Truth and Perception

Julia working at the wheel.

Julia working at the wheel.

“The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem.” –Captain Jack Sparrow

“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.” –Dennis Wholey

“Becoming yourself is really hard and confusing, and it’s a process. I was completely the eager beaver in school. I was the girl in the front of the class who was the first person to put her hand up and it’s often not cool to be the person that puts themselves out there, and I’ve often gotten teased mercilessly, but I found that ultimately if you truly pour your heart into what you believe in – even if it makes you vulnerable – amazing things can and will happen.” -Emma Watson

“Just like there’s always time for pain, there’s always time for healing.” –Jennifer Brown

Life is difficult and messy. It’s a mystery and most of the time we bump up against other humans with our set of values and what we think of as the truth and there’s friction. When that happens there are often hurt feelings.

My post last week was about something that had happened the week before within my family. I was trying to figure it all out. In the process I made the older of my sisters angry. She felt ambushed by what I wrote. I hadn’t cleared it with her. I regret that I ambushed her. That’s happened to me several times in my life and it doesn’t feel good. However, the exchange between us over the “facts” and the “truth” of the incident in question has made me do some deep thinking about what is truth and fact. I’ve also been thinking about whether or not I should apologize for speaking my truth.

I’ll write first about truth. There is one thing I know for sure about truth, there are as many versions of it as there are human beings living on this planet. And as most of us know, facts can be manipulated. So I ask, is there an ultimate truth? The way human beings determine what is truth, is by their perception of how the world works. We can’t help seeing the world in our own unique way. The factors that determine our perceptions are DNA, place of birth, order of birth in the family, gender, and on and on. So, no matter what I say, or how well I think I’ve described something, there will be people who just won’t get what I’m trying to express. This is what happened with my sister. An event happened in my family. I see it one way, my sister sees it another. Who’s right? Is there even a right or a wrong? Should I apologize for seeing a different truth than my sister? At one time I would have said yes. I would have apologized just to smooth things over so there would be peace in the family. I’m not so quick to do that now and here are the reasons why.

I have a right to my opinion about what happened. Something tells me to keep silent for a while and give everyone involved time to consider and sort out their individual feelings. This may sound bad, and you might not understand it. However, I’ve learned the most about myself from the times when I’ve been broken open by being hurt. Things were said, and misunderstandings happened in my family. Instead of whining, complaining, I immediately started asking, “What is this trying to show me?” I want to give my siblings a chance to ask the same question. I want to give us all time to calm down and get the lesson. If I take time to calm myself, I have an opportunity to understand my siblings better. I want to accept them as they are and not try to change them, because I believe we each have what Caroline Myss calls a Sacred Contract. Every single person has a purpose for being here, and it’s not my place to judge what that purpose might be. That goes for my siblings as well.

I must admit I did judge my brother and sister at first. But, I’m starting to get over that now, though I’m still not to forgiveness yet. I just keep remembering what my Dad used to say, “Once a person’s mind is made up, you can’t change it.” I may not be able to change my brother and sister’s minds. I have to be okay with that. Eventually I will be able to love and accept them as they are.

Another thing I’ve learned over the years is that being vulnerable is one of the best ways to connect with others. When someone shares their story with me, I don’t feel so alone. For most of my life, I was an observer. I didn’t share my deepest thoughts and feelings, because I was afraid of making mistakes. I didn’t want to stir the waters. I didn’t want people to be angry with me. But as I’ve gotten older, I realize, everyone makes mistakes. There is no getting away from that. I can either accept myself as I am, mistakes and all, or I can crawl into a cocoon and not have any impact on changing the world at all. When faced with the prospect of not having any effect, I can’t go down that road. Something drives me to help make the world a better place in which to live, which means over these last seven years of being a writer, I’ve come out of my shell. I’ve written about my mistakes, and things that confuse me. I’ve ranted about situations around the world that make me angry. I’ve mused about my writing process. I may have made people angry like I did my sister and all I can say is, anytime we move out of our comfort zone it’s a good thing.

Today is the last day of 2014. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, because I attempt to live in the moment, and who knows what lessons the next moment will bring? I’ll continue to make mistakes, which I embrace. It shows that I’m moving forward, that I’m trying to become a better person. I don’t want to go back to being that quiet observer afraid to say or do anything just in case I might cause a reaction. Growth comes from shaking up the status quo, throwing out what no longer works, and building something new out of what’s left.

So here’s to a great New Year for all of you, my readers. I hope 2015 is full of successes and mistakes and falling down and getting up for all of us. Here’s hoping your dreams come true.

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Compassion and Generosity Never Go Out of Style

It's A Wonderful Life Village

It’s A Wonderful Life Village

“Instead of judging people by their past, stand by them and help repair their future.” –Heidie Diasanta

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” –Abigail Van Buren

This week’s blog post is a difficult one to write, because this past week my family was split in two. I won’t recite every detail, except to say that my brother and the older of my sisters felt it necessary to accuse my youngest sister of abusing our mother and their children. Harsh words have been exchanged with plenty of blame to go around. This incident has made me think long and hard about forgiveness, compassion and generosity.

My youngest sister and brother-in-law have been struggling financially for about six months. It’s hard to understand if you’ve never been in their position, but being poor takes a lot of effort. I’ve done what I can to support them along the way. I think they are amazing, because they have never given up. From my perspective, they’ve been on an amazing spiritual journey, learning about themselves and trusting that the trials they’re going through are leading them to their purpose. I’m amazed that their relationship with each other has grown stronger, and their children continue to thrive, even with all the chaos going on around them. Both my sister and her husband have finally found jobs that are both meaningful, and that will help them build the life they want.

What distresses me the most is that from my point of view, my brother and sister lack compassion for my youngest sister’s situation. Oh I understand my brother and sister think they are protecting our Mother. At least that’s what I hope motivates them. The thing is, they’ve been off living their own lives, and not really engaged with the rest of us for many years. They don’t understand how the relationships among the rest of us have grown over the time they’ve been away. So why my siblings feel the need to kick my youngest sister and her husband just when they’re picking themselves up, I can’t fathom.

On the one hand I’m shocked and hurt by what has occurred. On the other, I know that the only way I can help heal the rift is to send love and light to the situation every single day. Miracles can happen. This miracle may take some time to manifest, but I know from experience that relationships can be healed. My youngest sister and I were estranged from each other for some years, but after much forgiveness work on both sides, we’ve built a stronger relationship than we had previously.

As you probably understand, this fracas has caused me to think deeply about compassion, generosity, and forgiveness all of which I learned from my parents. As I struggle to try to understand what’s happened in my family, today I found two things that helped me recommit to follow my parents lead of being generous and compassionate.

The first was a video published in Nick Ortner’s The Tapping Solution newsletter. It was originally a TEDx talk by Michael Norton at Harvard University in 2011. The title of the talk is: “How to buy happiness.” The point of the video is that money CAN buy you happiness, if you give some away to help others. The study the talk is based on gives amazing evidence to support Michael Norton’s premise. As I listened, I was struck with the fact that the reason Christmas is such a joy-filled season, is because we’re spending money on the perfect gifts to give others. The amazing thing is, the amount of money you give away doesn’t have to be large to make you feel better about your life. The reverse is true if you hoard money, your life is not any happier, and possibly less happy. Hum, I couldn’t help but think of my sister and brother.

The second inspirational piece was an article posted by A Mighty Girl, a group I follow on Facebook. The article was about a young woman, Dominique Harrison-Bentzen, who is a college student in Preston, England. She’d lost her ATM card, and was stranded after an evening out with friends. She had no money for a taxi. A homeless man, Robbie, offered her all the money he had, about $5 so she could get home. She was able to find her way home without using the money he so generously offered. However, she so touched by his gesture, that she started a fund raising page on Facebook so she could raise enough money to pay for an apartment for him. Well, of course, much more money than was needed for the apartment came in and she was able to give the money to other charities in the area that provide for the homeless. Needless to say, her story went viral and she’s starting a new campaign on Facebook to help others.

Both those stories inspired me. First off, compassion and caring not only makes us happier, it’s also big news. We want to hear inspirational stories like these. Forgiveness, compassion and caring are what’s going to change the world. If you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you know I’m continually writing about turning away from negative thoughts and feelings and embracing the positive. In the past I’ve apologized for that, but not any longer.

I’ll end this post with a quote from A Course In Miracles which I found just after the blow up in my family. It has helped me put my feelings into perspective. “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” I know that my youngest sister, her husband, my husband and I have been seeking the barriers within ourselves that keep us from accepting love. I write from experience, when you go inside and break down those barriers, your life will become messy for a while. You have to go though a time of what I call cosmic closet cleaning. However, when things in our lives fall apart, we’ve got a golden opportunity to build something new. That’s what I celebrate, because the alternative is to stagnate, which, in my opinion, is a very dark place in which to live.

I hope your holidays with family and friends are rich and happy, though I know that sometimes they are quite stressful. There can be a blessing in that for you. And remember, being generous, sharing money and compassion to others makes you feel better about yourself, and makes you happier.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Rejoice for the Truth

Earth from the Moon

Earth from the Moon

“We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” –Plato

“When negative feelings move upon you, reflect, and recognize the danger of feeding those feelings and keeping them alive.” –Bryant McGill

“Owning your own feelings, rather than blaming them on someone else, is the mark of a person who has moved from contracted to expanded awareness.” –Deepak Chopra

“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learn here.” –Marianne Williamson

In recent days I’ve been sick to my stomach about current events like, the decisions of the two Grand Juries made regarding the deaths of two black men, and the reports of torture that our government carried out in the years after 9/11. In fact, almost everyday there is some news story that makes my skin crawl. Maybe you feel the same way. It’s so easy to get discouraged about all the bad news. Yet, I have to rejoice. The truth is coming out!

In a way it’s like we’re doing an intervention for ourselves. A large number of people in this country are waking up to the fact that we had slid down that slippery slope toward evil with justifications that this police officer, or that official was only trying to protect the public, or the national interest. A growing number of everyday citizens aren’t buying that old excuse. They’re saying, “This isn’t right!” Other governments, regimes and groups down the ages have tried to cover up their misdeeds, all in the name of protecting the populace, or their business. We’re in a new era now, and those old shenanigans won’t work anymore.

A few days ago I finished reading I am Malala, our latest book club group selection. In my opinion it is a must read for everyone in the Western world. Most of us, and I mean mostly white people, have no idea what it’s like to live in fear for our lives every single moment, to have our freedoms restricted, and to witness terrible atrocities day after day. In the book Malala describes in compelling detail how the Taliban used insidious tactics to gain a foothold and then spread terror. While I was reading, it was almost as if I were living in her village, feeling the fear that my school would be bombed, or my friends and family killed. I dreaded reading the parts when she described walking to school and seeing the bodies of those the Taliban killed during the night piled among the rubble of bombed out buildings. We in this country haven’t had to face that amount of devastation, unless we’ve fought in a war.

While I was reading the book, it occurred to me that people who fear will go to the greatest of lengths to make themselves feel safe. And when they are steeped in the largest amount of fear, like the Taliban, or the ultra-conservatives in this country, there is no reasoning with them. Their minds and hearts are closed. They think that obstructing anything they see as threatening is going to make them feel better. Mistakenly, they think their fear comes at them from the outside so they try to make the fear go away by controlling events and people within their influence. So anyone who’s stuck in fear will do all they can to make themselves feel better. This is not a conscious decision you understand. It’s part of the fight-or-flight response.

We say that it’s human nature to react this way. But studies are showing that we can change that nature. We can change our feelings, and our ingrained patterns of thinking. People like Bruce Lipton, Nick Ortner, and organizations like the Heart Math Institute, have written about how we can turn away from fear toward love. It takes commitment and willingness to look into the dark places we’ve been avoiding. That’s why I’m grateful that the truth is coming out about the actions of corporation and our government. More and more people are willing to examine the situations that devalue human beings, and to speak up and call for accountability.

When we act out of fear, we’re not acting out of strength. Violence, external power, and the misuse of money show weakness. So how do we change the minds of those who are so gripped by fear? Their minds and ears are closed and their hearts are hardened. How do change that? We pray for them and send them love. The Dalai Lama says it better than I can. “Being concerned about other people is especially relevant in today’s world. If we consider the complex inter-connectedness of our modern lives, how we depend on others and others depend on us, our outlook will change. We’ll begin to see ‘others’ not as somehow distant from us, but as people we are in touch with, people close to us; we will no longer feel indifferent to them.” In other words, we are them, and they are us.

Today, as I write this, The Master Shift World Peace Meditation, narrated by Julian Lennon, is being launched. I hope they keep it on YouTube long enough for you to go experience this beautiful meditation. It can be the beginning of letting go of fear and realizing that we’re all connected. We can be instruments of a powerful shift from greed, hatred and terror, to peace. That’s part of my mission. To spread peace and love. Working to accept myself and find inner peace has been one of the most profound and exciting journeys of my life. Will you join me?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Giving Back

Library Book shelves

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” –H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“Happiness … consists in giving, and in serving others.” –Henry Drummond

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” –Lao Tzu

As many of you who’ve been following for a while know, I’m getting my first novel, The Space Between Time ready for publication. (Thanks to all you new followers. I’m happy to welcome you to my blog.) The process of revising and editing my book has taken much longer than I thought it would. There is an upside to that, however. I’ve had time to grow my contacts via social media, some of those include fellow authors. This is the exciting part, because some of those authors have been kind enough to help me improve my work, or have offered to help me promote my book once it’s published.

One such person is Nicholaa Spencer. I don’t remember how we found each other. It was probably through WordPress. She has a blog and website which she uses to review the work of up-and-coming authors. Recently she proposed a blog tour to exchange promotion services. Those of us participating review and promote her book on our blogs and she would do the same for our work on her blog.

I was happy to agree to participate. Her book, Marrying A Wannabe Nun, is available in ebook format. The links are below.

The thing that I’ve enjoyed about my association with Nicholaa is that she’s open to suggestions about her own work, and she’s enthusiastic about helping others promote their books as well. She wants to give back to her fellow writers. That’s so important. None of us becomes a success by ourselves. We have to have help.

As I write this, I’m reading NIcholaa’s book and sending comments back. I love that about the ebook format, you can make improvements and resubmit the manuscript without having to pull old editions.

Two years ago my husband and I published a children’s book, Scottosaurus The Little Dinosaur, that I’d written and my husband illustrated as a gift for our oldest nephew. We published it through CreateSpace, which is a print-on-demand publisher, and later, when the technology advanced enough to be able to publish pictures, we published an ebook version on Smashwords. When we were getting the ebook version ready for publication, we realized the book needed some revisions. The corrections were so easy to make for both publishers, because there weren’t a pile of books waiting to be sold.

But back to Nicholaa’s book. Her story is about a wealthy U.S. businessman who, for reasons you’ll have to read the book to find out, sends his young daughter to Rome to live with her uncle who just happens to be a Priest. That situation in itself could make an interesting book, but Nicholaa has added a twist. Marcus calls his daughter Alynna, who was ready to become a nun, back to New York to marry her off into the Rothschild family so he can save his business. In this day and age, we might think that’s a bit old fashioned, but it’s the kind of situation that makes for an interesting romance novel.

Isn’t that the way life is for most of us anyway? Life presents us with twists and turns that surprise us and with which we must cope.

I’m happy to have connected with Nicholaa. She’s a writer, book reviewer, editor, and blogger. Her favorite authors are some of mine as well: Dan Brown, Ken Follett, Jude Deveraux, J.K. Rowling, and Julie Garwood. She recently went back to university to further her education in Information Technology, while continuing her writing career. She currently lives in The Philippines.

If you want to connect with her you can find her at any of the networks below.

Twitter: @NichSpencer
Facebook: Nicholaa Spencer
Website: nicholaaspencer.wordpress.com
Goodreads: Nicholaa Spencer

And if you want to read A Wanna Be Nun it’s available at Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.

I encourage you to find small ways to give back to the people you love and/or work with not only this holiday season, but in the year to come. Gifts come in all kinds of packages, not necessarily with wrapping paper and bows attached. I hope your holidays are rich with the gifts of the heart.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

Gratitude

December 2, 2014 Western Horizon sunrise view

December 2, 2014 Western Horizon sunrise view

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” –Melody Beattie

“Thank you is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, and understanding.” –Alice Walker

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” –Marcus Tullius Cicero

November seems to be the month when many of my Facebook friends are inspired to post one thing they are grateful for each day. I think it’s good to focus on gratitude, even if it’s only one month out of the year. Focusing on gratitude shifts our eyes outward instead of inward, and it helps us see the beauty instead of all the things going wrong in the world. It also makes me happier to focus on things for which I’m grateful.

One day I was talking with some friends and I mentioned the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets I can enjoy from my home. One of the people sneered and said, “Yes, all that beautiful red is caused by the chemicals and particulates in the air. Who wants to be grateful for that.” I felt sad for her, because she almost never sees the beauty in anything. What a sad life she must live, not to be grateful for anything good that comes her way. That’s why sometime in 2013, I decided to dedicate an entire journal to gratitude. Each day I write three or four things for which I’m grateful and it’s been quite a life changing experiment.

Today, I awoke before sunrise and was blessed with the beauty of the sun turning the thin layer of clouds red, pink and gold. I remembered what that woman had said about what caused the colors, and I decided to take pictures of them and use them in today’s post. I’m grateful for the beauty of the earth. It’s one of the most simple blessings we have, yet most of the time we’re too busy to notice.

Anyway, after taking the pictures, my thought processes went from how some people have a hard time being grateful, to the time in my own life when I was extremely serious and closed off. I was wound up pretty tight, not wanting to make any mistakes. You see, I didn’t like myself very much and I thought that if I was as perfect as possible, no one would notice the flaws I knew lurked deep inside. I was pessimistic and cynical most of the time, just like the woman I mentioned above. Life was a chore for me then and not much fun. But little by little, I began to unwind the tight control I had on myself.

The first thing I did that helped was to dedicate myself to a year of volunteer service through a program sponsored by my church. Talents that I didn’t know I had emerged. That made me feel better about myself, and I began to feel the smallest bit of gratitude that I wasn’t such a terrible creature after all.

As the years rolled by, I found more things for which I was grateful. When I began keeping a journal at the age of twenty-four, I got the idea to end my entries thanking God for all the love and support that was guiding me along my life journey. This opened my eyes to a larger world of things for which I could be grateful.

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but eventually I realized that I liked who I’d become. I wasn’t perfect. I’d made plenty of mistakes throughout my life, but practicing gratitude allowed me to stop focusing so much on myself and my mistakes. What’s more, I noticed that everyone has some burden to bear, and dark places within that need healing. No one is perfect and trying to pretend that you are is exhausting.

A few months ago, one of my spiritual teachers challenged his readers to write three things that we were grateful for every day for two or three weeks. We had to pick three completely new things each day, no repeats were allowed. I took up the challenge, because, even though I was writing in my gratitude journal every day, I noticed that I was repeating myself quite a bit. My practice needed some revitalization.

Doing that was a shot in the arm for my personal growth. There are so many things big and small that we’re blessed with everyday. Noticing them leads us to lots of other wonderful things. For example, gratitude leads us to self-love, healing and finding our purpose. It leads us out of the dark times, or helps us cope with them when they come. Gratitude helps us discover new talents we didn’t know we possessed. It lightens our load and helps us have more fun.

I’m grateful that I let go of my cynicism, self-hatred and fear of being discovered. My life now is so much richer and happier. And when challenges present themselves, instead of yelling at God, I look for the lesson being presented to me.

What are the hidden things you can be grateful for throughout the holiday season, and beyond?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

December 2, 2014 sunrise over the San Jose Mountains

December 2, 2014 sunrise over the San Jose Mountains

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