Monday, December 05, 2005

Video game violence:shaping your children's Feeling/Thinking flow

Video games have become a part of our children's culture over the last 25 years. While PacMan may have been the start of this craze, today, the majority of video games have moved beyond the passive gobbling of circles to intense violence and killing. Twenty-five years ago, playing PacMan was an occasional recreation, today, our children are playing 4-8 hours a day. For some of our children, they've replaced the social skill building we learned playing at the park or joining a sports team.

What concerns me most however, is the power that these games may have on the feeling/thinking flow development of a child--at a time and in a way--that the child has little or no awareness of how a "block" may be forming in the way they learn to feel, think and negotiate their life choices. Consistently playing violent video games seeds a mindful orientation towards seeing the world as a pain/fear/anger--and to survive in it, I must become successful at attacking/killing others.

Of course, children don't realize this is what they're learning through the process of playing games. For them, "its just a game". But as adults, we need to look beyond the game and ask, "what is my child learning here?". And believe me, they're learning something! Games are the most effective way for a child to learn anything! Any one who studies child-development knows this. Want to teach geography? Your child will learn faster through playing "Where in the world is Waldo" than through rote learning or memorizing lists. Games are a fun, non-threatening way to learn.

What prompted this posting was reading about the changes that have occurred over the last 100 years on killing. We have shifted in the last 30 years according to Lt. Col Dave Grossman's book, "On killing: The Psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society". His research shows that prior to Korean and Vietnam wars, kill rates in WWI and WWII were lower than expected and he concludes that most humans are resistant to killing other humans. However, as military training improved soldiers became "desensitized to killing' through focused training exercises. Kill rates went from 55% to over 90% through this transition. The earlier resistance to killing other humans had been negated through the intense training and desensitization exercises.

His concern is that this has now moved onto a society-wide level and is reaching our children . His book, Stop teaching our kids to kill: a call to action again TV, movie and video game violence
highlights the impact of this constant stream of violence that our children see. As I read some of this information, I related it to Life Puzzle-making and have to conclude that the Feeling and Thinking edges of our children's Life Puzzles are being invaded by this constant bombardment and interrupting the formation of a healthy feeling/thinking flow.

While some may argue that these "games" aren't real--we forget that for young children, games become "real" because the SELF isn't fully formed and able to separate fact from fiction. As bombs go off, as people are killed, as their "SELF" feels powerful by successfully winning through killing, their brains are being patterned. If to this we add television, movies and childhood experiences that are also violent, fear-based, it isn't a quantum leap for a child to form a perception that the world is a scary place--the beginning seeds of a feeling/thinking flow that is blocked. As the child continues to play the games, sees violent TV and movies, it again reinforces this.

This might not be as alarming if there was a counterbalance to all this violence. For example, where is the video game that enable the strategy for "winning peace"? So, a teen can play Mortal Kombat for two hours, but then for another two hours he has to play World Peace Negotiator. The first game he gets to kill people all over the place, the second game he has to create sttategies that move people and world organizations to a peaceful solution of a conflict--or he ends up losing the game. Then at least, this child would have a chance at developing a healthy feeling/thinking flow. He would see a world that is both painful and pleasurable--and he can negotiate successfully in both (though I'm still not a fan of killing, period!).

I haven't been able to find many video peace games--am going to ask some of my teen friends to help me with this. But I ask you parents to get involved. Your children's feeling/thinking flows are being shaped through a lopsided presentation to your children of a violent/scary world. Its times to help balance the flow and show your children, there are just as many (and I'm convinced more, though you can't find it easily in the media) wonderful, beautiful, peaceful, and loving experiences happening too. Your children need to see both if they are going to build a healthy feeling/thinking flow. This is such a powerful piece in your children's Life Puzzle!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wanted: Adults please! Wisdom needed!

A client pointed out to me an interesting perspective while using the Choosing Continuum. He said, "It seems to me, that if you're living your life on the 0-5 side of the Choosing Continuum, then you're essentially declaring that you don't want to be an adult in the true sense of what it means to be an adult. Not until you shift towards the 6-10 side--where you take full responsibility for the choices in your life--and even more importantly, the consequences for those choices do you become a full adult."

We began to dialogue on this idea when he stated, "Yikes, kind of scary isn't it--how few adults there really are in this country!" "Heck, I can see through this counseling process that I've been guilty of saying everyone else should be acting like an adult--except me! I keep blaming others for making me mad, disappointing me, not living up to their side of a commitment and using this as an excuse why I don't have to do it either! Why are we so afraid to be adults?

I responded that "I think a lot of it has to do with the issue of consequences. We're great at making choices--but should those choices result in some uncomfortable consequences--few of us have strong enough Feeling/Thinking edges--SELF to stand up and say, "I own those consequences and I can see that I'm going to accept discomfort in my life is I take responsibility for them." When this happens, we reject adulthood and slip back into the culturally reinforced, 0-5 reactive, victim, child role. And while that might get us through this event, what we also do is lengthen our childhoods into our 30-, 40, and 50's!

Daniel Quinn's new book, Tales of Adam is a series of short story/fables. In the last story of the book, he is talking about the Wisdom of Life which each generation passes on to the next. In it he shares that there is a day in each of our lives when we are no longer children and must now be adults. When a child, we can break our spear, or throw a temper tantrum and the adults around us will tolerate it, help us fix our spear etc. But when we become adults, we can break our spear or throw a temper tantrum, but we will have to deal with the consequences. If we break our spear and can't hunt--we will go hungry tonight whereas the day before, the group would've provided. It is in this learning, we become adults--a necessary step if we are to become "wise". Consequences force us into becoming a person with Integrity.

Integrity is the mark of an adult--because it means we will accept the consequences of our actions. When you are known as a person with Integrity, others know you can be counted on but it is because they have seen you accept responsibility for all your actions--not just the ones that work out!

Today, in the midst of so many crisis, we need the Wisdom of Adults with Integrity to help us show our children that childhood can't last forever! Now, more than ever, it is time to choose--6-10, whole Life Puzzle making. Stop right now and ask yourself--if you died tomorrow, did you achieve adulthood--or refuse it? Because it is a choice in our culture. You can stay a child forever--but we need adults!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Holiday happiness? Its yours to make!

Thanksgiving is over--the holiday season is officially out of the gate and on its mad-dash run to New Years! Here we go again!

I was at the gym this morning, working off the extra calories that come with Thanksgiving dinner. Very empty gym this morning--only two others there with me! The woman said to me, "Can you believe it! People standing in line at 1:30 am for a 5 am store opening!" We laughed as we realized there were plenty of people shopping at 6 am, but none seemed able to make it to the gym at that time. A commentary on our times? (Today is known as BlackFriday--this is the season when retailers cross their fingers that they'll get out of the 'red' and into the black and see a profit by the end of the year.)

Shopping, eat, indulging.....this seems to be the seasonal obsession! Yet, we also know that for many people, the holidays are not enjoyable--actually are highly stressful and lead to depression, high anxiety etc. A friend of mind called and said her daughter was all upset because their typical Thanksgiving dinner was going to be immediate family only this year and as far as her daughter was concerned, this wasn't good enough. It wouldn't "look right" to just have the 6 of them--it needed to be a big table with a big turkey or it wasn't real. (As in the Norman Rockwell painting that everything emulates as the holiday 'ideal').

That got me to thinking how we are such copycats! A man on the local news talked about spending $700 on holiday gifts--and then said, "I don't really want to, don't really have the money, but its what people expect, so I gotta do it".

But we don't! We can opt out, create our own, be different! We can refuse to get sucked into the mass hysteria of the season, refuse to let ourselves become 'sad' because our lives don't fit into a supposed picture perfect world.

How do you do it? Spend a few moments with your SELF. Really assess how you feel about the holiday season. What do you like? What don't you like? What could you stop doing if you just spoke up and said, "Not going to do it this year"? Or, if the holidays really were a pleasant experience, how would you create them for you and your family? Would you forgo all the shopping and instead put your energy into sharing kindness and help to someone who needs it? If you're alone and feeling "left out" of the season, what is one thing you could do to help others?
(Volunteer for Meals on Wheels, Ring the bell for Salvation Army, volunteer to be the one who comes in to work on the holiday so others could be off--and then create a small party for this group).

The over-consumption, over-indulgent holidays have become such a nightmare for so many people. We pray for January 2nd by the middle of November! This year, make a choice to start creating a holiday season that reflects peace--for you, your family, the community and the world. Look at the pieces of your Life Puzzle and choose actions that honor your whole SELF. Eat foods that honor your body, maintain a regular exercise program, deal with sadness/depression by focusing your choice-making on positive actions. Communicate honestly, send E-cards instead of paper cards and honor the environment. Talk with your family and really come together to create a peaceful holiday. Take time to play, refuse to let your finances get hijacked by mass-media's constant "buy, buy, buy" message! Remember the spirituality of living love for all, take charge of any special challenge in your life--especially addiction behaviors which the holiday season's anxiety often triggers and most of all, let this holiday season be a statement of the meaning of your life--a piece at a time with the whole you in mind.

be peace....

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Widening the lens...we are all in this together

This weekend I had the opportunity to see the documentary, Wal-Mart, The High cost of low prices. It is an interesting film and it certainly leaves you feeling like Wal-Mart is a very greedy corporation who in their mission to provide low prices has created a monster that is taking over the world.

At the end of the showing, the group of 50 or so adults in the room began to discuss it and there was the expected venomous comments against large corporations. Wal-Mart, while perhaps the extreme of corporate greed certainly is not alone. Many other corporations have defiled the environment, run rough-shod over communities all for the sake of ever-larger profits (recall Enron). Wal-Mart, with more stores nationwide and an international influence with both stores and factories that supply cheap goods is an easy target to pick on.

But I would have to suggest that we widen the lens and take a broader look at the whole picture. Wal-Mart is a symptom not a cause of the problem. Wal-Mart in fact, is only acting out an inevitability of a system that is predicated on one core issue: a consumer economy. Bottom line is that we like to buy stuff. Or perhaps I should say, we have been enculturated into a culture that has convinced us that we are "consumers" instead of citizens. We all know it is our responsibility to 'consume' because when we stop consuming the economy lurches to a halt and then, oh, my gosh...what happens after that? As we head into the Christmas shopping season--don't you feel a pressure to get out there and do your part? We watch the TV newscasters report day after day whether or not we're going to have a good holiday buying season and thus a "strong economy". In the back of everyone's mind is the thought--if consumers don't buy, businesses don't do well, if businesses don't do well then people lose their jobs and when people lose their jobs then they can't buy and gosh, then it just keeps on spiraling down! No one wants to go there!

While Wal-Mart, the High cost of Low prices movie does force us to think about where we shop (big corporate or small local store) it doesn't force us to confront the even bigger issue--and that's that we consume way too much! Yes, we want cheap prices and for that we're willing to allow a Chinese factory worker to make $.18 cents/hr. Long before Wal-Mart took over the world, the American consumer has been accepting and expecting low prices. Blindly we have allowed our factories to shut down and ship out to India and China--while decimating our own small town factories and the communities around them. Was it Wal-Mart that made this happen or all of us?

Bottom line is that we're all in this together. Wal-Mart gives us what we want--cheap prices and we give Wal-Mart what it wants--our money. We're both addicted to each other but ultimately we are all going to have to confront our consumption. We could all stop buying from Wal-Mart tomorrow and bankrupt them within 6 months. We might feel good that we've toppled the greedy giant--but will we then stop shopping? No, and so another Wal-Mart will arise to fill the vacuum. It won't be long until we discover we've created another monster.

Until we are all willing to look at the core issue--massive consumption at the expense of our environment, the community and life--toppling Wal-Mart is but a temporary feel good. We must take responsibility for designing a world beyond a consumer economy. That's the movie I really want to see!

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Real Cost of Poor Nutrition

Every piece impacts the whole……..of your Life Puzzle. (

We take for granted our nutrition. We are grossly under educated about how food works in our body…and our minds. We generally assume—whatever I eat…my body will deal with it. And, yes, once you swallow it…it will have to deal with it! But taking our nutrition for granted impacts our lives in so many other ways than just what happens after you swallow it. In truth…the “real cost” of poor nutrition has an impact on you, your family, the community and the world!

When we eat low quality, highly processed foods instead of nutrient dense, high quality, organic foods—all pieces of our Life Puzzle are impacted.

Poor nutrition leaves our bodies and minds depleted. The consequences are numerous—
Exercise: we tend to exercise less when we eat poorly. Together these two areas of our Life Puzzle set the stage for much of what happens in the rest of our lives. (if you want to solve the health care crisis—you can do it right here. If Americans changed their diets and started exercising—a grand majority of the primary illnesses of our day would go away!)

Feelings: when we eat poorly, energy goes down, we often end up unable to proactively manage our feelings. Depression, anxiety, and an inability to manage daily stress take a toll on our feelings. Food has a powerful impact on our moods.

Thinking: our brains need high quality food to think! Eating a junk food, highly processed diet will reduce your ability to think effectively—and do well in your school, work…life!

Communication: is dependent on how we manage our feeling and thinking. When we eat poorly, we tend to be less capable communicators! And our ‘self-talk’ tends to become quite negative.

Relationships: add up inability to manage feelings, be high level thinkers and good communicators—and you can see how building a healthy relationship becomes much more difficult.

Parenting: your children depend on you to be the model for healthy eating. Also, when you are eating a junk food diet—you end up more irritable, less able to manage the high stress of raising a child (which is a lot of work!)

Sexuality: well, let’s just say…we perform better when we eat well!

Community: imagine a world where everyone ate high quality foods. Would we get a long better? Yes, we would! But another area is the impact on health/disease. When we eat poorly, we increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer—this requires massive amounts of the community’s time, energy and financial resources to help sick people—yet many of these people could’ve avoided becoming sick if they’d eaten better!

Environment: the impact of high industrial farming to produce so much of the highly processed foods today has resulted in depleted nutrition, ruined farmlands (topsoil loss each year is tremendous). It’s also leading to increased rates of cancer as well. Industrial farming impacts our water—of rivers, bays, ground water etc. through run-off of pesticides.

Work: poor nutrition impacts productivity, increases insurance premiums for the increased illnesses. This pulls money out of ‘profit centers’ and reduces your raises, benefits etc. as it funnels into insurance companies coffers to compensate for the illnesses resulting from poor nutrition!

Financial responsibility: ex: diabetes. If you are diagnosed with diabetes at age much will you spend from 45-80 on meters, testing strips, insulin, doctor’s visits etc. (conservative estimate is $3,000 per year out of pocket—if you’re insured, totaling $105,000!) If you could’ve prevented your diabetes through a low fat, high complex carbohydrate, healthy diet—where would you have put this money to work in your life instead of on this?

Special challenges: poor nutrition leads to many illnesses which ‘challenge’ our lives. Diabetes, cancer, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome…on and on it goes!
Finding meaning: living life in relationship to death. Yes, we will all die—whether we eat a nutrient dense, organic diet or a fast food only diet. But what about the quality of life vs. quantity. If two people live for 80 years—one spending half their life fighting illnesses due to poor nutrition, the other living vibrantly, doesn’t it make sense to choose good foods?

The Medical Profession resigned?

This week I was the guest speaker for a colleague's Nutrition course at the College. I was sharing the Life Puzzle model--and discussing how the nutrition piece of one's Life Puzzle impacts all the other pieces (see following blog--Every piece impacts the whole.).

Most of the people in the room were either already working in the medical profession--or were in the process of entering the field with the completion of their degrees. As I talked about the Choosing Continuum--one woman, dressed in 'medical scrubs', raised her hand and said, "Well, how do we tell a client that they have to take responsibility and change their lifestyle, when all they really want is for us to give them a pill and send them on their way? If the doctor I work for doesn't do this, they'll trot down the street to someone who will!!!!!

As she said this, many other students were shaking their heads in agreement. They described clients as by and large desiring to relinquish their health care to the system instead of taking responsibility for their own lives. And I know they're right as I've heard this very same lament for the last 25 years...."but patients won't do it'.

It reinforces the reality that most people...and our medical profession as well, operate from the 0-5, reactive, unconscious, victim model. People create the system, system reinforces the people and we stay locked in a vicious, victim cycle.

I know you and I can't change that system. All you can do is change your SELF. But also remember this...when you enter the medical profession to seek help, don't expect to get 6-10 proactive, conscious help! For the medical profession has resigned! With the rare exception, they have abandoned standing up to the 0-5, reactive client and resigned themselves to the quick fix--even though they know this isn't good health care and leaves us all in a downward spiral.

I concurred with these students that changing the system is not going to be easy but that after this evening's class--from here on out they are going to have to ask themselves--am I truly a helping professional who takes responsibility for how I work in my field--proactive and conscious, or am I just a cog in the wheel of a system to which I'm a victim.

Our medical system is on the verge of collapse. Only the people in it and the people who access it can determine whether it totally fails (both groups!) or it begins to shift 6-10, proactive. The folks in the medical professions are going to need to get a backbone and take back their profession!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Collapse....Its a choice!

I was struck by the title of Jared Diamond's new book, Collapse, how societies choose to fail or succeed. As I read it, I thought to myself...choice--I wonder how many people would actually accept that societies 'choose or don't choose' to collapse. Wouldn't most people assume that the collapse of a society was less a choice and more a result of a catastrophe to which they were the ultimate victim?

I've read only a small amount of the book so far, but because I've worked with the Choosing Continuum tool when teaching the Life Puzzle model, I would have to agree with Mr. Diamond--societies CHOOSE to fail or succeed, just as people choose to fail or succeed.

It is very easy to determine whether a person operates from a 0-5, reactive, unconscious, victim pattern of living or a 6-10 proactive, conscious, self-responsible pattern of living. And since people make up societies, a society is the sum total of the number of 0-5 reactive people vs. 6-10 proactive people. From this awareness it becomes obvious whether a society as a whole is choosing to succeed or fail.

Which is what scares me right now. Because after 15 years of teaching the Life Puzzle model to individuals, groups, systems, I've asked them all--where are you on the Choosing Continuum, 0-5 reactive or 6-10 proactive? After all these years, the grand majority of people continue to answer that question and acknowledge that they fall on the 0-5 side. We are reactive, unconscious, passive. And it is in that passivity that we choose to fail--ourselves, our families, our communities, our world.

There is still time to change this! But will we choose to become proactive 6-10 and choose to succeed? We don't have much time to decide--within the next 5 decades we'll find out. Did we choose to fail or choose to succeed. Did we Collapse?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Aren't we all Constant Gardeners?

A review of the new movie, the Constant Gardener with Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz was newly posted on Common Dreams (which offers writings that are current politics, science notes, philosophies etc. and yes, slightly left leaning!) .

I'd seen the movie. The review focused on the Big Pharmaceutical companies and their "ethics" of using the poor in Africa to test new drugs on an unsuspecting (and disposable) population who often end up crippled guinea pigs. Based on the John LeCarre novel, the movie of course is fiction, but as this writer says--it will be interesting to see if this movie creates a PR nightmare for the pharmaceutical companies because it has a strong ring of plausibility.

But to me, he missed the point entirely. Yes, big pharmaceutical companies are made out to be quite evil, but in reality they are just one example in a general microcosm of how we run this planet. The players in the movie do exactly what every executive or CEO in the world does--makes every decision based on "maximize shareholder return". If that means you murder people or use them as cheap testing subjects it is an acceptable necessity because we have created a world completely devoted to making money. Thus, anything that makes money (and improves stockholder returns) can and must be done even if that means destroying the earth, air, water, or, in the case of the Constant Gardener--people!

All the characters in this movie are caught in this game although when the Ralph Fiennes character asks innocently "How did this happen?", the response was "Justin, it was happening all around you. You couldn't see it because you were contented to stay in your garden". To me...this is what the movie is really all about.

This same question is one we all need to ask ourselves as well. How did we let the world get to a stage where "making money" is the primary driver of all the decisions of the world? I'm afraid our response will be similar to Justin's....we were content to stay in our gardens. (I am as guilty of this as anyone!) And while it is easy to demonize Big Pharma--quite frankly, we are all a part of this game! And we must all take responsibility.

Every publicly traded company in the world has the same mantra that drives every business decision--"Maximize shareholder returns". And a CEO will tell you that he has a "fiduciary responsibility" to his shareholders because shareholders "own" the company. If he doesn't do this, he'll be replaced with someone else who will do this. And we all accept this as totally normal. Of course stock prices must increase and a company must do everything possible to succeed at this because stockholders demand it since they own the company. You're probably shaking your head "yes", as you read this. Of course--everyone knows this is true.

But its only true because we made it true. It doesn't have to be true at all. To that, I direct you to a wonderful book that will help you get out of the garden and begin to see what's going on around you! The book is The Divine Right of Capital by Marjorie Kelly.

If the Constant Gardener makes you angry as the reviewer at Common Dreams hopes, I hope it will spur you to action. A movie is just fiction and is easy to dismiss. When you read The Divine Right of Capital, you'll see how this fictional movie dramatizes a world-wide reality.

Long ago we got ourselves kicked out of the Garden of Eden--only to create an even bigger mess. It is time we kicked ourselves out of the Garden of Money. As the Constant Gardener so vividly shows us, it is time we stopped being content to let corporations and the mantra of 'maximizing shareholder return', run the world.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mrs. Bush is not alone

Many people were shocked to hear Mrs. Bush's comment about Hurricane Katrina's victims sheltered at the Astrodome. Her comment that "Many of these people were disadvantaged so this is working out quite well for them." By "this" of course, she meant that being taken care of at the Astrodome by being fed, housed and soon to get money was a step up from where they were. As if, before they didn't really have a life that was 'this good'. Her comments show a true lack of understanding that even people who don't have a lot of material goods or money actually have real lives. And in these lives they enjoy daily life, have families they are committed to and communities they want to remain in despite not pulling up to their driveway in a Mercedes as they walk into their McMansion!

On the heels of this though, I had my own real life encounter with this attitude. I was talking with folks who work in the social services system (the people who help the people that Mrs. Bush is talking about!). We were exploring the Life Puzzle model and the Choosing Continuum and the need to expose people to the 6-10, proactive side. And then I heard it "Well, you can't really expect these people with so few resources to actually use this information, can you?" Implied in this statement is just what Mrs. Bush said--that if you are poor, you somehow don't actually have a life and any attempt to help people grow whole and dynamic lives is lost on this population!

After I deep breathed so I wouldn't scream because I have heard this so often over the last 25 years, I calmly replied. "Yes, not only do I expect that this group can use this information, I know that they do! I've worked with this population and I've seen time and time again them grab onto the value in the Life Puzzle model and begin to grow their lives." Having lots of money and stuff has nothing to do with the ability or desire to create a great life! Whether you have massive resources or extremely modest resources, you will still eat, exercise, have feelings that need to be managed, need to think proactively, be a good communicator, build healthy relationships, connect to your sexual self, learn to be a good parent, work, play, manage your finances, deal with special challenges (like an economically racist culture), live your spirituality and ultimately have to deal with death and thus the meaning of your life. (these are the 16 core areas of the Life Puzzle) Being rich or poor doesn't matter!

What I also wanted to say to this group was this: One of the biggest problems is that this population has to deal with a system that thinks they are poor, pathetic and helpless and that's about all they are and can be. Thus, when someone comes in for help, they receive it from a 0-5, do enough to get by, reactive system. The professional wants to help, but it will come with an attachment much like Mrs. Bush's attitude--whatever we give them will be better than where they were--because we don't really think they're in the position to have whole and dynamic lives since they don't have the money/resources to live "right". So why bother working with them from the 6-10 perspective?

We are all Life Puzzles under construction! Mrs. Bush and all those in the 'helping systems' I say, begin to look at everyone you meet as a Life Puzzle under construction. Not just those with lots of resources but everyone. Because we all have the same 16 core areas, 5 edges that create the SELF--making a common bond for all while maintaining our own unique soul essence. Mrs. Bush--that black woman with three kids sleeping on a cot in the Astrodome with a plastic bag filled with their only remaining possessions is no different than you. She wants to wake up tomorrow and build a whole and dynamic life, just like you. See that and you will see why your comment that "this is working out quite well for them", shows how your own Life Puzzle needs more work too! You might discover that Hurricane Katrina offers you some lessons for growth--and maybe that comment could work out quite well for you then too.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

New opportunities in rising gas prices?

The ripple effect of rising gas prices is just beginning to be recognized. One that a friend mentioned was how the increased gas cost was going to impact already struggling school systems. As he said, "If you've budgeted for the 2005-2006 school year a certain amount towards gas for the buses, what happens when gas goes up fifty, seventy-five cents or even a dollar more per gallon? Considering that most school systems are running on wire thin budgets, where will this extra money come from?

It made me think--perhaps this is a good time to ask the question a different way. Instead of trying to find extra money to channel into the gas pump--maybe there's another opportunity here. What if we didn't bus our kids to school 5 days a week? What if they went only 3 days a week and the other two days incorporated neighborhood 'block' schooling. This would require parents and the community to be intricately involved with their children. And while I know this would take some logistics and coordination, it isn't impossible to do. Keep the 'block' small enough to build the community. That means not hundreds of kids, but maybe 20 maximum. The parents would work as a team to ensure leadership for those two days each week. Then build a 'school' group that has multiple ages in it (which we know is very beneficial to younger and older children!). Together, these children will co-support each other in creating a learning environment.

It would offer an opportunity to expand "education" beyond the traditional academic/book learning and enable other necessary components of learning to finally be addressed. For example, we know children need to exercise more and also need more hands on learning. So on these two days, children could be much more physically active--perhaps learning yoga, learning ballroom dancing as a group learning etc. As for hands on learning, field trips, starting local container gardening (science!) or perhaps there is a local business that the kids could 'work at' for one afternoon a week--learning what it really takes to run a business. This could include learning book keeping, practicing customer service, discovering how to place orders to vendors etc. Real life learning teaches a lot! If one of the adults knows how to play guitar or piano, music lessons could be offered. In other words, tap into the energy of the community and the talents that are available in it. (How did Ray Charles learn to play piano? It wasn't in school--it was by watching a neighbor!)

This is just one area where rising gas prices can give us an opportunity to transform old systems. Where once we were able to be 'car' dependent and created our lives in our cars on the way to somewhere--perhaps it is time to create our lives in our neighborhoods on the way to NOW.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

There is life beyond a consumer economy!

There's a great article in Yoga International magazine's September issue called The Next Salt March: turning our backs on consumerism by Eknath Easwaran. He talks about what it feels like to grow up in India with a foreign culture (British) superimposed on his own Indian culture. And it struck me that at a global level this has happened to all of us. We've had consumerism superimposed on human culture.

Easwaran says, "When I went to college, I never questioned the axiom that everything worthwhile...came from the west. The science, the wealth, the military power, all demonstrated unequivocally the superiority of Western culture. It never occurred to me to look anywhere else for answers".

Well, I think the same thing has happened to us as a human species. We've never questioned the consumer economy--of course it is superior to anything else. But is it? A consumer economy depends on a constant of making things, selling things, and constant growth. Stop the insatiable buying and the economy grinds to a halt. Everyone scrambles to get the engine going again so we can move forward with life. The only way to do that is to start buying again. And it never occurs to us to look anywhere else.

There is another place to go--the world existed before there was a consumer economy! Which means it can exist again without it. It is up to us to create that and it is doable. But we will need to do this from a 6-10, proactive, conscious whole person/whole community/whole world mindset which is going to be difficult since most people operate from the 0-5 reactive, unconscious, get rid of the problem mindset which is the norm right now. But as Einstein said, you will not find solutions by using the mindset that created the problem in the first place. Well, we created a consumer economy from a 0-5, every-man-for himself mindset and we will not find our solution there.

It is obvious we are heading into some challenging times. But if we approach that challenge proactively, we'll be able to create something wonderful. If we approach the challenge reactively, we'll let our fears consume us. This is not a time for fear! And if you are using Life Puzzle as a model for creating your daily life--continue to use it as a foundation for creating your life in a post-consumer economy! There's a wonderful adventure ahead of us!

There is quality of life after quantity of stuff

Watching CNN, they were showing a woman discussing a change in her lifestyle due to high gas prices. Driving a huge SUV, it took $64.00 to fill it and it needed to be filled several times a week due to commute schedule etc. The income shift which required more to be allocated for gas, forced her to change her shopping to such a degree that she no longer would take her kids grocery shopping with her because she didn't want to hear them ask for all sorts of things that before she'd say yes to but now she had to say No!

I'm sure we'll see more and more stories around this economic challenge and it will go far beyond one person's shopping habits. We are about to discover just how oil dependent we are. Everything has a drop of oil in it somewhere. Think that a carrot doesn't have oil in it? Think again--it was packaged in a plastic (oil) bag, shipped (oil) to a distribution center, shipped to your store etc. It doesn't take long to see the rise in price of a barrel of oil creates a ripple effect in so many different systems.

But this posting isn't about fear--it's about discovering that we don't have to look at this shift as necessarily a bad thing. It might actually be the best thing that could happen to us. After we get over the shock of realizing that shopping habits will have to change, we might be pleased to discover that "you are not what you own". It is time to discover there is quality of life after quantity of stuff! Get excited about this. The time once spent in massive consumption can now be spent doing things like reading books, exercising, sharing with friends, learning guitar, reading to your children. Being still. Life Puzzle-making! :)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

There is no cure for hot or cold!

I love that line! Its so counter to how we live--we act as if we believe we could create a universe that is so ordered and under control that nothing could bother us, inconvenience us. I think we actually do believe this--and it is certainly the way most of us are scrambling around in our lives--busy trying to get everything under control, neatly ordered--and we actually think we will succeed and somehow hold back chaos.

There is no cure for hot or cold (Trungpa Rinpoche, Buddhist monk) is a reminder to live with the awareness that the world is both pleasurable and painful and I can accept both. The second you do, you discover your focus is no longer trying to hold back chaos (which takes enormous amounts of our time!). Now your focus can just be--be accepting, be present, be.....

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Enough to get by or...thrive?

“For most of its history, psychology has concerned itself with all that ails the human mind: anxiety, depression, neurosis, obsessions, paranoia, delusions. The goal of practitioners was to bring patients from a negative, ailing state to a neutral normal, or, ‘from a minus five to a zero’*. I realized that my profession was half-baked. It wasn’t enough for us to nullify disabling conditions and get to zero. We needed to ask, What are the enabling conditions that make human beings flourish? How do we get from zero to plus 5?” Dr. Martin Seligman, APA president, Time magazine 1/05.

What struck me is that this describes not only the field of psychology, but is a description of the helping professions in general. Have you ever stopped to think about this? A system that is oriented this way creates an impact on us all. If all a practitioner has been taught to do is to get you out of the ailing state and into neutral normal--it isn't long before you the client come to think this is the best you can expect. This locks enormous amounts of people into maintaining status quo and settling for mediocrity.

To his question: "What are the enabling conditions that make human beings flourish?"--they've been right there in front of us all the time! It's what Life Puzzle is all about--acknowledging the physical, emotional, thinking, sexual and spiritual SELF. And that 'normal' isn't a neutral enough to get by--"normal" is to thrive! And to thrive, we wake up each day to take responsibility for those 5 dimensions of our SELF, making choices in the 16 core areas.

Let's make "thrive" the normal we all expect! Imagine what a fun world that will be to create!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

By pass that bypass...and angioplasty too!

This year, 400,000 people will have their chests cracked open for heart bypass surgery, another 1 million will have angioplasty. If you asked most of them, "As a result of this procedure, do you think you 'fixed the problem'. they would likely say yes. And they would be wrong. Research shows--that with the exception of patients with severe disease, bypass operations don't prolong life or prevent future heart attacks. Nor does angioplasty. Yet, the average person thinks they have no choice other than to have these procedures performed (usually under duress since they're having heart pains at the time the doctor says, "you must or you'll die")

Businesweek, 7/18/05 asks, Is heart surgery worth it ( This article breaks the taboo on this topic and finally acknowledges what has been known by the medical profession for sometime. I recall reading over 10 years ago that angioplasty was rated(by doctors) as the number one least useful operation. When I first read this I thought, well, fine then, they'll stop doing them. But they didn't--they just kept 'perfecting its uselessness'. Angioplasty (where they put a little balloon type device to 'expand the blood vessel' to increase blood flow) gives symptom relief only--it doesn't cure anything.

What is better? Diet, lifestyle changes (exercise, meditation, emotional support groups). Hmmm, all the things you get when you make your Life Puzzle!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wait til it's broke, then fix it! But don't change...

An interesting article in Fast Company magazine (May 2005) by Alan Deutschman, entitled Change or Die.
Essentially the article challenges you with this question--Told that you needed to change the way you think and act, otherwise you would die a lot sooner than necessary, would you change?

What do you think? Yes or no? The research he quotes says, no, you wouldn't change--even when death could be the result. I'd agree with him--most people would only do enough to get through the immediate crisis--but they wouldn't change their behaviors/lifestyle which created the problem in the first place.

The most significant aspect of Deutschman's article though was the REASON why most people don't change. It isn't because they don't have enough information, data, choices. It's because 'information', while important, isn't sufficient. Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to "people's feeling". And bottom line, we don't do that.

Which is sad, because most people are so "emotionally blocked". But it's also why it makes sense that changing our behavior so we can be healthier and live long doesn't happen for about 85% of people. As the article says, "Who wants to live longer when you're in chronic emotional pain?"

Saddest thing of all--it doesn't have to be that way. You can open these emotional blocks. It's not that is a big part of what I'm trying to help folks do through the Life Puzzle model. I'm not afraid to take on this piece of the puzzle, while most professionals are!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

0-5 or 6-10?

The last 10 years I've spent teaching the Life Puzzle model..and using the Choosing Continuum to challenge people to recognize what a 0-5 culture we have (reactive, unconscious, victim-oriented).

While some days (especially lately), it seems we will stay permanently stuck there, I try to stay focused on the 6-10 proactive--that despite the chaos of the world, there are many moving towards the 6-10 in this world-wide culture and the tipping point is not too far away.

What do you think?