Archive for May 2017

Mother Earth: At the table or ON the table? || Mary Coday Edwards

Mother Earth: AT the table or ON the table?
By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.
May 30 , 2017
(The views in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of People House).

Exclusion.

Dredges up unpleasant memories for most of us, defined as the act of not allowing someone or something to take part in an activity or to enter a place; it’s a shutting out, a barring, a denying from participation.

When I lived in Peshawar back in the 1990s, its summer heat of 110 degrees plus rationed electricity would send me, my family, and friends up to the cool breezes of Pakistan’s Swat Valley. After an hour’s drive, we’d turn off the valley’s Grand Trunk four-lane highway and begin the (on a good day) three-hour, slow crawl north up a dizzying, narrow, and winding mountain road. With its headwaters in the towering Hindu Kush Mountains, the great Swat River followed alongside us, sometimes spreading gently in a wide plain, but more often carving its way through narrow canyon walls hundreds of feet below us.

Close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, the valley’s inhabitants share the ultra-conservative values of the Pushtun people (1), in particular those governing women who are excluded from economic and political life, their influence limited to the home – maybe.

We’d drive/crawl through village after village, the road through each one long bazaar, with donkeys, ox carts, jeeps, bicycles, and people demanding space among the push-carts selling vegetables, fruit, plastic wares, slabs of meat, and winter scarves.

Swat River, near Madyan. Photo by Xain, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39968979

Missing from this crowded jumble of life? Women. Sometimes I’d spot the occasional yet-to-reach-puberty female child. And if a woman needed new shoes? Her husband/father/brother was sent off to the bazaar, with her foot drawn on a piece of paper to be matched to a shoe size. Pakistan’s female rural literacy rate 25 years ago was about 2 percent – defined as being able to read and write their name.

I’d sit demurely in the car, with my white, tablecloth-sized chador wound around my body and just my pale face showing, eyes covered in dark sunglasses. Exposing myself and hence breaking long-held social taboos could invite violence. I’d learned to avoid mob mentality.

Our destination, Swat’s Mingora, with its long history as a cultural and economic center, along with its ancient Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim kings, was more relaxed in the early 1990s around the female presence, especially the foreign female presence. Arriving there in the early afternoon, I became visible again and could unwind in the hotel’s calming, lush, cool gardens – metaphorically and physically – still modestly dressed in the traditional shawar kamise but without my chador.

But the dark cloud of female exclusion would replace my chador, wrapping me in its gloom. By the next morning, however, I could sense its heavy darkness easing away from my shoulders. It was only after that release that my body would begin recovering from its weird heat-related symptoms of Peshawar.

“Rights for Nature articles acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.” Ecuadorian Constitution

The political provides a glut of exclusion examples: Native Americans camping in the snow to protect sacred lands based on treaties while politicians bow to corporate greed; voting laws changed to protect powerful vested interests; photos of only male politicians gathered to sign health bills – bills that impact women; education bills passed that shut out those in poverty from a decent education.

But not only are just people of color, women, and the poor barred from the table of participation and denied their basic human rights: What about the rights of nature? (2)

Last week I experienced that same feeling of grief due to exclusion, but this time it wasn’t Pakistan’s Swat Valley, but Southern California.

I had spent hours driving on paradise paved. Absent from the scene was nature in all its wildness. Grief again clothed me at this loss and exclusion of nature, the violence the human species commits daily with impunity against the natural community we are embedded in.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Beach was my destination, and walking on its sandy paths with all my senses gratefully soaking up nature’s gifts, I felt that shroud of mourning slipping from my shoulders. Later, Torrey Pines Docent Fran Doolittle told how protecting this fragile 1,500-acre reserve of endangered flora and fauna from encroachment by developers was a constant struggle. And while a single steel rope fence clearly demarcates the path, “we can’t keep people on the path,” she said. “These plants receive little water,” she continued, and tourists tramp through them, increasing the stress on their already tenuous existence.

That, and visitors leaving their trash, which she explained had drastically decreased since Torry Pines  stopped selling disposable plastic water bottles in 2013 (3), replacing them with the sale of reusable bottles (4).

Our current administration excludes the environment from the policy table (5).

Instead of cleaning up their messes, coal mining companies are free to dump their poisons into the lifeblood of the earth – our waterways. Pesticide runoff once again threatens our protected wetlands and tributaries – nurseries to thousands of ecosystem species.

And according to the U.S. 2017 Energy and Employment Report, “nearly 1 million Americans are working near- or full-time in the energy efficiency, solar, wind, and alternative vehicles sectors. This is almost five times the current employment in the fossil fuel electric industry, which includes coal, gas, and oil workers.”

But yet this administration feels compelled to open up our fragile offshore ecosystems and our protected national lands to the fossil fuel industries – without compensation for decreased human, as well as water, air and earth ecosystem health benefits. And taking into account community benefits, if all these services were correctly priced and included in the costs of resources – a cornerstone of capitalism – we wouldn’t be having this discussion, as the oil and gas sector couldn’t afford it.

Thunderous Silence

To those stripped of humility and a true understanding of humanity’s position as a member of the web of life, Mother Earth is considered “property” to be exploited.  Nature won’t bully her way to the front of the crowd, but she does speak in thunderous silence.  Ignore this powerful voice within us and that web disintegrates.

We are her. Her life courses through us in that interconnectedness; she sits at the table through us.  And no one can deny us our voice.

_______

Notes & Sources:

1.)One valley further east lays the city of Murree – also of cooler temps but located in the more liberal district of Punjab. In those days it was a longer trek from Peshawar.

2.)In 2008 Ecuador became the first country to recognize the rights of nature in their constitution. It takes the concept of Environmental Rights to the next logical conclusion by bestowing rights unto nature itself. The people have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant.

3.)https://torreypine.org/wp-content/uploads/nl/2016/1607.pdf https://www.banthebottle.net/bottled-water-facts/

4.)Plastic bottles are the largest single contributor to national parks solid waste load, averaging nearly one-third of all solid waste in parks surveyed(https://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/more-national-parks-ban-plastic-bottle-sales.html).

5.)http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/;https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/02/climate/environmental-rules-reversed-trump-100-days.html

6.)https://energy.gov/downloads/2017-us-energy-and-employment-report; https://www.nrdc.org/experts/lara-ettenson/us-clean-energy-jobs-surpass-fossil-fuel-employment


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation

Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

The Power of Forgiveness When You Have Been Wronged || Dorothy Wallis

The Power of Forgiveness When You Have Been Wronged
By Dorothy Wallis
You’ve heard it before, “forgive and move on,” and inside you are still reeling from the pain and hurt that has been done and there is no way you want to “forgive, forget or move on.”  The feeling of violation is strong and you feel justified in blaming and having resentment. 

If you were betrayed, unloved, neglected, rejected, lied to, cheated, dismissed, manipulated, silenced, emotionally or physically abused, you want justice and acknowledgement of the wrong that has been done to you…. 

You want to understand why it happened.  You want the offender to be remorseful, to make amends, or to pay for what they did.  You want the past to be different and wonder what your life would be like if this had not happened.  Your mind replays the experience over and over.  These thoughts fill your mind and you can’t seem to let go and at this stage you don’t want to let go.  You believe if you let go, you will never receive the retribution you deserve.

Yet, what is the cost of not letting go?  Your hurt can turn into bitterness with contempt, anger, hate and even revenge pulling you deeper into a dark shroud of pain and despair. You carry the heavy burden of past wounds and are held hostage by the wrongs of the past.

“Let us Forgive Each Other – Only then will We Live in Peace” 
~ Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

Resentment Magnifies Your Pain and Suffering
The act of forgiveness has often been misunderstood.  It is not an admission that what happened to you or someone you loved was okay.  Forgiveness does not condone the harmful act or make the wrong that happened acceptable.  Forgiveness is giving up the belief that the past could or will be different.  It is an acceptance that what happened did happen and cannot be changed. The act of forgiveness releases you from the toxicity of hurtful and destructive emotional baggage, which captures and poisons your mind.  Holding on to resentment not only inflicts more anguish and suffering onto your initial injury, it actually magnifies the pain you feel.  It does not empower you nor does it right the wrong nor does it change the one that caused the harm.
Forgiveness Heals

True power comes from the act of forgiving.  Forgiveness is something you do for yourself not for the one that caused the harm.  The glorious benefit is that it also releases the grip on the offender, which allows  deeper and often miraculous healing to occur.  You want acknowledgment of your pain, so offer it to yourself.  You may never receive the acknowledgment from the one that offended you.  Bring your grievances into your awareness and have compassion for the pain you have endured.  You have experienced a deep loss.  Allow yourself to really grieve the loss.  There is a part of you that has been lost and must be retrieved.  Your innocent trusting nature has been wounded.  Release emotion that has been bottled up and smoldering beneath the surface.  Nursing animosity induces stress and research shows that ruminating on negative feelings impairs your heart leading to earlier death.  Forgive yourself for holding on to hurtful thoughts.  Regain trust in your own ability to heal.  Your body will be liberated from the rigid tension that separation from your true nature brings.

“When You’re Sure You’ve Had Enough
of this Life, well Hang On
Don’t Let Yourself Go
Cause Everybody Cries
And Everybody Hurts Sometimes”
~ R.E.M.

Your heart yearns to be healed and the way to heal is having the courage to forgive.  Forgive yourself and forgive others for being human and imperfect.  It may be difficult to believe; yet each person is doing the best that they can with their present stage of awareness.  No one goes through life untouched by painful experiences. 

“Forgiving is the Capacity to Bend from a Rigid Conditional Stance and Freely Move Toward and Offer Heartfelt Compassion to All”

When you let go of the past you are opening yourself to freedom.  “For” means to go toward someone or something while “Give” means to freely transfer or offer something along with the capacity to bend.  Giving freely is an unconditional act in which you do so without the expectation of receiving anything in return.  So, forgiving is the capacity to bend from a rigid conditional stance and freely move toward and offer heartfelt compassion to all. Begin with offering compassion to yourself.  Do it for Love.  The hurt in relationship is ultimately the pain of not feeling loved, cared for, valued, respected and free from harm.  You desire safety, love and unity and when you dare to forgive, you mend the internal fracture of separation and return to your natural state of secure loving kindness.  People that have the ability to forgive are less anxious, depressed and live a happier life.  You give yourself the greatest gift of love when you forgive and release the painful separating thoughts of blame and resentment.  You come to realize that your true self can never be hurt by the thoughts or actions of others. 

About the Author: Dorothy Wallis

Dorothy Wallis is a former intern at People House in private practice with an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy.  She is an International Spiritual Teacher at the forefront of the consciousness movement for over thirty years grounded in practices of meditation, family systems, relationships, and emotional growth.  Her work reflects efficacious modalities of alternative approaches to healing based upon the latest research in science, human energy fields, psychology, and spirituality. 

As a leader in the field of emotional consciousness and the connection to mind, body and spirit, her compassionate approach safely teaches you how to connect to your body, intuition and knowing to clear emotional wounds and trauma at the core.  The powerful Heartfulness protocol empowers your ability to join with your body’s innate capacity to heal through holistic Somatic, Sensory and Emotional awareness.  www.TheDorWay.com and www.Heartfulnesspath.com

Lessons from the Bird at my Window || Lora Cheadle

Lessons From The Bird at My Window

By Lora Cheadle

For about three weeks now I’ve had a robin who throws himself at my foyer window.

The foyer is two stories tall and the window is inaccessible from the ground floor. There are no window coverings.  Every morning, and again in the afternoons, the bird sits in the tree outside the window and repeatedly throws himself against the glass.

At first we had no idea what he was doing, calling him our suicide bird, but then I learned that in mating season, birds are very territorial. He was seeing his reflection in the mirror as another bird, and he was simply trying to protect his territory.

If we turn both the upstairs hall light and the foyer light on, it sometimes dims his reflection enough so he quits, but not always. With a hypnotizing rhythm, he throws himself against the glass, returns to the branch, shakes himself off, and throws himself against the glass again. And again. Easily, for two hours every day.

I’m afraid he will hurt himself. I’m afraid that one day I’ll step out my front door and see his tiny bird body on the ground, neck broken. I go outside and talk to him, I go inside and jump around inside the window and try to scare him, but none of it does any good.

Then it dawned on me. Maybe this bird is here for me. Maybe this bird is here to teach me something that I’m not noticing in my own life.

Fighting Our Own Reflection

How many times have I fought something that wasn’t really there? How many times have I defended my territory against something that was an illusion? Could it be that there were times where I thought I was persevering, pushing ahead with strength and determination, while others were looking at me with pity, or even laughing at my folly?

Have others tried to get my attention, to let me know that I was fighting my own reflection, but I didn’t notice? Perhaps. I started thinking about the times where I’ve stood my ground, defended my territory.

It’s interesting, because as a female who wanted to please, and then as a mom, I have spent a lot of years learning how to stand up for myself. My instinct still is to take the short stick. I can handle it, I can make others happy, I don’t really care.

Whenever I open a loaf of bread, I dig out the two heels and I eat those first. Not because I like the heels, but because I know my family won’t eat the heels, and it’s easier to get the two heels out of the way first, so nobody else is stuck with the heels. Except me. Because I can take it. This is a fight I’d never take on. This is territory I would never defend. But what if I did?

The Choices I Willingly Make

If I didn’t eat the two heels, my family would keep them wrapped in the bread bag, stashed in the refrigerator forever, waiting until I ate them or threw them away. Which would drive me crazy. Seeing the uneaten heels of the bread would bring a multitude of bad thoughts to mind. Every time I’d open the refrigerator, I’d get irritated. If I said something, my family would probably say something simple, like, “Throw them out if you’re not going to eat them.”

But I don’t like wasting food, so I’d either have to eat them anyway or throw them away. But I couldn’t make someone else eat them. If I did nothing, eventually, my entire refrigerator would be stuffed with bread bags containing the two heels from each loaf. I’d be the one fighting myself, not liking anyone else’s solutions, banging endlessly against my own reflection. Which is why I simple eat the two heels first. I avoid the whole scenario.

But bread is minor. What about the big things, where I feel strongly about defending my territory?

The Choices I Unwillingly Make

This last week, my husband did something that really upset me, yet he refused to apologize. I felt like I needed an apology, like the core of my being was wounded. Even though I know he made the mistake inadvertently, I still needed that apology. But he doesn’t apologize. Before we got married he told me that he doesn’t believe in apologizing. And he doesn’t. Nor will he. And I know that. But I still wanted it.

So now what? What happens when I feel like I need something, but I know I will not get what it is I want? Am I like the bird, constantly throwing myself against an immovable object? I must be, because I know I can’t win. Yet I still try. And I know that the only one who gets hurt in the process is me.

Fighting Others, or Fighting Myself

But I feel so strongly that I need to defend my core, my rights and my integrity that I keep fighting.

To my own detriment, because what I’m really fighting is my own reflection, not my spouse.

I’m fighting my own history of putting myself last, of willingly taking the short end of stick, but I’m not fighting him. His behavior brings out my frustrations with me, and my inability to take what I need, to put myself first. I know where he stands, and I always have.

And so I finally see. There is no other bird there. It’s only just me.

Unconscious or Subconscious: Does it Matter? || Mary Coday Edwards

Unconscious or subconscious: Does it matter?

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

 

Two words often bantered about with imprecision, we do well when speaking of our own spirituality to use clarity when venturing into these underground realms.

As a word person, my first stop on this journey of exploration is a dictionary (1).

First coined by French psychologist and philosopher Pierre Janet in the early 1900s, the subconscious is defined as that part of our mind that is currently not in focused awareness.

Unfortunately for the majority of us, it’s impossible to hold the bulk of what we experience with concentrated attention, and therefore it’s spirited into the subconscious, to perhaps later be retrieved.

For example, you may be hiking along a forest trail in deep conversation with a friend. Later, sitting on a sun-warmed boulder, lunching on your peanut butter sandwich, your friend remarks on those wildflowers  bedecking the wilderness floor passed by earlier, at which point your mind might recall the blue sea of columbines that at the time registered with your visual sense – but without conscious focus.

Past-learned skills also find their way into the subconscious.

In every country I’ve lived or worked, I struggled to learn the local language and/or dialect, measuring success by how accurately I could buy peanuts from the shopkeeper in the bazaar.

Grocery shopping, Kabul, Afghanistan; April, 2007

And although I’ve been back in the States for a few years, these languages still surface in my dreams. People I knew then show up, conversing in their native tongue – sometimes I have two different language conversations occurring in the same dream and while my dream self understands both parts of the dialog, my dream characters do not.

“I never know when somebody’s going to knock on the door of my own unconscious in a way that I wouldn’t have anticipated.” Anna Deavere Smith, Actress, Playwright, Professor

Said to be contributed by 18th century philosopher Friedrich Schelling, Freud took the word unconscious and divided it into the id (instincts or drives) and the superego – sometimes referred to as the conscience.  He regarded the unconscious as a storehouse of repressed socially unacceptable desires, wishes, and ideas, as well as painful memories and emotions. The key concept here is repressed, and thus not easily accessible to our day-to-day operations of living but yet exerting their influence upon our behavior.

Carl Jung retained Freud’s notion of the unconscious mind as the storehouse of repression, but added another stratum called the collective unconscious, which is a reservoir of unconscious memories that we inherited from our ancestors. From this collective unconscious arise other of Jung’s concepts, such as archetypes, anima, and animus (topics not addressed in this blog).

“I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at.” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

While the material stored in the subconscious can be recalled with deliberation and effort, that which sits in the murky regions of the unconscious is, generally speaking, not accessible through one’s own self or one’s efforts via the ego (2).

And ego, in today’s language milieu and simplistically speaking, is that part of our mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious. It keeps us safe from what might be deemed unacceptable to our parents, teachers, or peers. Long after it’s done its job, the ego still maintains its habit of refusing questions and killing curiosity – required steps in growth of consciousness.

Transformation and personal growth require that our unconsciously driven behaviors be brought to the light of consciousness. We learn to watch for and respond to unconscious stress signals vs. reacting with fight or flight.

Unfortunately, ego’s very good at convincing its host that what it believes/thinks/wants is the ultimate and only truth or reality. Mindfulness and mediation practices reveal our ego’s dictatorial bent and personal bias.

A dream is a small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens up to that primeval cosmic night that was the soul, long before there was the conscious ego.” Carl Jung

My above-noted dream scenario serves as an example of both the subconscious and the unconscious at work.

Symbology is one of the many tools our unconscious uses to get our attention, with dreams being a conduit to consciousness.  Without going into dream interpretation, my unconscious took my subconscious material – foreign languages – and turned it into a symbol representing a lack of communication between parts of me, which I then can explore.

But first I must consciously address my ego who is right there upon my awakening, insisting I ignore this gift of a dream from my psyche. “We have more important things to attend to!” it insists.

Honoring all parts of myself – after all, the ego did keep me safe – I remind if gratefully and compassionately of its past and current job descriptions.  I tell it that when other bits of me are ignored, denied participation in the conversation, or left to die in a neglected corner of my soul, I incur stress which brings sickness, disease, and an early death – not a hopeful outcome for ego.

Through mindfulness practices, we watch attentively for emerging unconscious behaviors, beliefs, and values which come knocking on our door.

And as always, People House ministers, counselors, therapists, and staff are here to assist you on your path of transformation. No one can do it for you, but you can’t do it alone!

_______

Notes & Sources:

1.) Psychology Glossary, https://www.alleydog.com/glossary/psychology-glossary.php

2.) In my early teens I asked my mother what the term “male ego” meant, a popular phrase in those days, usually with the word “fragile” attached to it. She refused to discuss it, which sent me to the dictionary – not finding it of course, and “ego” with its 10-15 word definition did not do the word justice to my teen brain. I perceived uncomfortable emotions attached to her refusal – correctly or incorrectly – and so did not risk pursuing the topic further with other adults.

_______

About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation

Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth