Monday, August 14, 2006

Children--collateral damage for making money?

The following is a letter to the editor I wrote:

As I opened the September issue of Oprah, the tri-fold ad by Ralph Lauren/ brought a shock! It caught my eye because one of the children looks like my friend's 3 year old daughter. All I could think was how these young girls--maybe aged 3-8 have been dressed up to look like women. The message appears to imply that young girls/women are interchangeable--I thought of my friend's innocent young daughter and feared how men/boys are being taught to view young girls as "women" and thus, sexual objects. (and checking the site--these clothes were not for sale on the children's pages)

Later in the magazine, I came across Liz Claiborne's tri-fold ads. In comparison, these were quite tasteful for a woman's magazine--vibrant women dressed professionally. As you compare the two ads, you can see how the ad is trying to achieve a similar 'adult look' that the Liz Claiborne ad achieved using actual women!

At a time when our children are constantly being threatened, isn't it time that we adults took responsibility and stop using our children as objects to be manipulated and exploited? While making money and selling products is an ever-pressured reality, are we will to accept selling our children as collateral damage to this pressure?

Oprah works hard on her show to address these issues--thus to have her magazine lend a blind eye to the ads that add to the problem of our children being exploited seems counter-intuitive. As the Liz Claiborne ads clearly show, you can produce beautiful ads that market a product effectively and not exploit our children at all. I would encourage the adults at Ralph Lauren and their advertising agency to sit and ask themselves 1) if they would want their 3 year old daughter exploited as a sex object 2) if they can be incredibly creative without exploiting children and 3)take responsibility for their actions and choose to make changes in the future ads they create.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

30 hours making a living, 30 hours making a difference

The local paper did a profile of a man who lives in Portland, OR. He's an activist working on transporation issues. In the article, he was quoted as saying "I work 30 hours making a living and 30 hours making a difference."

I just loved that line and wondered what would happen if everyone ran their life from that mantra. I especially thought of this for our children. What would it be like if we grow up constantly hearing "30 hours making a living and 30 hours making a difference?"

It would plant such a different seed of what our culture values from where it currently stands. Today we are so focused on making money, working 60 hours a week so we can buy more stuff. And most of that is because of what we saw/learned as children coming up through the 70's, 80's and 90's--obsessed with making money and buying stuff.

So, roll that one around in your brain today--what would your life be like on a daily basis if you were "Working 30 hours making a living and 30 hours making a difference"?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Addictions: focus not on 'giving up' but on adding!

With the reality of high oil prices (and today's announcement that a portion of the Alaska pipeline oil flow is going to be disrupted is likely to increase them ever more), life as we know it is going to change. We are, as President Bush said, "addicted to oil" and it shows up in so many levels of life. Oil is everywhere and in everything!

To say, "life as we know it is going to change" sends a shiver down our back because like any addict, living without the addictive behavior seems, initially at least, as something that's going to be awful. But it is possible, as many addicts discover, that after the addiction, life is actually better! And so, a post-oil addiction life could be wonderful as we discover new ways of living.

When I work with folks with addiction issues, my focus is never on 'giving up the old behavior' as much as it is to focus on 'adding new behaviors'. With our attention focused on what new things we're doing, we don't have as much time to be involved with the old behaviors.

I recall when I was giving up my junk food addiction. Initially, I truly had a panic as I could not imagine how I was going to eat without driving through the drive-thru twice a day! But I dove into learning about good nutrition, trying new foods (and yes, some of them were just awful! Brown rice, like yuck!) and committing to increasing fresh foods on a daily basis. I was so busy doing this that little by little, running through the fast food drive-thru wasn't necessary. No, I didn't go cold turkey, but within the course of a year, I'd added so many new foods, new menus and new learning that it no longer was an issue of giving up the fast food drive-thru, but simply my focus was on a way of life where I added the healthy, whole and vibrant foods my body really wanted.

Now, oil addiction and the massive consumption that's connected to it has led to a lifestyle that is fast-paced, filled with stuff, stuff and more stuff. Big cars, big houses, closets over-flowing and work schedules of 60+ hours a week to support all the stuff our addiction has convinced we need in order to live. Our lifestyles are high stress, we're creating lifestyle illnesses like diabetes, obesity, heart disease which are costing a fortune in healthcare and most important of all is that we've lost connection to our community because we have no time to know our neighbors, protect the environment and live in peace. Ah, the good life is killing us (as would my junk food diet have done if I'd kept eating that over the last 30 years!).

As we contemplate a post oil-addiction lifestyle what shall we add? Instead of driving, working and shopping as the major time consumer that we call 'life', let's add more exercise, more volunteering, more gardening, more community-building, more time with our children, more reading, more discussion groups, more learning how to play a music instrument (which you'll have time to practice!). more walking, more knowing our neighbors, more cooking at home and eating slowly, more eating locally, more time for daily yoga practice, more healthy bodies, more meditation, more singing,

This won't happen cold turkey (hopefully it won't come to that!), but little by little, as you spend time adding those behaviors noted above, you'll discover that the old monied/consumption lifestyle has transformed into something else that you like even more. Yes, when I started the transition from junk food--I thought brown rice was yuck! I couldn't imagine how I was going to get over that--but I found if I did a 50/50 split between the old white rice and the new brown rice, it helped me adjust. And sure enough, now I love brown rice as I've adjusted to the firmer chewing and deeper taste that white rice didn't provide.

As you start adding these new behaviors, you will find some things you don't enjoy initially--just stick with it. Give it the time to learn, try new activities and do them consistently over the next six months and I will bet you'll discover a new joy and love in how you live your life that you can't yet imagine. Life without massive consumption is not a boring life--in fact, many people decide it is much more exciting and joyful.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Getting out of 0-5 Environmentalism

The August National Geographic magazine has an article written by Bill McKibben called "A Deeper Shade of Green". Mr. McKibben is an environmental essayist, activist and the author of "The End of Nature".

In this article, he talks about the fundamental premise that drives just about all our actions:--Will this expands the economy?. If it will then anything--globalization, factory farming, suburban sprawl, is good. Period. As a result of this premise, the massive use of cheap fuels and its production of CO2 were accepted without condition. The resulting environmental destruction was also accepted--air, water, earth were by-products of economic expansion that were accepted as necessary because 'expanding the economy' was good. Environmentalism's focus was to ameliorate as much as possible the destruction and from a Life Puzzle model--it was a reactive, fix it after its broke, 0-5 response on the Choosing Continuum.

Environmentalism has done as good a job as possible--but a 0-5, reactive response will never be good enough. And now with China fully entrenched in the Western premise of 'Will it expand the economy?' fueled of course by cheap fuel, the massive increase in CO2 emissions makes environmentalism's 0-5 response hopeless. There is no way to 'clean up' the mess this will create.

He challenges in this article that it is time for a change--it is time to see ourselves differently. We need to stop asking "will this expand the economy?" and start asking "will this pour more carbon into the atmosphere?". With the new question, we make very different choices. We choose life over money.

I would rephrase it.....we need to stop asking "Will this make money" and start asking "Will this improve the community of life?" It's a shift from 0-5 on the Choosing Continuum--the grow up, get a job, house, cars, kids, stuff and maintain status quo to a 6-10 on the Choosing Continuum--recognize self as a physical, emotional, thinking, sexual and spiritual being and create a LIFE that honors the whole. This dramatically different view of our selves on an individual level enables us to choose to create a dramatically different view on a community and global level.

If we change our view of self, then our choices are predicated on "will this enhance life?--for me, yes...but since I am dependent on the earth for life--every choice I make must also ensure that the community of life--animals, plant, air, water etc., is maintained as well. " If everyone woke up this morning from this "will it enhance life premise", our daily life and global life would be fundamentally different. And don't laugh when you read that--because this morning you woke up under the premise of 'will this expand the economy?" and your daily life is shaped by that! You crawl out of bed to get to work, make more money, buy more stuff....

He talks about several areas of our lives where we could today begin to make this shift.
1. Food--eating local vs. shipping food (CO2 emissions!)
2. Housing--returning to simpler, smaller houses that take less energy to heat/cool
3. Concentrate housing in urban centers--reducing sprawl and the need to drive to everything.

In a nutshell, it is to live simpler. To spend more time building your life and less time buying stuff (and all the fuel that goes into its production, shipping, buying). The result? Less CO2 emission and more life. More time to take care of your body (walk more!), more time to connect to the community (friends, gardening, volunteering) and more happiness.

A previous blog on Happiness shows that we're not a happy country and I think it is due to the premise of "anything that expands the economy is good" because the cost for this has proved to be the thing that makes most of us truly happy: community--of people and animals, plant water, air--LIFE.

Spiritual edge...and Mel Gibson

The previous writing looked at the Lebanese/Israeli conflict in relation to their spiritual edge development on an individual and cultural level. As I wrote it I thought--I wouldn't want someone to think that I think it's just a Lebanese/Israeli or MidEast issue. It's everywhere!

Mel Gibson's tirade at his drunk driving arrest shows a man whose edges of his Life Puzzle have not formed well. Hiding behind his religion/spirituality, he's pretended to be a spiritual SELF, but if this were so, it would be totally impossible for him to do what he did (attacking Jews) His Spiritual edge has not formed--his SELF does not reflect love for all--especially for himself. His admission of life-long addiction issues makes it clear that his feeling/thinking edges have not formed either. This is a man whose SELF--a SELF that honors his body, manages his emotions, makes proactive choices with acceptance of consequences and living love for all is not yet complete.

It's important to realize that just because you're in a position of power or have celebrity--that has nothing to do with whether or not you've built a healthy, whole and dynamic Life Puzzle. Adolf Hitler at one time had lots of power, but he had no SELF. When I started my private practice many years ago, my clients were successful people. They had good jobs, houses, cars, kids and tons of stuff....what they didn't have was a SELF. They would come into me and say, "I've got the house, the cars, the kids, the stuff--I'm supposed to be happy and I'm not. What's wrong with me?" What was wrong was that 'happiness' is found within a SELF with strong edges--that they didn't have. The Life Puzzle model was developed to help people learn how to build the edges that lead to a strong SELF and a life that honors the physical, emotional, thinking, sexual and spiritual whole they are becoming. That's the great news--its something you learn, not something you buy.

I have great compassion for Mel Gibson--living inside a SELF when one's edges are poorly formed is difficult. Under the glare of celebrity, it is hard for a person to not get conned by the adoration and delusional power that comes with celebrity. It makes it difficult to acknowledge that something's wrong within one's SELF and seek help. My not so famous clients (well, honestly, none were famous! :) had it much easier when their inner voice said, "Something's missing here...I need some assistance."

Mel Gibson is a reflection of many adults walking around this planet. In fact, most adults have yet to form strong edges. Instead of doing this work, the world is bogged down killing each other and otherwise creating chaos. If instead we were all learning how to put together a whole and dynamic Life Puzzle (which anyone can easily learn!) what a fabulous world we'd have.

Well, I'll do what I can--you do what you can--maybe in another 2000 years we'll hit the tipping point and finally achieve peace--a piece at a time with the whole SELF in mind!

Spiritual edge...and WAR

I was listening to CNN the other day on the Lebanese/Israeli conflict. Representatives from both sides of the conflict were talking to Larry King or Anderson Cooper...can't even remember. I was busy cleaning up and was only listening to bits and pieces of each sides view as I moved around the kitchen and family room. What struck me though was how the conversation seemed to be nothing more than a tit for tat of "No, we didn't start this, you did! and then the other side would respond with "Not so, we didn't start this you did!" Each would then give a litany of history showing that they were right, they were best; the other side was the problem--and that's why this side was killing them.

I thought to I listening to 8 year olds? As the days of the war continue and all the media sources--newspaper, radio, television, internet, report--its all I see--two sides--adults fighting like children over their right to be right and better than the other. Amazing-- done under the umbrella of their 'spiritual/religious beliefs', they justify killing each other. This just shows an immaturity of spirituality of enormous levels--individually and culturally.

Spirituality on a personal level starts with love and the realization that "I am greater than no one, no one is greater than me--in EVERYONE shines love, as I can see love in me, I can see it in thee (and the caveat is...when I can't see love in me, I can't see love in thee, either") Achieving this level of spiritual edge development results in a SELF that lives daily with the awareness that every human they meet is just like them--a Life Puzzle under construction trying to find their pieces. When you're at this level, you look for the love in others as you share/reflect this love in you. Yes, you recognize that you deal with people who have not yet achieved this level of spirituality--but you don't kill them as a result! If you're truly spiritual--you attempt to build an environment where all can grow towards love--you don't wipe out those who are not like you!

Few have achieved this level of spiritual development--and clearly on a cultural level in the MidEast, it has not been achieved either. Individually when our spiritual edge is missing--we spend most of our lives 'comparing' ourselves to others, then attacking our SELF or others depending on who was 'better'. No one wins when we live from this perspective. On a Cultural level when the spiritual edge is missing--communities spend their time attacking others as a way to prove they're better. When you add mega-weapons....we all lose.

General Abizaid said yesterday about Iraq and their potential for civil war, that the conflicts in Iraq will only end when Shiite and Sunni Iraqis care more about their children then they care about hating each other . I'd say the same thing goes throughout the MidEast. Care about your children, teach them to grow their spiritual edge---strong, loving SELF and war will never arise again. Now, how do we get the current 'adults' to build their edges, develop a strong SELF and start living love for all so their children will have a world to live in?