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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Mysterious Origins of my Discomfort

Understanding ourselves takes a lot of work. The first step of doing that is accepting that not everything we are experiencing is our responsibility. We are all carrying issues that have been passed to us via our parents, or teachers or just simply things we picked up and accepted as truth before we knew any better. Those things, once we have identified them are, in the grand scheme, easy enough to let go of. We only need to identify them and recognize that we do not align with the message. Racism is a prime example here. We often pick up fears from our surroundings, and although we do not contribute to them actively within our lives, they live on in us. Fears and misunderstandings can easily be dismantled if we only embrace them and face them. There are a lot of people who would much prefer to turn it off, stop thinking about them and move on without ever really facing those uncomfortable challenges.
I was once in conversation with a fellow artist who talked about how she was often addressed about her work and why it only pictured, for the most part, white people. We spoke about it as being an important part of her practice because, as I saw it, she was working out these life issues that she had picked up, to no fault of her own, through her work. It turned out that her shame was so overwhelming of not previously representing other races that she changed her work. She now depicts a variety of races within her work and she probably no longer gets asked the question. Over time this may still make her consider other races naturally although I am concerned she, like so many others, are just sweeping the problem under the rug and not facing it.
I once was speaking to a group of people in my Art and Healing Meetup group and I mentioned that, considering my past struggles with addiction and other non-law abiding activities, I was lucky to be white because I did not have a permanent police record and if I was black or latino that very well may not be the case. I was recognizing my white privilege. This made a few other older white folks a bit uncomfortable, and one of them questioned a black lady in attendance about how it made her feel to hear me speak this way. She spoke a bit of her experience but agreed with me that I was white and because I lived in the United States I benefited from that. The other white folks that were uncomfortable by the situation, I feel, may not yet be able to face the amount of privilege they receive from just being white. It is important to talk about this, to sit with ourselves and really look at where we are and how we got here. There is nothing wrong with being privileged, especially if it has only to do with the color of your skin. To dismiss privilege and not examine it, and all that is has brought us, is not a healthy loving approach.
Another thing that makes us uncomfortable is change. Our physical beings do not like change, they would much prefer to cling to grounded and definitive definitions. This brings us the “I Am” statement. In the arts we all say I am an artist. That comes with definitions that we, as individuals, did not create. When you think about what an artist is a whole lot of things come to mind, the starving artist, emotionally unstable and so on and so on. We as artists live these definitions and, until we can admit that and try to separate ourselves from completing the “I am” statement with anything other than a period, we will never grow from them.
Uncomfortable feelings like these that come with a lot of cultural ties, are not necessarily our own personal issues. Yes we need to be aware of them and respect them, and those whose issues these are, completely.
So what about the issues that are ours? The definitions we associate with that we built within ourselves because of repeated experiences, karmic residue and past lives. I was talking with someone the other day that said, while talking about allowing themselves to be hurt “that is just who I am and I accept that.” This is someone who may not yet be open to doing the work to seeing who they actually are. They had been playing the victim for so long that they currently have no intention of changing, or so it seems. Thing like these are OUR discomforts and it takes a whole lot more than just recognizing them to work through. This work is very similar to therapy but we have to be our own therapists in here. Actually we have to trust that the part of us that is making us uncomfortable is that of ourselves as therapist and life coach. The uncomfortable nature of the feelings that cause us to blame an outside source, is the imbalance between our spirit and body, the thing we are here to experience. When we place blame, it gives us an outlet and allows us to feel grounded in something that is not real. Our growth can also make us feel uncomfortable but in growing there will not be blame, there will be acceptance.
To be made uncomfortable by an external source means we are not in line with what we are doing or where we are heading. External discomforts can be seen a few different ways. A question to ask in order to understand these discomforts more deeply is “Am I in control here?” The reason we ask that is because of course we are, it is our life, but when we look at the case of the victim I mentioned earlier, they accept something of themself as not being able to change. That thing that they are unable to change also is causing pain within them, presumably, by another person. In this case they are not in control. This is a complicated thing to address because of course you are your own captain, but when you say or think that you want or accept something you are literally putting things in motion within the universe to attract more of those things. We all know thoughts become things but if we feel that we are caused to be uncomfortable by an external source, maybe they are not the right actions to gaining the things we really want. In the case of the previously mentioned victim who is presumably “comfortable” with the uncomfortable nature of being hurt we know that because they used the phrase “I accept that.” This means they are not willing to challenge their comfort levels with real growth. The word uncomfortable here can be seen 2 different ways, the first is an uncomfortable that is presented because we are not growing, the other is the uncomfortableness of growing. To accept you are perfect as you are today is essential, to think that you will accept who you are today, tomorrow, is short sighted.
To have an understanding of something makes it is easy to say you want something and do the work to plan how you are going to get it. The problem that arises is that our understanding of the universe is so scant we cannot really rely on that physical information to guide us properly. We do not know the future and our plans may not have a lot of use tomorrow. Fortunately, the universe does know a bit about the future and lets you know when you are getting off track from your course. And to keep the language fun going that can also be described as an “uncomfortable” feeling.
I was speaking with a close friend of mine recently and we were talking about how if everyone would just follow their path the world would right itself. It is such an uphill battle, this discussion. In my practice I want to help others find their path and do the things that they are in line with, but with so much baggage and self doubt that has been cultivated it is not an easy topic to bring up casually. As soon as I address that a person’s drive and passion have merit the excuses start to emerge. It is interesting because those excuses are the source of discomfort but because they have been clung to for so long they feel comfortable. There are huge differences here between going outside your “comfort zone” and sabotaging your happiness. It is hard to say how the Universe will communicate with each individual because everyone will receive messages differently. One key thing that I have seen though is if you find yourself making excuses, to only yourself, about who you are or what you are doing it is very likely that you have ideas that are growing within you that make you uncomfortable. They are uncomfortable because they are pushing you beyond your comfort zone. They are asking you to step up and accept how awesome you are. When you are living your life honestly you will have no need for excuses.
Saying that you want something is easy and often pretty flippant. When I was an addict I was constantly saying I wanted more of whatever I was addicted to at the time. When I began to listen more to my heart I felt a deep desire to quit. I can easily wake up and say “I will never use again,” actually following through with that is the hard part. The universe had already put a lot of work into getting me in situations I could use as an addict. So like a great friend She wanted to be sure I was making a choice that I wanted to make. Although drugs use can be seen as bad to us the universe will only see it as a neutral action, it does not judge or presume to know better. For months I was tempted by old addictions, and I very often had to remind both myself and the universe of my new plans. It was not easy I was constantly uncomfortable, plagued with old thoughts of using and having new opportunities to use or drink. Before accepting the responsibility that I was in control and wanted to quite my uncomfortable feelings were diverted to placing blame on external things. Other people, my job(s), my relationship(s), my own nature anything would do. I was convinced that I was uncomfortable because of something outside of myself. At the point that I decided to quit, and I had thoughts of quitting for years before I actually did anything about it, I realized that none of those external things really mattered. The longer I was clean and sober the clearer I was thinking. I was no longer looking outside of myself to place blame. I began acting differently towards my uncomfortable nature, I watched it and tracked it to see how it presented itself. As temptations were presented I reaffirmed my stance that I was to blame if I had used and accepted my responsibility. I knew that I was laying track with the universe and it would pay off.
Eventually we came to an understanding and I was in sync with my buddy the universe, but not without a little discomfort along the way.
Uncomfortable feelings are always things we can pick apart and examine. Some of course we have to continue to be uncomfortable with in order to remain on a course we are choosing until the world understands we are ready for that shift. There is a big difference though between wanting to alter a course that I am not happy with, and being content with what I have built. Here too we are being guided. And there is no easy explanation to its purpose.
We need to remember that we are part of a complete system. Not only are we here as a separate beings, but we are also very much a part of the whole. In a spiritual sense we are the whole, and somehow have complete access to the whole system. We can not access it all within our brains, well we can but that is a skill that very few people can do. The reality of this connection to the whole is best seen within your intuition, and like anything the more you try to hear it the more you will find it is always communicating with you. This communication is your emotional guidance system. If you are feeling uncomfortable allow it to exist and learn from it.
It is a good practice to see if the feelings you are having are of yours or new ideas that conflict with old dogma. Either way have trust in the universe, or God (whatever you fancy) and step into the unknown. You are held and it’s okay to be scared of, or uncomfortable with the unknown. All fears do is keep you from being your true loving self. Too many people use fear as an excuse to remain in an uncomfortable state they are comfortable with. Don’t let your fears change your course or keep you from being yourself. If on the other hand this uncomfortableness is something new that you can not unpack, observe it. Be aware of where you are physically and emotionally. Ask your heart and gut if you are safe and loved. If you get a resounding no then maybe it is time to liberate yourself from that which is causing you discomfort.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Angry? It Is Time to Get Over It


Feelings, are so much more than just feelings contradictory to Morris Albert’s opinion. We have so many feelings every day. They are happening within us all the time. When we are young they seem to be much more intense and singular. As we get older they become muddled, we can be sad overall but still have little moments of joy or happiness, then maybe we remember we are sad and return to that state.

It is so hard to know what is happening within us and when we can choose to change it or when we have to just be in the state we find ourselves. Sometimes our feelings don’t matter at all. We just have to suck it up because we have responsibilities that need addressing. How we see these issues, or what we do in reaction to them, has to do with who we are and where we are in our development.
We have all met people that find it hard to do what we, as separate individuals, are naturally inclined to do. We can often find this in family members. That’s why holiday gatherings can so often get overwhelming for so many people. We do not choose our family... well maybe we did but that spirit entity that chose was definitely not the complex person living within space time. If we had chosen our families, and I do believe we did in some way, it would have been within the spiritual realm where we had instant access and wisdom to all that is. Our families, and the people we are connected to that challenge us, are the ones who have the most to teach us. Unfortunately we do not like to be challenged, as a general rule.

There are so many stages to our personal spiritual development that it is hard to know exactly where we are and how to move forward. Well, that may never be able to be known, but if we open ourselves up, and spend time with our thoughts, we can slowly grow and develop into who we are meant to be. It is important to see balance in all things and to understand that we will probably never be exactly what the universe wants us to be nor will the universe be everything we want it to be. Nevertheless every aspect of ourselves needs to grow. We may not even consider some part of our nature while developing until it is challenged. It is that challenge that wakes up that part of ourselves so that we can do the work needed to grow.

I have an issue where I get angry while driving and it is one specific thing that gets me every day, left lane drivers. I have the idea that the left lane is strictly a passing lane, but when I am passing in the left lane and I find myself having to pass on the right, I often get very angry. This is curious because I am a very calm person for the most part, especially when it comes to loose rules. I have to look at myself here, and I look to try and see where in my life I am acting like that person nonchalantly using the left lane. I do this because that is my focus, that is a specific story I am telling myself and it is garnering a reaction. It makes me angry, and anger, being a response to something I do not like. If it is tues that everything I see and experience is a reflection of myself this response needs to be noted. So although there is another person involved who I am seemingly angry with within spacetime, that other person is ultimately a part of me and I see this as a time where spiritually that part of me is looking to communicate something.

In this scenario the first thing that comes to mind is in my career, am I pretending to be in the proverbial left lane while calmly moving forward oblivious to my position? I look into myself and I see that I can do more for my work. I can spend more time being quiet and listening to my thoughts in order to use that left lane when I need to, but maybe I prefer to block others from moving to the front than taking that adventurous approach myself. Today although I may claim to be in the left lane, am I passing others?

I see the left lane as an ego boost. And I see myself needing that on occasion. I think that people in the left lane want to be someone going fast, or passing others. This is the story I repeat to myself about those that get me angry in the left lane. This is not the only time I have used a story that revolves around a person wanting to be seen one way but acts in a contrary way to that. This is line of thinking I start to follow and try to link back to myself. I have found that I want to be seen a certain way, and maybe there things within my actions that I want to adjust to accomplish those more fully. Or there are ideas that I am not in alignment with that will lead me to just change lanes, but changing lanes would see me have to retrain my ego when it comes to my career.

To be honest, what I really want is to “be,” and enjoy being, on my path. I see jealousy in my life the same way. I try to curtail jealous feelings but they exist because I internalize thoughts that I needn’t. Other people are in a place I am not, that doesn’t mean I want to be there exactly, but I internalize thoughts of success and failure all the time. I try to look at those thoughts and understand myself better. The messages unfortunately are not always so cut and dry as my driving example earlier. My feelings about everything relate back to me and my goal, however odd it sounds, to not have feelings. I expect that would sound odd because of course I want feelings, but I want to feel love not judgment. Indifference is not the same as embracing things as they are, although it is not always easy to see the difference.

When I love myself, and I have seen this unfold over years, I have less conflict with the world. To not have conflict with the world is not the same as condoning, or sitting idly by as abuses are rendered. Yes if these things happen and we have pain because of it, something needs addressing. That pain is a sign that change needs to happen within us. If that pain calls us to take action out in the world we need to listen to that and so we take action. It may happen that the pain makes us angry, in that case we need to be angry. We can use all that anger, to take action and to talk about what changes we think need to be made. The caveat to that is the fact that once again the imbalance is not in the world, it is within us.

Within us exists the entire universe and from there all healing can happen. It is important for us to understand that a balance needs to be struck between who we are, as we align with our best self, and how we see who we are expected to be. That balance is becoming increasingly difficult as fame and social media preach how important it is to be a certain way. I find it difficult to express my love for how things are especially to people that are living in pain. Many people feel they are right and that they need to fix things, to me nothing is broken, things are just growing.

Do I feel that women or racial minorities need to be given an equal voice in the world?
Yes of course!

Do I want conflicts, genocides or corruption to run the world?
Absolutely not!

That is why I look inward to heal the injustices I promote by living in contradiction to my beliefs. As we see year in and year out people who fight against something or another or have a message to spread to the world we often find that message to be marred by personal actions that are in direct conflict with their message.

As Hollywood people are being accused for abuses we can easily see that the rise to fame may not equal happiness. We can easily see that personal work is done within. It is also important to understand that the companies that are associated the likes of Weinstein, Spacey, Louis C.K. and the dozens of other people only now being accused were perfectly fine working with these people before the public knew. The idea that these companies are supporting the accusers over their meal ticket is very shortsighted. That sort of obvious transparency is exactly how most of us are, we show the world one part of ourselves, and then, when we feel we are in a private place we can be less than our best, but if we were to just heal ourselves the world would not be so dark. It would not need fixing. Of course there will be conflict in the world, but it all starts with us. The conflicts that exist within us are the conflict that we see and are attracted to in the world because those are the ones we need to heal.

The Tao says:
When a truly kind man does something, he leaves nothing undone.
When a just man does something, he leaves a great deal to be done.
When a disciplinarian does something and no one responds,
He rolls up his sleeves in an attempt to enforce order


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Friday, April 6, 2018

Healing Myself and Others Through Portraiture

I had very little interest in continuing my education after High School. So much so two week before graduation and I hadn’t even applied to a college. I was eventually coerced by my guidance counselor to apply to anything, I knew that his reasoning was much less about me and more about the track record of the school but I relented. I was already an addict at that point and really just wanted to be left alone, so I applied to an art School. It was a trade school, I would spend 8 hours a day painting if they let me in, it was also a private school so they were probably taking all comers. Was I an artist at that point? It’s hard to tell, I only took art in High School as a way of not having to take a language. It was also the only class I did not struggle in.

I did get into that school and it was set up primarily as a way to crank out marketing draftsmen, but that business was rapidly changing and I didn’t have any idea about marketing. There I met a great teacher, one who saw me, and eventually, got me to see myself. This was the first teacher who allowed me to explore and I did. I created a lot of garbage back then but I was learning, maybe I was learning about art but I knew that I was learning about myself. After that first year I was convinced that I would be following my new interest in fine art. I left school, got involved in AA, to deal with my addictions, and continued to make art, whatever I could with whatever I had. After a year of making, and getting increasingly familiar with who I was, I returned to school to reconnect with that teacher that so inspired me. I was still very much struggling with my addictions and with who I was and how I fit in, or did not fit in, as the case may have been. That teacher and I quickly became peers and we remain so to this day over 20 years on.

I struggled with addiction for many years quitting for a time and returning to either using, gambling or drinking and there were times when I would make art and then there were dry spells. I would romanticize art making and the artist’s life and was exploring all sorts of different making techniques as well as printmaking and video, all of which I showed in galleries and really may have had a foundation to build some sort of art career ,but then something interesting happened. On my final (as of today) cocaine binge I was invited to clean up by staying with a friend, which I was happy to do, as I really did want to clean up. After a few days of not being able to create I had an urge to do just that. My friend wanted me to spend one more night at her place, I explained that would be fine if I could could paint her portrait. She was cool with that and I brought some watercolors over and painted her portrait while she watched television and we chatted. I left the portrait behind and began to aimless drive out of the city. That was when I was gifted with the idea that I wanted to do this exact thing. Make portraits of people, connect with them, talk with them and leave the portraits behind to be out in the world. This project began as being much less about the portrait than it was about the interactions that I would, and did, have.

Over the next few years I was doing about 100 - 150 portraits a year. People who I may have only met once prior were opening up to me and the experience. I was learning a lot about myself. I was seeing how all of the people I met with had information to share. It was all information that I needed at the time. It continued to show me we are all the same and our differences are so slight that they needn’t even be mentioned. I was learning the true meaning that everything we see is a reflection of ourselves. This began as my “1000 Portrait Project” but I learned this was more of a lifelong activity so I just called it my Portrait Project because I knew I would be doing much more than 1000 of these. This was a project I did wholeheartedly for many years but eventually I could not keep it up. It was giving so much of myself and asking literally nothing in return.

I explored other art forms again after having to get a little distance between myself and that project. That project had always been with me though and I would do a handful of portraits ever year. I was connected to others in a way I can not explain and I was able to allow myself more space and freedom to be me through that project. It kept me sober, it kept me clean and at times it kept me alive. It gave me purpose. Not all the portraits were good, but that was never my intention. My intention was to connect and eventually I learned it was to see others as well. As I see it each of those people I got to do portraits of, and all those in the future, see themselves through me and the work as I see myself through them and the act. Through these portraits I can drop myself and be with others. I hardly ever remember anything about making the portraits, I am so often totally engrossed in conversation that I only know when the piece has arrived, at that point I check to see if it is finished and it often is.

I have always known that I connect with others, the first time I was out in a plein air painting group only wanted to stand in the middle of the river and I had no focus in making a painting at all. Connecting, for me, is everything. And through art I am able to step outside of myself and connect with others deeply. I recently began doing portraits again but this time there is a preconceived understanding that it is a healing practice. After years of connecting and being vulnerable I have taken my portraits and put them in the place of a healing vehicle. I, as I have always done, talk with people and make their portraits, with the intention of creating something that will help my client see themselves. As they receive their portrait many things may come up and we discuss links between what they are seeing and the bigger picture.

I believe that when an artist has completed a piece they are drawn to look into this wild work. In the act of looking, which is more than mere looking, imbues the it with meaning and purpose. Looking at an artwork is connecting with it on a deep level that most people, when faced with that depth are not always able to navigate. This connecting and imbuing of meaning may take hours, days, weeks or even years. The artist may never again touch the painting, but still it will change, it will be tamed, tame enough to be shown and experienced. This is an activity that maybe only visual artists can experience but it is one of the most profound experiences I have ever had. With my portraits on the other hand I do not do that work, my client does. They look at a wild piece of art, which happens to be of them, and they react, they go inward and see themselves. This self reflection is a dialogue and eventually the portrait is tame but the inner dialogue continues.

I have, and continue to, develop Portrait Facilitation as a way to help others see themselves.


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Friday, March 23, 2018

Are You Ready For Some Big City Living?

I grew up in Chicago, some of you may see Chicago as a big city, some of you may not. I do not know how I currently see it. It used to be home. I say “used to be” because, although I still live here, it is no longer that proverbial home to me. What I recognize today as “The City” has always been here and I am feeling as if it is increasingly only a facade.
There is, however, a reality to it all.
There is a lot to do in a city, there are a lot of people, opportunities, distractions and attractions. These are exactly the things that attract people to living in cities. Today there is information that states more than 50% of today's populations is living in and around urban areas, and that is expected to grow past 70% by 2050. Chances are that if you are 30 years old you moved to an urban area in your lifetime. Our society, in the United States at least, has placed living in the city as the pinnacle of living the good life. I do not see the city as being that however, not that it is not, but I am seeing that it is not for me.

I struggle at times trying to know what is the good life, and what I want from life. I have always known I want balance and that is something that always has to change within an urban environment because it is completely man made. In a city there is so much that has to be overcome. It exists in service of people but often at the expense of other people. There are services that need to be rendered and the more people that expect those services the more it costs. When prices rise we have to work more to compensate for those increases. The balances that need to be met are, for the most part, strictly financial.

As a child I did not know these things. I saw the city as my neighborhood, I had no idea there were still wild places in the world. Although I saw a lot of nature programs it was not until I was 8 or 9 when I saw a rabbit in the backyard of a family friend’s house that I was even introduced to the idea that rabbits existed in the wild. I know that might be odd but it was my first experience with the natural fauna of the world. Of course I saw pigeons and squirrels in the city but I was amazed at seeing a rabbit which I had, until then, thought were only in zoos. I do not think I knew of them as pets at that point either so it was a pretty big shock to the system.

Today I realize the city can be whatever we want it to be, as long as it has a financial exchange associated with it. Chicago has many natural areas within the city. These natural facades raise the cost of living within those areas and that is good for the city. Those areas however require a lot of services to maintain, and contain. All for the benefit of those that are willing and able to pay to live in those areas. We do not however respect them, because while living in the city we expect a certain amount of services to be rendered.

One time, while I was working as a food delivery person, I looked out over frozen lake Michigan from the 15th floor of a high rise. I saw a helicopter chasing down a coyote and thought about the expenses of keeping people living in downtown safe. They have a beautiful river-walk and the Chicago lakefront is protected, for the most part so that we can enjoy it, that will also welcome nature to move in, which it does.

We have all of these treasures of balance within the world, predators and prey, light and dark, hot and cold. Without one the other overtakes its natural state and causes friction as the world tries to balance every area as a whole. In the city I see the desire to put our thumbs on the scale to keep things enticing. We light the dark and prefer to encounter deer and rabbit over a coyote.
As people continue to migrate to more populated areas I am seeing a disconnect between what is growing within us and what is growing around us. We are increasingly adopting this inner-city mentality of maintaining a facade on the outside and keeping ourselves distracted from the inner workings of ourselves. This is not bad as a thing to be doing, it is just a thing that is currently taking place. Living in the city is also not a bad thing, and it should be said that I see my bias as being someone who grew up in a city and being open to a shift.

I am connected to the internet 24 hours a day. there is a constant chatter in my mind about what to do next or how can I spend my time. There is a drive within me to not spend it at all. I want to find space within my life today, living in Chicago, to be quiet and to listen. There is a reason I try to go to the forest preserve for a few hours every week. I can not always stop my thoughts but just spending that time breathing air that is a bit more fresh and coming into contact with with hundreds, or thousands, of trees changes my perspective. This requires me to drive 20 minutes out of the city, and it has become a weekly necessity.

I look forward to a time I can walk out my front door and breath fresh air, experience the quiet of my mind and just enjoy not spending at all, not my time, not my money. I want to fill my life with nothing. Not that I have spent my life thus far filling it with something. One thing or another has been filling my time, my space, my life. There are times, and they are increasing, in which I fill my time with nothing and those are the most productive and fulfilling. Nothing, as I see it, has so much more substance than any “something” I can think of. The more I fill my life with “nothing” the more I see my life filled with the things we cannot quantify, like love and self acceptance.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Head, The Heart, The Gut

This post has turned out to need a lot more thinking and writing than I initially thought it would. That is often the case but this has been a bear. What I think happened was that I never really tried to vocalize some of these ideas before but they exsist in the abstract for me, and for the purposes of being clear I can't go around being coy and just touching on a few topics. Forgive me if this is not clear to you and please let me know where you might have questions, additions and/or omissions.

We as human beings have been given the unique gift of the brain. With it, scientists claim that, we are able to  master languages, and problem solve, I personally don't think either of those things are uniquely human but for the sake of argument I'll just leave it at that. The brain is a gift, and for recorded history it has been useful in solving problems although I would argue that the problems it has solved have not necessarily been problems. Maybe the brain is more useful in creating problems than solving them, but let's not get too far afield.

The brain is just one part of the whole system that makes humans unique, and some of us use that part wonderfully. Those that were born to use their brain, use it almost to the exclusion of all other abilities, for instance look at Stephan Hawking, even with ALS he is still effective in inspiring and changing the world with thought. HIt should be said that he is lucky to be living in a time that really honors that sort of activity, but he is on his path and he lives, and was born, to use his brain. That cannot be said of all of us, me for instance, I do not use my brain half as effectively as he does. My heart and gut speak to me louder and than my brain does. My brain wants to be loud but it's really just a mess most of the time. When I speak to people, if I were to think first I would not lonly upset others I would confuse them as well, not because I would say the wrong thing but I would not say everything and it would be a mess that I would have to explain every thime I opened my mouth.

Instead of trying to communicate some thought, I step aside and allow myself to speak, or allow myself to be the deliverer of the message I hold. I have learned through my portrait facilitating that we are all connected, this is not new to any of us, and by stripping away the cognitive and allowing that connection to control the interaction leads to furthering relationships as well as personal growth. When I have an urge to communicate, for me, trusting in that intention to communicate is the first step to successfully reaching others. That intention reaches the consciousness of all things and so it is not always necessary to have to explain why we did  or did not say what was or was not said, we are saying what we were called to say. Under these circumstances it is important to listen very carefully , not just to those we are communication with but to that which is guiding our communication.

Listening happens all the time, we listen to others and we listen to ourselves. When I listen, I open myself up to receive, rather than trying to anticipate what will come. By allowing myself to hear and speak I have to shut out my brain, because my brain is much more comfortable knowing something than it is not knowing. It can not be overemphasized that I am speaking strictly of and for myself here. Some people relish the brain and thought puzzles are intriguing, but for myself contradiction is necessary for balance, there is no absolute and my brain really likes to have absolutes, that in itself is a contradiction and one I carry with some trepidation.

It is much easier for me to connect with others when I allow myself to not over think. My brain can not adequately process what it doesn't understand, it relies solely on past experiences or of learned knowledge, it regurgitates and revisits what it already knows. When my brain is given new information it can look at it and find new information but I am lead through that process by my gut and heart. The brain produces hormones just by thinking, our bodies responds to that immediately often throwing us off kilter and into a reactive state. But that is only the brain. It sounds like the life of a teenager sometimes aware and fully in tact and at any moment they can fly off the handle with an emotional reaction to something, anything. The teenage years is when the head brain, the one we most often call "brain" matures and asserts dominants. But that brain does not work in a vacuum and, all in all, it does have a lot of use alone, obviously.

There are two other neurological centers we use, neither of them "think"  in the way the head brain does, which is lucky for us, the last thing we need is 2 more brains looking to solve problems that don't exist or react to threats that don't exist.. These brains to which I am referring are the heart and gut. They are developed before the head brain and are much more in balance with the rhythms of the universe. Unfortunately these brains have been given little or no value in our current 1st world society and so developing them is not easy. May parents in the United States actually don't aid their children in developing these aspects of their personalities at all. Who could blame them? The competitive nature of scholastic achievement in the first US today has taken precedent over metal, spiritual and physical health.

It is not easy to shift away from rewarding children for being "smart" (meaning being cognitively adept) because we have no way of rewarding other types of growth. It is common to chastise children when they take risks and push their physical abilities to the point where they may get injured. Unfortunately that is exactly what they are supposed to do. In the United States we protect our children because we see them as little mechanistic brains but they are spirits that need to follow their instincts. Children are exploring the world and if they are afraid of it they will not make it. When a 7 year old wins a spelling bee and gets rewarded for their cognitive ability they are learning a very dangerous lesson that is more suited for a 14 year old.

I found this outline on the Preserve Childhood website:

GUT BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS (development years 0-7)
  • Core Identity: A deep and visceral sense of core self, and determining at the deepest levels what is self versus not-self
  • Self-Preservation: Protection of self, safety, boundaries, hungers, and aversions
  • Mobilization: Motility, impulse for action, gutsy courage, and the will to act
HEART BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS (development years 7-14)
  • Emoting: Emotional processing (e.g., anger, grief, hatred, joy, happiness, etc.)
  • Values: Processing what’s important to you and your priorities (and its relationship to the emotional strength of your aspirations, dreams, desires, etc.)
  • Relational Affect: Your felt connection with others (e.g., feelings of love/hate/indifference, compassion/uncaring, like/dislike, etc.)
HEAD BRAIN PRIME FUNCTIONS (development years 14-21)
  • Cognitive Perception: Cognition, perception, pattern recognition, etc.
  • Thinking: Reasoning, abstraction, analysis, synthesis, meta-cognition, etc.
  • Making Meaning: Semantic processing, language, narrative, metaphor, etc.
I Try not to think about these as different "Brains" as much as different parts of us. I was working with a great friend of mine Allen Baker and he suggested, to explore these different parts to allow myself to think of something from my gut alone, then the heart and finally with my head. This separated all the gunk of a situation.

My gut spoke to me of fear and safety and addressed where I belonged both spiritually as well as physically in relation to the subject I was focusing on.

My heart brought me together with with others allowing me to be more emotionally invested, or aware, of the bigger picture and not only one side of that bigger picture.

My head took a much more cold view of things, which I can appreciate but separating it from the gut and heart made it much more difficult to care about others and the outcome. My brain is pragmatic and we all need to be that way on occasion but it is not the only way forward and it is not what we ought to be rewarding. But how can you reward empathy, when it is learned it can be faked. What can't be faked is the feeling one gets when they really care and share in this life experience and have goals that include the world around us.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Early "Memories"

In my practice I see many people who are looking to deepen their self-reflective gaze in order to better understand themselves and how they interact with the world. Although everything in the universe happens for a reason and there are no coincidences, it is not always easy to see how we are related to it all. It is important it remember who we are at the time we are looking. That is not so easy to discern as many of us, I am sure, can attest to. My portrait process is special in that it allows the subject that unique ability to look at themselves from the outside, as the observer.

When I get to certain point in our sessions where I feel there has been a  number of significant things shared, this can include deaths in the family, major triumphs or traumas, goals past and present, and a host of other sorts of interactions with the world whether they be in the past, future or present, I have a host of questions that could be asked. The one that I get great responses from is "What is your earliest memory?" It has been the case that knowing what the earliest memory is helps considerably with where conflicts between belief systems arise.

The earliest memory is interesting because I, personally, do not care if what they tell me is actually their earliest memory or not, what I care about is the memory that comes up. In my work what is perceive is way more important than what would be "fact," because that is the world in which they are living and creating, fact is usually just a perception from an outside source. We primarily live in a world built by faulty memories. Memories make up the world around us much more than the world around us does. Everything that is of the world is neutral, we define good/bad beautiful/ugly and so no. Nothing has a definition other than what it happens to be, and neither do we. People choose to be "something"

We choose to be angry, or happy. We choose to be grateful or greedy. It is easy to say the world and our surroundings made us who we are, and in effect you would be absolutely correct in saying that. On the other hand if you decided to choose differently you can change your situation, but it is not easy. When you do accomplish that change, and you say I made myself this way, again you would be correct in saying that. Neither of those statements, "The world made me" or "I made me" are true mind you, but you would be correct in making them.

The earliest memory question does a lot of things, first it allows the person being asked to say anything because I, as the facilitator, could never prove or disprove an answer. It also allows subconscious links to past memories on subjects that we are covering. We all have specific memories that are very important to us that, for whatever reason, are vivid and clear, but others involved in the memory don't recall at all. For my own health and self reflection, I take note at what I may have learned about myself or others, these have rarely been positive things. I feel that, for myself, if a memory lingers it is against my nature and may be a place that needs clearing. So many signs are stored inside us and it doesn't always, if ever,take a huge Ah-Ha moment to get beyond them, sometimes it just takes recognizing them and taking note when we give in to them.

It has seemed like everyone, when asked, has known their earliest memory prior to being asked it, but it always has ties to some of the biggest conflict areas in their current lives. Its a difficult task trying to figure out the brain and its relationship to the universe, which is why I do not question the answers I hear. They may only be the answer for the time I ask it, and that is fine, the is perfect actually, because then it is honest, and that is what facilitation requires.

What are some conflict areas you are sorting out? Put out there, like for myself I value what I do but I do not have a drive to exchange it for money but that is a must moving forward. now ask yourself what is your earliest memory, for me at the moment it seems to be my father no being home when I was a child. For me that shows that connecting with loved ones and money, my father was always "working," do not mix. For me to sort through  that conflict is going to be important and to be sure I understand that I can just as easily connect with others while getting paid fairly as I do when I do not. I can also donate 1 full session to those who can not afford them for every full session I get paid for. This is in line with my desire to help and be open and available.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Reactions Are Reflections

There are so many things we react to, each and every one can be learned from. Of course if we attempt to learn from every reaction we have we won't have time for anything else so lets start with the big ones.

When I get angry it is a clear sign that I am not in balance and some work needs to be done. I often hear people tell me "This" or "That" thing or person "makes me angry," and I see how that can feel and seem, especially in today's world. What I want to cover is that it isn't the person, their actions or the thing that is actually making you angry, it is you, and your imbalances. I am sorry to break it to you.

When an experience comes my way in which I react with anger I first have to separate anger from what it is I might be blaming the anger on. It is not the guy who cut me off, it is not my boss telling me to rework some nonsense, or the kids who picked my pocket but it is only anger, and when I can see the emotion for what it is, not judge those the brought it about in me, I can examine it. In examining the emotions, and the circumstances that brought it about, I am in a better position to learn and move on.

Anger comes about for a lot of reasons, it is often an emotion that we use to cover up other emotions, it's retaliatory. I hear people say "I have the right to be angry" and although they are right, anger is probably not what they are feeling. I say this because, just by saying "I have the right to..." they are justifying. That statement also presupposes that there is another observer which could be the self, the one that wants to do the work of healing. Here, the speaker is just looking for permission to be angry because if they were not angry they might have to admit they are not balanced. For myself this is 100% the case, and I actively work at understanding myself enough to accept that anger is needing more balance.

Once, in my early 20's, I got so angry and slammed a heavy wooden door, it crushed and mostly severed the tip of one of my fingers. After they put my fingertip back together, for months, I couldn't help but look at how one split second change my life forever, because my finger would never be the same again, and it was all because I was angry. I don''t remember what set me off but as soon as my finger was just hanging there, whatever it was that made me angry just didn't matter anymore.

We permit ourselves to be angry for all sorts of reasons. I usually see people being angry to cover up a sense of weakness. This is associated with shame, fear, and inadequacy which can really go into that shame category, and probably a whole host of other deep seeded issues that these emotions direct us to address. Unfortunately we don't have the kind of culture that values this sort of work.

In the US we value wealth, greed and strength. All of which are also used to cover up the chasms that exist within us. Greed is fear, plain and simple. Wealth, although often disguised as a way to help others, is used to eliminate the need for faith in others and close relationships. Strength and perseverance are rewarded over weakness, but without weakness we cannot learn the true meaning of strength. We not only have lost our way as a country, or world, being lost has become the ideal lifestyle somehow, it is praised, it is valued over all else.

Because the value system is so off kilter we can't be expected to learn how to be what we are meant to be. Only a small number of people will be truly geared to excel in the world as it has been built by a small number of Europeans. That is not to say we don't all have a purpose or a way to excel in the world as it is, it just might be a bit more uncomfortable for others than the few that can just pick it up and run with it, a case for not comparing ourselves to others, but we still do. When we compare we compete, it is part of that world created by that small number of Europeans.

Competing is about seeing where you fit in some linear scale. It reinforces the idea that some belong and some don't. When we do not measure up we feel shame, to counteract that we find those that measure up even less. This is not hate, it's fear. This is not people acting as they are truly but acting as they have been taught, they have learned they will be rewarded for being stronger. They are innocent, and have never learned to reflect.

When we reflect it is our just to take the steps to be more in accord to our true nature, there is nothing to read because no one has your answer other than you. The faith you show in yourself is due to your knowing that however you react to what the universe is showing you is a message from that unique inner voice that is in concert with all the billions of other unique voices, none of any importance but the world would not be that same without.