Healing Family Disagreements

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I’ll bet many of you are nodding thinking, ‘oh, I wish my family could do that.’ We all think it’s only our family that has issues. Then we mention it to a friend by the water cooler and, next thing you know, there’s a crowd, each person with their own version of the same story. ‘He said’ and so ‘I said’, back and forth.

Healing family issues is difficult for many reasons. Current problems are tied to past problems. Then there’s sibling rivalry. And Mom loved your sister more than she loved you. And if you didn’t have a sister, you know in your heart that your mom always wanted you to have one (I stole this comment from an old cassette tape by Dr. Wayne Dyer). Oh boy!

Originally ho’oponopono was focused on healing families and groups of people rather than individuals. I imagine it was difficult, not just because of the feelings involved, but also because of the commitment required of all participants. “Successful ho’oponopono requires that all of the participants follow a prescribed set of procedures and have the right attitudes. It is important that all participants entering into the ritual do so with a sincere desire to correct wrongs. Confessions must be honest and from the heart; nothing can be held back.” That quote is from Mana Cards by Becker and Nardin, page 97. On the following page they continue listing requirements: “Ho’oponopono requires open, honest, non-judgmental communication. It is an indication that you need to carefully scrutinize your motivations, feelings, and behaviors and be willing to communicate about them.”

One of the biggest obstacles I see in the process is that ho’oponopono requires that the ritual end with everyone forgiving all wrongs and promising never to discuss them again once the ritual is concluded. That means not talking to anyone about them ever again. I don’t know how many people could do that. It would require strong commitment on their part. However, I believe it is the only way reconciliation could work effectively. Getting everyone to agree to it might be s stumbling block but I believe it is worth the try.

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Social Conflict and Healing

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As a project manager I learned to pay close attention when the slightest sign of conflict or confrontation arose. If it looked serious, I would stop proceedings right away. This was so we could focus on what was wrong and figure out how to resolve it. If we didn’t, I knew it could endanger our mutual goals by blocking forward progress.

Powerful feelings need healing. When they arise it may be necessary, and even advisable, to engage in conflict or confrontation. While most people do not like confrontation, it can serve a very useful purpose. Confrontation gives everyone a chance to discuss the problem or problems; and will help us arrive at a solution if consensus is possible. When having discussions about conflict there are certain rules that must be followed. Everyone must realize they have a responsibility to treat all parties with respect; respect for the individual and for their ideas and feelings. Everyone must have the opportunity to express their opinion. If two or more people cannot agree on resolution, it is up to the project manager to schedule a separate meeting for those involved so that an agreement can be made.

While avoiding conflict can be a sign of weakness, the inability to resolve the conflict my require a time-out. By time-out I mean discontinuing further meetings and halting the project for a time. Granted, a lengthy time-out may jeopardize due dates and even the final completion date for the project. But this may also provide the needed incentive to get the project resolved. This is an example of using a passive approach, the time-out, to reestablish forward motion.

As we’ve seen in Washington, D.C., conflict and confrontation are sometimes used as political strategies. But conflicts and confrontations are not what produce progress. Progress is only resumed when the negative feelings created by conflict are balanced by the powers of healing.

Healing Our Veterans

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Although I spent four years in the United States Army and was never involved in a combat situation, I have the greatest respect for those men and women who have combat experience. They served under the most difficult situations any person can ever have. So on this Memorial Day we should remember those who served, especially in wartime; especially the men and women who served during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I single these people out because they had so many deployments into combat. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to serve one tour of duty to Iraq or Afghanistan, much less three and four tours of duty. It is asking too much for any human being to be exposed to combat that frequently, especially since the ‘recuperation time’ between tours was far too short. Combat veterans, in their typical, patriotic way will never complain about the number of tours because of the comradeship they developed with their fellow soldiers. They want to be with those people to help fight for our cause and to help their comrades survive. They are so giving they are willing to give their lives for their fellow soldiers as well as for their countrymen.

My prayer for these veterans: “May God see that each and every one of them receive the benefits their country owes them. May He insure that each and every one of them are healed from their wounds, physical as well as stress-related. May they receive the love and devotion they deserve from their families, friends and fellow citizens. And may they reach a place where they find peace of mind, balance and harmony in their lives, and new, peaceful goals toward which they may focus the rest of their lives. Amama Ua Noa.”

Healing Ourselves

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If we could heal ourselves, would we? Before you automatically answer yes, think about this: Three of every four dollars spent on healthcare in 2010 were spent on medical problems caused by our unhealthy lifestyle choices. You don’t have to be a math whizz to see that equals 75% of healthcare costs. The worst risk factors are poor diet, tobacco use, obesity, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use. These choices produce the following top chronic diseases, shown with how much they cost in 2010 health care dollars: heart disease and stroke $432 Billion, diabetes $174 Billion, and lung disease $154 Billion.  Those top chronic diseases account for 7 out of 10 deaths each year. Obviously, we won’t live forever, but 7 out of 10 people do not die of old age. That’s a sobering thought.

So let me ask the question again. If we could heal ourselves, would we? More to the point, why don’t we?

These health statistics are a symptom of another, related human problem: how we make decisions. I know from personal experience. When I was 17 I decided smoking would make me look more manly. My brother and father smoked, why shouldn’t I? I’m not blaming them – this was my decision. Over the next ten years I worked my way up to smoking a pack and a half a day. When I woke up in the morning I would sit up in bed, grab a cigarette from the pack, light it with my lighter, take a drag and stand up to begin my day. How stupid was that? It took me two years of determined effort to quit. Chewing gum helped me, but I chewed so much my jaws got sore. Still, that was better than lung cancer.

Why did it take me so long to quit? Obviously there was a certain amount of nicotine addiction, but I think the biggest problem was simply that it had become a habit. Later in life I learned that thinking the same thought over and over has an affect on our brains. As with other thoughts and actions, repetition solidifies the way our brains are wired. Our habits become automatic, at least in part, because we have changed our brains to accept them. Once these new thought paths are established, it makes it easier for us to follow them.

I quit smoking over 40 years ago. Now 70, I have no major health issues and I am not medicating for anything. I realize part of my good health is due to genetics, and I thank my ancestors for that. But part of it is due to my lifestyle choices and I’m glad I made them. No matter what your age, focus on getting rid of any bad choices you have made. You will never regret it. I promise.

 

Healing the Homeless

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On May 20th, Thursday night, I watched two programs about helping homeless people on WTTWC which is 11-3 on broadcast TV in the Chicago area. I was struck by how different the outcomes were.

The first program was part of the America ReFramed series. It focused on the homeless in the St. Louis area, specifically a homeless encampment called Dignity Harbor. Dignity Harbor was one of three homeless communities situated on city land, along the Mississippi river in downtown St. Louis. It started off with the people (squatters) living in tents, even through the minus 30 degrees of the winter season. Later they built wooden ‘structures’ to live in. Dignity Harbor had no drug problems or run-ins with the law as did the other two. However the city eventually moved the inhabitants of all three communities into free, temporary housing for one year. The homeless were given free bus passes to look for jobs and final housing arrangements and were supplied with food and clothing from charitable organizations. Unfortunately, most of them moved back out into the streets after the year was over.

The second program was about the Skid Row Art Workshop in downtown Los Angeles. A woman named Lillian Abel convinced the city and charitable organizations to allow her to set up the workshop in a building on 5th Avenue, the location of Skid Row. They don’t teach art there; they simply provide art materials for the local homeless people to use. Some homeless had never painted a picture before. You might think all their art would be amateurish. You would be wrong. Some paintings were superior to paintings I have seen hanging on the walls of Chicago’s Art Institute. Lillian Abel was so impressed she asked an artist friend to visit the Workshop. The friend was also impressed with their work, so much so that she helped arrange a showing at the Skid Row Art Workshop. It was highly successful and many artists sold pictures. The workshop continues its operations.

Different approaches produce different results.

Ancient Wisdom: The Hula

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I used to view Hula dancing from a cultural viewpoint, as in, ‘gee, that is really a beautiful, graceful dance.’ I have learned Hula is more than just a dance. Sunday night I was watching WYCC, a local PBS broadcasting station. The program they showed at 7:00 PM was listed as Pacific Heartbeat. It featured an hour long coverage of the 2013 “Merrie Monarch Festival” held in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the festival. In its early years the festival had attractions like the ‘beard growing’ contest in honor of King David Kalakaua (reigned: 1874-91). King Kalakaua gave permission to perform the Hula again. It had been forbidden in the early 1800’s. In the 1970’s Hula competition was introduced and the popularity of the festival surged. Now it attracts dance teams from all over the world.

Hula is not just a cultural part of Hawaii. It is also a spiritual practice which includes the teachings of the elders and it requires disciplined practice and focus. In the book Mana Cards, the authors describe hula in relation to the Hawaiian goddess Laka. Laka is the goddess of inspiration, especially where hula is concerned. On page 93 of Mana Cards, the authors write, “More than a dance, hula is an essential part of Hawai’i. It is treated with such respect that dancers adhere to strict traditions when gathering the plants for their costumes and the hula altar. Hula is a complex ritual, a form of worship, a spiritual practice, a discipline.” Specific plants and flowers which are said to be Laka’s favorites are placed on an altar, each one symbolizing a connection to the goddess. Dancers pray that the goddess will inspire them in their dance and make acceptable efforts into excellent ones.

If you have the time and wish to view the 2013 Merrie Monarch Festival film, you will find it at http://www.pacifiicheartbeat.org. Just scroll down a short way and click on the picture of the video from 2013. I guarantee you will enjoy the video and find the dancing both inspiring and highly entertaining. For you ladies, the competition also includes some handsome male dance groups. Aloha!

Spirit Walking with My Wife

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In recent years I have come to understand that my first experiences in spirit walking were not in 2011 but began in 1998, just a month after my wife, Marilyn, died from cancer. One morning that October I dreamed I was with her. I put my arms around her to comfort her and she said, “I’m only here in spirit.” Memories of her death flooded my consciousness. I awoke to find I had wrapped my arms around the sheet and bedcovers. It was 5:30 AM. I got up and wept for the next hour. I was crying so much I couldn’t see to shave and was almost late for work.

This was the beginning of many periodic dreams about her. They were not about the past. In the dreams we were keeping each other company in the present. After a couple of months of having similar dreams, I decided to ask my kids, Paula and Mark, if they had any dream experiences. I asked Paula on the phone. She started crying, saying yes she had and they were so real; not about the past, but about keeping company with each other. Then I asked Mark and he said the same thing. Marilyn was keeping him company and giving him advice, just as she had when alive. The three of us shared our dreams were amazed.

In a dream I had Marilyn was wearing a nice blouse and skirt. She said, “That’s the nice thing about this place, if you don’t like what you’re wearing you just …” and with that she snapped her fingers and was wearing a beige pants suit with a matching blouse. In the dream she smiled like this was one of the best things in the world. Her love of clothing and concern about how she looked in the dream was exactly how she was in life. Paula had a dream where they were talking, having a cup of coffee. Marilyn said something and Paula responded. Marilyn got excited, “You can hear me? You can see me?” Mark had similar experiences. Among the three of us there were dozens of other examples. I didn’t write any of them down.

I noticed these dreams tended to occur around 5:00 or 5:30 AM, right before I normally woke up. As I have since found out, the theta level of brain activity is right between wakefulness and sleep. During spirit walking I use a rattle or drum to keep a rhythm at 4 to 7 beats per second – the same frequency as theta brain waves. Once my brainwave activity follows that beat I am able to step into the spirit world while remaining conscious of my physical surroundings. This experience is common with other spirit walkers I know.

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