2011 June

Archive for June, 2011

27 Jun 2011

The Cosmology of DOG

6 Comments Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

In my experience, most things on this planet come with an ending.

I find that there is often some resistance within myself to prevent natural completions, terminations or transitions even though I am conscious that everything and everyone has an end, at least in this physical manifestation.

Sometimes it is holding on to a job simply because I don’t want to accept it is over or deal with the fact that I’m no longer stimulated or challenged by it.

Sometimes it is gripping hard to a relationship that has long served its purpose and only exists because I, or we, keep pumping life into it in fear of the alternatives or in laziness based on what is comfortable and familiar.

Then, there is the obvious and biggest example of this. Death. Yes, death. The big one. The end of ends. The Grand Farewell.

In my work and in my own experience, I find that our anxiety with regard to our own physical termination has a great deal to do with many of our often times silly obsessions, patterns and hang-ups. What is most notable, however, is that our anxiety about death tends to be largely unconscious as most of us simply do not wish to think about it let alone discuss it with others, lest we make it ever more real.

So, what are we so worried about? There are of course the obvious questions such as will it hurt… will we be scared when the plug is pulled… will our loved ones miss us…will we be judged for things we messed up while alive?

For some, adherence to particular spiritual or religious doctrines helps place death within the specific context of our belief system. Our cosmology, the map we create and nest in that explains our universe and extrapolates for us beyond the flat line, seems easier for those who believe in a clearly defined religion as most theologies inherently answer the matter of life and death as one of the foundational purposes.

Which brings me to my dog.

Chaco is now 15 ½ years old. He wobbles and hobbles, pees and poops wherever it moves him, eats when he feels like it and only that which appeals to him at the moment. We have to hide his incontinence pills in balls of Wonder Bread and cream cheese, otherwise, no go.

He stares at himself in the mirror for long periods of time as if lost in the picture of who he has become. He spends several hours in a day standing at my side, staring into my eyes, panting.

He is, by all intents and purposes, nearing the end of his dog life.

Some folks would have “put him down” by now, claiming it is just “humane.” Others discuss the notion of “quality of life,” asking questions about his ability to run and play, making assertions that a dog that can not catch a Frisbee any longer may not be in possession of a good enough quality of life.

However, Chaco lives.

I’m not sure if he enjoys a particular cosmology, if he is conscious of a life after death or if he believes he will just “STOP” when the ride ends.

I do know, that he melts when we pet him. I know that he loves some good wet food and tuna fish makes his heart sing. I know that there is still a gentle skip in his gait when we get to the dog park, even though he stumbles around and makes his mark by sometimes lifting the wrong leg. I know that my best friend for over 15 years, though mostly deaf, always knows when I am leaving for work and makes his way to the front door to peer his sweet head around and wish me a good day.

I know that Chaco is not finished with this life. I am basing this belief on the sense that he will let me know when it is no longer worth it. I am basing this on 15 years of history together that has proven that my dog communicates his needs pretty darn well.

And, I suppose, I’m basing this on my own cosmology. The way I perceive life and death is the way I move through my existence, making decisions and choosing paths along the journey. I believe that Chaco contracted with me long ago to walk this walk together, to enjoy the journey for as long as we decided it was working for us both. It’s a relationship, after all.

And relationships are a two way street.

20 Jun 2011

You Can Call Me Dad.

5 Comments Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

Even though I’m not a dad.

I do not have kids and there is a strong chance that I will die without children of my own. It’s not that I have anything against children or fear parenting, it is simply a result of a number of life circumstances that has led to my being, now over forty years old, a non-father.

Now hold on there. People wish me a “Happy Father’s Day” for days before and days after the June holiday as they “Merry Christmas” me silly in December. There is an interesting assumption people make about such things. I’m not a dad and I’m not a Christian, but it doesn’t stop folks from throwing their cheer my way.

It used to really irritate me about the Merry Christmas thing, and there aren’t many things that truly irritate me. Especially with the popular campaign to “put Christ back into Christmas” which does a wonderful job debunking those who wish to persuade me that Christmas is an American holiday and not a religious one. But I digress. Or, do I?

Why is it that people assume I have children? Perhaps it is because I’m a man over forty. Perhaps it is because I choose to grow my facial hair. Perhaps it is because I am a psychotherapist. Perhaps it is because I smile at other people’s kids (in a nice way, not creepy) and even strike up conversations with young people in a way that I believe not many adults have a tendency to do.

However, I’m thinking the answer has less to do with me and more to do with you.
Yes you.

Why do you feel the need to wish me a happy anything when you are not sure if that specific happiness applies to my life? I think the answer leads us back to that favorite topic of mine, projection. There were precious few women whom I dated in my life (or married for that matter) that didn’t stare at me with that look in their eyes and say, “You’re going to be such a good father.” I typically smiled, nodded and particularly enjoyed the sex that night.

I’m not sure there is any real basis for an extrapolation of current behavior, depth, compassion and general “good with kids-ness” that automatically leads one to being an exceptional father. There is, however, a very real projection from you to me that hopes I will be a good father because good fathers are like gold. What is most notable to me is that what I think so many project onto others when it comes to the “fatherly” vibe is just that, a vibe; an energy.

The Father Archetype is something I feel I have connected with for many years. It is an embodiment of kindness, patience, strength, understanding, wisdom, depth, presence and availability. In fact, it is not difficult to confuse the Father Archetype with simply the best of the MALE energy. Simply being a solid, self-realized man is what so many people hope to find in the man with whom they are in a relationship, studying with, learning from, working for, or, yes, co-parenting.

Which brings me back to Christmas. The realization I had about Christmas is the same that helped me relax about Father’s Day. When you wish me a happy anything, you are initiating a connection, offering kindness and most of all, you are attempting to place me inside of your utopic world of understanding and the way things should be.

You want to live in a world where everyone celebrates Christmas because you love it so much and want me to be a part of it. You wish me a Happy Father’s Day because you love being a father and want me to love it to. You want me to be the kind of father you think I would be because you want to be that kind of father or be connected to that kind of father.

Sure, some of you are just so self-absorbed that you fail to accept that not everyone believes what you believe or has chosen the same life choices you have chosen. I used to think that you all occupied this category but I see now that it isn’t that simple. In fact, at this point, I’m pretty honored that you feel I embody the qualities that make a good, strong, father figure.

So, wish me a Happy Father’s Day. In fact, you can call me Dad if you like. I’ll simply sit here and smile patiently, nodding and holding the space with a quiet strength that exudes FATHER.

14 Jun 2011

Who Is Your Co-Pilot?

9 Comments Humor, Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

Tell me how this God of yours works?

Seems like a great number of folks believe that if they believe in a “Saviour” God, then God will save them from bad decisions, taxes, and overeating. Others believe in one of those “Redeemer” Gods who will liberate them from bad relationships, bad governments and inclement weather. “Destroyer” Gods are less popular today although remain extremely central in certain social and religious circles.

What strikes me as odd is the segment of our society who define themselves as “non-religious” yet continue to foster a relationship with “Spirit,” “Source” or “A Higher Power” who will still somehow do everything for us. This has been popularized by the Law of Attraction and various programs of manifestation that become so oversimplified as to promote a similar projection of responsibility as the great religious traditions who suggest that if we place our faith in their God, then things will just work out.

While I am a firm believer in the notion that thoughts become things, I have not relinquished my relationship with my rational mind, personal experience and twelfth grade physics.

I believe in God. I do not, however, believe that God will do things for me that I do not want to do for myself! God is not my “Four Hour Work Week.” God is not my winning lottery ticket. God is not choosing the right candidate in an election.

God is my PARTNER.

We co-create. We manifest stuff together. We negotiate contracts, discover relationships and find parking spots together. God is literally my co-pilot.

I believe in personal responsibility. I know that when I make a decision rooted in a low frequency of my SELF that it will likely lead to low frequency outcomes. God, my understanding of God at least, doesn’t appreciate being a part of low frequency business deals, relationships and various other life contracts. God will reluctantly go along with some of these decisions because God loves me and wants to be supportive, but God will not use the vastness of God’s abilities to turn water into wine and make a lemon turn into a Ferrari just because I am a good person.

On the other hand, having God in my court is a huge plus. When I realize I have made a decision that is counterproductive; when it becomes clear that I’m not living at my highest frequency, it is really nice to have God around to consult with and recalculate the plan. God is always there for me when I need support. That feels really good.

While I don’t align myself with the billions of atheists on the planet who believe that God is an escapist fantasy, I do understand how it must seem to them when so many millions of people resort to their faith in God to fix what needs fixing in their lives.

To me, faith is a wonderful supplement to some good old fashioned common sense, hard work and smart choices.

07 Jun 2011

The Paradox of the Imperfect Superhero

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

“Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland

One of my favorite things as a boy was not just riding the train into NYC, it was reading comic books based on NYC’s greatest heroes on the train to Gotham City. My scrawny, little body felt incredibly vulnerable walking through the streets of one of the best cities in the world, its tall shadows splashing all around me. My connection, fantasy if you prefer, to Gotham’s great heroes somehow gave me an extra degree of confidence. Perhaps it was the belief that I could one day be fearless like Superman, bold as Batman or as agile as Spiderman. The line between fantasy and inspiration is sometimes quite thin.

These were superheroes, characters dedicated to protecting the average public citizen from negative forces in our midst, typically those who would foster evil intent to harm the innocent. The “average” superhero operates from a clear moral code based on the premise that it is admirable and generally appropriate to risk one’s own personal safety or comfort in the service of protecting and supporting the health and well-being of others.

Heroes like Superman, Spiderman, Batman and Wonder Woman not only did good in the world, they also did their best to avoid actually killing the bad guys. The modus operandi was to stop bad people while not adding to their depravity by hurting them more than was necessary to stop their destructive activities. Most of the superheroes I grew up with seemed to submit to an unspoken understanding of this ethical consideration. It was almost as if there was some universal code of conduct that they all just knew.

I spent at least ten hours each week as a boy receiving religious instruction, training in “upright behavior,” moral selflessness, and fostering the commitment to protect, nourish and nurture our particular religious community. Much like the “costumed crime fighters” without superhuman powers like Batman and Robin, folks like Moses mostly had to do good in the world without the aid of X-ray vision, superhuman strength or speed. Granted, with parting the Red Sea and all those plagues it would seem like he would be elevated to superhero status. However, we were taught that Moses was just the messenger, a conduit, for the will and power of God. Messenger and angel notably share the same word in Hebrew, but that’s for another day…

Another prototype for the common hero in my upbringing was that of the common person who develops her potential through self-development, overcoming obstacles and tapping the unique, mysterious powers that lay dormant within until, unleashed with purpose and intention, they are transformed forever. Examples of these heroes were Luke Skywalker, The Karate Kid, and even Dan Milman in the “Way of the Peaceful Warrior.”

Luke Skywalker, for example, grew up a normal kid until a series of events occurred which challenged his beliefs about himself and the world. He is called to reframe what were childhood fantasies about greatness and enters a process of individuation and empowerment that serves to unleash his inherent, authentic power. This paradigm for rising above the low hum of mediocrity and working hard to develop the superhero within, this is the worldview that has most permeated my experience and outlook as an adult.

I have come to believe that we create our future by aligning our stories and our paths in the world with our soul’s purpose. I believe this is almost always accomplished in relationship with those qualities we are here to express and with our natural gifts, talents, beliefs, moral code, passions and essentially, those things that foster delight. The notion of one’s purpose existing in direct alignment with our innate, super-human gift is in many ways how I have integrated my love for comic books, fantasy and science fiction with my own work in the world. I sincerely believe that we each have a bit of superhero within us. It just takes some work to draw it up from the depths and what is more, it takes guts to wear that “S” on our chest.

A common theme between the frames of most comic books and “other worlds” from the Hobbits’ shire to Luke’s home planet Tattooine, is the belief that we are all One; that there exists one all powerful force that binds the entire universe together. It is, as the Jedi believe for example, “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” This is a concept that most religions of the world espouse. Some refer to this energy as their deity, some refer to it as a life force, but the one thing nearly all religions agree with is that there exists a single unifying force.

In the Star Wars saga, for example, there are two sides to the Force: the dark side and the light side. As the great teacher/hero/role model, Yoda, suggests: “Beware the dark side… The dark side leads to fear. Fear leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Good versus Evil is a common element throughout most religions. Think of the ubiquity of the serpent and the Garden of the Evil; how it has penetrated both non-fiction and fantasy for centuries. Think of the temptations Jesus faced in the desert. Issues of good versus evil, right versus wrong, permeate the doctrines of almost all organized religions. Most religions also attempt to differentiate between that which is right and wrong, thus establishing a moral code.

And yet, oftentimes organized religions assert moral codes that don’t resonate with every member of the group. What is more, outsiders, and sometime insiders of a specific religion, begin to judge the code by something believed to be more powerful, more innate: an intuitive ability to know what is right and wrong. This is the superhero’s innate knowing as much as the Jedi’s belief, for example, that morality, i.e. good and evil, are all axioms of the Force and that we must listen carefully to the Force so that we will always know the right thing to do.

So, beyond the unfurling capes and extended staffs of power we are left still wondering about these worlds we fabricate on paper in order to understand our own multi-dimensional universe. Do we, like the Jedi, possess a clear “intuitive ability” to discern between good and evil, right and wrong? If we tap into the Force, to Life, to God…, are we thus hooked in to the clarity of trans-planetary consciousness?

If humans created every paradigm under the sun, each worldview and doctrine from the Biblical to the Fantastic, then could it also be suggested that on some inherent level we each possess the ability to know everything?

Yet…we struggle. We falter. We stray so far from clarity at times it would seem we are as far from the Knowledge of Good and Evil as anything imaginable. Or worse yet, if we really do have access to the ONE consciousness that discerns between right and wrong, good and evil and we still CHOOSE to do evil…mindfully, with intent…Oy.

Consider the heroes we raise up in our culture today as teachers, role models, cautionaries…? For example, there is great discussion of late as to the legacy of Oprah Winfrey. Her recent departure from public television has opened the door for many to ponder her contribution to society and a great deal of negativity has been focused on her mission and delivery. Clearly, to many millions of men and women around the world, Oprah was, is and will be, a heroine. She has undoubtedly done much to enlighten, educate and inspire people to live their best lives and move through the places they are stuck.

What I find fascinating is the fervor with which some focus on those elements they feel she has missed her mark. She insulted or demeaned her guests, downplayed real issues and elevated other less important concerns, etc. Some critics have gone as far as to suggest that Ms. Winfrey was simply all about herself, her ego, her bank account, etc.

What I don’t understand is how any of us can truly determine what Oprah was hearing when she tuned in to her Source? While no one elected her to teach and disseminate wisdom, she volunteered herself as a teacher and we listened. Millions listened. Millions claim they felt more kinship with Oprah’s approach to life than the religious doctrines with which they were raised.

How do we know that Batman followed the proper moral code when he dropped out of the sky and dispensed justice. Wonder Woman never seemed distracted by questions of ethical responsibility, feminism, social justice, political corruptness, etc. She simply acted decisively based on her conscience and the code to do good in the world.

Marc DiPaolo, assistant professor of English and film at Oklahoma City University, explores the political leanings, sexual preferences and ethical underpinnings of superheroes found in popular culture. His book, “War, Politics, and Superheroes: Ethics and Propaganda in Comics and Film” studies popular superheroes from Superman to Wonder Woman, tracking their influence on and from feminism, Civil Rights and ethnic violence.

I’m not sure DiPaolo’s study of the morality code inherent in comic book superheroes is any less relevant than the eschatological diatribes I studied in Divinity School which deconstructed our planet’s great religious tomes.

Consider the short list of my historical heroes from the past century: Albert Einstein, Martin Buber, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, Carl Jung, John Lennon. One could easily make the case that each of these figures was somehow “tapped in” to a universal flow of consciousness, or Force. We can also, as many have spent countless hours so doing, uncover all the reasons that these people were not superheroes. They cheated, lied, molested, maligned, misrepresented until the cows came home. Yet, their contributions to our world have been profound and well above the baseline.

A rabbi once told me that the higher a person rises in their consciousness, the greater their shadows become; the more insidious are the forces enlisted that create challenges for them on their path. I can only imagine the shadows tormenting figures like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the things I liked most about comic book superheroes was that they were in fact more realistic characters, full of contradictions and foibles. The Dark Knight, for example, struggled with his own demons as he actively fought the more clearly defined, external ones. Who knows what Oprah really struggles with when she is not in front of the camera? Does her good in the world become diminished because of what she’s not telling me? Does her good in the world become diminished because of something she says that rubs you the wrong way?

I consider my own journey to construct a life where I am in a position to support others in transforming their lives in a positive way. While at times it may be constructive and appropriate to disclose or share my own challenges around a particular area of interest for a client, there are plenty of instances when discussing my own struggles about a thing can actually be damaging. Does it make me a hypocrite if I encourage healing for a person who has enlisted my services in an area that I am also challenged? Does it take away from my ability to heal or the gifts I possess in helping others if I don’t disclose to you all of the things I have handled poorly in my own life?

On the contrary, I believe healing is a partnership. Healing emerges through the relationship between you and I. Transformation for you in your work translates to a beautiful likelihood that it will influence my own work and my own healing. Change is collaborative. Change is a factor of relational process.

I believe Oprah was engaged in a relationship with her viewers that was as imperfect as any of our personal relationships are beautifully, perfectly, imperfect. I can only hope that I helped Oprah heal as much as she helped me and millions of others heal.

I know most of us can sense when there is a disturbance in the Force and I have never gotten a bad vibe from Oprah. She is a jedi as were Gandhi, MLK, and John Lennon. Rather than focus on the imperfections of our heroes (and potentially discounting their ability to do good in the universe as a result) I recommend leaning toward the Force and simply nodding mindfully when one feels a slight disturbance here and there. I hope you would do the same for me.