Dancing with Words – Dancing with Wisdom

Jan 18

Is it possible that we simply cannot know anything beyond our perceptions and what our minds do with those perceptions?

We are all subject to a constant bombardment of sensory data. More often than not, we give that sensory data an emotional charge. Some of it hurts, for example when another person calls us stupid. Some of it is confusing, for example when two experts give opposite advice. Some of it brings us joy, for example when we are immersed in a beautiful sunset.

Good|Evil ambigram design by Punya Mishra
Used by permission


The black and white lines on the ambigram above have neither meaning nor emotional charge until our minds chop them up and give them both. When we see the word “good”, we feel safe and warm. When we see the word “evil”, we feel contracted, unsafe, and afraid. Yet none of the sensory data changes. All that changes is what our minds have done with it.

Our minds have taken that neutral energetic flow of sensory data, selected our focus either consciously or unconsciously, chopped the flow up into parts or objects, attached whatever emotional charge gives our lives meaning, and taken action based on a highly limited perspective. If we see “good”, we relax and trust. If we see “evil”, we contract, feel fear, and perhaps even react by grabbing a gun to destroy the “evil” our minds have told us we see.

Ouch! More fear and pain.

If one of us sees only “good” and another sees only “evil”, our perspectives can’t help but collide. We see differently, we chop the sensory data up differently, we word-label the parts differently, and we give different emotional charges to what we see. Then we end up fighting about whose word labels are right and whose word labels are wrong.

If it is true that we can’t know anything beyond our perceptions, and that our minds, thoughts and words simply organize these perceptions, is this terrifying, overwhelming, or freeing? Not to overdo the point, but doesn’t it depend on our perspective?

From one perspective, it’s exhilarating and freeing. My perception is just as good as anyone else’s. I don’t have to accept anyone else’s perception as Truth. I am always at choice as to what I see, how I see it, how I feel about it, and how I act upon it.

But oh my gosh! If I can create what I see, how I see it, how I feel about it, and how I act upon it in each and every moment, I suddenly have huge responsibility. Am I going to create war or peace, calm or turmoil? Am I going to blame and judge you or listen to you with respect? Am I going to fight with you or bless you and walk away This responsibility of conscious choice in each and every moment often feels overwhelming. Yet bringing this responsibility of conscious choice down to each present moment keeps it very simple.

And, of course, if I have this freedom to create in each and every moment, so do you. If I don’t trust you, that could be terrifying. Will you use your freedom in an accountable way? Will you use your freedom to harm me and those I love? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if I place my focus on what you may or may not do, I give my power away. If I keep my focus on what I am going to think, feel, say and do, I take my power back.

Settle down. Breathe. Meditate. Ask for help from whatever God or Higher Power or Universal Energy you believe in. Breathe. Allow your breath to breathe you.

Then bring your mind back to this wonderful present moment where you are safe, secure, fed, and clothed, and ask yourself, “What is my intention for my life? How do I want to use it as well as possible? What can I do right here right now to move my life toward what I want to create?

Then just do it.

General David Petraeus – An Archetypal Pattern? (continued)

Dec 11

(This is the final half of the blog begun on November 16, 2012.)

While a few men know how to court a woman, far too many men see women as a one time conquest that simply increases their bonding ability and respect from other men. “Score!”

A man can always walk away after satisfying his sexual need. A woman who becomes pregnant never can. She then carries the full responsibility for nurturing the child, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and often with an added societal burden of judgment and blame and the consequential internal feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem.

A man who fully respects a woman and wants her to bear his seed and provide him with offspring, makes a commitment to protect and provide for her so that together they can nurture, guide, rear, and protect their children. Without a protector and provider, the woman simply cannot do her own job well. She needs a very safe and physically comfortable nest in which to rear their offspring.

Is it this same almost uncontrollable biological sex drive that drives married men like President Kennedy, President Clinton, and General Petreaus to become sexually involved with women other than their wives? The man sees no harm in what he is doing. He may see it as a one-time fling or simply an affair. My friend commented that every woman with whom he had ever had sex was an angel.

The male involved in an extramarital affair still loves the mother of his children and takes for granted that she will always be there for him – to cook, clean, wash his socks and babysit the children. But his wife knows at a deep gut level about his affair. His involvement with the other woman changes his energy and therefore changes the energy of the marital relationship. His mind is elsewhere. He is less attentive to wife and children. He is less present in the relationship. While the man’s involvement with the other woman may transform and expand him personally, it simultaneously destroys (impurifies, adulterates, ruins) the energy of the original male/female relationship on which the health of the entire family depends.

Once the children have grown up and left home, the woman has lost 25 years of her life that otherwise might have been spent developing financial skills, building assets, and expanding business acumen. Her only skills are cooking, cleaning, gardening, and babysitting. By that time her husband may have developed a fabulous career, be making lots of money, traveling around the world, and associating with many more interesting people. If his sexual drive then pulls him into the arms of a fascinating woman from whose sexual charms and magnetism he cannot release himself, his wife will go through denial, disbelief, emotional anguish, loss of trust, rage, and ultimately, she’ll leave – forever. Then she’ll sue him for as much money as she can get. Faced with the challenge of reconstructing her life, she must make a living in a world where women are financially disadvantaged, heal her feelings of low self-esteem, victimhood, rage, being used, not being respected and appreciated, and her total distrust of men.

If the male and female biological differences are real and the needs very different, how do we consciously reconcile them? Or don’t we?


General David Petraeus – An Archetypal Pattern?

Nov 16

One more time, the archetypal pattern of the extramarital affair has reared its ugly head. Former CIA Chief General David Petraeus, became involved in an affair with his biographer, Army Reserve officer Paula Broadwell. Then Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite, who apparently had also been flirting with Petraeus, began getting anonymous, threatening letters telling her to stay away from him. Kelley complained to a friend who was an FBI agent. The ripples spread throughout the highest echelons of the FBI and CIA as fears arose that the internal security of the United States had been breached. Emotions ranged from fear to pain to rage to guilt to betrayal to loss of trust. The story is as old as history.

Isn’t it time men and women together started looking honestly and transparently at this recurring pattern? Why does it happen, over and over, to the pain and detriment of wives, husbands, children, families, communities, nations, and the world? Isn’t it time to put this dynamic into the center of a compassionate, safe, thoughtful circle and share our experiences and grief in order to understand the biological and energetic differences between men and women, our differing needs, and the conditioned, historical, societal dynamics that have betrayed and devalued us all?

Recently, I had a conversation with a conscious male friend about the almost uncontrollable biological sex drive young males experience as they approach adulthood. They think about sex at least 50% of the time. They have sex whenever they have the opportunity. They are always looking for opportunity.

This sex drive creates a very territorial, competitive way of interacting with other males. They heckle one another, make fun of one another, verbally abuse one another, and ostracize those who don’t play the game. The jousting, whether conscious or unconscious, is a fight for a steady sexual supply. Women and children become objects, prey, and victims.

Tears flowing, my friend said, “It is so lonely. Women have a sorority based on communication, understanding, collaboration, cooperation, and compassion. Men don’t have a fraternity. The sexual drive forces them to stand alone and fight for power and control.”

Young women rarely think about sex unless they need to offer it as a temporary way to increase their self-esteem or sometimes, as their only way to eat. If they are more fortunate and have higher self-esteem, they wait to be courted by a conscious, respectful, masterful male. He buys them flowers, tells them how beautiful they are, treats them to excellent dinners in fine restaurants, and learns the skills of lovemaking so that the woman desires sexual union as much as the man. It takes money to be able to court a woman. Money is sexual power.

Individual, competing males may ultimately learn to respect the skills and expertise of other males, bond together as a football team, and together compete against other groups of males, (football teams, businesses, nation states, street gangs). The fraternity they form is still based on territory, competition and power. The ultimate need is sexual supply. The bonding far too often takes the form of gang rape, torture, war, and other physical violence.

(to be continued)

Breaking the Board

Sep 02

Several years aBreaking the Boardgo, as I began focusing on my own personal growth and what I wanted to do with my life, I attended a workshop where one of the exercises was breaking a board with our hand. The purpose was not an idle exercise in physical strength. The purpose was to overcome fear.

On the near side of the board, we wrote what we were afraid of. On the far side of the board, we wrote what we would have or be if we overcame our fear. On the near side I wrote, “Fear of losing my relationship with my family if I pursue my vision and purpose.” On the far side, I wrote, “I am going to pursue my vision and purpose and I’m bringing my family with me into full human potential.”

As I took my stance to break the board, the instructors warned us that students who focused on their fears didn’t break the board. They instructed us instead to focus on the far side of the board: what we would have or be if we overcame our fear.

I slammed my arm forward into the board, focusing on pursuing my vision and purpose and bringing my family with me into full human potential. The board snapped.

How about you? Can you keep your focus on your vision and purpose and slam through your own board?

Benevolence and Leadership. Valuable? Possible?

Jul 31

A recent post on the Business Spirituality LinkedIn site asked: “What difference can a benevolent leader bring to people and organizations? Is it possible to be benevolent without being naive?”

I’m not sure benevolence is the right word here. Benevolence, to me, implies giving to others, sometimes without including myself in the benevolence. I find myself preferring the word compassion. The word compassion, to me, has more of a sense of having walked in the shoes of the other, having experienced their suffering, and supporting all of us in moving toward a more joyful, purposeful life. Compassion is essential to good leadership.

One of my life long lessons has been learning how to expand into my own spiritual understanding and power and then use that spiritual understanding and power to support others as they expand into the fully developed, unique individuals they are intended to be. Supporting them does not mean giving them whatever they want. Often, it means challenging their current thought processes or flat out saying ‘no.’ This is the role of the spiritual warrior.

I was very fortunate to have had two wonderful parents. Both were teachers. Both were fair and compassionate. Both valued order and structure, and yet, there was always space for play and creativity in our home. My parents truly led by example. Because I was happy, I never questioned their leadership. I knew I was loved, respected, and valued. I did what they told me to do simply because I trusted them.

Then I moved out into the rest of the world and discovered, over and over, through painful experience after painful experience, that not everyone was as kind, benevolent, compassionate and fair as my parents. Other people said negative things about me, verbally abused me, bullied me, and betrayed my trust. I had to learn how to protect myself from all this negative energy. I had to learn how to detach mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. I had to learn how to release my fear. I had to learn how to refocus my outrage from judging and blaming the bullies and abusers to shifting the energy of that outrage into being just, fair, and accountable. As painful and sometimes terrifying as it often was, I had to learn how to say ‘no’, I will not enable and support that conduct. I will not stay in a relationship where I am not respected. I will move out of relationships where I am verbally abused. I simply deserve better.

For me, finding the balance between benevolence and naivete requires a constantly shifting awareness of the energy dynamics of any situation. I can then change those dynamics by changing myself. It always requires staying in integrity with my own values of compassion, non-violence, mutual respect, and accountability.

I’ve walked in the shoes of the other. I’ve experienced their suffering. How can I be anything but compassionate toward us all?

Free Yourself from Fear Forever

Oct 11

When you’re feeling fear, notice where your mind is ….

Abuser and Victim

Apr 12

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Matt. 7:16.

A friend recently asked a fascinating question: “How do I respond to people whose actions are cruel and hurtful but who say that what they are doing is part of their greater purpose?”

This question has so many aspects. Like so many other things in life, the answers become clearer when we ask clearer questions. Let’s explore a few.

Are the people who say they are living their greater purpose being cruel and hurtful to you or to others?

If to you, by all means find a way of protecting yourself. You serve neither yourself nor others by staying in the relationship and allowing yourself to be abused.

There is always a cooperative dynamic going on between an abuser and a victim. The abuser needs to hurt others to temporarily increase his feelings of power and importance. (Abusers are people with low self-esteem.) The victim indirectly supports the abuse by maintaining the relationship and making herself available to be abused.

If you choose to remain in an abusive relationship for whatever reason, get clear on why you are staying. Are you financially dependent on the abuser? Do you have children together? Is your own self-esteem so low that you think you can’t survive without this relationship? Do you love and trust too much? Do you believe in commitment at all costs?

Once you get clear on why you are staying, you will also be clear on what really matters to you. Maybe it’s financial self-sufficiency. Maybe it’s your children. Then you can find other ways to manifest what matters without having to subject yourself to abuse. While you may choose to stay temporarily, you can begin to plan your escape.

If you do stay, you will have to make moment-to-moment choices about how to respond to the abuse. What kind of abuse is it? Verbal put-downs? Screaming? Throwing objects? Hitting? Rape? All are potentially damaging, but you’re not going to change the abuser directly. Your power and effectiveness lie in changing yourself.

By changing yourself, the dynamics of your relationship with the abuser change. As a result, you may change him indirectly. Changing the abuser cannot, however, be your motivation. Aim instead to improve your own life and to focus on the things that matter to you personally.

Whatever you do, keep a calm head, make your own choices, and don’t allow the abuser to suck you into his game. You will only escalate the ugliness.

Can you say, “Please stop that. I don’t like it when you act that way?” Can you say, “You seem very angry. What is it you need? I’d be happy to help if I can.” Can you simply walk away? There are shelters for abused women. (Are there also shelters for abused men?) Or do you want to learn krav maga, karate, or other self-defense techniques?

If you are perceiving others as victims, you are in much trickier and more difficult dynamics. Instead of one relationship, there are now three: Abuser to victim, you to abuser, and you to victim.

Again you simply have to make moment-by-moment choices as to how you are going to respond depending on the resources you have available (time, money, energy) and the context of the situation. Do you confront the abuser? Do you encourage the victim to stop enabling a dysfunctional relationship? Do you detach and allow the abuser and victim to work through their relationship and personal growth issues on their own?

There is something else going on here. Sometimes pain is necessary for growth.

When I think of my own life, it was only when I felt driven to divorce that I developed the courage to became a lawyer. It was only when I was filled with terror that I was willing to humble myself and ask for help from a Power I couldn’t see or understand. It was only when I was horribly abused that I learned to take care of myself first and others second. It was only when I lived in a no-recourse culture (the police and legal systems were totally ineffective) that I learned self-preservation, fortitude, creativity and patience. It was only when I became so angry that I could have murdered that I learned how to shift my focus away from things that anger me to people and environments that bring me peace.

As far as people saying they are living their greater purpose, how do they know? Why should you believe them? What do you believe? About them? About yourself?


Feb 21

Words are Shorthand for Human Experience

Just as shorthand is a method for transcribing words quickly, words are a method for understanding and communicating our human experiences. Even words like “heaven” and “hell” can be given meanings related to personal human experience.

From the moment we are born, parents, priests and educators teach us to chop our experiences up into words: “Mommy” and “Daddy”, “blue” and “green”, “good” and “evil”, “right” and “wrong”. As science, technology, psychology, and philosophy develop, we make up new words: iPod, space station, animus, ego, epistemology.

Sometimes we use the same words to chop up our experiences. Sometimes we use different words. None of the words is either right or wrong. They are simply little black marks on white pieces of paper or guttural sounds we utter.

However, we all give words emotional overtones. We can call this “creating filters”. Suddenly, those guttural sounds or little black marks on the white pieces of paper become charged with fear, anger, love or joy. The emotional charge often depends on what each of us has experienced in the past in relation to the words we are hearing now and the emotions with which we’ve filtered those past experiences.

The Same Words Can be Used to Describe the Same Experience

Sometimes we use words in the same way to chop up our experiences. For example, if you and I are both looking at a daffodil, we might exchange words about the beautiful yellow flower with the strange odor. We are using the same words to describe the same experience. Our communication is clear because we are both focusing on the same object.

The Same Words Can be Used to Describe Different Experiences

Sometimes, you and I may use the same words to chop up different experiences. If you are standing on the gray sand next to the Atlantic Ocean in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the cold, gray waves may be rolling in as breakers, the beach may be crowded with bathers, bikinis, tan bodies, little children building sand castles with their fathers, red, yellow and blue umbrellas, seagulls squawking overhead, black scallop shells, a boardwalk peppered with bikers and joggers, and casinos in the distance. The water may be cold, murky, and thick with stirred-up sand. With a land breeze, nasty, biting black flies appear. You might verbalize this experience as a “day at the beach.”

I, however, if I live in Roatan, Honduras, might use those same words “day at the beach” to verbalize a very different experience. On Roatan, it is rare to see breakers. The sea is often a clear, placid mirror of blues, greens and turquoises. Seaweed gently washes up on the white sand. Weathered driftwood and palm trees dot the deserted, narrow stretch of sand bordering the sea. An occasional boat accents the skyline. There are no sun tanners here, for the tropical sun burns tender skin far too quickly. Instead of nasty, biting black flies, I am tormented by chitres, those dastardly, invisible no-seeums that, with a single bite, leave a welt the size of a tennis ball.

Atlantic City and Roatan are very different “beach” experiences, but you and I are using the same word “beach”. Our communication is not as clear as it could be. Instead, it is as murky as the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. If you had never experienced the Roatan beach and I had never experienced the Atlantic City beach, we might even argue about whether beach sand is really gray or really white or whether the ocean is really gray or really blue.

With the words “heaven” and “hell,” many of us have been taught that these are physical places “we” go after our bodies die. How can anybody really know that?

There is, however, a different meaning we can give to the words “heaven” and “hell” within the context of our personal experiences. Who has not suffered the hell of his own anger? Who has not suffered the torture of her own fear? Who has not experienced the total beauty and personal immersion in a heavenly sunset? Who has never experienced the limbo of his own purgatory where he feels stuck and unable to move forward?

Different Words Can be Used to Describe the Same Experience

Sometimes you and I chop the same experience up differently. For example, if we are both looking at the same flower garden, you may be looking at roses and I may be looking at trellises. You may talk about the beautiful red flowers with an exotic odor and I may talk about wood patterns and climbing thunbergia. Different words can be used to describe the same experience where the speakers have different focuses. When this happens, communication again becomes as murky as the Atlantic Ocean. Until you and I realize we are simply looking at different aspects of the same experience, we may argue about what is really in that garden we both see.

Searching for Healing? Pay Attention to Your Words

Aug 30

Did you know that you shape the world in which you live by the words and emotions you allow into your mind and heart? If you need to heal, put healing words and emotions into your life.

Forty years ago, I would have been skeptical of that message. The way I viewed the world then led me to believe that the problems I experienced were caused by others. After all, I was doing the best I could and yet awful things were happening. 

Now, I know differently. Forty years ago, I was simply giving my power away to people who didn’t deserve it. I didn’t have to do that. Because I was unaware, I unconsciously allowed it to happen. I permitted dysfunctional people to have free rent in my head all the time. 

What changed? As a young mother, I unexpectedly had a mystical experience. That experience started me on a long journey through the world of perception, thoughts, words, pain, despair, paradox, anger, fear, terror, joy, peace, skepticism, faith, humility, gratitude, self-esteem, and personal power. 

The mystical experience was not one I was seeking. It just happened. I couldn’t find the words to describe it. My religious training offered me no ready-made vocabulary. Yet the experience was so magnificently transforming I needed to find some way to communicate it. I desperately wanted to understand it. My search for the ‘right’ words turned into a forty-year quest that ultimately left me acutely aware of how many different ways I could perceive the world and how the ways I perceived it affected how I felt. 

I’m not going to go into detail here about the mystical experience. Those who want to read more can go to my website at http://wordsculptures.com/experience.htm or read the first chapter of my book Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World. 

As a child I’d been fascinated with optical illusions. The famous one of the old hag and the young woman is a good example:

Old Hag - Young Woman

Old Hag - Young Woman

The lines on the paper don’t change. What changes is the way our minds shape those lines and the meaning each of us gives to them. Depending on what we see, we use different words. We either use words like, young, beautiful, vibrant, charming, gentle or we use words like big nose, toothless, hag, jutting chin, drooping eyelids. Depending on what we see and the words we use, our emotions and energy levels change. Most of us feel better about the words young, beautiful, charming and vibrant than we do about the words drooping eyelids, big nose and toothless. 

Our real world is just like an optical illusion. We have a choice as to what we see, the words we use, the emotions we feel, and the actions we take. Perception, words, emotions, and actions are all interrelated. 

Eastern religions speak about piercing the veil of illusion. This is exactly what they are talking about. Christians talk about salvation. Same thing. Both are simply talking about consciousness-shifting experiences that suddenly allow us to view our world in a new, more harmonious, and creative way. 

How does shifting our consciousness allow us to heal? 

When we accept the fact that the influx of sensory data is what it is and that each of us is in a dance of consciousness with that sensory data, we suddenly realize that we have the power to change that dance by choosing our own perceptions, words, emotions, and actions. If our partner wants to tango and we want to waltz, we simply stop doing the tango. Either our partner will waltz with us or we will find a new partner who loves to waltz as much as we do. 

In short, by becoming acutely aware of the choices we have every minute of every day, we can seek out those people and experiences that enhance our energy and well-being and blithely dance away from those that do not.

Warm regards,


Janet Smith Warfield
Ordinary words, extraordinary insights
Author of Shift: Change Your Words, Change Your World
WINNER: 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Best New Age Non-Fiction

WINNER: 2008 COVR Best Website Award

Fear and Honesty

Jul 31

The municipal officials looked just like little Hitlers as they strutted into the hearing room. They refused to look at us. The first one on the stand stated my client should camp out in his tenants’ yard to make sure the tenants behaved.

I can’t say I felt fear before the hearing, but I did feel tension. I was not primarily a litigator, this was not my usual territory, and I wasn’t familiar with the procedures or personalities of that particular municipality before I stepped into the hearing room. 

I had, however, prepared both law and facts thoroughly. As the hearing progressed, it became obvious that the municipal officials were familiar with neither. 

I knew the police chief’s list of violations was inconsistent with the notices he had sent my client. After he haughtily read his opening testimony listing all the violations of which my client was guilty, I simply asked him to show me where my client had received notice of the violations. He spent a full two minutes looking through his file. Every eye in the hearing room was on him. 

Both my client and I sat respectfully silent while he looked, but we were both chuckling inside. Finally, he had to admit on the record that my client had never received notice. The police chief’s arrogance suddenly evaporated. 

The Code Enforcement Official, hands trembling, testified that the last time he had viewed my client’s property was over four months ago. He nevertheless adamantly stated that the property did not meet the Code requirements as of the hearing date. Did I hear that right? 

When I asked him how he could possibly testify that my client’s property didn’t meet Code requirements today when he hadn’t viewed it for four months, he backed down, retracted his statement, and suddenly started testifying honestly. Interestingly enough, his hands also stopped shaking.