Saturday, November 28, 2015

Fear and Response – Paris and Anything Else

I received a lot of comments from readers last week [Msg-3-Nov-2015; Fear and Response After Paris]. With her permission I want to repeat an email conversation between a reader and myself:
I have given this much thought.  I actually physically feel the pain that is going on in this world...not just in other countries, but here as well.  There are gangs and violence.  There is hunger and homelessness…. There was a time when you could actually pick up a hitch hiker. That is no longer a safe thing to do.  It's not about fear, it's about intelligence.
I would love to open my home to a family that is homeless.  And I did at one time.  I was robbed and taken to school!...
As far as the immigrants....How do we turn our backs on them?  And yes it is true that not all of them are bad.  But what if just 1% of them are terrorists?  Can we open the door to 5000 terrorists and bring that danger to our children and grandchildren.  It seems an easy decision to help others, until you personalize it.  Would you not stand and fight someone who was trying to harm your grandchildren?  I know I would. 
Yes it is very unfair to the 495,000 that are not terrorists. But we must protect our families and that is one hell of a gamble.
I agree that violence is not the answer, but when someone is holding a gun to my grandchild's head, I will definitely respond by shooting them and saving my grandchild.  This isn't about anger and fear, it is about love and protecting ones that you love.
There are people in this world....LOTS AND LOTS of people in this world who have been brainwashed into wanting to kill us.  You cannot ignore this and think you can just love that person enough to get him/her to put down their gun and not kill your grandchild.
And the thing that is so sad about all of this, is that they are doing it in the name of religion.  They believe they are following God's plan.   And just like any religious zealot [including those in the U.S.], you cannot convince them that their beliefs are wrong.
I think we all have the responsibility to share love and understanding.  To give love completely and unconditionally.  But that doesn't mean that we should love the person who enters the theater and starts shooting.  It means we should love all of the others in that theater and stop that one violent person.
Yes love is the answer.  But protecting those you love is also love.  Lock your doors at night.  Don't pick up hitch hikers.   As far as solving the world's problems...I wish I had the answer.  But unfortunately I do not.  I give and share love, but I also try to make informed decisions that will insure my safety and that of others that I can help.
Dear _______: Thank you for your comments….
I am constantly reminded of the ACIM axiom that states every thought and action I take is either increasing love or fear. However, I live in this 3-D world of separation and dualism. Although I believe I am an already-loved eternal spirit having a human experience, I still drive on the right side of the center-line of the highway - and hope that the car approaching me does the same. I still contain my anger when I see unfair and unjust occurrences in this world. I do not go and throw bombs or bricks at a judge who allowed some minor legal technicality to let some guilty person walk free or to refuse to hear evidence indicating someone has been wrongly imprisoned. I try to manage my money and live within my means. I always find I have enough to allow me to share. And I try to ask the Holy Spirit to guide me to be able to look on anger and fear as a call for love. I ask Him to help me in what to say, or not. I still need to do a lot of work on myself with that.
To me responding to ISIL/ISIS and responding to the refugee situation are two different things. The political response on the Right and the Hawkish Left gloms the 2 issues together. I want to keep them separate. I also am trying to raise everyone’s consciousness to the blatant self-serving fear mongering that serves to distort my perception of reality - and maybe yours as well.
The Paris terrorists were not Syrians. They are French and Belgian citizens. In 1935-40 we refused and threw out thousands of Jewish refugees from the growing menace of Nazi Germany. We were afraid they might be communists or fascists. They were sent back to Germany, where boxcars waited for them. We know what happened.
Anything I can do to prevent a recurrence of that kind of phobic reaction I want to do. Yet, this too is a form of fear.
Something else to think about: 23,092 – The number of Syrian refugees the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has interviewed, checked, and referred to the U.S. Refugees Admission Program. 7,014 – The number of Syrians the Department of Homeland Security has interviewed since FY 2011. 2,034 – The number of Syrian refugees who have been admitted since FY 2011. 0 – The number of Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. that have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges.
The process From UNHCR to admission to the U.S. is 18-24 months. So, in reality, we are vetting and admitting only 10% of the UN’s prior vetting.
Blessings, Don
I appreciate your comments, but would like to clarify mine thoughts were not directed to just the Paris attacks.  My thoughts and pain for this world is about those who bring evil into the world and make it such an unsafe place that they leave us with the terrible decisions to make about trying to be safe.  I reiterate, this is not about fear, it is about love and making intelligent decisions to protect ourselves and others.
I too am a spiritual being having a human experience.  And I believe we are all where we are meant to be.  I also believe that I should use my faith and love and strength to stand up and protect those that I can, even at great personal cost.
Fear is fear – whether or not I can justify it. My personal fears are the most difficult issues for me to recognize and “own.” When I think of texting drivers, distracted drivers, or drunk drivers, I would be forced to never let my grandsons into a car, where the statistical odds of being hurt or maimed or killed are greater than those of being attacked by terrorists or a “Sandy Hook” shooter. When I am trying to protect or prevent, I am in fear. I agree with you that sometimes in this 3-D world that is appropriate. Regardless, however, I need to be aware of what I’m doing and why. I will never be rid of all my fears. That is not my spiritual goal – it is, however, the spiritual target that I aim for. The only way I know how to keep my eye on that target is to be conscious of the fear swirling around me and inside me.
I am slowly (and I emphasize “slowly”) beginning to understand how important it is for me to simply allow myself to quiet my mind. I used to try to meditate while trying to understand that the fear/response motivating ISIS/ISIL for example, is the same fear/response that is motivating biblical fundamentalists or white supremacists or anti-abortionists or me. It’s a fear that has attached itself to some form of religious principle or to a form of being “right” and appears to provide people a little solace. If I could just believe that thought fully enough, it would provide me some peace. All it ever did was put me at war with myself, which is not very peaceful.
Just being quiet and letting the fear – and everything else (including my sense of being “right”) – go has offered me more little slices of peace and serenity than anything else I have found. In essence, that is what the Course in Miracles calls for me to do. Just be still and observe my thoughts with no investment in them. There’s an old West Texas adage: “You can’t stop bad thoughts from entering your head, but you can stop pulling out an extra chair and inviting them to sit and visit.”
But that is so hard for me to do sometimes! I’m glad I’m only a work in progress – striving for spiritual progress not spiritual perfection.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Blessings to each of you as you wrestle with this.

#4 Nov 2015

Copyright 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fear and Response After Paris

 Do you remember the hysteria surrounding Ebola? – The political Right calling for closing airports and air flights, denying entry to all from Africa, quarantining anyone who might have been suspected – even though the NIH was assuring us all was medically under control? Of course the epidemic was properly contained. So, a week later, where was the apology from those pundits that were certain that the epidemic was going to sweep through the U.S.? Where was the embarrassment from those “experts” that all their fear mongering and inducement of panic was for naught? After all, they got on TV. They got on talk radio. They cast Obama in a bad light for a couple of days. They influenced what was highlighted in political “Talking Point” memos. That’s all they wanted. No apology. No embarrassment. No sense of responsibility for scaring most of us half out of our wits. Use the political moment. Manipulate it. Drop it when it’s over. Wait for the next opportune “crisis.” That seems to be the pattern – both on the Right and the Left.
Today the House passed a bill stopping the immigration of Syrian refugees. I remember several times when, following a mass shooting and calls for gun safety legislation, lawmakers would say, “Even though the public is horrified, let’s wait a while. We shouldn’t act in haste and in the spur of the moment.” Why isn’t this treated the same way? Other than quick political capital, I have no idea.
I am trying to keep that recent Ebola episode of false panic and knee-jerk political response in mind as the tragedy in Paris unfolds.
The following is an article written by Rabbi Michael Lerner I received in an email Thursday (11/19). [Copyright © 2015 Network of Spiritual Progressives®. Rabbi Michael Lerner, 2342 Shattuck Avenue, #1200, Berkeley, CA 94704]. I am still out of town. Although I hadn’t planned on sending a message this week, it is too important not to. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all Lerner’s suggestions, I am quoting extensively from his article. Go to their website [] and subscribe to their emails and magazine. It always provides good and thoughtful information.
Try to remember, if you find yourself in an argument about any of this, always ask the Holy Spirit to guide your response – what to say, what not to say, or if you need to say anything at all. Then quiet your mind and listen for His whispers. The loud voices you hear are those of your own ego.
I have seen on social media and heard from friends the depth of fear that is permeating our society since the attacks in Paris. Seeing and hearing the stories of Parisians who were impacted by the attacks is bringing the violence home in a way that is similar to 9-11. The media is bringing the lives and sorrows of Parisians into our homes with interviews, photos and stories of their lives. This pierces the veil of security and safety in ways that the children washing up on the shores of Europe, starving children around the world and bodies in Beirut did not do. When our government is sending drones into communities, dropping bombs in far away lands, and supporting economic policies and sanctions that create daily suffering and death around the globe, it does not pierce our sense of safety because we can easily (and even realistically) tell ourselves this will not happen to us. We will not be the target of a drone strike or a U.S. bomb and we fail to see the connection between U.S. economic policies on the daily suffering around us as clearly as an attack of the magnitude we saw in Paris.  It is as if you can imagine, as one friend said, “Coming soon to a café or theater near you.” 
So what do we do? How do we respond? Can we really be safe in a world in which violence seems to be the only response to violence? And if so, how? What would you do if someone entered a theater and started shooting? (I want to acknowledge that the likelihood of being killed by a young white man at a school or in a movie theater, or by a drunk driver or in a random car accident, or, if you are African American by a police officer is far greater than the likelihood of being killed by Daesh [ISIL/ISIS] and yet at this particular moment, that is what is most terrifying.)
I want to explore what underlies this fear, how the Right (and even the hawks on the Left) capitalize on this fear to push their pro-war, pro-weapons agenda and how we might respond in the face of knowing that ultimately there is no way to protect ourselves from random acts of violence anymore then there is a way to protect ourselves from random accidents.
When tragedies like Paris (I am focusing on Paris, not to minimize the tragedies in Beirut, Syria, Iraq, Kenya, but instead as an acknowledgement that it wasn’t until the attacks in Paris, or attacks in the U.S., that the veil of safety was shattered) happen, we feel horrified, terrified and often enraged. One of the reasons it impacts us more powerfully than the other places I mentioned above is because many of us could imagine us sitting in a café or being at a concert in Paris (or we can easily imagine that if it can happen in Paris, it can happen in our own backyard). And so we, understandably, get very scared and we want to know what we can do to protect ourselves and be safe.
What is being triggered is our own sense of vulnerability and powerlessness. We all have a desire to have some say and power over our lives and our destiny, over how we will live and die.  What happened in Paris, in some profound way, got under our skin so to speak and powerfully and violently reminded us of how very fragile and vulnerable we really are.… And when that happens, we have to confront our fear, our impotence, our vulnerability and ultimately our powerlessness.
How do we do that? Naturally we respond by wanting to lash out, to defend, to create safety for ourselves, to try to figure out how we could be safe if, God forbid, a shooting or a suicide bomber came to a theater or café near us.… This fear permeates us at a cellular level. It is a natural and primal response to terror.
And the Right and hawks on the Left are capitalizing on that fear, by rallying for more weapons, more bombs, more destruction, and ultimately more war…. I have to ask, do they really believe that more bombs will build a safer world? They’ve been dropping bombs for years and still the world is not safe. And the double standard, while not surprising, is disturbing nonetheless. When France, the U.S. and Western countries kill hundreds of innocent people that is not terror, but when Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) kills innocent people it is terror. And yet, that dichotomy is easily picked-up by the warmongers in the West and manipulated to buttress their calls for perpetual war. [That dichotomy is also used by ISIL to recruit more terrorists. We want to react by distrusting any and all Muslims. So, ISIL tells potential recruits, “See, the western infidels think of Muslims as second-class people. Marginal. Expendable.” - DLO]
This is the case even though we know that violence and attacks only lead to more weapons, more bombs, and more destruction, bringing the devastation and destruction coming closer and closer to home. The hawks quickly respond with answers (we will crush them eventually, they cannot out fight us) but their answers are empty of a real solution. But what they do very well and effectively is speak to and address the real fear that lives within us. That helps, on some level, to make (some of) us feel better and that is the draw and strength of their short-sighted, short-term responses. But what they ignore are the long-term needs and strategies that can actually address the underlying problems and begin to truly undermine and dismantle terrorist groups around the globe.
When you try to make this argument, they often respond that we have to address the immediate threat and then we can address the long-term, underlying problems. Yet we know that they never actually move beyond the short-term solution because it sucks our resources and energy and because most of them do not believe that we have contributed to the underlying problems that would explain these acts of terror.
And, at the same time, we have to acknowledge that there is still this burning desire to think we can do something, anything to protect ourselves. We need to acknowledge and respond to this need to have a sense of power over our lives, to be able to create the world we want, and to be safe.
But what if more wars and more weapons are not the answer? … What if the wake-up call of these kinds of acts are to help us see that the only real response (once we recognize the existential crisis of being alive, being vulnerable, not knowing if we will live or die today and try to find some acceptance and peace with that while we go about living our lives and perhaps in remembering our vulnerability we choose to live our lives more fully, love more unconditionally, and be more generous and kind) is to build a movement and take back our country and our world. Perhaps this moment is a call to action – not to create a false sense of safety or security or to turn more inward – for ordinary people to rise-up and lead because our leaders are failing us. They continue to promote and use the same strategies of violence, weapons and war to try to bomb the world to peace and impose global capitalism around the globe. And yet we know this strategy and approach has not worked for thousands of years and it will not work now.…
This is our power. Decades ago enough mothers got outraged enough about their children dying in car accidents by drunk drivers that they created Mothers Against Drunk Driving….  It is time for the mother bears of the world to rise (and for the papa bears to join us) and say “enough is enough.” We will not be safe until everyone on the planet is safe. Until all lives are valued. Until everyone has the resources they need to live peacefully, securely, eat healthy food, have drinking water, education, functioning communities, healthcare, etc. We need to stand-up in a loving, compassionate, powerful and nonviolent collective way and demand that our leaders do what is needed to build a safer world for ourselves and everyone else on the planet and to make it clear that more weapons and more violence is not the path. I don’t think we can actually figure out how to protect ourselves if some determined person (or people) with weapons that are often manufactured by U.S. companies (43 of the 100 largest weapons producers are U.S. companies, including 8 of the top 10 and the 3 largest) end up being used to wreck terror and havoc in a theater or café near us, but we do have the power to build a massive movement to demand a change in our policies and approaches.  And when our pain and fear are strong and powerful enough, we will mobilize because we will realize we have no choice. I hope that time comes sooner rather than later.
If you feel that way now, and want to be part of the solution to actually building a safer world, then how about joining the Network of Spiritual Progressives and help promote our Global Marshall Plan and Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and help us recruit hundreds of thousands of people so we can mobilize people to take to the streets in massive nonviolent civil disobedience demanding that those who support continued wars and those who support weapons industries either withdraw their support or we will vote them out of office. This is a crucial moment in history. Let’s capitalize on it ourselves rather than leave it to the warmongers to do so because we know what will happen if they do. With a massive movement, we can turn to the light and away from the darkness but to do so will require each and everyone of us to get out of our offices, our houses, our schools, our communities and even our comfort zones and take to the streets.
What do you say?
Copyright © 2015 Network of Spiritual Progressives®.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
2342 Shattuck Avenue, #1200

Berkeley, CA 94704

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Un-Asked-For Advice

I have to go out of town for a while, so there will be no message the week prior to Thanksgiving. As well, this message will be a tad early.
I was reminded at my last AA meeting, as well as from a message I received from Michael Z [], of an axiom I have come to believe in my experience: “Un-asked-for advice is always seen as criticism.” I think I believe virtually all I do and say is imbued with the highest and best loving intentions. What a fictional story it is I tell myself!
Way down deep inside I know that I offer advice because I really believe I can dispense wisdom. It sounds wonderful, when confronted by an angry, hurt, and disappointed recipient of my un-asked-for advice, to say, “I regret you were upset at my attempt to help. My intentions arose out of love.”
Un-asked-for advice is seen as criticism because it is a criticism.
I began seeing the true wisdom of this as I was presented with my first grandson. “What do you do around your infant grandchildren?” I asked several respected couples who had been grandparents for a long time. Their answer? “Don’t offer any suggestions or assistance until you are asked. And, if you are asked, don’t answer in terms of books or articles you’ve read – answer in terms of your personal experience (good or bad) as a parent.”
That was wonderful, ASKED-FOR advice. I haven’t been asked a lot of questions from my children about raising my grandsons. It’s hard to be quiet sometimes. I often feel like a small second-grader that knows the answer, is waving my hand and is squirming in my desk wanting to be recognized and called upon. But the teacher calls on someone else. Damn!
There are two significant pieces to the message here:
1) Asked-For Advice is a conscious call for help or assistance or guidance. It is a precious commodity. Many of us have difficulty in asking for help. We believe it is an indication of weakness and vulnerability. I believe the universe responds to us in a manner that reflects how we respond to the universe. If I give grudgingly to the universe, it will give grudgingly to me. My prosperity is like a coin: One side is giving while the other is receiving. I have always been taught to be a cheerful and generous giver. However, I have very little instruction on how to ask for help – how to receive. “Don’t hang out the family’s dirty linen for all the neighbors to see.” “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” “If you can’t do it yourself, don’t do it.” These are the words I heard – and actions I saw – from my siblings, parents and extended family.
For me, personally, this smacked of dishonesty. If I needed help I ought to say so – not pretend all is well. I learned to ask for help when I finally hit my alcoholic bottom. That was also when I began learning how to be a human being – a journey I am still on.
2) When asked, give your advice from your own personal experience grown from issues you have wrestled with and resolved – for good or ill – that are as similar as possible to the one you are responding to. Book knowledge can teach me things, but it is not experience. We share our experience, strength and hope in 12-Step meetings. I don’t simply just share my “knowledge” of the Big Book or any other relevant reference unless it helped me through my situation, which I perceive is similar to the one asked about. If I don’t have any similar experience I say so. I offer a willing and attentive ear to help them process what they’re going through. Then I promise, respecting their anonymity and getting their okay, to enquire as to someone who may be more able to help than I.
I don’t offer advice unless asked.
I’ll talk to you after Thanksgiving. Enjoy a wonderful time of gratitude, love and acceptance.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#2 Nov 2015

Copyright 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fear, Hate and Politics, Part 2

I received a lot of email traffic concerning last week’s message [Msg-5-Oct-2015; Fear, Hate and Politics] – quite a few saying “Hurrah!” and quite a few indicating how disappointed in me they were. Several days later, at our weekly ACIM study group, we read from Chapter 24, “The Goal of Specialness.” Specifically, we were reading from Section IV – “Specialness versus Sinlessness.”
Last week’s message and the email comments I had received were still fresh in my mind. That entire study session’s readings, plus the comments from all the attendees, just stabbed me in my heart.
From 24-IV, paragraph one (sentences 1-7), from paragraph 4 (sentences 1-4), and from paragraph 5 (sentence 2):
“1:1-7: Specialness is a lack of trust in anyone except yourself. Faith is invested in yourself alone. Everything else becomes your enemy; feared and attacked, deadly and dangerous, hated and worthy only of destruction. Whatever gentleness it offers is but deception, but its hate is real. In danger of destruction it must kill, and you are drawn to it to kill it first. And such is guilt’s attraction. Here is death enthroned as savior; crucifixion is now redemption, and salvation can only mean destruction of the world except yourself.”
“4:1-4: Earlier I said consider not the means by which salvation is attained, nor how to reach it. But do consider, and consider well, whether it is your wish that you might see your brother sinless. To specialness the answer must be ‘no.’ A sinless brother is its enemy, while sin, if it were possible, would be its friend.”
“5:2: Only this is certain in this shifting world that has no meaning in reality: When peace is not with you entirely, and when you suffer pain of any kind, you have beheld some sin within your brother, and have rejoiced at what you thought was there.”
And there I was: “Rejoicing” with all who wrote “Hurrah!” Mentally condemning all who wrote otherwise, as simply not understanding what I was trying to communicate: namely, condemning those who willfully fostered hate, anger and fear for there own political purposes.
Yet, here I had been, on the high horse of Felix (my ego), doing exactly the same thing. I was no different than those who I was enjoying hating. I had been assuming I was spiritually right and correct, all those who disagreed were mistaken and wrong.
Bless Felix’s pea-pickin’ heart. He had gotten the best of me – yet once again.
My concluding remarks in last week’s message can be repeated here – in a wholly different context: ACIM teaches me that all my thoughts can be distilled to being either of Fear or Love. No exceptions! It also proclaims that Fear is the opposite of Love. I must always steel myself to pause and think about where my fears are coming from. When I do this, I inevitably understand that my fear is always coming only from between my ears. I can learn to control that with the help of the Holy Spirit. All I have to do is earnestly ask for His help in seeing another way to look at situations or people.
That’s hard for me at times because I love hating haters. God smiles and shakes His head – I’m still a work in progress.
I’m very grateful to all who wrote about how disappointed you were. Your comments enabled the Holy Spirit to prick my heart and allow me to witness the truth that Felix was proclaiming. It allowed me to see – pretty quickly – what I had done to me. Although I had written honestly from Felix’s point of view, I had lost sight of the fact I no longer enjoyed a sense of peace. I was in a state of righteous anger – please emphasize “anger;” other than providing some egoic justification, “righteous” has nothing to do with it.
Again, thank you.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 Nov 2015

Copyright 2015