreme poverty in a world with so many resources there is no real excuse for anyone in the world to subsist in extreme poverty. We can find solutions if we work together. In Lesson Three we will explore actions that can make you and all of us heroes.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How to Be a Hero: Lesson One

Before you can be heroic you have to see the need. If no one notices that something is wrong, it will never get fixed.

Do you remember the case a year or so ago of the young women who had been kept in a basement in a house that was surrounded by a neighborhood of houses? These women had been kidnapped as children and kept there for years by their kidnapper. He had chained them at times, locking them in the basement most of the time, and never let them out in the open .  The man who held them as captives had built a fort-like wall around the backyard with parts of it covered so he could take them outside occasionally without being seen. The neighbors didn't realize what was going on. But surely there were signs that it wasn't a normal family. Some, in hindsight, said they thought it kind of odd. But no one was curious enough to check it out.

And there are so many things that go "unseen" in this culture of electronics, fast pace, and "minding your own business." There are people who are clueless about other cultures living in their own geographical area. We keep to ourselves and don't see what is going on outside our own circle.

Much of what we don't see is there to be seen but we don't want to see it. We minimize it, devalue it, ignore it. How many of us don't really look at homeless people on the street? How many of us just don't go where they might be. If they show up in our neighborhood we do what we can to keep them away.

How often do you actually see hunger? Because we have plenty to eat and there are so many grocery stores with so much food it surely can't be in our environment. It must be in some other country. We might see pictures of it on t.v. or in magazines, but not in our neighborhoods. And if we don't see it, it must not be much of a problem, right?

If you aren't a public school teacher in poorer neighborhoods you won't see children who only get one meal a day - the one provided at school. Do you ever think about where those kids might get a meal when there is no school?  Malnourished children do not have the same chance of success as other children. Teachers see them underachieving because these children must use all their energy to  just survive.

When was the last time you knew a child who died of measles? Never? Then measles must not be a problem, right? Or what about malaria? Have you worried that your child might die of one of those diseases?

Do you use the water in your house? Do you know that there are people in our city that have no running water? They can't shower, bathe, or do laundry because the place they are living has no water. It may have been turned off because they couldn't pay the bill. Or it may have just deteriorated so badly that the plumbing can't be used.

I remember a housing inspector for the City tell me about a home he discovered where a mother and several young children lived that had no water in the bathroom. The bathtub was full of urine and feces, the toilet would not flush, the children were filthy, roaches were everywhere. He said that he thought the wallpaper was stained until he saw it move. The roaches were so thick he thought they were part of the wallpaper. Needless to say, he had to condemn the home, even though the family had no money and no where to go.

But if you don't have his job, you'll never see that need. And it will be easy to ignore the fact that people in the same city you live in may be living in such deep, deep poverty.

I've had the opportunity to travel to many parts of our country and am always eager to travel in Indian Country. I travel there as a tourist and see what they want tourists to see - their culture, their crafts, their regalia. But not all Reservations are the same. Some are in such deep poverty that they look like third world countries. The Rose Bud and the Pine Ridge Reservations in S. Dakota were a shock when I was there. Unlike other Reservations we visited, these didn't really have tourist sites. We traveled into the Reservation villages. Desolate. The land given to the Native Americans was, for the most part, wasteland, land the whites didn't want. Very little grows there. The unemployment is so high that there is very little money available to the people. After generations of unemployment and struggle to survive the people have little hope. They sink into alcoholism and drug addiction. Diabetes is rampant throughout. Health care is limited and hard to get to. The suicide rate for teens is extremely high. I continually marvel that these conditions exist in the wealthiest nation in the world!

I find it kind of unbelievable that there are still many people who think Indians live in tipis or wigwams. If you go there you will find houses that are falling apart, some are more like shacks. Many live in trailers out on the prairie where there is no electricity or running water. Many have no transportation and are quite isolated if they don't live in a village.

But if you haven't seen it, seen the poverty with your own eyes or the eyes of someone you trust, you won't know it exists. And even if you are told, you may not believe it could be that bad. And it is easy to forget about it if you haven't seen it yourself.

These are but a few of the situations we often don't see. And because we don't see them, we don't really believe the need is there. We seem to have to "see it to believe it". And how many things do we see but chose to believe we can do nothing about them?

I challenge you to start looking to see the needs in our world. Open your eyes and your mind to be ready for lesson two of how to be a hero. List what you see, so that in later posts we can explore how to be a hero in those situations.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What If You Could Save a Life?

Would you? What would you be willing to do to save the life of a stranger. Would you? Have you?

What have you done to save a life? Think about it. How many lives could you possibly save? How many would you want to save?

Most of us don't give any thought to saving lives. And if we do, most of us think there's little we could do anyway.

What do you think? I'm curious. When was the last time you thought about saving a life? How often do you wish you could save the life of a stranger?

Please leave comments for this one. It is an important idea. I want to write more about it, and want your thoughts to give me direction.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

100 Posts!

This is the one-hundredth post to my blog. Something to celebrate? I don't know if the blog has made a positive difference in the world, which is the reason for the blog. How I can I know?

I guess I can't know. But that doesn't matter. I will just have faith that someone will read something that means something to them and they use it to improve their life or someone else's life. That is what changes the world for the better.

So in this post I want to explore how to take the peace we create inside ourselves to make peace beyond ourselves. There are a couple of things to keep in mind. One is that to create peace we must act from a position of compassion, of empathy.And the second is that what we say makes a difference.

When there is conflict it is because someone is not getting their needs met. And you may not know what that need is, even if it seems obvious. All to often what is perceived is just a want that comes from an unmet need. For instance, a childless neighbor constantly yells at your kids for making noise when they play outside. You could assume that their need is for silence/quiet. However, if you get to know them and listen to them compassionately, you learn that the wife has had two miscarriages and often suffers with migraines. More than the noise sensitivity of the migraines is the heartache of not having children of their own. Once an empathic relationship is established you can offer the caring friendship that they need. And you might even find that she would like to babysit for you if once in a while when she doesn't have a headache. Over time, you friendship might even help reduce stress that sets her up for migraines. At least you would have a good enough relationship that she can tell you when she has a migraine and you can arrange for something else for the kids to do other than noisy games/activities.

This gets more complicated when it is groups or countries that disagree. But it is possible to approach all kinds of conflicts from this position rather than from an adversarial position. Rather than clashing in conflict we need to work to together to communicate compassion and empathy. It won't always result in you getting your way or even getting them to compromise. But it will work more often and with less damage than be adversaries.

So, remembering that what you say makes a difference, how do you speak peace? In making peace within yourself you had to chance your self-talk, eliminating blaming and shaming and "shoulding". You need to do the same when communicating with others. Pay attention to what you are saying and how you are saying it. This applies to everyone you converse with - your children, your spouse, your extended family, your neighbors, everyone.

Eliminating these keeps you in a place of wholeness, preserves your inner peace, and lowers defensive barriers. Use assertive language - make "I" statements about what you feel and what you want, what you need. "I feel angry when you yell at me" works much better than "Stop yelling at me!"  Assertive language puts everyone on an equal level. No one is one-up or one-down. This is the way that positive change can come about.

Connect with others, knowing that we are all related, that we have more in common than we have differences. Working from those commonalities makes it possible to build peaceful resolution to problems.

Man did not weave the web of life,
he is merely a strand in it.
whatever he does to the web,
he does to himself
All things are bound together.
All things connect.

-- Chief Seattle

And when we fully recognize that all things connect, our decisions - solutions - will be made with the consideration of how it will affect others, affect the environment, affect life in general. This will make true peace, when we each acknowledge and accept our responsibility to the rest of creation.

To learn more about how to speak peace, I recomment the book Speak Peace in a World of Conflict, What You Say Next Will Change Your World, by Marshall B. Rosenbirg, Ph.D.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Making Peace Within

In order to create peace in our world we must create peace within ourselves. That is easier said than done, of course. We live in a culture of hurry and compete and blame and anger and hate and . . Well you know. The secret, of course, is to identify our needs and how those are being met.

But the first thing we can do is to cultivate compassion for ourselves. We've been raised to be self-critical, to measure our worth against that of others, to please others instead of ourselves. So take some time to listen to your self-talk. That can tell us how we are treating the inner self.

When you come up against your own limitations, do you value yourself less? Do you lose respect for yourself because you aren't "more"? Or can you accept that everyone has limitations, that you can make a mistake and use that as a learning experience? What do you say to yourself - or sometimes to others about yourself - when you make a  mistake? Do you make yourself feel guilt or shame rather than step back and look at the experience objectively? How can you be more compassionate toward yourself? Listen to what you tell yourself and imagine someone saying the same thing to your child to shame them. You don't want them talking to your child that way so don't talk to yourself that way.

How often do you judge yourself as "good" or "bad."? And how do you feel when you do it. Do you ever hear yourself saying "I'm a bad parent/friend/spouse" because of some behavior. Look behind that judgement to discover what need wasn't being met by the behavior. Then you can go to the root of the behavior and change it with something that meets your needs. Maybe you "blew up" at your spouse and decide you did it because you are a bad spouse. Instead, identify the need you had that wasn't being met. Perhaps you need help with some chore and transferred that into hurt, anger, or frustration. Acknowledge your need and let yourself express it more clearly. and with less anger.

So you blew up. You feel bad that you did that. Mourn that regret without blame or guilt. There was a good reason that you did it - your need. You have learned from the experience. Let it go and move on.

Don't should on yourself! The word "should" creates unnecessary pain. If you must make a statement like that, exchange the word "should" for "it would be better if". 

"Let us be glad of the dignity of our privilege to make mistakes,glad of the wisdom that enables us to recognize them, glad of the power that permits us the power to turn their light as a glowing illumination long the pathway of our future. Mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom. Without them there would be no individual growth , no progress, not conquest.
---William Jordan

Above all, make peace with past "failures". Mourn them and let them go. Value them for what you learned. Make room inside you for what is joyful and alive. You may have to clean out all those old hurts and guilt and shame to make room for inner peace. And it is worth doing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Know Your Needs and Feelings

So if conflict is a result of a need or want not being met, we need to identify the need and the feeling that supports it so that we can articulate it clearly. Not only do we need a feeling vocabulary but we need to know what our true need is.

I find that all to often what I think is my need turns out to be a want that results from a deeper need. For instance, I'll think "I need him to not interrupt me when I'm talking." But that is what I want him to change. What need underlies it? I need respect and I think it is disrespectful when I don't have the chance to finish what I'm saying. And then I feel angry when that happens.

Marshall B. Rosenbierg, Ph.D., in his book Speak Peace in a World of Conflict* gives us lists of some basic needs and feelings we all have:

Feelings when needs are fulfilled:

  •  Amazed
  • Comfortable
  • Confident
  • Eager
  • Energetic
  • Fulfilled
  • Glad
  • Hopeful
  • Inspired
  • Intrigued
  • Joyous
  • Moved
  • Optimistic
  • Proud
  • Relieved
  • Stimulated
  • Surprised
  • Thankful
  • Touched
  • Trustful

Feelings when needs are not fulfilled:

  • Angry
  • Annoyed
  • Concerned
  • Confused
  • Disappointed
  • Discouraged
  • Distressed
  • Embarrassed
  • Frustrated
  • Helpless
  • Hopeless
  • Impatient
  • Irritated
  • Lonely
  • Nervous
  • Overwhelmed
  • Puzzled
  • Reluctant
  • Sad
  • Uncomfortable

Some Basic Needs We All Have


  • Choosing dreams/goals/values
  • Choosing plans for fulfilling one's dreams, goals, values


  • Celebrating the creation of life and dreams fulfilled
  • Celebrating losses: loved ones, dreams, etc. [mourning]


  • Authenticity
  • Creativity
  • Meaning
  • Self-worth


  • Acceptance
  • Appreciation
  • Closeness
  • Community
  • Consideration
  • Contribution to the enrichment of life
  • Emotional Safety
  • Empathy
  • Honesty [the empowering honesty that enables us to learn from our limitations]
  • Love
  • Reassurance
  • Respect
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Understanding

Physical Nurturance

  • Air
  • Food
  • Movement, exercise
  • Protection from life-threatening forms of life: viruses, bacteria, insects, predatory animals
  • Rest
  • Sexual Expression
  • Shelter
  • Touch
  • Water


  • Fun
  • Laughter

Spiritual Communion

  • Beauty
  • Harmony
  • Inspiration
  • Order
  • Peace
I found these lists to be quite enlightening. When I consider the conflicts I have had with others and acknowledge that there are needs not being met, it makes perfect sense that the feeling generated is anger or some other counter-productive feeling. When I consider the feelings of our culture right now I only need to look at what needs are not being met to understand violence in words and deeds we are witnessing.

If we want to create peace, the place to start is meeting basic needs - ours and others. 

What is your reaction to these lists? 

* Speak Peace in a World of Conflict, what you say next will change your world, by Rosenberg, Marshall B., Ph.D., Puddle Dancer Press, Encinitas, CA, 2005.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Living in Conflict

Since we live in conflict, to create peace we need to resolve conflict peacefully. We don't have to begin with international conflicts, as we have little control over that. To create peace in OUR world, our personal world, can eventually make the biggest change in the larger world.

The best place to begin is inside yourself. When you experience inner conflict, torn between two choices of behavior perhaps, stop and ask yourself what your reason is for each possibility.  Which will be the most compassionate choice. Yes, be compassionate with yourself. To do that you must be able to identify your feelings and to determine where they come from.

You'll need to know yourself. Many do not. Have you taken some time to explore your feelings? Your values? Your needs and wants? So to begin creating inner peace take time to get to know yourself and to develop a vocabulary of feelings.

Bringing about peaceful change begins with working on our own mindsets. We have absorbed so many beliefs and perspectives from other people in our environment. Have you ever taken time to explore where your own beliefs and values came from and how many still fit who you want to be today?

Some beliefs create in us greed and jealousy. We have been educated to think in terms competition with others, of rewards and punishment. We look at others as being good or bad. We need to learn to define behaviors without judging them as good or evil. All behavior, everything we do is in service of our needs, or at least what we perceive as needs. [Sometimes things we very much want feel like needs until we examine why we want it so badly.] Understanding our needs is half the journey to meeting them.

Many interpersonal conflicts can be resolved by exploring our own feelings, needs and wants. You may determine that you and the other person want or need the same thing! This certainly opens up a channel of communication that makes resolving conflict easier and more peaceful. Peaceful resolution could come about with an attitude of compassion and sharing

It is important to remember that our feelings are not caused by other people's behavior. The are caused by what we think/believe about their behavior. When we can detach from blaming others for our feelings we can approach issues more objectively.

To resolve interpersonal conflict there must be good communication so that each person could share their innermost feelings and explore our needs or wants. Peaceful conflict resolution depends on making personal contact, connection.

O.K. Let's try an exercise. Think of some conflict in your life today - big or small. Once you have identified it ask yourself what want or need isn't being met. What do you feel regarding the the conflict? Is it disturbing? Are you anxious, angry, afraid? What supports that feeling?  How important is the issue involved? And what did or could you do to resolve that conflict?

Let me know how the exercise went for you. Did you find any new insight? Change any of your feelings? Is the conflict still there or is it resolved? How was it resolved? Please share what you can in the comments.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Conflict, don't diffuse it.

Take twenty minutes to see this video from YouTube.

>How did you learn to deal with conflict growing up? When I grew up conflict was cold silence. I learned to "stuff it". I learned to be a victim. What about you?

>How did you deal with being vulnerable in your childhood? What do you do now? I grew up with the belief that being vulnerable was part of being a female and I just had to deal with it by giving in. I was in my mid thirties before I realized I had personal power and could say "no." Helen Reddy's "I am Woman" became my theme song and I learned assertiveness. I learned about women's rights and communication. It changed my life.  What about you?

>What do you get curios about? Can you get curious about what is involved in conflict? How good are you at seeing things from more than one perspective? I'm curious about almost everything, especially people. And my ability to see more than one perspective has grown through the years, making relationships richer. What about you?

Can you look at conflict a bit differently now? I want to use the energy of conflict to create more peaceful resolutions. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

What Does Peace Look Like?

If we want to find peace it would help to know what it looks like. How else will we know when we find it? There seems to be little peace in the world right now, right? Or is it that we just don't recognize it when we see it?

Can you describe peace? Some people define peace as the absence of conflict. But I don't believe that is it. I think conflict is natural, even necessary. For without conflict, would there be change? And without change all simply dies. No, it's not the absence of conflict. It is how we humans resolve conflict.

Let's look more closely at conflict. Conflict occurs when one entity has something the other entity needs. [We will, for the moment, accept a strong want as a need.] We have been taught to share on the one hand or to take by force on the other hand. As we grow into adulthood the culture more and more emphasizes taking by force. You have it - I want it - I'll take it from you one way or another. 

Violence has become enjoyable, entertaining, and more and more acceptable. And the bigger the entity the more likely violence will become overt and physical, as in wars. So where do we find peaceful resolution of conflict? If we learned it in childhood, why don't we continue using it in adulthood? 

Peaceful resolution requires that we make compassionate contact with each other. Little kids get it. Joey sees that Johnny needs to have his turn with the toy and that Johnny feels bad because he doesn't have the toy. Recognizing Johnny's feelings and caring about Johnny, Joey lets Johnny play with the toy. 

The resolution comes through experiencing the other's feelings, through empathy. This is a very adult thing for a kid to do, don't you think? Or is it that it is a very "natural" thing to do and that is why kids can do it intuitively and adults usually have to work at it?

What do you think? 
What kind of conflicts do you experience during a normal day? 
How do you resolve them? 
Would you share an example with us in the comments? 
We will be exploring how to bring more peaceful resolution of conflicts as we go along. 
Please participate so we get more perspective.