A Dish of Forgiveness All Around

Chapel of the Red Rocks
Chapel of the Red Rocks

“When we think we have been hurt by someone in the past, we build up defenses to protect ourselves from being hurt in the future. So the fearful past causes a fearful future and the past and future become one. We cannot love when we feel fear …. When we release the fearful past and forgive everyone, we will experience total love and oneness with all.” –Gerald G. Jampolsky

“When you know better, you do better.” –Maya Angelou

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I’m a fan of Super Soul Sunday on OWN. Last Sunday, Oprah’s guest was one of my favorite teachers and authors, Marianne Williamson. They began talking about Marianne’s campaign for nomination as a Congressional candidate, but late in the discussion their conversation turned to the violence in Ferguson, Missouri and what that’s all about. Oprah brought up an article that Marianne had written for the Huffington Post. You can click the link and go read it for yourself. I don’t want to rehash what Marianne has already written so beautifully. What I do want to write about is the mental and emotional journey I’ve been taking since listening to Marianne and Oprah’s discussion.

First of all let me state that I am a white person. I was raised to believe that EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect, so some of the discussions that have been going on lately about how white people need to take a good look at their attitudes about racism, rubbed me the wrong way. But Oprah and Marianne’s discussion got me thinking about forgiveness. Slavery was one of the most horrendous episodes in our nation’s history. Another one is how we treated the Native Americans. White people, for the most part, were behind both of those terrible situations. I think Marianne is right, white people don’t want to think of the horrible things that whites did in our country’s past. Most of us think that we weren’t alive then, so it has nothing to do with us.

But here’s the thing, we’ll never heal our racial wounds if we don’t forgive ourselves for our impulse to ignore what happened. We can’t expect anything to get better if we don’t take responsibility for what’s happening right now. And what’s happening right now is, whites want to point to the Civil Right’s Movement of the 60s and 70s and say, “It’s already been healed. The laws have been passed, we’re all equal now.” As we’re seeing in recent events, that’s just not true. The discussion and practice to make everyone equal is far from over.

So, I take responsibility for my assumption that African American’s just needed to forgive us and move on, and for not forgiving myself and my ancestors for what they may have done. We as white people need to stop glossing over our discomfort with what has happened to African and Native Americans due to white aggression and greed. We need to look into those dark places and expose our true feelings about the differences of race and culture in this country. We need to acknowledge that we’re not the top of the heap, and in reality, never have been.

If we’re going to survive the myriad problems we face right now, we need to do some deep soul searching and forgive ourselves and then others. We’ve got to stop letting the past get in our way of creating a new future.

This blog is my public declaration that I’m committed to healing and forgiving myself for not acknowledging the deep wounds caused by white people in our country’s history. I’m with Marianne and support any efforts our government makes to make reparation to any group that we’ve wronged. Making reparation is our collective acknowledgement of what happened, and that we want to make it as right as possible and build a new future together.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Fear and Decisions

Fear“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” –Pema Chodron

“Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Fear is a liar. It whispers in our ear that if we control that person, circumstance or situation, we’ll feel better. But fear lives inside not outside of us. So when your attempts to control outside events fail, it grows into a monster threatening to eat us alive. It cripples all aspects of our life, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, unless its faced. I know this from personal experience.

There have been times in my life when I made a choice based on fear’s advice. One instance was when, as a new college graduate, I took a job I knew in the pit of my stomach was not the right situation for me. Fear said, “Take the job. You might not get another offer. You need the money.” Foolishly I listened and for two years I worked for a toxic company. It was only when I nearly had a nervous breakdown, as we used to call them, that I woke up and faced my fear. Leaving that supposedly secure position was one of the best decisions of my life.

Elections are a prime time for politicians and commentators to spew fear. Natural disasters, war, or health threats are other times when fear whispers to those vulnerable to its call. Right now we’re in a vortex of events where, in my mind, Fear is rejoicing that there are so many people to feed upon. That’s a metaphor I chose on purpose. Fear feeds upon us.

I want to make it clear, we ALL feel fear from time-to-time. We can’t escape that fact. However, we can reduce or eliminate it with practice.

This is what I’ve learned in my process of facing fear. Its not strong. We think of fear as all powerful. Maybe because of the powerful emotions it evokes. But fear can’t stand up to scrutiny. When I’ve allowed myself to face my fear fully, then look beyond it to the myriad possibilities that fear is trying to hide from me, it dissolves. Not all at once, but the more I turn away from my fear, the more it shrinks.

There have been a number of times in my life when I know my family, and even some of my friends did not understand the choices I made. They thought I was crazy. Quitting my teaching job to become a writer, selling my house to fund a trip around the world, quitting that first job that was so toxic to get my Master’s in theatre. Oh, I’m sure many of my family members still shake their heads at the choices I’ve made.

But the thing is, it’s the people who look fear in the face that we admire. I admire Gabby Giffords, who was my Congresswoman, and now advocates for stricter gun regulations. Malala Yousafzai who promotes education for girls all over the world. The fearful tried to silence them by shooting them, but when they didn’t die, those two women became more powerful than ever before.

There are so many other people who’s names we don’t know, who are facing fear every day and winning. They are becoming powerful and doing great and creative things that contribute to all of humanity. We need them all if we’re going to create a new way to live that is more loving, more sustainable, more joyful.

We can’t control events outside ourselves. All we can control is our response to what happens to us. We can control our response to fear. Remember that when you go into the voting booth in a few weeks, or choose what to watch on TV or which pundits to listen too. Are they spreading fear, or hope?

It’s my prediction that the tide will turn away from fear. That we’ll take responsibility for embracing hope and love instead. That we’ll accept that life is unpredictable which makes living exciting. There can be a bright future ahead of us, if we choose it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Fall Cocoon

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“How beautiful it is to do nothing at all and then rest afterwards.” –Spanish Proverb

“I make no secret of the fact that I would rather lie on a sofa than sweep beneath it.” –Shirley Conran

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” –Alan cohen

Every fall I feel myself going into hibernation, or cocoon mode. It feels like lots of transformation is going on under the surface, but whatever changes are happening to me aren’t ready to see the light of day as yet. I’m not quite sure what it’s all about, except that I have to stop trying to do so much and allow the process to happen. All I know is I’ve entered a season of quiet, and I must honor it.

In this country we think that to be worthwhile, we must be active, always doing, accomplishing something. I think it’s our Puritan work ethic which is slowly killing us. Work is good if it’s meaningful, but too much is detrimental to our health. Our bodies are designed to rejuvenate in sleep. The mind needs to be quiet. We need to refresh and renew every so often, instead of pushing ourselves to the limit. I believe that when we don’t allow ourselves to relax, we develop insomnia, nervous disorders, and other health problems. I’m not a doctor, or scientist. I didn’t take the time to research my statements. I’m just going by what happens to me when I try to push myself too hard.

This past spring, we had a short visit from a friend from Australia. He’s a Law Professor. His University gives him $25,000.00 travel stipend every year. They want him to go explore, make connections, get out of the office and learn something new. On top of that Australians get four weeks of paid vacation, and paid maternity leave. I’m envious. There are times when I wish I lived in a country that valued planned idleness and play, because that’s when inspiration and innovation come to us. I know my mind works much better when I’ve allowed myself to rest and focus on something other than the current project on which I’m working.

So, I’m going to follow my inclination to read lots of books, allow what I write to meander in fanciful ways. I’m going to take naps and generally enjoy myself this fall and winter. I hope you take some time off to play and relax when you need it too.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Who Am I?

Cochise Campus Flower
Cochise Campus Flower

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched – they must be felt with the heart.” –Helen Keller

“There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win.” –Elie Wiesel

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” –Viktor E. Frankl

My posts lately have been increasingly introspective. They’ve been my spiritual musings directed at how we can make the world a better place in which to live. Today I’m hoping to finish the series with this basic question. Who am I?

I’ve asked myself that question often, especially in the last seven years when life has been a bit more of a struggle than it had been previously. Who am I without all the possessions, titles, opinions of others and of myself? If I had nothing but what I came into this world with, who would I be?

You might wonder why I ask that question. What difference does it make? How can it help us solve the dire problems we face in the world? If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time you know that my premise is that we must change ourselves to change the world.

Right now close family members of mine are going through an extremely rough time. In many ways they’ve been stripped of the things that we often think define us. It’s been a dark time for them, and for me, because I love them and feel connected to them. Their struggles have made them ask the question, who are we really? By extension, I’ve gone back to asking myself again, who am I without all the outer trappings of life?

It’s important to keep asking that question for two reasons. First, it helps us discover why you’re here on the planet. It points to our life’s purpose. Second, as we grow and change the answer shifts a bit because we discover we possess new talents and abilities of which we were previously unaware.

When we go through dark times and are stripped of our ego identify, it’s rough. If you’ve gone through it, you know the feeling. You’re lost. It feels like you’ll never get out of the hole in which you find yourself. You feel despair.

We often think of despair as a bad thing. However, having gone through what some call “the dark night of the soul,” I can say with confidence that despair can be a very good thing to feel, if you allow yourself to really feel it instead of avoiding it with medication, alcohol, TV, video games or any other distraction. I have to say here that some people need the medication just to get to the place where they can deal with their despair.

The thing about being in a dark place is this: At some point in our lives, we have to face our true selves. Being in the dark place gives us an opportunity to do deep soul searching. When we do that, we are confronted with the reality of how much more there is to us than we ever could have imagined possible. That can be a scary proposition because it means we’re responsible for using our gifts and talents. It means we can’t sit back and complain, or be lazy any longer.

Many people around the globe are facing their true selves. Some, maybe even most, would rather live in despair than to acknowledge the shining light within. Despair is familiar. We think we deserve it. That’s not true. We deserve to be happy. We deserve to contribute our wisdom and light to others in the world.

How do we break the cycle of centuries of living in the dark? Think about this: What if the ideas that the powerful always win, violence is the norm, and that most of us are put on this earth to struggle, are completely wrong? What if we are light beings with talents beyond our imagination? What if we ordinary people could change the world by changing ourselves? Who would you be then?

This is something I’ve been contemplating for a very long time. I harp on it a lot in these blog posts because something compels me to love myself, and allow myself to be who I really am. If I’m compelled to learn self-love, it must be important for others to learn as well. At this juncture in history, I don’t see how we can continue unless each person takes a good look at themselves and asks themselves who they really are.

I can’t say I know who I am quite yet, because I feel like there are parts of myself I’ve kept hidden, or that I’m not ready to see. On the other hand, I’m not going to give up trying to answer that question. I want to know myself. I want to be my true self so I can help others answer the question, who am I?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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We Need Compassion

 

Grace Cathedral Window
Grace Cathedral Window

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” –Dalai Lama

“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” –Ellen DeGeneres

Recent events in my family have made me wonder why some people are filled with caring and compassion for their fellow human beings and why others aren’t. I guess it’s not only that. The political climate is so volatile right now, not just in our country but almost everywhere in the world that there are times when I wonder if we’re going to make it as a species.

Then I remember that there are lots of individuals and organizations that are working to make this world a better place to live. Some do it the way I do, on a one-to-one basis, and others are working on a global scale. That gives me hope, because just lately, I’ve been feeling down about the whole situation in the world. Sometimes it’s difficult being a very sensitive empath.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve picked up the feelings of others. For many years I didn’t understand why my mood would suddenly change from happy to sad, or anxious and fearful. Then I realized, it was because I was like a magnet, picking up the feelings of others. Even after learning how to shield myself from the feelings of others, I struggle with being extremely sensitive.

Some mornings I wake up feeling anxious and I don’t know why. For the most part my life is running smoothly. I’ve learned to accept that challenges happen, and though I may temporarily be thrown off balance, I’m able to right myself and move forward knowing all is well.

However, that’s not the case for everyone. Some people are so full of fear they do and say hurtful things to those around them.

So what can we do to change the situation in which we find ourselves besides work on finding our own inner peace? I think practicing compassion is something we can do to help move the evolutionary process along.

Right after I graduated from high school, I took a job at a Montessori school as a teacher’s aide. I’d decided that I wanted to work for a few years before attending college. One day something happened in the classroom, and I was dealing with an angry little boy. The specifics of the incident have faded over the years, but I remember saying to him, “It’s okay, you can be mad at me. I can take it.” I’ll never forget the look of relief on that boys face. So many conflicting emotions had been fighting for supremacy. I could see them reflected in his body language. That’s when I told him it was okay to feel anger. I don’t know what made me tell him it was okay, but I remember feeling compassion for him. He was a powerless child confronted by an adult who had power over him. Then I’d given him permission to feel his feelings.

I know that the people I’m angry with have more money and external power than I do. But, their world is crumbling and they have no idea how to stop it. They are resisting the tidal wave of change that they didn’t see coming. That makes me feel sad for them. Some instinct tells me that the one way we can speed up the awakening process is to practice compassion in every interaction in which we participate. Calling the bully names, and treating them the way they treat us doesn’t make them back down. It makes them dig in their heels and put up more resistance. So, I propose trying a different tack. Show them compassion.

Here’s a site where you can get some tips about how to do that, or even begin to participate in building a compassionate world. Karen Armstrong, author of many books including,  A History of God, and Twelve Steps for a Compassionate Life, has begun the organization Charter for Compassion which is a world wide project to educate people and inspire a change in the way we live our lives on all levels. This is just one of many organizations with whom I’m connected.

When I read the emails of groups like this that are trying to help us turn from fear, close-mindedness and hatred, to love and compassion, I’m encouraged. Maybe we can evolve. Maybe I can let go of my anger and help make the world a better place to live.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Happiness as Radical Love

Bazz & Luce in Quartzsite 2Maybe some of you felt the way I did when the Supreme Court chose to side with Hobby Lobby. I was sad, but not surprised. It’s just the latest attack on women’s freedom to choose for themselves. To soothe myself, I went to Facebook. I have lots of friends who post positive messages. Luckily I found a post by my friend Terri. She was sharing how happy she was about the little things in life. In the stream of comments to her post, someone put the link for the YouTube lyric video to Pharrell Williams song “Happy”. I like the song, so I followed the link to start my day off right, and was struck by these words from the song.

“Here come bad news, talking this and that.
Well gimme all you got and don’t hold back.
I should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine.
No offense to you, don’t waste your time.
Here’s why. Because I’m happy.”

That’s how I’m feeling about all of the people who are so frightened about what’s going on in our world. They’re the ones bringing bad news. They try to control every little thing around them and want to control us so they feel better.

I’ve got news for them. There are a growing number of people out there who have decided that they aren’t going to allow those fearful people to control them, no matter what. I say yay to that!

I’m going to join them and go on building my happy life and not pay any attention to the haters, the conservative politicians, the fearful people who want to tell me how to live my life. They mistakenly think that if they control everything outside themselves, they’ll feel better. They won’t.

Our inner state is our choice. I choose to be happy. I’ll let them be miserable if they want to be.

Eckhart Tolle says “What you resist persists. What you fight you strengthen.” It’s a hard concept to get. We’re so used to putting up resistance when we feel like someone is in our face. But think about these things: The opossum plays dead when it feels threatened. It takes two to keep a fight going. It’s better to be for something than against it.

Wayne Dyer tells the story of Mother Teresa turning down an invitation to attend a protest rally against a war. I don’t know which war. She was gracious about it, but she said, “I’ll attend when you have a rally ‘for’ peace.”

I’m not only for peace, I’m for everyone being able to live the life that will make them happy.

One solution to help yourself achieve happiness amid all the chaos, is to follow The Four Agreements. Someone posted them on Facebook the day after the Hobby Lobby decision. I love number two: “Don’t take anything personally”. That was a difficult one for me to learn. For many years I didn’t love myself, so I thought the world was against me. It’s not. The Universe is always on your side, whether you believe it is or not. It’s when we are fearful that things don’t go the way we’ve planned. That doesn’t mean The Universe is against us. It just means we’re being offered a new opportunity to find our place in the world. If we take the opportunity provided, eventually we find peace.

True peace, happiness and joy can coexsist with all the turmoil going on in the world. We can choose to be an influence for good. I love what Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist, “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”

What role will you play in the history of the world? I want to be remembered for spreading love, light, healing and happiness.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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We Still Have Time to Change Pt. 3

The Skin of Our Teeth, Gladys with baby and Mom
The Skin of Our Teeth, Gladys with baby and Mom

“If you take care of your mind, you take care of the world.” –Arianna Huffington

“The very words you speak and think are your personal vehicle on your journey to happiness.” –Yvonne Oswald

After writing the posts for the last two weeks, I felt there were a lot more tools to share with those of you who are on the self-discovery path. Today I want to write about our thoughts as a tool. Our thoughts can keep us from realizing the life we want to live, or if we pay attention to what we’re thinking, they can help us create a dream life.

When something challenging happens, what are your first thoughts? I bet they’re negative. When we’re out and about, we overhear lots of negative comments from friends, co-workers and people in the next aisle at the grocery store. We’re so used to complaining and asking “Why me?”, that most of us don’t even think to look at the things that happen to us as opportunities.

When I was in college, I was going through a difficult time. Some wise person suggested I keep a journal and write down all the things I was thinking and feeling. “What a great idea,” I thought. However after months of whining and complaining in my journal, I was no closer to feeling better. Then one day I wrote in my journal, “What am I supposed to be learning from this?” That was the key phrase. Immediately I got answers in my journal. Over the next months I looked at the lessons in everything that had been happening to me. Every time I looked for the lessons, I felt better, because I found solutions, and I became aware of the blocks in my thinking that were keeping me from living my dreams.

What happened to me, is a key to the way we can change the way things are going in our inner world and the outer world. Negative thinking is a habit that most of us learned at our parent’s knee. It takes a commitment to pay attention to our thoughts and what we say. When we pay attention to our inner and outer dialogue, we can find ways to change them to positive thoughts and statements. Many of the things we say are figures of speech that we’re so used to, that we don’t even think of them as negative. For example, how often do you use the words fear and worry in your daily discourse? How often, when something good happens for someone you know, do you say, “That’ll never happen to me.” The thing is, words are linked to emotional states of being, most of which are unconscious. Since that’s the case it takes time to root out those pesky negative thoughts.

A year or so ago, I read a fantastic book which has great exercises for identifying those negative thoughts that we aren’t even aware we have. The book is, Every Word Has Power, by Yvonne Oswald, MHT, MNLP, MTLT. The book is full of those everyday phrases and thought patterns that we use out of habit, that trigger negative thinking and feeling. Reading it helped me become more conscious, and to use language in a more positive way.

Yvonne Oswald’s work is based on scientific research. Among the circle of spiritual authors I read, it’s a well documented fact that our thoughts create our reality. This is something that was known by ancient spiritual traditions, but not so many years ago, it was verified by scientists, particularly quantum physicists. If you watched the series Cosmos, you probably heard Neal deGrasse Tyson mention this fact. But if you’re skeptical, here are two other researchers talking about the same thing.

Gregg Braden is a scientist and a spiritual teacher. This video of Gregg talking about the power of our subconscious mind, will help you understand the point that I’m trying to make, that what we think creates our reality. If you still need convincing, watch this TED Talk by Shawn Achor, a proponent of Postive Psychology and a happiness researcher, about how simple practices done every day for 21 days can change our thoughts and feelings to more positive patterns.

Why do we want to change our thinking and feeling to more positive patterns you might ask? Because continuing to see the world as if everything is going down the tubes hasn’t helped us change the serious problems we face. We’ve got to consider what Albert Einstein said as the truth. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We’ve been doing the same things over and over again, allowing our thought patterns to turn toward the negative. While human behavior has changed for the better, we’re at a point where we need to make a quantum leap forward. Which means we need a lot of people to work on becoming happier and more loving, and thinking in positive ways. The books and videos give you some practical ways you can do that.

The final tool that I want to suggest is to switch the negative television you watch, for shows that are more positive. Years ago I stopped watching the news because I felt so bad after watching a half an hour or an hour of negative stories about what was going on in the world. Shawn Achor said in his TED talk and on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah, that we take in those negative messages and think that the world is a negative place. But it’s not true. It just takes a shift in the kinds of messages we take in and a shift in our perceptions.

Super Soul Sunday is a fantastic substitute for all the negative programming. Shows like Cosmos, or TV shows where the characters grow and the relationships become deeper and richer as the seasons go along are other great choices. Bones is one good example of that kind of fictional show. There are lots of others. You have to be willing to look for them, and resist the negative ones where competition and getting ahead is the main theme. It also helps if you talk with your family about the positive shows you watch.

Not long ago I read an article about a new therapy technique being used in research trials with young couples. The goal was to help newlyweds learn to communicate better and prevent early divorce. Instead of sitting down and talking with a therapist, the couple watched a romantic comedy together. Then they talked with the therapist about the behaviors of the characters, identifying the ones that they could relate to. In that way, the couple could identify destructive, and positive behaviors that they engaged in. Watching the movie created a non-threatening way for them to understand themselves and their partners better.

The bottom line is, the world is only a terrifying place in which to live, if you’re full of fear. You don’t have to feel fear. You can do as I did. You can ask yourself, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” When you do that, you’ll begin to see a deeper meaning in current events. And when you look for the positive things that are happening around you, the world becomes much more friendly.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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We Still Have Time to Change pt. 2

Early June Yucca
Early June Yucca

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. – Rumi

“Love is the deepest gift that we could be ever be given by someone and it’s the greatest gift that we could ever give to ourselves.” –Mastin Kipp

Continuing on the theme from last week, I’d like to write about one of my experiences, as a Reiki practitioner. I learned a great lesson during this period of my life.

For those of you who don’t know what Reiki is, it’s also known as, The Usui System of Natural Healing. It’s an ancient laying on of hands healing technique, and can be used to heal health issues, life situations, mental and spiritual issues, in other words, virtually anything we will ever face. I won’t go into the history of how Reiki came to this country now. It’s much too long. Besides, you can do some research on the internet if you’re interested. What I want to share is my experience of using it as a spiritual practice.

My husband and I were on a spiritual quest when we were introduced to Reiki. Since the church we had grown up in used hands on healing, we felt immediately connected to the practice and decided to become initiated.

Some time after I was initiated into second degree, I volunteered to give Reiki once or twice a week to the daughter for an old family friend. She had full-blown AIDS. This was early in the days of the AIDS epidemic, and not much was known about it. After my short time of practicing Reiki and seeing amazing results, I felt confident that I could be the conduit through which L could be healed. The Reiki practitioner is just a conduit for the healing energy, you see, but in my hubris, I wanted her to be physically healed. I didn’t understand that healing can take many forms. The person receiving the Reiki is in partnership with the energy, I was just the garden hose through which the energy flowed.

I think it’s a common feeling among people when they find a new talent or skill to be excited about what they can do, without understanding the depths it will take to become a master of the practice. Offering Reiki to L for the remainder of her life, was a huge lesson for me. No one knows the life contract, as Carolyn Myss puts it, of the person who has requested the healing. In the case of L, there were many family and personal issues she needed to deal with before leaving the planet. As the months wore on, and her health continued to deteriorate, I learned a great lesson from her and her family. Life is ephemeral, and death can be a beautiful, mysterious process. L and her family took the time to heal old wounds and peel back the layers that had kept unconditional love at bay. I became a humble witness to the transformation of their family dynamics.

At L’s memorial service, I got to observe the love shown to the family, and from the family to all those present. It was one of the most loving experiences of my life, and I was grateful that I got to help with the healing process of L and her family.

That experience taught me that to become a true healer takes lots of practice, and personal work. A healer can’t do their job well unless they have dealt with their own dark places. At that point in my life, I had many dark places that needed to be examined and exposed to the light. Reiki has been a powerful force in my own self-healing journey. And if that’s all I use it for, that and to help my family and friends, then that’s a wonderful use of my practice.

I’d like to close this post by sharing the Principles of Reiki with you. These are principles that could be used by anyone to help them improve their life, whether they are a Reiki practitioner or not. They’ve been of great comfort to me.

Just for today, do not worry,
Just for today, do not anger,
Honor your parents, teachers and elders,
Earn your living honestly,
Show gratitude to every living thing.

Blessings to you on your healing journey.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Movies As Art

“We have to make a sustained effort, again and again, to cultivate the positive aspects within us.” ~Dalai Lama

“Peace cannot be kept by force. it can only be achieved by understanding.” –Albert Einstein

“I’m not responsible for what people think, Pat, only for what I am.” –Jim McKay, as played by Gregory Peck in The Big Country

Director's Sky Over the Huachucas

After I wrote last week’s post, about the movie Friendly Persuasion, I was second guessing myself about continuing a series about movies. I don’t know why I always do that. I thought that discussing movies was a silly idea.Then last weekend, my husband and I saw Monuments Men, and I changed my mind. Art is of vital importance to the human race, because it reflects who are. It shows our souls. Movies are a particularly effective art form, because when we see a movie, we we enter the characters lives and feel what they’re feeling. Entering the lives of the characters in a movie can change our perspective.

 So, this week I’ve chosen to write about another movie I love, a pacifistic Western. Maybe you didn’t know there was such a thing. I suggest you check out, The Big Country  1958 with Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carol Baker, Charlton Heston, and Burl Ives. And just like last week’s movie, it’s directed by William Wyler.

In The Big Country, Gregory Peck plays Jim McKay, a sea captain, from Baltimore, who has fallen in love with Carol Baker’s character, Pat Terrill, while she’s back East going to school. She’s the daughter of a rich Texas cattle rancher. The movie begins with Jim’s arrival in the small town near the Terrill ranch, and right away, we know something’s wrong. What we discover is that Jim McKay has landed in the middle of a blood feud between Major Henry Terrill, played by Charles Bickford, and Rufus Hannassey, played by Burl Ives.

The protagonist, Jim McKay is an enigma to everyone. He’s not the typical mysterious stranger coming to town with guns strapped to his hip. No, he’s a man of peace. Throughout the movie, he does things that confound and change almost everyone he meets. In this way, he’s not your typical protagonist. Most of the time it’s the main character that suffers and changes. In this case, because of who McKay is, those around him change for the better. He’s the moral center of the movie.

Not all of the characters change for the better, however. One who doesn’t is Major Terrill. At one point in the movie, he says, “I don’t understand this man, Steve.” Of course he doesn’t understand. him, because he’s convinced that violence is the only way to solve his problems. He’s not alone in this belief. But McKay refuses to play that game, which causes the other characters to do some hard thinking.

There are only two characters who seem to understand him. Julie Maragon, Pat’s friend, and Julie’s former hired hand Ramon. At one point Ramon says of McKay, “A man like that is very rare.”

One incident after another causes Major Terrill’s hired hands to question the fight they’ve been carrying on for so long. First, Jim tries to stop Major Terrill from punishing the Hannassey’s for roughing him up on the road his first day in town. Then he refuses to ride the crazy horse that the hands always put the tenderfoots on. After that he sets out on his own to see the surrounding country, even though he’s been warned, it’s a “big country” and people who’ve lived there all their lives have gotten lost. Of course, being a sea captain, he knows how to navigate through vast areas. All of these incidences lead up to a break between Pat and himself. She idolizes her father, and believes that Jim is a coward, because he shuns violence.

Though McKay is a nonviolent man, he does use violence twice in the movie. The first time is a calculated attempt to get Charlton Heston’s character, Steve Leech to see that violence is not the way to solve problems. He accepts Leech’s offer to fight, but he does it in the middle of the night when there are no witnesses. At the end of the fight he asks Leech, “Now tell me Leech, what did we prove?” That’s a big turning point in the outcome of the movie.

The other time McKay uses violence is at the Hannassey ranch in Blanco Canyon. Julie Maragon, who was the owner of the Big Muddy, until she sold it to McKay, is kidnapped by Buck Hannassey, Rufus’ son. The Maragon ranch has the largest water source in the area, The Big Muddy River. All the area ranchers must water their cattle in the river during the dry season. Terrill has kept the Hannassey cattle from the river.

The object of the kidnapping is two fold, to lure Henry Terrill to the canyon, so Rufus can kill him. The other objective is to force her to sell her ranch to them. McKay attempts to avert violence by promising the Hannassey’s they can have all the water they want. But, Buck, hits Julie when she tries to keep him from shooting McKay. That is the one time, when McKay acts without thinking. He fights Buck Hannassey.

The feud is ended when Rufus sees that McKay’s right, the violence will only escalate and everyone will die. He offers to fight Terrill alone, just the two of them.

The main reason I love this movie, is because of the message behind it. Violence is weakness. McKay is the embodiment of integrity and strength, because he values peace, he knows who he is, and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about him.

We all know the debate that goes on about how violent movies and TV shows cause our children to be violent people. I believe that violent movies and TV shows reflect our cultural attitudes, more than influence them. We value the tough individual who shows little emotion and who gets the job done no matter what. Of course we see violence as a way to solve our problems, because look at how our country was born, with a bloody revolution. Unlike other revolutions, we had some very smart Founding Fathers who managed to create a new kind of government without the aftermath of continued bloodshed. But, throughout the years, we’ve felt pride in the fact that we stood up for our rights and didn’t back down.

The Revolution was more than two-hundred years ago. It’s a new age, and we should know by now that violence isn’t solving our current problems, it’s exacerbating them.

If you question my assertions, take a look at the two movies I’ve suggested so far, Friendly Persuasion, and The Big Country. Have a movie night with your family and friends. Discuss the situations in the movies. What are the different ways the characters deal with the violence around them? How are those situations similar and different than what’s going on in our society today? Does violence perpetuate more violence? What do the characters learn about themselves as they deal with their circumstances?

I believe Einstein was right when he said, “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We’ve tried solving problems by being tough and using violence again and again. Maybe it’s time to try something new.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

What We can Learn from the Movies

“You know what your problem is, it’s that you haven’t seen enough movies – all of life’s problems are answered in the movies.” –Steve Martin

“Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.” –Walt Disney

“I’m just his father, Eliza, not his conscience. A man’s life ain’t worth a hill of beans except he lives up to his own conscience.” –Jess Birdwell, as played by Gary Cooper in Friendly Persuasion

Dad Sage for Memorial

I love movies. I admit it, though sometimes it’s hard to justify why. I’m very picky about the movies I watch, because I think there are movies that add something to your life, and some that take away from it.

So much discussion these days centers around the violence in movies and how it affects young people negatively. Yes, that can be true. Anything can be used for good, or ill. Movies are no different. What I want to know is, do you watch what’s popular just because it is popular, or do you pick and choose what you watch carefully? Do you allow your children to watch whatever they want, without being there to help them make sense of what happens in the movie or TV show? Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re affected by what we watch, and we can be affected in positive as well as negative ways. I knew this instinctively, but it always helps when you have a scientific study to back you up.

I get Jurgen Wolff’s daily post, “Time to Write”. On Saturday, he had the perfect Valentines Day article. I was intrigued by the title, “How movies can help prevent divorce (no joke!)” Yay validation! Watching movies can be a positive learning activity. I always knew that, because growing up we’d watch TV and movies as a family and discuss them, but I’ll tell that story later in the post.

This is the statistic from the study Wolff quoted that I loved, “The findings show that an inexpensive, fun, and relatively simple movie-and-talk approach can be just as effective as other more intensive therapist-led methods—reducing the divorce or separation rate from 24 to 11 percent after three years.” The title of the article is, “Divorce Rate Cut in Half for Couples who Discussed Relationship Movies.” Here’s the link to read the article for yourself. They provide lists of movies, and guided discussion questions at: http://www.rochester.edu/news/divorce-rate-cut-in-half-for-couples-who-discussed-relationship-movies/index.html The contact person on the website is: Susan Hagen. You can even become a part of their study.

What I found particularly interesting was what Jurgen Wolff wrote at the end of his post. He said he thought that this method could be particularly helpful in shaping the behavior of children. And that’s the thing I’d like to comment upon.

That’s exactly how I was raised! We didn’t have much money when I was growing up, so TV was a big source of entertainment. We watched all kinds of shows including the news together as a family. As I’ve written before, I’m a Baby Boomer, so we saw many things as they were happening on the news that would be censored or edited today. My parents didn’t have college degrees, but they were open minded and wanted to make sure we had a good foundation about life. To that end, we discussed everything we watched. My dad was big on asking questions about everything. He’d challenge the slant on the news, he’d question documentaries, he observed the behavior of characters in the movies and TV shows we watched. He asked his questions, because he was infinitely curious. Often he’d want to know what we thought, and that would start a discussion. Because of my parents, I learned critical thinking skills. I also learned how to analyze the motivations behind human behavior. What a gift my parents gave me.

In this age when we are all on our separate devices, connecting with our friends, coming together to watch a movie can be a great way to make connections with our family members. To encourage that, starting today, I’m going to suggest movies that I think will be fun for families to share, and that will promote wonderful conversations, and learning experiences.

The first movie I’ll suggest was one of my father’s favorites: Friendly Persuasion, with Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire, released in 1956. It’s about a Quaker family in Indiana in 1862. The Civil War is raging. Their religion teaches that violence and war are not acceptable. The story shows how each member of the family, and wider community responds to the crisis when a battle begins close to home. The oldest son, played by Anthony Perkins, goes against the teachings of his religion, and goes into battle with the militia to protect his family, and his community. He learns a great deal about himself from that experience. The movie is filled with incidents where each family member learns what it means to live a peaceful life. It’s easy to profess beliefs, not always so easy to live up to them. In my opinion, the message of the movie is that outward peace only comes from inner peace.

Friendly Persuasion was nominated for six Academy Awards, two for director/producer William Wyler, one for best screenplay by Michael Wilson. Though, ironically at the time, Wilson was blacklisted and so couldn’t receive the award or even have his name appear in the list of nominees. And one nomination for Anthony Perkins for Best Supporting Actor. In this day and age, when so many of us are tired of war, and long for peace, this movie could present a way to examine how to bring that peace about.

If you choose to watch this movie with your family, you could begin your discussion with the various characters and how they react or respond to the situations in which they find themselves. For example, in one scene the mother, played by Dorothy McGuire, tries to talk her son out of going to fight with the militia. She wants him to embrace peace, but in a very subtle way, she’s coercing her son to choose the path she wants him to take. Another character, who is a Quaker, professes to love peace, but when his barn is burned down by Confederate soldiers, he willingly and angrily  picks up a gun to go fight, and condemns Gary Cooper’s character for not doing so. The movie is full of those kinds of teachable moments. And think how much fun it will be to have an old fashioned movie night with your family.

I’d love to hear how it goes.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014