Monday, November 30, 2015

Deep Learning

The Mystery within...
Last Thanksgiving I made a real blunder when I wished my Native American friend a “Happy Thanksgiving.”  She responded in a quiet, kind voice and told me “Thanksgiving is a day of mourning for us.  We feast on the following Friday.”  Her acceptance of my ignorance, and the kind tone of her correction, made a lasting impression on me so that a year later I am still grateful for my deep learning that is now helping me see with new eyes and a more open heart. 

And I am now reading Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” telling of America’s history from 1492 to present from the perspective of the people affected by those who wielded power.  He presents eye-opening accounts of a different view of history and makes me question the motives of the powerful today.  He writes of Columbus coming into a world “…where the culture was complex, where human relations were more egalitarian than in Europe, and where the relations among men, women, children, and nature were more beautifully worked out than perhaps any place in the world.” 

Zinn cites an American scholar, John Collier, who lived among Native Americans in the Southwest in the 1920s and 1930s who said of their spirit, “Could we make it our own, there would be an eternally inexhaustible earth and a forever lasting peace.”  Zinn also cites a current American specialist on Native American life, William Brandon, who “…is overwhelmingly supportive of much of the myth.  Even allowing for the imperfection of myths, it is enough to make us question, for that time and ours, the excuse of progress in the annihilation of races, and the telling of history from the standpoint of the conquerors and leaders of Western civilization.”

Mistakes come with deep learning opportunities.  Being shown mine by a kind and gentle voice was a golden learning opportunity that also brought heartfelt empathy and compassion.

What if we all learned to inform and correct one another with a quiet, kind voice?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Reflecting on Instability

The Mystery within
“Yet it is the law of all progress that is made by passing through some stages of instability and that may take a very long time.”  From Trust in the Slow Work of God by Teilhard de Chardin

Instability is with us in dysfunctional politics, families, neighborhoods, and worldwide terrorism.  Each of us has a role in helping stabilize dysfunction and leading us to become more whole human beings.  In my November 18, 2013 blog post titled, “So Who Are We?” I cite a study from the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson’s book The NeighborhoodProject—Using Evolution to Improve My City One Block at a Time.

Wilson cites a first grade teacher who taught for thirty-four years and whose students were followed into adulthood measuring grade of education completed, occupational attainment, and condition of their home.  Sixty-four percent of her students scored in the highest category compared with only 29 percent of students of other teachers.  When the other teachers were asked how this teacher taught they said with a lot of love, confidence in her children, vowing no child would leave her class without being able to read, staying after school to help struggling students, and sharing her lunch with children who forgot theirs.  Wilson says gardeners would understand these stunning results since they “…know that a small difference in how the seedlings are tended can make huge difference in their yield at the end of the season.”

We can’t all be outstanding first grade teachers but we can all be gardeners by reflecting throughout each day on the many ways we can positively react with those who we encounter.  When we bump into unpleasantness, be curious about the other instead of offended.  Work at respecting diversity.  Catch someone doing something right and praise him or her.  Smile more.  Give an inconsiderate driver a pass.  Thank someone for a kindness.  What more can you add to the list?   

What if we began each day asking how can I make someone else’s day?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fear, Forgiveness and Prayer

The Mystery within...
Fear, forgiveness and prayer have been on my mind with the recent mayhem wrought by the terrorists in France.  Damning talk of revenge has me longing for prayers for the perpetrators of those heinous acts and prayers for the rest of us to accept our anger and fear that can start us on our work to forgive.  I know something of prayer, fear and forgiveness for they threaded throughout my memoir.  Some excerpts from “God Never Hurries:”

I sensed fear was at the heart of my father’s need to control, and his fears undoubtedly were heightened by my mother’s growing dementia and the fact that she had been the center of all things relative to a functioning home. 

…I felt empathy for his fears along with a sense of futility in any attempted dialogue. 

…I was also truly scared.  Scared for my mother’s and my safety. 

…fear is more than fight or flight.  Guile and cleverness are just two of many ways to address fear; and fear keeps the world in check.  [Adapted from “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin De Becker.]

[I attended] …a two day workshop on forgiveness sponsored by a Unitarian church in Milwaukee featuring Robert Enright and Susan Freedman from the International Forgiveness Institute.  I had previously heard them tell of their mission on public radio—to help people gain knowledge about forgiveness and to use that knowledge for personal, group, and societal renewal.

It was comforting to learn that forgiveness is a process; the first step is believing it is a possibility.  We can then look to our Pride, the negative kind, which blocks the process.  Denial of anger was cited as a clue to Pride and an obstacle to forgiveness.  It takes humility to admit being hurt.  It is humbling to admit woundedness.  Therefore, it can be healthy to get angry and Prideful to deny it.  Pride was said to be a formidable foe for we are very unaware of it.  I also learned forgiveness is most needed where things are least safe; and you need to be in a safe place to work on forgiveness.

Forgiveness benefits were many and were said to come from the heart and the head and resulted in emotional control.  It was said true forgiveness is not trivial for it transforms who we are.  Freedom and a more real view of life are its fruits.  Forgiveness is also giving up resentment and coming to view the perpetrator with compassion.

Like Teyve in Fiddler on the Roof, I had many informal conversations with God.  I am called to pray for my enemies out of love--though love does not preclude justice for the wronged--it just makes me more whole.  And I learned to trust God's slow work in me.  

What if we all became more whole by praying for our enemies out of love?

Monday, November 9, 2015


The Mystery within...
From “God Never Hurries:”

…my heart, mind, body and soul were consumed in what the day might hold.  But I was most aware of my soul.  It seemed to be telling me, “Love is courage talking, not long-suffering silence.” 


I helped my mother bathe.  I felt my touch asking for her forgiveness.  I saw it in her eyes.  My heart wanted to stay.  My head said, “Go”; my back said “Hurry”; my soul said; “Leave.” 

During those years of intense learning, as I struggled with my aging parents needs and my own self-care, I began experiencing my mind, heart, body and soul as distinct parts working together on my behalf.  I ached for naturalness and just wanted to blend into the natural world where everything is connected and works to support the whole.  There a deer first led me to know curiosity was the way to go; and finally another deer showed me others do lay down their life in order for me to grow.  Thunder storms, snow falls, sunrises, sunsets, frogs, fox, herons, hummingbirds, black birds, sea gulls, raccoon, and more all came with messages from which I learned. 

So I wasn’t surprised when I heard at Jean Watson’s Caritas Caring Science workshop that there is current science at Heart Math Research studying how the physical heart is more than just a pump but communicates with the brain.  In my experience I would add the body and soul are also in cahoots along with the natural world. 

What if we all became aware of the connections within ourselves, between each other, and the natural world?         

Monday, November 2, 2015

Curiosity Heals

The Mystery within...
From “God Never Hurries:”

…I did know curiosity had become a newly discovered virtue that was keeping my soul supple.  It helped me look for truth.  I don’t ever remember curiosity encouraged in my youth.  A tree of knowledge with a serpent was invented to tell me not to look—and then there is the banning of books.  Did it really kill the cat?  I wished I learned much earlier how best to care for my soul. 

I remembered the above passage from my memoir when one of the panel members at Jean Watson’s Caring Science Institute conference said, “When confronted with trouble, step back and be curious.”  Instantly it made sense to me.  Instead of reacting out of fear, or letting the ego take affront, be curious about the confrontation.

Words Wikipedia associates with curiosity:  from Latin curiosus akin to cura, care;  inquisitive thinking, exploration, investigation, learning, desire to gain knowledge, and force behind human development.  

Creativity is born from curiosity.  When confronted with trouble, I can step back, be curious and creative, and learn how to care about myself and my confronter.

What if we all were curious and creative in uncovering the mysteries of caring?