By Bob Passi
Dealing with the realities in life is often trying and difficult. Survival seems like a victory. But later the victory loses some of its promise. We were not only looking merely to continue to breathe and function but to also feel that we were alive and part of life.
We are not satisfied with only survival, we want to thrive and grow. We want to interact with life. We want to connect. We want to find the energy of life, ride the moment with it and improvise our creative responses to it as it responds to us. There are no limits to where it can take us or who can participate.
We have just described empowerment. We all have had moments like that, they continue to live for us, forever fresh in our memories and dreams. We would like to call that feeling forth at a moment’s notice and find how to use it to enrich our lives and the lives of those around us. It is not so hard.
First we must rediscover the reality of it. Then we can find our ways to tap into its power and claim those ways for our use. We can then find ways to integrate that power into our daily lives. We can learn to use it effectively and broaden our repertoire. Finally we can discover how to monitor and maintain that power so we can use it to grow and respond creatively to life.
All of that is a result of understanding our internal power, the external power of life outside of ourselves and how to balance those two types of power for effective interaction and creative results. It is a subject that is not taught very directly in our schools, nor in other parts of our society. We usually learn something about it from our own experiences or from watching someone else do exceptional things.
The best we can do is to recognize it when it is there and learn to use it effectively and to survive when it is not there. Empowerment training changes that by opening direct communication with our inner power sources so we can monitor, maintain and use them whenever necessary.
When we find how to be connected with our inner resources and power, life changes. We are more self-assured and confident. Our self-esteem is higher and we dare to be open and run the risks that life requires for our full participation. We are not as shaken by the events of life and recover more quickly from them. We connect easily with life and can give and receive its energy easily. We learn how to heal the bruises of life for ourselves and for others. We have a firm perspective from which to view the world, make sense of our lives and make our own decisions. We become a part of life, offering what we have to offer and receiving what we need in return.
We all understand community and how important it is to our sense of connection and well-being. We also understand what happens when we lose that sense of community.
Often this loss comes from above and works its way down to a very personal level. If we lose our sense of community with others in the world, we sense a loss. If we lose our sense of community within our nation, we more clearly sense the loss. If we lose that sense of community within our state, we feel it more directly, and the same continues as it works its way down to our local communities, our families and our friends.
Yet, in recent decades we have experienced exactly that. As the sense of community on the top erodes we are forced to rely more and more on the lower levels of community. Finally, we are left with our local communities, our friends and our families having to bear all the burden of keeping a sense of community alive. They are very good at keeping
community alive but the forces arrayed against them often make the job more and more difficult and frustrating. We miss the supporting structures that exist on the higher levels.
How have we arrived here? Over the last few decades we have watched the institutions that provide a sense of community being hollowed out on
the national level, often to meet economic or political goals. In the process we have hollowed out the American Dream, leaving only an empty shell with no real substance and no spiritual center, making the survival of any meaningful sense of community hard to sustain.
Time to begin to rebuild that sense of community from the bottom up with citizen action, regardlessof the economic and political forces that might oppose it.
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By Bob Passi
I hear again about the shadow side of Self. It is time to deal with it at this time when our society is living with such obvious confrontations with our shadow side. We have the shadow of poverty. We have the shadow of homelessness. We have the shadow of poor health because people cannot afford it. We have the shadow of people who believed in banks, in savings and loans, in companies and pension plans, with organizational and governmental assurances that they could be trusted with our futures. We live with the shadow of violence. We live with the shadow of addiction. We live with the shadow of mental illness on our streets. We live with the shadows of corruption and abuse of power by those in whom we have invested our social being, our economic resources and our good name. We live with the shadows of the disenfranchised, the disempowered and the dispossessed.
And why all the shadows? They are all the issues that we have denied and refused to deal with during the recent decades of greed and self-indulgence. They blight the lives of those who are left to live in the shadows and make those lives seem unreal to those who still live in the brightness.
We have, as a people, perhaps always been afraid of the dark- of the night, of things shady and hard to handle with logic, of death, of things and people different than ourselves, of feelings and emotions, of things of the earth and of life which cannot be manipulated and controlled, of passion. We have been afraid of the other parts of life.
We are drawn to it…we like to watch it--but from a distance so we don't have to become involved. We see it in sports. We watch it on the news. We read about it in the tabloids. We indulge in it in the movies and on TV. We pay for it with money to keep our hands clean.
And what do we do with those who provide it for us. Either we reward them exorbitantly or we wait for them to make a mistake and punish them terribly. They are the heroes and villains of our fantasies and they deserve untold accolades for success and death for failure. Their job is to provide excitement for us so we can pretend that we are alive. We get to set the rules. We have the right--we paid for it.
And which rights is it the can be bought by the highest bidder? Nothing human, only the right to manipulate others and to abuse.
And what is the manipulation and abuse all about? It is about trying to maintain a conspiracy to deny our other half--the half which remains in the dark when we turn toward the light. It is not open to logical manipulation because we cannot see it, but we can see the shadow it casts and deny any connection with it.
We have tried to deny it in many ways. One of our most persistent attempts is to label it "evil." Once so labeled we do not have to try to understand it, we only need to fear it, avoid it and try to eradicate it from the world. We do not want to deal with it in ourselves so we project it into others and punish them. Our self-fear is reflected in the ways we punish it in others. As we become more and more hysterical about driving our own demons out we become more and more vicious with our appointed offenders. We lock them up. We turn them loose on themselves. Fairness and justice cease to be factors. We brutalized them. And when we are about to give up all hope that we can be saved, we legalized their murder.
The dark side is the other half of the whole that contains the bright side. It is the other side of life that we must accept to become whole and be capable of love of our whole selves--the very essence of spirituality. It is about accepting our animal nature full of limitations, incompleteness, flaws, imperfections, earthiness, passion, feelings and emotions, intuitions, magic, creativity, irrational behaviors and the dynamics of the stumbling dance of life-at once grotesques, embarrassing and incredibly beautiful.
We need to stop denying it and fearing it. We are drawn to it and are confronted by it because it insists on our attention. It is our other half, our better half only because the other is fatally flawed without it.
And what will we find…that the struggle for life leads us to many strange places but none that we cannot accept…that all people are doing their best to survive in the world, as they understand it using what they are given to use…that we all have major flaws that do not detract from our gifts. A lump of clay was scooped out here to create our gift there. We were all created equal, our clay is just distributed differently and to truly accept our gifts we must accept our whole selves, the greatness of our gifts, the ordinariness of much of the rest of us and the deformed parts that are a price of the gifts. We are all in that situation. It is the human condition.
We can deny it but that does not change anything it only disconnects us from our true selves and from the energy to truly empower our gifts. We can try to get others to verify that we are not deformed but it changes no reality and only creates a very destructive conspiracy of conceit attempting to create a culture where our particular combinations of gifts and deformities are redefined as all gifts and rejecting those who do not have the same kind of deformities. And here the deformities become the focus because it takes so much work and intellectual and emotional acrobatics to continue the pretense that it begins to consume all of our time and energy.
In fact, we cannot redistribute our clay, much as we might try. We can only deny our gifts and deny our deformities.
And what about the shadows? When we deny life to our dark side…when we do not respect and value it…we create a shadow that is cold and empty, that spreads a lifeless blight wherever it falls and sucks the life from whatever lies in its path in an attempt of the dark side to survive until we come to our senses. If healthy, it would provide welcome shade as part of the natural diurnal cycle… a time to work on integration and inner growth. But denying it puts other lives in jeopardy; especially if we cast our shadow on those we are responsible to. We have invited time into our lives through our relationships with them, either monetary, job related or personal. And our shadow touches and affects all of them whether we want it to or not. They all
have things to help us learn, but not trusting our dark side, we distrust the shadow and conclude that the people rather than the shadow are blighted. We begin to think that they are the reason for the blight and are sure that if we could just make them like us that the blight would disappear. Being who they are, they cannot be like us and in this confusion, we forget to look for their gifts, which would help us be whole and help us learn to understand what we miss with our deformity and how to cope with life having that deformity.
By Bob Passi
Making our way through life is a challenge and an adventure…more challenge than adventure at times. No one has given us a map or chart that is totally accurate although many have tried. Even the inherited compass does not always point us to true north.
But we must find a way to continue to sail on, despite the distractions of snug harbors, or the profits of selling our cargo. There are times when we must go into dry-dock for repairs; there are the stories we accumulate about great feats of seamanship, close calls, miraculous escapes and the drudgery of everyday sailing and trying to stay on course while keeping the crew and passengers safe and healthy.
If we have lived very long we recognize all of this. We may not have thought very much about how we managed it all except to be aware of the energy, hard work and focus that it took and the times when we failed and had to find a way to recover and continue.
In the process, we have learned to navigate our way through life. We have learned how to captain our vessel; learned its capabilities and limitations; learned about maintenance and repairs and the necessity of harbors and rest. In other words we have been learning a rudimentary kind of empowerment…finding out how to use our internal resources.
We have learned about outside forces like weather and currents, we have learned about obstacles…rocks and shoals, we have learned about friendly and antagonistic vessels. We have learned, through trial and error and experience how to survive and even thrive.
Life is about making that process more conscious, to learn from our life experiences, to find how to access that internal energy and rich source of creative living, to make the navigation more comfortable and sure, to access our best information and to true our compasses, not to take the challenge and adventure out of life, but to help us be confident in how to navigate by accessing our own pole star.
By Bob Passi
Why do we crave intimate relationships? All relationships connect us with the world and our environment. They enlarge our opportunities to gather information and understand who we are and our influence on what is happening in the world, as well as its influence on us.
Relationships provide a broader base for us to venture into the world and a means to practice openness as well as a forum in which to practice our interactive skills. They provide a place to trust and share who we are as well as our hopes and fears. The more intimate the relationship, the more this is true. In the best intimate relationships we open ourselves and are willing to become vulnerable in deep ways, hoping for reassurance and mutual growth.
So what are the dynamics of healthy relationships? They fall into a few categories: trust, balance and reciprocity, nourishment, nurturing, support and forgiveness.
Trust is basic. It allows openness and sharing of our truest selves and our vulnerabilities. It is delicate and any hint of betrayal needs immediate attention if the relationship is to flourish.
Balance and reciprocity is probably the most basic to the everyday realities of the maintenance of the relationship.
Think of the relationship as a circle divided by a thin membrane separating the two people in the relationship. Each side needs to be fed and maintained to retain balance. There is an implicit agreement to provide those necessities.
How are those two hemispheres kept healthy? It is by such basic things as attention, appreciation and clear signals, spoken or otherwise clearly expressed that, when healthy, elicits reciprocity. These need to be given without strings and cannot carry a whiff of “because of” or “in spite of”.
In a strange way both hemispheres see this as their entitlement as part of the whole relationship and it is true. It is not a trade relationship in which you make sure you are getting as much as you are giving. It must be given gladly, openly and willingly. And when it is given it must be appreciated openly. There is no middle ground with these givings since they of our truest and deepest selves and like any valuable investment they are either appreciating in value or depreciating.
Once an imbalance begins to occur, the well-fed side can begin to see the other as needy and weak and draw away not wanting to feed such a creature until they, once again become strong and worthy. This tends to occur when one takes their fullness as their own doing, disconnected from the other and is reluctant to give any of their hard earned treasure to such an inferior being, preferring to encourage bootstrapping for the other, as they think they had to do themselves.
The reality is that if the nurturing and support are not there and it becomes clear that the only path to individual health is to go it alone until they are healthy, then the bonds between the two hemispheres are stretched and the relationships weaken, turning into 2 distinct individuals taking care of themselves to the detriment and eventual weakening and dissolving of the relationship.
The side needing the help may continue to give to the other but it will begin to look like trying to buy some kind of reciprocity and, therefore, a further proof of weakness.
If that issue is not addressed, the relationship will certainly weaken and turn into a contest to show how well they can survive without the other and will turn into a kind of standoff or will dissolve since any need for nourishment, nurturing and support will be seriously compromised.
A discussion of how things got off balance needs to happen with its concomitant openness and forgiveness for the relationship to begin to find its health, once again.
By Bob Passi
In Europe, before there was much exploration of the world far beyond their own borders, and certainly not much beyond the coasts of Europe and the Mediterranean, mapmakers would sketch out what was the known world and indicate that only the unknown lay beyond the scope of their maps. To give some description of what lay beyond their knowledge base, they relied upon stories and tales. Perhaps to imply that what was unknown at that time was beyond human understanding and exploration, they drew pictures of beasts and supernatural forces, sometimes labeling such areas as “There be the dragons.” This served to instill fear and trepidation to any whom might think of venturing beyond such points and to imply that humankind should not consider such possibilities. This also gave a certain credibility to dragons.
We have, in our educational system, created such zones. Most of our education now deals with the structure and organization that human beings, in our case mostly Western European humans, have imposed upon the natural world to attempt to make some sense of it and to exert some control upon it. This, as with all human structures, in mostly arbitrary and is based upon a specific worldview and a complex system of thinking for it to make sense. Since it is an artificial and arbitrary system that is imposed upon reality, it take time to teach the vocabulary, the systems of measurement and the manipulations necessary to make those systems useful and manageable.
But there is another part of life. That is the natural, wild, untamed and unpredictable world in which even much of our civilized life is lived. It is in the wild and lawless parts of the world…the Arctic, the Antarctic, for example. It is the wildernesses of nature. It is countries, parts of countries, and even parts of cities where human law and structure have broken down. It is also on the highway when another driver suddenly does the unpredictable. It is in the moment when we meet the wrong person at the wrong time or place. It is in the moments when another human being or animal suddenly behaves in a violent and erratic manner. It happens in a heartbeat, around a corner, through a doorway. It lurks in the germs and viruses that fill the world unknown to us and suddenly change our lives forever. . It is the unseen and unknown, the unpredictable elements of life called chance or accidents. It is the messiness of life that goes with great scale and the cosmic qualities of nature and life that only begin to make any sense at all on a such a super-human scale. But it exists within every human relationship we have, within every action we take in the world, every breath we take, every bite of food we eat.
Perhaps, in the past, we have thought that this element is too scary for children to handle and so we acted as though it was not real…that it didn’t exist in the adult world. But, as any teacher knows, you can’t fool kids very long. They see through you when you pretend to be something that you aren’t and they see through you when you speak in partial truths. They do not often confront us with this information, but they see us as phonies and we lose credibility and they lose a bit of respect for us. Worst they have evidence that education isn’t exactly about truth and fact as we have tried to tell them, but instead is about some idealized world that is not exactly the one in which they themselves and people like them and their families live. Education begins to look less relevant to them.
Does this sound familiar?
Until we begin to acknowledge and begin to educate them about this other world too, we are doing neither them nor ourselves any favors. They are old enough to deal with it because it has been imposed upon them already. They have parents who have relationship problems before their very eyes. They see disease and trauma totally change the lives of those they know. They experience death and violence in their own worlds. Their early fears of monsters under the bed or in the closet are nature’s way of preparing them for such things. Mere logic does not make those fear go away, it only makes them move deeper within, away from the surface and free expression.
By focusing only on the veneer of human organization and structure imposed upon the natural world, we imply that all those fears and all “ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night” are not real…or worse, that we as adults do not deal with such things as fears, demons and dragons. And if they are unable to dispel them with the chants and incantations of logic and structure, there is something wrong within them. So they bury them deeper and know they are left to their own devises to deal with them. They only know they should not acknowledge them in public and should be ashamed of having them at all. It is implied that these are weaknesses to be overcome in the privacy of your own internal world.
We have thus created ghost, demons and dragons by not providing them an open and human way to deal with the acknowledgements of the wild and messy parts of life. We create the demons and dragons with which we all spend so much time and energy in what feels like mortal combat for the rest of our lives.
So, they lock them away, deep in their darkest dungeons. They break out every once in a while and if recaptured are sent to deeper dungeons with thicker walls and heavier bars but still some dark night they escape again. Some finally give in to them…acknowledging the judgement of civilization, that they are somehow inferior human beings…base and uncontrolled, and they move outside of civil rule and structure to become our demons come to life.
So, what am I getting at? We need to rethink education. We need to broaden it and, you might say, humanize it by first acknowledging that other, very real part of life that is outside the logical and predictable veneer in which we live parts of our lives. Secondly, we need to begin to find ways to talk about those parts with kids and to help them formulate ways to actually deal with them as a normal part of life. To not create the demons and dragons, but instead to explore together those unknown and unpredictable parts of life to help them find helpful methods to deal with them before they are given supernatural powers and turned into dragons.
This would truly be education for the whole human being.