Last night I went to the Trident Philosophy Group where the topic of discussion was about “What is Love?” We had a great discussion and I had forgotten what it was like to be around people who have the capacity to talk about things that might be deep or challenging.
Most of the groups I was going to were all about how to limit our discussion or force people to conform to various rules of HOW to speak so as to not upset people. They were so co-dependent that they made intelligent and deeper relating impossible.
I understand that for beginners or people who have not developed much self-discipline that being in ‘safe’ groups is important, but I see these groups as more ‘enabling’ them to stay fearful of themselves and their own reactions to people. I suppose this is why I appreciate ‘spiritual’ groups where they teach people how to develop self-disciplines like mindfulness or meditation so that they can then better relate to themselves and others.
I guess I have come to accept that not only will I never be appreciated in life, but that I will probably never be TOLERATED by anyone. This is sad to me but understandable.
The book I am writing, Mindful Listening, is designed to address this challenge that people have with other people, particularly people like me who speak our minds and who find judgment as a positive thing in life.
It is somewhat painful to write this, a pain that I not only accept but appreciate. I feel the pain because I care about people. Yet, I don’t feel trapped in this pain; I recognize I always have a choice.
I am feeling loneliness and loneliness is something I have written about before as being a CHOICE. I have pointed out that it is silly to feel lonely given that there are 7+ billion people on the planet. The only reason a person is feeling lonely is because they do not have the courage to reach out and connect with people.
Yet, at this time, I feel that I have TRIED to reach out and connect with people, and at every turn I have been rejected and shunned by those people.
Behind my loneliness is my feeling the pain of people’s fear they have of themselves and their reactions what I stimulate in them. I want to feel this loneliness, this pain, for it connects me to people and helps to motivate me to find a way to help people.
I rarely dream of interacting with people any more. If I do I imagine I am pissing off people (POP) as a talk radio DJ once described it. To me, POP is about upsetting people, upsetting their slumber, waking them up. I imagine that someday I will go back to public speaking where I intentionally say things that will upset someone, if not everyone, and then point out that only those who are asleep can be upset, and that my book, Mindful Listening, shows people how to develop the ‘ears to hear’ and that will enable them to ‘overcome the world’ as Jesus talked about.
One challenge with this ‘dream’ is that in practice when I do such things there is a lot of animosity directed at me and I still have a habit of reacting to that animosity with tension or resistance, which creates a lot of discomfort for me. One benefit of the practice is that I get to work on my skills of loving myself IN SPITE of the animosity directed toward me. Sometimes I feel intimidated by the challenge and other times I feel inspired by the benefit. When I remember to practice loving myself then I choose the inspiration over the intimidation.
Of course, I just did this as I was writing this.
Practice is repetition and building a habit. I get lots of practice living with the person I am living with. She most often does not like me, or at least right now does not like me much, so she is constantly judging and rejecting me. So I get lots of practice being at peace with judgment and rejection and embracing the habits of Emotional Self Care or loving myself.
I am so grateful to the universe that I was privileged enough to be able to wake up and recognize the value of things like Emotional Self Care and the value of loving myself. I can see how others might not see or understand the value of such things, particularly as they seek out emotional care from others. For them, relationships are all about finding others who will stroke their egos and comfort them both physically and emotionally.
Yet, they cannot see nor will they even look at the inherent fear they feel at the thought that those people can and probably will reject them or leave them at some point in their life. Although this may not be relevant to them in the immediate situation they still subconsciously think about it and carry with them the fear of this scenario.
Most people live in denial of this but it can be exposed if one talks to them about it and their reaction is often powerful and very negative. Words are such a powerful tool for exposing people inherent dishonesty, particularly their dishonesty with themselves.
Since I am often one who sees these incongruities in a person’s life, and one who sometimes points them out, people find that being around me is intolerable. Sometimes I don’t even have to say anything for a person to recognize that I have realized their incongruities, which makes them uncomfortable with me.
After a while of being around this discomfort and associating that we me people no longer want to even tolerate my presence. I wish I could find people who are like me, for I would love to be around someone who would care enough to point out my incongruities, the incongruities that are inherently causing me internal discomfort.
Why does rejection hurt so much? Why do people reject one another?
Yesterday I had someone I wanted to stay connected with unfriend me on Facebook and it was painful. Intellectually I recognize that this person did this to protect himself; he was afraid of how he might react to what I might say to him. He is or was a Muslim and had told me that his father was an abusive man, particularly to women and he did not want to be like his father. From what I have seen of this guy he has been taught to be very afraid of HIMSELF and his own reactions to what life offers.
Simply put, he is hurting.
If I get sunburn I avoid the sun. I am not really rejecting the sun (some could call me a sun worshipper); I am just avoiding the sun for a while until I can handle it better.
I recognize that guy is avoiding me for now because he cannot handle me and what I might offer to him. He has low self esteem and just being around me shows him just how little he understands himself and how he has been conditioned to harm himself.
This does not take away from the fact that I hurt.
In my stupidity I blame this guy for my hurting thinking that “he caused my hurt.” That is stupid. He really did nothing more than disconnect from me in Facebook. It was my reaction to that that causes me to hurt. In my heart I am glad that he did what he had to do to take care of himself.
Years ago I would have done the same thing for I, too, did not know how to love myself any better than to disconnect from others. In those days I was so ‘disconnected’ that my only dream was to avoid humanity at all cost, hopefully to live in the mountains in a small cabin far away from any others.
Eventually I realized that what I was running from was myself, not others. Once I had learned how to love myself, to take care of myself and to stop my emotional (and physical) self abusive behavior, I no longer felt any need to get away from others. In fact, I really enjoy other people, the more diverse the better.
People are so conditioned to abuse themselves emotionally with fear, guilt, shame, doubt and pessimism all of which can be stimulated by words naturally will run from any situation that might stimulate that abuse.
Having compassion for them is the first step in healing ourselves so that we can help the others heal themselves. So when I am rejected don’t just remember that, I practice FEELING that compassion throughout my body, in every cell of my being. This is a meditation that ‘heals’ the pain.
This meditation is what I just did to heal the pain I HAD from this friend’s rejection of me. As I did this compassion meditation I could feel my body relax around the thought of the guy. I could feel my appreciation for MYSELF and how I developed my ability to take care of myself.
Many times in my life someone has said something to me that upset me to the core of my being. Sometimes I was so upset that I put out of my mind what the person said, but the effect of what they said stayed with me…I was devastated.
Originally at the time I could not see ‘The Gift’ in this experience but later as I watched how this experience manifested in my world I could see that in reality it was a gift, probably one of the greatest gifts that person could have given me, for they were inviting me to wake up to what I was thinking and doing that was creating such devastation in my world. They were inviting me to choose to love myself and overcome my habit of not loved myself.
This is NOT something that is easy to see, particularly if one is still in the devastation or the reverberations of that devastation. When in the drama of the devastation I would usually rationalize within myself, and sometimes with others, that I was in the ‘right’ and that the person who upset me was wrong. The normal progression of this thinking was for me to see them as someone to avoid for they were not considerate of my feelings or emotions. Never would I look at the fact that I was the one who was not being considerate of my feelings or emotions, I would just automatically assume the other person was responsible and I would go into some form of “righteous indignation” that everybody around me would support. Naturally I would want to ‘punish’ them in some way and often that meant I would avoid them at the least.
This is a very hard thing to overcome, for our entire society or social support structures encourage us to continue in our unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving. If everyone thinks this way then can it be wrong?
It took a tremendous amount of focus and discipline for me to see that it really was me that was the uncaring one here; I was the one who was not caring about my feelings and emotions.
A major transition happened for me in my world when I began to see that when people upset me with their words that this was a gift and I started appreciating it as a gift. The very act of appreciation was healing my emotional wound or re-training myself to react in a way that was healthy for me.
Today, I cannot remember all the people who have given me this wonderful gift so I cannot share with them now just how valuable I feel that gift was to me. This thought saddens me but I accept it as part of the process.
Now, often, I see myself as the bearer of “The Gift” to people and most of the time the person who is receiving that gift does not have the presence of mind to be aware that it is a gift. It has been a discipline for me to be the bearer of the gift and to recognize that most people will not have that presence of mind to appreciate the gift, at least in the present moment and maybe never be able to think of me and be grateful for what I have given them.
The ability to see the ‘big picture’ here is important for our own peace of mind. It takes work to have the ability to see that in the long run most people who are gifted with an awaking experience like this will not be able to see the benefit of it when it is happening but that in the long run they will be better off because of it.
Of course, not all upsetting people is gifting them in a way that will sooner or later benefit them. The best way to do this is when you can point out to them how it was their reactions that caused them harm and not what you said to them. Still, most people will not get this, particularly in the present moment, but later that ‘seed’ of an idea can manifest into some self-knowledge or realization that will grow into a changed behavior that will benefit them in the long run.
When I think of this gifting I often think of Jesus and how he was gifting the people of his time. Obviously most of them did not get that they were getting a gift; they just saw Jesus as some jerk that was pushing their buttons and someone to get rid of. Hopefully, with all that animosity directed back at Jesus he was able to take care of himself recognize that in the long run he was serving those others and humanity in general.
I also think of Gandhi and Martin Luther King as they upset a lot of people in their time and most of those people could not see the Gift that they were receiving.
I recognize that it takes a particularly caring individual to make it a habit to gift people in the way that Jesus, Gandhi and MLK did, but we all can and do at times gift one other with our honesty, and honesty that can wake them up to a better life experience. The important thing to remember is that we are gifting them and that in the long run they will be better off if they are even a little bit open to it.
A newborn child does not have a choice as to whether or not they will move their bowels or relieve their bladder; they just soil themselves whenever the urge comes to them. But by the time they are two years old they have been ‘potty’ trained; they have been taught to become aware of the status of their bowels and bladder and how to go to the bathroom and relieve themselves.
This awareness training is called mindfulness, in this case mindfulness of the bowels and bladder. In so doing they have gained some mastery over the human instrument through which they will experience life and that mastery will enhance the quality of their life experience.
As we go through life we gain mastery over many aspects of our body/mind instrument. We first learn to crawl then walk then talk then ride a bike and so on. Each new mastery or skill enhances the quality of our life experience by empowering us to get what we want from life.
Not all people learn the same basic skills in life. Most people are potty trained and learn to walk and talk. Some are taught mental disciplines that enable them to concentrate their mind on a task until it is accomplished. Others who have not been taught that discipline are easily distracted and never seem to accomplish much of anything in their lives.
It is a very rare person who is taught Emotional Self Care; how to practice emotions that are healthy for us and give us a sense of contentment, peace, joy, beauty, empowerment and love in life. Emotional Self Care, like any discipline or habit, takes practice or an effort to develop.
If we are honest with ourselves we will acknowledge that what we want is a life filled with positive experiences like beauty, happiness, joy, love, peace, freedom and the like. Yet, because of circumstances, we develop habits that produce negative experiences like ugliness, misery, sadness, fear, anger, anxiety, bondage, guilt and the like. This is not necessarily our fault, for much of society wants us to develop these unhealthy habits. Others can then use these unhealthy habits to gain power over us. [I will talk more about this elsewhere.]
There is an old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and I say that so is ugliness, good and evil, heaven and hell. Being ‘in the eye of the beholder’ means that beauty is not something that is intrinsic to an object but is subjective to the individual. Two people may see the same object but one will see it as beautiful and have a beautiful experience while the other will see it as ugly and have an ugly experience. If we were honest with ourselves we would acknowledge that we want the beautiful experiences. Therefore, why not develop a habit of finding the beauty in whatever experience we are having? Of course, this makes sense but how do we do that?
Since beauty and ugliness are NOT inherent in anything, they are entirely subjective, our choices to see and experience something as either beautiful or ugly are conditioned responses and being conditioned responses means that we can RE-condition ourselves to have different reactions to the same stimuli. In other words, we can find a way to look at anything and experience it as beautiful or to find joy or peace or whatever experience we want.
Emotional Self Care is about practicing this IN SPITE OF OUR CONDITIONING.
As I sit and write this I am outside a café with cars driving by and people walking around. The cars and people could be a distraction to my effort to write and I could find that annoying, which is to say I could see them as ‘ugly’ in a sense. Or, I could see them as the elements of life that I am working at describing here and appreciate them for how they have added to my life experience; thus giving me an experience of ‘beauty’.
Consciousness or being awake is recognizing that I ALWAYS have that opportunity to choose the quality of my life experience.
I am not saying this is easy, it is not, at first, but with practice it does become a lot easier, just like riding a bike.
As with being potty trained, it first takes awareness of what I am experiencing. Am I starting to feel irritated by the cars driving by or the people walking by and distracting me? Are my unconscious habits creating tension in my body that would lead me to perceive my experience as negative? Maybe I am slouched in my chair as I write and that slouching creates tension in my back which radiates out to the rest of my body, thus causing me to feel uptight and negative.
My meditations in the morning often consist of first just sitting and feeling what is, letting go of all desires and allowing what is to just be. Then I go deeper and recognize that there is eventually a desire to get up from sitting and do something, go on with the rest of my daily life. In that recognition I also recognize that I want to fill my life with positive experiences including this moment. So, as part of my meditation I start by practicing appreciation of this moment or I practice feeling grateful for the fact that I am alive and all that I have to be grateful for. Appreciation and gratitude FEEL GOOD in my body so I then focus on how good that feels. I have found that in so doing my body relaxes, any tension or dis-ease melts away and the quality of my life experience dramatically improves.
The other day I had a guy get very angry at me. I had not seen him for a couple of months and the first thing he did after acknowledging me was to get riled up with some ideas that he had about me and my ‘agenda’ that he apparently disapproved of. He was right in my face and acting very aggressive. For my part, I remained calm and non reactive, saying nothing and just listening to him as he vented his pain or frustration. He seemed to want to engage me in some sort of ‘battle’, probably most likely a verbal contest of some sort that would justify in his mind ejecting me from the meeting we were about to have. So when he asked for a response I said that I was staying in the moment and I encouraged him to express himself fully. Inwardly I was appreciating that opportunity to practice positive emotions IN SPITE of my conditioned habit of reacting in a defensive manner to this type of confrontation. I could feel the power of the appreciation as it relaxed my body (not completely but considerably) which allowed me to stay present with him looking him in the eye and fully listening to him. Being relatively relaxed my mind did not need to come up with arguments to defend myself or my position or ‘agenda’ as this guy imagined I had.
I was able to do this because I had practiced relaxing using positive perspectives and emotions.
Unfortunately for this guy he was not able to finish venting as others came and he seemed to feel self conscious about his behavior. Nor were we able to resolve his imagined ideas as to my ‘agenda’ in the meeting.
What for me was important was that first I had taken care of myself emotionally and did not personally feel hurt by his aggression or words. I did feel hurt FOR HIM, my compassion motivated me to want to reach out to him to offer him an opportunity to fully vent and to help him clear up any inaccurate assumptions he had about me that might be causing his discomfort. I was not dead to him emotionally nor did I harm myself with my emotional reaction to his hurt.
Even now as I think of that situation I keep reminding myself to practice positive emotions as I think of him and that situation. In the past it has been very easy for me to mull over the situation and to feel undignified or insulted by the situation, thus motivating me to feel some sort of negative emotion as I think about it. In the past I would have thought he was disrespecting me and I too would have been angry. Now, I recognize the most important person who must respect me is ME, and that if I react to something like this with anger or some other negative emotion then I am NOT feeling and showing respect for myself.
Emotional Self Care is a process, not a particular practice. It starts with being aware of my conditioning and how I might be emotionally reacting in THIS moment to whatever life is offering. It takes discipline to focus one’s attention on the Present Moment, the Here and Now. Life, or society conditions us to always be thinking about the past or the future, to concern ourselves with the there and then. Yet life is always experienced in the here and now. When we are thinking about the there and then we are basically only experiencing our thoughts, not what the rest of our body is experiencing.
A second and very important step in this process of Emotional Self Care is to be honest with ourselves. This includes accepting the fact that our emotional states or experiences are entirely a product of our reactions to the thoughts we have about what life is offering. Words cannot hurt us, it is our reactions to words (or the thoughts they produce in us) that can cause us harm. Yet, part of this truth is to accept that we HAVE BEEN trained or conditioned to be reactive to words or various stimuli in society. Emotional Self Care is the process of re-training us to react to those words or stimuli in a way that works for us.
This means we have to own our feelings and not blame others for how their words or behaviors “make us feel”. Everywhere we go we are taught or encouraged to think that others or situations “make us feel” this or that, and if we can only change who we are around or our situation then we can feel the way we want to feel. This belief enables others to maintain control of us and keeps us trapped in cycles of emotional abuse where we have fear or get angry, upset, offended or some other painful emotional reaction and then we blame others or our situation for that pain. Thus we are saying to ourselves that others or the situation have the power to end our emotional pain. This dishonestly traps us in the painful feeling. Owning our feelings starts the process of accepting the fact that we CAN do something about our painful emotional states.
In my experience, pain is more intensely experienced in a tense body. Because of this, for thousands of years people have been taught to take deep, whole breaths when we feel tension arising in our body from our emotional reactions. By consciously taking deep, whole breaths we soften some of our attention (at tension) on the activity in our brains and expand our awareness into our bodies. This softening of attention helps us relax thus lessening our negative experience.
And, finally, practicing positive emotions IN SPITE OF OUR HABITUAL REACTIONS continues this process of relaxing at the level of our mind or nerves. Again, for thousands of years people have been encouraged to ‘love one another’ or even to ‘love your enemies’ or ‘don’t worry, be happy’ or to practice gratitude for what life is offering. All of these are encouragements to practice positive emotions. The more we practice positive emotions the more relaxed we will be and better able to flow with what life offers.
In the example I used above where the guy was expressing considerable anger at me, I used appreciation and gratitude to relax myself. I was appreciative of the fact that he had found the courage to express himself about the obviously painful feelings he was having. And I was grateful for the opportunity to practice Emotional Self Care in a situation where I habitually would not be doing so.
I can always find some reason or justification for some positive emotion. Of course, it is not easy in the beginning for we usually are so attentive to situation that we are not being attentive to how we are reacting emotionally to that situation. In primitive times or cultures being attentive to the situation was demanded, for if we were not then we might be physically attacked and possibly killed. I still encourage people to be mindful of the situation just in case it could become dangerous, but most of the time our being relaxed and calm alleviates the situation to some degree.
They say that a dog can detect if you are afraid of them, and if so they will more likely attack you. In my experience, that is true of people and all animals too. If we are reacting to them with fear or any form of tension then those people or animals are more likely to attack us. On the other hand, if we are reacting to them with compassion and caring for THEM then they will more likely relax their tension and aggression, thus alleviating the tension of the situation.
Also, if we are practicing Emotional Self Care we are modeling a healthy behavior for others who can and do recognize the healthy practice and that inspires them to want to develop the same healthy habits. This creates cycles of moving toward more peaceful, joyous, healthy interactions in society.
Other Softening Emotions
Of course, in the moment of being challenged emotionally we may not remember to breathe deeply or to be in the present moment or to practice positive emotions. When we become aware of our reactions that may have caused us discomfort or pain we first want to forgive ourselves. I like to laugh at myself and my silly reactions. This attitude and behavior releases the tension in my body allowing me to relax and feeling good again.
Sadness is often considered a negative or painful emotion, one that we don’t want to experience. In my experience, we can only feel sad because we care. Caring is an aspect of love, a very positive emotions and feeling. Thus, the feeling or emotion behind sadness really is love, and if we can be aware of that deeper feeling of caring and love then sadness can be a very powerful motivator to helping others with our compassion. It also feels really good.
I define compassion as a willingness to suffer with other. I get that definition from the etymological root of the word compassion; com is Latin for ‘with’ and passion is Latin meaning ‘to suffer’. Any suffering becomes a motivator to working to alleviate that suffering, assuming we can envision how to do that.
I am motivated out of compassion for others who are suffering from emotional pain to write this topic. I WANT TO hurt with them. I want to care for others because I am aware that caring is an aspect of love and love is what I want to fill my life with. And since I have found a way to alleviate most emotional pain, I want to share how I do that with others.
This is a rich process and it fills my life with a wealth that is unsurpassable by any other means that I am aware of.
Practicing all this is the most challenging part of the process. I often go to be around people or situations where I can practice Emotional Self Care. Often the most challenging people or situations are the most rewarding. Of course, if I am not up to the challenge then those people or situations can do damage to my confidence in my ability to deal with situations. Therefore, I encourage people to start out with less challenging people or situations.
I started by going to listen to lectures or talks by people of various perspectives, perspectives that were not similar to my own. At first I would only listen to the words and watch my habitual reactions to them, which often means I was resisting the ideas they were offering, and this habitual resistance, being negative, was painful or uncomfortable.
The practice got a lot more challenging when I started to openly question or challenge the words or ideas I was hearing. But still I practiced listening and questioning with compassion, often taking into consideration the ability of others to hear or deal with the questions or challenge.
When you put something out, like asking questions or confronting or challenging someone else’s perspective, you are asking for feedback that often comes in the form of criticism, judgment and possibly rejection. Naturally rejection hurts as it is cutting off a part of us, ourselves being the whole of humanity or life. But the reality is that rejection is a natural part of life and we sooner or later learn to accept that there will always be those who feel a need to reject and cut others off from them. If we care about ourselves we will come to peace with this process.
We are all responsible for taking care of ourselves. No matter how much another may love and care for us, if we do not take care of ourselves then we will not feel or be cared for and harm is inevitable. Life offers us many challenges and if we do not make a habit of caring for ourselves emotionally then we will eventually get ‘down’ as we drain our energy with our negative or painful reactions to what life is offering. It makes sense to practice Emotional Self Care.
Again, I want to acknowledge that there will be those who rebel against the idea of emotional self care. Some will do so because they see how powerful it could be for anyone who practices it and if it is empowering for the individual then it is disempowering to those who want to control or manipulate others. Since taking responsibility for your behavior and changing your habits takes effort, the lazy person will resist and will continue to abuse themselves and blame others for the consequences of that abuse. The only intelligent thing a conscious person can do is to practice loving them and by feeling compassion for them.
The freedom, peace, joy and love that come from Emotional Self Care can transform the quality of our lives, our relationships and our society. The more we practice Emotional Self Care the more we are modeling it for others thus encouraging a society that is open, honest and caring about one another.
Philosophies and Theologies are just words designed to program humans to have certain general physiological responses to words so that the humans can be control or manipulated.
Philosophy relies on a person’s conditioned responses to various words designed to stimulate general physiological responses in the human instrument. It is a primitive method of gaining control over humans. Science is words designed to point the human mind at processes so that mind will have understanding of the process and can therefore use that understand to its own benefit, transcending the external control that philosophies and theologies are trying to maintain.
Love is a general physiological response in the body to a thought in the brain; it feels good because that response is relaxing. One can create this feeling by focusing one’s attention on the center of the body, in the heart area, and by focusing their attention they are sending increased electrochemical activity to that area, thus activating the area and warming it up. The warming relaxes the muscles and nerves of the body giving one a sensation, one that we call love.
The conscious person understands this and practices this behavior so that they can have the positive experience of love whenever they desire, not conditional upon any particular thought pattern or any external stimuli such as a person or object’s presence.
I understand that less than one third of the world’s population is awake enough to understand what I am talking about. But there are those who will hear what I say and be able to use it to improve the quality of their life experience. Many if not most of the other two thirds of the people will resist what I say and take offense.
Look at the story of Jesus. He taught pretty much the same thing but most of the people did not understand him and forgot about what he said. Yet there were some who took offense at him and eventually killed him for his words. Few if any got free from the power of words to control or manipulate their behavior. In fact, some of his followers even encouraged the worship of words and their power over people.
This is natural too and part of the reality of life. Yet, we as a species are evolving and humanity is nowhere near as primitive as they were in Jesus’ time. It is science that gives on the understanding of how they human instrument works and how society is designed to manipulate that human instrument so that the individual can gain greater control over their own human instrument to maximize the quality of their life experience.
This advantage is lost to the ignorant masses. The will continue to be manipulated by words or objects so that the ruling classes can have dominion over them; they will be slaves to whoever can push their buttons.
Speaking before an audience is difficult. Speaking before a potentially hostile audience is even more challenging. Speaking your truth that you know will turn an audience hostile is probably the hardest thing a person can do. Learning to be ok with people’s hostility and outright anger at your truth is both a science and an art.
I started this process back in the early 1990s as I learned how much power we have been taught to give away to words. At that time I was living in Boulder, Colorado where they have an open air pedestrian mall downtown. It is a beautiful place with lawns, trees for shade, places for the kinds to play, fountains and lot of places for people to just sit and watch people. This mall is the living room of the community, not just a place to go and buy things. There were also buskers performing for their audiences and public advocates tabling to inform people of choices and situations. Sometimes the religious people would come out and preaching their version of hell or reality as they saw it.
On the west end of the mall there were three large brick covered steps facing a small lawn area, a perfect place for people to set and listen to a speaker. On both sides were businesses like a coffee shop, two restaurants and a bar all with outdoor seating where people could sit and eat while listening to a speaker on the lawn in front of the steps.
One day as I was walking through the mall I saw a guy standing in front of the steps just talking to whoever might be listening. Few people were listening to him just as few listen to the preachers, but there was something different about him to me. At first I thought he was just another religious zealot preacher talking about his brand of hell, but this guy was not talking about religion, he was using phrases like “techno-penis” and “Bourgeoisie-vagina”, derogatory terms he used for the average modern man and woman. His spiel was mostly venting his opinions of the nature of society. The only real solutions he offered were socialist in nature with a rejection technology.
He was articulate but looked like a laborer in dress and manner. Later I learned that he had been a lawyer but was now a carpenter living out of his van. Obviously he was dealing with his ‘demons’ or overcoming his psychological/emotional challenges/conflicts. One thing I would say he was doing was finding and exercising his voice; gaining the courage to speak his truth.
In just getting up and speaking, he was inspiring me. For although I had felt I had dealt with my demons or dealt with my own psychological conflicts, I had not found my voice; I did not have the courage to speak my truth to the world.
I felt at the time that I had dealt with my inner conflicts for I had traveled around the world studying many different spiritual traditions, practicing meditation and examining my own thinking patterns that were denying me inner peace. I had found my root assumption that we all make and I had seen it for the lie that it is, so inwardly I had peace, but outwardly I still had conflicts with how I fit into the world. And, I had not found my voice; I was still afraid to do what this carpenter/lawyer was doing.
I listened and watched for several days and eventually I started to asked questions. My questions came from a place of inner peace that the carpenter/lawyer did not have so my questions challenged him. The questions were intended to help him see outside the boxes in his mind. Eventually he got tired of standing up there and speaking and particularly of dealing with my questions, so he challenged me to stand up there and speak.
I can tell you now that the first time he challenged me to stand up there and talk scared the hell out of me, my stomach turned to knots, my mouth went dry as cotton, my legs were like rubber, but I had a passion and wanted to share my insights. It was this passion that drove me to stand up IN SPITE of my fears and to speak to the people listening.
I have spoken before audiences before and I was relatively comfortable with that, but this was different. For one thing when I spoke before I knew what I was going to say and the audience had come to hear me. In this public forum I could not know what I was going to say and the audience did not necessarily come to hear me. Also, because the audience did not particularly come to hear me the listeners were a very diverse group of people. Private audiences are self selected, people who come know what they are getting into and if they are not interested in the topic or feel that it would upset them then they do not go and listen to the speaker. But in a public forum in a public place this is not the case.
Boulder is a somewhat elite town being that it is a university town, so the people there tend to be more educated, liberal and comfortable with diverse opinions and perspectives. Still, I knew that my perspective was considerable different than most of the people in that town and particularly the visitors who frequent the mall any summer day. Also, I knew that my opinions were controversial so I naturally would get a lot of criticism from some people. This type of speaking is way different that “preaching to the choir” that most people do. I was potentially speaking to a hostile audience, or at least partially hostile audience.
That first time I stood up and spoke the experience was more than exhilarating, it was liberating. I do not remember what I said and I quickly realized it did not matter so much WHAT I said, but THAT I said, for the very act of speaking my truth in front of people was inspiring to them as it had been to me.
Eventually this carpenter guy, whose name I learned was Craig, and I became friends and even team members of sorts, for we played off each other to build an audience and even a following. By the end of the summer we would sometimes have thousands of people listening and each weekend people were coming from all over the state to be a part of this community forum.
It was not just fun but fulfilling. I was part of something that was much bigger than me, for the community was becoming cohesive. People loved this and so did I. This was an important experience for me and I learn that others felt the same way. For many of us it was the most connected we ever felt to community. It was different than being in any other type of community for there were no rules or guidelines to exclude anyone, everyone was accepted but not everyone felt comfortable there.
This was a great opportunity for me for a number of reasons. Because of my meditation practice I had developed a habit of watching both my inner and outer behaviors and how events outside of me created inner reactions. In this situation I would watch how the fear came up within me every time it was my turn to speak. And each time the fear would go away after a while.
There were challenges to speaking in public. We had many people get angry and one poured a beer over my head. I was physically attacked in more than one occasion, including once by Craig, the other main speaker. Always there were those who judged us and called us all sorts of names. In my recollection now, I believe I was judged more than others and called more names than other speakers and I believe that is because I was talking outside of the boxes of what most people are used to hearing.
There were times when no one would listen and there were times that almost everybody opposed me. And there were times when I got a rousing applause.
There were also many times that we challenged others to get up and speak; one day we got thirteen others to stand up and speak for a few minutes including an eleven year old girl who mesmerized the audience with her clarity. There was one guy who often stood up and said the same line every time, a line he apparently thought was smart but that most people just rolled their eyes at. Often when someone new would overcome their resistance and speak I could see the exhilaration as they overcame that resistance. I also watched the crowd’s reactions to the speakers, including when I spoke.
What usually happened as the evening rolled on was that the larger forum/audience would break up into small groups or forums where people would go off on tangents and this would go on until the early hours in the morning.
I often would watch the dynamics of the social interactions of people. In most organizations the type of people in that organization would self-select so you only get a narrow perspective on how humanity might behave in any given situation. But in a public mall like Boulder’s downtown Pearl Street mall a relatively diverse group of people would pass by. And I say ‘pass by’ because that is what most people would do, they might stop for a moment and then move on, either uninterested in what was going on or because it frightened them. I could see the fear in many people’s eyes as they observed what was going on, particularly if the topic being discussed was challenged or judgmental.
“(CNN) – He was a preacher best known for his virulent anti-gay rhetoric, the force behind placards that read “God Hates Fags.” He taught that natural disasters and man-made horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were God’s punishment for acceptance of homosexuality.”
Fred Phelps was a minister of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas who earned the title as the “Most Hated Man in America” because of his rhetoric, because of his words. Fred never hurt anyone, he just shows that people have a habit of hurting themselves and he was taking advantage of that.
To people who are awake and recognize that words cannot hurt them or anyone else, they experience no harm from Fred Phelps, but they probably felt sadness for him and his followers because they could see how they harmed themselves with their animosity toward gay people.
What irks me about this article is that it promotes or encourages emotional abuse by insinuating that Fred Phelps and his gang were hurting people. As long as people continue to believe that words can hurt them then tyrants like Fred Phelps will be able to control those people’s emotional states and thus control and manipulate them. This is the encouraging the slavery of people through the use of their fear of words and how they might be used to harm them.
This attitude is encouraged by the ruling classes because they want to be able to intimidate, control, and manipulate people into obeying them. Those who are gullible enough to buy into this lie are only participating in their own emotional abuse.
One can never know unconditional love as long as they lie to themselves about the source of their emotional states. The truth will set you free to unconditionally love all that life has to offer, but you have to be open to it.
I saw an interview today on CNN’s website where Marc Lamont Hill were saying that we should allow a discussion of the “N-word”. I find that attitude one of the most open minded I have heard in a long time. Let me explain why.
I have realized that words do not hurt people; it is people’s reactions to words that cause them harm. We, as citizens of our society, have been programmed to be reactive to words in such a way that causes us harm. Once we become aware of this we can take responsibility for OUR behavior (our reaction) and re-train ourselves to not react with such hurtful behavior.
Yet, as long as we keep lying to ourselves (and one another) that it was the word that hurt us and it was the person who said the word who is responsible for our suffering, we will stay trapped in a cycle of abuse.
Words like nigger, faggot, failure, dike, sinner and others still have the power to move people emotionally in a way that they would rather not be moved. The CONSCIOUS person recognizes this and takes responsibility for their part in this and learns to relax and stop reacting.
But what is the advantage of keeping people ignorant of the truth that will set them free of being offended by words? Well, one is if you were an owner of slaves in the US south 200 years ago you would want your slaves to be moved emotionally by words so that you could use that to control their behavior. It is easier to get them to hurt themselves with words then to have to hit them with a whip. Or if you were a racist today would you not want to be able to get someone of a different race to HURT THEMSELVES when you used certain words? Or what about the parent that wants to intimidate their child with words like “bad”; without the child’s fear of that word you would lose some control over them.
These are only a few of the many examples of benefits of keeping intimidated by words. What I am saying here is that there are many advantages to some people in society to keep people hurting when stimulated by words.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was all about Blessedness. One of the things he said was, “Blessed be those who do not take offense at me.” Yet, many religious people of his time did take offense at him, which is why they killed him. Jesus also said, “Take cheer, for I have overcome the world” which indicates to me that he was showing that you could not offend Jesus with your words (or actions). And finally, he said, “I have come to bear witness to the truth.” To me, this means that he was bearing witness to the fact that religious people have been conditioned to abuse themselves emotionally when stimulated by words (as a means of maintaining control of them). Yet, if you followed Jesus’ way (not the Christian way) you would overcome the world and its ability to push your buttons and hence control or manipulate you emotionally just using words.
So it is my opinion and experience that by bring this discussion out into the open and talking about it, and putting responsibility where it is due, we can show people that it is possible to get free from ever being hurt by words again.
A lot of the pain some kids are experiencing today from ‘bullying’ is a product of their conditioned reactions to words. If we teach children the old school yard rhyme, “Stick and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” we could end a lot of the bullying that now happens.
Of course, if we do this, those who benefit from people’s habitual emotional self-abusive behaviors will be up in arms about it, just like they were when Jesus was teaching this 2,000 years ago.