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http://vimeo.com/uartsphilly/neil-gaiman-addresses-the-university-of-the-arts-class-of-2012

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A Little Book of Parenting Skills

A Father’s Book of  Listening

Safe and Secure: A Guide to Parenting with the Brain in Mind

How Parents Screw Us Up (Without Really Meaning To)

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1. It stimulates alertness and concentration

2. It optimizes brain activity and metabolism

3. It improves cognitive function

4. It increases memory recall 

5. It enhances consciousness and introspection

6. It lowers stress

7. It relaxes every part of your body

8. It improves voluntary muscle control

9. It enhances athletic skills

10. It fine-tunes your sense of time

11. It increases empathy and social awareness

12. It enhances pleasure and sensuality

 

Newberg, A. and Waldman, M.R. 

How God Changes Your Brain

Pg. 158

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Good at the End

Friday, January 13, 2012


This past Tuesday my niece Cristy, a nurse, locked herself in the bathroom of her Florida home. With my sister, Melanie out in the living room playing Clue with her seven-year-old son, Luke, Cristy killed herself. Both Luke and my sister Mel stood by and watched in helpless horror when the paramedics arrived and used the paddles that failed to shock Cristy’s abandoned body back to life. You, me, Cristy, Mel and Luke share a common thread … we deeply and intimately know suffering from the inside out.

It is that intimate knowing that ties us together. And it will continue to tie us together even when the thread sometimes seems pretty thin or we forget we’re even connected at all. Just because we forget that the air we breathe is all around us, doesn’t make the air any less present or real. And just because we might forget the love that powers the human heart, and let Wild Mind generate all kinds of crazy-shit fearful thinking temporarily blocking heart-awareness, doesn’t mean our hearts aren’t still continually connected and powered by love.

But it’s not JUST the suffering that is our common tie, of course. It is our commitment to work to relieve that suffering, both in ourselves and on behalf of others that insistently and persistently ties and connects us. Because suffering knows suffering, we share a deep, common intimacy. That’s just the way it is. And the way it will continue to be. 

I’m a firm believer in doing my best to open and receive the mirror-gifts the universe decides to send our way. The Universe has sent us each other. And for good reason. If you could see yourself through my eyes, you would wake up like I do, at 3AM most every night, smiling and ready to charge into the day. Viewing yourself through my eyes, you would see this incredibly courageous person, willing to do what so few other people in the world are not – willing to turn towards the beast of suffering and confront it head on. That is such a very, very rare quality in the world. While so many people are looking outside themselves and looking for and finding all the ways the world isn’t measuring up, turning their hearts and minds away from the essential shame so many of us deeply feel, you’re busy looking inside and doing your best to grapple with the demons you find continually springing to life in there. And you’re learning to befriend them. To welcome and embrace them as old familiar friends, as just part of the constellation of energies that make you who you uniquely are. It’s that willingness, to say what’s true for you and to continually grow into being able to discern and ask for what you want, from yourself and from others, that makes you a really rare human being – a truth-teller, willing to stare shame and shadow in the face and make them your bitch. In doing so, you become someone who can be trusted. And what you can be trusted to do in telling people the truth, is hang in there in the service of trying to relieve shame, relieve blame, relieve suffering. You are precisely the kind of person that any sane person would absolutely want in their life.

Below is a list of positive human qualities. Take a look at it. An honest look. How many of those qualities do you find showing up in yourself in any given week? An honest look has to have you checking off quite a few of those qualities. After you go through the list, simply realize that the opposite of many of those qualities also lives in you, is a part of you. They are simply part of what makes you, me, and everyone else … human. And we all deserve to be loved and forgiven for being human.

On this day I am honored to celebrate our humanity, our dark humanity and our light humanity, acknowledging and moving through this first cycle of Good at the Beginning, Good in the Middle, and Good at the End.

Love,
Mark

Positive Qualitities

Able

Eager

Kind

Rational

Accepting

Easy-going

Learning

Realistic

Accurate

Efficient

Leisurely

Reasonable

Adaptable

Empathic

Light-hearted

Reflective

Adventurous

Energetic

Likable

Relaxed

Affectionate

Enterprising

Logical

Reliable

Alert

Enthusiastic

Lovable

Reserved

Ambitious

Fair-minded

Loving

Resourceful

Artistic

Faithful

Mature

Responsible

Assertive

Fit

Merry

Robust

Broad-minded

Free

Mild

Sexy

Calm

Friendly

Moderate

Sincere

Capable

Fulfilled

Modest

Sociable

Candid

Funny

Natural

Special

Careful

Generous

Neat

Spontaneous

Caring

Gentle

Non-judgemental

Spunky

Cautious

Glad

Nurturing

Stable

Charming

Good-natured

Open-minded

Strong

Cheerful

Growing

Optimistic

Tactful

Childlike

Happy

Organized

Talented

Clear-thinking

Healthy

Original

Tenacious

Clever

Helpful

Outgoing

Thankful

Compassionate

Honest

Patient

Thorough

Competent

Hopeful

Peaceful

Tolerant

Confident

Humorous

Persevering

Trusting

Conscientious

Idealistic

Persistent

Trustworthy

Considerate

Imaginative

Pleasant

Understanding

Cooperative

Independent

Polite

Uninhibited

Courageous

Individualistic

Positive

Uniqu

Creative

Industrious

Practical

Versatile

Curious

Informal

Precise

Warm

Dependable

Ingenious

Progressive

Whole

Determined

Intelligent

Punctual

Witty

Dynamic

Inventive

Quiet

Zany 

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Forgiving and Not Forgiving

Robert Karen

The Forgiving Self, pg. 1

                In one of the most famous photos to come out of the Vietnam War, a small girl is running naked down the road, with an expression of unimaginable terror, her clothes burned off and her body scorched by napalm. The man who coordinated the raid on this child’s village in June, 1972 was a twenty-four-year old U.S. Army helicopter pilot and operations officer named John Plummer. The day after the raid, Plummer saw the photo in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes and was devastated. Twenty-four years later Plummer told an Associated Press reporter: “It just knocked me to my knees. And that was when I knew I could never talk about this.” The guilt over the bombing raid had become a lonely torment. He suffered periodic nightmares that included the scene from the photo accompanied by the sounds of children screaming.

                The girl in the photo, Pham Thi Kim Phuc, survived seventeen operations, eventually relocated to Toronto, and became an occasional goodwill ambassador for UNESCO. In 1996 Plummer heard that Kim would be speaking at a Veterans Day observance in Washington, not far from his home.

                Kim’s speech included the following: “If I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bombs, I would tell him we cannot change history, but we should try to do good things for the present …” Plummer, in the audience, wrote her a note: “I am that man,” and asked an officer to take it to her. At the end of the speech, he pushed through the crowd to reach her, and soon they were face to face. “She just opened her arms to me,” Plummer recounted. “I fell into her arms sobbing. All I could say is, ‘I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry.’”

                “It’s all right,” Kim responded. “I forgive. I forgive.” Five months later, still connected by their peculiar history, the two were shown in an AP wirephoto, their heads touching, almost cheek to cheek, his arm around her. Both smiling with an almost incongruous delight, as if he had never ordered the raid that left her body scarred and in permanent pain and he did not live with recurrent nightmares.

                The need to be forgiven is a profound factor in our lives. The story of the pilot and the girl touches us because that need lives so strongly in us, and it is rare that we see it played out in such direct and dramatic form. And yet in our everyday lives we are touched by forgiveness and haunted by its lack in a myriad of small and often unnoticed ways. Can we be forgiven our insensitivity? Our cruelties? Our betrayals? Can we be forgiven for having critically, damagingly, let someone down? Can we be forgiven the things in us that feel so terrible we dare not speak them? The feelings of others contribute to how we define ourselves to ourselves and often it is through them, their tolerance, their perspective, their generosity, that we are able to forgive what had seemed unpardonable in us before.

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1. Commitment – We begin with a commitment to the relationship. We’ve agreed that it’s worth fighting for, literally. That means we’re willing to go through some hard times, and willing to struggle to resolve seemingly intractable conflicts. Any individual fight is not so dire, not so severe. We agree in advance to keep trying.

2. Fighting is an Art – Fighting is a creative act. It is part of the architecture of relationships, as individual as the two people involved. It is an intimate and passionate activity that individuals must practice and learn to do well together.

3. Fighting is Problem-Solving – A fight starts with someone’s pain. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the fight, the fact that either person is hurt and/or angry means that there is a problem to be solved, often healing wanting to happen.

4. No One Loses – The only way to build long term relationships is to fight for win/win solutions. If one person “loses” the fight, their pain will just turn up in the next fight, wanting to be resolved. Solutions to problems have to be found that work for both people.

5. No One Walks Away Forever – We agree to talk until we’re done, and we’re not done until both of us feel resolved. And we may take breaks as needed.

6. There Are Always Options – It’s easy to get boxed in by two bad alternatives. We can take the time to step back and bring our creativity to the conflict.

7. Go for the Heart – Whatever starts the fight may not be at the heart of the conflict. Half of a fight is often taken up with getting down to the real issues. We try to speak from our own feelings, and to speak as truthfully as possible about what has hurt us. Every statement that is deep and true is a gift to the other person. The real issues are easier to resolve than the false ones.

8. Listen Hard – When we’re hurt and angry it’s hard to listen. Every time we miss something important, some deep and true statement, it adds another layer of hurt, anger and confusion to the fight. Learning to listen well the first time is hard and takes lots of practice.

9. Agreements – Resolving a fight often involves first really listening to the other person’s pain, then apologizing if that is appropriate, and finally, making some kind of agreement that we will keep the situation from happening again. It is through these kinds of interactions that we build workable lives together. We may try out any number of ideas, some will fail, but it’s the process, the willingness to look for solutions, to try again, that secures the confidence to face future problems optimistically.

10. The Best of Ourselves – During a fight, we keep asking ourselves questions: Am I being honest? Am I getting hysterical? Am I being fair? Am I fighting about what really matters? Resolving a fight almost always calls on us to look at problems evenly, to think clearly, to bring imagination and humor into play. It is the testing ground of our honesty and compassion, the growing tip of our best selves.

Sarah Randolph, Whole Earth Review, Spring, 1993

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In my late 20’s I began to formulate a life plan. I would become a man with the makings of power and buy five acres and achieve independence. I would find a pulsating, resonating Earth Mother for a wife, build a cabin, plant a sustainable organic garden and Live the Good Life. Scott and Helen Nearing were my avatars. Bucky Fuller was my Crown Prince. Somewhere along the way that plan began to compete with other needs and wishes that, in retrospect and with newly acquired brain knowledge, lay buried in a tangle of disorganized trauma patches deep in my right brain. As soon as they could, in their desire for opening, integrating and healing they began to make their way inexorably up to the top of the list on my Ordo Amorum.

Extraordinary Ordo

An Ordo Amorum, loosely translated from the Latin, means: the order of our loves. I’ve drawn it from St. Augustine’s observation that the good life consists largely in a well-balanced, harmonious ordering of one’s passions and priorities. In the common vernacular it means that as we begin to age and become Baby Crones and Apprentice Wizards, the profound, embodied realization that life has a beginning, middle and an end begins to take deep root. Out of that realization is born the knowledge that we must now begin to make the often difficult choices of spending time and devoting energy to the people, places and things we love … or to those we love most. And the process of making these difficult choices often works in concert with attempting to integrate the human shadow.

Down Home with Wonder Woman

In the late 1970s I was living in the country on a farm called The Country Place. It also functioned as a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed teens. I had a girlfriend living there as well who wonderfully fit the bill described above. Not only was she a resonating, pulsating Earth Mother, but she was an Anthroposophist and a Biodynamic Farmer. In addition to being a Nearing-Fullerite, she was also a Steiner-Waldorfian, as well. She truly rocked my world! There was only one little problem, which I didn’t have even the slightest inkling of at the time: she wasn’t Jewish.

Slouching Toward Jerusalem

Neither was I, as far as I knew, but I long ago converted to Judiasm and I have come to strongly suspect that when my grandparents immigrated to America from Germany, fear of Antisemitism shortened their surname from Finkelstein to Finkle (The man whom my mother’s mother married). I would not be the least bit surprised to discover that my mother’s lineage has deep, strong roots in Jerusalem.

Growing up however, I was supposedly the lone gentile in a cohort full of Jewish kids all through middle school. I was also the lone kid living fatherless in the housing projects on welfare, emotionally frozen and deeply traumatized (which I’ve previously written about) by the shame and insecurity that trifecta inaugurated. How does all this connect to my Ordo Amorum?

The Heart’s Dark Reasons

One day while hanging out in the country with Joye, my Biodynamic Earth Mother, I decided to expand my intellectual horizons by taking a graduate psychology class in Family Systems. It would help me, I reasoned quite logically, in my work with the challenging kids at The Country Place. On the first day of the first class a woman stood up and gave a demonstration of what it was like to live in a Jewish family filled with great drama and untold suffering. Without me even having the slightest clue, Zuza profoundly filled the bill for being able to help me heal early developmental wounds I didn’t even know I had.

A Formal Invitation

I left that Family Systems class in a complete daze, drove back to the workshop at the Country Place and carved a block of maple with the words: “A FORMAL INVITATION.” I mailed it to Zuza, inviting her to picnic with me at the famous White Flower Farm.When she accepted, I made the very painful decision to move Joye way down the list on my Ordo Amorum.

Big Dad

The healing deal was sealed for me after Zuza introduced me to her family, in particular to her father. Big Dad was a former Navy captain and six-foot-eight college basketball star and football tight end. In an instant he became the father I never had and never even knew I was looking for.

Zuza and I married less than a year later, moved to the Bay Area and completed our graduate degrees. We both helped each other stretch and work towards fulfilling lifelong dreams; we provided great healing for one another in any number of areas, and lived a very good life together for more than 15 years. And it all sprang out of recognizing the deep need – the yearning call of Shadow-healing, and honoring the very difficult decisions demanded by my Ordo Amorum. Not work recommended for the frail of heart.

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