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Ways to Help in Natural Disasters

With more than 70 people dead and billions of dollars of damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the full impacts of both disasters are still being tallied. Hurricane Harvey saturated parts of Texas and Louisiana with 27 trillion gallons of water and Houston received a whopping 53 inches of rain. Two weeks later, Houston's floodwater is contaminated with E. coli and heavy metals and draining very slowly. CNN reported that Hurricane Irma left a "nuclear landscape" in the Caribbean. On top of that, 61 people were killed by an unprecedented 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, the strongest of its kind in 100 years. Additionally, 65 ongoing fires in the West Coast have posed serious threats, burning everything in its path, wreaking havoc on air quality, and saturating the sky with massive ash like snowflakes in a winter snow storm. 

As people look alarmingly at global warming and feel overwhelmed at what to do to help others directly impacted by natural disasters, here are some things you can do (which can help you feel good by contributing to a solution while helping others at the same time):


> Consider donating to the Red Cross--as a volunteer or through valuable blood and monetary donations. 

> Get involved with other local community or church groups that are working on a mission of rebuilding.

> Volunteer at an emergency shelter near you.

> Donate essential items, like toiletries, food items, clothing, and replacement furniture.

> Help with childcare, play activities, helping with homework, and/or reading to kids at shelters.

> Foster displaced children and/or pets.

> Contribute to lessening your carbon footprint on the planet by investing in solar power and alternative energies.

> Get involved with local conservation groups in your area and do your part to reduce, recycle and reuse.

> Pray and/or send positive thoughts/energy to all around you, including Mother Earth... as Gandhi said, "Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. When properly understood and applied, it is the most potent form of action."

How Marketing is Ruining Our World

I feel frustrated and have decided to use this blog as a way of voicing my concerns about the detrimental effects of current marketing practices.

Earlier today I decided to go on my neglected Facebook account and peruse around. I saw a bunch of posts touting people's opinions, services or current mood. I felt disconnected from everyone and a bit dismayed by the superficial interaction--then I decided that I should participate to get more out of the experience. You know that old adage, you only get out of something what you put into it. So, I reached out and made comments and connected with folks. It felt rather good. Then I decided to up the participation by posting a status update--and it was in the update that made me realize all of the growing discontent I've had with the current influence of marketing. I'll even go so far as to say that we've let marketing turn into a dictator-ish  monster that is ruining our quality of life and freedom.

Let me explain.

First, you may be wondering what was in my status update that revealed this upsurge of marketing mayhem? 

Here it is (see if it hits you too)...

"What does Art do for us? It 'gives shape' to our emotions, makes them visible and, in so doing, places a seal of eternity upon them..." from "The Elegance of the Hedgehog." Great read and most excellent point. Long live art & emotions (aka LIFE). The more we numb, the less we live and the less art we produce and appreciate.

Did you get it?

Well, let me expound upon it a bit more. Art captures our emotions. Art is the embodiment of what makes us human. It's humanity in form--and it's a cherishable tribute to life. My frustration with marketing is its influence on art.

As an example that I have heard countless times, a recent interview on NPR's Fresh Air described that films are produced only when marketers deem them valuable. Marketers. Marketers who look to see if there will be enough revenue generated to justify production. Marketers who conduct surveys and allow people's impulsive opinions in the moment justify what sells. They reduce art down to the lowest common denominator where it no longer represents anything, just hum drum human impulse--which IS NOT the same as human emotion.

Perhaps that's why some truly great films were originally flops at the box office, only to become a hailed as art by all. Ever see "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Somewhere in Time"?

Going back to those impulses that marketers prey upon--I give workshops on overcoming procrastination. I share how our 'primal' reptilian portion of our brain is wired and why/how it gets us off track and distracted from the plans initiated by the frontal lobe portion of our brain. I tell people very clearly that marketers are manipulating our primal brain, so learn how to manipulate your own primal brain before they do.

That's right--manipulation. Yes, people CAN make you do things you don't want to do, especially when you're not aware of how the processes work. You think you're in control and you're not. Marketers are controlling you like the puppeteer controlled Pinocchio and the way Iago influenced Othello. Moreover, EVERYONE is on the marketing bandwagon and ingesting manipulation techniques the way guppies gulp brine shrimp flakes (or any other flakes for that matter). We're ingesting CRAP and we need to wake up.

Politics is infected the most. Did you notice that fundraising emails never stop--and it doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you reside. You are being driven to believe that you need to douse some fire by sending in your money. Again, the lowest common denominator wins and what really helps people seems to fall by the wayside.

Healthcare, once an ivory tower of trust and healing, is now polluted by marketing. Pharmaceutical companies, once banned from advertising, now feed the airwaves with drugs that will cure your whoas, your sex drive, your bladder, and your fatigue. (Of course some of these commercials are followed up by class action lawsuit ads by law firms--did acne-fighting Accutane give you Inflammatory Bowel Disease or did you take anti-inflammatory Celebrex only to have heart issues?) Who do people turn to that they can trust? The only information that's peddled has usually been influenced by marketers.

Even churches are under the influence. Give. Give. Give. Convert. Convert. Convert. Where does anyone go to just rest, relax, breathe, and connect? Churches are under pressure like everyone else and just trying to do what they can to survive. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be a place where people can just be without being hit up to give money.

We've truly lost something when marketing practices become the norm. With the rise of small business, people worldwide are succumbing to manipulative marketing practices in the false belief that they're successful entrepreneurial habits. Using people as a means to profit IS NOT successful business. It's a sign of the times that we've lost touch with what matters.

I implore you to pay attention when you feel manipulated and are responding out of an impulse or urge. I doubly implore you to denounce practices that feed on people's impulses or urges (you know the feeling...or the so called "hot button"). Focus on what matters. Find and cultivate your values. Go to a museum and refill your spirit by looking at art. Remember your humanity and feed it to the world free of charge and I'll bet your needs will be filled in ways you could never imagine.

As a closing thought, maybe you could also take in some old movies that feed the soul. One of my favorite's is "Keys to the Kingdom" with Gregory Peck. Another great film that was fortunately restored, is the '37 Capra classic "Lost Horizon," which most poignantly captures the state of our world with this line, "When those that hunger for power devour each other, the meek shall inherit the Earth." (Meek, by the way, in Hebrew translation refers to spiritual humility, not material poverty.) My hope is that this tide of marketing hunger will subside and that it will be our combined spirit that will stand up and demand quality of life, not the tyranny of mass popularity. 


It’s International Conflict Resolution Day – How are you Celebrating this Day?

Conflict res day 2010_WEB_2Today is International Conflict Resolution Day. While started by the Association for Conflict Resolution five years ago, it became recognized as the International Conflict Resolution Day in 2006. One of the main goals of the celebration is to recognize that there are ways to solve conflict through peaceful measures.

When receiving my ACR training in mediation, the biggest thing I learned was to look at the problem differently. The key was to find a mutually satisfactory solution rather than drawing a line in the sand and focusing on differences. I was taught the same thing as a psychotherapist. There is a famous example that illustrates the point perfectly:

Imagine a neighborhood with inviting homes, well-tended yards and tall shade trees where children play together and everyone feels safe. You live in one of the homes and one day a new neighbor moves in next door to you. They are from a different country and their accent is so thick that you can’t quite understand them. You observe many different people coming in and out. You aren’t familiar with their culture and find yourself standing back to observe what they’re about.

One day you go in the back yard and begin picking oranges from the tree. The tree sits in the middle of the property line and you’ve always shared access to its sweet fruits. A woman comes out of the neighboring house yelling at you in a different language. You haven’t seen her before. You are flustered because you don’t know what she’s saying. You are in a hurry because you need the oranges for the dinner party you are throwing and oranges are one of the essential ingredients in the meal. You aren’t about to drop them as they are the last four oranges on the tree and you’re in a time crunch.

What you don’t know is that she, the grandmother, is also in the middle of making an urgent recipe that is a healing remedy for her son (the owner of the home). Her grandson just tried to pick the oranges from the tree, but he couldn’t reach them. He went in to get her help and then she saw you taking them and panicked. She also doesn’t speak English very well.

If you had realized her situation, you may not have felt so threatened. Moreover, you may have felt compassion for her as she was tending to her ill son. You may have gladly given her the oranges and even offered to help her in any way you could. On top of that, if you had realized that she only wanted the juice of the oranges whereas you wanted the zest (the peel), you both could have shared the oranges and been happy. 

Mediation, conflict resolution, peacemaking is about trying to find those solutions. It seeks to understand first before becoming defensive.

Conflicts generally grow out of something so simple – a misunderstanding. Then other people come in to defend you and before you know it, there are two mobbing groups against each other. That’s how war can originate

Please know I’m not saying that there aren’t genuine bullying types of people (sociopaths and other people with more extreme personality disorders) out there that have malice in their heart. What I am saying is that more often than not, people have genuine love in their heart and are motivated by that magic quality. So, the next time you begin to feel enraged or defensive with someone – seek to understand first. Listen with your heart and try to feel compassion for the other person or people. Hearts, by the way, speak all languages, so don’t let that deter you when encountering another person that seems different from you. You just might get love in return, which can only make life greater.

MOTHER__TERESA_167909eIn closing, I want to take a moment to remember and honor Mother Teresa for all the amazing peace work she has done in the world – and for the light she has modeled to the rest of us. She once said that she wouldn’t go to an anti-war demonstration, but she would attend a peace rally, so maybe we can also think of today as Peacekeeping Day. 

(Mother Teresa - 26 Aug 10 - 5 Sep 86)

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

Veteran’s Day: Honoring the Forgotten Hope of 11-11

I cried as I prepared to write today’s post. It rekindled some painful memories. However, proceeding to write this renewed my faith and hope. I hope reading it has the same effect for you.

Today is November 11, Veteran’s Day in the United States. It is a little more somber and poignant this year as our Nation continues to battle in a “war on terrorism” and attempts to recover from last week’s tragedy at Fort Hood when one man (a psychiatrist) engaged in his own battle as he allegedly shot down 13 people and physically wounded 42 others, and emotionally wounded so many more.

How does one heal? What can one do?

Last night I heard a quote by Benjamin Franklin that appalled me, “He that lives upon hope will die fasting.” I disagree. Research shows that hope is one of the key ingredients to resiliency and healing. I say it’s the opposite, “He that lives with hope will die fulfilled.”

Of course, I also recognize that hope is only one ingredient. We need direction and action. The obstacle is when our direction and actions are based on reactivity, revenge, fear, and self-deception.

Perhaps that’s what happened November 11, 1919 when Germany begrudgingly signed the armistice agreement that ended World War I (at the 11th hour of on the 11th day of the 11th month). The total number of deaths from that war, The Great War, was considered to have been 8.5 million soldiers, 6 million civilians, and 21 million being wounded (imagine the millions more impacted emotionally and through the generations).

A possible sliver of silver lining from all this destruction (the hope) was the creation of the League of Nations. While it didn’t stay in formation, it’s focus on communicating worldwide about issues that impact global human rights and public health set a precedent for the United Nations.

What does all of this have to do with Veteran’s Day? A few things.

First, because of the armistice agreement, this day was originally called Armistice Day. Ironically, armistice means “a temporary suspension of the warring parties by agreement.” Armistice Day, as its name implies, was only temporary. It was changed to Veteran’s Day in 1954.

While we remember veterans today (living and passed), I want to point out the astronomical number of civilians that have been killed in war (remember that WWI casualties alone totaled approximately 8.5 million soldiers and 6 million civilians). That doesn’t include all of the civilians directly impacted by war.  Today is not so different as civilians are targets of terrorist attacks around the globe.

As a counselor, military brat, and veteran, I feel compelled to express my sympathy and extend loving and healing thoughts to all people worldwide on this day, not just my fellow veterans. In fact, I urge all people to think of this day as a day of peace and to hold the intention of peace throughout time. 

Change happens when we change our foundation. That foundation is created by our intentions and the words we use. Mother Teresa expressed it best when she described that she wouldn’t attend and anti-war protest but she would show up to a pro-peace rally. The original seed of today’s history is based on the hope of worldwide peace. Please don’t forget it—honor the hope of today and the people around you. Namaste.