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Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 6: The Masseur)

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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.

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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.”

6. The Masseur

Late one morning at the village massage clinic on the island of Allandon, the hairdresser rushed in for her regular treatment.

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“Sorry I’m so late, I have a big problem at work and I don’t know what to do.”

“I know what you can do,” the masseur said.

“What do you mean? You don’t even know my problem,” she said, plopping herself face down on the massage table. “Please give me my massage quickly, I’ve got to get back.”

“You’ve got to get here first.”

The hairdresser turned her head up towards the masseur. “What do you mean? I am here!”

“I think you’re still back at your salon. If you were really here you wouldn’t have a problem.”

“What?” she asked, shaking her disheveled hair with annoyance.

“Whatever your problem is, how will you be once you’ve solved it?”

She thought for a moment as she pulled herself up to a seated position. “At peace,” she answered.

“And that’s what you really want, isn’t it?”

“Of course.”

“So I suggest that you be in the moment now, and you will find peace right away.”

“But I am being in the moment!”

“Are you at peace?”

“No.”

“Then you’re not being in the moment,” he said.

This was not the first time the masseur had spoken to the hairdresser about this. However in her flustered state, she couldn’t recall how it worked.

“OK, so tell me how I can be in the moment,” she said.

“I can’t tell you how,” he replied, putting his hand on her shoulder gently. “It’s something you already know.”

“OK, OK,” the hairdresser said. She took a few deep breaths and then started to lie back down. “I’m ready for my massage now, I’m here. I’m in the moment.”

“Are you at peace?”

The hairdresser huffed. “No.”

“Then you’re not in the moment,” said the masseur smiling. “But I can give you your massage anyway.”

Be here now, wrote Ram Dass. When I first heard this phrase in my New Age discussion group years ago, it seemed rather banal. How can we not be here, now? Where else could we be? But I came to realize that this phrase touches on something subtle, and difficult to express. It is a pointer to an internal experience that allows us to be centered, peaceful, and intimately connected with everything around us. In other words, it brings us into the world of our Dao Self.

When we come from our Ego Self, we are anything but centered in the present moment. We are immersed in the shoulds of the future and the should-haves of the past. If peace is what we are looking for, it would be helpful to learn how to be here now. And before asking how to do it, let us be clear that in the end we cannot do a state of being. We can only be. To enter into the state of being in the moment we must have the capacity to literally un-do, or perhaps not-do, to let go of doing long enough so that we can just be present to the world and to who we are.

This is easier said than, uh, not-done. Our Ego Self will not cooperate with this, fundamentally because our Ego Self is all about doing. When we are under the control of the Ego Self we seem unable to contemplate being peaceful until we first fulfill the demands of our life, solve every problem, finish ever last task and errand. Funny how this never seems to happen. And even if we did finally scratch every item off of our to-do list, we might get so scared that we would suddenly invent a hundred more items to put on it. We seem to be more comfortable when we’re doing something.

And our consumer society wouldn’t have it any other way, since consuming is a particularly tempting form of doing. When we don’t pause to reflect on what we really want, the media directs us to fulfill ourselves in the way it see fit. The media may even be able to convince us that we are in control while it is actually pulling our strings. The messages coming at us like never before, through the TV, radio, telephone, computer, and out in the streets are appealing and persuasive, and as long as we stay firmly within our Ego Self they will continue to keep us looking for fulfillment through the doing of consuming.

Of course all this doing makes us tired and gives us stress. We could really use a break from it all. And I don’t mean something to make us temporarily zone out from our ‘real’ life of duties and obligations, like mindless channel-flipping, late-night drinking, or expensive vacations to ‘get away from it all.’ There’s nothing wrong with these kinds of diversions, but they rarely bring a lasting peace into our lives. Wouldn’t it be better if the way we lived our lives wasn’t tiring us out and causing us so much stress to begin with?

The truth is that the events occurring in our lives do not cause stress themselves. Stress is fully a product of our Ego Self. It is the dissonance between what is and what we think should be. It does not exist in the outer world, in the now. The only way an external event can disturb our peace is with our permission. This goes for anything from a hangnail to being threatened at gunpoint. The external event only disturbs our peace because of how we interpret it, which in turn comes from how we are looking out at the world. And only when we become aware that we are more than our Ego Self are we able to choose to look out onto the world, and thereby process it, in a different way.

Imagine our Ego Selves to be like islands that are part of an archipelago, all connected to the same land mass with the tips surfacing above the water. The islands appear to be isolated and separate, but when we examine down below the surface of the water we see that they are all connected. They are all One. The surface of the water is like the illusion of the ego, which separates the physical world above from the non-physical below.

The surface itself is usually turbulent, just like the mind is when it is busy and stressed. With practice we can slowly learn to still the surface of the water, so that we can see below and behold our vastness. When we identify with this vastness, rather than with our small and separate island-selves, then we come at the world from the perspective of our Dao Self, and peace and centeredness are immediate. In the Dao Self we are no longer focused on doing but rather on being. The very meaning of ‘I’ changes, and subsequently the world transforms into something we are at one with.

So how do we move from the Ego Self to the Dao Self? Hmm. There’s that question again about doing. To move into our Dao Self we actually need to relinquish doing, since doing is in the domain of separate things and keeps us focused above the surface. Our Ego Self does not surrender control very easily, but that is precisely what is required if we want to go into our depths: surrender. Trying too hard to reach our inner being is counter-productive because it is a form of control, and maintaining control, a product of the Ego Self, is precisely what we are trying to move away from.

My time in India training to become a Yoga Siromani (instructor) gave me a particularly acute vantage point from which to witness my own Ego Self in (over)action. While I finally had become mature enough not to try to compete with fellow practitioners (most of whom were far more flexible than me anyway), I still approached yoga in the same way as I had my other athletic endeavors: as a competition. Here, though, the competition was with myself. I would habitually try to stretch to the limits of my pain threshold, somehow believing that my mind must ‘overcome’ my body in order to train it to become more flexible.

The first posture we were taught was called savasana, the corpse pose, whereby the practitioner lay on the mat, arms and legs outstretched, in total relaxation. I knew it well and didn’t really consider it a posture. It was just the break between each asana (held posture). I was surprised when we were told by the Swamis at the ashram that we could skip one or more of the asanas any time we felt tired and simply remain in savasana.

The very idea of this was embarrassing to me, that I would ‘give up’ on doing a posture and simply rest. I had never given up on a challenge and wasn’t about to start now! How would that look to others? What would prevent me from giving in to laziness? My Ego Self was clearly in charge here, I just wasn’t aware of it at the time.

In the space of practicing daily with the Swamis, their instructions started to sink in: ‘accept where your body is at this morning…’, ‘try to relax in the posture…’, ‘breathe…’, and as things progressed over the weeks, I did start to skip one or more of the difficult asanas and take a rest here and there.  I started to recognize when my body needed it. Slowly I paid more attention to how I was feeling inside, and I gave less attention to how I was looking on the outside. Rather than feeling that yoga was a war between the body and mind, I felt I was learning to bring them into greater harmony. It eventually struck me that savasana might be the most important posture in the entire sequence, because it embodies the transition from doing to not-doing, from our Ego Self to our Dao Self.

The variety of different pointers to flowing into our Dao Self is one of the main subjects of the new conversation. Yoga is only one path, but it will serve here as a good example because it illustrates the fundamental resistance we have in Western society to transcending the Ego Self. The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yeug,’ which means to join or union. Traditionally, the yoga practitioner sought to achieve a union between their individual (Ego) self and their communal (Dao) self. But many of us here miss out on this because we think yoga is just for improving our physical health and reduce our stress. We have tended to adulterate yoga to fit our Western perspective. What we call ‘yoga’ is really only the asanas, the held postures. In traditional yoga, asanas are but one of eight limbs of one of four branches which touch upon different aspects of human life. What we have essentially done is turned yoga into something to do. An exercise, rather than a practice. A routine rather than a lifestyle.

 If we just add yoga to our ‘to-do’ list we will simply be giving ourselves something else that we need to find time for and get stressed about. We may be enthusiastic for the first little while, but this is not likely to last. There will always be other, more ‘urgent’ tasks that will crowd it out of the picture. As long as yoga remains simply a thing to ‘do’ in our lives, its impact will be short-lived. It will be swept away from our lives like a flower without roots in the ground of being.

We have to realize that when it comes to shifting our being, how we do something becomes more important than what we do. In evaluating whether it is worth our time to do yoga our attitude tends to be ‘What’s in it for me? How will I benefit?’ But this attitude actually works against any activity designed to promote union, harmony, and peace. Rather than thinking about what we can take from a practice like yoga, we need rather to ask what we can give to it: if we give ourselves, our being, that’s when the benefits will evidence themselves. When we give our being (i.e. the being of our Ego Self), we are in effect willingly surrendering ourselves to a higher or greater being (our Dao Self).

But this is not an easy thing to do. In Western society many of us have become very cautious about submitting ourselves to something or someone else. Perhaps we are worried that we will be told what to do, that somehow we will become enslaved or controlled. We have had enough of that. We have fought hard in our lives to become independent, self-directed, and free.

In India I was among yoga students from 22 countries, predominantly Westerners like myself. While the students were very interested in the teachings and practices, most of the Western students had various levels of resistance to different elements of the practice. Some didn’t like the vegetarian diet, and in fact there was quite a debate about its value during one of our lecture sessions. Others didn’t like to be forced to perform community service. Many complained about having to wake up at 5:00 and then do chanting for an hour. And when it came to a discussion of some of the deeper austerities of yoga practice, such as sexual abstinence and a withdrawal of the senses from the world, it was almost laughable for many of us. While eternal bliss in union with the Dao (Brahman in Hindu teaching) sounded interesting, we still wanted to hold on to many things and didn’t want to surrender the lives that we lived.

Without some willingness to surrender, however, the fulfillment we are looking for may continue to elude us. We are aware that all great yogis surrendered to their masters. And these masters also surrendered to their masters, and so on down the line. They would not have achieved their elevated states of consciousness had they not been willing to do so. But in the West we are on the fence. Some of us go to foreign lands and learn ancient customs out of a longing to see things in a different way, out of a conviction that the Western paradigm is falling short of our expectations. And yet, we hesitate to jump in headlong. Is this just our Ego Self in action, or are we sincerely waiting for something more, something that truly resonates with us?

Move on to Chapter 7…

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Alternative News

Trump’s Tweet About Turkey, The Epitome Of Egoic Leadership

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A tweet from Donald Trump on Oct 7th, 2019 illustrates the state of being he operates from as he views the world around him. It's reflective of an egoic, ME centred state of being, and important to note.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we at a point where we must begin to discuss politics, society and challenges we face through a different light? One that isn't centred in judgement and political sides?

If we are to expect changes in our society from an infrastructure perspective, we might expect that changes in society’s culture and leadership must go along with that. But first, we must see the nature of culture clearly, unavoidably and loudly – to me, this is what we’ve been seeing with Trump’s character and in ways, I feel it serves.

For years CE has presented the very basic foundational notion that in order to create change in our outer world we have to look at the inner world, or state of human thought, conditioning, culture etc, and learn how it has shaped that external world. Through that process, we must also see the truth, not a veiled version of reality, but actual truth. We call this Breaking The Illusion. In fact, it’s step one in the CE Protocol, which is a calculated plan, if you will, as to how we can create the inner state of being and thinking necessary to create change in our external world.

In order to break the illusion, or the spell if you will, much like Neo in the movie the Matrix, one must be open and willing to see it. Be open to following that deep knowing that something is ‘off’ about our world, not quite right, and that we are capable of something more.

What better way to begin to explore that ‘matrix’ than to have it become so loud that it’s hard not to see? In simple terms, Trump represents how millions of people think and operate, including politicians, only, he does it loudly and on display for everyone to see. It’s so loud that guess what, we can’t avoid having to talk about what it means and represents.

In my view, this was made evidently clear in a recent tweet from earlier this month where Trump left it all on display, and we has many times:

It’s my way or the highway, is essentially what he’s saying here.

Interestingly, this tweet was retweeted 40,000 times and liked 145,000+ times, far more than the majority of his posts. Why? Because many people do resonate with Trump and his way of thinking. Instead of viewing this as right or wrong, we can see this as the current state of people and extract details as to what this means and how it helps to create the world we live in today.

We’ve often reported on Trump’s different, yet limited way of seeing things. A reality that does scare or make some in the establishment uncomfortable. This is why in many ways it feels like Trump is rocking the boat on some issues, while playing the ‘same old’ on others.

By looking at things in this manner, as opposed to traditional forms of judgment or political lenses, we Awaken Neutrality. This steps us beyond the polarity of right or wrong for a moment, from left or right, and instead allows us to examine the deeper layers of humanity’s culture and actions that ultimately create the state of affairs we operate within daily. Neutrality is important as it lets you see truth, not your version of truth, or a political version of the truth.

This is why step 2 of The CE Protocol is awakening that neutrality, because once we can begin looking at the world from a neutral point of view, we begin to hold the power to actually adjust it – and ourselves.

Trump’s tweet is representative of self-centeredness, the ME culture that permeates so much of what we experience today. It’s easy to blame this on vanity and social media but really it’s about showing, loudly, what it looks like to live under the notion that we are all completely separate, that we are all just a ME.

How does that feel? What world does that create? Do we create solid community? Or does it create many individual directions, all that move with no connection to another? Don’t confuse this with the notion that we must all be the same, instead reflect on the disorganized nature that ME culture creates and ask whether or not it considers the whole and stems from self-awareness.

Remember, it serves when our inner states of being become loud at times, as they become easier to see.

Within curiosity instead of judgement, i.e. neutrality, we now can begin letting go of all the programming we have learned via these disconnected and unaware states of being. This is where we begin to sense our true potential and start feeling what it’s like to be a more aware, wise, connected and authentic person. These steps represent steps 3 and 4 of the CE Protocol, Deprogramming Limits and Living Aligned. 

The Conscious Takeaway

In current events, we can see the truth of our current culture, society and state of being. We can choose to judge these actions, get upset, lash out and be angry, and that will lead us somewhere. We can also choose to take an approach similar to the protocol we present, and make a cultural shift that moves us out of anger and into empowerment that creates a new state of being and a new set of actions in turn.

Which path do you choose? It’s in that answer where you can decide which world you’re voting to create.

Collective Evolution is creating a massive and needed evolution in media through the CE Protocol. This is something that is much needed and has not been presented in the past. To learn more about the CE Protocol, click here.

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Due to the pressure of mass censorship, we now have our own censorship-free, and ad-free on demand streaming network!

It is the world's first and only conscious media network streaming mind-expanding interviews, news broadcasts, and conscious shows.

Click here to start a FREE 7-Day Trial and watch 100's of hours of conscious media videos, that you won't see anywhere else.

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Consciousness

Parables For The New Conversation (Chapter 9: The Beach)

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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.”

9. The Beach

One day the jeweler was relaxing under the sun on the sands of the East Beach on the island of Allandon when the banker walked slowly by, joints creaking and breathing heavily. He stopped right in front of the jeweler and looked out onto the ocean. Then he unrolled his large towel and placed it beside the jeweler, who was surprised since there was so much room elsewhere on the beach, and the banker was a man who usually kept to himself.

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“Don’t mind me,” said the banker as he bent down gingerly to sit on his large towel. “It’s just that this was my favorite spot when I was a boy.”

“Really? I came here when I was a boy as well,” said the jeweler.

The banker stretched contentedly on his towel and said, “Oh, it’s been so long, I’d forgotten the feeling. Is there anything better than sitting by the ocean on a sunny day?”

“Nothing better,” agreed the jeweler emphatically.

“It must be almost fifty years since I laid on this spot,” said the banker. “But we all have to go out and make our fortunes, don’t we?”

“I suppose we do,” replied the jeweler.

“And then one day we can do whatever we want,” the banker said proudly as he stretched out on his towel.

The jeweler did not respond, and for a while only the sounds of the seagulls and the rolling waves could be heard as the two men blissfully soaked in the sun’s rays. Later, when the ocean breeze got cooler, the jeweler got up and prepared to leave. While he was brushing off sand and folding his towel the banker looked over and asked, “So, when did you start coming again to the beach, anyway?”

“I never stopped,” replied the jeweler as he walked away.

My parents both believed that money was scarce, and our family’s frugal lifestyle was built on the idea of saving for the future to gain a feeling of security. Yet the most poignant lessons I learned about money from my parents ran smack in the face of this idea, as a result of unfortunate events.

My father was the breadwinner, and my mother handled the household budget. By the time my brother, sister and I were in University, my parents had almost paid off their mortgage and had accumulated a nice nest egg. However my father’s stress and dissatisfaction at work caused him to quit his job. Both he and my mother soon began to feel a new stress – that of no money coming in. After a short time my father started seeking the same kind of job he had just left, including trying to go back to his old job, but he didn’t have any success.

Over the next year, my father’s stress about money surfaced daily and was growing into desperation. His nest egg had been reduced by about ten percent, and he was in a panic about the thought of it all slipping away. He felt he had to do something, and so he made the decision to invest all his money in a business. He became the owner of a stereo shop, and I agreed to be the salesperson.

Business did not go well. I made a big sale the first day, but gave the customer too much of a bargain. My father lambasted me for it because the profit margin was too low. I became scared to offer any kind of deal to customers. My father, on the other hand, was just scared of customers, period. As the days went by, the business only amplified his fear of losing money. We didn’t take any of the risks that might have helped us to become profitable. As we attracted fewer and fewer customers, our stock quickly became outdated. After ten months of pure struggle, we had to give up and close the business. Besides losing his nest egg, my father incurred a huge debt. He had to take out a sizeable second mortgage on his home to pay off all his creditors.

It would be logical to suppose that after the dust had settled, my father would be even more anxious and desperate, or worse, that he would fall into a deep depression. But what actually happened was quite amazing. My father experienced a calm about money that I had never seen before. Perhaps it is because he had gone through his worst-case scenario and had come out the other end alive. He had survived. He had been forced to surrender, to give up his fear-based plans for security, and just confront the fears themselves. The ease of his newly-relaxed disposition was remarkable. He could now stand tall in the face of these fears, and experience, possibly for the first time since he was young, what it felt like to live day by day.

I will never forget the change—the look on his face and the calm in his voice whenever we reflected back on and actually shared some laughs about the ordeal. It struck me in those moments how people who had a lot of money were so much more likely to be paralyzed by the fear of poverty than those who had none.

My mother was born into a poor family. Her mother died when she was young, and they lived on her father’s meager barber’s income. There were times, she would tell me, that they weren’t sure if they would have any food to eat the next day. In her marriage my mother’s fear of not having money was even deeper than my father’s. She lived her adult life as though saving money for the future was unquestionably the most important thing, more important than learning, fulfillment, perhaps even love. As a consequence she focused on developing certain skills: she was expert at putting great inexpensive meals together, she became very good with budgets, and knew how to shop and negotiate for bargains. This all seemed prudent and reasonable, but later in her life, when her material conditions improved, her fear—and consequently her habits—remained. As she neared retirement, much of her daily conversation still related to worries about money and thoughts about saving.

Then one day my mother was diagnosed with cancer. During her long and difficult ordeal, the importance of money, and the fear of not having enough, slowly melted away. My mother was put in a situation where she could not help but see the stark truth that she had always been running away from something she was afraid of rather than towards something she wanted. I had the privilege of many intimate conversations with my mother during her last six months, and besides witnessing the tremendous courage she exhibited in many ways, I felt that I got to know her true self, unfettered by worldly concerns. We found ourselves roaring with laughter when we poked fun together at her penny-pinching ways: the folly of clipping coupons that saved her nickels and the trips to far-away stores to save dimes, the different savings accounts and credit card promotions that she took for the free gifts or reduced fees. All these things seemed to come with the promise that they would help her get to the day when she would have enough abundance to relax. That day never came, at least not the way she had envisioned it. For it was only faced with her own mortality that she realized where true security lies: in living life in the present.

What I learned from my parents is that while the fear of not having enough money might motivate us to work hard or to save, working hard and saving does nothing to alleviate the fear. In the end, this fear denies us the possibility of having a real feeling of abundance in our lives. What we are all seeking in life is the experience of the moment—the moment where we feel joy, we feel we have all we need, that everything is all right in our world. Experiences that point us back to the moment, to the now, help us see how to reconnect with that feeling of joy and the freedom it brings.

I don’t think money itself helps us to be free. The more that accumulating money is used as a cure for our insecurity, the more we become dependent on it. And true freedom cannot be dependent on any thing or circumstance. It is really an internal state of mind. My mother realized this from her hospital bed, during those times of clarity when the contradictions of her lifestyle presented themselves to her. She never got the chance to see what it would feel like to live within her sought-after level of security, but I believe her conclusion would nonetheless have been the same: if one waits for security before one is willing and able to truly live, the window of opportunity closes quickly on an already short and fleeting life. Helen Keller may have explained it best:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.

It is only fear that stops us from taking risks that are sometimes necessary to truly live out our dream in the present. When we have a dream and we know what it is we want to do or become, the question is: why are we not actively chasing that dream in the present? When I get out of school, we will say. After I’m married. When we get a house, or when the renovations are done. When the kids are out of diapers. When the kids are out of high school. When the kids are out of the house. When I get my promotion. When I retire. These are the echoes of our fear, which keeps pushing the experience of the moment mercilessly out of our grasp.

For many of us the real desire, the Dream with a capital ‘D’, gets pushed so far back as we get on in life that we may even get cynical about dreaming altogether. And then we get turned off when someone tries to suggest that we are all capable of experiencing our greatest desires in life. My mother would have liked to travel more in her life. But this or any other dream she had tended to take a back seat to paying off the mortgage or increasing her retirement savings. Her fear would not allow her to imagine what life would be like beyond the most practical considerations.

Our society as a whole is in no rush to help alleviate our insecurity. Rather it thrives on it, because it insures that we maintain a constant need to work hard and keep our consumer economy going. It’s why we play dog-eat-dog to get the promotion. It’s why we need to surround ourselves with proof of our abundance, the latest gadgets, the better car, the bigger house. It’s a simple plan, but it keeps our society going. And for the most part it keeps us going too, striving for some fabled glory when we can say we have finally made it. But if and when we do actually ‘arrive’ at the fulfillment of our material goals, do we then live out our lives in perpetual ecstasy? Not likely, not if we are honest with ourselves. We would be more prone to simply sit in the comfort of our luxury recliners nagged by questions like, “Is this it? Is this all there is to life?”

I am not saying that I am against abundance. There is nothing wrong with having money and owning comfortable chairs, big-screen TVs, a country cottage or even a personal jet. Not at all. These objects are neither good nor bad in themselves. The trouble begins when we try to bank on our material abundance to make us happy to be alive. I have many friends around me who have tremendous abundance. Some of them are generally happy, others are constantly plagued by money worries. The happy ones tend to be the same people who, if they were suddenly to lose everything, would be confident that they could carry on and set about rebuilding without much fuss. They have already been able to make the choice to look beyond their abundance when it comes to what is truly important in their lives.

I am grateful for the lessons I learned from my parents, because they helped me see that we often use money to insulate ourselves from our fears, and in the process we get insulated from a real sense of well-being. Had I not come to confront my insecurities, I would probably still be doing something that I didn’t really like just for the money. Today I am clear that real security is not something that can be bought, and we can only feel free when we learn to live in the moment. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. If I would have delayed trying to write a book until it was prudent and safe, I honestly believe that time would never have come. In the eyes of many people around me it certainly hasn’t been the most practical thing to do, and some probably even consider it wildly irresponsible, given that the savings I had carefully built up over the years have quickly evaporated. But I wouldn’t change where I’ve gotten today for a truckload of money. I’m having an experience beyond what money could buy. Every day I get a little closer to fulfilling my long-time dream of getting a book published. This is my marathon, my Mount Everest, my sacred quest, the fulfillment of the highest desire inside me that I know of.

While it might be nice to reach the loftiest financial quotas of our retirement plan, are we compromising a major chunk of our vital lives for it? If indeed money is a means to an end, and that end is happiness and fulfillment in what we are doing in our lives, would it not make more sense just to go straight to the source? Our Ego Self will be quick to dissuade this kind of thinking, and urge us to continue along with prudence and caution. It lives only in the past and in the future, and it would have us believe that our fulfillment will arrive at a later time. But it cannot. When it comes to fulfillment, we can experience it nowhere but in the present.

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Why We Need To Take A Look At The Way We Treat Prisoners And Do It Differently

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The USA locks up more people per capita than any other nation in the world. The rate is 668 per 100,000 people which equals over 2.3 million. There has been an increase of 500% over the last 40 years. Changes in sentencing law and policy - not change

  • Reflect On:

    What really goes on in many prisons? Why does this breed more violence, adds to social disharmony and increases mental illness issues? We also highlight prisons that are a shining example of what can be done to truly rehabilitate people.

“Violent offenders, more often than not, are victims long before they commit their first crime: A former inmate who spent two years in a Boston prison for robbery was given away by his mother, a heroin addict, by the time he was 5 — the same year her boyfriends began beating him up; when he was 8, he watched another kid get shot in the head in his housing project.

Another man, in and out of prison from age 18 to 33 for assaults and drug crimes, grew up getting routinely beaten by his mother and frequently saw neighbors get stabbed and shot in the New York community of his childhood.” (source)

If you had been around violence, crime and poverty all your life, and this was all you had known, would it be any surprise that you too, may also end up committing crimes? Would you think it might be difficult to grow up as a ‘good person’ if all you had seen was the opposite of love?  Would you think that being forced into another repressive life, which was even worse than what you had experienced previously, would be good for you and would somehow turn you into a better person by the time your sentence ended?

No – of course, it wouldn’t.

This is the reality of many prisoners face, that their time spent locked away for their crimes, actually makes them worse.  What does this do to society as a whole?  Do we ever really think about how this impacts all of us?

With the numbers of those incarcerated, increasing all the time, it is not hard to fathom the implications this has on all of us for the future.

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‘Corrections’ Is A Term That Is Not The Reality

Whilst many prisons are called ‘correctional centers’ shouldn’t they be a place of rehabilitation so that the prisoners become better people? So that they don’t commit these crimes again, and instead start to contribute positively to society? The reality of what goes on inside prisons is often the exact opposite.  For those that have spent time in jail, there is a strong chance they will end up re-offending.  Texas for example, incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world, and suffers from a staggering 60% recidivism (re-offending) rate.

Shouldn’t we take look at why this is so, and try and stop it from happening?

Hurt People, Hurt People

I know, you may be thinking that if a person has committed serious offenses, they deserve to be locked away, to do ‘time’ to pay for their sins? Yes – that is true.  However, what we don’t often realize is that the way prisoners are treated in the majority of prisons often makes them worse, and they become even more broken, as prison life encourages more violence and increases mental instability.

If someone is never shown any kindness and compassion, will they ever become an example of this themselves?

The causes of crime are complex. Poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse can be connected to why people break the law. Some are at greater risk of becoming offenders because of the circumstances into which they are born. (source)

For the innocent victims of a false sentence – which you will always find in any jail –  can you imagine what these harsh and cruel environments would do to their own spirit?

With over 2 million people incarcerated just in the USA alone, there are over 11 million prisoners worldwide (source).  These are astronomical numbers and it is clear that there is indeed, a very big – and growing – problem, particularly in America.

This subject has so many layers that it is impossible to give them all the focus they need, and I do understand the reaction many people have to this subject; those that do the crime should pay the time. However, as a concerned citizen who believes that we are all actually spiritually connected to each other, I think it’s important to highlight these issues.

The number of women in prison has been increasing at twice the rate of growth for men since 1980. Women in prison often have significant histories of physical and sexual abuse, high rates of HIV, and substance abuse problems. Women’s imprisonment in femaleled households leads to children who suffer from their mother’s absence and breaks in family ties. (source)

To become more aware of this problem, Netflix and Youtube have many eye-opening documentaries that highlight issues that I want to bring attention to, which are all mentioned below.

Another huge layer to all of this is, how many innocent people are actually in jails? Is the system breaking good, innocent people that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and are in fact, terribly unfortunate victims of a failing ‘justice’ system?

Prisons Should Not Be ‘For Profit’

USA prisons (and others around the world) are often run ‘for profit’, so the increasing numbers and overcrowded jails, may in fact, actually be all by design to line the pockets of powerful people and companies.

Because of this reach, the market for privatized services dwarfs that of privatized facilities. The private-prison industry’s annual revenues total $4 billion. By comparison, the correctional food-service industry alone provides the equivalent of $4 billion worth of food each year, according to Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm. Corrections departments spend at least $12.3 billion on health care, about half of which is provided by private companies. Telephone companies, which can charge up to $25 for a 15-minute call, rake in $1.3 billion annually. The range of for-profit services is extensive, from transport vans to halfway houses, from video visitations to e-mail, from ankle monitors to care packages. To many companies, the roughly $80 billion that the United States spends on corrections each year is not a national embarrassment but a gold mine.

Today, a handful of privately held companies dominate the correctional-services market, many with troubling records of price gouging some of the poorest families and violating the human rights of prisoners. But the problem doesn’t end there. These companies are often controlled by private-equity firms, which through financial alchemy transform the prison-industrial complex into lavish returns for pensions, endowments, and charitable foundations. And, as successive administrations have ramped up immigration enforcement, they’ve also squeezed money out of immigrant detention. (source)

It begs the question, Is the prison system actually a legal human trafficking industry? Is it in their interests to keep them at overcapacity?

Coloured People Incarcerated In Higher Numbers

There is also a very high disproportionate amount of people of color compared to white in USA jails, which is of huge concern by itself.

The reality of what is going on inside the prison system makes for indeed, truly brutal viewing, but it is very important for us all, to beware of the reality. It is another part of our society that desperately requires great change because it does truly impact us all.

The USA, and other countries lock up many people for what are seemingly minor crimes. Some, as you will learn below, are almost unbelievable.

What impact does this have on the families who are left behind: a young child’s father or mother taken away, leaving them for years, without that important role model in their lives.  What psychological damage does this do to them, what impact does this have on society,  and how will it impact their own futures?  Will they too, resort to crime, or drugs and alcohol one day?

On a positive note, I also show you what good is being done in some prisons around the world that are actually able to rehabilitate people in a way that is truly transformative. This is what we need to do for broken and hurt people, we need to help give them a purpose for taking control of their lives and making amends of the mistakes they once made.  Only then, will this help society.

13th

This documentary, available on Netflix is the best place to start if you are interested in looking at how the justice system became such a mess, you will see why it became an industry for profit, and why there are far more colored people incarcerated.

You will discover the very shocking untold history lesson about slavery and how it never really left the USA, coloured people were instead moved into the prison system for very petty crimes at an ever-increasing rate.

13th, a film by American Ava DuVernay, explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. It was named 13th after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1865, which abolished slavery throughout the United States except as a punishment for conviction of a crime. 

Prisons that are run for-profit, mean that some people may go to jail for a long time, despite their offense being quite minor.  This also means that there are now many young people in adult jails.

In the USA it seems that it’s very easy to be put in detention centers for seemingly minor crimes.  This robbing of their childhoods can ruin their entire lives which we will cover below when we discuss the documentary Kids For Cash.

DuVernay shows that slavery has been increasingly perpetuated since the end of the American Civil War through criminalizing behavior and enabling police to arrest poor men and force them to work for the state under what is known as ‘convict leasing’  This factual documentary shows eye-opening statistics about the huge increase in prison numbers that are of colored people.

Ava examines the prison-industrial complex and the emerging detention-industrial complex, discussing how much money is actually being made by corporations from such incarcerations.

Kids For Cash

This is a great one to watch after viewing 13th, because it then brings attention to the concern regarding young children being put in detention centers, also for very petty crimes. These centers, are again, mostly run for profit.

The kids for cash scandal centered on two judges at the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 2008, two judges, Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella were accused of accepting money in return for imposing harsh sentences on juveniles simply to increase occupancy at for-profit detention centers.

This documentary shows the damage this can do to the individual, quite often exposing a typical ‘naughty’ pre-teen to horrific and frightening treatment which goes on in ‘kid’ jails, that they really aren’t mentally able to cope with.

This, of course, can impact them for life, because of the trauma (imagine being 12 and not able to see your parents for months at a time, whilst being involved in, or witness to many extremely violent acts) they may themselves end up turning to violence in there just to survive, which then means they likely will end up staying imprisoned much longer.

Judge Mark Ciavarella was found to have forced thousands of children to have ‘extended stays’ in youth centers for offenses as trivial as mocking a school staff member on Myspace or trespassing in a vacant building.  How utterly ridiculous, and a crime in itself, that so many kids have been put away for these kinds of silly things.

This incarceration of minor offenses has led to permanent emotional trauma, and some victims have ended up committing suicide or becoming drug and alcohol addicts. This is what psychological trauma does.  A life, and families ruined because of money-hungry people in positions of power.

Thankfully, Judge Ciavarella was convicted on 12 of 39 counts and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

Whilst it is great that he has been locked away himself, it does not mean that the youth prison system is now a good one, they are still being run for profit.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story

This documentary series found on Netflix is an absolutely harrowing and gut-wrenching story of what goes on in many prisons around the world.  It is hard not to feel your own heart break after witnessing this horrific account of what maximum security prisons did to an innocent, young and good man who had a promising future ahead of him.

In 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder, from The Bronx NYC, whilst walking home from a party, was accused of stealing a backpack by police, and not only was he thrown in jail without a trial, but he was sent to one of the toughest adult prisons in NYC, Rikers Island.  If convicted, Kaleif faced up to 15 years in prison – for stealing a backpack no less.

This lengthy sentence seems unbelievable, yet this is how punishment is dealt out in the USA.  They are incredibly tough on minor crimes. It seems like any of us could be easily accused of something, thrown in jail, and unless we had money to pay for bail, we also may have to wait a very long time to have our case heard.  This is very wrong, and once again, the vulnerable, and impoverished people have to pay a price whilst those with money will have a much easier time dealing with the justice system.  When we look into the ‘for profit’ prison industry, could this be why they are so tough on crimes, and quick to send people to prison?

Sadly, Kalief’s family were not able to afford his $3000 bail, so Kalief went straight to Rikers Island, a jail notorious for it’s violent criminals and for being very poorly managed.  It is widely known as ‘hell on earth’ and somewhere no teenager should be found in.

Whilst waiting to have his hearing on the alleged crime, Kalief ended up spending an astronomical 3 years in jail experiencing what can only be described as completely disturbing and ongoing violent, physical and mental abuse.

Kalief, slight in stature and still a teenager, was regularly attacked by dangerous and much older gang members, and was thrown in solitary confinement for months at a time.  He often had food withheld from him, and never had any access to mental health programs.  Kalief was also often violently attacked by cruel prison guards.

Due to this ongoing inhumane treatment, and, not surprisingly, feeling so hopeless, Kalief tried to commit suicide under the watch of prison guards – who were later found to have cruelly taunted Kalief whilst he was doing this –  they took him down from the noose just as he was about to pass out, then they proceeded to violently beat him. This was not the last time he tried to take his own life in jail, yet nobody of authority helped him with his mental health issues.

This gruesome footage of what happened to Kalief was released to the public and is also shown in the documentary, and it indeed displayed this sickening and cruel treatment by the hands of the prison guards. This is the reality of many prisons, where the guards commit despicable crimes themselves.

Those guards, to this day, have never been held accountable for their own disgusting behavior against this innocent, young man.

Kalief never had his case go to trial, the ‘witness’ disappeared to Mexico, and after an unfathomable 30 separate visits to court to see if his case would, at last, be heard by the court, Kalief eventually was released.

Whilst Kalief was now a free man after 3 years of mental and physical torture, his mind was anything but, and his story does not have a happy eneding. After his release, and when the trial against the city began to try and receive compensation for his time in jail, Kalief wrote this:

“People tell me because I have this case against the city I’m all right. But I’m not all right. I’m messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that’s not going to help me mentally. I’m mentally scarred right now. That’s how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back.” He also said, “Before I went to jail, I didn’t know about a lot of stuff, and, now that I’m aware, I’m paranoid. I feel like I was robbed of my happiness.”

Kalief’s unforgettable and deeply traumatic experiences caused such everlasting damage to his health and well-being. His time in jail crushed his spirit and most tragically, he wasn’t able to cope with his haunting memories and how his mind had now become.

Akeem Browder, a prison reform campaigner, is the truly inspiring, fiercely intelligent, brave, older brother of Kalief, and has since started the Kalief Browder Foundation in honor of his brother’s life:

The KBF strategies support youth and young adults, typically in middle/ high school and college, who were negatively impacted by the incarceration system and the school to prison pipeline particularly and labeled “At Risk Youth”. We aim to enhance their social emotional learning skills through critical thinking exercises, relationship building lessons, mentoring through narrative change and skill building. The KBF has engaged the youth impacted by the incarceration system to shift into the role of leaders for systems change through its work in New York within it’s legislative body. Listening to the community and its needs allowed us to develop a curriculum that speaks directly to the necessities that our youth and young adults face day to day. The criminalization of poverty, race and trauma has held our poor communities in its grips far too long for us to not find a way out.

Akeem has since been campaigning to get Rikers Island shut down. The documentary received much press and celebrity attention after it’s release, but sadly whilst there has been a lot of ‘talk’ about Kalief’s story, to date, no one has helped much financially to get the foundation seriously off the ground.  To make real changes, to hire staff and to run a foundation properly, funds are needed.

You can help keep Kalief’s memory alive, and to support the foundation which strives to bring about much-needed change to the justice system.

PLEASE Donate here

Kalief’s story deserves to be heard, in the hope that something good can one day come out of it.

When They See Us

When They See Us is a 2019 American miniseries which was created, co-written, and directed also by 13th director Ava DuVernay for Netflix. It premiered on May 31, 2019 and is a four-part series. It is based on the highly publicized 1989 Central Park jogger case and explores the lives and families of the five male suspects who were prosecuted on charges related to the brutal rape and assault of a woman in Central Park, New York City.

The series explores the shocking way that 5 innocent young males who were targeted for committing this crime against a young white woman in Central Park, just because they were black, and were in the park that night.  The film shows they were coerced into a false confession and there was actually never any solid evidence that they did it, yet the prosecution was still able to pin the crimes on all 5 boys.

After spending years in jail, they later ended up being exonerated, what they all experienced whilst in prison was truly horrific, especially Korey Wise, who having been beaten many times in jail – sometimes almost to his death – was often placed in solitary confinement for long periods at a time.

A truly harrowing scene in the film is of Korey (played by the brilliant Emmy Award-winning actor Jharrel Jerome) shouting ‘Why doesn’t anyone care about me?’.

This, I think sums up the prison system and how many inmates feel, innocent or not.

Whilst DNA evidence ended up clearing their names (how this came to be, is an extraordinary story in itself) and they are all now out of jail, their lives of course, have been forever turned upside down.  How can you get back that time, or how can you ever erase all of those horrific experiences? How can your brain ever really recover from that?

Whilst the exonerated 5 have been able to seek financial compensation, it took a whopping 11 years of fighting in court to be eventually given to them, and the money of course, does not make up for the time and the destruction of their health and mental well-being that they lost in prison due to a justice system that can often be anything but.

Many victims of false incarceration do not ever win any financial justice for their time spent in prison.

Those who targeted these boys, have not been punished for their own despicable behavior, which is another example of how the system gets away with their own criminal activity.

Happy Jail

I am now able to share with you now some more positive stories about what can be done in jails.

Happy Jail is a documentary that is currently streaming on Netflix. The story revolves around Marco O Toral, who became the manager of the Philippine jail known as CPDRC in Cebu province, known for a Michael Jackson dance video that went viral in 2007.  What is immediately fascinating is that Marco was a previous inmate of this exact jail for seven years.

I highly recommend watching this 5 part series as it is very heartwarming and inspiring in that you see for your own eyes, what compassion, kindness, fun, and joy can do for people who have ended up in jail due to the crimes they commit.  Marco Toral, is I think, an extraordinary human being, who was able to keep violence and drug use at a minimum, due to the way he treated the inmates.

Marco would meet every new inmate and treat them with kindness, often giving them money to use at the jail shop.  He would, of course, lay down the rules, and the punishment for breaking them was a painful paddle on the bottom, as a last resort.

Whilst watching Happy Jail, I was struck by how the prisoners were constantly smiling, seemingly enjoying their time, and this is because Marco allowed them to dance, play music, play games, and have their family members not only visit them each week but that it would be in close contact where they would come inside the prison.

I personally feel that perhaps it is enough punishment simply being locked away in the same building for years at a time, never being allowed out until their time is served.  Surely, during this time we can then work on encouraging people to learn from their own mistakes from a spiritual level? 

Marco received harsh criticism by the media and some government members as he was seen as being ‘not tough enough’ on the prisoners, but you perhaps you will see for yourself if you think this was the case.

Bastoy – Norway

Bastoy, which sits on an island in Norway, is quite an incredible place that is doing a remarkable job to rehabilitate prisoners. Inmates, who live in small houses, not cells, are required to look after the island, (which also has its own small shop) have work duties and responsibilities that require them to get close to nature and to work with others.   They learn to also look after themselves and learn to interact well with other people.   There are animals to look after and they can play music, learn cooking and study.

A Governor was interviewed for this short documentary (below) and I think what he said should be how all Governors look at their own prisons.

‘I think my job as a Governer at Bastoy Prison is if I can put a person back into society who has actually been trained to be a good member of society’

Another guard said this:

“We punish them them by taking away their freedom, but we don’t take away their life”

Halden Prison – Norway

Also in Norway, Halden Prison is known as the worlds most ‘humane’ prison.  It is designed with an architecture that takes into account it’s surrounding nature, where prisoners have access to beautiful views of the land, because connecting with nature is good for the human spirit.  The warden’s of Halden state that ‘being imprisoned’ is enough punishment.

Punta de Rieles – Urugay

Located in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, Punta de Rieles is known as “the prison from which nobody wants to escape”.  It is set on a 100-acre property which has lots of outdoor space where inmates can live, work, do yoga, have pets, and play music. At Punta de Rieles, the focus is on helping prisoners prepare to go back into society after they leave.

The prison’s director shared that their focus is to help the inmates be ‘better’ people than when they first arrived. Using ‘repression’ won’t rehabilitate people. They allow their inmates to study and also teach them how to start up a business. The funds earned enable the inmates to purchase things from the prison shop, or they can save up for when they leave.  Punta De Rieles has a bakery, restaurant, brick factory, barbers, carpentry, and grocery stores.

Rehabilitation IS Possible

It seems very clear that the common way people are incarcerated today is simply not helping them become better people.

However, rehabilitation IS possible, and the way we can actually do this is seen in the last few documentaries above.

They all have a common theme, allow the inmates to have access to nature, to not be ‘locked up’ in ugly and depressing surroundings, give them responsibilities, encourage them to learn skills, have a purpose and above all, to be treated with compassion.

Whilst it must be said, that rehabilitating serial killers and very violent gang members might not be an easy task, it is something that must be attempted. Violence breeds violence so if we want to put an end to it, we have to see all people as human beings that may have had a very damaging upbringing which has affected their behavior.

Read More:

Research Shows That Time In Prison Does Not Successfully “Rehabilitate” Most Inmates

How Shelter Cats Are Changing Prisoners Lives In Indiana

Why Brazil Gives Ayahuasca To Prison Inmates On Their Path To Redemption

The Top 10 Most Startling Facts About People of Color and Criminal Justice in the United States

Jennifer Gonnermans Interviews With Kalief Browder

The Business Model Of Private Prisons

Global Prison Population Soars

kaliefbrowderfoundation.com

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