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.

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.

The Spirit of Aloha

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The definition of aloha we are most familiar with is listed in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: a Hawaiian term used to greet or bid farewell.  That definition is true, but incomplete. If you search for a definition online you will find it also means love, affection, the breath of life, and a way of living with love and respect. Also true, also incomplete.

If you go to gohawaii.about.com you will find it is considered undefinable; much like our English word ‘love’. In a Hawaiian spiritual sense, aloha is an invocation of the Divine which permeates the universe. It is an acknowledgement of the Divinity that dwells within and without. It represents the presence of Divine breath; like the Asian concept of Chi in Tai Chi and Chi Gung.

Love is such a pleasant concept that we forget it also has a negative connotation. Our definition of love is affected by our expectations of love. The book Mana Cards: The Power of Hawaiian Wisdom by Catherine Kalama Becker, Ph.D. and Doya Nardin has such a description of the Mana Card titled “Aloha”. There are symbols on the aloha card.  A red sugar cane plant is on the left and a yellow-green sugar cane plant is on the right. Red sugar cane was used in love potions. Yellow-green sugar cane was use in potions to cling or to hold fast. A hibiscus plant represents being loved by many people. The rainbow represents true, unwavering love. And the adult hand holding the childlike hand represents unconditional love.

All of these are aspects of aloha, or love. Yet the expectations are not the same for each aspect. Clinging suggests the lover craves or needs the attention in order to feel complete within themselves. At the other end of the spectrum is the unconditional love we feel for our children. Aloha has also been the spiritual path of Hawaiian kahunas. One such priest or expert, Daddy Bray, taught that the way to experience true love (aloha) was to be “honest, truthful, patient, kind to all forms of life, humble, in harmony with your true self, God, and all humanity (Mana Cards, p. 64).”

On page 65, the aloha description ends: “Aloha is an unselfish, nurturing love that radiates calmness, acceptance, and warmth. It is strong and tender, a great gift to the world and whomever it touches. Allow the spirit of aloha to shine from your soul.” Amama ua noa.

Soul Parts

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How can a soul have different parts that exist separately? I’d like to ask the question from the opposite point of view: “Why do we think our soul is a separate entity?” The answer is that we think it is separate because we perceive ourselves as separate in our physical form. Is this the ultimate reality or is it only human perception? In the New Testament Jesus is quoted as saying “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” In the Hindu religion they refer to two kinds of self; one with a small ‘s’ and the other one with a capital ‘S’, to indicate we are part of a larger whole. In Buddhism teachers talk about our small mind and big mind. These are all ways of describing something that is beyond our physical perception; a unity that exists as the basis of all creation.

In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki, a buddhist monk, gives a talk about visiting Yosemite National Park and seeing the large waterfalls. He notes how all the water is united in the river until it reaches the waterfall where it is separated into streams that resemble curtains of mist falling slowly down until they reunite at the bottom. It takes a long time for this to happen because the falls are so high. He thought how the drops of water must have difficulty falling to the bottom, not realizing they are part of the larger whole. Each drop is part of the larger body of water, but when it is falling it forgets that. It is not until the drops are reunited in the whole that they regain their composure, their one-mindedness that being part of the river provides. Shunryu Suzuki urges his students to use meditation to realize the ‘oneness’ of all things. Realizing the oneness will allow us to be detached from our previously erroneous view of life. On page 95 he states, “When you realize this fact, you will discover how meaningless your old interpretation of life was, and how much useless effort you have been making. You will find the true meaning of life, and even though you have difficulty falling from the top of the waterfall to the bottom of the mountain, you will enjoy your life.”

 

Our Divine Connection

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The bible teaches us we are made in the image and likeness of God. I have heard discussions about this, and differing opinions as to what ‘image and likeness’ mean. Perhaps you have too. My focus has always been, “How can I understand, and more importantly experience, this connection?” I have discovered an answer that satisfies me, so I will share it with you. It probably won’t perfectly coincide with your idea; it didn’t coincide with my original idea either. But it is a pleasant explanation and it may be you will wish to incorporate it, or parts of it, into your belief system. I’m not proselytizing; only reporting. The decision is yours.

I believe what is taught in Hawaiian spirituality. The term they use for it is Aumakua. As with many Hawaiian words, it can be divided into smaller words; au meaning distant and makua meaning ancestor. These beings are spirits and were thought of like we think of guardian angels who would advise and help us. In the book Spiritwalker, Dr. Hank Wesselman defines it in the Glossary as our “Personal ancestral spiritual aspect; our High self, god self, angelic self; and as the Immortal spiritual source self.”

As I learned  journeying to the spirit world, our Higher Self exists separately but concurrently with our earthly self. So this means that, even though both are part of the same whole, they can exist at separate levels of consciousness. Why aren’t we aware of this connection? Because our consciousness is so closely tied to our physical body that it’s focus is on the overabundance of information our brains constantly receive from the outside world. The world is a huge distraction. And it leads us to believe we are separate entities, not connected to anything else. That concept helps us survive in the physical world, but it blinds us to the possibilities of the spirit world. In order to experience our Higher Self, it is necessary to find the level of consciousness between complete wakefulness and sleep; a place where we can step into the spirit world while still being conscious of our physical surroundings.

During one of my earliest journeys to the Upper World of spirits, I encountered this spirit. At first I viewed it as a separate being. Then, as we began to communicate our thoughts, I learned that we were one in being. Although I felt an emotional reaction, it had the biggest impact on my mental outlook. After the journey ended and I returned to ordinary reality, I realized that I had been receiving guidance from my Aumakua throughout my lifetime. It was as though I recognized the source of those thoughts that had always been helpful; keeping me out of trouble when I was young and helping me make correct decisions as an adult. My Aumakua was the being I had always thought of as my guardian angel.

Next blog: How can parts of the soul exist separately?

 

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