Something Greater


I have been contemplating, practicing and researching conscious use of technology with children for more than 20 years. I have observed and read about all of the many ways that it is changing our children physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally; negative impacts ranging from brain cancer to attention and behavioral problems to impaired memory to social autism, to weight gain, to sleep problems and so much more. As devastating as all of this is, I am noticing something far more destructive; a loss of purpose and meaning. Collectively, we spend more time in front of a screen than the time we put into the exploration and loving expression of who we truly are, why we are here, and where it is that we come from.  What does it mean for our children to grow up in a culture where the biggest, vastest and most ubiquitous daily presence in their life is ever-increasingly a machine? What will it mean for our children who are growing up absorbing the belief that the most powerful presence in their lives emanates from something man-made? While we might not be saying this out loud, no one needs to. Children absorb what it is that we value most. Children take their cues from us about what to orient to in life.

Are we actually going to leave the very unfolding of the human heart and spirit up to a machine? Pause for a moment and reflect deeply on this. Our children need Something Greater to connect to; whether that is God, The Great Mother, The One, All That Is, Allah, Jehovah, Jesus, Shiva, a social cause, Nature, or your family. However you experience it, and by whatever name you refer to it, our children need to be in relationship to something more than themselves and their self-indulgent forays into the cyber world. What is it doing to their spirit to have the very essence of their existence reduced down to the number of “likes” they get on Facebook? Or how many friends or followers that have accumulated. Or how many texts they send or receive each day. How does self-absorption and narcissism further humankind and inspire us to reach for our very best? It does not.

Our children require meaning and purpose for their souls to flourish as surely as their bodies require air to live. The steady and depleting diet of screen images along with the amount of time spent there reduces their spiritual life down to a tiny or non-existent corner of their lives. But certainly not the guiding force. Not the orienting direction in their life. What compounds the damage is the importance we, as their primary role models, have put on life in front of a screen; modeling for them that this is the shiniest and most coveted brass ring to reach for, despite what else we might preach about what is most important.

Meaning, purpose and a connection to Something Greater is what holds us through all of life’s ups and downs. It is what uplifts us and carries us further than we could ever go on our own. This is what will support our children when life challenges, fails and disappoints them. Experiences of Presence are often subtle, paling in comparison to the yelling and demands of the devices. Spirit is never pushy, quick, or loud in the ways of the machines. And because the satisfactions of the devices are so immediate and compelling while asking simultaneously so little, how will this prepare our children for a life lived in Connection?

Ultimately, will it turn out to be progressive of us, or in the best interest of humankind, for the dominating cultural attitude to be that man and his accomplishments are the greatest show on earth? The technologies are amplifying this ignorant and ultimately erroneous belief in far-reaching and destructive ways. What will it do to our children for them to grow up believing that they are the most powerful force in the Universe? How will arrogance, self-absorption and our own self-importance further the hopes, dreams and the very best of our species? How will disconnection from Source play out in our relationship to caring for and about others and the planet? If our children, through years of experience with being in control of all that they touch, come to believe that they are the omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient ones, how will they live? And then, how will be able to live together?

All of our greatest and most shining exemplars are those human beings who submitted to something beyond themselves. At its best, the human experience includes honoring, respecting and submitting to something more powerful than yourself. To give them the impression that we as people are in control of everything, that it is all just a click or a swipe away, is to rob them of their true place in the order of things. Watch what it is that lights you up in the presence of your children. Watch what you talk about most. Watch where you spend the majority of your time, energy and money. Do you marvel as much in the Infinite as you do the man-made?

The Heart


I wake recently to a mind on full tilt with all of its wonderings and worryings. At some point, the words “The heart knows the way,” comes in, and I am immediately quieted and stilled. It is the felt sensation of stepping outside after a blizzard where everything is muffled and the stillness and clarity against a vast blue sky is breathtaking.

Later, memories, thoughts and understandings flood into me filling in the blanks of the morning’s experience. There is the fact that the heart has 60 times the electrical charge of the brain. There are the teachings of traditions who locate the mind in the heart.There is the fact that the word courage stems from the French root for “heart.” There is the statement my teacher once made: “The world will break your heart, but you are not your heart.” And there is it; the call to live with a blend of the open-hearted innocence of a child wrapped in the strength and wisdom of life experience. Could there be any more powerful medicine than that?

There are so very many ways that our hearts have been broken, beat up, abused and misused. Sometimes by our own hand. And there are so very many ways that the world will push into those wounds, re-injuring and reminding us of what we are most desperate  to protect. And yet, more armor is not the answer. Getting them before they get you is not the answer. All of our fighting and armoring creates a kind of self-induced amnesia–where protection becomes so impenetrable that we forget what is underneath and come to believe that we are the armor itself. And so is everyone else.

Where do we start? Not with the world. Not with the ones from the past who made the first and deepest cut. The bravest of all choices is to go home to the places of our wounds, and own them. Name them. Tend to them. Claim them. Heal them. This requires that we allow ourselves to feel. This requires suspending judgment. This requires letting go of blame. This requires getting curious and most especially, RESPONSIBLE for our own hearts and how it is that we will walk them through the world. This is never an allowance or an acquiescence to bad things. This is a revolutionary act of self-care and of planetary contribution.

My sister once told me that bearing grudges, hardness and resentments towards those who have harmed us is the equivalent of holding a burning coal in our hand with the intention of throwing it at another. To walk the path of the heart is not easy. It is, in fact, excruciatingly difficult. It is not the path of least resistance. It does not come bearing gifts of easy comfort or lifetime guarantees. It is, instead the arduous path of alignment to Life Herself, Truth and The Greatest Good. We underestimate and infantalize the magnitude and the reach of the heart when we romanticize it or fear for its safety.

Non-Violent Activism


A friend of mine is out at Standing Rock in North Dakota supporting the tribes in their actions to protect the waters of the Missouri. On the other side of the equation are the people behind the Dakota oil access pipeline who have brought in militarized police using pepper spray, rubber bullets and more, despite the peaceful nature of the protests.

Before my friend left her home in Vermont, she spent time being trained in non-violent activism. The man who trained her is a seasoned activist and was well aware of the potential dangers she was willingly walking into. He knew just how easily things can get out of control in times like these. The instructions he gave her feels like guidance for us at this time for all of our encounters with “the opposition” Here is what he told her:

Stay Neutral. To me this equated with the art and practice of mindfulness; our ability to learn to be present moment to moment without judgment. When we can learn to be the observing witness, we are more readily able to respond as opposed to react. And from this place truth reveals itself and life-affirming solutions become possible.

Remember that there is a human being standing in front of you who has needs. It is so easy to dehumanize and demonize those on the other side of the fence; those who disagree with us, those who hold different truths.

Why are you here? Know what it is that you stand for and be able to articulate that to the other side-not through demands and accusations, but through thoughtful questions and discourse.

Be helpful. To this I would add, be kind. Even when the one before you feels like the enemy, can you offer basic human respect? Recognizing the value of their life in no way means you condone what they are doing. It is, instead, the recognition that all life is sacred, separate from what it does or does not do.

Know your rights. This one reminds me of a powerful personal example of mine. I was at an outdoor concert and not far from me was a man smoking cigarettes, repeatedly. It was making it hard for me to breathe. I could see that this was going to continue all night long, so I took a walk to gather my thoughts. In my walk, I noticed signs at the entrance prohibiting smoking. To be sure I checked in with an organizer. Same answer: No smoking allowed. Walking back I went over to the man and introduced myself. I told him that I was sorry to bother him, but that the smoke was really getting to me. He was immediately defensive saying there was no way I could smell his smoke. He demanded to know where I was sitting. Right before I got indignant, I remembered; the law is on my side. Instead of trying to prove anything to him, I merely told him that smoking was not allowed in the venue. Immediately, he backed down, said he had not been aware of that and apologized. When the appeal to human decency fails, knowing your rights is your ace in the hole.

Two closing thoughts: There is always a good reason why people behave as they do, whether we understand it or not. And despite what we see modeled all around us, real change does not happen through guilt, blame, shame or punishment. As Rosamund Stone Zander wrote, “People change in an environment of love.” Perhaps the litmus test of these times will be how much love we can generate.

“The Fight”

For the past year or so I have been noticing a tendency within myself which I have come to refer to as “the fight.” It all started when I became aware of a kind of tension that seemed to be running just beneath the surface; showing up in my mind and body even when there was nothing to be tense about. I really noticed it in my jaw. When I began to pay attention to the way I hold this part of myself, it linked me to a whole set of thoughts built on the belief that I needed to be regularly defending myself. Regularly coming up with an air tight argument. Regularly girding myself against some possible verbal attack. Regularly protecting myself from something that might violate what most I loved and valued in the world.

I would catch myself engaging in fantasized conversations with select people from my life.  Do you know the conversations? I am talking about the ones where you tell someone off. The ones where you stand up for yourself in your own mind in ways that you cannot in the real world. I would feel so justified in my anger and in their wrongness. And that is when it hit me. I was just rehearsing something. I was just trying to become more masterful at representing myself and a way of life that mattered to me. But more than anything else I have come to see  that whatever it is that I would say to another in those moments is something that I need to know for myself. I was the one who needed to know what I stood for, and what it was that I would do to represent that. I was the one who needed to know that I would protect what I valued. I was the one who needed to know what was truly life-affirming and decent while claiming that for all the world to see. It had nothing to do with the other person and what they were or were not doing.

It is a kind of addiction that we get ourselves into where we keep ourselves preoccupied and focused on that thing outside of ourselves that we are convinced keeps us from being who we most want to be, or living how we most want to live. We tell ourselves  that if that other person or thing would just go away, or just line up with how we want it to be, then we would be OK. Then our lives would be as we want them to be. This is a very childish way of being in the world. This is the view of the disempowered. Of the victim. Of the one who believes that their happiness and well-being hinges on what another does. Holding the need to believe that we cannot be OK as long as the world is not OK places us regularly in “the fight,” along with all of the tension and misery that accompanies this. Worse yet is that there will never be an end for us because there will always be someone doing something, somewhere, that feels offensive or threatening to us.

Can we learn to be OK even when others are not behaving well? Can we learn to be OK with others holding beliefs that feel in violation of our needs, wants and values? Can we learn to be OK when our most deep and heartfelt code of decency is being challenged? For many of us, this is the precipice we find ourselves on following this election.

So, will we spend our energies in “the fight,” or will we choose to stand clearly focusing our energies on what it is that we want? Will we fall into despair and apathy or will we come to accept the  challenges and the responsibilities of taking our place at the table no matter who else is there? This is no easy task. It requires that we let go of blaming others as a solution. It requires that we let go of returning the insults and the smears, justified as they may feel to us in the moment. It requires a degree of personal accountability rarely encountered in our world. For here is the truth; if you bash up against hate, fear and misogyny meeting it with blame, ridicule, hate and fear of your own, you have just created more of what you say you do not want.

Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, and a prisoner in the worst of the Nazi death camps, reminds us that the last of the human freedoms is our ability to choose our own attitude. That no matter how horrible the outer circumstances, no matter what has been done or taken away, this is the one thing that can never, ever, be taken from us.

Unless of course we allow it to be.

What Is The Point?


Last night our dinner conversation turned towards, “What’s the point of it all?” As in, why are we here? What is it all about? Some of us were quiet. Some of us are looking for a theory to explain it all. And some of us are OK with not knowing, feeling like it is changing all of the time so what would the use be in trying to nail it down. When things this big show up for me, I take a circuitous, or depending on how you look at it, a direct route, right through Nature. She is the one who always reminds me of the order of things in ways that are not complicated by the human mind.

Recently, a big limb came down off of a beautiful maple tree in our back yard. The branch was nearly big enough to be a tree unto itself. The breaking off left a scar long and wide down one side of the tree. With the limb being severed from the trunk, a big part of the tree is now gone. And yet, not one part of the remaining tree has recoiled or collapsed under the weight of this loss. No part of it has given up or become less alive. As a matter of fact, even the severed limb, days later, continues to feed the leaves as evidenced by their aliveness and brilliance. Despite the dramatic change in its appearance and size, the tree continues to do the only thing it knows how to do; to keep reaching for Life. To continue to experience its wholeness and integrity despite external changes to its shape.

Maybe that is the point. Keep going. Keep reaching. Keep being alive through all of it, no matter what happens. No matter what falls off. No matter how deep the cut.