Spiritual Privilege

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Throughout my life I have been interested in spiritual concepts, studying and experiencing through yoga, meditation, and reading.  For a time in the early 2000’s, there were various books written about someone living an unfilled life (although they appeared to be happy to the outside world) ‘giving it all up’ or at the very least taking some time off from their everyday lives to travel thousands of miles across the Atlantic ocean to underdeveloped countries in search of a spiritual awakening.  The common theme that I noticed in these experiences and stories was the seekers usually traveled to places where they were often bewildered by the peoples’ acceptance of their circumstances of living in poverty or living without running water, electricity, or heat.  The traveler equated acceptance of circumstance with being at peace, therefore their learning consisted of “be peaceful within regardless of external circumstances.”   Personally, I couldn’t stand these stories for a few reasons,  but mainly because this viewpoint came from a place of unintentional arrogance that I just wanted to puke.  Why? It is arrogance to suggest that since someone or a People are living in squalor that they are accepting of their circumstance much less have feelings of peace about it.  This line of thinking, albeit without the poverty, was reiterated last week by Iyanla Vanzant when she tweeted, “Racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism have no power over you unless you believe they do.”  A people living in squalor, shacks, shanty towns or projects may have had little to no choice due to living in a caste-system, being born into poverty or systemic government ‘rules,’ limiting one’s options for power and advancement.  I would ask the seeker, “Do you think, the person/peoples you met,  given the opportunity, wouldn’t choose to have a better paying job, and live somewhere else with electricity, running water, surrounded with four solid walls and roof over their head? Or do you think the people would choose to stay in a life a poverty?”  Secondly, the traveling seeker, can leave and return to their normal lives in homes full of electricity, running water, and heat with no worry about food at any time.  The traveling seeker can turn the switch off and on, meaning they can go back into their lives and enjoy the comforts.  People living in poverty don’t have that option, so they have to eke out some way to find some kind of peace even if it’s momentary.

The seeker gets a momentary experience, an awakening and a shift in their perception, while the person/peoples continue to live a lifetime in poverty.  This is spiritual privilege.  It’s easier to see the ‘beauty in’ and accept a state of poverty or strife when you’re not really living in it.

Another form of spiritual privilege that I have seen grace the media recently, but has been a staple in the new thought prosperity teaching is the mind over matter, changing your perception of your situation. In an L.A. Times piece by Amy Kaufman Link Here a conversation ensued between actresses Jessica Williams, Salma Hayek and Shirley Maclaine in which Hayek posed a question to Williams, ‘Who are you when you’re not black and a woman?’  I understand what Hayek and Vanzant were attempting to say, but for some people and groups of people it’s not an option.  To ask “who am I (without my money, my job, my looks, my celebrity, my education, religion, culture and then list goes on and on…), beyond your humanness is a privilege that many people who are worried about or working multiple jobs just to put some food on the table don’t have.  People who are struggling to provide for themselves and their families don’t have the luxury of time, money or space to contemplate such questions and to do so is spiritual privilege.

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Vanzant’s response to the experiences of numerous groups, especially given the recent political decisions and actions of our government is asking the people to go beyond their belief, even though their experience(s) have confirmed otherwise.  Agreed, I’m not a fan of the “Man keeping me down” frame of mind, and I’m all for accountability. But we cannot negate a person’s experiences by simply saying change your perception. You might as well just say, “You created it so you deal with it…I’ll be over here” no matter the circumstance.  Where is the compassion and Oneness, the Whole?   To tend to you is tending to myself.

How do you tell a woman who was passed over for a promotion by a man she trained that it’s best to change her belief or her perception of her situation?  Would you tell a child who has been relentlessly bullied to focus on the future of ‘this too shall pass” or do you tell the child to change his/her belief about the situation/circumstance, while continuing to be relentlessly bullied?  How about the person with cancer that has tried everything, including diligently and actively changing his beliefs about health and healing to no avail, or the person in chronic pain that finds it so difficult to believe in a pain free life because his body reminds him moment to moment?  Look, I am not devoid of this, I bought into this belief whole heartedly for many years, until I lost a friend to cancer.

Beliefs are an individual experience and to apply a belief to groups of people is a disservice to the collective reality. It is easier to tackle a belief when working with the individual, because the belief, although common, may express itself differently from person to person.  If you follow the ‘change your perception’ ideology, then you must do that individually, separately from the group, which diminishes the whole.  If everyone or most people did that,  we wouldn’t see systemic change throughout society.   Do we just close our eyes, go into prayer, change our perception of our situation and then have faith that the injustice will ‘at some point’ go away or be righted?  Who would do the work? Would we have had our Gloria Steinem’s, Martin Luther king Jr’s, or our Gandhi’s and Cesar Chavez’?  If we’ve settled for changing our perception to accept our situation to only worry about our Own standing within society, would these societal systems have changed?  I don’t think so.  If that were the case, then the Tibetans would have retrieved their nation back from China and experience less discord today about being occupied.

Individuals can lead but it’s the movements of the collective that bring about systemic change.

Namaste.

Is doing the right thing, the right thing to do?

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Is doing the right thing always the right thing to do? I don’t know.   Looking for images on google tells me that the only way is, to do the right thing and any other way is wrong.  You’re either blessed or compensated for doing the right thing or you’re demonized for doing the wrong thing.  Hence the image above.  But, is not doing the right thing, doing the wrong thing?  Clearly, I’ve been thinking about this lately as well as some of my clients.  Maybe I’ve been thinking about this now that I’m in my 40’s taking a panoramic view of my life, because apparently my view wasn’t wide enough a few years ago.  You’re right, I’m not too happy about this.

I’m sure you’ve come across someone who has done all the right things, yet has had ‘bad things’ happen to them, and someone who didn’t do the right thing, has had something great happen.  For example, someone who has done the right thing by taking great care of themselves such as eating organic, exercising, taking their vitamins, and meditating still ends up getting some type of cancer.  Meanwhile, the couch-potato that eats all kinds of fast food chasing it with a diet coke and a cigarette ends up cancer (and diabetes) free.  The person who did the right thing was left wondering, ‘how,’ and ‘why me?’ feeling somewhat betrayed, regretful and resentful. But at whom?  Betrayed by their body and the Universe. Regretful that they spent so much time doing what they did to be healthy. Resentful toward their body, society, the Universe and themselves for drinking the kool-aid.?

Does adhering to the rules or doing the right thing contribute to restrictive thinking?  Thinking that there is only ‘this way.’  Does always doing the right thing keep you from seeing the panoramic view?  Is there fear around not doing the right thing, that something bad will happen or a feeling of having failed at something. What if doing the right thing has no bearing on your payoff or what you will get out of it. Will you get satisfaction knowing you do the right thing? Will you have peace? Or, will you have regret?

Ex. 1  What about leaving your marriage partner for someone else you fell in love with. Right/not right? What if the panoramic view was that the partner who left the marriage was happily remarried in a long-term ’til death-do-us-part relationship.

Ex. 2  What if you wanted children for many years but the circumstance(s) didn’t present itself and you’ve written the possibility off.  You had an affair or one night stand with someone and became pregnant and had the baby (out-of-wedlock).  Right thing to do or not the right thing?  What if the panoramic view was: the child, regardless of how she was conceived was deeply loved, fulfilling a long-term wish of her mother, as well the child grows up to invent a cure for a deadly disease.  Is it still not the right thing to have done?

Ex. 3  What if you’re financially holding on by your fingernails and instead of paying your bills, you file for bankruptcy or foreclosure?  Right thing/Not right?  What if the panoramic view was to let go to make room to make much more money than you could conceive, doing what you enjoy.   Holding on kept you seeing what is and prevented you from seeing what can be.

This is life and walking the spiritual path isn’t so cut and dry regardless of what guidelines and rules that each philosophy suggests to follow whether it’s the 10 commandments, New Age thought or the Right Action of Buddhism.  It’s very easy, especially from afar to look at a situation and say what is right or what is wrong.  But, does not doing the right thing make it wrong?  It can make it painful (all examples have pain for all involved) but does it make it not the right thing to do?

 

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I’m not quite sure about this……

 

Do you do the right thing but end up at a crossroads in your life wondering why? Have you ever felt that your life was restricted because you were following the straight and narrow path?   Do you follow or not follow your heart because you think it’s the right thing to do?  What if you don’t get the payoff for doing the right thing? What if you do get the payoff you wanted by not doing the right thing?  Like life, the answer is convoluted and messy. In the end, it really depends on you and what is right for you, in any situation, regardless of what others, your culture or society says. I know this is easier said than done. In some cultures, you may not have a say, and in other cultures, where you have a say, it may be equally difficult to follow a different path.

I don’t know what the answer is. For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes Not doing the right thing, is doing the right thing. The right thing for you, may not be the right thing for me.  Only you can answer what is the right thing for you to do for your life, no one else can answer that for you.

I can tell you one thing for sure, I’m kinda over needing to upgrade my panoramic view.

Questions for you:

Is doing the right thing synonymous with integrity and congruence?  Do you think it is possible to live 100% in integrity 100% of the time?  If so, how does Life happen for you?  Who are you doing the right thing for? You? Your family? Society? Your image? Your pride?  Do you ever feel doing the right thing just isn’t sitting too well with you, so there’s incongruence within you, internal strife?  If you do the right thing, even though it’s not working or it doesn’t feel right, do you continue to do the right thing?

Have a great Weekend!

 

New Year, New You?

study-tips-to-start-the-new-year-year-on-the-right-footWe’re 14 days into the new year and most people’s resolutions will have been forgotten or tossed aside, with only 8% of people who set a resolution will see it to fruition.  So many people toss their resolutions that January 17 is considered ‘Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day.’   We can count on every New Year to begin with a barrage of tag-lines advertising some type of weight loss tool or a better you. ‘A New Year, A New You,’ or ‘Seven ways to a new you,’ or  ‘The three best foods to battle the bloat’ and the list goes on. The new year is also often riddled with questions about resolutions, “Did you make any resolutions?” and “What are your resolutions for this year?”

Here’s the number one way to keep your resolutions.  Don’t make any.   I know I sound like Bah-humbug New Year, but I’m really not.  I love the New Year.  The New Year brings with it the excitement of newness and a desire or wanting for the new year to be different in some way than the last year, especially if the previous year was particularly difficult.  I think this is part of the reason people don’t keep their resolutions because of the high expectations they place on themselves.  We see this in making more than one resolution.  We are so motivated and excited about the new year that we want to change everything, Now!

 

new year goals or resolutions - colorful sticky notes on a blackboard

 

We want to change our lives or ourselves, and we want it done fast and easy.  Like everything in life, the newness of the year wears off and we’re left with the reality of : resolutions = change.  Change = work.  Work = no fun = ‘I don’t want to do this any longer.’   I get it.  I don’t make resolutions.  Instead of making resolutions, make a goal, one goal.  Psychologically, we seem to attach a little bit more reality and compassion to goals, because goals can be accomplished within weeks or months, while other goals depending how much work, time and effort they need may take years.  Goals can also be set any time of the year, not just when you’re coming down from the high of the holidays.

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I love Calvin and Hobbes!

This way there is less of beating yourself up because of All the things you didn’t accomplish the past year. I find it ironic that we welcome each new year with happiness and cheer (Happy New Year!), yet by making resolutions, we actually begin the new year by looking at what is Wrong within us or in our lives.

Some people may set a goal to eat better, lose that holiday weight for their health, drink less etc.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but realize that you can do that at any time not just the new year.  Set a realistic goal and be kind to yourself in the process.

New Year, No Resolutions.

The Great Pumpkin!

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I remember watching The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown since being a kid, and as I’ve grown up, watching The Great Pumpkin became a nostalgic comfort. It meant Halloween is officially here. As an adult, I watched The Great Pumpkin and I saw something different. A metaphor for faith and belief. Yes, I know, being an adult is overrated sometimes. I wondered if I was on the right track so I did a little research regarding this subject and by little, I mean miniscule. I looked on Wikipedia. Linus believed that The Great Pumpkin existed and he waited all night for the great pumpkin to rear its head, but the great pumpkin never came. Linus believed wholeheartedly in his Great Pumpkin and with faith waited to no avail yet missing out on the festivities with his friends.

Charles Schulz was genius! The Great Pumpkin is also a metaphor for believing in something greater than ourselves, some call it God, The Universe, Allah, Yahweh, Supreme Being, Father Sky, Mother Earth, Nature and many other names. Some people identify their faith with their religion. For instance, individuals identify as Christian to describe their faith. But, identifying with a religion is also identifying with a set of beliefs that the particular religion holds. Faith, to me, is not a religion but a practice in letting go and surrender of control. Just because a person may identify with a certain religion doesn’t automatically create faith in their heart.

Faith is more like a muscle that needs to be exercised. Faith is intangible: you can’t touch it, you can’t contain it, you can’t even really identify it. Faith is an exercise in trust, not trust from a mental perspective but trust from a whole person heart experience. It’s easy for me to say, ‘I have faith’ when things are going well and the way I want them to in my life. But, I exercise Faith when things aren’t going well or the way I want them to. Faith is a deep, heartfelt, whole-body trust and intrinsic knowing that everything works out for the best no matter what the outcome or the external circumstances look like. Do I exercise my faith (trusting that it all works out) when I lose something dear to me, go through a major life transition or simply make a change for the betterment of me? Do I or you have that deep faith? Or, do you, as I do often times, try to control the situation or the outcome? In trying to control, do you stop the flow or change in your life that may serve you better or do you stick to your beliefs, and hold on to something that is no longer of service to you?

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Belief on the other hand, is identifiable and tangible because we can put a clear description to it. Belief is mental. If your belief is tied to your religion then you can provide clear descriptions of the belief’s and practice’s of your religion.

We have many beliefs, beliefs that we carry from our family of origin, beliefs about ourselves that we pick up from others such as teachers, extended family members, friends, and society. You may have adopted belief’s about money, relationships, work, body image, gender, worthiness. For instance, you may have a belief that the more money you have or make equates to your success or your personal value/worthiness, or you may have a belief that you ‘can’t rely on anyone else, because they all leave,’ or you may have a belief that you are not good enough, unloveable, or unworthy. All of these beliefs most likely are or have been impacting you, your relationships, work, and money.

Beliefs are interesting because beliefs are easy to hold on to and scary to let go of even when we know the belief is a lie, outdated and no longer serves our well-being. We defend our beliefs as if they are US.  We, humans, defend our beliefs to the death.  Beliefs are just strongly held ideas.  As I’ve grown and examined and experience my life, my beliefs are ever evolving and being challenged and my faith exercised.  I leave you with these questions:

How would you describe faith?
What belief’s take faith in your life today?
Are your belief’s exclusionary or inclusive of others?
Have you missed out on an experience you wanted, or meeting people because of a strongly held belief?
What beliefs do you think or feel you’ve held that are no longer helpful to you?
What beliefs are you willing to let go of?

And you thought The Great Pumpkin was just a cartoon.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Race Belongs in an Old English Dictionary

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As the 4th of July ends and America celebrated its independence from Britain, with grilled meats, alcohol, and fireworks, race is and has been a hot button issue for this country for centuries. We see and hear the word race in the media; it’s uttered from the mouths of the educated, celebrities, newscasters and politicians. It’s uttered by every population, regardless of color with conviction and confidence.  Conviction and confidence that the word race is used correctly

The word ‘race’ has been near and dear to me since I was a teen. Every time I hear or see the word race to describe a peoples or population, my body bristles, because ‘race’ is an inaccurate term to describe populations. Race has never described me, my family or any of my friends, colleagues or co-workers.

I gave a speech last week on race. When I first asked the group what their first thought was when I mentioned culture, I didn’t really get a response except “yogurt.” Um. Yeah. Cute. And moving right along. Other than that response, the group shook their heads side to side not knowing how to respond. Then I asked the group to name the first thing that came to mind when I said race. All I got were crickets.  I didn’t expect silence, so I became concerned or wondered how this group would take this speech. I wondered if they thought to themselves, “Not this again!” But, I asked again. This time the group responded with: “food, dance, music, culture, and language.” Nope. What they described was culture, not race.

Here’s the reality of race used to describe specific and different populations. It DOES NOT exist, yet we, as a country, as a society continue to use an outdated, archaic word that was created as a means to separate and divide people. In fact, ‘race’ has no scientific basis or significance. World renowned anthropologist, Dr. Audrey Smedley stated in 1997,

Race ideology was a mechanism justifying what had already been established as unequal social groups; it was from its inception, and is today, about who should have access to privilege, power, status, and wealth, and who should not. As a useful political ideology for conquerors, it spread into colonial situations around the world….and Race has no intrinsic relationship to human biological diversity, that such diversity is a natural product of primarily evolutionary forces while ‘race’ is a social invention.”

(Anthropology Newsletter, Nov. 1997).

courtesy of understanding race.org

courtesy of understandingrace.org

Anthropologists and genetic biologists agree that there is only one race, and it’s Human. Period.  End of story.

I have a personal stake in this.  Growing up, I was asked at various times and well into adulthood, “What are you?” Depending on how irritated I was by this question, I’d either answer with “excuse me?’ or “Human.” I grew up in a multicultural household, my father is black American (from the South) and my mother is white Scandinavian (Swedish) to be exact. By all accounts I would respond with, “mixed; black and white,” Not mixed-race or biracial. Mixed-race implies being a product of mixing different species. Incorrect. Mixed race would be splicing the DNA of two distinct species together such as a cat and a dog. Imagine that!

My parents aren’t two different species. They are two different people: two different genders, two different personalities, two different colors, from two different cultures and two different continents. It’s that simple.

I see differences in cultural aspects, religious worship, food, language and I see differences in physical features and color. They are only variations and opportunities for me to learn and experience.

 

courtesy of understandingrace.org

courtesy of understandingrace.org

 

Have you ever wondered what America would be like if we didn’t use race as a description? What if we stopped using it all together and instead used the correct, scientific word/words.

Instead of Race Relations, we simply called it Human Relations.
Instead of Race Riots, we called them Human Riots. Notice, it sounds very similar to Human Rights.
Instead of interracial, we named it intercultural or interhuman.
Instead of racism, we simply called it colorism, bigotry, prejudice or hate-ism.

Since race is completely a social construct, created by us humans, then we have the power to dismantle it. It may feel daunting and overwhelming but what if we started small, something that we can control? We can start by changing our language. If we stop using ‘race’ as a definition or description, we will be forced to individually look at our own prejudices and stereotypes that we hold as well as our ingrained belief(s) and need that we are separate or better.

So, here’s a challenge for you. The next time you hear or see the word race used to describe a peoples or population either in the news, media or by friends, family or colleagues, mentally interject Human in place of race and notice what happens. Does the story change? How about the perception of the event or people involved? You don’t need to do this out loud, this is a challenge strictly for you.

 

Many Blessings!

The Meaning of Success

The meaning of success.

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What a loaded sentence. Everyone has their own definition of success. I was posed with this question recently at a toastmaster’s meeting. How I responded was interesting because, I responded in a linear manner. Meaning a talked about achieving or accomplishing a goal and assessing in my mind the accumulation of goals and money. That’s where my mind went first. Interesting, considering success for me, since my college years was simple: being in a loving committed marriage, have a family and doing work that I love helping others and being creative. As I thought about that statement further, success for me is about following my heart.  Because, when I follow my heart, I have no idea what the outcome will be and therefore each time I follow my heart, I take a risk. And I have taken ALL kinds of risks. So often, we are our worst enemy, focusing on what we don’t have, haven’t done (‘right’), what we need to do differently or better until it all begins to sound like Blah Blah Blah. Can you relate?

I think back to the risks I’ve taken based on my Heart and I recall twice in my adult life, packing my car with just certain belongings such as photos, music, some books and clothes and traveling across country to a new state in which I had NO job lined up. What was I thinking?

Then I started to think about other times in my life where I followed my heart and realized that I am more of a risk-taker than I give myself credit for but I haven’t seen this aspect of myself because I’ve focused so much on the Fear I’ve felt.

I’ve taken a risk and changed careers, multiple times in my life; I’ve changed my life and began a business, which has been the scariest/hardest chapter in my life to date. I have traveled alone, I have moved across country – alone, I have made decisions that others would think and have thought, “what is she thinking ?” or “what the hell is she going to do next?” I’ve stepped outside of my comfortable box and taken more risks. I have to remember that, so that I don’t become paralyzed by the fear and the lies of Fear itself telling me something that isn’t true.  Risk takes courage.

I am a risk-taker. I follow my heart. I am courageous. My heart will take me to places, experiences and bring people into my life that I never imagined happening. That is Success – to me.

What is your definition of Success and has it changed over time?

Exercise:
Take a moment to acknowledge ways in which you’ve taken risks (stepped out of your comfort zone).