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How Writing Can Improve Your Mental & Physical Health

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The benefits of writing extend beyond the way it creatively engages the intellect. Writing can be an emotionally rewarding way of letting go of pent up stress and sorrow. It’s good to control and override stressful emotional impulses but it serves no benefit if we keep them inside of us.  Exercise or talking to loved ones about how you feel can help in this regard, but you may find yourself in a situation where you might not have a voice to hear you or you prefer to keep how you feel to yourself but still need a way to release your emotions. Writing in this case can be very helpful.

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Writing helps you enter a flow state in which all the built up emotions rush out of your heart and mind and onto the paper. When you write vividly and honestly about your experiences and how you feel, a gradual collection of emotional experiences will be documented throughout your life. Looking back at the journal, you will be able to see patterns of how certain emotional conflicts arise, giving you insight into the source and nature of your malfunctions, and the environment you are putting yourself in that is increasing those conflicts. You’ll be in a position to make a better decision about whether certain behavior patterns are serving you or not, as well as determine which people and things are causing those problems in your life.

I call this process a wisdom journal because, looking back on your writings, you will have a more thorough understanding and appreciation for who you have become as a result of your past toils and hiccups. This journal will document the gradual strengthening of your mind and the evolutionary process of who you have become.

This will only work if you are honest about yourself and you truly document your contributions to the scenarios that made you feel a certain way. Your mistakes are all a part of the process of becoming a better person so it is important to document the mistake and the overall lesson learned from it. This is a very personal documentation of your journey, so if you are worried about other people finding and reading it, you can write it in a way that only you can understand, using metaphors and language that would appear vague to others but trigger crystal clear memories within you.

The physical and mental health benefits of writing include long-term reductions in stress levels and depressive symptoms. A 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing a day was enough to make a difference in the overall stress levels of participants.

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Participants were less likely to have illnesses and less likely to experience trauma as a result of writing about traumatic, emotional, and stressful events. Less time was spent in the hospital along with a drop in blood pressure and liver functionality.

Remarkably, another study suggests that writing can help physical wounds heal faster. In 2013, New Zealand researchers monitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. For 3 days the participants wrote about upsetting events or daily activities for 20 minutes each day. After two weeks (researchers wanted to wait to make sure any initial negative feelings stirred up by recalling upsetting events had passed), all the subjects had a biopsy on the arm and then their healing was tracked over the subsequent twenty one days. 11 days after the procedure, 76% of the group that chose to write were healed completely while 58% of the control group had not yet recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped the participants come to terms with the events, therefore reducing distress.

People who suffer from a long term disease or illness can benefit from writing. Studies have revealed that people who suffer from asthma have fewer attacks if they keep a journal of how they are feeling compared to those who don’t. AIDS patients who write have been proven to show higher T-cell counts because they are under less stress. Cancer patients who write are less affected by stress and depression and have an improved quality of life because they are more optimistic.

James W. Pennebaker has been conducting research on the healing nature of writing for several years at the University of Texas at Austin. “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health. They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.”

Pennebaker suggests that the act of expressive writing enables one to take a step back and more objectively analyze their life. Rather than obsess over a life event in an unhealthy manner, one can focus on moving forward. Moving forward with less anxiety about the future reduces stress; it removes the blockage that is holding one back from being happier.

It seems like writing can be akin to exercise, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Our emotional well-being is just as important as our physical well-being and writing is a great way to keep ourselves emotionally fit. Thoughts and emotions are like little life forms in our body. They want to live as long as possible and run the show. When we write, we are getting those thoughts and emotions out of our body and into the zoo. Our journals are the zoo of experiences that make us who we are.

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Consciousness

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 8: The Apple Tree)

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The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.

From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.

Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.

‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”

8. The Apple Tree

Every autumn the same argument between the two orchard owners rang through the valley on the island of Allandon. Both claimed rights to the fruits of an apple tree whose roots laid on one’s land but whose trunk leaned drastically into the other’s property. They made their case to a seed planter who worked for both of them.

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“It is on my property that the tree is rooted in the ground,” said the one. “Clearly the fruits belong to me. Is it not so?”

“He is free to pick all the apples he wants,” replied the other, “as long as he keeps his two feet on his land.”

“You know that is not possible. The tree leans over your property.”

“And so the tree, by its growth, has decided that I should have its fruit. What do you say, planter?”

“Come with me,” the seed planter said. He led them up the great mountain in the center of the island, keeping quiet as they continued to bicker. When they reached a lookout point near the top of the mountain, the seed planter spoke to them.

“Now look out onto your vast properties,” he said. “Where is the apple tree?”

“I can’t make out the tree from here,” said the one.

“It’s too small,” echoed the other.

“Exactly,” the seed planter said. “Now perhaps we can talk about this dispute.”

Einstein once said that problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them. And yet in our lives we continue to try to do just that: whenever we see something showing up in the world that doesn’t suit us, we immediately try to change the world until it conforms to how we think it should be. But the problem itself does not originate in the outer world—it originates in our inner world where we first interpreted a thing or event as a ‘problem’. Even if we are successful in changing the external world to our liking at a given moment, it will not be long before the same ‘problem’ arises in a different form. This is like the arcade game where you hammer a mole back into its hole and another mole immediately pops up from a different hole ad infinitum. Instead of rushing to change the outer world, lasting solutions to our problems come from our ability to change our inner world by shifting to a higher level of consciousness.

This is not to say that we should never act in the world. It means that it is helpful to step back to take a better look at these ‘problems’ rather than reacting to them. In a society that still puts a premium on doing, the shift we are looking for brings into balance our propensity to act with our ability to reflect. For in reflection our problems can be re-viewed as opportunities, and the actions we take can become the product of choice rather than compulsion, if in fact we conclude that we need to act at all.

All so-called problems are rooted in the limited vision of our Ego Self. Since the Ego Self makes us feel alone, vulnerable, and separate from the abundance of the universe, we tend to be more focused on what we lack than what we have. So we continue to experience not having enough, even if we have more than enough to live happily. It is said that the richest people are not those with the most money, but rather those who most keenly appreciate what they have. So when wealthy corporate executives ruin their lives by breaking laws and going to jail for stealing money from their companies and employees, it naturally begs the question: What would it take to satisfy these millionaires? Certainly no particular ‘thing’ in this world. There is never enough wealth in the world to satisfy those who are solely following the voice of their Ego Self, since it only sees what is missing and cannot stop asking for “more, more, more!”

For a long time I lived my life from this place of scarcity and lack, where an unexpected expense like a parking ticket or a tax reassessment would send me into a fury. I felt that every penny leaving my hand was lost forever, and I really had to stay ready to fight for what I believed was mine. But now I see this is where all the trouble starts. When we are so singularly focused on what is ‘mine’ and what is ‘yours’, there is no wonder that disputes, arguments, wars occur.

Cultivating gratitude for all that we have can go a long way towards easing this kind of conflict. It becomes easier to defuse our self-centeredness when we consider how lucky we actually are, and acknowledge how other people are not as fortunate as us. Over the past few years I have received several reminders of this in my email inbox, like this one that exhorts us to appreciate the things we often take for granted:

We forget how fortunate we really are.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who won’t survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than almost three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all. If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

This kind of message is powerful, and can certainly get us thinking about what we can be thankful for in our lives. I know when I read it I was quite moved by it. When I am willing to take a look at those less fortunate, to really consider what life would be like in their shoes, I cannot help but see my own life in a more positive light. This is the duality of life at play, how we can be touched more keenly by something when we contrast it with its opposite. Do we not most appreciate food when we are most hungry? Do we not revel in the spring after a long winter? Are we not most grateful for our health after a prolonged sickness? Just ask someone who has recently survived cancer if they are happier to be alive than they used to be.

Fine. But we don’t have to be dependent on deprivation or illness to jolt us into gratitude and the feeling of being fully alive. Besides that, I know from my own experience of these phenomena that once things return to normal I start to take things for granted again. And even if I tried to recapture the feeling, the effect would diminish. I learned about this when I was young. The more my mother would tell us to think of the starving children in Africa whenever we would complain that she didn’t make a cheese sauce for our broccoli, the less it really moved us. It may have kept us quiet, but if anything we felt more guilt than gratitude, and it didn’t really help us enjoy our cheese-less broccoli.

Authentic gratitude brings with it a joy that makes us feel connected to each other and to the world. Gratitude based on contrast and comparison rarely has staying power because at a deep level it actually strengthens the Ego Self mindset of division and inequality. It is no wonder that in the face of our disproportionate wealth and opportunity in the world, the message contends that ‘the majority can [truly give thanks], but most do not.’ It is not that we don’t want to hold up our heads with a smile and truly be thankful, it is that our Ego Self cannot see beyond itself. We become restless and start searching for more of what it thinks is missing.

It is only in challenging our Western Ego-Self perspective that we can awaken to a more permanent appreciation of our lives. Chief Seattle gives us a clue as to the character of such gratitude, one that does not focus on the disparities between us but rather what all humans share: life itself and the bounties that it freely offers. When he gives thanks for ‘every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect,’ his gratitude is founded not on have and have-not but on the wholeness of human experience and a celebration of who we are, in the highest and most abundant image that we could have of ourselves.

The holistic wisdom of the East has already begun to penetrate into the fabric of our society. But for many of us who have tasted from its cup, those precious moments of connectedness it brings are hard to maintain, because of our own heritage. We remain hesitant to fully surrender control to a collective sense of self because we take pride in who we are as individuals, and how we have defined our lives. We do not avoid the urge to compare, inherent in a material life, but we seek to no longer be controlled by it. And so we move to and fro, sometimes in fits and starts, between where we have come from and where we think we are going. The ebb and flow of our emerging consciousness is the challenge of our times. And it is the mandate of the new conversation.

The space of the new conversation emulates our connectedness with one another. And so it is not a conversation grounded in debate and comparison, evaluation and judgment. Rather it focuses on building trust, fostering openness and deepening awareness. Our journey of consciousness is not seen as a race or a competition, but rather a shared adventure. It does not measure success or failure, nor concern itself with who is more or less evolved than another. It recognizes that in the circle of life we have all been at times up and down, ahead and behind, and where we are in the moment is precisely where we need to be.

To truly participate in the new conversation is to honor that we are each moving at our own pace and in our own way. It is to recognize that consciousness grows in rhythms, like waves rising and receding on the beach. It is to pledge not only to cheer each other on when we rush forward, but also to break each other’s fall when we tumble backwards.

The rewards of such a venture are not to be understated. Fueled by our shared strength and courage we can make our way up the slope of consciousness, to reach a place where the solution to every problem that exists in our world is in plain view. From this place we can see the forest for the trees, and gain a panoramic sense that we are all one. For it is only in the truth of our unity that we will finally rest in the awareness that we truly have no quarrel with each other. As an old Native American saying goes, ‘No tree is so foolish as to have its branches fight amongst themselves’.

Our work together in the new conversation, like that of climbers whose fates and lives are strung together by ropes and pulleys, will bring us closer to the source of a sustainable gratitude: the incomparable view from the mountaintop of our vast abundance and magnificence.

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Consciousness

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 7: The Two Tribes (Part 1))

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The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.

From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.

Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.

‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”

7. The Two Tribes

The first inhabitants of the island of Allandon were a primitive tribe known as the ‘sitting tribe’. Their main activity was to sit and experience the peace and harmony of nature. They gave thanks to the Great Spirits for all that they had, and prayed and made sacrifices in order to continue receiving abundance from the Earth.

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One fine day, one of the tribesmen discovered the secret to making fire. He became able to produce fire whenever it was needed. For the first time, the people of the tribe did not have to call upon the Lightning Spirit to make a fire.

This discovery led to a division of the tribe into two factions: one faction stayed with the traditional ways, continuing to pray to the Spirits for all that they needed, including fire. The other faction believed that since they now knew how to make a fire on their own, they could make other discoveries as well if they looked hard for them. The new tribe would no longer sit around; they started to run about the island to see what other secrets they could uncover. And so they became known as the running tribe. They began to lose their reverence for nature and the order of things, for they felt they could create a new order. Discoveries were made, one by one, that helped the running tribe wean off their dependence on the Great Spirits, until one day the running tribe doubted the Great Spirits even existed.

When I was young, I was very much focused on material life. The spirituality that was available to me had very little impact. My parents took us to church every Sunday, but it never made sense to me or my brother or sister. I found it deathly dull and ritualistic. Stand, sit, kneel, repeat a phrase, and so on. The only thing I found interesting was the Gospel, not just because it was near the end of the service, but because it often featured Jesus speaking one of his parables.

But I had no desire for church, found no fulfillment from it, and would be happy to miss it any chance I could get. It seems like most of the people my age felt the same way at the time. I don’t think it was just because we were young. I think that going to church wasn’t really meeting our deeper needs. Church seemed like some kind of punishment for sins you might do, or some kind of duty to a God who for some reason seemed to care whether we went to church or not. There was a sense that going to church was a form of paying moral dues. The running joke was that once people had collected their holy bread and said their final amen, they would revert back to a purely material focus for the rest of the week.

My mother had been taught in school by the nuns and was a fairly devout church-goer, and my father was quite religious as well. However when I got into my teens things started to change. We would miss church here and there for no urgent reason. My father was becoming more critical of priests whose words no longer inspired him, and he began taking us to different churches in search of what he felt was missing. He had started reading about Edgar Cayce and the writings of channeler Jane Roberts, and his views were slowly changing. Finally one day, he declared to the family that he didn’t want to go to church any more. He gave each of us the choice as to what we wanted to do, and to my mother’s dismay, we all gleefully said that we didn’t want to go to church any more either. I remember it as one of the happiest days of my youth.

By the time I got to university, I called myself an atheist. It seemed to be the only reasonable position to hold. I associated atheism with intellectual integrity. It seemed to me that religion was tantamount to superstition, and the Marxian claim that ‘religion is the opium of the people’ rang true to my ears. No wonder Nietzsche’s pronouncement that ‘God is dead’ had such appeal to me at that time.

To me this parallels a trend within Western history in general, where material life has split off from spiritual life to such an extent that it has become possible to live from a purely materialistic point of view. Western civilization is relatively ‘modern’ when we consider that more ancient human societies from Eastern civilization such as Sumer in southern Mesopotamia date as far back as 6000 years ago. Western civilization arose nearby in Greece around the 5th Century B.C., during the period known as the Classical Age of Greece. At this time, the Greek mind made its definitive break from traditional Eastern wisdom as a result of a steady flow of philosophical inquiry that culminated in one of the true watershed moments of human history: the refinement of rational thought. Socrates, the famous philosopher who developed the Socratic method of question, hypothesis and testing for contradiction, used to go around Athens embarrassing all the intellectuals of the time by showing them they really didn’t know what they thought they knew. Though he used his method primarily in dialogues dealing with moral concepts, it was to be the forerunner of the scientific method and the concept of objective truth itself.

It wasn’t until about two thousand years later, though, with the Scientific Revolution in Europe, that the scientific method exploded Western society into completely uncharted territory. During the Scientific Revolution, there was of course no such thing as a ‘scientist’. Pioneers such as Johannes Kepler and Nicholas Copernicus were considered ‘natural philosophers’. Their business was to study the natural world and, in a way, their main motivation was to come to a better understanding of the mysterious workings of the Creator. Perhaps it was the idea attributed to Copernicus, that the Sun does not revolve around the Earth but rather the opposite, that got science to start spinning about a different axis. Suddenly, the Earth was not considered the center of the universe.

This proposition did not sit well with the powerful Roman Catholic Church of post-Renaissance Europe. Suddenly these ‘natural philosophers’ were showing proof of things that contradicted some of the most basic and well-accepted tenets of Christianity. In Italy, thinkers such as Galileo and Da Vinci had to be very careful about what they said, lest they be accused of blaspheming against the church. In fact, it was only Galileo’s close connection with the Pope and his willingness to recant his support for Copernicus that prevented authorities from putting him to death.

As scared as some of the natural philosophers were, so too the church authorities had fears about how the church could be weakened by these new theories and the growing power of rational thought. During this time of great turmoil a ‘line in the sand’ slowly emerged between the proponents of science and those of the church: science could concern itself with the practical matters of the physical world, but it would leave to the church all spiritual matters in the metaphysical world. While religion continued on in one direction supported by tradition, science went completely in the opposite direction supported by rigorous inquiry and the search for objective truth. There was now no turning back.

With the later development of Newton’s laws, there emerged a mechanistic view of the universe, which could be seen as a well-oiled machine capable of running itself on eternal physical laws. Suddenly, for the first time, it was possible to see a universe in which God did not necessarily need to play a part. Previous to that, it was widely accepted that planetary motion proved the existence of God—there needed to be a ‘prime mover’. Now, it became possible, indeed reasonable, to begin to explain the universe and all life in purely material terms. The brain, the body, the universe, life itself, could all be explained mechanistically, as though each component of our world were simply a distinct and sophisticated machine.

When Charles Darwin brought forth his theory of evolution, the schism between the material and spiritual world-view was nearly complete. The Biblical notion of Creation itself was brought into question. Proponents of objective scientific inquiry now felt confident that eventually each of the world’s great mysteries would be revealed in material terms, replacing much of what they now saw as a superstitious mysticism that had ruled mankind during a time of greater ignorance. The only limitation to our complete understanding and objectifying of the universe would be the technology to perform the experiments and measure the results. If it could not be perceived by our senses, or even more precisely by the scientific machines which were getting ever more accurate and effective, then for all intents and purposes it wasn’t real. It became possible to believe that there was nothing else to the universe but matter in its various forms.

And so the schism that began in ancient Greece has ever widened, setting today’s Western world in direct opposition with its Eastern ancestry. The legacy we have grown up with is a society in which the rational mind is favored over the intuitive mind, and matter is seen as more real than spirit. The Ego Self that separates us from each other is revered while the Dao Self that brings us together has been forgotten. There is a scene in the movie Seven Years in Tibet that perfectly distinguishes the different approaches to life of Eastern and Western societies. Brad Pitt plays a world-famous Austrian mountaineer who has stumbled into Tibet with a fellow climber. As the two men compete for the affections of a beautiful Tibetan girl, Pitt tries to impress her by showing her a scrapbook of his celebrated mountain climbing achievements. The girl’s rebuff is at once gentle and powerful: “This is another great difference between our civilization and yours. You admire the man who pushes his way to the top in any walk of life, while we admire the man who abandons his ego.”

Where one society applauds those individuals who rise above and attempt to reach new heights, the other encourages their members to maintain their place. Traditional Eastern civilizations like Tibet are holistic; they strive to align themselves to the greater totality, to nature and the established order of things. They see the divine as present in everything at all times, and so they consider interconnectedness to be the ultimate truth of existence. The Hindu greeting ‘Namaste’ reflects this belief, as it means ‘I honor in you the divine that I honor within myself and I know that we are one.’ The individual and the Ego Self are recognized as part of the human condition but are ultimately illusions. Life consists in working to transcend these powerful illusions so that one can fully be in the presence of the One, the Dao.

Western civilization, on the other hand, could be deemed atomistic; its vision is that things are as they appear, separate and distinct, and these separate things are prone to be in conflict with one another. Nature and the established order of things is something that is to be overcome. This idea is not challenged by religious orthodoxy in the West but rather is fully supported by it. In the Bible’s book of Genesis, God instructs man to ‘fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds in the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ The implications of this directive have proven quite far-reaching. Rather than developing the ability to live better in communion with nature, Western civilization has been built upon the conquest of the natural landscape, where the imprint of man-made structures is now indelibly stamped. The proclamation by the Greek philosopher Protagoras during the Classical Age that ‘man is the measure of all things’ would prove to be one of the underlying themes of the rise of Western Civilization to prominence in the world.

Believing that man is above the ecosystem of the planet rather than a part of it, it should come as no surprise that Western man has slowly pushed Mother Nature dangerously out of balance through sheer exploitation and neglect. With our modern machines that can strip, excavate, and bombard the planet at an ever-accelerating rate, the danger has only been exacerbated. We have caused more damage to the natural world in the past hundred years than in our entire history before that, and it’s getting worse exponentially. Today we are in a crisis that threatens our very existence.

One reason for this is because historically it has not been a great strength of the Western mind to question the broader implications of its approach. Being grounded in the Ego Self and outwardly-focused, there has been very little self-reflection about the wisdom of an incessant push to modernize, to progress, to conquer. Western Imperialists had little doubt in their minds that their modern ideology was the pinnacle of human civilization. And there was certainly nothing that they thought they had to learn from any culture that was mired in outmoded traditions of the past.

Wherever it clashed with more traditional cultures, Western man was convinced that it would be in the other culture’s best interests to adopt a modern Western perspective, and let go of their hapless, infantile, savage ways. The dealings of the European settlers with the Native Americans is a striking example. They imposed their way of life in the New World and, while they could argue that they acted justly, one must remember that at best this was ‘justice’ from a purely Western perspective. Western ways made no sense to the natives, and in the end the natives had little choice in the way their fundamental disputes would be worked out. In 1854 Western settlers offered the embattled Native Americans $150,000 for two million acres of prime land in America. Here was Chief Seattle’s response:

If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man—all belong to the same family.

So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children.

So, we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us. This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you the land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father’s grave behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care. His father’s grave, and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different than your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of the insect’s wings. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around the pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond and the smell of the wind itself, cleaned by a midday rain, or scented with pinon pine.

The air is precious to the red man for all things share the same breath, the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days he is numb to the stench. But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports.

The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred as a place where even the white man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow’s flowers.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition—the white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers.

I am a savage and do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be made more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know which the white man may one day discover; our God is the same God.

You may think now that you own Him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and His compassion is equal for the red man and the white. The earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing you will shine brightly fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man.

That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires.

Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone.

The end of living and the beginning of survival.

Today, over 150 years later, these words have never been more poignant. In a society where our sense of the sacred has been splintered off from our material lives and compacted into once-weekly ritual, the consequences of our alienation from each other can no longer surprise us. Our search for the spiritual experience of connectedness that Chief Seattle speaks about has become ever more desperate. Our hunger to feel part of something bigger than ourselves is growing. Up to now our material decadence may have fed us, but more and more it is fueling our fear of the night when we will suffocate in our own waste. In the West we have awakened to the implications of continuing to plow forward, but we are surely not eager to go backwards. Where does that leave us?

Move on to Chapter 8…

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Consciousness

Are You Feeling Lost In Life?

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Our modern reality has many people feeling disconnected from many aspects of life. This often leaves some of us with the feeling of being a bit 'lost.'

  • Reflect On:

    How connected are you to yourself, nature, your work and others?

In conversations I’ve had and in comments I have seen around social media, I am consistently observing that people claim they are feeling out of touch with themselves, others, society, their world… almost everything. Loneliness is on the rise. People feeling unhappy in their careers is on the rise. People avoid social settings and having fear of judgment from others seems on the rise as well. But why?

There are a number of clinical observations that have been made. Anything suggesting that social media is to blame or that we spend too much time on our phones or watching TV or having unrealistic ideas of who we should be. All of these likely have truth to them, but to me it goes even deeper, it goes straight to connection.

I came across some ideas set forth by Karl Marx regarding alienation. Of course, many in modern times will view Marx as a dangerous socialist and throw out all of his ideas, but perhaps this is just another reflection of how disconnected we truly are from others. What you think of Marx aside, wat he puts forth in his theory about societal alienation is quite accurate in my view.

Marx feels that people have become alienated from 4 key things:

  1. Nature
  2. Others
  3. Our Work
  4. Ourselves

To me, these ideas resonated with what I often share with people through my 5 Days of You Challenge, which is all about getting people back in contact with themselves – deeply.

So I decided to do an episode of The Collective Evolution Show to explore this more deeply and truly get across something I feel we have to begin talking about when we view fixing up or changing our world.

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In this episode I analyze:

– How our world and current consciousness creates disconnection
– Four key areas of reflection when it comes to feeling lost
– Is feeling lost really about being disconnected?
– How we can reconnect with ourselves to find our path

You can listen to the podcast episode here.

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