Innocence

What if during difficult times we could revert back to a previous point in our lives when we still had an inkling of what innocence felt like?  Do we mourn for simpler times when we didn’t have to cut through so much noise? Have we lost our filters allowing negative ideas to seep into our consciousness?

There is a tug-o-war of stimuli pushing and pulling to get our attention.  We’re inundated with junk mail, robocalls, and commercials working diligently to persuade, dissuade, or promote a particular agenda.  Our world has left little time for developing our own worldview.  Our consciousness is being commandeered by a minute number of influencers.

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Are you willing to reclaim your innocence?  I’ve found holding on to items, memories, and faith have allowed me to keep a firm grasp on my innocence.  My relationships have been my teachers and guiding lights through tumultuous times.  The idea of downsizing, organizing, and streamlining becomes more attractive every day

How will you reclaim your innocence? What does holding innocence as part of your conscious life free you to do, think, and feel?

Haunted

Every day is a new adventure.  We’d like to believe it’s possible to live each day as a blank slate, creating from new every time we open our eyes.  Unless you’re a Buddhist monk working toward enlightenment, it may not be in the cards for most of us.  What is in the cards are the memories and reflections we carry with us from birth.  We rely on these memories for comfort, for guidance, and as lessons upon which we make decisions in our current lives.

Unfortunately, not every memory has been joyful for many. Over and over we hear and read about stories of violence, hunger, injustice, poverty, and ailing health.  We hear self-help “gurus” tell us to get over it by facing our fears, challenging our assumptions, and make lemonade out of lemons.  It’s highly idealistic and for some quite damaging to believe their misfortune was their fault and it’s up to them to turn the tide.

We live in anxiety producing times.  We are experiencing political, social, and physical unrest.  If you ever watched the movie The Ten Commandments, there’s a scene where they depict the descent of the last plague, killing of the first born.  The plague is pictured as a cloud or fog or trail of mist descending from the heavens.  It’s an ominous visual and viscerally brings chills as the horrific turn of events besieging Egypt.

Rewriting history is not an option, but reframing our history is certainly a possibility.  What keeps us up at night?  What has a hold over us impacting our mental health and coloring our world in shades of gray?  

If you think of stories of haunted houses, the spirit is often residing in the space in an effort to find closure from something in their physical lives.  It’s their own open-ended, unanswered questions causing their unrest.  Our lives today are filled with an overwhelming number of unanswered questions.  Uncertainty seems to be more the norm than the exception.  It’s causing many to isolate, increasing their stress and anxiety.

The events of our current world exponentially intensify the emotional and spiritual unrest felt for years.  The events join together, hand in hand, wreaking havoc on our ability to cope with the stresses of daily life.  Alcohol consumption since the start of the pandemic is up forty-six percent.  Calls to crisis lines have jumped at an alarming rate.  Layoffs and shutdowns have left many feeling hopeless and, in their own minds, left them with options but to take their own lives and end the suffering. 

 In the end, what are we looking for?  Are we looking for healing or resolution?  Are we working on developing our muscles of resilience to fend off the negativity?  During turbulent times, it’s important to find an anchor.  It may be a person, faith, a practice, or some other activity or belief where you can set down roots.  We never plant a tree without attaching stabilizing poles until it has anchored itself in the ground.  The same needs to be so for our emotional lives during times of intense stress.  We need places or people we can return to knowing the solace it/they provide.  Practices like this will allow us to be more adaptable during these uncertain times.   

For more visual prompts view other artwork on Instagram @drfiber

Seek

We’re a culture living for instant gratification.  We become frustrated, even angry, when we have to wait for a return text, email, or phone call.  We have created a culture of drive-thrus, next day delivery, and food where you just add water.  Have we lost our desire for inquiry?  Or have we created a culture whereby inquiry is an unnecessary step and therefore considered a waste of time.

Questions are interesting because they assert the notion, we don’t know something.  Revealing one’s ignorance to others may make one vulnerable, but in reality, those are the people who lead in growth, creativity, and expanded consciousness. The question is the road to innovation.  It’s the method by which we solve problems.  It’s an opportunity for our body, mind, and spirit to evolve and work toward alignment.

When we ask questions, we sit in a place of wonder.  We know intuitively there is more than meets the eye and we want to know what more is.  When we seek it means we need to roll up our sleeves and put in the work.  There is sweat equity, on the emotional and spiritual level, to living in a seeking mind.  One question doesn’t solve the mysteries of the universe.  One question is simply the gateway to the next question, so our journey is ongoing.

The famous song “On a Clear Day” says on a clear day you can see forever.  If that’s the case, is clarity the gateway to understanding?  If we unveil and pay attention to the learning opportunities placed before us, we have greater bandwidth to know, not only the world, but ourselves on a deeper level.   

What’s awaiting you?  Will you follow the carrot the universe is dangling before you?

For more prompts and artwork visit me on Instagram: @drfiber

Sad State of Affairs

History is filled with difficult times, harsh memories, and legacies we’re still facing today.  We see a world in turmoil and disarray.  Our hearts are constantly in a tug-o-war with our minds and we often have to ask ourselves difficult questions if we ever hope to achieve healing.

I never could have imagined we’d be facing multiple battles in our culture.  We have the challenges of race and the pandemic.  We’re facing death on small scales, individuals being killed by law enforcement, and death on large scales as a result of COVID-19.  We’re suffering losses every day and as a culture we don’t seem to be equipped to handle what’s being asked of us.

We’re a nation facing fatigue on the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual level.  Our assumptions are constantly being challenged and it feels like we’re being forced to make sacrifice on a daily basis.  Is sacrifice a terrible thing?

In medieval times the word sacrifice, from the same root for sacred, was a holy practice.  Individuals sacrificed as a means of offering devotion and compliance to a belief.  We sacrificed because it promoted community and fostered a sense of safety for the greater good.  It feels like today, we look at sacrifice as a punishment.  An action to restrict us from living and reinforcing the belief we’re all individuals with no or little responsibility for our fellow man/woman. 

What brought us to this place of conflict, violence, and hatred?  How are we able to justify what amounts to selfish behaviors as justification for our behavior?  Aren’t we in continuous conflict with our inner desire to live a good life and contribute to the welfare of the world?

It seems we do have a personal responsibility as citizens far reaching beyond the self.  Short-term sacrifice is not a punishment but a survival mechanism.  As humans we’re adaptable and it’s our adaptability that promotes our survival. 

See more collage and fiber artwork on Instagram: @drfiber

Can You Look at Me?

We watch television and see stunts, or mishaps and we wince because we feel the pain of the person’s misfortune.  We are acknowledging the entertainment factor of what we’re watching and don’t seek the further implications of the individual’s misfortune.

When we see someone struggling, do we wince?  Do we experience a visceral response to what we would/could interpret as suffering?  It might be a grimace, a tear running down someone’s cheek, or just a blank stare into the abyss.  What do we do when we encounter people in a state of despair?

It’s clear we’re uncomfortable with suffering.  We may have experienced it at some point in our lives, but to see it in others makes us ask difficult questions.  We are forced to ask, “Should I ignore what I see and walk by?”  or “Should I ask if there’s anything I can do?” or “What would I want/need from others if I’m currently suffering?”  When we come to the fork in the road with these challenging questions, what does the answer say about our capacity for validating the humanity of others?

I’ve spent my career serving underserved communities and those facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I’ve given people the news they have a life-threatening diagnosis and sat with them as they try and digest the information.  I’ve also been in the room when individuals have taken their last breath and continued to support the family and friends of the person who died.  

Over the years I’ve gone beyond my own professional training and turned inward.  I’ve asked myself if I treat everyone with dignity no matter the gifts or challenges in their lives.  I learned a lot from Buddhist teach Bernie Glassman about homelessness and the experience of not being seen.  I’ve made a practice, no matter where I am in the world, of looking people in the eye and acknowledging their personhood.  

It’s interesting how our attention if directed to view a car crash on the highway, and yet we look away from those in obvious pain.  If we were to sit with the pain of others, would the suicide rate in the United States be reduced?  Would the twenty-two veterans who take their lives every day have one more lifeline if they were truly seen?  

Connection is a life saving energy.  It punctuates our innate need for community.  We’re social creatures and denying our animal instincts puts us in peril. 

Feel Free

What would it feel like to release the heavy weight we carry daily?  The weight isn’t the physical weight of our bodies (although it’s possible some may feel that way) but the heaviness we experience given the current state-of-the-world in which we live.  It may not feel like you’re carrying a weight, but the shackles are there emotionally and spiritually, so what’s the plan?

There’s a lot of things on our plate and it is a burden.  Everyday seems like an uphill battle and some days we win and some we lose.  How is it even possible to experience joy in these uncertain and scary times?  It’s like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, you’ve had the power the entire time…it’s within you!

One of the amazing features of our brain is our ability to catalog memories and experiences as we go through life.  Some feel those memories are simply historical markers for a life lived.  I believe those memories are pathways to freedom.  The memories we carry are the instruction manual on how to live a good and peaceful life.  It doesn’t matter how old you, the older you are the more clues you’ll have, but you have clues and solutions.

If we go within and review the lessons we’ve learned, we’re able to capture moments of happiness, tenderness, and peace.  Our ability to proverbially, click our heals, and find a solution may seem simplistic, but who said finding joy had to be difficult?

As you go through the coming days, give yourself a moment to remember and reexperience joy.  Allow the lessons you’ve learned, the triumphs you’ve achieved, and the skills you’ve mastered be the roadmap to emotional and spiritual peace!

Don”t Hide Your Sadness

We’re living in difficult times socially, politically, economically, and spiritually.  I speak with many people and what I hear in one form or another is they feel like they are being dive bombed by stimuli thrown at us, mailed to us, yelled at us, and preached to us.  I can’t believe the rate of sadness and depression isn’t higher than reported.

All of this is superimposed on the factors, prior to the pandemic, like divorce, loss of jobs, moving, and other social experiences causing stress and sadness.  So why are we hiding our sadness or depression?  

It’s important to understand the difference between feeling depressed and being diagnosed with depression. We all experience feeling depressed because life isn’t perfect.  We’re up against challenges daily because life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.  We’re constantly in trial and error mode and believe it or not, sometimes we fail.

Depression is a diagnosis given by a mental health provider or sometimes a medical provider.  There are a host of criteria one must meet before receiving the diagnosis of depression.  Treatment for clinical depression may be different than feeling depressed but there may also be some similarities.  

Our emotional health, in these turbulent times, may be in constant flux.  We may be surprised at how far and how fast the emotional pendulum swings with or without any notice.  Humans are complex beings.  We are living lives which go beyond simply trying to survive.  We need social contact, a sense of meaning and purpose, along with basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter.  

If we hide our emotional being, we may believe we’re protecting ourselves from judgment.  We may believe we’re protecting others from the dark cloud hanging over our heads.  In fact, we’re not doing any of that, what we’re doing is blocking the natural outlet for emotional challenges.  We prevent ourselves and others from either receiving or offering care. 

Were the singing group The Carpenters right?  Do “Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get us Down?”  There are lots of things getting us down but teasing out the cause is a process.  Perhaps we need a mental health professional to guide our process.  We may need a spiritual director to help us unleash our personal demons.  There are support groups and crisis lines at our disposal to eliminate our isolation and terminal uniqueness.  

Look around, watch, and listen to others.  You’ll be surprised at the number of people walking around with a dark cloud following them around while putting on a smiling face.  We need to live our truth.  It’s important to get the help we need to live full lives.  Suicide rates are on the rise because there is too much stigma associated with mental health challenges and treatment.  

Ending the stigma and judgment about mental health, we should be celebrated the lives of those facing their challenges and showing us it’s possible to get through our dark times. 

Who’s Writing Your Narrative

We’re living in turbulent times.  Illness has been in the headlines for months on a global scale.  We are bombarded with numbers, on a daily basis, of the number infected and the number dead.  Media broadcasts the mass graves being dug in South America.  We also see forty-five hundred trumpet players who at the same time (in their own time zone) play taps in honor of all those who have died during these trying experiences.

How do you develop your story?  What influences you when it comes to stories you share, retell, or embellish?  How are you fairing with the massive influx of news stories, each outlet vying for your attention and support? If you are following television, journalists, and social media, you can’t avoid over-stimulation.  We’re targeted like kids in a classroom all raising their hands yelling “Pick me, Pick me”.

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Humans are sponges. From the time of our birth we absorb information in our environment.  We learn by experience.  We observe how others respond to situation and use that information to form our opinions and strategies for success.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Who is writing your narrative”.  An actor is given a script to follow.  They say the lines given to them.  It doesn’t matter their opinion in the real world, actors say what they’re told say. The narrative on screen is different than one’s narrative walking the streets.

The twelve-step programs have an important saying, “Take what you need and leave the rest”.    There’s a belief stressing quantity over quality.  The more information one has the better the decision or action; it’s not always true.  If we’re not selective in forming our own narratives, we deal with cognitive dissonance.  Have you ever played tug-o-war when you were a kid?  Imagine that tension and effort going on within your mind.

Critical thinking is a skillset slipping through our fingers.  We teach kids to pass a test.  We’ve become a society where the Pied Pipers lead groups.  Unfortunately, if you know anything about the Pied Piper, he led the rats off a pier to drown.  Now is the time for individuation.  We did it physically and developmentally as adolescents.  We learned to go out in the world and survive.

We’re living in a time when adaptability is more important than strength.  We’re being forced to sift through the smoke screens and find clarity.  Culturally, we’re working toward developing new strategies for peaceful resolution to conflict.

What does your narrative say about you?   How are you crafting the story you want to tell and want to live?  What impact does your narrative have on the world?

We Need New Heroes

Do you remember when comic books, cartoons, and television shows portrayed heroes as individuals who led dual lives.  They were meek and mild mannered by day, and crime fighters, social advocates, and heroes on the front page of all the papers.  Consumers of these superheroes were devotees.  They hoped Superman, Batman, and others were actually walking the streets.  The villains were easily distinguished by voice and costume.  They were the archrivals of the hero.

Times change and the villains we fight today look just like us.  We seem villains in print, television, and social media.  They incite division in culture, propagate falsehoods for their own benefit, and work to squash the voice of the everyday man and woman.  There aren’t any capes, shields, or superpowers to defend against this evil.  We have to utilize our voices, step-up our use of protests, and go to the ballot box to ward off evil.

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It seems we’re waiting to be saved.  We’ve been indoctrinated toward learned helplessness.  We look to the skies (literally and figuratively) hoping someone/thing will swoop down and save us, to no avail.  It’s time we redefined hero.

The current pandemic has given new meaning to hero.  We see first responders, in the face of danger and death, help those in need.  Healthcare workers, from providers, to the dietary and housekeeping departments, keep our hospitals running trying to save as many people as possible.

We’ve tapped a deep well of empathy.  Neighbors buying groceries and running errands for those elderly or infirmed.  Drive-by birthday parties and graduations.  Athletes at the top-of-their-game donating their time and effort raising money for the foodbanks.  Television personalities using their long reach to help those in industries hardest hit with layoffs and furloughs like the restaurant industry.

What does this tell us?  It tells us we have the ability, but not always the willingness.  Creating new classes of heroes provides a feeling of hope. It gives us role and goal models who show us what’s possible when we ban together for a common cause.  Artists are creating murals honoring healthcare workers.  Children are painting rocks and doing chalk art with words of encouragement.

A hero seems to be anyone and possibly everyone who is using their words for good.  They are catalysts for positive action.  Our modern-day heroes have emerged as keepers of kindness.  These new heroes may feel like prototypes because they have been activated in a crisis.  The true test of our new heroes will be when the crisis ends and how we treat each other going forward.

Where or how are you a hero in your world?  Who are the heroes who have left and imprint on your mind, your heart, and your soul?

Smashed

We like things whole.  Our eyes will even fill in gaps in images, so we experience what we’re viewing as whole.  When we smash something, we break it down. We take something and reduce it to individual segments.   Many smash things out of frustration, anger, or despair.  We smash a pie in someone’s face as an act of comedy.  When we think of smashing something, we picture the object being shattered.  We don’t often think about our thoughts or beliefs being smashed, but it happens all the time.  

How many of us walk through life believing we have a strong foundation of beliefs and values?  What does it take for you to realize what you thought was solid ground is actually a soft, pliable, and unstable structure? Living in a time of political, social, economic, and religious unrest why we feel we’re on solid ground is a mystery.

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The media is constantly feeding us images and stories they think we want to hear.  We’ve created institutions willing to forego truth just to shore up its beliefs.  Our values are constantly challenged as we face health, moral, and economic decline.  It’s not uncommon to ask oneself if one set of beliefs is on shaky ground, what else on my life is?

During times of crisis finding comfort in solidifying our belief system moves us toward peace of mind and conscious action.  If we’ve been acting without purpose, just following a crowd to fit in or be liked, then we have no foundation.  It’s time to shore up your beliefs.  It’s time to understand, make thoughtful choices while simultaneously finding ways to promote social equity and work for the common good.

It’s in unity where we find stability.  Continuous questioning, seeking, and learning shores up our toolbox allowing for stronger decision-making abilities.  We are all in this together.  Don’t you want those around you to put the same thought and consideration into decision-making as you do?

We’re Not All Fighting the Same War

There is a lot to be upset about these days.  Most people don’t feel their needs are being addressed.  The world is suffering with the loss of life, infection of many, first responders over worked, and in many cases economies frozen.  It’s scary and the unknown freaks us out, not a surprise.

However, let’s think back in history to fights or conflicts that plagued the country.  Slavery impacted many and the genetic trauma lingers.  Segregation is something we’re still facing.  In the past week I saw a story about an African American delivery guy being held by those representing a homeowners’ association of a white community.  How about the manager of an Olive Garden who was fired because a guest didn’t want a black server and the manager gave in to their request.

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Moving forward, our country has dealt with women’s rights.  Women make less than men doing the same jobs.  Women’s health and reproductive rights has the country torn apart, each side fighting it in the courts.  We’re the richest and most powerful country in the world, and yet, have never had a woman president, and the number of women in Congress is not representative of the population.

The haves and the have nots, those who have access to an education and those who don’t.  We’re facing food insecurity where 1 in 6 children is facing hunger.  Currently, foodbanks are finding ways to feed those most at risk and the numbers of families served has increased exponentially.

Yes, there is a war in our culture, but we’re not all fighting the same war.  What war/conflicts are you fighting in your life?