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In the Trenches

September 2016

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Approximately 908,000 British troops died during WWI with 2,000,000 being wounded. Nearly 1,300,000 French soldiers out of a population of twenty million French males of all ages, were killed in fighting with 4,200,000 being wounded. France and England would send wave after wave of troops charging against the entrenched German machine guns, only to have them mowed down in their thousands. In just the first hour of Battle of the Somme, the British lost more troops than the Americans did in all of D-Day; at Verdun, the French Army was lost in a deadly meat-grinder that took thousands of lives every day. It was mass slaughter on a scale that had never been seen before.

The appalling conditions that the average soldier experienced during the First World War are almost impossible for today’s drone warfare mentality to appreciate. Mud, filth, lice, death, rats, disease and landscapes of dead lying upon dead were the grotesque realities of the frontline, making everyday life unbearable. 

Few battles encapsulate WWI better than the Battle of Passchendaele. For the sake of only a a little more than a mile, at 6:00 AM, April 16, 1917, French General Robert Nivelle sent an army of 1.2 million men into a battle roughly 80 miles northeast of Paris that would be France’s go-for-broke gamble to end World War I. At least 30,000 were killed in the first 10 days. The result was catastrophic and as a result, the soldiers mutinied. They sat down in their trenches and flatly refused to carry out any more of the futile suicidal frontal assaults being ordered by their generals.

It is also from this battle that came Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

flanders
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.” 

Of course, being in the trenches in relative. Like morality, it depends on "where you are." I have known individuals who viewed simple events as life-ending catastrophes and others who used devastating events as monumental vehicles for growth and expansion. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that being in the trenches is being in the trenches. Relative or not, I would go further by stating that you don’t get to find out who you are or what you are made until you have been in the trenches. Big or small, real or unreal, to the individual, being in the trenches takes the individual to the limit. In the trenches is in the trenches. But it depends on "where you are."

In the Lou Reda Productions Vietnam war documentary, “Brothers in Arms,” the film depicts Charlie Company’s journey through the Mekong Delta that ended in January 1968. Charlie Company suffered 26 men killed and 105 wounded — an 82 percent casualty rate.

Near the film's end, John Young of Picayune, Mississippi, describes war in this way: “You can do something that's cruel and ugly, or something that's cruel yet uglier still. There's no good option to take. And I'd really rather not have anybody who hasn't been through something like that pass judgment on me. Don't be too sure about the decision you would have made. And don't be smug about your morality until you've had it tested.”

Being in the trenches in your life…and if you haven’t been there yet, you will…will take you to the limit of what you are capable of bearing, of what you are capable of tolerating, of what you are capable of understanding. It will take you to the edge of that place in you where the dark one, the cannibal, the shadow, dwells. It is at this point in your inner cosmos that transformation lies, transformation that is more often than not achieved through the journey of hardship.

Would you not be willing to consider that many of the soldiers who mutinied in WWI actually committed the most courageous act of their lives in the act of mutiny? Would you not be willing to consider that Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to salute the flag during the national anthem is actually one of the most patriotic acts he has ever committed? Would you be willing to name at least one situation in your life where it is time for you, too, to mutiny, to take a knee, to take a stand and say, “No more.”?

Remember, it’s relative. Your “trench” is just as difficult as Kaepernick’s trench. It’s just as scary as the soldier in WWI who mutinied. And if you are courageous enough to change your mind, move against the status quo in order to honor the inner cosmos and your heart’s desire, consider the following as you make your stand, feel the cold wind in your face, the buckling of your knees, and the isolating judgment of others:


  • 1. You are never given a problem that is greater than your ability to solve it.

  • 2. You are never alone. You are held in balance and safety each breath of your life.

  • 3. All problems are temporary. How long the problem lasts is mathematically proportional to how you are looking at it.

  • 4. In the DNA of all problems lies its opposite: growth, gain, personal power, transformation.

  • 5. The “trench” is something you have chosen as a vehicle to grow. There are no accidents. If you think it is an accident, then you don’t understand.

  • 6. Your outer world is a physical manifestation of your inner world. To change the outer, change the inner.

  • 7. How long you are in the trench is mathematically dependent upon your willingness to tolerate being there.

  • 8. Only you can deprive yourself of anything.

  • 9. The “trench” convinces you of what you want to perceive. (You’ll have to read that again to get it.)

  • 10. Your choice of how to deal with the “trench” is determined by what you value.


In a conversation with a colleague, we pondered the possibility that all human beings deal with PTSD because all human beings have been “in the trenches” before, the remnants and residue of which can affect us for a lifetime. That which is common and found everywhere simply cannot be unique and isolated. It can be understood and mastered.

Big or small, real or unreal, “in the trenches is in the trenches.”  It is “in the trenches” that you can find exactly what you need to change the outcome of your life experience, discover the nurturing depths of your inner power and create a safety in this world that lies beyond death, the limitations of the fearful mind, and the judgment of others.

What is your “trench” and when will you mutiny?

 

 

 

 

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There is No Need to Suffer

August 2016

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Rainbow_Over_MindSpring"Basically, the vast majority of men are like prisoners with all the doors and all the windows shut, so they suffocate (which is quite natural), but they have with them the key that opens the doors and the windows, and they don't use it... Certainly, there is a period when they don't know that they have the key, but even long after they do know it, long after they have been told, they hesitate to use it and doubt that it has the power to open the doors and windows, or even that it may be advisable to open them. And even once they feel that 'After all, it might be a good thing,' a fear pursues them: 'What is going to happen once all these doors and these windows open?... 'They become afraid – afraid of losing themselves in this light and in this freedom. They want to remain what they call 'themselves.' They love their falsehood and their slavery. Something in them loves it and remains clinging to it. They feel that without their limits, they would no longer exist. That is why the journey is so long, so difficult. For if one would truly consent no longer to be, everything would become so easy, so swift, so luminous, so joyous – though perhaps not in the way men conceive of joy and ease. At heart, there are very few beings who are not enamored of struggle. There are very few who would consent to having no darkness or who can conceive of light as anything other than the opposite of obscurity: 'Without shadow, there would be no painting. Without struggle, there would be no victory. Without suffering, there would be no joy.' That is what they think, and as long as they think like that, they are not yet born to the spirit."

Blanche Rachel Mirra Alfassa  was born in 1878 in Paris, France. She moved to India in 1920, becoming Sri Aurobindo's spiritual colloborator. She would be known as "The Mother."  The Mother's teachings over the last 30 years of her life were the basis of The Agenda, a 13 volume / 6,000 page journal that was recorded by Satprem, one of her disciples. She was an extraordinary human being whose life and work is relatively unknown in the United States.

The Mother's comments in the above quote speak to the treasure within by which a person can liberate themselves from suffering. But to get to the heart of the matter, what is the key to which The Mother refers?

It is important to understand that a person's behavior reveals the thought that produced the behavior. Understood correctly, your belief about something dictates your behavior before you ever take action. If a person is conservative, it can be predicted ahead of time what they are going to say. If a person is liberal, we know what they are going to say. The inner condition dictates the outer response Said another way,  your level of consciousness dictates what you see and how you act. This is the basis of your craziness...you keep playing out the same old patterns that have never gotten you where you want to be...unless, of course, you are choosing to be crazy. The light switch in the hallway turns on the light in the hallway, not the kitchen. Every single time...until you re-wire it.

Consciousness is like that. It "turns on" what it is conscious of and doesn't "turn on" anything of which it is not conscious. The level of consciousness with which you are experiencing the world is an aspect of your evolution. Your evolution is an aspect of your waking up. Your waking up is dependent upon your degree of awareness that what you're doing isn't working to the degree of satisfaction that you desire. Your awareness is dependent upon you willingness to become a student of your life.

So, let's see if we can re-wire one of those switches. In order to understand The Mother's statement,  "There are very few who would consent to having no darkness or who can conceive of light as anything other than the opposite of obscurity: 'Without shadow, there would be no painting. Without struggle, there would be no victory. Without suffering, there would be no joy.' That is what they think, and as long as they think like that, they are not yet born to the spirit," she is suggesting that joy is not the absence of suffering but that joy exists in spite of suffering, that joy resides beyond the realm of duality in which something can only be known by what it is not. All of us think like that! We believe that duality is the nature of life. But what if it's not? By the way, if you are seriously reading this and considering the implications of this question, you are doing something that few people will do over the course of a lifetime will ever do. Congratulations...you may be on your way to becoming a student of your life.

We'll see if we can make some progress with this understanding that joy resides beyond duality and that suffering is not necessary. Recall a scene in which you were suffering, hurting, sad or immersed in a negative emotion. Recall all of the pain and struggle in that moment. Now, back up about 10 feet and watch yourself going through the suffering. Just watch yourself as best you can without judging yourself. An now as you are watching yourself, allow yourself to feel joy watching yourself going through this experience. Feel immense compassion for yourself, for the part of you that feels threatened or discounted or afraid or whatever it is. Feel the joy and privilege of just being here as a human being, growing and evolving. Bless the moment. Bless the hardship that gives you the opportunity to grow and evolve. Bless yourself and embrace the circumstances. See that joy can exist as the container in which you play out every moment of your life, including the difficult ones. You can be just as addicted to being joyful as you can be to suffering. Suffering is not necessary. There is no need to suffer. If love is all there...and that's true...then why not act that way even in the middle of struggle?

The Mother's wisdom once again clarifies this situation. "To cling to something one believes that one knows, to cling to something that one feels, to cling to something that one loves, to cling to one’s habits, to cling to one’s so-called needs, to cling to the world as it is, it is that which binds you. You must undo all that, one thing after another. Undo all the ties. And it has been said thousands of times and people continue to do the same thing.... Even they who are most eloquent and preach that to others, do cling — they cling to their way of seeing, their way of feeling, their habit of progress, which seems for them the only one."

Now, go back to the scene in which you were (are) suffering. See yourself in the scene but now, let go of the suffering and struggle. It is what it is. Just handle it. Just do what needs to be done and give up the clinging to to the past, to what your mind says, to what your emotions are screaming, to the tension of what your body is sensing. Just do the best you can to let go and anchor in joy. Bring the joy into your mind as best you can and know that everything will work out, that suffering is extra and that it is time to let go of the struggle. To the best of your ability, just do what needs to be done and let go...as best you can. Take care of business but let go. Teach yourself that you are and have always been safe.

Now, I have a test question for you. Fill in the blank at the end of this test question.

Change your perception of your life in such a way that you see difficulty, setback, loss as preparation for _____?

The correct answer is joy, heaven, bliss, happiness, release, letting go, or whatever word is synonymous with joy. There is no need to suffer. It's OK to give it up. It's just stuff. It's intention is to serve the grandest part of you, that part of you that is unthreatenable, eternal and safe. Now, if you don't think that's true, then don't worry. Your mind will easily find something to prove that joy does not exist and that pain is the way of the world.

The Mother said, "Think less of yourself and your health. Surely you will become stronger. But if you are convinced that you have an illness, go to the hospital, surely there they will find one."

See in the difficulty what the eyes cannot see and what the ears cannot hear. Teach yourself to see and reside in the joy that is who you are and give up the need to suffer.Suffering is extra. There is no need to suffer. The key is letting go.

 

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Evolution and Revolution

August 2016

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To become conscious is the very meaning of evolution. To be clear, conscious evolution is not the same thing as self-awareness. Self-awareness, while a necessary and preliminary step, focuses on the many aspects of personality, mind, emotions and behavior. Consciousness is the rise above the "I" in your life and realizing how things really work...which by the way doesn't require the "I"  and does not require the need for revolution.


  • It doesn't require much skill of observation to look around and see that when conscious growth is not chosen, revolution will pave the way. Truth can be delayed but it will ultimately make its presence known whether it centers around civil rights, women's rights, voting rights, bathroom rights, healthcare, or your own personal growth. But if it is delayed long enough, then revolution is the vehicle by which change will take place. We see the unfolding of this process before our very eyes today in this country as political platforms are being dismantled at an accelerated pace.



  • But let's talk about your consciousness for a little bit. Notice that certain templates or patterns have made their presence known in your life...certain talents, unique issues that make up your "path," unexplained fears, addictions, and sometimes even exact circumstances that repeat themselves with precision, as if to confront you with the same, unresolved problems. It is as if the repetition of the process is trying to take the back of your head and force your eyes to see a certain letter in a certain word in a certain sentence in a certain paragraph on a certain page in a certain chapter in a certain book as if to say, "The answer is right here, Stupid!" Conscious growth and development can take time in order to locate the right letter.


These templates in your life's path are not accidental and will transfer from one life to the next as your evolution of consciousness progresses. If nothing else can motivate you, perhaps it can be that you don't want to have to go through this particular pain again and therefore, should be highly motivated to resolve it in this lifetime so that it does not have to be repeated. Or if you're not willing to choose it, then life will choose it for you and force you through the eye of the needle. Under these circumstances, choose the path of unconsciousness and let revolution force you to change. It works...but it hurts...and badly.

  • Consciousness is the point of your development when you will at last implicate yourself and force yourself  to see the importance of that one letter. Your path, once aimless and focused on survival, will take on a conscious and and more deliberate direction. The concentration of your mind will no longer be about acquiring "stuff," but acquiring an ever-increasing knowledge of your beautiful Self, the beautiful world in which you live and how Life really works.






  • I watched the movie "Everest" for the 5th time, the story of the 1996 disaster that left 8 people dead on Everest. Through the years, over 150 bodies remain on Everest. Beck Weathers, who survived the 1996 climb, found himself blinded by the combination of previous eye surgery and the ultra-violet rays on the climb. On two different instances, Weathers, along with Japanese climber Yasuko Namba, were found unconscious and appeared to be beyond saving. In both situations it was concluded that they were near death and it was decided to leave them behind. Both were left to die...twice. Namba did die. From his book, Left for Dead, Weathers said, "I woke up in the snow, opened my eyes, and directly in front of me was my ungloved right hand, which was clearly dead. It looked like a marble sculpture of a hand. I hit it on the ice and realized that so much of my tissue was dead, I wasn't feeling any pain. That had the marvelous effect of focusing my attention. I had an innate awareness that if the cavalry was going to come rescue me they would already have been there. If I didn't stand up, I realized, I was going to spend eternity on that spot."




  • Following a helicopter evacuation that hinged on the bravery of Nepalese Lt. Col. Madan Khatri Chhetri, Weathers' right arm was amputated halfway between the wrist and the elbow. His thumb and all four fingers on his left hand were removed, in addition to parts of both his feet. His nose was amputated and a new nose was grown on his forehead, which utilized tissue from his ear.






  • Why am I sharing this story with you? Because the conquest of Everest would be small for Beck Weathers compared to the conquest of daily life once he returned home. It took revolutionary events to put things into perspective for many who were part of that event. Such is the path. The path is not concealed in the obvious but in the footprints of invisible forces. For your conscious mind, the conquest of your greatest achievement is no greater than the ride to work in the morning... if it is done consciously. To your conscious mind, each moment is no less transformational than a lifetime of moments. Each moment contains the seed of awakening.



    • What has not been resolved in the past returns again and again until you consciously confront the old knot and figure out how to release yourself from the noose.  Just your desire to want to be released will be enough to stimulate the invisible forces that lie dormant inside you.







    • Evolution or revolution. As always, it's your choice.




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The Difficulty of Morality...and Trump

June 2016

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How often the mind is overcome and bogged down with its untethered addictions to the endless mental processes that overtake its deeper desire for clarity, logic and peace. It needs very little stimulus at all to launch into an aimless and petty argument about something that it knows nothing about...other than its own reaction and belief. Of course, the whole time, the mind believes that what comes out of it is an expression of truth and that its belief is in perfect alignment with that truth. But it isn't. But the mind doesn't know that. Perception is automatic and is taken for truth by the individual.

Morality doesn't go any further than the scope of the individual personality and enlightenment (or lack of). The higher up you go, the less you need or choose the mental limitations of the mind. The higher up you go, the less you need or choose morality as a position of clarity or reason. That's why the Dalai Lama isn't on the nightly talk shows. That's why so many others are.

A love of the sea doesn't endow you with the ability to navigate the oceans. A love of wood doesn't endow you with the ability to build a house. A passion for politics doesn't qualify you to be a politician. Your energy around what is right and wrong doesn't make you right...or wrong. But you better have some other skills and those skills need to be exact skills that allow you to accomplish what you truly desire. Morality is much like this. It is nothing more than a person's "inexactness" posed as "exactness." What is needed, however, is "exactness."

Morality is the imposition of one personality on another personality. It has nothing to do with truth. Because of this, morality is simply a reflection of a person's personality and the JBOPPPs (judgments, beliefs, opinions, perceptions, positions, and projections) that the individual practices. Of course, to the individual, it's the whole truth and nothing but the truth and God is on their side. Draped in the stars and stripes, the cry of patriotism sparks the war that once begun, cannot be reversed.

The earth is orbiting around the sun at 67,000 miles per second. The Hubble telescope estimates that there are over 100 billion galaxies. The Hubble also evaluates the expansion of the universe out to 45.5 miles per second per megaparsec. One megaparsec is equivalent to 3.26 million light-years. So, the distance between cosmic objects should double 9.8 billion years from now! Your outer layer of skin replaces itself every 35 days. Your liver regenerates every 6 weeks. Your stomach lining replaces itself every 4 days and the stomach cells that are used to digest food are replaced every 5 minutes. Your entire skeletal structure regenerates itself every 3 months.  Your brain replaces itself every two months.  And the entire human body is replaced every 5-7 years. There's a lot going on! And you think your version of morality, of what is right and wrong, matters? If you believe they do matter, I would suggest to you that you're not paying attention. But then, that's just a version of my JBOPPs! Do you get it? Do you see the trap?

So, in terms of morality, if you throw a crazy idea out there and people start supporting your crazy idea, you might start thinking that you're not so crazy after all. Certainly, how can you be crazy if so many agree with you? I mean, you're the one that had the brains to come up with it in the first place! How can hundreds of thousands of people be wrong if they all believe the same thing? But notice with absolute clarity that your version of morality necessarily involves someone other than you being wrong. Notice with absolute clarity that your version of morality allows them not only to be wrong but now, as a result, they can be vilified, disenfranchised, and harmed. And if you start finding that others agree with you, you, too, might start thinking that you're onto something. And so will your supporters.

Charles Manson wasn't the problem. The problem was there were those who supported him. The problem wasn't Hitler. The problem was that there were so many who supported him. Jim Jones was not the problem. The problem was that there were so many who supported him. Wall Street is not the problem. The problem is that there so many whose lives are ruled by money and power and will use whatever means necessary to get that money and power. The problem is not Trump...or Clinton. The problem is the political system that is supported by millions of people who keep voting into power the very people who corrupt the system.

You don't have to go very far (your own backyard) to find the hypocrisy of your personal morality and the injustices that are part of your morale landscape. ISIS is not nearly as much a threat to our country as Wall Street has proven it is. But Wall Street would not exist if millions didn't want what it offered. Again, the problem isn't Trump or Clinton.

The problem is you (me). Sanity in this country will one day prevail when enough individuals have established sanity in their own "countries" (lives). And that sanity will find its way into the physical world in which you live, regenerating your daily life, your work, and your relationships. The country will find its way out of this mess when you find your way out your own personal mess and not until then. If you have figured out that I am somehow trying to make you responsible for the well-being of this country, then you are correct. When you are willing to be bigger than your mind and get out of the right-wrong / morality business, you may well be on your way. Give it up and let it go because it doesn't work. Plain and simple. The difficulty with morality is that morality doesn't work. Trump is not the problem nor is he the answer. You are.

In the meantime, try to enjoy the show.

 

 

 

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One of Our Greatest Myths

May 2016

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Several weeks ago, I took my two twin almost four-years-old grandchildren fishing. I thought how wonderful it would be for them to catch a fish, reel it in on on their own, release the fish back in the water and marvel together at the incredible world in which we live, the beauty of the wind on the water and the magic of life itself.

They could have cared less. What they did care about was studying the worms in the container which took up the entire fishing trip. The universe in which they were completely mesmerized was no bigger than a cottage-cheese container. But that was all they needed to experience the awe of life compared to adults who have to go to the Caribbean or France, buy a new car or house or vacation in Disney World to experience the same thing.

From 0-7 years old, the longer a child can hold onto the "original experience," the better off that child will be. The original experience is a total sensory experience that can be seen on hundreds of youtube videos of small children experiencing something for the first time without the interference of judgment, belief, opinion, prejudice, projection or position; the taste of ice cream, a snowflake, seeing the ocean, being licked by a dog, a leaf falling, the smell of roses and on and on and on. In other words, it's not a mental experience; it's an experience beyond words! Worms can put the Disney into the world.

However, it is not long before most children (about 8/10) will move away from the original experience at a very early age and into a mental experience of the event. The reason why is because 0-7 years of age is dominated by the mind's need to survive. The majority of children (about 8/10) face situations that activate very early in their life the need to survive, as they are born into negative parental and environmental circumstances that dominate their sensory experiences and activate their mind's need to survive. It doesn't take long before the "original experience" is replaced by the mind's version of the experience...which is something quite different. The "words of babes" is replaced by the cleaver, rebellious, manipulative child.

In addition, from 0-7 years of age, we are all given training around what is important, the values that make up living a good life and how we are to behave. Telling the truth is one of one of those values that is expressed in many cultures. Telling the truth is essential, we are told. You must be honest. You must tell the truth.

Children see accurately and learn quickly the hypocrisy behind this teaching. Children experience the downside of telling the truth: being punished. When they tell the truth at school, they are punished. When they tell their parents the truth, they are punished. When they tell the truth in court, they are sentenced. But I thought I was supposed to tell the truth, they say. They begin to see what adults do to avoid being punished: don't tell the truth because it's not worth it. So, children adopt the same strategy: lie. Why should I tell the truth when every time I do, I experience pain and suffering. It's absurd! The policeman says, "Tell me the truth so I can go ahead and put you in jail and save us both a lot of time. Make it easier on yourself." What do you expect is going to happen? Of course they are going to lie!

Lying is linked, as far as the mind is concerned, to survival and surviving is the #1 mandate of the young mind. The poster-child, grown-up version of the adaptive child is best personified by the politician. Being a politician and being a liar are synonymous. Truth and politics don't mix. They should. But they don't. In fact, we already know they are going to lie.

Years ago when I was still teaching in the classroom, we had an important field trip in which a major incident occurred. I was unaware of the incident until the following day when we were home from the field trip. I was on the telephone with a Principal from another district and I explained, "That would be impossible for it to have been any of my students because my students would never have done that." He described the main student precisely and once again, I stood my ground.

As I walked out of the office towards my classroom, the exact description of the 17 year old culprit that was just given to me on the telephone was coming towards me from the other direction. Oh no, I said to myself, this can't true. As we approached one another, we stopped to speak, "Gerald, I have to ask you something. Did you ____?"

He paused and said, "Yes, Sir, I did."

I suggested that we would get together later to figure out what to do, backtracked to the office, called the Principal and explained that I had spoken to the young man who, along with others, were the ones involved in the wrong-doing.

I deeply respected this young man for his immediate ability to tell the truth and it would be young people just like Gerald who would teach me time and time again that people do not need to be punished to be held accountable, that when treated with respect and dignity, eight out of ten people will rise to the occasion, meet their responsibilities and move forward. Gerald and many other young people would teach me that great leaders teach and lesser leaders punish. Great teachers teach and reveal. Lesser teachers abuse their power and punish. The least talented parents punish. The most talented parents teach. It takes no talent to punish. It takes great skill and patience to teach.

People lie because of the perceived, imminent threat to their survival. The mind invents an extraordinary number of irrational beliefs to justify the punishment that promotes the very lying they punish. "People get what they deserve, you made your bed, now, sleep in it, you should have thought about it before you did it, etc."

Telling the truth is one of the greatest myths we practice because of its predictable link to pain and suffering. Most people insist on others telling the truth so they can justify their own version of punishment, revenge and justice. But what if we could change this, particularly with children? We would change the world...theirs and ours.

So, very soon with someone close to you, circumstances will dictate the need for someone to tell the truth to you. Make your mistakes on the side of love, not punishment. Be remembered by your love, compassion and forgiveness. Help them change their world...and yours.

 

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