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)

Good “Angry” People

Aug 07

My good friend, Frederick Zappone, just started a big discussion as the result of his INSPIRED LIVING blog talk radio show. His topic was Got ANGER?  Find out how to make anger your most powerful ally and your best friend.

You can’t imagine the resistance his topic brought up from people still stuck in their heads about anger, certain that anger was somehow bad.

I can only assume that those people have lived very comfortable lives. Have they ever been jailed for a crime they didn’t commit? Raped? Tortured? Had their homes ransacked and gifts from their loved ones stolen? Been evicted because their landlord could get more money from someone else? Lived in a society where disputes are resolved by bribes? Been forced to exist in a concentration camp? Been relegated to the back of a bus or forced to drink from a different water fountain because of their skin color? Been an innocent victim of a nuclear bomb? If not, they simply can’t understand anger and outrage.

The issue is not whether there is anger and outrage. There is. The issue is what we do with it when we experience it.

Do we stuff it and pretend these evils never happened? Do we remain silent, tacitly supporting this kind of inhuman conduct and allowing it to continue?

I, for one, choose to speak out against it, bring it to the light of day, make it transparent for the whole world to see, and take action to stop it whenever I can. It is simply not acceptable conduct in a co-creative, collaborative world.

Feeling anger and taking appropriate action is not the antithesis of love and understanding. It is love and understanding at the very deepest levels of our souls.

I can still love the person who engages in this kind of despicable conduct and understand that he, too, may have been abused, without standing silent in the face of his dysfunctional conduct.

Free Yourself from Fear Forever

Oct 11

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

Notice Your Thoughts. Notice Your Feelings. Follow Your Heart.

Jul 06


Recently, a friend of mine said she was feeling unfairly treated.  It wasn’t just a passing feeling. She was feeling it deep in her gut.

She was also feeling conflicted because everything she read told her that she ought to forgive, she ought to turn the other cheek, she ought to be mindful. She was trying to do all the oughts, but somehow she just couldn’t seem to pull them off without feeling resentment.

My friend is certainly worthy of being treated well. She is a beautiful, charming, intelligent, gracious woman. Yet she felt treated unfairly Why?

Perhaps she is too kind, too intelligent, too gracious, too forgiving, too mindful – of everyone but herself.

Years ago, I was struggling with the same issue. I worked it through by writing a poem.


I noticed
my anger and pain
directed outward
I’d laid myself down
like a doormat
walked on
I didn’t deserve that treatment.

But who put me there?

Being treated fairly begins with self. If my friend feels she is not being treated fairly, she does not have to stay in the relationship.

It doesn’t mean she has to storm out in rage and blame. All she has to do is turn around and leave. As soon as she leaves, the unfair treatment will stop because she is no longer there to receive it.

The sense of unfairness my friend is experiencing has nothing to do with the other person. It has everything to do with her. I hope she is listening to the message. “Notice yourself. Take care of yourself. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.” When my friend understands how to care for herself, she will also understand how to care for others.

Caring for oneself always requires noticing or mindfulness. It certainly requires self-forgiveness for not being perfect. It may or may not require turning the other cheek.

If my friend decides to turn the other cheek, I do hope she understands why she is doing it and makes sure it is because she wants to, not because somebody else told her she should.

Can You Choose What You Want to See?

May 14

Old Hag or Young Woman?

A friend recently commented, “I wanted to believe I could choose what I wanted to see, what thoughts would be in my head, what emotions would be in my heart, and bring them into my life. It didn’t work. The people starved, were trafficked, raped, and plundered.”

Sometimes choosing what you want to see works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

You can never will yourself to see something that isn’t there. “Choosing what you want to see” does not mean hiding your head in the sand, nor does it mean ignoring your thoughts and emotions. Far better to be honest, see what you see, think what you think, feel what you feel, and stay open to receiving more information and clarity. Prayer and meditation help you stay open.

“Choosing what you want to see” does work when you’re looking at a half full or half empty glass or at an optical illusion such as the young woman or old hag. What’s out there doesn’t change. What changes is the way your mind structures what is out there. Hindus call it “maya” and strive to “pierce the veil of illusion”. This means you either experience awareness and oneness with no mental structuring or learn to mentally structure in many different creative ways. Sometimes you do one; sometimes the other. It all depends on your needs of the moment and the needs of those around you.

My friend made an observation based on his personal perceptions – an observation he couldn’t, wouldn’t, perhaps even shouldn’t release. But wouldn’t it have been more useful to ask an action question?

  • If you experience something you don’t like, what are you going to do to change it?
  • What realistically do you have the power to do?
  • If you are feeling mentally and emotionally drained by what you see, can you do anything other than let the tears flow and be kind to yourself?
  • If you are so full of rage that you are about to become violent, can you save your own sanity and move out of the relationship?
  • If all your human support systems have deserted you, do you have the courage and perseverance to move forward alone?
  • Can you choose to believe there is an energy out there much bigger than all of us that will support you in mysterious and unexpected ways when you ask for help?

When I lived in a country other than my native land, I told my landlord that I needed to stay in his rental home until my own home was built. He agreed. We signed a lease giving him no rights of termination as long as I paid the rent and took care of the property. Under the law of my native land, I could have stayed forever.

After two years, my landlord sent me an email saying he had found another tenant who would pay more money and give him a three-year lease. Could I meet those terms?

The short answer was “No.”

While I might have paid more money, I couldn’t in good faith enter into a three-year lease. I expected to move into my own home within six months.

My landlord then gave me notice, commenting he was sure I would understand. Business was business.

Was I angry? I was livid. Did I pursue my legal rights in that adopted country in every way possible? You bet.

I talked with local friends. I talked with the local District Attorney. I talked with my own lawyer. They all said the same thing. Under the law of my adopted country, I had to move.

What if I didn’t move and forced the landlord to evict me?

I would just get a judgment against me. That’s not a good thing for someone living in another country by sufferance of their laws.

I had explored every possible avenue for asserting my moral and ethical rights. I had no legal rights or societal support. I moved out as quickly as I could so I didn’t have to pay the landlord any more money. I also let everyone in the neighborhood know exactly what he’d done.

There was nothing beyond what I’d already done that I could do. I shifted my focus, released everything, and let the Universe take over.

My landlord had breached his contract with me. Suddenly and without warning, his new tenants breached their contract with him. That house sat empty for eighteen months with not a penny going into my landlord’s pocket.

You can call this co-creation. Together, my landlord, his new tenant, the Universe and I created the end result.

You can call it the Law of Attraction. My landlord became the recipient of exactly the same treatment he had given me.

You can call it Karma. My landlord’s action in breaching our agreement and evicting me shaped his future experience of having his own new lease broken and not having any tenant at all.

Always give yourself permission to dance your own dance of consciousness. You’ll be amazed at the dynamics that evolve with those around you and the opening perspectives and enlightenment you’ll co-create and receive.

Jealousy and Self-Esteem

Apr 22

Recently, a visitor to my informational website,, commented on her struggles with low self-esteem and jealousy.

I’m 51 and I want to change my mindset. I want to have better self-esteem and bring positive changes into my life.

One thing I really struggle with is jealousy. I hate how it overwhelms me when I feel like I’m losing someone.  It’s ruined many a relationship.  What can I do? 

Jealousy and low self-esteem are such miserable feelings. As my friend implies, they are also intimately connected. We only feel jealousy where our self-esteem is low. Where our self-esteem is high, we simply don’t care what others are doing. We may even join them for the sheer joy of play.

When we feel stupid, we may feel jealous if someone we care about is enthusiastically engaged in conversation with another person. If we believe we’re a poor dancer, we won’t like watching our partner waltz around the floor with someone else.

Once we understand where low self-esteem and jealousy come from, we can change our conditioned thinking and focus on nurturing our self-esteem.

Low self-esteem begins for many of us as children when someone on whom we are dependent (parent, teacher or priest) becomes angry, calls us stupid or hits us for not doing what they want.  Because we are small and powerless, we believe they are right and we are wrong. We don’t understand that they are simply treating us the way they have been treated and struggling with their own self-esteem issues. That does not excuse their conduct. It just explains it so that perhaps we can feel a wee bit of compassion toward them, despite the suffering we have experienced. After all, we know from personal experience how miserable low self-esteem feels.

Early childhood dynamics create other relationship issues that carry over into adult lives. We come to believe that our wellbeing depends on doing what our abuser and controller wants – what any abuser and controller wants.  We come to believe that we will not survive and cannot be happy without him. Then, when the relationship ends, through death, infidelity, or some other reason, our expectations shatter and we have to rebuild our lives – alone, angry, and confused. However, it is out of the dysfunctional ashes of a failed, abusive relationship that self-esteem arises.

Chaos and overwhelm are part of being human. They are friends bringing us messages that there’s something in our lives we need to change. When we listen and figure out the message, we can give ourselves permission to move on to something more pleasant.

Happiness and self-esteem do not come from someone else. They come from within. Nobody can give us happiness and nobody can stop us from having it except ourselves. Just think of the power and control that puts in the hands of each of us separately and all of us together.

I can tell from the way my friend writes that she is well on her way to better self-esteem and a satisfying, dynamic life. She knows what she wants. She’s already half way there. Until we figure out what we want, there is no way we can bring it into our lives. 

What steps can each of us take to improve our own self-esteem? Here are some ideas:

  1. Consciously bring your mind back to the present moment. The present moment is the only moment in which you can choose and act.
  2. Ask yourself what you want to do now. This does not include changing or hurting anyone else, although you may feel like it. It may include confronting them or setting boundaries. Do you want to go for a walk, beat up a pillow, get your thoughts and feelings out on paper, cry your eyes out? Go do what you want to do and watch your energy shift.
  3. Write yourself some affirmations and put them where you can see them every day. Affirmations remind you that you already have many skills, talents, and values on which you can build. Do you have beautiful eyes? An excellent mind? Can you draw or paint? Sing well? Are you good with figures? Do you love gardening? Do you take good care of your home? Your family? Are you accountable? Honest? Loyal? If any of these qualities apply to you, write them down in this form: I am loyal. I am trustworthy. You can probably think of many more.
  4. Set aside a couple of hours to create a vision board. Vision boards keep you focused on your values and what you want to bring into your life. Get yourself a piece of poster board large enough for a collage. Sit down with some old magazines you don’t mind cutting up and cut out anything you like: beautiful homes, seascapes, gardens, exotic places, words that inspire you. When you have a nice pile of cutouts, arrange them into a collage on the poster board, then paste them down. If you want, you can have the vision board laminated for durability. Put it where you can see it every day.
  5. Notice the people with whom you spend time. Are they accountable, trustworthy and supportive or do they shout at you, call you names, and hit you? Do you feel energized in their presence or drained? Move out of relationships that drain you and seek out those that support you and help you move along your path in life.
  6. Trust yourself and love yourself. You are a unique human being who has much to offer this planet – things that no one else can. If you don’t do them, no one else will. Think big – bigger than you ever believed you could – and then move toward your vision and purpose, one little present moment step at a time.

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?

Judgment or Discernment?

Mar 14

Can we make a distinction between judgment and discernment?

Judgment, to me, means pointing a finger of blame, seeing myself as superior, separating myself from another. Discernment, on the other hand, means simply noticing – noticing how others are acting, how they are speaking, how they are relating, and simultaneously noticing my own thoughts and emotions. Then, I can decide how I am going to act (or not) in a particular situation.

There is always a dynamic going on, a dance of consciousness if you will, both within myself and between me and another. I absolutely need to pay attention to that dance so that I can dance as well as possible. If I dance well, I become a co-creator with my Maker. Together, we create a peaceful, powerful, prosperous planet.

Have I experienced rage? Absolutely! Have I experienced terror? Absolutely! But having experienced these emotions, what am I going to do with them?

I truly cannot know the torture another person has experienced. Who am I to judge him? However, it is vital that I notice how his conduct affects me so that I take appropriate action to protect myself and the things I value.

I recently returned to the States after three years in Honduras and three-and-a-half years in Panama. It is interesting to discern some cultural differences. These are, of course, generalizations.

In the States, those who act out their pain with violence are generally behind bars. Those who move out of dysfunctional relationships, instead of reacting with violence, live relatively free and harmonious lives. This does not mean their lives are unchallenging.

In all the Central and South American countries with which I am familiar, there are few effective governmental, legal, or police systems in place to dissuade people from acting out their pain with violence. Nor are there educational systems in place to give children the skills they need to live productive, non-violent lives. As a result, pain acted out with violence frequently rules. There is little trust and little security. The people who live behind bars and high walls in these societies are the people who redirect their pain to productive, non-violent activities, not the ones who act out their pain with violence.

What have I done with my own rage and terror? Stopped, looked at it, briefly considered acting out on it, and then, with a combination of grief, anguish and relief, turned away and followed a new, more productive path.

In What Ways are Words Dangerous?

Feb 21

The biggest danger with words is self-righteousness. Often, without even realizing it, we grab hold of someone else’s words and repeat them, massage them, exaggerate them, and argue for or against them without any direct experience with which to give the words appropriate meaning. We manipulate these words in our heads without making any experiential or emotional connection to what we are saying, other than learned emotional connections that are triggered by the words themselves or by whether we like or dislike a particular speaker. Whenever we do this, we are functioning entirely in our heads and subconscious emotions without any grounding in the context of awareness of our own personal experience and choice.

How many of us take the nightly news as gospel when we haven’t personally experienced Iraq or Afghanistan and the many different nuances that play out in those countries in every single moment in every single life? Have we even stopped to consider how distorted and limited the view of a single reporter may be, and yet, many of us accept it as truth without thinking further.


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.