Saturday, June 11, 2016

I Should Have Known



How may times have you said I should have known? With a universe as vast as our imaginings, there are endless opportunities for learning. There’s outer space to explore – inner space to discover. Is it possible to know everything?



Quarks

Just yesterday I learned about quarks at a memoriam honoring the passing of a great man and mentor. A scientist spoke of his friendship with the deceased and threw in the word quark. Have any of you heard this word before? I never had. So, I googled the word and discovered it is a subatomic particle that has different flavors – the word physicists came up with to separate the different kinds of quarks. I still know extremely little about them with the exception the universe may end in 10 billion years because of them. AND, of course, wherever you have quarks, you have antiquarks.

Cartoon Quarks

The point isn't that I now know of the existence of quarks. It is that I learned something new. When I found out about quarks, I didn't tell myself I should have known. Why and how am I supposed to know about quarks? I've had no reason to seek out that knowledge. Now that I have it, I suppose I can always use it as an ice-breaker - How 'bout those quarks!

Stealing Student

More personally impactful knowledge is not so easy to google. The problem with learning is that it is a process. One thing builds on the next. It is pretty hard for us to be able to draw good conclusions if we don’t have all the facts, background knowledge or understanding.

One example happened to me while I was teaching a self-contained class of ESL students. One of the students was a notorious food thief. He would take apples, bananas and other food items from his classmate’s desks, stash them in his backpack which he would forget to close. The items sometimes spilled out. He wasn't a very good thief. It got so I would walk by his pack, retrieve the stolen items and return them without anyone being the wiser.

This student never stole anything other than food that I was aware of. In my learning process, I came to understand the motivation behind the stealing was hunger. The majority of my students lived in poverty. It was possible there were times this student's only meals were eaten at school. It took me a few months to pull all the information together accurately.

At first, I was appalled at the thefts. I thought that student was headed for certain jail time if this behavior wasn’t corrected. I mean, it’s a well known fact that a life of crime begins with the stealing of fruit, right?


After understanding his motivation better, I made a point of keeping food in the classroom and scheduling regular snack breaks. Having food available combined with other character enhancing strategies in and outside the classroom seemed to address the problem. 

Once I was able to connect all the dots, instead of celebrating, I told myself I should have known
Really?

Friday, June 10, 2016

My Answer



Self-help Thoughts

I stumbled upon a YouTube video of a business guru from the 1980’s. He shared his impressive personal rags to riches story. He was also building the necessary background knowledge in order to sell his business know-how in a Law-of-Attractionesque platform. His rise to fame and fortune pre-dated the principles in The Law of Attraction, but incorporated some of the principles. 


My first knee-jerk feeling to the video was that of being a failure for not having manifested the vast riches he said was my birthright. My second feeling was feeling silly for having the first feeling. I still learned from this man’s teachings in two ways: I learned by acknowledging what I agreed with. The second learning was what I wished to discard, change or add to based on his words.

Reflection

When I reflected on my deeper values and beliefs, I developed this response to what I heard. I believe in the power of focused intention and positive thinking as a way to transform our own lives and inspire others. Making and having money is also a worthy goal. Money as the ultimate goal, however, frequently falls short because money alone does not fill the voids which exists within many of us.

Believing we are failures because our thoughts haven’t produced the wealth or success we want materially is counter-productive to our well-being. It promotes self-blame. Therefore, instead of empowering us to attain our potential, we get stuck blaming ourselves for not attaining what the guru is telling we could or even should have.

Dysfunctional capitalism is at work when the mentality of acquiring more and more and even more infiltrates and takes over our consciousness. This thinking has the potential of gobbling up and exploiting people, our beautiful planet and all her resources and the many other amazing beings living here solely for the purpose of having.

As for me, I have never been highly ambitious. I took promotions often with great trepidation as I was happy being in the classroom touching the lives of my students more directly. I was told I could touch more lives by working with the teachers who work with the students. The logic was undeniable, but what about the passion? What if that passion involves a smaller paycheck?  Shouldn't that take priority? I think that answer is up to each individual to make based on their values. I personally believe pursuing passion is never the wrong choice.

I did agree with the work ethic the business guru outlined. He encouraged listeners to put in a six-day work week and allow the seventh day for reflection on correction or improvement of the past week. The emphasis was on dedication. I don’t think it’s ever necessary to work yourself to the point of burn-out and exhaustion. That is neither productive nor very kind to yourself. Still, it is dedication that spurs us from thought to action. 

Spiritual Currents

Today’s ideas state that if you are in alignment, the universe resonates to that vibration, and you attract more of what you desire to you. The converse is also said to be true. For example, if your mind is a cluttered mess of unproductive, low-vibrational thinking, you will draw that to you as well.

Although I strongly agree with the benefits of focused intention and directing our thoughts to a higher level, what I wish to add is a different emphasis. This current thinking is primarily on getting. But what about giving? And what about the blame aspect if changing our thoughts isn’t bringing us what we thought we wanted? I believe a truly expanded consciousness is about giving in equal measure to getting if not more when possible. Our earth gives us so much. We keep taking, yet the empty space inside us remains unfilled. Then my question is - How can we fill those spaces without exploiting everything around us?


My answer is with compassion. (more to come)


Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Shift



The drama occurring in the world is abounding, but that neither explains or excuses today’s inhumanity. I am not turning a blind eye to the wide scale happenings on our planet now. I, instead, am hoping to promote another way of thinking in the face of it.


Highest Denominator

Sharing compassion and encouraging the highest human common denominator is the most powerful force for change. I believe this change in consciousness can be the only viable and lasting solution. 

Humans are hard-wired to resist and distrust change. A change in consciousness is by far the most threatening action we can take as it requires an unprecedented shift in perspective that challenges our very nature, but we can do it. In fact, it is a responsibility we each must rise to.

External

When we look to an outward source for change, we are vulnerable to the abuses and misuses of power, and we remain powerless. Then we blame this outside force by pointing our fingers like children saying, “He did it,” or “She did it!”.

This will not get us far. The act of blaming is in itself angry and aggressive. Just pointing your finger at someone in anger causes both the recipient and the pointer to decay in spirit. Negativity is perpetuated. Worse even, while we are blaming, the important tasks of healing ourselves and our planet go by the wayside.

We can't change the world this way.

Internal

What we do individually is at the heart of change. We choose within each moment to transcend unhealthy patterns in order to minimize the harm to ourselves and the world around us. The responsibility for a better world is made by shifting our awareness back to ourselves. It takes a combination of courage and gentleness to accomplish this, but this is how we change the world. 

Each of us is under attack daily by society, our families and especially ourselves telling us we are not good enough. We are harmed by individuals who are wounded and often too entrenched in their own suffering to have an awareness of the pain they are inflicting. The greatest brutality, however, is that which we cause ourselves.

We can start the shift in consciousness by paying attention to our thoughts, and noticing how cruel they can be. When we walk by a mirror, we might tell ourselves we are too fat, too short, too this and not enough that. We do this so frequently, we have become numb to the assault. Next time you find yourself in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye tell yourself with kindness just how wonderful you truly are.





Around You

Find a moment to share a kindness with someone else. You might surprise them as you pause from your routine to extend a hand, or a positive word. What a special surprise! It may be exactly what someone needed to help get them through the day.

There’s an unhealthy notion in society stemming from not feeling good enough. Perhaps we fear by lifting up another, they might become too confident, too successful or rise too far above us. This plays out in situations of envy and control, but let's challenge this notion. It’s not necessary to knock anyone down. That strategy never works to anyone’s true benefit anyway.


I am excited about tomorrow to try more kindness and compassion, and the opportunity to add to the meaning and health of the world one small action after another. I realize the more kindness we give out, more gets created...

And, this is how we change the world.



Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rabbitude



Once again, I heard a demonic like snorting emanating from under the bed while laying the sheet on top of my mattress. It was followed by a gentle yet intentional head butt along with the feeling of fur against my foot telling me to back away from the bed or else. “Dammit, Halo. It’s me. It’s always me.”

For the past seven years, making the bed has been an adventure few experience. My pet rabbit, Halo, makes sure of that each day as she vehemently defends her territory which consists of under the bed, a nearby litter box, water bowl and food tray. If so much as a toe infiltrates her domain, I hear about it.

Bang

With a name like Halo, you might envision a sweet, cuddly, little rabbit, right? She has her moments. More often than not, however, Halo is a rabbit with a clear sense of what is hers, and doesn’t hesitate to let me know. Perhaps Bang, Bonk or Snort might have been better choices of names, but who knew.

After making my bed, I went to the kitchen to grab a bag of lettuce as part of the morning routine. I generally give Halo a heaping handful with a small piece of fruit or carrot a couple of times daily. As I leaned over to place the lettuce on her tray, my little angel rushed out from under the bed, and with her two front paws raised, knocked the bag out of my hands with determination. Leaves flew everywhere.

This is not the first time either. It seems it mostly happens on the mornings I’m running behind schedule and can’t spare a moment to clean up the leafy blanket of green strewn across my bedroom floor, bed, or even the night table depending on the force Halo was able to whack the bag with.

“Bad rabbit!” I said sternly knowing the admonishment would have little impact on future behavior. She just looked at me with those big, soft, brown eyes feigning innocence while munching on the tender leaves she had liberated from the bag.


Bonk and Snort

Rabbits make a grunt sound when they are just not happy about something. Halo has taken the grunt to new heights. Her grunt is a bonafide snort. It sounds like her head is about to spin around, and is rather disconcerting.

The snorting occurs any time I mess with what’s hers. There are times she allows me in her space - at her discretion of course. The one time she gets the biggest rise out of me is while making the bed. That’s when she combines snort with head butt. She still can take me by surprise at which time the words “Dammit, Halo,” are my standard response.

My rabbit is all about posturing, though. In the seven years we have known each other, she has not so much as scratched me. In that time, she has also lived in relative peace with two separate dogs. The worst she did was rear up on her furry hind legs and snort loudly. In that instance, I supported her actions as my goofy puppy was attempting to rough house with her. 

Bunnies do not rough house. I stood ready to intervene, but Halo had it under control. In fact, Kona, my dog, and I give Halo a wide berth when entering her space. I mean, who wants to be snorted at?

Rough Start

My rabbit came to live with me after surviving terrible conditions. Halo, along with 39 other rabbits, were fancy breeding bunnies housed in small cages and used for profit. When their owners could no longer afford the rent on their property, they suddenly left abandoning 40 caged rabbits.

The rabbits were starving to death when discovered. Some didn’t make it. Halo survived. I adopted her a few months after Mary Ellen Whitehouse of Bunny Lu (http://www.bunnylu.org/) rescued her. By the time I went to adopt her, she looked strong and healthy although she had been thin, weak and dehydrated when found.

I chose Halo for two reasons. First, when I looked into her eyes, I recognized something familiar in her. It was a feeling like I knew her - a soul recognition, if you will. I can’t explain it better. The second reason is she looked sturdy. Prior to Halo, I had a bunny named Sparkles. She was a happy, loving rabbit who was healthy one day and deathly ill the next (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCoE31n2l0o). She died suddenly. It broke my heart. So, I wanted a sturdy rabbit this time around.

Clover and Halo

I brought Halo home to be part of a blended family: human, dog and rabbit. My dog Clover had lived with four bunnies prior and treated each one like her puppy. She snuggled with them and cared for them. It was love.

Clover was no spring chicken when Halo came to live with us. As Clover’s health declined, and vision failed - her balance became challenged. At that point,  Halo functioned as her eyes and helped her navigate sharp corners in safety. She also slept cuddled up near Clover as company. It was amazing to witness the bond between them, and even more, the care one little rabbit showed toward an old, sick dog.

The day came when we needed to say goodbye to Miss Clover. It was a terrible day for me. I’m sure it was a huge loss for Halo as well. We had both lost our best friend.

Halo never snorted at Clover. There were never any territory disputes. It was share and share alike. Unlike with me where snort, bonk, bang were (and are) daily occurrences.


New Puppy

My life seemed empty without a dog, so in came Kona. Things were OK as long as the rambunctious newcomer was smaller than Halo, but that lasted only about three months. With all the high energy puppy play, Halo had to set some clear boundaries. It took concerted snorting and charging to define territory, but Kona now understands his place, and it is not under the bed or near Halo's consecrated turf. Not EVER!


I do feel the need to add, the entire process was closely supervised. That little bunny, even with all her rabbitude, needed a watchful eye. I would not allow anything to happen to her.


Bones

In the wild, bunnies line their underground homes with fur –which, by the way, is plentiful. Halo tries building the same nest under my bed. 

Since I pay the rent, one of my rules is no nests under the bed! That means I have to periodically vacuum and wipe down the area near the headboard where giant fur bunnies accumulate. It's kinda gross.

During a recent nest removal, I found several half chewed dog bones. I had been wondering why Kona’s bones were disappearing so quickly. I noticed gnaw marks in them, too. Halo has been stealing bones and chewing them!

Kona gets special bones called Whimsees made from rice and potato starch. They are good for cleaning teeth and healthier than regular bones. They are also vegetarian…perfect for a rabbit’s taste buds, but not so good for a bunny belly.

One night, as I was lying in bed, I caught her in the act. Kona was lying on the rug chewing a bone. My bunny kept inching closer while looking cooly in the opposite direction as if everything was status quo.  

Closer and closer she got until she was standing right by his side. In a moment of distraction, she reached beneath Kona’s chin, grabbed the bone and zoomed under the bed. Both rabbit and bone disappeared in an instant. In the next moment, I heard the sound of crunching. When I reached in to remove the contraband, Halo shot me a penetrating look and snorted a ferocious snort.


She Loves Me




Things have gone on much the same between Halo and I for the past seven years. In addition to snorts and head butts, Halo chooses when I can pet her. Given her history, I can understand. Still, I would love to be able to scoop her up and snuggle at will! Nope, nope, that’s just not who my self-possessed, independent bun is.


At the conclusion of another day, I look over at Halo before turning off the light. I gaze into those big, soft, bunny eyes and swear I detect love as they stare gently back at me.

Goodnight, Halo. I love you, too.