Here’s one to think about:

THE APPOINTMENT

What if, on the first sunny day,
On your way to work, a colorful bird
Sweeps in front of you down a
Street you’ve never heard of.
You might pause and smile,
A sweet beginning to your day.
Or you might step into that street
And realize there are many ways to work.
You might sense the bird knows something
You don’t and wander after.
You might hesitate when the bird
Turns down an alley.  For now
There is a tension:  Is what the
Bird knows worth being late?
You might go another block or two,
Thinking you can have it both ways.
But soon you arrive at the edge
Of all your plans.
The bird circles back for you
And you must decide which
Appointment you were
Born to keep.

 

~Mark Nepo


Wow.  I just came home from a celebration of life service honoring a 42-year old man who lost a very short battle to cancer.  He was the son of one of my former bosses, and I had met him only once– so I was mostly there in support of his parents.

After this 2-hour celebration filled with stories, laughter, tears and all emotions that go along with those, I feel like I know him better and more importantly heard the valuable lessons of how he lived.

Zach resided in multiple places in the United States over his relatively short life.  He grew up in Pennsylvania but spent considerable time in New York City, Philadelphia, Colorado and finally California.  He majored in an engineering discipline in college but he ended up studying the ways of Native Americans in the west.  I remember his father scratching and shaking his head multiple times over the years when I would ask how his son was doing, and he usually ended with something like, “I’m not sure if he’ll ever settle down and figure out what to do.”  Of course his father–a classic baby boomer–was used to the ways of choosing a career discipline and following that discipline throughout your life until retirement.

Ah, but the stories today.  The free spirit; the kindness; the sense of humor; the “being present” for people in his life; the choosing warmth, openness and helpfulness over impatience and aggravation; the making everyone that entered a room–even his hospital room at the end of his life–feel welcomed and honored; the singing in the shower and the car; the laughter; the hikes; the honoring nature; the loving animals; the being present for children.  I’m not kidding.  Person after person (and there were quite a few who spoke) had the stories to back up the character that was Zach.

The last gentleman who spoke was a friend from Colorado.  He told us that just before he left for the airport to make the flight across the country for the service, he made a decision to change out of his dress clothes–so sure he was that Zach was laughing at him from somewhere in the spirit world.  And, instead he put on a flannel shirt, hiking pants, and substituted a duffel bag and a cooler for his suitcase.  He spoke of Zach the way everyone else had but somehow he captured the spirit of Zach in this last quote–from Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader from the 18th and 19th centuries:

Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.  Trouble no one about his religion.  Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.  Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.  Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.  Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.  Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.  Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.  When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.  Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.  If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.  Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs their spirit of its vision.  When your turn comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.  Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

Zach was an accomplished photographer and he had his own blog where he clearly demonstrated his talent and love for nature.  You can access his blog here:  https://feralzach.com/tag/zachary-e-dautrich/

Many of you know I’ve been aware of red tail hawks flying close above me on numerous occasions in the last year.  Well, Zach loved red tail hawks and has numerous gorgeous shots of them on his blog.  On the way out of the service today, we were handed a post card with one of Zach’s red tail hawk photos on one side and the Tecumseh quote on the other.  Wow.  There are messages here for me to learn.

Finally, I will send a note to Zach’s parents to thank them for the service and for Zach.  I think his father, in particular, now has his answer about Zach’s calling.  It wasn’t so much about what Zach was “doing” that mattered…it was what he was “being” that brought so much joy, respect, laughter and peace to so many people who filled that room today.

Rest well dear SMOG.

 

 

 


I have been struggling for a long time with what I perceive as the polarization of America.  It hurts to see us so dug into our convictions and so unwilling to listen to others’ points of view.

One might argue this time period is no worse than it was in the 1960’s during the Vietnam conflict.  I know there are a handful of you who remember more than a few passing perceptions and news stories of that time.  Those who have those vivid memories will often say, in many ways, that conflict was worse.  Or how about Nixon and Watergate.  This was also a very divisive time in our nation’s history.  Go back in time even farther and you have the Civil War and the slavery issue.  Talk about divisive–when we had a whole set of states seceding from the Union.

Perhaps the difference between Civil War times and now is the accessibility of information through dozens of broadcast media sources as well as explosion of social media outlets.  In addition, I learned something else on Sunday of this week when I listened to a report on CBS Sunday Morning, so I did a bit more research and this is basically what I found:

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was — in the Commission’s view — honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC, which was believed to have been under pressure from then President Ronald Reagan, eliminated the Doctrine in 1987. The FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine, in August of 2011.

The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. The doctrine did not require equal time for opposing views but required that contrasting viewpoints be presented. The demise of this FCC rule has been considered by some to be a contributing factor for the rising level of party polarization in the United States.

Ah.  Interesting.  The year 1987 marks the birth of broadcast ideologies without a necessity to present opposing points of view.  So, now I get how the likes of Rush Limbaugh on the right and Rachel Maddow on the left can get away with saying things that seem–to those of us in the relative middle–unbelievably outrageous.  It also explains why polarization is alive and well in these times.  Naturally we all have biases based on a variety of influences in our lives, and you don’t have to go too far to find someone in either national media or social media outlets who supports our particular viewpoint.  And we all know that–as a general rule–we tend to be drawn to people like ourselves–who look like us, who sound like us, and who believe like us.  It’s harder to be in relationship with people who have divergent points of view.  It’s hard to listen to them and open our minds to the views they believe.  It’s hard.  Truly hard.

And, based on the Adult Stage Development numbers, a majority of Americans don’t open our minds to others’ perspectives (Skill Centric stage or earlier).  In the old days (my God, I sound like my mother right now!), our elders were story tellers and through their stories they imparted the wisdom and perspectives that they had learned through life.  Our elders’ wisdom often came as a result of situations they experienced where their viewpoint was not always the one, the only, and the correct way of looking at things.  And, it usually came when these elders witnessed the youth in their lives experiencing a hurtful situation where the elder could use the story to help the youth learn wonderful life wisdom.

Finally, I’m not blaming everyone else for this phenomenon.  I struggle with polarization myself.  I struggle to listen to others who have differing points of view.  I am having to constantly challenge myself, and I often fall short.  But, I’m now one of those elders (eek!)  Don’t I have an obligation to push myself to open my mind?  Shouldn’t I learn differing ways to look at things?  Shouldn’t I refrain from judgment?  Shouldn’t I be patient with myself and others?  And, if I’m listening attentively, can I expect–should I expect–the person who is speaking to me will turn around and extend the favor?

Hmmm.  Some food for thought and further conversation.

 

 

 


I found a meaningful quote on a Ten Thousand Villages blog post, written by a woman who has found a way to make her life work even within a challenging economic and sociopolitical system.

It was a great reminder for me.  I love sharing my journey on this blog.  I have always been motivated by trying to help others, as well as by sharing my frustrations, joys and learnings.  I have to always remember, however, that my way is not THE way.  It is not the one, the only and/or the RIGHT way.  It’s my journey.  Yours is your own.

If these posts help you to think, wonderful.  If they help you to learn, fabulous.  If they keep you in touch with who I am becoming, super.  If they inform your development, cool.  If they make you think I’ve lost my marbles, that’s okay too.  It’s all good.

Journey on, my dear SWOG friends!

 

 

 


Sometimes when I read a passage I find myself saying, “Huh?” Having no idea what the author just said, I scratch my head, read it again, and if I still don’t get it–I move on.  Maybe I’m just not meant to get it yet.  Maybe I haven’t reached that level of discernment, enlightenment or whatever other “ment” I’m meant to reach at that particular moment.

I’ve decided, however, it shouldn’t keep me from trying.

Cynthia Bourgeault is one of those authors who I can sometimes “get” and sometimes I scratch my head.  She’s been a guest writer in Rohr’s blog over the course of the last couple months.  She is so deep that I often lose her on the way down into the cave mountain she’s trying to take me.

So, when her post today made sense to me…it was a moment of excitement, encouragement, and wonderment.  In other words, the “ment’s” were working to form a great big “Ah.  Ah Ha” today.

What does it say to you–even if it is bemusement?

 

The Opposition Is Never the Problem
Sunday, March 19, 2017

This week Cynthia Bourgeault, one of CAC’s core faculty members, continues exploring how the Law of Three can be put into action to facilitate positive change in the world.

We’ve been exploring the Law of Three in a theoretical way, getting acquainted with its major precepts and a few of its peculiarities. But what do some concrete examples of Law of Three in action look like? Consider the following Law of Three triads:

seed/moist earth/sun = sprout
flour/water/fire = bread
plaintiff/defendant/judge = resolution
sails/keel/helmsperson = course made good

But these are only textbook examples, while the Law of Three is all about action. It is one thing to recognize a Law of Three configuration in a theoretical exploration; it is another thing altogether to recognize it in actual life and be able to work with it confidently and skillfully.

The single most liberating insight to come out of my work with the Law of Three was the realization that what appears to be the resisting or opposing force is never actually the problem to be overcome. Second force, or holy denying, is a legitimate and essential component in every new arising: no resistance, no new arising!

That realization in and of itself radically rearranges the playing field, shifting the focus away from trying to eliminate the opposition and toward working collaboratively for a more spacious solution. According to the Law of Three, once an impasse is reached, it can never be solved by going backward but only forward, into that new arising that honors all the players and brings them into a new relationship. (Einstein seems to have been on to this insight in his famous dictum that a problem can never be solved at the level at which it is created.) The three forces are like three strands in a braid; all three are required for the weaving.

One woman in a group I was working with was almost instantly able to turn around a very difficult standoff with an ultraconservative bishop when she realized that his resistance was not the problem to be solved but a given to be worked with. With an almost visceral “Aha!” she relaxed her sense of polarization and was stunned to learn the next day that he had miraculously softened his stance. While it was not clear to her who had actually been the broker of third force here, it was clear to her that the two relaxations were not unrelated.

One can only imagine how greatly the political and religious culture wars of our era could be eased by this simple courtesy of the Law of Three: (1) the enemy is never the problem but the opportunity; (2) the problem will never be solved through eliminating or silencing the opposition but by learning to hold the tension of the opposites and launch them in a new direction. Imagine what a different world it would be if these two simple precepts were internalized and enacted.

Ah.  Ah Ha.


OK, after working at Ten Thousand Villages for almost four weeks now, I have become an absolute Fair Trade convert.  And, of course, I have to put in a plug for Ten Thousand Villages whose founder–Edna Ruth Byler–is recognized as the Fair Trade movement’s originator.

You, too, can be part of the story. View online: http://www.tenthousandvillages.com

Of course, I can’t help but put Edna Ruth’s story in SWOG blog–after all, she sure sounds like a Strong Woman of Grace.  You can read how she got started here:  http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/about-history/

And check out their wonderful blog called “Mosaic,” which can be accessed on their site or at: http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/mosaic/categories/fair-trade/

It won’t take you long to see where swog lady is spending her paycheck!!!

Enjoy!


The pursuit of grace.  It’s difficult to put words to what this means.  It likely means different things to each of us.  Part of why the title of this post is “A” Path to Grace is that I sense each of us has to take our own journey to find it.  So much of what I’ve been posting about on “adult stage development” really boils down to finding a way to embody grace in deeper and deeper ways.

Everywhere I’ve turned in the last few years I’ve come into contact with the mindfulness movement.  Whether it’s reading Rohr or Bourgeault, whether it’s in my Georgetown program, whether it’s in BB&T’s Leadership program, whether it’s all the neuroscience research–meditation, consciousness, mindfulness, and being present have become mainstream.

I figured the universe was trying to get my attention by bringing this subject in my path repeatedly (there’s only so many times you can ignore something pulling on your sleeve).  So, I started, stopped, read some more, tried again, gave up, learned some more, and got a tip on a tool from a Georgetown colleague.  The “tool” was Oprah & Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience.  I started in November and have been pretty consistent ever since.

After completing the first set of meditations, I went to their website to find other subjects.  Imagine my delight when there was one titled, “Manifesting Grace through Gratitude.”  I purchased that one and one called “Finding Your Flow.”  Onward I went into this brave new world of listening first to Oprah introduce the topic for the day and then to Deepak who took the information deeper.  Then as Oprah always says, “We’ll meditate!” and the session basically concludes with about 10-12 minutes of meditation.    That’s probably the right amount for an antsy gal like me but they do offer an extended session version where the meditation time lasts around 20 minutes.

I have to say all of these meditations have been enlightening and encouraging, but the one on grace has been inspirational.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised–given my resonance with its title.  The following is an excerpt from one:

Living in a state of grace takes gratitude from a feeling to a way of being in the world.  You no longer question the value of trust, love, surrender and faith because you have tested them and made them your own.

Before the state of grace has ripened completely, however, a moment of grace or a feeling of gratitude can be fleeting.  To make it last and become a way of life requires that we establish new habits.  The conditioning from our past that’s based on negativity, struggle and judgment needs to be worked on.

This work, which happens inside, becomes a joy because you can feel that each step brings more happiness and fulfillment.  You feel free as you become who you really are beneath the layers of habit and old conditioning.  All this time grace stands beside you.  It never changes even as we do.

How do we get there?  The only answer I know to this question hit me square between the eyes when I was watching the movie Doctor Strange.  No, really!  I’m not kidding.  When the good doctor was trying to understand the new world he was drawn into he asked his spiritual guide/advisor the question, “How do I get from here to there?”  She returns his question with a question, “How did you become a doctor?”  To which Doctor Strange answers, “Study and practice.”

Study and practice.  It’s probably the only way–at least for me– to let go of old thoughts and habits and adopt new ones.

Sigh.  I was hoping for a magic vitamin.

 

 


Sorry swogbloggers!  My blog was down with technical difficulties (and some, quite frankly, blog-owner error difficulties) so I’m back and have a lot of catching up to do!

So, this post (below) will be a follow-up to my last entry with the video of the gentleman who held the sign and blindfolded himself.  There was a bunch of commenting done outside of the blog that I want to highlight for all readers to follow.

So here we go!!

Changing Our Operating System

The reason I’m writing about this theme is because all the work I’ve been doing over the past 5 years really comes down to this issue at the core.  Unless we change our operating system and how we view the world (issues, decisions, judgments), we can’t move to higher levels of adult stage development.

We stay stuck in the same way of thinking and processing information.  What’s wrong with that, you ask?  Well, judging by how things are going right now in our political arena, with security in our cities, with civility on social media, with the heroin epidemic, and so on, I think there are many reasons to advocate for a change in our way of thinking.

I’m not so naive to think this can take hold without some kind of major revolution.  There’s not enough people out there teaching this stuff, and our American society was formed on Western Culture values that still hold capitalism, winning at the expense of others, and accumulating wealth higher than most other things.  The interesting thing about that is when we leave this earth, we really can’t take those “things” with us.  We all get to a place of letting go, whether we want to or not.

So, bear with me as I stream other thought leaders on this core issue of changing the way we look at life.  Changing the way we make meaning of life.  Changing the way we make decisions.  Changing the way we communicate with one another.

I realized it was time to do this series after I entered a debate with one of you over my last blog post where I discussed Executive Orders issued recently.  I became so caught up in my argument that I lost touch with listening compassionately and empathetically.  I wanted to present evidence as to why the recent travel restrictions did not make sense and lost touch with the core message of that post.  We can help make America safe AND be careful not to discriminate.  So much in life does not have to be “EITHER/OR” or black and white.  We get so caught up in our polarized position being correct, that we allow no room for compromise.

That is what I think is playing out now in our national scene.  Both sides of this argument (notice dualistic thinking naturally says there are just TWO SIDES) think their position is correct.  So now, no one wants to compromise.  The “ban” is either ON or it’s OFF.  You are either “with me” or “against me.”  You are either on the “right side of this argument” or not.

Is picking one of these polar opposites the best way to proceed?  I don’t know–you must decide for yourself.  And we wonder why we just had a national election where one candidate won the electoral college and the other one won the popular vote.

I ended up only proving–through that stream of emails with one of my dear SMOGs– that I still have work to do.  So thank you–my dear SWOG follower– for getting me off the dime and tackling this core issue!


OK, get out the tissues.  This one was powerful–in many ways.  Because I read slowly, I had trouble reading his whole message while the video was playing.  You might not suffer the same pokiness, but in case you do I’m going to include below, after the video, the exact words written on this gentleman’s sign.  As always, I’m interested in your thoughts!

 

 

Hello.  My name is Karim and I am an Arab-American.  Like many people who are black, brown, women, LGBTQIA, Latinx, Muslim, Jewish, Immigrants and Other, I am very scared.  We are anxious and uneasy in our own country and it’s difficult to see what lies ahead for us.  But I have HOPE that I am SAFE with YOU.  Together we can build a community of caring rather than one of fear.  You can trust me to care for you no matter who you are, what you look like or where you are from.  ?Will you embrace me as willingly as I embrace you?

Will you shake my hand and/or HUG me and/or take a photo with me and post it as a sign that I am safe here with you?

I TRUST YOU.  #youaresafewithme    #safetyinnumbers

 

There is so much to say and do.  Let’s make sure our voices are heard.  Feel free to pass along the video, the post or whatever.  Write your congressmen and women.  We can promote safety and security without promoting racism, hatred and exclusion.  It does not have to be one or the other.  Our policies can protect ALL Americans, no matter what their religious beliefs or skin color, and allow for a reasonable approach to immigration.  It does not have to be dualistic, polarized and all or nothing.  Hatred is not the way, and now is not a good time to be complacent.

Please remember, as I know my dear SWOGs and SMOGs you do, that we are ALL descended from immigrants (unless you are 100% Native American).  Irish, English, German, French, Spanish, Greek, African, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Brazilian, Japanese, Iranian, Israeli, Saudi’s, Russian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, and the list goes on and on and on.  We are a melting pot of people.  Our heritage is rich and deep.  And, as one of our greatest Presidents (a Republican, I might add) reminded us in a very famous speech a long time ago:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers bought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.  And that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.      ~Abraham Lincoln

One man OR woman should not have the ability to put actions in place that are essential unconstitutional.  And, I know there are friends of mine reading this blog who struggled through the Obama Presidency for the same reason.  So, clearly something has to change with the way Executive Orders work, because it seems to me that EO’s have become a way for one individual to circumvent the Constitution and the principles by which we were founded.  In addition and most importantly, those same EO’s should not give that President’s followers the right or rationale to spew hatred toward our fellow men and women.  THAT is actually the most disturbing part of all of this.

OK, that’s enough politics for this week.  It’s not my intention for this blog to become a voice for one political party over another.  In my heart, I’m an independent anyway.  I subscribe to ideologies from both major political parties.  I was just struck by this video which I actually received via email a few days ago on my Georgetown listserv.  Then came the events of this weekend, and I just had to vocalize my deep concern over what I see happening in a frenzied pace.

 

 

 

 

 


A funny thing happened to me yesterday on the way to trying to live life wholeheartedly.

But, let me first digress.  Wholeheartedly?  What in the world are you talking about SWOG-blogging lady?

About a month ago I started listening to Brené Brown’s book, The Power of Vulnerability.  Thanks to a fellow SWOG (you know who you are–DGK), I latched onto Brené a few years ago when her book, The Gifts of Imperfection was recommended to me.  She’s a qualitative researcher that does work on topics like shame and vulnerability.  If you haven’t read any of her work, try watching her out on YouTube in one of her many TED Talks that she’s done over the years.

Anyway, one of the things she’s discovered through interviewing thousands of people during her career is there is this small percentage of people who have found a way to embrace vulnerability and live in a very, what she refers to as, “wholehearted” way.  As I listened to The Power of Vulnerability I found myself thinking–Eureka!  That’s it!!!  This is kind of all over the strength with grace thing.  I need to get me some more of this wholehearted stuff!

The way she describes “wholehearted” is by referring to ten sort of principles or ways these people choose to live their lives.  I do pick the word “choose” intentionally, by the way.  My Georgetown mentor told me, “We are always at choice.  We can choose for ourselves different ways of thinking and behaving.”  So these wholehearted people, Brené found, do something interesting.  They cultivate certain things on one hand and they let go of certain things on the other.  So instead of striving for more, more, more they do what makes more sense.  They do more of something and less of something else.  They do more of the good wholehearted things and less of things that get in the way of living a peace-filled and joyful life.  I’ll be laying out more about these ten principles in my blog over the next few weeks/months.

So, I did as I so often do…jumped straight into the deep end of the pool.  I went out three days ago and bought myself one of those wee little pocket journals–the size and nature that could literally fit in a man’s dress shirt breast pocket.  And I took every one of of the ten principles and I wrote on the left side of one spread of two pages the things I needed to “cultivate” and on the right side, the things I needed to “let go of.”  I made a vow that I would get up every morning– before I did anything else–and I would read one of the ten principles, in successive order of course, and I would practice cultivating and letting go of those particular things on that day.  I would do this everyday and maybe by 60 to 90 to 120 days, I would have wholehearted living absolutely figured out.

You just KNOW where this is going, don’t you??!!

So, Day 1 I get up and read my little journal and the notes that went along with the first principle.  It was about authenticity.  I was all over it.  This is cool!  I did a fairly good job of keeping the lessons in the forefront of my mind all day long.  I really felt good and like I was onto something important.

Day 2 comes–which was yesterday– and I bound out of bed.  I had a ton to do…I had a bunch of phone appointments.  I had company coming for dinner and staying to help me with genealogy research I was doing on my extended family (you know who you are SWOG-lady and thank you DS!).  I had some pre-work I wanted to do for that meeting ahead of time.  I had about three potential SWOG posts competing in my brain cells for wanting to be posted next.  I had some clean-up work to do.  I wanted to fit in a work-out.  You get the picture.  I was off and running to what promised to be a very busy day.

And, yes, the little diary was TOTALLY forgotten.  Did not give it a moment’s thought.  Did not even think, “Oh, and I need to read my little diary and see what I need to practice today.”

Somewhere around 2:30 pm I remembered it and the conversation in my head went something like this:

GEEZ Louise, Bev.  I CANNOT believe it’s only Day 2 and you’ve ALREADY forgotten what you committed to doing.  What is the MATTER with you?!?  You can’t commit to anything and see it through!

So, I scrambled to find my little diary and opened it to the second principle for wholehearted living.  It is as follows:

Cultivate Self-Compassion and Let Go Of Perfectionism.

I LAUGHED OUT LOUD.  So much so that I doubled over and snorted a few times just for good measure.  And, do we think that was a coincidence?  Naw.  Probably not.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?