I think that to a certain contingency of our population, victims of mass shootings (and violent crime in general) aren’t really people.

They aren’t people, because they aren’t someone the contingency personally knows. In the contingency’s mind, the people who died are still “theory”.

Sociopaths don’t see other people as people. Their brains don’t function in a way that allows them to understand this. But the general population can have a similar version of this brain malfunction as well. It occurs as part of the tribalism mindset, where someone who doesn’t look like me isn’t a human like me. Or it can occur when one is stuck in mythic consciousness, where one can treat another as inhuman as long as those in charge condone it. And that’s how we get stuck arguing about “theories” like, “Does everyone deserve healthcare? Or a living wage? Or due process? Or the right to attend a concert without being assaulted and killed?”

This is a brain function problem and a consciousness problem. And it is an individual problem leading up to a collective problem.

But, the only remedy is at the individual level. We have to choose, as people, to get our houses in order AND to be open to looking at the world through a broader lens.

A friend of mine always says, “You can’t scream for peace, you can’t shout for peace, you have to BE peace.” And a second friend always follows with “It’s just a decision.”

We are entering a time where that decision is upon us. We have to make it individually, no matter how uncomfortable or lonely it is. And, we cannot make the decision for anyone else.

It’s the only way this stops and something new begins.

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Corporate Wellness Problems

With the dawning of the New Year, many news outlets have been blasting corporate wellness programs for the shams that they are.  And rightly so.  Corporate “wellness” programs are a way for businesses to engage in the fraudulent behavior of claiming to help their employees and reduce healthcare costs while actually doing nothing at all.  Worse, in some cases they add to a culture of “un-wellness” in many corporate environments.

For example, when I worked for a company that required us to participate in a wellness program to receive a percentage off our insurance; I was repeatedly subjected to corporate sanctioned behavior that negatively impacted my recovery from an eating disorder.   For those of you that may not know this, eating disorders are never cured.  They are lifelong illnesses that are managed, much like alcoholism and depression.  Alcoholics often abstain from not only drinking alcohol, but even being put in situations where the temptation of alcohol could impair their recovery.  Diet talk (even when it is disguised as a “lifestyle choice”) triggers eating disordered behavior and can cause someone with an ED to relapse.  Our “wellness program” constantly pressured me to participate in “weight loss challenges” and “lifestyle coaching” in attempts to get me to lose weight.  As a result, I constantly relapsed with my ED until I no longer worked for that company.  This is just one, personal example of how “corporate wellness programs” are complete and total bullshit.

My story isn’t unusual.  Sometimes, the programs aren’t necessarily harmful, but they are ridiculously ineffectual.  For example, another woman I worked with had recently agreed to foster an 18 month old infant.  Because of this, she was unusually sleep deprived.  Guess what?  The program insisted she sign up for their “ insomnia program”.  The problem was that she didn’t have insomnia (which, BTW, should be diagnosed by a physician, not a computer generated questionnaire).  The “problem” was a temporary life circumstance.  But, if she didn’t participate in the program, she was charged more for insurance.

Another coworker began to struggle with her blood pressure.  Her doctor said that based on her readings, this was due to stress.  What was causing the stress?  Surely not the unreasonable demands that corporate had recently placed on her regarding revenue building.  Surely not the demands that she fudge the numbers to make the profit look bigger than it was.  Surely not the fact that every time she turned around she was threatened with being fired over not meeting impossible expectations!  How exactly was the “stress coaching” she received supposed to mitigate the damage caused by her employer? 

The fact is, these “wellness programs” are a symptom of the smoke and mirrors syndrome that plagues our culture.   Corporations like to put programs like this into place so that it looks like they are actually doing something to promote wellness, whether or not the programs are helpful.   It also keeps them from having to do the real work and expense of providing a truly healthy work culture.

We support smoke and mirrors when we don’t call it out.  Or when we “go along to get along”.  And then later, we complain when things aren’t working.   For many of us this is the result of fear and a desire to remain comfortable.  It is easier to ignore and complain than to hold ourselves accountable for our experience.

One of the hardest things we are asked to do in this life is facing discomfort and transforming our experience.  However, when we meet this challenge, our life and the lives of others are changed for the better in ways we can never imagine.  As we do this, others see the positive results of our journey and join us in our endeavors.  We are able to come together as voices of reason to negotiate better work situations for ourselves.  By taking our power back, we create our own “culture of wellness” that effective, reasonable, and rational.

It is hard to step outside of a culture of insanity.   We need each other to create a new culture of health, balance, and courage.   By changing our inner world it is much easier to come together and change the outer.  Take the leap and others will follow.

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Observations from the Middle

The recent presidential election has provided me with a lot of opportunities for introspection and emotional integration.  While most people in my circle view me as a liberal, the truth is that I really fall somewhere in the middle, embracing some aspects of libertarian-ism along with other aspects of progressive-ism.   This has given me an interesting opportunity to observe both sides of the coin, so to speak.

The commonality that I see from both the right and the left (especially on the extreme ends of these paradigms) is the need to control others.  We could go into specifics about how each group wants to exercise control, but this is not necessary.  The main point is that each group needs to get more “members into the fold”.  It needs everyone to agree and think alike in order to exercise power.

While common thinking extols the power in numbers, having everyone THINK alike is not what gives a group power.  The power comes from the individual members of the group deciding to work together, despite their differences, to achieve a common goal (fodder for another post).   Unfortunately, the common goal from both the right and the left is to create policies that make others do what the group wants. 

On the surface, this can create the appearance of a practical conundrum.  Don’t we need to MAKE people do stuff to achieve the “greater good”?  Don’t we need to STOP other people from doing things that harm?  Isn’t it our responsibility to make others do what we think is right?

 The spiritual answer relieves our conundrum.  We are only responsible for ourselves.  We are only in control of how we respond to situations.  That is it.

 Not only do we not have control over others, it is morally wrong to attempt to exert control over another’s experience.  We cannot make people do what we think is right.  We cannot provide a proper experience for someone else.  With that, we cannot keep someone from their own experience.

When we agree to not keep others from their experience, this goes for the “good” as well as the “bad”.  We allow others to make mistakes, fail, and even “sin” as they choose to do so.  We also allow others to stand on their own, take their own action, and make their own destiny.  We do not stand in their way or keep them from opportunity even if we fear that it keeps us from ours.  For when we fear that another’s success leads to our perceived loss, this is the indication that it is time for us to look inward at our own beliefs and perceptions of the world.  Finally, when we accept our responsibility for our experience, we invite others to do the same. 

 This is not to say that we are cold to the struggles of others.  When asked for help or guidance, we provide it (if we can) without expectation of the other person’s outcomes.  We support others when they ask for solidarity.  We express what we need and when listen when others express their needs.  We work together in community as is appropriate for us and as we are called to do so.  But it stops there.

Imagine what the world would look like if we were strong enough to stay out of each other’s way.  If we were integrated enough to not feel the need to hurt or control others out of our own anger, fear, and sorrow.  If we put all of our energy towards saving ourselves instead of co-dependently trying to save others.

I believe this is one of  the keys to making the world a better place for all of us.  How about you?

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Stupid Choices From My 20 Year Old Self

When I was twenty, I made some stupid choices.  No, they aren’t the kind of “stupid choices” you’re thinking of.  I was a good kid.  I never got in trouble.  I didn’t drink and my experience with drugs was only in relation to the gossip that surrounded the “bad kids” in town.

No, I made a different kind of stupid decision.  The kind of stupid decisions that are encouraged by our society.  The kind of stupid decisions that people are praised for making.  I made decisions based on pleasing my parents and fitting in with society.

At the time, I didn’t know any better.  I thought that following what my teachers and parents said, I would end up with a good job and a happy life.  So, I picked a career that my parents approved of because they thought it would bring prestige and money.  I gave up pursuing anything that made me truly happy because it didn’t fit in a little box.  I was told I could do those things as hobbies, never realizing that when you are an adult there’s usually no time and often no money for such things.  It lead me into an adulthood of extreme unhappiness.  And because the economy changed, the guarantee of a steady income and job security vanished.

As I look back on my time in my twenties, I can now see several reasons for having made the decisions I did.  I was completely disconnected from any kind of “inner knowing” or my Higher Self.  I had no sense of purpose other than I was supposed to earn money and make my parents proud.  The concepts of spiritual integration, connection to my true self, and making decisions from a place of response instead of reaction were completely unheard of.  The result was a very painful early adulthood which launched me onto my spiritual quest.

This quest resulted in the acquisition of various tools to change my experience, including brain training.  I make more conscious choices now.  I have learned to respond to my experience as opposed to reacting to it.  I am now in contact with my Higher Self on more occasions than not.   My life isn’t perfect, but I can definitely say that it is much, much better than when I started out. 

Maybe you’ve done this too.  Perhaps you have built a life around the expectations of others.  Or maybe you made choices that you thought would make life easier, but found out that it was not the case.   In any event, the best thing to know is that it is never too late to change.  The trick is to not keep choosing from those old places, fears, or desires.  The way to change your experience is to connect with your true self and make choices from that place.  You will be amazed by what happens.


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3/10: The Tyranny of Commitment

Today I was searching my online photo subscription account for something that would visually describe the word “commitment”. I knew I would probably have about 5,000 wedding related pictures to wade through, but was completely unprepared for what I ultimately found.
For the word “commitment”, I was treated to several images of people with handguns pointed at their heads. Oooookay….what else might I find? Ah, a few pictures of faceless men wielding knives. Interspersed throughout all of this were pictures of Jesus. At what presumably was the Last Supper.
So, based on this website’s algorithms, the word “commitment” is synonymous to being shot, stabbed, or executed. Nice.
This led me to start thinking about how daunting commitment is for people. Think about it: when you commit to something, you are saying that you are going to see it through to the end. No matter how rough, tough, or scary it gets, you will do your part and uphold your end of the bargain. That’s what a commitment is all about.
As time has gone on, I have begun to realize that many things I thought were “necessary” commitments weren’t really as crucial as I thought. They were ways of pleasing other people and bolstering my own ego. Sometimes, my “helping” actually didn’t support others at all because it kept them from being responsible for their own experience. And in the long run, it wore me out and caused me to eventually resent those I was “helping”.
Since that realization, I have started to look at where in my life I can commit to myself. It might be my workout, my brain training time, or even when I practice obedience lessons with Logan. And while it may seem “selfish” at first, I’ve learned that in the long run, committing to myself in ways that support my own health and happiness spill over into positive and supportive experiences for others.
What is a commitment you can make to yourself that will have positive effects on those around you?  Share in the comments below!

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