Archive for the ‘Warning Book Length’ Category

I have always supported the concept of free thought and freethinking. Recently, however, after considerable research on the subject, I’ve been introduced to some ideas that really resonate with me.

From grade school on up, were taught to believe that America is a free country, and our freedoms are the reason why. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of this, and freedom of that.

It makes sense, then, to believe that freedom of thought and freedom of expression are among them. These freedoms certainly have their place for me, and for many of us. But to what extent are we really free?
Take freedom of speech, for example. Such a freedom cannot truly exist without the freedom to disagree with another’s speech, too. But it’s only natural that, no matter the subject in question, more people will agree with one view over another.

Eventually, a majority will develop, creating a society that subsequently creates an overall, self-serving environment. And by society, I’m referring to all the people, everybody, as a whole.

But, given that society can’t – and shouldn’t – be all things to all people, how could our freedoms be equal to every person in every way? Or could it be that a freedom is only worthy of being a freedom if it is in agreement – or not too far in disagreement – from the beliefs of the majority?

Take the implied Freedom of Thought. Some thoughts are important, even essential to the safe operation of our society. We stop at red lights, get to school or work on time, and obey the rituals reinforced by airport security agents.

But those thoughts are objectively measured, black-or-white, yes-or-no by definition. But what about abstract thinking? What dynamic can govern that? Well, it seems that the degree of abstraction to which we refer is the answer.

Those who think “outside of the box” are generally applauded for their ingenuity and even their willingness to take a risk in resolving some puzzling dilemma. “What a great person he/she is; I wish I could think “outside of the box” like that.” Yay for that person!

But what that special person, the one who “thought outside the box,” did was risky, indeed. The real risk that person took was in potentially offending society – the majority of society, that is – by thinking “too far outside of the box.”

All of us have comfort zones that vary in size and even in scope. Whether we’re kids or adults, parents and/or working professionals, black or white, male or female, etc., it doesn’t matter. We’re first and foremost human beings, and going outside of our comfort zones create exactly the opposite – discomfort.

This is never more true when it comes to thinking. Comfort zones which contain our thoughts and actions must be safe, comfortable, places.

It’s likely, then, that the things with which we are most comfortable are things that we have always done, things that we always do, and perhaps things we always plan to do.

Recently, I have referred to myself as a “dissenter.” It best describes how I thought and acted as a kid, and it’s also how I behave today.

But whether you knew me then, or whether you know me now – to even those closest to me, I’m called a “person who loves conflict,” and I “love being the bad guy.”

These statements have never been made in a good or a positive way, and rightly so. People have said it as if the way I act – which is governed by my thoughts – is somehow bad, or wrong. For most of my life, I embraced the idea that I truly was bad, or wrong, and that I’m the one who must change.
Though I always knew my place in the world would be different, I have not always been able to put my finger on why. All I’ve known is that I have stood largely alone amongst – but not against – the rest of the world.

So, I quickly learned to stifle my behaviors and remarks, because the way I spoke and acted drew negative attention – punishment – to me.

Thinking is one thing – behaving is another, and I have always had to conform to someone else’s idea as to what “good behavior” really is. Over the last few weeks, I have become joyfully aware of the presence of others who may also think “too far outside of the box” sometimes.

Interestingly, I find it ironic that many of the contributions most appreciated and celebrated by society today exist the form of creative arts such as art and literature.

These creators, however, have been – and continue to be – others who think in ways that are inconsistent with societal norms. In other words, these people are dissenters as well.

Dissenting thinkers have had to deal with the challenges of existing in a society that does not think – or behave – the way they do. Dissenters who openly share their thoughts require society at large to step outside of their comfort zones in order to understand them.

Is it fair to ask if I’m the one who is misunderstood? Yes, I think so. Most people live a familiar, routine, and predictable lifestyle. I am largely the opposite and, given my behavioral inconsistency, am far more difficult to understand. Familiarity and predictability certainly have their merits for me, but they do not define who I am.

Since the majority of people seem to operate most comfortably within such a structured world, it stands to reason that the possibility of operating in any other way is, at the least, discomforting to the same people.

My world does not involve structure as such and, though I understand the accepted view of the world outside my front door, operating positively and productively within that world takes me far beyond my comfort zone.

Unfortunately, that’s the very world I was made to believe I’d have to join, sooner or later. All along, though, I’ve tried to function in a world in which I’ve been uncomfortable. But that’s changing now, and changing fast.
In a society that calls itself “free,” I’ve not always found much freedom. And, as long as the world exists as I know it today, that’s unlikely to change.

Interestingly, the topic of religion repeatedly pops up when it comes to my having to defend the idea that I am a freethinking individual. Perhaps this is because, in one way or another, religion pervades every aspect of society.

But what about those of us who don’t believe in religion? To ask such a question, I’m quickly learning, is to go against much of society.

How is it possible, though, that all of those aforementioned things that are so highly celebrated can be found within the hallowed walls of libraries, museums, and the like? Don’t the masterpieces there originate in the minds of people whose thoughts and behaviors are unconventional and even oppositional?

In an American culture that holds religion in such high regard, how can such sacrilegious deviance and nonconformity be tolerated without creating widespread social panic, lest it unleash the wrath of the gods?

Well, in a society that requires conformity, double standards and hypocrisy are not difficult to find. It’s simply not possible for everyone to conform equally, and creative places such as art and literature, become excellent examples of nonconformist, “deviant” expression.

My belief is that there are many, not-yet identified “deviants and nonconformists” lurking in the shadows among us. These are the ones who can both “fit in,” and accept the conventions of society while also having an appreciation for its subjective elements. While these renegades remain unseen, their influence can be felt, so the seemingly hypocritical presence of such creative expression is allowed to slide.

It’s not uncommon, however, for artists and writers to find themselves, and even their very lives, endangered when they make themselves known through their work. “Social suicide” is a term I’ve recently heard for it, and it’s an apt one. Becoming a pariah is a very real consequence of sharing our thoughts with others whom we believe are trustworthy, let alone the world at large.

This, in fact, is exactly what I am experiencing. But because I’ve limited this sharing of my thoughts with someone I believe I can trust, I’m still facing negative repercussions nonetheless.

For example, I feel that having dared to disclose my unconventional thoughts on society marks me as someone who goes against everything for which society stands. I’m treated as a stranger, a threat even, because of it.

It’s little more than a continuation of the consequences that thinking “too far outside of the box” can bring.
Sadly, I also believe it’s a reflection of society at large. Asking anyone to think outside of their comfort zone is to understandably put that person in an uncomfortable position.

This has always been a one-way street, however. While I can understand the conventions governing most societal thoughts and actions, the reverse has never been true. Therefore, I have to be the one to adapt to society, not the other way around. The fault is my own, it seems, because I’m “so hard” to understand.

It’s a form of social bullying, though. Viewed simply, I am always outnumbered by a majority that always believes it’s right if, for no other reason, than because it’s the majority.

Does this kind of thinking anger me? Frustrate me? Yes, it always has, but it doesn’t always have to. While I’m not certain why it has to be this way, I understand that I have a long, difficult road ahead.

Similarly, while the work of great painters, sculptors, and writers, etc. are celebrated, their thinking is historically unwelcome. Beheadings, hangings, stonings, and more have all been very real risks – and consequences – of those who have tried to get their message out after proving their greatness in clay, in ink, in oils, or in print, etc.

So why, as I asked before, is it that religion seems to have such a hold on the way people think? Why is it that people will fight to the death because they think that their creed, benevolent and all-loving as they’re convinced it is, inspires them to do so?

It’s quite obvious that religions cannot exist peaceably among each other. Therefore, it seems only natural that anyone who proclaims to not be a believer in any religion at all will also be drawn into the conflict as well. In fact, I may even find myself an easy mark, as I will likely stand alone in the crowd.

Hence, “social suicide” is the perfect term for making one’s dissenting opinions known. Not only do I risk becoming a pariah, and being shamed and dismissed as “crazy,” but I may also be knowingly diving headfirst into my own grave.

So, why risk joining the fray at all, especially if such dire consequences may be waiting? It’s a good question. My immediate, gut-level response is two-fold: First, I don’t think of actively participating in society in a freethinking way as “entering a fray.”

Society may well not agree, and my ability to absorb considerable conflict will be sorely tested. Yet, I don’t believe that anyone’s self-expression, particularly in a world where “free expression” is claimed to be so highly prized, should be a fight.

In this regard, I know I’m being naïve. But I can always hope, and Hope is something in which I dearly believe.

My second response is simple: A life in which I cannot be true to myself is not living at all.

Could this be what the so-called founding fathers were thinking when they wrote into the Constitution that we are all equal men, “granted certain, unalienable rights?”

Well, you tell me. Many of these men – our founding fathers – were slaveholders, so the thinking behind their words is in direct conflict with their actions.

The slaves, I’m sure, saw it as well, and the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on them. In other words, they knew it was bullshit.

Statements like this are fighting words, I’m sure, for anyone who bleeds red, white, and blue. But just because I can see oppression that is rooted in government and religion – that I also know in my heart is wrong – does not mean I should be written off as crazy, or as a powder keg just waiting to explode.

I am not a young, idealistic student activist, holding a burning draft card in one hand and a tie-dyed, peace sign flag in the other. I am not a revolutionary, planning to take my cause out onto the lawn outside a student union building somewhere, chanting and singing songs in perfect harmony with other dissenters who are likely “just going through a phase.”

That might’ve been me as an undergraduate 25 years ago, had I been more aware of my true, dissenting nature. However, that isn’t who I am now.

Rather, I am gearing up for the long haul, and I’m not looking to take up arms in defense of my ideals. Still, I don’t plan to make any concessions concerning my beliefs on right and wrong. I have had to do just that most of my life, and my figurative well has run dry. I have simply given all I can, and my ability (and willingness) to give any further is nonexistent.

Further, it wouldn’t be right for society to ask any further such sacrifice on my part, particularly because there are so many other, peaceful and productive means of conveying my thoughts.

We all have a preferred medium of social expression, and I am no exception. Some are painters, others are writers, still others are farmers, home builders, and photographers. The people whom I most respect, however, are able to state their message in an articulate, yet non-threatening way to those whose thinking most comfortably occurs “inside the box.”

In this way, those who might be willing to step outside their box to experience something new and different, even if only for an instant, might safely do so. And maybe, just maybe, the peaceful word of loving humanism will spread.

Life has taught me that it’s okay to be and to think differently, and to be willing to champion a good cause that others cannot or will not embrace. Everyone should be able to do so without fear of reprisal.

This, for me, is how I interpret the concept of life within a “free society” and, though I may be naïve, I nonetheless still cling to Hope, and I believe in Love.
No government or religion could ever change that.

Good morning? Yes, it is. It’s Sunday morning, not quite seven o’clock. The sky is turning pink over the open space behind our home as the sun begins its slow rise. I’ve been up since five or so, to let the dogs out and then to have breakfast. Kami’s still sleeping; she’s agreed to go in to work today to let one of her workers have the day off.

Despite Kami’s absence today, I’ll likely always remember Sunday mornings here in Colorado as my most favorite for a similar reason; it’s most everyone’s day off. Here, about ten miles east of Boulder, the town of Lafayette is still asleep.

There’s a conspicuous absence of traffic, and the noise and the fumes it brings, lending a strong sense of peacefulness outside. That will soon change as locals rise to attend church, go shopping, or do whatever it is they do on Sundays. For now, however, Mother Nature is still free to set the scene.

I have always felt close to the special feeling mornings bring, when everything is either still asleep or just beginning to stir. For many of my grade school years back in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I delivered the morning paper. In those days, kids my age still delivered newspapers, as we wanted to make some money yet we weren’t quite old enough to work at the corner store.

Though we didn’t work structured jobs, there was still an unofficial hierarchy to our work. Some kids, like me, delivered the morning newspaper while others delivered the evening newspaper. Delivering the morning newspaper brought with it certain responsibilities – such as timeliness – that were more than offset by the rewards.

For example, I was privy to the news of the day before almost anyone else, save those who wrote the stories. I read the headlines over breakfast, while everyone in the house was still asleep. On summer mornings, just as I was just finishing my work, the heat and humidity of the day began to take over. Only the 24-hour convenience stores were open for business at that early hour, so it was there I often went to buy gobs of what I now refer to as “…sugary garbage that 4 out of 5 dentists recommend for paying off their six-figure, dental school loans…”

But my introduction as a newspaper carrier had an inauspicious beginning. My first morning is one I’ll likely never forget. It was a cold, dark February morning when I stepped outside to the end of the driveway pick up the bundle of papers that the truck had dropped off earlier. I tried not to wake up everyone in the house, which was also still dark. I loaded up my newspaper bag, then headed off to a neighborhood several blocks away.

All along the way I wondered just what in the hell had I gotten myself into. It was easy to see why the kid who had done this route before me had quit. I came to know it not as “Holiday Tradition,” but “Holiday Attrition. It was simple; customers left a Christmas bonus for their carrier. And, like clockwork, many carriers quit their jobs just afterwards, as if they’d anxiously waited for their ten dollar bonus so they could retire in Boca Raton. The reality of it, however, was that some poor, unwary sucker like me got to cut his teeth in the cold blackness/ black coldness of January.

Those first few mornings of my first week I was woefully underdressed and mentally unprepared for the job. I was even a little scared. But the princely earnings were important enough to keep me going, so I rose to the challenge. Eventually, I developed a routine that adequately addressed every possible obstacle that might arise, and it became the foundation of the self-sufficiency I currently enjoy today.

Not all carriers, I noticed then, got that. Some, whose parents wanted them to “learn the value of a dollar,” drove them around their paper routes on days they felt it was too cold for their kid to go out alone. But I had three much younger siblings at home and parents who worked hard to make a living so, like most carriers, we were on our own to work things out. Given the autonomy I felt for the first time in my young life, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I quickly learned to work smarter, not harder. By attaching my papers onto my bike’s spring-loaded rear rack, I put an end to the drudgery of walking my route forever, even in ice and snow. Not only was it easier, but more fun, and much faster, too. It left me with a great deal more time – and energy – to spend all that money I earned. It was almost too easy.

Over the years, I must’ve put hundreds of miles on that bike and, though I didn’t know it then, early morning bike rides became a lifelong tradition. They were – and still are – a quiet, even sacred time that belonged only to me.

It was the one place I could count on to be left alone, with only my thoughts for company. That peaceful environment I enjoyed six mornings a week allowed me to discover an esoteric and introspective side of myself I never knew I had.

Besides the usual kinds of thoughts guys my age had, e.g. girls, the mall, and Pac-Man, for the first time, I had thoughts that went way beyond that. Issues such as my future and what I would do and where I might go once I was old enough were often among them. Alone on my bike, I could wonder about whatever I wanted, however I wanted, something I couldn’t always do at home.

Summer vacation in particular brought even better opportunities to ponder my future. I had a favorite overlook, where I’d sit and watch the sunrise, and just think. I recall wondering on more than one occasion “What if this is as good as it gets?” as Jack Nicholson asked in the movie of the same name.

But I really did. I wondered how, things could ever get any better than they already were at that moment. Despite all the model airplanes, rockets, and trains, record albums, black light posters, and junk food my newspaper carrier’ s income afforded me, I recognized that time I spent alone, immersed in thought, was priceless.

What I took most from that experience was that things ultimately had little value to me. In fact, the desire to have things was strongest for me when I was a kid. After being in a position where I could buy for myself anything I wanted, I exhausted my Christmas list as it were, only to find that things weren’t at all what I wanted. It was possibly one of the first basic adult values I developed as a kid, and it’s one I retain today.

Further, I came to see other kids my age through a newer, different lens. While I wasn’t the model of maturity, I noticed the majority of other kids didn’t see things the way I did. In time, I began to feel increasingly estranged from most of them, and the autonomy I developed from having a newspaper route was likely the reason; I didn’t require much from anyone –an allowance, a ride somewhere, or even parents’ permission for many things.

My buddy Dave, who lived about a block away and also delivered the morning paper, also shared this privilege. We were largely inseparable throughout the naïveté of our early teen years. I inherited his paper route when the time came for him to finally relinquish it in favor of a “real” job, then college.
Even though this now meant I could just about roll out of bed and begin delivering papers, I nonetheless felt a sense of loss from the absence of my first paper route. My new responsibilities, I suppose, weren’t nearly as challenging and, therefore, the rewards didn’t feel nearly as great.

Unfortunately, newspaper carriers today are rapidly becoming extinct. Many folks get their news online, and hard-copy newspapers are disappearing – or changing their formats – to keep up. Newspapers that are still delivered by hand are usually wrapped in a plastic sleeve and tossed out a car window.

As they pile up like so much litter, the dry, yellowing pages indicate just how unwelcome they are. After all, it’s far easier to log in to a PC and peruse the headlines than it is to go to the front door, open it, bend over and pick up the paper, and fumble through the pages over breakfast in the kitchen, right?

This thought makes me all the more grateful for my experience delivering the morning paper. It was a phase of life that brought me immense personal growth and carried with it many healthy habits I still observe today. I came to see my customers as friends, at least to the extent a person can befriend somebody by visiting their front step for a few seconds every morning, six days a week. In turn, I’d like to believe I made a similarly positive impact on their lives as well, if for no other reason than to show that not all teenagers are unmotivated slackers.

All that took place over thirty years ago. Even still, when I’m out on my bike early in the morning in the middle of nowhere, I find myself wondering about my old customers, where they might be, and how many of them may still even be alive. I wonder if they ever had any idea about the wonderful contribution they made to my life just by being there, and I wonder if they ever wondered about me, as well.

Though I’ll never know for sure, it’d be nice to somehow let them know they cross my mind from time to time. It was an immensely valuable experience for me, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Sadly, young people today are largely missing out on overcoming the challenges, and enjoying the benefits, of delivering the morning paper.

I’m a firm believer that there are no coincidences, and that everything happens for a reason. But this doesn’t mean that when something noteworthy occurs, we recognize it for what it is, or even understand the reason for it at the time. For over nineteen months since my accident occurred, for example, I had been wondering why. In fact, a long list of Why questions arose in my mind, for which I never had an answer. Why did this accident occur at all? Why did I survive it? Why is everything so painful? How long will it be this way? Why, why, why? And on and on it went. Clearly, I knew deep down there must be a reason for what was happening, but I never seemed to have a reason why. I became very, very frustrated, to a point where I was ready to give up many times. It never seemed to make any sense, experiencing these repercussions from my accident-the pain, arrogant doctors, and a general inability to do things I took for granted only a short while before, etc. To my credit, at least I kept asking and wondering Why, as if I knew there was a reason but didn’t yet know what it was.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve begun to pick up some solid reasons for what was happening. Understanding them has accelerated my healing-and minimized my most painful symptoms-just by being present, even though I don’t yet know why they’re there. And maybe I never will. But this didn’t happen by accident. For several months, there has been a succession of positive people introduced into my life, too many to mention right now, really. Their names will likely pop up here and there in this blog over time, but what’s important is that they are there for me now. In fact, we are all there for each other, and therein lies our strength.
At first, I didn’t think anything of it; one or two friendly people coming along here and there didn’t seem all that unusual. Then three or four more, then five or six more. Suddenly, I realized there were now several new people in my life, positive and powerful people who, though I didn’t know it then, would be the foundation upon which I could build a new life. As I said about how I now see my post-accident life in an earlier posting, “my adventure can now really begin.” And it’s true.
When it comes to uncovering truths about yourself that have been there all along yet you have failed to see them, it’s hard to describe sudden awareness of any of those truths as a revelation. After all, they were there all the time, but they just weren’t visible. But, as a close friend mentioned just the other day “when the student is ready, the teachers will appear.” For me, the most prominent and powerfully positive person in my life is my wife, Kami. She has long been a conduit of my energy-both good and bad, (often the latter, I must admit)-and it’s no coincidence that she introduced to me-or should I say re-introduced to me-a notion that had long been established in my mind, back in my mid-20s. That is, considering the limiting and toxic role shame has played in my life.
Growing up, I was immersed in shame. Mom and Dad had their share of shame issues, and these spread like wildfire through our house, to a point where it was our norm, our reality. Shame had such a remarkable influence and played such a powerful role that it, or more precisely the fear of even more shame, defined our lives. Though I think we were all too close to see it, the driving force behind all of this shame was Fear. We were always afraid, afraid we couldn’t afford this, or hold onto that, that maybe we weren’t good enough-or deserving enough. There was always a palpable fear of what could happen. Naturally, in the midst of such an environment, true joy and gratitude for what we actually had went unacknowledged and unappreciated. Fear was the dominant, driving energy, cloaked in the insidious disguise of Shame.
What we didn’t know then was that everyone experiences shame, that no one is immune from it. Nor should we be. There are many good reasons for the existence of shame in our world, such as the role it plays in humility (read modesty) that keeps any one of us from believing we are an all-powerful, living deity of sorts. But in our family, what we did not realize was that everyone’s shame-each of us individually- seems to us like the most shameful thing imaginable because it is our shame. But, for now, what I intend to address here is how shame concerns me personally.
Suffice it to say that my parents, both very productive people in their own right, had created a home that largely duplicated the homes in which they’d been raised. I believe they learned, as kids at home, that the conflict that accompanies fear-based living, in this case through shame, was a normal part of every day, family life. And so it was before them, then later for me and my siblings as well, and there is no fault to be found in that. My parents, being the goodhearted, well-intentioned people they are, simply did the best they could with what they knew at the time. Beyond that, their time was highly divided between work, raising a family, running a household, and all those other things that are part of everyday family life.
In this sense, they were probably too busy to see the real root of conflict within our family, even if they knew to look for it. I certainly didn’t, for there were many, many times in which good, and truly positive times existed, enough to keep us from questioning those occasions when life was less than pretty. Eventually, as I approached eighteen, I prepared to move out of the house and into the adult world. I had spent my final and most memorable years there as an awkward, self-conscious teenager. And just as the last song you hear can stick in your head long after it’s over, I similarly replayed many of the same experiences from my childhood, and it left me feeling particularly naked and exposed within my new world.
As I said, our own shame is paramount in our lives, for we are the ones who are most aware of it and therefore, the most vulnerable to it.
But, one evening a few weeks back, Kami made mention of a book by a man named John Bradshaw, who I knew earlier (from my early 20s) as the author of a book called Homecoming. Then, I saw him as just another best-selling author who was heavily promoted on PBS during pledge drives. It made PBS lotsa money, and garnered Bradshaw a considerable amount of attention as well. So, while I may have picked up a thing or two about his book-and even met him briefly as a volunteer answering phones at a local PBS pledge drive-I took little else with me then.
But as I said, there are no coincidences-there is a reason for everything. Kami brought to my attention a more recent bestseller by John Bradshaw, this one entitled Healing the Shame That Binds You. Suddenly, a light went off in my head and I thought, “A-ha! It is shame that has been my nemesis all of these years and that’s what I need to resolve if I am to ever make my life my own. Immediately, I purchased the audio version of the book and digested it hungrily, page by page, and chapter by chapter. Each section, it seemed, contained a parallel to be found with what Bradshaw mentioned and what I had experienced. Sometimes, it seemed as if he described verbatim my experiences.
And even though I said before that it’s hard to consider something that was within you all along a revelation, reading that book was a revelatory experience for me. The answers had been right there, under my nose all along, perfectly positioned in a place where I could not see them. But now that I had, it was truly liberating. I woke up the following morning feeling liberated-I felt so much energy, mostly gratitude and joy for finally coming one step closer to answering the question Why that I had been asking for so long. It seemed there was so much to think about and so much to do about it that I hardly knew where to begin. Nevertheless, I’d never felt more confident that this was possible, and I continue feeling this today.
Within a matter of days, an influx of people and events took place that raised my self-awareness to previously unimaginable levels. In fact, I have recently been so busy with these activities that it wasn’t until just now that I made this observation.
In addition to the influx of positive people that had already been showing up, these new events suddenly brought groups of such people into my life. The first of these to come to mind was the opening night of an eight-week-long program entitled A Course in Miracles. There, I was surrounded by like-minded people in a safe and sacred space. There, we were encouraged to articulate what we believed to be our best personal course of action for surmounting the sometimes overwhelming obstacles and/or toxic attitudes residing within us that served to block our progress.
Enter another “a-ha” thought, and I was off and running, this time in the right direction.
The following weekend, a Hay House conference event-named after its founder, Louise Hay-entitled I Can Do It took place in Denver. There, I experienced two days of immersion and concepts that all served to promote gratitude, joy, and positivity. The focus was upon how these concepts could manifest themselves in our everyday lives in consistent and pervasive ways. Kicking it all off was an engaging and enlightening two-hour presentation by multiple best-selling author Dr. Wayne Dyer. His personality shone through as he made point after point regarding some of the more noteworthy events of his 74+ years of life on this planet. While I’d heard of him, I’d never read any of his forty-three published books, nor heard or saw any of his broadcast interviews or presentations.
However, while standing in line before the show to pick up a few bottles of water, Dr. Dyer strolled past the line and through the crowd, as if a man without a care or worry in the world. Seeing this, a man who is touted as a rock star in the world of self-improvement and healing, strolling through an audience before the show as if it were nothing-made me love him immediately. I mean really, what are the chances we would ever see this happen with pro athletes before a big game, or musicians before a big performance, or even the President of the United States prior to making an address to the nation? In my experience, the chances are nil. Yet this modest man through all his humility, made what was perhaps the most indelible impression upon my mind as to the power of change that one person can bring to this world.
The following day, Dr. Roger Teel, the founding minister of Denver’s nondenominational Mile Hi church-made a thought-provoking presentation of his own, followed by an afternoon presentation by Kate Northrup concerning the psychology of personal finances. Just as important, we were surrounded by friends throughout, not to mention thousands of other like-minded souls who just as easily would have been willing to share their experiences with us as we would with them. It was a wonderful event, filled with possibility and positivity, gratitude and joy, and education and enlightenment.
Being immersed in such an environment, I realized, could not undo a lifetime of immersion in a lesser environment. But it was not meant to. Rather, the primary focus was upon living in the here and now and in anticipating and building a life based not on Fear but in Joy. And while I was something of a sponge there, soaking in many of these details presented to me formally for the first time, my learning curve was very steep and I felt like a kid in a candy store. But, it seemed, most everyone else did, too.
We are all, as I came to realize, a work in progress and life itself is a learning process that continues forever.
For all of the tangible points I encountered during A Course in Miracles and the I Can Do It seminar, the final remarkable event (for this posting, anyways!) in which I participated was a John of God prayer circle two nights ago in Boulder. Sitting in a darkened church meeting room, nearly two dozen of us basked in front of a candlelit altar upon which varying likenesses of ten entities were displayed, among them Archangel Michael, Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Mary, Dom Ignacio, and several others.
Since this event was about faith-as well as the exponential power of prayer among a group-it’s easy to describe. That is, everything that took place was of an ethereal nature that simply must be experienced to be understood. In fact, although I experienced it, it’s safe to say I don’t understand it. But then again, that’s how I define faith anyways, and that’s what this event was all about. All I know is that when I left the meeting, I felt enervated, healed-at least from the pain in my hand, and that’s what I’d been praying for, and that I had several new and positive people that were now part of my life.
Note: John of God is a healer who lives in Brazil, in a location known as The Casa. The basis of his healing is simple, but sometimes difficult to find in our everyday, manic worlds-Love, that is. If you are interested for whatever reason, I highly encourage you to research him online, in writing, or in whatever manner suits you best.
Finally, please always remember that every entry I make in this blog is created with love and gratitude and joy. The Love and the Joy comes from my heart and is directed both from the place inside me where my words gather for eventual presentation to you as well as for the powerful feeling I get from writing. The gratitude I have is for you, the reader, whom I hope will take something positive from what I have written here, even if-maybe especially if-all you take from it is a smile

Even though the subject of this blog is about my recent need to learn to adapt to living with one hand in a two-handed world, it’s still worth mentioning that pain continues to play a major part of my life. Pain management is a daily reality for me, though sometimes, as anyone with a serious injury or illness involving pain can attest, certain days are better than others. The only problem is, of course, that we never know which days will be good and which days will be crummy. But that’s just how it is, and I’ve learned to live with it.

However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned to look on the light side of it either. “A Day Without Pain is Like a Day Without Sunshine,” I’ve often said, mostly with the idea of (believe it or not) cheering up myself a little bit. Before my accident, I was not above self-deprecating humor, and I’m not about to change that now, no matter how it might appear to others who don’t know me. I highly doubt that anyone cares, really (see? I’m doing it again…).

That said, it’s also worth noting that I consider pain to be a separate entity, wholly apart from me, almost like another personality. I believe Pain is all in the mind anyway, where our personalities reside, so to me, it’s an accurate analogy. Even so, my own unique mind-body connection being what it is, I sometimes feel it’d be nice to be able to jump outside of myself and into another body. It wouldn’t even have to be another healthy body really – a body with different pain in different places will do fine if it means I’ll get a respite from the constant pain I’m used to having now. But, of course, just because I wish this could happen doesn’t make it so. If this were the case, I would’ve won the Tour de France several times over, and I’d be a millionaire several times over, too, from having winning lottery tickets. But, alas, that isn’t the case.

So, my survival mechanism for this has been to view pain as something with which I have a special relationship. In a sense, it is a significant other in that it plays a very powerful role in my life; it influences much of what I do, what I think, and how I do things. Pain is something that can’t be reasoned with, though I try to anyway, if for no other reason than I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. But don’t get me wrong-I have been in much more pain than I am now, and it’s that thought that keeps me going when I might otherwise feel incapacitated from it. Even so, I sometimes still pull away from the world around me because, when I’m hurting, it seems as if everything stinks, nothing is fun at all, and I just want to curl up in a corner somewhere, hope to fall asleep and then, when I wake up, I’ll find it was all just a bad dream that is over now.

Wishful thinking, yes, but at least it keeps my brain active. I recently read somewhere-on a refrigerator magnet, I think-“the voices in my head may not be real, but they come up with some pretty good ideas.” In a very real sense, that’s me; the brain works in very mysterious ways, and those who purport to know how it works-brain surgeons, for example-are full of Bolshevik when they try to convince me, or anyone, that they know what they’re talking about. The brain is, I believe, as much a black art as a science-if not more so-and that anybody who messes with the brain and gets a person to continue working even semi-properly afterwards just got lucky, that’s all. But that’s a subject for another time, and I’ve plenty to talk about when it comes to Western medicine and it’s arrogant belief that it and only it holds the key to everyone’s health…

So, as promised, here is an excellent idea that is directly related to the purpose of this blog, namely, living with one hand in a two-handed world. When it comes to managing pain, distractions play a major role in my strategy. Listening to music, watching movies, watching my diet, reflecting on past successes and transgressions, and looking forward to creating new ones. All of these things and many, many more constitute my daily brain activity. One distraction in particular has been Lumosity, the brain training and development “game” which, if I’m not mistaken, refers to itself as part of a scientific study that calls itself “the human genome project.”

Who knows what that vacuous name could mean, though in my experience such vague descriptions often hide a multitude of sins. I know, because I personally have been responsible for covering up for a wide multitude of sins myself, and I have a very easy to understand first, middle, and last name.

Lumosity is a terrific example of an activity that requires two hands in order to participate. Before my accident, I truly enjoyed the benefits of Lumosity, even though it did take place under the ever-watchful eye of the “human genome project.” Since the mid-1990s, I’ve had a couple of mild, closed-head traumatic brain injuries, a.k.a. TBI’s, and the Lumosity exercises helped create a pleasantly distracting, and sometimes even enjoyable way in which I could quantify the progress of my own brain’s improvement.

The aforementioned brain surgeons might describe a person’s ongoing progress in Lumosity’s “brain games” as akin to “increasing neuronal activity in atrophied areas of the cerebral cortex” or some other similar, lofty-sounding terms. Howeve, it is enough for me to simply say that parts of my brain were simply rusty from lack of use, and once I started using them again, some of that rust rubbed off, and Voila! My brain began working better again.

By that I mean finding the right words to complete a sentence was no longer such a struggle, and also I enjoyed some memory improvement. Mostly this came in the form of remembering little things; where I left my car keys, for example, and whether the underwear in my dresser drawer was clean or not. Never mind the fact that I shouldn’t have been driving a car anyway, especially if I couldn’t tell if my underwear was clean or dirty. And what would dirty underwear be doing in my dresser drawer anyway?

Anyway, one or two of Lumosity’s five daily games almost always required the use of two hands to complete. Well, since I now had but one hand with which to work, I fully expected the folks at Lumosity to be sensitive to this fact and willing to modify my daily strategy accordingly.

But after contacting Lumosity in writing and describing my new circumstances, I never heard back from them. So I tried to hedge my bets by cutting and pasting the same words and forwarding them to as many different places at Lumosity as possible, even to one place that I think was a marketing department. How on earth something called “the human genome project” could have a marketing department I could not figure out. But then again, I was foolish enough to believe that something called “the human genome project” would have enough of a heart to understand my predicament and consider modifying itself for me.

But this was not so. In fact, I believe that just the opposite was true. In fact, I began thinking that maybe the folks at “the human genome project” blamed me for suddenly having an unusable arm and, what’s more, I had an inexplicable unwillingness to heal and, as such, would become personally responsible for ruining their secret “project.” Clearly, I was a threat to them and, even though this all took place months ago, I still find myself hesitant to go outside at night without the dog lest there be a “human genome hit man” lurking in the bushes.

So, as this example demonstrates, even though I can no longer play Lumosity games, it hasn’t kept me from using it as a distraction from my pain. And in the process I can feel good about getting my money’s worth for the service in a way nobody else likely has.

As for my consciously having an unwillingness to heal, I can only say this:

I’ve always been something of a nonconformist-and proud of it, too. But I can’t ever imagine myself saying “I’ll show those people who’s boss – it’s my arm, and I’ll decide whether it hurts or not, or whether I’ll ever use it again or not, etc., not them” and then I’d stick out my tongue and say “nyah-nyah nyah-nyah nyah…”

Mind you, I’m not above doing that, and I’ve done it before, probably even within the past couple of years. And, if I’m not mistaken, there is a picture of me taped to the fridge right now that shows me doing just that, wearing bunny ears fashioned from one of those long, twisty balloons-the kind that circus clowns love to make and give to adults to wear so they aren’t the only ones who look like asses in front of the kids, s.

Anyway, such childish, stick-my-tongue-out retorts to perceived “authority” has been my fallback probably since grade school, largely because I don’t think well on my feet (and I often don’t think well sitting on my rear end, either), and it’s the only thing I could come up with at the time. These days, after having more than my share of unpleasant interactions with pompous, self-important, smarty-pants doctors, I figure that if I am unable to come up with a witty, well-directed comeback to someone who’s talking down to me in the first place, I might as well make them work a little for it and give them a reason to really, really, really talk down to me.

Somehow, in a very twisted way, I take enjoyment from this, which I guess is better than keeping it all bottled up until, like a repeatedly shaken soda can, I explode and make a big, sticky mess everywhere. But hey, they’re doctors, and their job is to make me feel better, and if that’s what it takes to make me feel better, so be it. But all that is in the past now and, though it may sound like fun (it was), I am now more inclined to “act my age” as they say and behave more like the graying, 40-something-year-old man who has as much hair growing out of his ears and his nose as he has left on top of his head. In other words, I do my best to think before opening my mouth so as to not inadvertently say inflammatory things.

To my credit, I recently realized that my own energies were best directed inward, where I needed them to help me heal. Sadly, it’s true that I used to reserve the right to throw a tantrum that would make a two-year-old proud. But as I said a few paragraphs earlier, I have been responsible for covering up a multitude of sins and, though it’s a stretch, I suppose this could be considered one of them, albeit a very mild one at that. But the bottom line remains the same: Distractions in just about any imaginable form are key to my salvation from Pain.

Finally, on a serious note, my evolving behavior and the mindset behind those behaviors have been an undeniable part of my collective experiences that have become part of the recovery process. While I am older and wiser for it, I have crawled through a lot of mud-much of it of my own making-just to get to this point in my recovery. But, as I look with joy to tomorrow, I wonder what new and noble experiences might await me next; I suppose I’ll just have to wait to find out… “nyah-nyah nyah-nyah nyah!”