Radical Love

Caring Hands

“I believe in love. Not just getting it, but giving it. I think that if you’re able to love someone, even if they don’t know it, even if they can’t love you back, then it’s worth it.” ~ Dorothy in Gosford Park

“… Now I know she’ll never leave me, even as she fades from view. She will still inspire me, be a part of everything I do. Wasting in my lonely tower, waiting by an open door. I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in, and as the long, long nights begin, I’ll think of all that might have been, waiting here forevermore.” ~ Beast singing “Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” ~ Maya Angelou

Many years ago I read an amazing book, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. That book helped me change my perspective about life and love. Until I read that book I thought that something was terribly wrong with me because I was miserable while everyone else around me seemed to be so happy. I thought their lives were easy. That bothered me because mine was not. Oh, how wrong I was. We all struggle, we all want to live a meaningful life and most especially we all want to be loved.

Peck’s book opened my eyes to a new concept about love. He wrote, “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth … Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

Reading that was like a slap in the face. I was so used to trying to get people to love me that I never considered that choosing to love was my responsibility. If I loved myself, loving other people would be easy, and my life would be enriched whether they loved me back or not. But more than that, I understood that I had access to a well of love that I could rely upon whenever I needed it. All the love that has been shared throughout the history of the human race still exists. We can add to it and access it to help us through any challenges we might face.

Many people read The Road Less Traveled. It was on The New York Times Best Seller list for a very long time. I think perhaps Peck’s assertions about love have affected not just spiritual seekers, but artists as well. The kind of love M. Scott Peck talks about in his book permeate movies, books and television shows. Look at some of the latest crop of Disney movies, to name just a few. Maleficent, Tangled, Frozen, Cinderella, and the new Beauty and the Beast. They all have sweet, seemingly innocent, weak characters who are unwavering in their love for someone who needs it, or they are sustained by the love when they need it most. Because of love characters are transformed. But the endings aren’t the artificial, “And they lived happily ever after kind.” In each case, the characters learned important lessons from their trials that will help them the next time challenges come.

And radical love is not a major theme only in Disney movies. It shows up in lots of places in popular culture. One of my favorite places it shows up is in, Gosford Park, written by Julian Follows. He’s one of my favorite screen writers because he conveys important concepts with so few words. The quote above by Dorothy, one of the maids in the country house, Gosford Park, rang so true for me, and reminded me of what Peck had written in his book. Love isn’t a prize. It’s something you cultivate within yourself and give freely to others without expecting anything in return.

The song “Evermore” that I quote above, from the live action Beauty and the Beast has the same sentiment. The Beast is changed because he allows another person into his life. Something about Belle helps him venture to love enough to let her go to do what she needs to do. And as the quote above tells, he will never be the same even if she never returns to him. He has made a decision to uncover the loving person who got buried by an uncaring father. If you haven’t seen this latest version, I highly recommend it. It’s an extremely beautiful movie.

I didn’t realize that love was such an important theme in my own life until I wrote my book, The Space Between Time, I didn’t intend to have a deeply wounded character be transformed by love, at least not consciously. It just kind of happened that way. But when I was writing a pivotal scene, all the things I’ve learned about love since reading The Road Less Traveled, kind of coalesced. Here is a bit of what came out of the computer key board:

“Aris waited a moment or two to see if he would continue. When Seth was quiet, he asked, ‘Do you think you’ll ever tell her what you’ve told me?’

Seth took a deep breath. ‘I have to don’t I? Even if she can’t love me, I must tell her how much loving her has changed my life.’”

It feels like we human beings are waking up to the fact that to have a loving world, we must not SEEK love, but BE love. To me that means to be there for the people who need us, or to leave people who are toxic. We can’t share love if we hate ourselves. Love has to begin within us. I believe it’s the lack of self-love that has caused all the conflicts throughout history.

I’m not sure this post has an end. We are sustained by the love left behind, and If we tend our love, it will only grow larger and stronger. We’ll continue to be transformed by it.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Evolution

Great Buddha, Kamakura, Japan

“The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life.” ~ Gary Zukav

“Only choices made in love are compassionate. There are no exceptions. Do you have the courage to act with an empowered heart without attachment to the outcome? If not, you have no ability to give or experience compassion. That is the shocking truth.” ~ Gary Zukav

The Sunday morning ritual in our house is to watch Sunday Morning on CBS. Last Sunday there was a segment on Kellyanne Conway. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch but I’m glad I did.

My first impressions were that her life has changed in ways she had not anticipated. That she gets attacked, like lots of public people do, for things that don’t matter like what she’s wearing. I don’t agree with her politics, but seeing that interview, which I admit is the first time I’ve seen her talk, made me feel sorry for her. She seems afraid and out of her depth. But what she said about being hounded for everything she does is a reflection of our hunger for “the dirt” on people. That’s not fair no matter who is in the public eye. I think we judge others when we feel out of balance and helpless. We think it’s a way we can control the outside world.

Watching the interview caused me to do a great deal of thinking about the discourse among the various political factions in this country. I’ve struggled since the election with the best way to help the evolution of our country, culture and myself. And for some reason seeing this woman trying to express herself clearly during the interview, helped me see that the great divide has more to do with our evolution as a species, and not for any other reason. And what does the evolution have to do with politics?

Not long ago I found a link on Facebook to an interesting article by Edward Morgan. It was on the site Prepare For Change about scientific evidence that the human race is waking up. The earth vibrates, as does every living thing on the planet. These vibrations are connected and have an effect on all the others. The very first sentences of the article states, “On 1/31/17, for the first time in recorded history, the Schumann Resonance has reached frequencies of 36+. This is a big deal. In 2014, it was considered anomalous for the frequency to have risen from it’s usual 7.83 frequency to somewhere in the 15-25 levels.” The article goes on to say that the spike in the Schumann Resonance is not returning to it’s usual 7.83 Hz. Why is this significant? Because, “These emerging resonances are naturally correlated to human brainwave activity.”

It seems to me that if the earth’s frequency has been raised by the elevation in human brainwave activity, then perhaps there are people who feel the change and are deeply frightened by this unseen vibration that they sense but can not define.

Years ago, in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, when I was going through a significant spiritual upheaval, I read the book The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. It was not only eye opening, but comforting as well. In it Gary Zukav says, “We are evolving from five-sensory humans into multi-sensory humans. … The perceptions of a multi sensory human extend beyond physical reality to the larger dynamical systems of which our physical reality is part. The multisensory human is able to receive, and to appreciate, the role that our physical reality plays in a larger picture of evolution, and the dynamics by which our physical reality is created and sustained. This realm is invisible to the five-sensory human.” pg. 27.

We’re struggling all over the world with what it means to be human and whether to continue on in the same old patterns, or to embrace new ways of being. The political climate has forced us to take a good look at ourselves and examine what we’ve created. If the article published by Prepare For Change is right, most of us are choosing to evolve and become multi-sensory. If that’s true, then we have to show compassion to those who are not yet ready to evolve.

I have to say that I have struggled a great deal about how to do that. We can’t let the people who are asleep run the world. That is proving to be counter productive. So, I have considered marching. I do sign petitions and send massages to my elected officials. But for some reason the words resist and protest seem wrong to me.

A local friend of mine posted her thoughts on this issue in a very long essay. She may have borrowed it from someone else, but the gist of it was that we should use the word persist instead of resist. I loved that because as a writer, I’m a big fan of using words carefully. They can be like daggers, or they can heal. We can be like the drops of water that eventually split the rock in two through persistent dripping. So, to help humanity continue to evolve, I will persist in my own awakening, in being kind and compassionate, in listening, in working to help others become successful. I will persist in urging our elected officials to think of every one of their constituents instead of lining the pockets of the wealthy and in turn getting rich themselves. But most of all, I will trust that even though it looks like everything is falling apart, it is really falling together. Sometimes you have to tear down the old to reconfigure it into something new.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times

Cover art for A Tale of Two Cities

Cover art for A Tale of Two Cities

“The truth is, we are all one connected thing.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” ~ Albert Camus

“Countless scientific studies show that steeling yourself against the negative, preparing for the worst, actually puts you on a trajectory heading straight for the very thing you’re hoping to escape.” ~ Pam Grout, Thank and Grow Rich

I don’t believe in coincidence, so when Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey recently offered a new meditation series and it was titled “Creating Peace from the Inside Out”, I knew it was just what I needed to ease my frazzled nerves from the din of the election noise. The meditations went right along with the Pam Grout books I’ve been reading, E Squared, E Cubed, and Thank and Grow Rich. They are all about changing our focus from always seeing the negative things around us, to finding the abundant beauty that most of us miss everyday.

Here is an example: As I began this post, the sun was just coming up. I love to watch the sunrises and sunsets here in Arizona. I can’t get enough of them, and my photos file proves it. I love them because, you see, I lived in Portland, Oregon for fifteen years prior to moving here. As my father used to say of living on the western side of the Cascade Mountains, “It just get’s light, then it gets dark.” There is almost constant cloud cover. Okay, I haven’t been back in twenty years since global warming has changed climates everywhere. They may see the sun more often now, but while living there I never saw the lavender tinge to the sky on the opposite horizon when the sun was rising or setting. It’s just one of the pleasures of living where the sun shines almost every day.

Another pleasure of living in the desert is the night sky. Every night that I drive home from teaching my class, I stop outside my car before going into the house and look at the abundance of stars. We’re lucky to live in the country where there is little light pollution.

I have to say I do miss the proliferation of flowers in Portland in the spring, and how the gorgeous colors make up for the gray skies. I especially miss the pink dogwood tree that my husband gave me for my birthday. I loved watching it bloom as I worked in the kitchen. I must now keep the beauty of that tree in my mind.

Since doing the twenty-two meditations and reading Pam Grout’s books, I now wake up grateful for a new day and all the blessings it will bring. When I’m feeling down, I listen to “Happy” by Pharell Williams, (Right after the election I listened to it about twenty times one day when I was feeling particularly off balance.) or some other happy song. I watch happy movies and TV shows and I’ve decided to stay away from negative posts on social media. Thankfully, I gave up watching the news years ago. In short, I’ve decided to follow my inclinations to spread, and feel as much joy as I can.

To this end, I’m focusing on my latest fun creative project, my video series, “Loving Literature.” It’s so much fun learning to create and edit the videos. (It’s much more work than you might think watching the finished products.)

Originally the series was going to focus mostly on tutorials, but lately I’ve been thinking of books I’ve read that have inspired me, and I want to include them in the series as well. The first of these books was A Tale of Two Cities. I read it and Jane Eyre in senior English class many years ago. They ignited my love of British literature. As I was thinking of A Tale of Two Cities, it struck me that we could use that title for the times in which we are living.

If we focus on just the negative, it is the worst of times. But if we turn our attention slightly it can also be said to be the best of times. In the two weeks since the election, I’ve read of people being attacked and then others coming to their rescue, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood and other such organizations are enjoying an increase in donations and memberships. I choose to be grateful for those and so many other blessings big and small. It’s amazing how many blessings I’ve found since I decided to look for them.

Yesterday I was thinking about how in the end of A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton gives his life so that Lucy’s husband Charles Darnay may live. He does it out of love for her. On the night before his execution, he imagines the joy that his death will bring the couple as they raise their children and honor him for what he did for them. He imagines the good they and their children will bring to the world. In fact, that was the thing that grasped me about the book, how love can change people. Amidst all the chaos and violence of the French Revolution, Sydney Carton was redeemed.

Though it sometimes feels odd to do so, I have begun sending love to Mr. Trump, his cronies, the KKK and any other people and places where strife is happening. My prayers join with those of others doing the same thing. It becomes an invisible force for good and hopefully more and more people will join in and accelerate the change which is already happening.

I didn’t mean to get so preachy. It’s difficult to express how deeply I’m affected by current events, and how I gain comfort from what I’ve read, the guidance I receive during meditation, and from the beauty around me. I share my thoughts with all of you in the hope that maybe you too will find the kindness, love, and beauty that can be found everywhere we look.

Thanks to my new followers for joining me, and thanks to you all for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

What We Leave Behind.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

“There are no victims, only volunteers.” ~ John Berger

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” ~ George Eliot, Middlemarch

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” ~ William Shakespeare

“I hear my father-in-law’s response: ‘Oho, fine, Whiggish sentiments, Adam. … He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you grasp your dying breath shall you understand your life amounted to no more than one drop in the limitless ocean!’ Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” ~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

“All the world’s at stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” ~ William Shakespeare

It’s Monday morning as I write this and as usual my mind is a jumble of ideas all fighting for a way out of my head. Normally, my morning routine is to get my husband off to work, then meditate, write in my journal and do tai chi, or yoga before starting my writing day. This morning I had to get these ideas down before they flitted away.

Sometimes I have felt like my little life is extremely insignificant. I guess as a teacher, I have the opportunity to influence more people than most, but still I will probably never have a large range of influence. When I was younger and felt extremely inadequate, that bothered me. I wanted to be famous and adored by millions. But as I’ve grown older and learned to love myself, I have come to see that my job was to be as loving to others as possible. That’s it. That means learning to love myself so I can be authentic when I interact with others.

Since I graduated with a religious studies degree, I’ve read lots of spirituality books. Many of the authors state that we are actually made of energy. Most of us don’t even think about the energy we are sending out into the world. We think our bodies are the container that holds us, but that is not true.

In the novel series His Dark Materials of which The Golden Compass is the first, Philip Pullman uses the device of having a character’s, daemon, or soul, outside their body. Characters have conversations with their daemons, and get advice from them. I believe it’s much the same with us and our energy. Just think about it. Haven’t you noticed situations when someone entered a room and everyone stopped for a heartbeat because they felt the energy change? They may not have known, consciously that’s why they stopped talking to look, but they did. Or haven’t you come into a room where two or more people were arguing, and it was almost as if you were slapped in the face with their anger? Aren’t there people you want to be around and others you can’t stand? It’s their energy which is either compatible with yours or not and on some level you know it.

So, we’re all here on this planet playing our parts for some reason beyond our human understanding. And every single life affects many other lives down through the ages. I see this played out on shows like Who Do You Think You Are, and Finding Your Roots. Both shows use genealogy to trace the celebrity guest’s family tree. It’s amazing the emotions that are brought up when a person discovers something about their ancestors and how what their ancestor went through has influenced their outlook on life even though they knew nothing of them before the show. Time and again I saw that no one is ever completely anonymous. The lives of those in the past have tremendous influence on people and events now.

So, if everything I’ve written above is true, we each contribute to wherever humanity is headed be it awakening or destruction. Things look pretty dismal right now if you’re only looking at the mainstream media. But I don’t think the human race is on a path over the cliff. I don’t think once we’ve expanded, we can force our larger selves back into that smaller shell. One thing I say often is that we can find the good and positive things that are happening in the world if we look for them or if we choose to look at events with new eyes. Instead of looking at horrific events and seeing only evil, look for what good came out of that event.

It feels to me like the human race is learning to walk. At first we learned to roll over and only a few people tried to make the world a better place. Then we learned to crawl and people like Jesus and Buddha came along and taught us how to truly love ourselves and others. More people understood that to defend another person is to defend yourself. Now we’re learning to walk. Many more people see through the lies that oppress groups of people.

The problems we face are so overwhelming. Maybe you’re like me and you think, what can I, just one person, do to help solve them. What I decided to do was to pick just one or two problems and put my energy into solving them. I’ve chosen education and hunger. If my money and time can influence a handful of people, the ripple effect can be enormous.

A former student of mine sent me a message the other day, reminding me of just how powerful the ripple effect one person can be. He wrote, “…you have always inspired me, both for the type of teacher you were and the type of person you are. This year I will be starting at ___ as the new Freshman English teacher and I don’t think I would have found the drive or willingness to pursue it if it wasn’t for your caring heart and inspiring work ethic. Thank you.” I’m humbled by his words and find great hope in the influence he will have on his students. He is passing on the legacy I inherited from my parents, friends and teachers, which they got from their parents, friends and teachers and on back through the ages.

You have that kind of influence on the future too.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

*Go Set A Watchman* – A Review

Go Set A Watchman Cover Art

Go Set A Watchman Cover Art

“One of the most powerful tools for transformation is the willingness to ask ourselves, ‘Could I be mistaken?’ “ ~ Marianne Williamson

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; As I have loved you, That ye also love one another.” ~ John 13:34 The Bible

“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.” ~ Wes Angelozzi

This week’s post was going to be about a completely different subject. Well, not so different I suppose. I was going to comment on my feelings about politics, and not just the elections. Then last Friday morning I finished reading Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman and my plans changed.

When I began reading the book, even though I had tried not to, I was comparing it to To Kill A Mockingbird. Somehow I got through 12 years of school, college, and graduate school without ever having read the book. I’d seen the movie numerous times, but I didn’t read the book until about two or three years ago. When I read To Kill A Mockingbird it affected me on a very deep level. Few books have affected me that way. Go Set A Watchman is one I will be thinking about for many years to come.

When the book first came out, I’d read reviews about it. Some people condemned it for ruining their love of the character of Atticus Finch. I loved him too, because the way Gregory Peck portrayed him in the movie was very much like my own father. I wasn’t sure I wanted that image destroyed. Yet, other review comments intrigued me, so I bought the book. I’m glad I did.

One of the main themes is that often we worship one or both of our parents. We think they are perfect. It’s part of growing up to understand that human beings are complicated. Often we have to learn to love and accept our family and friends as they truly are, not as we wish them to be.

Jean Louise Finch finds out some things about her father that make her sick because they convince her that who she thought her father was is a lie. But as the events of the book move along, she learns that the new information she discovered is not quite right either. The point of view about everyone being equal that she learned from him was partly her own interpretation of who he was. Every human being is a mass of contradictions. Jean Louise and her father Atticus are no different.

Near the end of the book, Hank, a life long friend of Jean Louise’s says that he’s trying to get her to see past her father’s actions to his motivations. I was so struck by that statement, because that’s what my father used to try to get us to do. We can’t always know what is in another person’s heart, and sometimes appearances can be deceiving.

By the time I finished the last page, I was grateful for the courage Harper Lee demonstrated in writing the book. Through the events and characters I came to understand the nature of the extremely complicated relationships and long held beliefs many Southerns hold on to. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I had no idea how tangled the layers of not only race relations, but the staunch belief in states rights, the class system, and even the proper roles of the sexes are in the South. Then, of course, I realized that’s the truth for the entire country. The issues of race relations aren’t going to be healed until we are willing to take a new look at our long held attitudes about people who happen to be of a different race or social class than we are.

In my opinion, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman, are companion books and should be studied together. The first describes race relations and how Jean Louise’s father fits into that picture from a child’s point of view. In the second, she is shaken awake and must confront herself, her town and finally her father. When we grow up and realize our perceptions about our loved ones is incorrect, that’s the day we can learn to accept the flaws in ourselves and everyone else. In my opinion, we all need to do that on a personal and national level.

Relations among the races in this country is an unhealed wound. As my father used to say, you can’t legislate morality. Well you can’t pass laws that say all men are created equal and make people honor it either. It’s distressing to me because it seems whites have expanded racial hatred to include anyone who isn’t white. It seems that way only if you listen to the corporate media. There are rays of hope, but you have to be dedicated to finding them.

I’ve written this before, and I’ll emphasize it again, we’re at a crucial point in our country’s development. It’s time for us to grow up and acknowledge our mistakes and find ways to untangle the many threads that got us to where we are today so we can weave them into a beautiful pattern. That to me, is the theme of Go Set A Watchman. Those of us who are courageous enough must be the watchmen and stand up for caring for ALL people wherever and whenever we can in our day to day lives. If enough people do that, then we can truly become the melting pot we’ve been purported to be.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share any of my posts with friends.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

My Father part 4 – Leading by Example

Dad's Birthday

Dad’s Birthday

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Example is leadership.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This past weekend I had a Facebook conversation, if you can call it that, with one of my friends. His politics are conservative judging by his posts and there have been times when he’s posted photos and memes that are, in my opinion, hateful toward Muslims. Sometimes when I see those, I hide them, because the photo or sentiment promotes violence and hatred, and I don’t want them on my feed. I have not unfriended him, because one thing I learned from my father is that the only way to change someone’s mind is to try to understand them and then lead by example.

Now, this person and I only have contact on Facebook. However, I believe social media can be a powerful tool. With it you can spread any message you choose. I choose to try to spread compassion, understanding, kindness and love. I’m not perfect and sometimes I post questions that are nagging at me about our current national dialogue on so many issues. And sometimes I post memes that express something that I hope people will think about.

Thursday, I found this meme on my newsfeed, which I reposted: “There are well over a billion Muslims on this planet. If Islam was really about violence you’d all be dead by now. Stop letting your TV and Newspaper tell you who to hate.” Most of my friends liked the post, however, it set off a firestorm of nasty comments from the above mentioned Facebook friend. I admit it is rather confrontational and unlike me to repost such a thing, but sometimes we do need to state clearly our point of view which this meme did for me.

However, as I was reminded by the debate I set in motion, you can’t change anyone’s mind once they’ve become entrenched in that point of view. My dad used to say that and he was right as I relearned last week. Fortunately for me, this man did not unfriend me. I stopped trying to convince him of my point of view and he did the same. Maybe if I continue to post my viewpoint about treating others with compassion and empathy, eventually he and I will change our feelings toward each other.

I know it seems like there is so much hatred in the world but if you look you can find messages of hope. Saturday I reposted this meme from “Parliament of the World’s Religions,” after the attacks on Brussels. It reads: “If you are not Muslim, say to someone who is: ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ If you do not know a Muslim, meet a Muslim, then say to them: ‘I’m glad you’re here.’” Whoever created this meme is trying to get us to think in new more loving ways instead of continuing to perpetuate retaliation which only exacerbates a situation. Insert any word that describes a group different that you into the meme and be kind not confrontational with them. That’s easier said than done for me when it comes to politics especially since the extreme conservatives have entrenched themselves and are, figuratively speaking, arming themselves for political battle. It’s been like this for almost eight years and the situation seems hopeless. Yet, we can change the situation by taking a new tack. I’ve read two articles recently that give me hope that the tide is changing away from attack to empathy.

The first is from Popular Resistance titled: “History Teaches That We have the Power to Transform the Nation, Here’s How.” The authors, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers published this on June 12, 2013, but it seems even more relevant today and points out all the times in history when regular everyday people banded together to effect huge changes in their societies. Most of their examples are based on non-violent movements, but our country was formed by people banding together and saying, “We want to govern ourselves.” It seems we’re having to do that again. I hope we accomplish it using empathy this time.

Another article I read recently on the same theme of non-violent change, was a much more personal piece published on March 18, 2016 by George Lakey on the Waging Nonviolence website It’s about his experience protesting outside a Trump rally. The title of the article is “How empathy, not protest, can defeat Trump and right-wing extremism.” In the article he asks these questions: where does the violence of the Ku Klux Klan, and by extension other hate groups, come from? And where is empathy honored in our culture? He believes empathy is the vital tool to bridging the gap in the wide divide between political groups. I think he makes some important points in his article. Each side has been attacking the other. That hasn’t worked to solve our problems. Maybe using empathy will.

These are just two examples of people who are advocating that instead of continuing to confront our “enemies”, we should lead by example and use compassion and understanding to create a bridge. I’m all for that and will continue to plant seeds and show compassion and use empathy wherever I can. My first act of compassion is to keep as friends people who don’t agree with me and show as much empathy toward them as I can. Remember, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ~ Lao Tzu. My father was soft when dealing with people. I want to be that too.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Things I Learned from My Father part 2 – Kindness

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

“No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.” ~ Aesop

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” ~ Dalai Lama

“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me those are traditional values.” ~ Ellen DeGeneres

The other day I was trolling Facebook and saw a video that fits perfectly something I learned from my father: it’s important to always be kind and give people the benefit of the doubt. My dad was almost always kind to others. He rarely lost his temper even at home, even when people were in his face challenging, or yelling at him.

But back to the video. In it a man with a “Trump Supporter” T-shirt and a sign that asked for hugs was standing outside a Bernie Sanders rally. He had a camera crew with him, so I don’t know if he was a real Trump supporter, or someone doing a social experiment. In any case as the rally ended and people poured out, he held up his sign asking for a hug. Only one person said, “F**k you.” Many people walked by without saying a word, but once the first person gave him a hug, many others followed. One woman even said, “Oh, you poor guy.” There was one man who wasn’t sure he wanted to give this Trump supporter a hug, he kind of hemmed and hawed, but finally he approached and gave the best hug. At the end of the video the young man said something like, “See we can overlook our differences and find common ground.”

In this season of so much controversy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what my dad taught me about being kind.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school, we moved from Wilbur, Washington to a five acre lot, twelve miles south of Spokane. There I was starting at a new country school that just happened to be rivals with the school I had been attending. The students at the new school were much nicer to me than the ones at the old had been when I started school there. That was wonderful, but church wasn’t so wonderful. My father was a progressive thinker in every aspect of his life. The members of the three congregations in Spokane were mostly conservative which as they got to know my father caused some real problems for our family.

At various times my father was, the district wide youth leader, and later pastor of our congregation. As youth leader, he wanted to broaden our experiences, so he did things like start a “Coffee House” in the basement of our congregation every Friday or Saturday night. We drank soda or tea, ate cookies or popcorn and had an open mic where people could sing, or recite or read what they’d written. We were encouraged to invite our friends. The atmosphere was dark with candles on the tables which made it feel very intimate. We kids loved it. The parents did not. We were, of course, chaperoned, but that didn’t matter. There was an uproar that inappropriate things were happening at the coffee house and the experiment was shut down.

Then dad started a program with the local mental hospital. Those of us who attended their monthly socials, would just talk to the inmates of the hospital, play games or read to them, or maybe dance with them. But again, people objected. Why should we be subjected to those unsavory people in the mental hospital? Maybe the parents were jealous. My father was very popular with the younger generation. Whatever the case, our trips to the hospital stopped.

When my father became pastor of our congregation, he started a relationship with the minister of the Baptist church a few blocks away. The congregation was made up of mostly black people and the two ministers cooked up a scheme where the two congregations would get to know each other so we could do some community outreach together. Unfortunately, that too fell flat.

Each of these attempts by my father to help get us out of our insular activities and worship, caused great anger toward him and our entire family. My parents received hate mail and terrible phone calls from congregation and district members. Though my parents tried to shield us from the controversy, I was old enough to catch snippets of conversations that gave me a pretty clear picture of what was going on. My father was considered a rabble rouser and many people didn’t like him. There were times when I witnessed people confronting him at church. No matter what they said or how they treated him, he was always kind.

Witnessing the way my father interacted with people left a deep impression on me. I asked myself how he was able to stay so calm and return hatred with kindness? One thing I noticed was that after such confrontations, he’d go to his bedroom, or some other quiet place to be alone for awhile. When I took up this same practice, I found that it helped me in my attempts to be kind to others.

I’m not perfect. There are times when I feel overwhelmed by emotions I don’t understand and I want to make nasty comments either in person, or on social media. But that would only escalate an already volatile situation. When I feel strong negative emotions, I follow what I learned from my father, I go to a quiet place, write down my feelings and meditate to calm myself. I wish we taught those skills in our schools because if we did, we might have a more peaceful world. I’m grateful I learned them from my father.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Empathy and Mean Memes

Hands of different races

Hands of different races

“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” ~ Stephen Covey

“The struggle of my life created empathy – I could relate to pain, being abandoned, having people not love me.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

“I always think that if you look at anyone in detail, you will have empathy for them because you recognize them as a human being, no matter what they’ve done.” ~ Andrea Arnold

About a week ago I saw this meme on Facebook. “Unpopular opinion: We are not all equal. I worked my ass off to get where I am, I deserve what I have, I shouldn’t have to give up what I’ve worked for to make things equal.” ~ Whisper. When I read this meme, I found it disturbing on several different levels. First of all, it shows a lack of empathy, which I believe to be extremely important in human relations. Second of all, the writer assumes there is not enough abundance to go around which I believe to be completely untrue. We just need to spread the abundance around so everyone has enough.

The other day I was at Target before going to teach my evening class at the college. I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between the man in front of me and the cashier. The customer said that he hoped the cashier’s shift was nearly over, to which the cashier replied, “Nope. I don’t get off until 9:00 tonight … four more hours. And I’m tired. I just came from my other job.” Of course the customer commiserated with the cashier which affected me deeply. I nearly cried. What must that young man’s life be like? Does he have any down time at all? Or is his life going from one job to the next just so he can survive. How horrible. It’s like he’s condemned to a living hell.

We often make the assumption that people who are poor are lazy. I don’t believe that’s true as evidenced by the cashier at Target. It takes a great deal of effort for the less fortunate to make ends meet, which leaves little time for additional education, or looking for a better job, or having fun with family and friends.

When I overheard the conversation in Target, I thought again of the above meme. The writer assumes that some people are more deserving than others. I don’t believe that to be true. We all come from the same place and our country is founded on that very idea. In the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I think what Thomas Jefferson meant was that every single person born on this planet is seen by the Creator as having the same value to every other person, and that VALUE has nothing to do with what we own, the job we have, how hard we work, or anything else which is visible. Our value is something intangible, known to God and only minimally to ourselves.

Most of us are incapable of seeing another person’s or even our own true self. We have no idea who they or we are beyond the tangible things we associate with personhood. That’s the tragedy humans have been trying to overcome since we became the human race. The have nots feel their worth instinctively, while the haves sometimes arrogantly assume they have more worth than anyone else. We hold so tightly onto what we have because we’re afraid of losing it. But our country was founded on the idea that if we share what we have with each other, we all become richer. It has been one attempt to give everyone a chance to be free to navigate their own path and to fulfill their personal destiny. It hasn’t been a perfect experiment as we all know. However, I think, perhaps, we are in a new era of attempting to reset the balance so that everyone can thrive and find their perfect life. It seems to be happening in various ways all over the planet, people standing up for their rights and doing things that change our perspective of what it means to be a person of worth.

In my opinion the solution to our current financial, political, and religious imbalance is to share what abundance we have with each other, to be open and try to understand one another. Compassion and empathy are things each of us can learn. Now when the world is in such turmoil it seems a particularly good time to dedicate ourselves to cultivating both empathy and compassion. It doesn’t take much, just do what Harper Lee wrote in To Kill A Mockingbird. “You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

We All Have Scars

Chapel of the Red Rocks

Chapel of the Red Rocks

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities … always see them … for they’re always there.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” ~ Maya Angelou

After nearly three years of writing this weekly blog, I have to make a confession to you. I get impatient with people who are bonded to their negativity. I don’t often talk about it, or show my irritation outwardly. After all, you can’t change another person’s mind. They have to do that themselves. However, it has been difficult for me to be around people who only see death and destruction when I’ve worked so hard to seek out evidence to the contrary. Just recently I became aware that I’ve felt superior to anyone who’s got a negative outlook, because I can always find the positive side of any situation.

For many years I’ve worked to find the lessons in traumatic situations and difficult circumstances in which I found myself. I’ve made a concerted effort to become more loving and accepting, more peaceful and joyful. I’ve sought ways to heal myself. So when I FELT, during meditation, that I was wearing those terrible events like badges of honor, I had to admit that I was no different than anyone else. It was difficult to acknowledge that I had felt just a little bit superior to people who are stuck in their pain. Believe me, pain is addictive and I have finally admitted that I was an addict too. The good news is that if I can learn such a big lesson and let go of old patterns, so can anyone else who chooses to do so.

As, I’ve written before, this latest self-understanding is the result of a many year process. Last year on January 1, I began studying A Course in Miracles. We bought the book twenty years or more ago, but for some reason, I didn’t feel drawn to study it until last year. Every day I read a lesson and did an exercise. I have to credit the study of this book with helping me shift my thinking about myself. It’s difficult to describe how I felt internally, but it always seemed as if there was a huge barrier between me and what I wanted my life to look like. ACIM helped me begin to dismantle the mental wall I’d built up.

Nothing happens by accident and in November I was introduced to Dr. Joe Dispenza. He’s one of a number of people who are studying the brain. His book, Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One, uses science to explain how we can cut our ties to old ways of thinking and reacting to external stimuli. He shows the reader a step by step process to form new neural pathways so that we can be free to create a new life. Part of his procedure is to get the reader to face up to the unconscious thought patterns we’ve adopted but which hold us back from the happy life we’d like to live. It was while following his meditation techniques that I was blessed with my profound aha moment.

For many years I’ve known, intellectually, that everyone has scars. You can’t live on this planet without having had some traumatic experiences. During my meditation, however, I FELT the truth of that, and the fact that no one’s trauma is more special than anyone else’s. We often think ours is the most special but that’s not the truth. I certainly thought that. But now I’m ready to just get on with cutting away my old way of being and thinking about what happened to me and see myself in a new way. I’m no longer allowing my past to be a barrier between me and the life I’ve always wanted to live.

This is a new beginning for me so I’ll have lots of self-examination to do over these next months. However, I have to say, for the first time in my entire life, I feel free to be the real me. It’s a wonderful feeling and I hope that you can feel that way too one day.

This is my dream for all of us, that one day we will live in a world where, when a baby is born, they automatically know they can create the life of their dreams without going through such terrible life lessons. I know there will still be challenges but I hope that future generations will begin with a more positive mind set. I hope they come into this world understanding human behavior and know how to forgive without allowing the trauma to stick to them like superglue. It may take a long time before we get to that place but I still dream of a world like that.

I hope you have a wonderful year of new discoveries and adventures. I plan on having a few.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with friends.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Art Changes People

Carved African Faces. One of my cherished Christmas Gifts

Carved African Faces. One of my cherished Christmas Gifts

“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed – because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events … by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.” ~ Leonard Bernstein

Last week I wrote that my resolution for 2016 was to be one light that helps dispel darkness by embodying love, empathy and peace as much as I possibly can. And one of the ways I do that is through my creative endeavors.

I don’t write much about the fact that I teach theatre classes at our local community college. It’s only part-time after all, because as Leonard Bernstein pointed out, the arts don’t get people jobs. It’s the artists struggle to get paid for the work they create. Some garner recognition, but most struggle along working to pay the bills while doing their artwork on the side. I’ve been caught up in those same struggles, but the point of this post is to share my thoughts about why it’s important to be creative.

I teach theatre because I love to see the light in my students eyes when they’ve taken my class because they need an art credit to complete their degree, then they receive compliments on their acting. Or the light of understanding dawn when they connect with the multi-layers of meaning in a play or movie. I love helping them discover things about themselves that they would never have experienced if they hadn’t taken one of my classes.

This past semester, I taught a class called theatre workshop. It’s a performance class where students get a chance to produce and perform in a play. This time, however, we performed five short student written plays. It all came about because somehow, miraculously, a few of my acting students began to write their own scenes. One thing lead to another and I thought of offering this class. I’m so glad I did because it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

The plays were fantastic and the audiences liked them so much that I decided to offer the class again this coming semester. I have students who had written plays that we didn’t get to perform the first time around. Getting recognition for something you’ve created is life changing. I want my students to know what that rush feels like. I want them to become empowered by the process of creating so that they will continue to produce art long after they’ve finished their school work.

If you’ve never taken an art class, this might be the year to stretch your creative horizons. The camaraderie that develops among the artists is one of the fantastic side effects, but you might also find a new passion that will enrich your life and make it happier and more worth living.

Here’s one final quote to end this post and this year. “We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.” ~ John Lennon.

Creating artwork is one way to nurture ourselves and others, to spread love and compassion, both internally and externally. We humans are imbued with creativity and like plants we wither and die if we are unable to use our talents. I hope you find new ones to share with the world this coming year.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a blessed 2016. Feel free to leave a comment, or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015