2011 February

Archive for February, 2011

24 Feb 2011

The Gaganimus Gender Dilemma of Super Stardom

No Comments Humor, Self Development and Transformation, Technology and Change

It seems like the new Lady Gaga (or was it Madonna) song about being ok with our bodies regardless of our deformities is following me everywhere I go from my car radio to television to my own damned humming. While the message is, of course, a good message (Love Yourself) the image of Ms. Gaga onstage last week at the Grammys lingers for me in a somewhat different manner.

Lady Gaga is extremely skilled in catapulting herself between two gender extremes, the masculine and feminine. And what a tremendous gift that is. It is a great feat to file away in one’s primate processing center (PPC) “Lady Gaga is hot. I am attracted to her,” only to find a new file tossed on the pile a week later stamped with “Lady Gaga is not hot. Cancel previous designation, post haste. ” What is it like to feel billions of people look at you on the planet as a “sex symbol?” By its very definition, a sex symbol suggests the projection of an ideal sexual partner. My sense is that most folks who fantasize about having sex with Lady Gaga do not think about what that really means for her, for themselves and for our culture. It is also no surprise that our greatest female superstars react to the projection by publicly exploring their larger than life, massive, unruly… animus.

C.G. Jung offered humanity a helpful tool with regard to our internal gender tension. For the great psychologist, each person’s wholeness involves the interplay of both masculine and feminine qualities. In order to exist in a balanced, mindful, conscious state, a person must negotiate their internal pull toward the other gender on a regular basis. For men, there exists an internal feminine presence known as the anima; for women, the animus.

Many men in our society still wear their masculinity on their sleeve while plunging their feminine elements deep within. Not surprising, a great number of women have done much to summon their inner masculines in order to get ahead in the business world, politics and even in the home. However, the real question is about integration. How many of us are truly comfortable interchanging our masculine and feminine surges without questioning our own identity? It is, like so many things in life, a process of balance and acceptance.

In a world where there is still such high demand for black and white thinking, the notion of gender is one that defies the rigidity of this or that, man or woman. Instead of getting so caught up in “well, which one are you?” perhaps it is high time we start to ask “which one do you feel strongest right now?”

It is not uncommon for our biggest sex symbols to react to the widespread projection of sexuality with a gender reaction. “Oh, you want me? Well, would you want me if I was more masculine?” The greatest female sex symbols of our time have played with these societal projections by pushing the boundaries with regard to gender. Madonna was well known for playing with gender and her animus ( animus rhymes with penis, sort of ). Hers was a Madonimus struggle, one might say. Kim Basinger the epitome of a sex object in the cult classic film, 9 1/2 Weeks, enjoyed a scene where she dresses in drag to meet her lover, Mickey Rourke. Like many men watching, he didn’t like it.

So, I’m happy that Ms. Gaga is responding early to the global projections by humans everywhere by presenting her Gaganimus for all to see and deal with.

21 Feb 2011

What the Egyptians Learned from The Karate Kid

2 Comments Humor, Self Development and Transformation, Technology and Change

It seems to me that for every Contact we make, there are Signs of another Independence Day, 2012 around the corner. Why is it that our society so often tends to appeal to our deepest fears rather than our deepest hopes and inner strength? It’s not just Hollywood, either.

One of the national platform doctors I respect, Dr. Mercola, sends me his newsletter every week and there is always a list of hot topic links to draw me in to his advice and ideas about healthy alternatives. The problem is, however, that they are almost always fear based, i.e. “If you don’t stop using Splenda, you’re dead!” That’s a bit of a turn-off for me. Alternatively, Dr. Andrew Weil sends me his newsletter with lots of love and positivity, recipes for healthier meals and recommendations about how to overcome challenging habits. Which links do you think I click on more frequently? Are you different? Are the fear-based marketing strategies working on you?

Prior to Barack Obama’s election, I received a deluge of emails and appeals from conservative Americans assuring me that his election would be the end of civilization, the end of Democracy, the beginning of a new Communist, Islamic Republic of America. A couple years later, President Obama is still doing his best to make this country better than the day he arrived in the Oval Office. And we have not made it easy with our tendency towards doom and gloom.

Yet, it is so easy to appeal to fear. I believe humans have been historically susceptible to fear as a primary tactic of manipulation. Give the church the deed to your house and we’ll make sure you get to heaven. Hell, Dante’s Inferno did slightly more for church attendance than the classic film, The Exorcist. Fear has been a tool to sustain racism, ignorance, sexism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and even the mistreatment animals experience in industrial meat producing centers across America.

I suppose we each have a choice as to which voices we will listen to throughout life and the fear based bullhorns tend to seem louder, imminent, and more seductive. Like the Karate Kid, limping into the last round of the tournament, the other kid get’s the command from his sensei to “sweep the leg.” While he knows it is an immoral approach to solving the conflict, his own moral fortitude is overruled by the fear of his egotistical teacher.

As the recent events in Egypt have shown us all, it is possible to ignore the voices of doom and gloom and manifest positive change. Yet, a week later as swarms of other protests occur across the Arab world, there are still leaders who attempt to hold on to power through fear and aggression. There will always be leaders who use their villainy and force in order to cut the voice of peace and love out from under them. Let’s just hope that we all have within us at least one little trick in our toolbox that is like a talisman of light, pouring our truth into the darkness.

18 Feb 2011

In the beginning was Mrs. Del Campo

2 Comments Relationships, Self Development and Transformation, Technology and Change

I had an English teacher in 10th grade named Mrs. Gae Del Campo. She was older than most teachers and was the wife of a very successful physician. She chose to become a high school teacher late in life in order to do something constructive with the gift of affluence, vast experience and free time. Most folks in her position would have eased quietly into retirement.

She was eccentric to say the least. Mrs. Del Campo hauled around rings with enormous, bright stones attached, wore her fading fox-like hair up in a poof and liked to hang her jeweled spectacles from a chain around her neck. Yet, it was her personality that really stood out in our otherwise drab high school. She always addressed us as sir and ma’am. She used our last names, never the informal way to which we were accustomed. She listened to what we had to say and oftentimes responded without judgment or criticism unless you could derive such things from the loud cackle that followed our comments. We amused her.

What was most striking about one of the greatest teachers in my life was the tangible desire she demonstrated to make a difference in our lives- she longed to touch our hearts and minds in a deep, lasting way. She taught me how to write better than anyone I have ever met. She had the requisite systems and formulas for writing properly, but more than this she taught me to tap the passion in my writing. There were times she would send my papers back three or four times before giving it a grade. Yes, often it was a result of grammatical or editing requirements, but more remarkable were the requests to feel the words I was writing. “These are not just a bunch of words on a page placed together in an acceptable order, Mr. Sumber,” she’d say. “These are your words, connecting your heart with the reader.”

One of the things I love about writing is that it provides that bridge to connect with others. You can like what I write, disagree with my thoughts or ideas, feel moved by my words, etc. but without an ability to group words in a way where the feelings are also connected between the spaces, they are just data in a sea of information.

I don’t believe that good writing will be made obsolete by technology because at our cores, we want to connect to others. We love good stories and we love a good storyteller. No matter how restless we might become as gadgets and gigabytes speed up our world, we will always long for authentic connection.

Mrs. Del Campo was for me as vital a teacher as all the spiritual warriors, leaders and shamans I have studied with through the years. She taught me the power of the word in that biblical sense that all creation stems forth from our words. In the beginning of my journey was the understanding of the Word. And it was good.

13 Feb 2011

Is that a projection or are you just unhappy to see me?

4 Comments Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

Leave the mirror and change your face.
Leave the world alone and change your conceptions of yourself.

I like to ask couples with whom I work at the start of counseling what the point of their relationship is. It’s not that I like to see people squirm in their seats, it’s that I don’t experience many people with healthy understandings as to why they actually engage in relationship. After all, effectively relating to others is arguably one of the hardest things we do as humans.

Many people suggest they’re in it for the love, the support and the companionship. However, the really honest folks tend to admit that they get involved with someone in order to get their needs met. “Who else is going to take out the garbage?” Good question!

I believe this oftentimes “stealth” motive for why we engage in relationships is one of the key reasons that so many people seem unhappy with their significant other. Many of us know we’re not supposed to really expect anything from the other person, but it doesn’t take much to uncover the truth for people: why would I be partnered if I can’t expect my partner to give to me, do for me, be for me…?

Sorry, but I’m here to suggest that this is one of those things that will keep you unhappy forever unless you accept a significant paradigm shift. I believe we enter the landscape of relationship for all those fun, exciting reasons like love, companionship, dependable sex, etc., however the most compelling reason is that through relationship, I grow, evolve, and transform. It is about me changing as much as I like to fantasize about you changing.

If I step away from my projections as to how you could change (thereby creating a perfect world in which I can live) and direct my attention to the ways I would like to be in the world, the person I want to strive to be, then I have the potential to truly create a peaceful, supportive relationship.

So, it’s Valentine’s Day. Many of us are used to being disappointed on these kinds of holidays. We tend to have expectations that we project onto our significant others and when their behaviors inevitably don’t match our fantasies, we hold them responsible. We blame them. We resent them. We criticize, scold and threaten. We even make up excuses like “it’s not a real holiday anyway…” As if any holiday is real.

Be Your Valentine? WHY?

And they’re absolutely right. What is fun about feeling like we failed once again at doing what you wanted? Why would I feel motivated to do it better or differently next time if my motivation is powered by shame, guilt or anger?

The solution? Focus on being the partner you think your partner should be instead of waiting for them to magically transform into your own best self.

Shall I repeat that?

Express your needs in terms of yourself, not your partner. It is not a given that your needs will be met by your partner and they are not bad or wrong for not successfully fulfilling your needs.

If you do get your needs met, it is a wonderful, amazing occurrence. Celebrate.

If your partner meets your needs as a result of a deep, organic longing to please you, as a gift rather than an obligation, then rejoice and nurture the experience of something sacred and wondrous occurring in your life. Receive the gift and nourish yourself. Take the sublime beekeeper, Ruben Shubot, for example…

Use your relationship to grow deeper into yourself, not to diminish your partner!

11 Feb 2011

Do You Really Need to Suffer?

4 Comments Self Development and Transformation

A very long time ago (thankfully) I found myself to be very stuck. To qualify, whether I was in fact stuck or not wasn’t so much the issue as much as the almost unbearable feeling of being stuck. Some call it depression, others angst. Existentialists and French people simply call it life.

As an American man in my early twenties, I felt a great deal of resentment surrounding a perceived cultural expectation to not only go out and build something solid in the world that makes a lot of money, but to be happy at the same time. I felt burdened by it all. Yes, I attended a great American university and got good grades. I even attended arguably the most prestigious graduate school in our nation afterwards with even better grades. However, it wasn’t before long that I found myself swimming in a sea of despair.

I was at that point of awareness that I believed I had the ability to do something great in the world but felt utterly clueless as to what that looked like or where to begin. I remembered my chosen High School yearbook quote with disdain: “The road to anywhere begins with where you are.” As a seventeen year old, this notion had felt hopeful and bold; as a young man with a Masters from Harvard teaming with strength, virility and visions, it felt a mockery.

I experienced a confusing paradox: While I felt melancholic and defeated, I also felt passionate and creative about ideas and beliefs. I was conscious for the first sustained period of my life of a personal relationship to my Source. As Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard put it: “Faith is a miracle, and yet no man is excluded from it; for that in which all life is unified is passion, and faith is a passion.” I truly felt that passion for life, however I felt paralyzed when it came to bridging the creative, spiritual impulses with actually doing something.

After a series of terrible challenges and general upheaval in my little world, I took leave of my non-lucrative position making bagels in suburbia, grabbed my tent and my dog and headed for the desert. I decided I needed another “vision quest.” However, in hindsight, this label at least that time, was a cover up for a desperate Hail Mary shot towards the end zone. I was at wits end and had no idea what else to do. I parked myself in the middle of the Mojave Desert where I had previously had positive experiences.

Not this time. I sat in my tent beneath the scorching sun and cried. I hiked atop the tallest mountains in sight with my dog and my walking stick as if getting as high up as possible to some imagined heaven would provide better acoustics when I pleaded my case for guidance. I sat and I sat. After six days, I felt more empty, hungry and miserable than I had been when I first arrived.

I didn’t hear a loud voice from above with clarity and grace directing me to some wonderful terrestrial assignment.

What I heard was a still, small voice from within me that said: “Stop hurting yourself. You do not have to suffer.” At the time, the awareness that I could leave the barrenness of the desert was a non-event. Ho-hum. I already felt like a spiritual “failure” not having been given the command from God Central to do great things. So, the notion that I could just pack up my sleeping bag and head home seemed fairly miserable in the grand scheme of things.

However, I would say there have been few more important lessons in my life. The understanding that I choose my suffering like I choose my coffee in the morning is as profound as they come. The consideration that I do not have to suffer in order to create change or forward movement in my life is monumental.

Not knowing what I want or can do to make a difference in the world is one thing. Knowing that I don’t have to beat myself up for that lack of clarity is another. The compassion around choosing to love myself along the journey (even when it feels like an impossibility that this could actually be my journey) is one of the deepest truths I have learned.

I hope it helps you on your journey.