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Archive for the ‘transformation’ Category

In “M is for Magic” Neil Gaiman wrote, “Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”

The only book other than “Dick and Jane” that I recall was used to teach my seven year old self how to read was a book that I remember as, “The Paradise Lost” book. It was a Jehovah Witness text written for children as an introduction to the religion. It contained Bible stories and pictures along with Jehovah Witness teachings. I learned a great deal from that book.

There was one particular story between its pretty orange cover that has lived inside of me for a life time. It was the story of Armageddon, the story of how my fragile little world would end – of how my mom dad, sister, and probably all of my toys would be destroyed in the terrible chaos of an angry God. The God who I was told to love, and taught to fear. I learned my lesson well. I feared him every single day and night of my painful childhood. Each and every one of them.

There was a picture in that book depicting Armageddon. I can still see it clearly in my mind’s eye. I used to dream regularly about the woman in that picture. Surrounded by children in Mrs. Nichol’s second grade classroom, I barely paid attention. I was too busy thinking about the dream I’d had the night before about the beautiful lady with long curly hair who looked up with wide terrified eyes, her arms raised defensively over her head, and her mouth open wide in a frozen scream as the debris of a collapsing building headed straight for her. That picture fueled a little girl’s nightmares, causing her to lie awake at night clinging desperately to her big brown teddy bear, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and trying with all of her might to not go to sleep.

The night the twin towers fell in New York city, approximately forty years after that first bad dream, I woke up in a cold sweat, heart pounding, and throat aching. The little girl’s helplessness and terror sprang immediately back to life inside of me. Only now, the little girl was lost, and I was the woman with the long curly hair quaking in fear.

We need to pay close attention to the stories our children are being told. Are they stories of hope and love and kindness and beauty? When you’re watching the news, are your children watching too? Are they being bombarded with images of war, and death and destruction? Are they hearing stories of mother’s murdering their own children? Or of a world hurling head long towards ecological disaster and financial collapse? Are they being seduced into believing that their happiness and self worth depends upon the newest toys, technology, and designer clothes? Pay attention now, because they will carry the stories they learn today forward forty years from now, and those stories will either strengthen and sustain them or haunt them….

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I just learned that Theodore Roszack died this past July in his California home at the age of 77 from liver cancer.

I’ll miss him. I’ll miss his wisdom, his perspective, his call to therapists everywhere to respond to the “madness involved in urban industrial society that has to do with our lack of balance and integration with the natural environment…” He urged us to join those ecologists and environmentalists who warn that we’re on a path of self-destruction. He implored us not to remain so focused on our clients’ individual issues that we failed to confront the wounds inflicted by a “deeply toxic” culture. In an interview with Jeffrey Mishlove on Thinking Allowed, he encouraged us to find out why ordinary people are engaging in behaviors that are so destructive. To ask, “how did we lose our intimate connection to the natural world?” And “what drives us so fiercely towards material gain at the expense of community, spirituality, health, morality, and so very much more?” And he adviced us to listen very carefully to the answers as closely and as genuinely as we listen to the stories of our clients.

He pointed out that while our mental health system was focused on trauma, pathology and illness for so long, there have always been those who’ve maintained that, “the deeper you look inside, the more reason you find for joy, for celebration; that the foundations for human nature are clean and good and innocent and creative.” He asked us, as mental health professionals, to lead the way in helping people move away from the burdens of shame and guilt and original sin and towards what psychoanalyst Eric Fromme called, biophilia — the love of humanity and life. If we were to fall in love with the beauty that’s contained both within the natural world and within ourselves, we’d be far more proactive in caring for ourselves, our planet, and one another.

In an interview on PBS which focused on ideas from his first book, an examination of the revolutionary youth movement of the sixties entitled, “The Making of a Counter Culture,” Roszac suggested that if the ethos of the sixties had prevailed today, “it would be a world, where people lived gently on the planet without the sense that they have to exploit nature or make war upon nature in order to find basic security. It would be a simpler way of life, less urban, less consumption-oriented, and much more concerned about spiritual values, about companionship, friendship, community. Community was one of the great words of this period, getting together with other people, solving problems, enjoying one another’s company, sharing ideas, values, insights. And if that’s not what life is all about, if that’s not what the wealth is for, then we are definitely on the wrong path.”

He called on therapists such as myself in his book, “The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology,” and he called on boomers such as myself in his last book, “The Making of an Elder Culture: Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audacious Generation,” to relaim the spirit that was very much alive in the sixties, the one that “questioned rather deeply the cultural standards of the time. He asked us now that we are becoming elders to revive the energy and commitment we had back when we were young to work to birth a better and more just world.

I will miss you Theodore. I took you for granted. I was too self absobed to fully hear your message. And now, as is all too often the case with we humans, you got my full attention only when I found out that you had left me. I’m listening now with both a sad and grateful heart….

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When we encounter times in our lives that disorient us, frighten us, or wound us, we generally view them as unwelcome interruptions or unfortunate detours that have been inflicted by some outside force, or are the result of our own misguided actions. Seldom do we recognize that the discomfort that we’re experiencing may in fact be originating from a very deep and wise place inside of ourselves that is calling to us. Calling for us to stop and to listen, to explore the meaning and purpose of our lives, and to assess whether our actions and choices reflect what is best for us and in us. A voice that calls us to answer the question, “is the path that I am on now one that will constrict or enlarge me, hollow me out or deepen me, distract me or teach me, harm me or heal me?”

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What I most love about the internet is the window to the world’s wisdom it provides. From my office in Lewiston or from my little cottage in Wayne I can attend lectures, listen to interviews, and watch thoughtful and informative webcasts.
Today I listend to an interview with Duncan Campbell and David Boren who talked about his new book, “A Letter to America” on Living Dialogues. Boren’s message regarding the crisis’s that we in the United States face is both alarming and inspiring at the same time. I encourage you to listen to the interview as well as to a number of other valuable and thought provoking interviews that are available on the Living Dialogues website.
Each and every day I listen to individuals who are appropriately worried about their futures, good people who share that they all too often feel powerless and frustrated. It’s in my nature to want to reassure and comfort, and I find myself in most cases automatically leaning forward, unconsciously assuming the posture of compassionate witness. And then I am pulled back by the awareness that now is not the time for empathy nearly as much as it is the time for accountability and action –a time for us to collectively face the challenges that confront us while creating a vision for a healthier and more sustainable future.

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