BE The Change! Making Change in our Ever Changing World
This digital anthology comprises of a growing collection of creative thoughts inspiring positive change. We all bear witness to so much change every day, on the personal level, within our communities, and on the global stage. These generous folks share their ideas of impactful spots to focus our energy and intention, to usher in the progress and evolution we hope to conjure in our lives.
I am 92 years old. I have four grown children who have grown to be independent and good people. I have five grandchildren and my first great grand child. I had 16 siblings. I just had my Legacy Pamphlet done. After I read it when it was complete, I realized I really did have a blessed, fabulous life. God gave me a nice clear sounding voice. Music has kept me and singing has been my life since five years old until today and I am still singing. I am blessed in that regard, because my voice is still strong and it’s what keeps me going.
It would be nice, if we could teach everybody to look at all people, first as a human being. Then we look at people, maybe , as a color, or their sex, but FIRST as a human being as we all are.
Respect all others. How to change? Maybe by just being polite to everyone, starting a conversation with someone who is different than our self. Find their qualities and interests. Never think “I am better than anyone else.” When I am in a situation where their is a black woman or man, say waiting for a bus, as I am, I always start a conversation. “Where are they going?”, or I tell them how often I use the bus etc. Policemen have a tough job. Sometimes they need to hold a person back or stop a criminal. But if possible, they need to keep their personal hate out of their job. They need to be taught how to do that and NEVER USE INHUMANE FORCE.
Reality I guess, is that it will take a long time for those in power positions to get rid of really hateful things they have been taught or have lived with all of their lives.
Teach children from their birth, both male and female, that we are all the same. We have different interests, etc., but everyone wants love, peace, things that make them happy. Everyone needs food, work that truly interests them. CHANGE , is a very large thing to make happen. START from childhood, to teach respect for every human being. Answer is I DO NOT KNOW!
SHARIFF M. ABDULLAH, JD
Supporting a “World for None” — or Creating a “World for All”. It’s Our Choice
SHARIFF ABDULLAH is a consultant, author and advocate for mindfulness, inclusivity and societal transformation. Shariff’s meta-vision and mission are simple: we can create a world that works for all beings.
Shariff promotes heart-centered inclusivity, compassionate dialog, and a society based on vision. His vision and work are informed by his inclusive spiritual practices, his growing up with racism and generational poverty, his legal background as a successful attorney, and his inclusivity experiences in over 120 distinct cultures, spanning 45 countries.
Consultant and Trainer: Shariff has consulted with hundreds of organizations, and has trained thousands of executives and managers in the skills and techniques of inclusivity and authentic, effective leadership.
Wisdom Teacher: An inspirational speaker with a prophetic message, Shariff has been a sought-after presenter for Consciousness and Human Potential organizations, as well as several international forums.
Author: As an author, Shariff has written several paradigm-shifting books, including: The Power of One: Authentic Leadership in Turbulent Times; the award-winning Creating a World That Works for All; Seven Seeds for a New Society; Practicing Inclusivity; and The Chronicles of the Upheavals.
Shariff Abdullah’s TEDx talk: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxConcordiaUPortland-Sharif-A
Supporting a “World for None” — or Creating a “World for All”. It’s Our Choice
“It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years — we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.
– Sharon Salzberg
How large would the US military be if we expanded our capacity for love and happiness? I believe our entire military would be about the size of our Coast Guard… and about as well armed. If we expand our societal happiness, who would be our “enemy”? Why would we have the largest military in the world, if we mean no one harm?
When a person smokes cigarettes (or breathes second-hand smoke), they are doing constant damage to their lungs and to their entire bodies. However, the moment that they stop smoking, their bodies start to re-heal and regenerate.
Our societies are the same: as soon as we stop our toxic behavior, we will start to heal. As soon as we turn on our societal lights, the benevolence in our society will be illuminated.
Right now, our consciousness is stuck in our toxic societal limitations. We keep repeating our negative societal patterns, acting as though that will produce a positive result. The separatist behaviors (of the Right and the Left) keep us locked in escalating conflicts.
We get caught up in the play-acting of Congress and the poisonous street theater of our negative and worsening demonstrations, precisely because we’ve lost our sense of vision. As a society, we are all wandering around in dark rooms, bumping into the furniture…
The forces of violence, separation and despair are many. However, paradoxically, right now, we are also pioneering a new society. Most of us don’t know it, especially when we are giving our attention to the negative drum beat of the media.
When our ancestors sailed across the ocean to the New World (some willingly; many in chains), some of them were aware that they were creating something NEW, simply by escaping the oppression of the old. They were aware that each and every action on their part was designed to not only help them to survive, but help to establish a new society. (Unfortunately, many of those pioneers replicated the oppression that they escaped, seeing themselves as separate from (and hostile to) their neighbors, the original inhabitants, the First Nations, as well as separate from the human beings they treated as slaves.)
It is time for us to pioneer a new society – in the middle of the existing one. It’s been nearly impossible to change the tire on a moving car. It’s been impossible to stop the existing Breaker society and tinker with it… so the Universe has stopped it for us – in a completely unexpected and unpredictable way. Now, we have a unique opportunity to redirect and transform our society. We can, right now, create new patterns of living – ones that distance us from the consciousness and the consequences of Breaker society.
Please do not believe that a new society will just “happen” – that all we have to do is think good thoughts and “Poof!” it magically appears, complete with milk and honey raining from the skies. No, if our descendants are living in a world that works for all, it will be because of the positive, visionary actions you take today. We will see the new society once our consciousness gets in step with our highest values and the dynamic of the Earth (not “money”). A new society will be built from our consciousness. From our conscious actions. From what we DO. From what we PRACTICE. From what we LOVE.
Writing the Wrongs
by Gabriel Horn (White Deer of Autumn)
I am sitting at my desk in what feels like the blown-out library that is my mind. It appears as if all around me, over fifty years of my writings, have been scattered asunder, as if a hurricane passed through here. No, I tell myself, I’ve got writers block. Really, this time it’s true. Besides, I’ve said in my writings all that I can say. Or, maybe I’ve got Covid19 stay-at-home syndrome. Maybe I just don’t have it in me to write anymore. I am seventy-three, after all. But maybe in this imaginary debris of my writings that is all around me, I can find the strength to gather what I can, and renew them. Share the words about making change, or not changing. What if I just reach out and pick one up? See what I can find. Indeed, it’s all here. In the books…. Writing the wrongs. It’s always been in some form or another, about that. All my stories. Fifty years of stories: stories relating to Nature, to the Earth, to the Sky and to the Moon, and Sun, and Stars. Beauty and horror. Stories for children. Stories for parents. For Grandmas and Grandpas. For the Indigenous. Stories about injustice and racism and bigotry…. Stories about respect and disrespect. Kindness and malevolence. Gratitude and grace. Self-entitlement and disgrace. Intelligence and ignorance. Courage and cowardness. Stories about the Great Mystery and the Universe…. Stories about love and hatefulness and fear and sacrifice. Stories about greed and oil and fracking and uranium and gold, and disease, and cruelty, and lies and deceit, and beauty, and water, and enlightenment and wonder. Stories about war and peace. And magic. Thousands and thousands of words. And so many stories. All on the pages of these books that lay scattered around me in this blown out library that is my mind, the passages from fifty years of writing the wrongs. They are here….
from Native Heart – from the Hipple Collection of Young Adult Literature, University of South Florida Libraries
I didn’t know the words to call all this that I loved then, Mother Earth. And I didn’t know what to call this sense of oneness I felt with the stars, with Nature, and this land, this connection I felt with all things, the Great Holy Mystery …. For the young will often have the old sacred feelings that are somehow passed on in the blood. It’s only later in life when they meet the teachers and the wisdomkeepers that they are given the words to give meaning to the feelings.
from Motherless – International Book Award Winner; Florida Book Award; Literary Excellence Award; Optioned for Film 2018, Brainlint Productions, Canada
… All through the human experience on this planet, at least, the little that we know of it, philosophers, writers, and scholars of history have observed that a people who do not learn their history will be forever doomed to repeat it. The key word here is doomed. When Rainy had first started out in school, she liked reading, and she especially like reading about history, but she soon discovered that her people’s history, the one her grandfather told and read to her, was very different than the one that she was reading in her textbook, which hardly mentioned American Indians, or Native Americans, at all. “Why don’t they teach what happened to our people in school, Granpa?” Rainy would ask. “Why don’t they teach about the contributions of our people?” Her grandfather understood that there was power in knowledge, that knowing things helped you think through difficult situations, and gave you a strong sense of empowerment, but he was also aware that it would not be easy for Rainy, seeing how she was so young, knowing the things he did about history. A lot needed to be considered. He could still recall his own anger as a young man reading for the first time the detailed accounts of the Indigenous side of America’s history. He remembered the eyewitness testimonies of the Pilgrims’ setting fire to an entire Pequot village, and all the human beings living there, in the name of God. He read about President Andrew Jackson’s forced death march of the Cherokee that American historians called the Trail of Tears. He read about The Homestead Act that granted American citizens the right to take Indigenous people’s land and country all across the Great Plains. He read further, about America’s great Western expansion, which the United States government gave the name, Manifest Destiny. In this nineteenth century document, the Americans granted themselves all the land that didn’t belong to the United States between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Grandpa’s feelings as a young man boiled over into tearful rage sometimes after reading of slaughtered buffalo killed for sport or shot for the money their hides would bring; some even killed for amusement by bored passengers on trains, their bodies left to rot on the disappearing prairies by the thousands; and the US Army reports of massacring Indian people where they were living peaceably at places like Sand Creek and Wounded Knee. He read about the hangings in Mankato, Minnesota, of thirty-eight Santee men, old and young, sanctioned by the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, and how it was proclaimed, America’s Greatest Mass Execution. He read about the gifts of small pox infected blankets taken from dying soldiers and given to Indian people as a tactic called germ warfare, and the mayhem and terror the US government and its military had inflicted on Indigenous people everywhere because none of these things were ever read nor discussed while he was in school, and they weren’t discussed now. Looking back, he could see that his young man’s anger, and the anger of many others who were reading the same books, not only centered on the betrayal and brutality of the history that is all the Americas, but that he was made to believe so much differently. Rainy, though, she was only in her first year of middle school. She was still a kid, and Grandpa felt that with few exceptions most school boards and administrators and teachers dealing with issues of education did not want her, or any of the kids, to know the Indigenous side of American history, or really anything that was Indigenous to this land. Not their art. Not their music. Not their literature. Not their accomplishments. Because it all contradicted with the history taught in school, and it was not a history of good. How could they justify the brutality they inflicted on an intelligent and culturally strong people? The less American students were taught about Indians, the better for them. They would not be holding any discussions about using an entire race of people as mascots and stereotypes. Not unless some brave teachers were willing to risk their jobs…. And so, Grandpa remained quiet for a moment while he thought some more on his granddaughter’s question about the teaching of history. He even went outside with his pouch of tobacco, and with the rescued wolf Koda at his side, stepped off the porch to make a prayer offering, sprinkling the dried flakes of tobacco leaves over the ground where he had once found an eagle feather, and on that special spot, that’s where he would talk to the Great Mystery, knowing for certain that he had to choose and select words most carefully. He said, looking up to the Sky, “Great Mystery, pity me, a grandfather in need of guidance…. Thank you for my life and the life of my granddaughter. Thank you for the joy she has brought me, and thank you for the challenges she provides me. But, I need help, Great Mystery…. I need to find the courage and the wisdom that is you within me to know what’s right for my granddaughter, and for Mother Earth.” After some time had passed, he returned with Koda and sat at the kitchen table where Rainy was already sitting and doing her homework. He held a box of matches and a big conch shell in his hands. Inside the big conch he had put some leaves of sage and cut sweet grass and pieces of cedar. Then he struck a wooden match on the side of the matchbox with the fingers of his one hand as he held the conch with the other, igniting the small pile, blowing his breath softly into the shell and fanning it carefully with the eagle feather, cleansing their space for the words about history that were about to enter it. He blew again just enough breath to extinguish the flame and used the feather to make the smoke that smelled ever so sweet and sacred, swirl and float and coil and dissipate like you would imagine spirits unconstrained from all limitations. Then he placed the shell on the table. It was an ancient ritual and a new ritual they shared together for the first time. “Your mom used to read to you about our people even while she was pregnant. She did that, so you might know these things. She hoped that the stories she told you while you were still in her womb might feed your own growin’ spirit, and that your spirit would know even before you were born. Then, she imagined when you were older, your mind would need to know one day, and you’d ask the questions about your people that your spirit beckoned, like the one you asked me now. “That’s why I will answer you, Rainy. I feel your mom and dad would want me to….”
He took a slow deliberate breath and closed his eyes. Releasing the breath, he opened his eyes again, and looked through the sacred smoke at his granddaughter. “You see, Rainy, education doesn’t provide kids in school the history of what happened to American Indians because it would not be a good history. How could you say, ‘We are a great nation,’ and pay homage to your flag while singin’ the Star Spangled Banner with your hand over your heart, or sing songs like, America the Beautiful or God Bless America, when you know for a fact that this nation, for whatever the reasons, has contaminated or destroyed so much of the waters and lands of the very country you’d be singin’ about? And is still doin’ it today. How could ye feel singin’ about the Pilgrims’ pride and God’s blessins on America when you know about the genocide committed against your native ancestors who once lived here? It would not be easy for most people. So, the way I understand it, they choose to not know the real history and facts about these things, and somehow, they believe their ignorance protects them. Somehow, from what they are taught and not taught; it makes what they’re singin’ feel good in their minds about themselves.” Rainy looked up at him through the white smoke. “What’s genocide, Granpa?” He took in another slow, but deeper breath. Then he let it go into the sweet and sacred smoke drifting above the table. “Genocide means the death of all the fathers and mothers of one tribe or one nation or one people,” he said. “It means the death of all the grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins, friends, all the children, and even the babies, all wiped out by people believin’ that they had a right to take what was not theirs by whatever means they could. Genocide is not almost total annihilation, it is annihilation.” As the smoke thickened, its fragrance even more potent, he paused, allowing that sweet scent to disperse any anger or bitterness that could conjure. He needed to remain calm, quieting the beating drum that was his heart. Then his eyes shifted to the front door, gazing momentarily through the screen into the yard, seeing with his mind’s eye all the way to the shore, and beyond, where turquoise water sparkled in the light of the Sun, and dolphins breached and mantas swam, and life was going on as it had for a billion years. And then he saw further out, the drilling platforms disrupting the beauty and the balance…. “They’ll do anything for oil, or coal, or gas, and just about anything else that makes money. That’s their true history, always takin’ more than they need. Not thinkin’ of the mess they’ll be leavin’ for the children of the world, and their children’s children … only the bottom line.” His voice was low and somber, his heart, the beat a medicine drum in a healing ceremony. “Of course,” he said, “the energy of those dead tribes and nations didn’t just vanish into nothin’. That energy was all put back into the collective energy of nature, and sooner or later Nature will reclaim what belonged to Nature, regardless of the history they tell.” Sweeping through the screen door, like the wings of a ghost water bird, a breeze caused the white remaining smoke from the shell to drift up. He turned to his granddaughter, sitting near him at the table. “Do you understand, Rainy? Can ye see why our people’s side of history is not included in school when it comes to the history of America?” Pressing her lips together, she thought. Then she nodded. “I do, Granpa,” she said. “Because it would not be a good history, and it would make them feel bad about themselves.”
“No, it would not be a good history. But, history’s a living thing, and each generation creates its own, or recreates the one they inherited. It’s somethin’ we should learn from, even if it’s not good, it’s somethin’ to not go on repeatin’. “But, instead, the only time the history of American Indians is given any attention in school is where we might be convenient and useful, like how Sacajawea lead Lewis and Clark across the West, or how Indians attacked innocent pioneer and settler families, hinderin’ their way to the American dream of prosperity. “It was a dream, all right, that became our people’s nightmare….” Leaning forward on the table, he touched the shell, and felt its smoothness. “The irony of it all seems crazy, because when a school needs a mascot with some kind of symbol of honor and courage, a fierce warrior mascot, or the name of a tribe they stole from, or wiped out, does the trick. “They always say, The past is the past; we need to move forward, and why that is true … that you can’t change what’s happened; we have a responsibility to learn what happened, to learn where we’ve been, and how we got where we are, so before we make that step forward into wherever it is we’re going, we know how to act when we get there.” Grandpa said that even Indian people played a part in some of the bad that was done, and still are to some extent. “The way I see it, Rainy, everyone can make mistakes, but only fools repeat them…. If a country, or a people, doesn’t learn their history, or learn from their own mistakes, and even from the mistakes of others, they’d become a country, and a people, made up of a lot of fools.” She reached alongside her chair with her toes to find Koda who had laid next to her. Grandpa leaned forward, elbows on the table, folded hands supporting his chin. “It’s gonna be hard for ye, Rainy, knowin’ the things you do, or for that matter just by bein’ Indian because, even if ye never said anythin’, your heritage accuses. You can’t help bein’ a catalyst for their collective guilt, a reminder of what they’ve done to become the country they are, ‘the greatest country on earth,’ which they readily claim to be, or of their failure. “But, in spite of all this, it’d be good for ye to learn both sides of history, and to just try to understand how things got to be the way they are, and how people got to be the way they are. Understandin’ might take some of the sting out of their behavior…. “Then the more ye understand, the better chance you’ll have of helpin’ to make the world a better place and that maybe you and others like ye can keep us from being doomed.”
Still holding the frayed copy of Motherless, I blow my breath to clear some of the dust from my desk, and slowly, and carefully, I place the book down, like I am holding something sacred…. How many hours, how many months, how many years, did I work on those pages? How many dreams took me into the spiritual world as I was writing it? How many times did I have to walk away from writing, my tears burning and my stomach turning? Would anyone listen? Would Motherless make a change in someone’s life? Would it bring a reader closer to understanding what it means to be Indigenous? Regardless of the answers I got in my head, I kept writing. I kept writing because this is what I do…. I write the wrongs. And in some magical way this connects me to the sacred and the spiritual, so wouldn’t it connect others?
from Transcendence – National Indie Excellence Book Award Winner: Visionary Fiction “I am dying,” she said, still fixed on the horizon, “and everything I have loved and cared for is dying with me.” The Orca’s voice faded into the soft moans of the wind through the pines and palms rustling behind them. “And so now must be the Time,” she said, and motioned with her cerulean eyes towards the sea. “Now, before my changing brings an end to this world’s cycle.” As her lids fluttered closed, like one beset in a dream, she shook and sighed, struggling in ways he could not know. What was the Ocean Mother seeing? What were her thoughts? … As luminescent trails trickled down from the corners of her beautiful eyes, he wanted nothing more than to comfort her, to embrace her with all the love that was in him and now, forever would be a part of him, but he withheld, knowing that she was more than a human needing consolation. How could something so magnificent be dying? It seemed a thought he dares not utter, for the world outside this moment in the Mystery had made it all apparent. He could not repress the images that had tormented his young life. He could not avoid the reality outside the home he had shared with his father. He could not close his eyes to it and shut it out. He could not force back the grotesque and distressing shapes that haunted those dark recesses of the mind, each picture, a repulsion exposing the spills of liquid tar leaking from the hulls of dirty tankers and seeping oil rigs; the exploding pipe lines; the crystals of pure water suffocating in black sludge; the saturating stench of the dead and dying on the beaches: the birds, the fish, the crustaceans, and cetaceans. He could not look away from the floating forms of the Mother turtles drifting lifeless onto the shore, their wombs swollen with a million years of unfulfilled potential and promise. Some of these images had cut into his brain so deeply, and left lacerations on the Mother’s body so severe, they would never heal. His recollections of the discarded human waste riddled his memory like the endless throw away disposables that marred the ocean’s once perfect body like festered pox and sores. Hopelessness had descended on him along with a quiet resignation, and his stomach churned, his face tightening. The shame of his human ancestry revolted him, his humanness making him feel responsible. Humbled and humiliated, he turned from her. “Do not acquiesce,” she said, her empathy reaching out to comfort him. “There is still time.” She looked at him, loving him for his compassion. “You must search for the stories,” she continued. “Then you will discover the possibilities.” Though sweet and unstrained, her voice persisted with a sense of urgency as the wind grew stronger, flecks of flying sand turning him back to her. “Gather these things up now, Sanders Tahchee, while there is still time.”
********* from The Book of Ceremonies – once displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian “If there is one certainty in the universe that we are indeed aware of, if there is one notion that rings true compared to all that we think we know, if there is one aspect of this Great Holy Mystery that we both fear and celebrate, it is change.”
******** The books are here around my desk in the blown-out library that is my mind. The words on all these pages everywhere scattered are still here. I need to gather them. To find some order to reintroduce them again – my words…. Words that came to me in stories as I watched the Morning Star rise…. Words to craft into stories in the finest ways I know, in the finest ways I was taught. Words to stimulate emotion and thought. Words for which I sacrificed. Words that influence reason and understanding. Words that can, even in the energy of the creative process, summon the courage and spirit to help change our inhumanity, not only to ourselves, but to all life. And acknowledge that we are the children of Earth and the Sky… that we are the stories… and that we choose the path to walk, as I have chosen, writing the wrongs
Ride the Wave
Nature’s Lessons Navigating Change
As a kid and military dependent, I never so gracefully learned to ride the waves of change. Our family relocated every two to three years. New state, new school, new friends. I perfected the ‘new kid in class attempting to appear as though she’d been there all along’ personae. So, learn to ride that wave, I did. You couldn’t have paid me to admit it then but, all that relocating taught me to step into the unknown and come to trust that it wouldn’t likely crush me like a bug.
Sometimes you float about on your boogie board in five feet of surf, feet dangling below, waiting for just the right wave to play upon. Sometimes you find yourself instead, in that wave pool at the water park, with human engineering conjuring water turbulence just for your pleasure. Then, there are those sneaker waves that seemingly come out of nowhere, causing you to kick off your shoes, body surf, and hope for the best. Some change we influence and some just appears on the scene, teaching us a lesson or two in flexibility and humility.
The natural world provides countless lessons regarding navigating change. Take the seasons, for example. The only constant is change. Wonderful thing to remind our sticky minds that tend to prefer the illusion of constancy. The seasons are ever evolving. As we are, ourselves – physically, emotionally, and spiritually (if fortune comes our way, while our hearts and minds are open and receptive). Return to the same spot on your favorite trail once a season, and you discover all forms of growth and decline. Beginnings and endings. This is the way of all things. Again, our timid minds cling to a false narrative that if we just hold on tight to something good that wandered along, things will remain just so.
Try holding onto a good wave, onto a good moment. They come and they go. Trusting that they will come and go again, keeps us nimble. The best sensation I’ve sought and savored is that wondrous tipping point after you’ve paddled your board as hard as your body allowed, and now, having caught the wave, pure bliss washes over your entire being, as you tumble forth onto seemingly still waters below. These moments of nirvana do not stand alone. They intermingle with times of monstrous waves beating you back, as you tirelessly attempt to surmount the turmoil and again position yourself with hopes of another good ride. Messy landings from waves too tall and powerful result in suits full of sand and lungs full of saltwater. It happens. Just take a moment to catch your breath, clear your lungs, and reconfigure which way is up, before marching back into the surf with rediscovered optimism and determination.
Mountain climbing provides another mighty metaphor and real time experience of change. Mountains make their own weather. Things change on a dime. Climbers come prepared to assess whether to forge on or turn back. The dream is to summit, with the morning sun shining down upon your worn, ecstatic being. At times, instead, you might hunker down in your soggy tent as icy rain pelts your rooftop, plotting to slump down the mountain in defeat. We don’t get to control the outcome on these things. We need be prepared to ‘call it,’ pack our gear, and head down for a consolation breakfast. Waffles, perhaps. We hold out hope upon hope that we get to experience the sheer glee of glissading down a snow-covered field after greeting the sunrise from the mountain top. And no small task. Attempting to summit is not for the meek. Trudging step by step, firmly planting my boots into the faintly carved stairs left by the climber before me, mental suffering abounded, as I reflected on the humbling fact that I had not trained sufficiently for this. “I shouldn’t have said yes to this,” I muttered to myself. Don’t look up. The steep incline will just psyche you out. Just watch your feet. Don’t fall down.
That, curiously enough, stood out in my mind as one of the most informative parts of our climb conditioning. The practical instructor noted that the best way not to fall down the mountain was to simply not fall down. This sage advice still serves me today. Another favored sensation came from practicing catching ourselves, if misfortune struck and we actually did fall down. Again and again, we’d throw ourselves to the snowy ground, quickly sliding down a sheer face, thrusting our pickaxes as deep into the snow as our force could muster, stopping our speedy descent. Life does call for such action. Sometimes we fall down. We hit the ground hard or descend into free fall. Thankfully, if we keep our wits about us, keep focused on the present, the here and now, we act quick, plant our ax, and arrest our fall. Banged up but, still intact and desperately clinging to the mountainside. Sometimes that is as good as it gets. Most times, life isn’t so dramatic. Most times, it is that long, slow slog uphill. During my ascent, fortunately enough, a seasoned climber crunched by my side. As I huffed and puffed and wondered if one could spontaneously develop asthma, this kind companion regaled me with tale after tale of adventures he’d had atop mountains all over the northwest. His generous distraction kept me from turning back, tail tucked, and heading down the mountain defeated, which I fantasized doing for several hours in the dark before dawn. With his support, I persevered.
I discovered yet another relished sensation, as I entered freefall from a small plane, with a much more experienced skydiver mightily hinged to me, from behind. I anticipated the freefall with dread. My friends in tow and I had discussed it at length. If we could only survive that sixty seconds of sheer fear, we could relish in the beauty of cascading down slowly, taking in the expansive view of the sunshine coast. Who knew that freefall produced yet another burst of bliss, as I catapulted towards the earth. A friend and I set intentions that to skydive would bring us such dramatically new levels of confidence and boldness, that we would face each day with fresh found fearlessness and vigor. This transfer of bravery, ultimately, did not compute. Years later, I still found myself avoiding small talk at parties, with the same relentless terror. Some things, apparently, do not change.
Have you ever kayaked on a river in Florida? Change abounds in these complex, diverse ecosystems that make up these tropical waterways. Storms bring flooding, downed trees, redirected waterways, erosion, and devastation. Prolonged stretches of scorching sunny days minus the much needed rains and thunderstorms bring draught, loss of river inhabitants, and the ultimate demise of other waterways. The only constant is change. Just ask the alligators lounging about on the shorelines of these rivers. They’ve seen a change or two in their time. Less birdlife and frogs, more flooding and toxins floating downstream. They know, all too well, how to survive a life affected by changes conjured by people or forces, beyond their control. Practically prehistoric alligators remind us, yet again, to remain flexible and willing to adapt. Go with the flow, when needed.
Boundless lessons in adapting to change spring from our natural world. All we need do is tune in and take note. This nimbleness aids us in countless ways. To ride the waves swelling before our eyes. To seize precious moments when our innovation and creativity lend a helping hand, improving our lot or correcting human errors we’ve made along the way. To hopefully evolve along with the generous natural world that holds us all with the fresh air and water we need for our very survival. This reciprocity with nature provides quite the exquisite gift, during this tenuous and lovely journey of ours. Surf on.
Sharon Ann Rose
This Intuitive Voice
I awoke this morning to a memory I hadn’t reflected on in quite some time. It took place over ten years ago while walking with my teacher. At that time, I was in an intensive shamanic apprenticeship based in an earth-honoring tradition that upheld one’s internal practice as transformative medicine for global change.
My teacher and I were walking at a local wildlife sanctuary. The environmental conservation had blocked off several trails to safeguard wetland estuaries for nesting birds. Each time we reached one of the gates blocking entrance to an area, my teacher looked to me and asked, “Shall we enter?”
Her question triggered great discomfort in my body. I’d often lived unconsciously from a primal instinct that propelled me to ‘follow the rules’ out of a deep-seated fear I’d be punished. This led to an out-of-context feeling that if I went against the wishes of ‘authority’, I’d be exiled. Banished from all that I most loved.
This is the ‘irrational gift’ of our instincts, that presuppose past personal and collective experiences onto current situations, resulting in out-of-context sensations and unrest. This causes us to do whatever we can to bring ease so the discomfort inside settles down. In this scenario, I believed if I went along with ‘authority’ I’d feel at peace again. But now there were 2 authorities presenting! My teacher and the wildlife conservation. (And I hadn’t yet acknowledged myself as one.) What’s a people-pleasing terrified girl to do?
My body began trembling. Heart palpating. As I repeatedly looked at my teacher, presuming the thoughts running through my head were her ideas about how things should go. I was overwhelmed by my instincts, and each time we got to another barrier and she asked if I felt we should enter, I froze. And deferred, “What do you feel?” She’d step around the gate and enter the blocked-off trail.
Another unidentified feeling that arose on our walk, was the one that came from my inner Rule-Breaker. This deep-seated part of me that felt I was here to be a trailblazer who refused to listen to outside authority, and was driven to find her own truth and way. Yet I battled against her the entire time. Wanting to honor the decision of the conservation to protect the habitat of the nesting birds. And wanting to be a ‘wild woman’ who followed her own primal nature. Yet somehow didn’t go against her teacher or authority.
Rather impossible conditions to take any clear action from, eh?
Believing instinct and intuition are somehow on opposite sides perpetuates an ongoing war inside us.
In these times so many of us are fighting an ancient war within ourselves. Battling against what we’re instinctually primed to do. While also feeling prompted to do something different. To make change. And bring about a world we may not even know how to speak of, envision or create. Becoming the people we didn’t know we had it in us to be.
In my work with the nervous system, I’ve found it’s a mighty regal force. And one you can’t, nor need, to overcome, ignore or criminalize. It’s an ally for many reasons. Especially in these times when it’s imperative to be aware and conscious of our primal collective fear and nature. Because this is what causes us to do things without thinking first. Our instincts have created the outdated systems we live under that uphold one race over another, and create further disconnection during a global pandemic.
We’re facing many deep-seated fears individually and globally now. Befriending our instincts helps us slow down and look to our thoughts, ideologies and mind-sets to see what’s been running behind-the-scenes our whole lives, directing the show. From this neutral space of looking with wonder, we can CHOOSE how we want to step forth from deeper awareness. We can breathe. Get curious. And comfort ourselves and our nervous systems. Inviting in our intuition. Doing this with care and repetition helps us see how we can act from more than just the instinctual response within us. We can create a whole-bodied life in which we’re deeply connected with others from our own safe inner resource.
As we move into a body-based methodology for transformation and healing, we come to see that our instincts can only take us so far. And if that’s all we’re re/acting from, we won’t evolve. We won’t make enduring and sustaining change. We’ll keep fighting the ancient war of survival inside ourselves, and inside all our relationships and exchanges.
This is the terrain of conscious evolution where instinct and intuition are meant to be friends. In my world, they’re actually long-lost lovers.
So, this is where I invite you to stop. And stand at that barrier on the wetland path and ask, “Shall we enter?”
I invite you to breathe deep into your body. To be with any discomfort. With any uncertainty and fear. To acknowledge the feelings that may arise if you don’t do what she, he, them, or whatever is ‘out there’ told you to. Especially what the narrator in your mind is telling you right now.
That day I walked each step of the trail being with my instincts. Looking at them quietly. Internally. Honoring the trailblazer that wanted to end this war. On that walk, I inwardly proclaimed I’d learn how to honor my body and mind. My instinct and intuition. To stop the fight of either/or and move into whole-bodied choice that can soothe and safeguard the neural triggers inside while still going deeper. Grounding into my body. Dipping further into my intuition. And coming to a more courageous and clear sense of my soul’s guidance and presence.
We are facing and feeling an unprecedented call to action now. To change. To transform and become the caretakers of a global reality that cares for the well-being of self, each other and all life. To do this we must become Guardians of our own Soul Wisdom. And let this rise up and carry us into aligned-action aware of the primal response of our historical and collective past.
“You will not be prepared, and that is good. Because
that is where life is.” Black Elk
Our call to action in these times is to befriend that ancient exhausted warrior inside. To gently root down and rise with it. And hold our hearts at the center of every action as we reestablish new territory for what it means to live in a world that protects the innocent (within and around). That listens to the voiceless (within and around). That returns land, space, collaboration, rights and home to our black brothers and sisters, and to our kin of color and culture (within and around). That honors sacred space for creatures, plants and wild earth (within and around).
As we put down the ancient war (within and around), we come to see we are who we’ve been fighting so hard against. And there is a more sustaining and kinder way to use our energy to live an actualized experience of belonging to our hearts and each other.
In these times we can allow the dust and debris from those ancient battles to settle as we tend the inner repair and rejuvenation so deeply needed. We can take heartful action that honors our sensitive bodies and systems that have been through far too much war.
May we rest and rise together in response to this intuitive voice.
Sharon Ann Rose is an author and transformational guide who’s been working in the field of Feminine Wisdom for over 20 years. She developed the SoulBody Sanctuary, a method for supporting her clients to get curious about past beliefs, expectations, lifestyles and domineering rules through awareness and self-care of the nervous system. Her focus is working with women in midlife to rebirth themselves through their sovereign power. She is the author of the book, Faces of the Mother, and has several workbooks, audio programs and self-study courses available.
Marion Van Namen
Music was my first love; when I was just four years old, my grandmother sat me down at a piano. The youngest of seventeen children, she played cello and piano and taught music to all ages for more than sixty years.
My favorite moments as a child were spent sitting at her side, looking up at her big blue eyes, my feet swinging beneath the piano bench, struggling through simple melodies while she made my awkward notes part of a full orchestral sound with her accompaniment. It was my happiest place in the world.
But as I grew up, pragmatism eclipsed my love of music. At fourteen, when I told my father I wanted to pursue music, he told me what so many parents tell their musical children. That I would never be good enough. That I would never make a decent living with music. That I would never have any security. And I listened. I let music go. I pursued my business degree instead – all the way to an MBA from Carnegie Mellon. All the way to a corporate job at Microsoft. All the way to dissatisfaction and discontentment.
In my late twenties, I began volunteering at Waldorf schools. Watching the children sing in choirs and play in orchestras reminded me of those days with my grandmother. I knew it was time to rediscover my own music, and the universe agreed. An unexpected inheritance brought just enough to buy a cello. I had never played before. I began lessons at 31 and fell in true love with music all over again. A year later, I began teaching and never looked back. But I knew that music for me was about more than making a living. I wanted to help others heal the wounds of being told they weren’t good enough. I wanted to show the whole wide world that music is for everyone. So I ditched my corporate job in favor of becoming a music therapist and teacher.
My passions for community-building and the empowering spirit of music brought me to conducting community choirs.
If anything, the lessons I learned about music, and about life, have become stronger as the weeks roll by, after attending Singing on the Edge at Esalen, and I’ve had time to reflect.
Spirituals with Melanie DeMore.
The one workshop that I keep returning to is the one led by Melanie DeMore. Melanie led us into the deepest depths of African American song and the music that emerged from the grief of the enslaved people. We experienced the words and music of the slave ships and of congregational mourning when singing “Lord How Come Me Here“. Together we sang of the children who had been taken away and of the people whose suffering was so terrible they wished they’d never been born. We sang and wept of pain and the worst agonies the human soul can experience.
It was profoundly moving and we were soon singing through a blur of tears. She guided us out of the depths via “Let the light of the lighthouse shine on me” and “This little light of mine”. I’ve sung the latter a million times before but I had never really heard it until Melanie led us in song.
As powerful as song is, it can’t come close to helping us truly understand what people went through in the days of slavery; we never will. Just as we can’t fully appreciate the suffering many people still endure today.
But I wonder if we can use music as a gateway, as the bridge that will help us narrow the divide?
After all, our experiences and our history may be worlds apart at times but there are things that connect us all. We’ve all felt unheard, we’ve all felt disrespected, walked over, ignored. There’s an undeniable universality to the human experience and music may well be the key to tapping into it.
We may not share a common history but, with hope and hard work, we might share a future story. One in which we’re all heard, all respected. One in which we are all valued equally.
We sing for joy, yes. Of course we do. And sometimes joy is the perfect goal for a single moment. Sometimes joy is enough to soothe our souls and bring profound change. But we all have moments when we crave something more, and when we’re strong enough to use music for something deeper. There are moments when we have to. For me, this was one of those moments. I hope it stays with me forever. I think it will.
Kim lives in beautiful Fort Wayne, Indiana with her beloved, intelligent, and funny 14-year-old Portuguese Water Dog who taught her how to be a better person. Undiagnosed until age 55 with ADHD, she continues to learn about this wonderful condition, how it made life incredibly challenging, but most important, how it contributed to the interesting, competent, funny woman she is. Most of her adult career was spent practicing how to be a good Gestalt therapist. Now happily retired, she whiles away her hours as half of a therapy dog team, family genealogy researcher, and editor of a family cookbook.
- Best old joke: Q: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? A: Only one, but it really has to want to change.
- Resistance, great quotes, and conventional wisdom of change:
- You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
- I don’t want to (in a 4 yr. old whining voice.)
- The first step in a 1000-mile journey starts with the first step.
- It’s hard (again with the whining.).
- Changing dirty diapers stinks
- “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.”
- Change is inevitable, suffering a choice (My therapist, Nancy.)
- “Oh fuck.” (Me)
As I was thinking about change (off my ADHD medications) my thoughts swirled. Oh dear. Frame of references considered were personal, or clinical (as a mental health therapist.) Then my thoughts went in another direction (a change) as I considered ‘change’ as a verb or a noun. Egads. So, then my self-avowed word nerdiness kicked in and went to the dictionary and chose this as my starting point: the act or instance of making or becoming different, to undergo transformation, letting go of the old and encouraging something new. Wow. “Becoming different.”
“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.” – Arnold Bennett
As a therapist one of the things that most intrigued me were the responses to a question I always asked a new client: “What made you decide to come see me?” And the reasons were varied, but it usually came down to dissatisfaction, pain or fear of the present and wanting to be different. One young man said he was depressed. Not intriguing itself, but it was his response to my follow up question that was great: “What do you want to change?” His response: (with shock and disbelief) “You mean I have to change?”
So here is the kicker: most of us say we hate change or think of it in a negative way, or believe we are not good at it. Why does changing something about ourselves seem insurmountable? Loss of control? Fear of the unknown? Some believe we are hard wired to avoid change, i.e., the ole fight or flee scenario. Years ago, my partner and I went on vacation with her five children. There was an interesting discussion about where to stop, some arguing for something different, some for a fast food restaurant. Well, McDonalds won and once we got there, we stood in line waiting our order, the youngest turned to me and said “You know what I like about McDonalds? Interested, I said “No, tell me what you like about it.” Happily, smiling up at me, he said “No surprises. I know exactly what I want and know it will be what I am expecting.”
To make a change requires a certain level of dissatisfaction, from the incredibly mild to the extreme dissatisfaction with the way things are now, and it must be accompanied by a positive vision of the future, and realistic, concrete steps to make the vision a reality.
Until recently, I was a champion procrastinator, a behavior I would endlessly shame myself about but had difficulty changing. It helped a bit learning it was a key symptom of my ADHD, but that along with medication was insufficient to realize a satisfactory level of change. So, I continued to procrastinate emptying the dishwasher, paying bills and organizing the office, returning phone calls, etc. What helped me change was realizing what fueled so much of my procrastination was a) assumptions about how hard it would be to do X, Y, or Z, b) my unrealistic expectations of how long it would take to do X, Y or Z, and c) not breaking down a task into smaller concrete steps. Those realizations helped me to make changes and now, I am happily only a semi-champion of procrastination.
Given our fears and resistance to change it is ironic because all of us are masters of change, we do it all the time, hundreds of times a day. We get out of bed. We get something to eat. We start off heading to the living room and detour to the bathroom. We change our mind about who to invite to the party. We watch a new show, we excitedly decide to take a vacation to a someplace we have never been. Each of these reflects a change of place, mood, action, etc. If we can realize and accept that we really are good at change, and take an honest inventory of all the changes we have successfully achieved with varying degrees of effort, and that most of them have had a positive impact in our life, then maybe we will not resist it so much in the future. I really think that the changes that have been negative have been when we have little control over the change. The task then is to look for how we can gain some element of control in the change process and happily, gayly go forward.
“Don’t fear change. Surprise is the only way to new discoveries. Be playful!” – Gordana Biernat