Friday, October 16

Stinkin Thinkin

"Doing the Footwork"

"Making Strides"
ACS Discovery Shop - Sherman Oaks, CA

"Boobies in the Spotlight"
Hudson Playhouse - Hollywood, California

"Think Pink"
ACS Discovery Shop Sherman Oaks, CA

Three of my closest friends have survived breast cancer. Two of them chose to have double mastectomies and one had a lumpectomy. All three have been cancer free for over ten years. Early detection is critical. Another vital element of beating cancer is attitude. All of my friends value good mental health and prevention. A positive, victimless attitude seems to be the key to beating cancer and keeping it away.

Today, I met Tracy, a woman going through chemo for colon cancer. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent aggressive treatment and seemed to have the disease on the run when her doctor discovered that she had colon cancer. She explained that it was rare for anyone to have two types of treatable cancer at the same time and she was finally completing chemo and radiation for both diseases. I met her while she was searching for sympathy cards, something beautiful to send a friend of hers. She had a surgical mask over her mouth to prevent others from contracting the bronchial infection she was struggling with.

"Oh boy," I thought. "This conversation is going to be a downer."

While we talked about her ordeal, I noticed that she was very matter-of-fact and informative about both diseases.

"I have enough drama in my life right now without manufacturing it. I appreciate your genuine interest and concern. It's lonely fighting cancer. Thank you for taking a minute and talking with me," she explained in response to my comments and questions. She was gracious.

I could tell she was getting tired and within minutes she bought some cards and colorful knick knacks and was out the door. I had anticipated a negative experience and received a needed lesson in hope. Faced with destruction, she was thoughtful enough to wear a face mask while sick, she was sensitive to my level of understanding of horror, and recognized that both of us would benefit from positive, hopeful and life affirming observations (i.e., lovely colors, the benefits of supporting programs that fight cancer, smiles). She was a ray of sunshine. I saw how she focused on the moment, how she cherished these seconds without pain and weakness, and I felt blessed to share them with her.

As desperate as it may seem to live moment to moment, I believe that this immediacy is what transcendence is all about. This moment is real and to go beyond our experiences, we need reality as a springboard. I realized that anticipating, second guessing, being defensive blocked my initial moments with Tracy. Because of Tracy's generous spirit, she found the words to connect with me and give me a real moment. Something to hold onto as I struggle beyond my limitations and obstacles. A real moment with a real person. What a gift!

May all beings know health and love!

Thursday, October 1

Elephants in the Room...

Wooden Smile - Bench, Avila Beach, California

" Ooops I Did it Again" - Robbie Conal Poster, Los Angeles, California

It Can't Happen Here - ICU Gallery, Los Angeles, California

Terror in the Southland - Mural, Los Angeles, California

Negative Elephant - Textile, Crafts and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, California

"A collective ego manifests the same characteristics as the personal ego, such as the need for conflict and enemies, the need for more, the need to be right against others who are wrong, and so on. Sooner or later the collective will come into conflict with other collectives, because it unconsciously seeks conflict and it needs opposition to define its boundary and thus its identity. Its members will then experience the suffering that inevitably comes in the wake of any ego-motivated action. At that point, they may wake up and realize that their collective has a strong element of insanity." - Eckhart Tolle, page 125, "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose"

There is a negative elephant sitting in my room right now. I closed my eyes the other night and wished it away. It's still here.

Of course it's still here. Where else would this giant mass of negativity go. I have fed it with my condemnation, watered it with my self pity, and cleaned up after it with my righteous judgments and blame. Like my jiggling backside, it's grown out of all proportion, dragging me down making me slow and unbearably self conscious. This is my comfort zone. I love it here with Ellie. She and I watch the news and bash those scheming blowhards on the political fringe.

"What is the deal with these loonies, E? They don't want universal health care or even better health care because they fear (fill in the blank). They hate and fear illegal immigrants because they steal our (fill in the blanks). They hate and fear me because I support Obama and (fill in the blank). They hate and fear (fill in the blanks) because (the Collective Ego Gone Wild)," I exhaust myself talking trash to Ellie - okay, okay, ranting to/with ME.

There are no loonies, unless I am a loonie. There is no collective ego gone wild unless I am that ego. There is no conflict unless I am that conflict. There is no (fill in the blanks with whatever we fear) unless I am that fear.

A while back, I worked as a department manager, supervising seven people. Two of the ladies hated each other. Both women were smart, skilled and classy. One was older and very loyal to me. The other was a young hottie and ambitious (i.e., she wanted my job). At least once a week, I'd referee a shouting match or pouting match and the negativity effected the entire department. Finally, I spoke to my boss about this situation.

"Two ladies in my department have a personality conflict and it's getting out of hand. What should I do to solve this problem, yadda, yadda, fumble, spew?" I was embarrassed to bring this problem to his attention because he tended to micro manage and criticize me whenever he had a spare moment.

"I wondered when you'd get a handle on this problem," he said. "What have you tried so far?" I was shocked at how reasonable he seemed and recounted several incidents and my attempts to diffuse the skirmishes.

"By the way, there is no such thing as a personality conflict. Personalities have nothing to do with this. This is an ego trip if ever I've seen it, and the biggest ego trip is yours. You tolerate this conflict and it's time to stop it. If you hadn't come to me today, I was going to step in and you will not like my solution, so I'll give you a week to turn this thing around. I'd suggest taking each lady to lunch or something non-threatening and lay down the law. I'll back you up, by the way, because one of them has already come to me complaining about you." He looked tired, and I left his office feeling as tired as he looked.

He was right. The conflict was all about ego. Both of us older ladies felt intimidated by the new, hottie on the block. I threw up protective barriers and roadblocks to counter her ambitions. She gave up direct approaches to breaking down the barriers and resorted to backstabbing and bad mouthing. Neither of us were able to focus on the work, the common good, and forge a connection. Once I took my ego (aka, fear) out of the picture, I was able to see past the conflict and recognize the talents of each of us. After some bumpy meetings, responsibilities and tasks were reassigned according to ability and willingness.

Truthfully, I was never able to enjoy my interactions with Ms. Hottie and she was barely able to pull in her claws around me, but we were able to do some good work together when we each focused on our purpose and recognized the necessity of cooperation.

My boss taught me a valuable lesson about ego and the harm it does to a team. The greatest harm was the "every woman for herself" disconnect. Now, after years of self-help and therapy, I see the value in namaste, recognizing and valuing the god in you and the god in me. In this example, had I looked past the facade and into the heart of both ladies, I'd have found the common bond of human need and spiritual connection.

My friend, the negative elephant, wants to obscure the importance of this bond. We feed my ego and our collective ego becomes filled with fear and confused conclusions based on impressions and opinions. We gather our "facts" and construct whatever facade or barrier we need to feel protected from chaos. I become more fragmented and disconnected from the source. I become embedded in a collective ego which is busy dredging up past disconnects and manufacturing future disasters. Because life is good, we realize a need to reconnect with "team humanity," strengthen connections, and clarify purpose. The universe keeps the source open, 24/7, so life just is and my ego dissolves in the flow.

Everything important is happening right now, and "right now" is fast moving. For some people, "right now" is surviving a tsunami. Right now, someone is writing a song. Someone else is ringing up a sales order. Another person is listening to the radio and hating Obama. That person's wife is watching Oprah and loving Dr. Oz. The wife's daughter is walking home from school, feeling lonely. That daughter's teacher is balancing his checkbook and rechecking his math. A person is sitting in a jail cell wondering if the sun is shining. I'm blogging, you're twittering, everyone feels the air moving inside them, everyone blinks, all beings absorb and emit energy. This energy is the connection. According to Tolle, ego unplugs us from this energy source and as we go backwards, we gravitate to other disconnected egos forming a collective whose purpose is to get bigger and more attractive to new disconnects. We all can read the quote above for a much more elegant description of this process.

So... how do I deal with negative Ellie? A wise person suggested that I recognize Ellie, or any negative thought, then let it go. Just let it go. Resistance is futile. Accept it. Do not embrace it, though. It is just a thought and here's the tricky part, judging a thought is ridiculous. Think about it. A thought is really just an impression, it is not reality, it is not good or bad. So, what is reality? For Tolle and many deep thinkers, reality is energy or life source and whatever keeps the source vibrant and flowing is real. Being conscious of life, expressing life, opening to life's lessons and joys is real.