Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What Can I Say?

I'm supposed to publish a post today. And I don't know what to say. There is so much going on that is disturbing and this blog is supposed to help folks make the world better. Where to start?

The  most frequent thread has been kindness. Actively being kind to others and one's self does make the world better where you are. And we really must begin where we are. 

And then what? Spread the kindness out a little farther. Be kind to strangers, to people you see but don't often interact with, to people who seem to be having a hard day, to people who are negative or angry, to people you don't usually make eye contact with, to authority figures, to everyone.

And always be kind to yourself. Stop negative self-talk and give yourself appreciation when you do something right and good. Treat yourself gently. Smile more. Laugh more. Play more.

And then identify a cause or two that you feel passionate about and work for that cause. Raise awareness of the need. Enlist others to help. Get involved. 

These are things that each of us can do personally to make our own world better. And encouraging others to do the same make more "worlds" better.  Be the pebble in the pond.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The World Really Is Getting Better

Bill Gates states that instead of the world falling apart, it is really getting better.

Rather than sink into despair about what we see around us, we need to look at the big picture and keep the good things going. We can keep getting better.

Help spread the word.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What Do You Think? Change the Your Thoughts and Change the World

Whether we pay attention to our thoughts or not, they are running all the time. Much of the time we act without thinking, at least consciously . Yet our thoughts are VERY powerful. They determine who we are, what we do, how we feel.

Philosopher Rene Descartes, the french philosopher and mathematician, i n his Discourse on the Method  stated "I think, therefore I am." It is said to mean that thinking is the one thing that cannot be faked. It is the one way that individuals know they exist.

So thinking is the core of our being. The good news is that we can change our thoughts. We can direct our thoughts. They are not something that is separate from us. And if we are to change our behavior and our feelings we will need to identify the thoughts that create them and change those thoughts.

Thus if we are to change the world we will need to start with our own thoughts and take control of them, confront them, change them if they don't impact the world the way we want them to. We can't reduce the hatred in the world if we don't confront any of that hatred that exists in our thoughts. And we can't do that if we don't pay attention to our thoughts.

For me it is an ongoing program of confronting the thoughts that arise, seemingly unbidden at times, that may come from fear or hate or misinformation. As a white woman I have to acknowledge and confront my immediate fearful response to young black men walking toward me on the street. I have to acknowledge that it is racist and not based on reality.  It is important that my response is based on what is really happening rather than what I fear might happen, based on years of racist media fear-mongering.

It is also important that I pay attention to other thoughts that come up unbidden. When I see a street person panhandling, what do I think and how does that determine my behavior? When I hear about people who have been homeless for months or years, do I think of them as lazy or unemployable when I don't know anything about their life?

I used to think that if a homeless person has a cellphone they must not really need help. What I didn't take into consideration is that it is impossible to apply for jobs if you don't have a mailing address and access to a phone! And most jobs require that you have your own transportation.

And what we think is greatly determined by what we are told until we discover otherwise for ourselves. We hear things repeated over and over by the media or by the people we surround ourselves with and those things take on the weight of "truth".  It is so very easy to believe what we are told, especially if it excuses us from putting any effort into learning more.

What we feel is a result of what we think and believe about events in our lives. If we think/believe that something is dangerous we will feel afraid. For instance, if you believe hungry lions are dangerous you will fear them. Makes sense, right? But what if there is a glass barrier between you and the lion? Is it still a dangerous situation?

I used to do an exercise with inmate in a male prison institution that was a challenge for them to change their harmful or unproductive belief systems. One example was when I ask for what one guy believed about women. "Women are stupid", he said. I ask him some questions that challenged that belief:

All women?"Yes," he said.
 How many women have you met? "Hundreds," he said.
 How many women exist in the world? "Probably millions, he responded.
 So really it is all the women you have met are stupid, right? " Well, yes," he said
Where did you meet these women? " In bars,"  he said.
 So all women you met in bars in stupid, is that it? " Yes,"  he agreed.
 So what if you began to meet women in other places, might there be women who aren't stupid? 
 He had to agree.

With that he began to challenge his belief that all women are stupid. We can do the same thing with beliefs that keep us in harmful, hurtful, or unproductive situation.

So have you been thinking things like "All Republicans are hateful," "All Trump voters are stupid,"
 "All white people are racist," All blacks are less than or are lazy or are stupid or whatever", " All immigrants are illegal freeloaders" or any of the other negative thoughts that support hatred, fear, and violence. Challenge those beliefs and move beyond them.

Pay attention to what you think and keep confronting those thoughts that do not make the world a better place.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Racist in Me?

If we are truly wanting to eliminate hate speech and racism we need to start in our own attitudes. This is a great article (used with permission) to help us do that:

In the face of the white supremacist violence and President Trump’s reaction to it, fear, anger, and condemnation of others comes naturally to me. What is more difficult—perhaps for many white people like me—is a willingness to examine the extent to which my daily thoughts and behaviors support the racism I adamantly oppose—in others.
Yes, I’ll go on a protest march. Yes, I’ll attend anti-oppression training. I’ll write to politicians. I'll take to my social networks to show my solidarity with all the other people who want desperately to root out racism—in others.
To what extent am I willing to examine those parts of myself that are like the people I feel so angry toward? Here’s why I think that’s important: What racism I can find close to home and within myself—as scared as I am to see it—is what I have the most power to root out straight away.
This is why I was so intrigued by a Facebook post from the black, queer Buddhist teacher and co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation. Lama Rod Owens writes:
“It seems like if we are really interested in ending white supremacy, white people should focus more on loving themselves instead of trying to love me. The violence emerges from the ways self-shame and apathy are bypassed in attempts to use love towards me as an argument trying to convince me that you are not ‘that kind of white person.’ As long as you cannot face yourself and love even those ugly parts, you are indeed that kind of white person, and I will be left with the work of trying to love what you cannot bear to witness.”
So what might be an ugly part of myself that Lama Rod suggests I should love? What do I need to see in myself to avoid violence emerging?
As it happens, I read Owens’ post while backpacking with my 12-year-old daughter in Thailand. One day, we were traveling in a van with other tourists of various nationalities, including a middle-aged Indian husband and wife. We had conversed a fair amount during the day and become quite friendly.
A lifetime of living as a white man in a white-privileged world has left me with occasional unwanted ugliness.
After a stop, when we were all getting back in the van, the husband took the seat my daughter had been sitting in, on the front bench. This worried me because Bella gets carsick easily, especially if she can’t see out the windshield. I felt irritated with the man, but what was more uncomfortable for me was the rising “ugly part” of myself, as Owens calls it. I called the Indian man “entitled” in my head. I had made up a whole, completely unverified story about how he had worked his way out of poverty and had become rich enough to travel and now expected to be allowed to take whatever seat he wanted.
But, of course, I knew this story was based on nothing but introjected stereotypes based on Indian ethnicity and nationality. There was no evidence for the story, nor do I believe such a story would have arisen had he been a white European.
Even more uncomfortable was to see in myself that this “entitlement”—that I imagined probably clashed with another person’s entitlement—was my own. I realized that my life history and experience—countless occasions of getting exactly the seat I wanted—made me feel, on some level, that it was my right for Bella to get the front seat if she needed it.
I’m not saying that my stereotypes and the so-called clash of entitlements are foundational to me or my value system, or even more than passing ideas in my stream of consciousness. I am saying that a lifetime of living as a white man in a white-privileged world has left me with occasional unwanted ugliness.
White people don’t tend to do much about racism when it is comfortably out of sight.
Some of my anger and frustration at the recent actions of white supremacists come from having to acknowledge the parts of me that remain unloved, as Lama Rod Owens would put it.
This is part of why—and it’s important to acknowledge—white people don’t tend to do much about racism when it is comfortably out of sight. Now we have stopped being comfortable, as white supremacists force us to look at them and their attitudes.
So I must look at myself.
If I leave my ugly parts unloved and unseen, if I refuse to examine the white supremacist within me, I have no way of understanding the white supremacists around me. For example, my own racist moment with my Indian friend was actually motivated by genuine concern for my daughter, perverted by conditioned and introjected racism.
Can that suggest something about where the white supremacists are coming from? Perhaps some of their ugly behavior too comes from concern for loved ones perverted by years of trauma and lifetimes of societally conditioned racism. Of course, I condemn their actions. But a little understanding and love for myself—as a flawed white person—and a little for the people—not the behavior—might allow for some space to reduce hatred.
Meanwhile, I, and lots of progressive white people like me, are left, as Owens says, to learn to love what we cannot bear to witness within ourselves.

Colin Beavan wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Colin helps people and organizations to live and operate in ways that have a meaningful impact on the world. His most recent book is “How To Be Alive,” and he blogs at  Besides YES! Magazine, his articles have appeared in Esquire, Atlantic, and the New York Times. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Colin is leading a retreat, “Fierce Compassion: Where Activism Meets Spirituality,” with Lama Willa Miller at the Garrison Institute in September. Find out more here.

It isn't easy to explore the darkness in ourselves. Confronting our own internalized racism will change us. And change can be uncomfortable. But I challenge you to begin the search for your own "ugly" thoughts and behaviors.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What Fear Is Holding You Back?

What would you do if you weren't afraid? Would you stand up for someone being abused? Would you march in protest? Would you run for office? Would you change careers? Would you reach out to homeless people you see on the street? Would you mediate conflicts?

What would you do? Listen to Nancy Sathre-Vogel talk about how fear keeps us from doing things we think we should or we want to do.

What WILL you do? How will you confront your fear?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It Past Time that We Abolish Islamophobia

What if your family had been destroyed by people hating something about them that makes them a little different. This is what is happening to Americans. It must stop. But do we hear people decrying it?

Take a few minutes to learn more about the effects of this kind of hate. Muslims are not the only group who is treated this way. Hispanic, GLBT, black, Asian, the list goes on.

What minority are you a part of. What have you ever done to stand up for a minority, a person being treated as "less than"?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Eleven Minutes to Dealing With Hate Speech

Speech is powerful. It can be used for good or for ill. Speech that fuels hate and incites violence is what is so dangerous today.

In this lecture they use the experience in Iran to create hate of Ba'hi religion. It is powered by government.

There are many parallels to what is happening here and now. It is important that we understand how this works and how we might resist it.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Labor of Love for Labor Day

Labor Day originated in 1894 to honor and celebrate the contribution of America's labor force to the nation's social and economic achievements.

These days it is mostly regarded as an excuse to celebrate the end of summer. Little attention is given to the original purpose. Yet we really should recognize the American worker as the backbone of our nation.

Americans are now working at jobs for more hours per week with fewer "perks" than most "advanced" nations. More families are two-income families, which means work at home and work on a job create a double burden for men women/men, especially when there are children in the family.

Those of us with that lifestyle are deserving of respect and praise. It isn't easy these days to make ends meet, even with two paychecks. I know a family whose male parent works full time in a job that takes him away from home, often for days at a time, and is actively involved in the work of his church projects. The female parent has two part-time jobs, two children, a house with no housekeeping help, takes an active role in her children's education and in their church life. They are constantly busy, all of them. The children are involved in school activities beyond their classes and homework. The children are also active in community activities. There are many, many families as busy as this.

This lifestyle keeps our country going.. Imagine if people didn't do jobs that keep things going for the country, community; if private citizens didn't volunteer to help provide assistance to others; if children had no guidance and leadership from involved adults.

This is what we commemorate with Labor Day - America's labor force in their jobs, their communities, and their homes.

Celebrate Labor Day this year with appreciation for all those who labor. Do a kindness for someone who has to work this weekend!

For a brief history of Labor Day go to