Compassionate Communication

Far Vision and the Long Run

Several years ago I heard a program on NPR’s Morning Edition interviewing a former Israeli Army officer about his interactive computer game called PeaceMaker. The game’s setting is the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. This is what caught my attention: He said it was about “winning peace.”

There are two roles: the Israeli Prime Minister or the Palestinian President. You can even take both sides and play “against” yourself, entering into different worldviews and available resources. Crisis situations inspired by real events are presented for a decision. There are political advisors who try to persuade to their side—hawk or dove. So it’s about decision-making and strategies. But the most interesting thing is that it shows the effect of the decision—and how the impact of that one critical act may play out in the future! Not unlike a process I often take clients through when they’re at some important juncture in their lives.

They did a short demo during the interview. The host chose to play the Israeli Prime Minister. A skirmish popped up. The advisors hovered. What to do? After a bit of indecision, the host decided he’d send in the army in the name of security—the hawk’s advice. It worked…for a moment. Almost immediately red lights lit up in a number of places on the map. His decision had sparked other crises! Then he was presented with the dire conditions Palestinian civilians were suffering as a result of his decision.

What to do? He took the dove’s advice this time and sent aid. But wait. The Palestinians rejected it. They didn’t trust the move. Look what he did just a short time ago. And so it goes…you don’t win in this game, or any other for that matter, unless the outcome is balanced for both sides. The inventor said losing and frustration are part of the lesson.

We have to learn to do it differently—for all concerned—until competition becomes moot. A one-sided gain never works in the long run. It’s really about acquiring far vision, following a decision out to the horizon line as much as we can.

San Francisco Peaks

San Francisco Peaks sacred to the Native people of Arizona. This view from my own sanctuary inspires me to maintain the far vision every day.

In 2009 I was in Santa Fe at a conference put on by the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples Foundation. I heard many stories about outside impacts endangering Native lifeways. A Zuni farmer from Northern Arizona talked about the challenge he was having keeping genetically engineered corn from blowing into his fields and pollinating his Native corn. The result would be stalks that grow higher but are broken by the wind—and the loss of their pure Native strain that had adapted well to the conditions of their land over centuries. For his people it’s not just about loss of crops and food but also loss of heritage, a spiritual connection.

Shortly after returning I saw the documentary The Future of Food, largely about genetically engineered food and its effect, not only on health but heritage, and the absurd greed of large corporations. You see, these corporations have been allowed to patent their seed, a strange practice. There was a story about a farmer in the Midwest who, much like the Zuni farmer, was having trouble with Monsanto Corporation trucks passing on the highway blowing their corn into his fields. His family had developed their heritage corn over a couple of hundred years. He lost the battle. Not only did Monsanto’s corn cross-pollinate, he lost his family heritage in more ways than one. In a bizarre move, Monsanto sued him for patent infringement and won. Had such an outcome crossed the minds of scientists in the Monsanto labs who were developing the product? I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt but who knows. Since that film came out there have been a number of others with a similar story line.

The examples given here—warring countries, loss of traditions and ways of life—are very big issues. But we can have an impact at the micro level, every day in our own lives, that play into the macro level. Typically we’re untrained. Not many think of wider impact, through time. But if we take the opportunity to project our thoughts and potential actions on down the road and assess the likely outcome, we’d actually find we all have an innate sense of far vision.  We just need to stop, take a breath and then use it.

If you need it, perhaps you can find further inspiration from Neil Young.

***

I’m issuing you an invitation to make a statement for far vision. Participate in our January 31-February 1 Seed Wisdom events in Phoenix. Proceeds benefit the seed saving project founded by Grandmother Flordemayo of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. Make an impact. If you’re unable to attend, please donate to the project. Every bit makes a difference.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Healthy Living, Indigenous Rights, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Common Threads Beyond Culture

With news of devastations in Syria and the US Government poised to take warring actions, I’m compelled to share these thoughts and send prayers toward peace.

Offering Photo credit: Carla Woody

Offering
Photo credit: Carla Woody

I traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2005 where I had the privilege of presenting workshops and sitting on a roundtable discussion at the 13th Annual Conference on Conflict Resolution whose theme was “Engaging the Other.” Cosponsors were the Harmony Institute of St. Petersburg and Common Bond Institute located in Michigan, along with a whole list of multinational endorsers. Aside from Russia and the US, there were participants and presenters from Israel, Serbia, South Africa, Palestinian Authority and a number of other countries.

The roundtable where I was a panel member was entitled “The Other as Both Humankind’s Oldest, Most Resilient Foe and Our Shared Identity.” My workshop session introduced the “Re-Membering Process,” the model of spiritual evolution I developed, along with experiences of working with intent. In the parallel youth conference, I focused on cleaning the energy body with the teens.

My participation in this conference was a case of intuitive guidance. While I didn’t give it much thought beforehand, there was something inside me that said it was important to go. Once I got over the initial eleven-hour jet lag and began to immerse myself in the conference, I realized it was impacting me in a way I couldn’t articulate and certainly hadn’t expected. I had to sit with it for a time and allow the meaning to come in bits and pieces.

First, I recognized that twenty-five years ago this conference couldn’t have happened. I was in Moscow in the mid-1980s as a tourist when things were still shaky between the US and Russia. The atmosphere at that time was uncomfortable, to say the least. At the 2005 conference, people whose nations were current enemies, or foes in the recent past, were sitting side by side for learning, dialogue and some fun along the way. This was a progressive group of people who looked well beyond the politics of their respective countries.

Butterfly

Photo: Carla Woody

My next realization was the contrast between my focus, alignment of the individual in order to make a difference, and the majority of other workshops, which were dealing with the traumas and ravages of war, extreme social strife and disease. I quickly noted how removed my own life is from such things. I’ve had my challenges but nothing like what these presenters were discussing. I began to wonder if what I had to share would have value in those cultures experiencing such high degrees of discord.

I told the workshop group that I knew the “Re-membering Process”* to be true in my own culture. But I didn’t know if it would be valid for them and invited them to give me feedback. As I led them through the phases of spiritual evolution that I had identified, the issues that tended to arise and the path of progression, I saw a lot of heads nodding in agreement.

A number of people shared their stories. But one woman’s story in particular was quite moving. She came from an area of Russia that had a long history of hostilities. She said her grandparents had been killed and her father was jailed for many years. She gave examples of her own suffering through those times. Through tears, she then stated that the “Re-Membering Process” was true for nations as well as individuals. It gave her hope as she could identify her own progression and that of her country. Later when I led a guided imagery, meant to take the group into the Core Self and experience intent, she experienced an energetic opening, as did others, never having done so before.

The outcome of that workshop deepened a certain meaning for me. There is indeed a common thread that runs through us all. We want the same things. Some of us find ourselves in horrific situations in which we feel helpless and hopeless. Yet there is a resident resilience in the human spirit that whispers to us: Something else exists.

Yes. We need to get through the traumas of war. But then what? Dialoguing alone won’t do it—and further aggression won’t either. To leave the times of war behind, whether the conflict is internal or external, micro or macro, we must experience the possibility of spiritual evolutionand connect to it. As we step into Core Essence and remain even remotely aligned to it, we positively affect ourselves but also others. The results can then blow like a strong wind across all lands. I believe it.

***

 *Note: The “Re-Membering Process” is thoroughly described in my book Standing Stark. To learn more about this annual conference, see Common Bond Institute.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Healing, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Make Your Characters Come to Life

Gallery shot

Patiently waiting for life.
Photo credit: Carla Woody

One of the biggest challenges fiction writers have is to breathe life into the characters of their stories, to make them believable. This is particularly true if your book is character-driven. You want readers to connect with the story and those in it, to love or hate them. A reader of my latest book Portals to the Vision Serpent wrote to say how she couldn’t stand Sybilla, who features prominently in the novel—until she really understood her. Then she had great empathy. Even if the book is plot-driven, you want the characters’ actions to make some level of sense from their standpoint. 

We all have a specialized, individual template that we live by. Here’s a quick review on how that happens. Your brain codes experiences you have. The original coding usually takes place early in life. The coding becomes your perceptions, which translates to the beliefs you have about yourself, others, the world in general, and what’s possible. This template also becomes the filter through which you experience your life. You develop strategies for thinking and living that further reinforce the original beliefs—those that support and those that get in your way. When something significant happens to disrupt the old beliefs, things can shift dramatically.

Your characters are no different. Here’s a way to uncover their templates by “stepping into” different perspectives.

  1. From your “self” position as the writer, note how you experience different characters: the nonverbal signals, the way they speak, your own response to them.
  1. Now taking each character at a time, imagine you can slide right into their body, look out of their eyes, become them—rather than witnessing them—and answer these questions: What is their family of origin like? Based on what they unconsciously ingested then, how do they experience their own identity, who they are? Note the trickle down effect: What beliefs were generated? What about capabilities? Resulting actions? How they experience their environment? This way you can really get inside the hearts and minds of the characters.
  1. Then step back. By being a detached observer you get additional valuable information. Given what you discovered about your individual characters, now you can really get a bead on important dynamics between the major players and incorporate them into your writing.
Antigua bells

Antigua bells.
Photo credit: Carla Woody

By using a method like this, you also invite your reader to tag along through your writing, to undergo the same discovery and identify with different characters playing out the human condition, no different than the rest of us. We are all who we are based upon where we’ve been. But when something of great enough significance interjects itself triggering a change in one character…it also affects the others in close proximity. That’s how things get shaken up; the story becomes so much more interesting; the characters can grow in various ways.

Of course, you can use what I’ve written here as a guideline to explore aspects of your own life, not just writing. This is a brief primer toward self-discovery and relationship dynamics that I use with clients as a springboard for transformation. I’ve adapted the content of this post from my mentoring program Navigating Your Lifepath, which guides folks on how to live through their deeply held values—and thrive.

What are ways you can imagine exploring perspectives would be useful to you? Let me know your ideas or experiences in the comments below.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Creativity Strategies, Healing, Healthy Living, NLP, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy:

Leaving this Life with Grace and Gratitude

by Kelsey Collins

I spend a lot of time in cultures where elders are valued, ancestors are alive, and death is celebrated as part of life. In my own culture, none of those things are true. Instead, they are aspects that we attempt to tuck away, out of sight. We turn away from being reminded that we, too, will one day face what we’ve been socialized to deny.

Kelsey Collins has written an important book for any of us. This book faces the areas I mention—head on. With humor and honesty, she documents the intimate journey she took with long-time friend Bee Landis. This is a celebration of zaniness in a human form called Bee, her spiritual clarity and real-ness as she makes sense of life while her own comes to a close—something we can all aspire to. What’s equally important is how Bee’s down-to-earth, blatantly frank wisdom leads the author to consider the very questions she counsels others to undertake. There’s a transparency here that’s refreshing. In an era when self-help mentors direct us to declare what we want, to dare to name it, there’s an area I’ve heard none address—until now.

How do you want to go? What’s your exit strategy?

 The book is available through Amazon. To learn more of Kelsey Collins’ work with elders and hospice go here.

Categories: Book Review, Compassionate Communication, Healthy Living, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Respite

 

I take daily respite in the morning. It’s my habit to arise quite early, usually before the sun is up, and sit cross-legged facing the east, to the hills just across the way, above the preserved land below my home. Then I go into meditation. I no longer use any technique as I did years ago. Going into meditation became automatic. The energy and stillness just arrive. When the sun comes up over the hills I know it immediately, not only from the strong light that plays against my eyelids, but also because the sun’s vibration is palpable, adding to what I was already experiencing on my own.

For more than thirty years, I’ve started my day this way, in different homes through time but essentially the same process. The fruits of this ritual are potent. It sets the tone for my day; it’s a benefit to my health; insights and guidance are offered: something explained, inspiration given, direction that becomes evident. But most importantly perhaps is the feeling of Presence, a sense of the sacred.

Hoodoos

Hoodoos, Mt. Lemmon

I have another respite that I’ve come, over the past few years, to treasure equally, with the same benefits. It’s turned into a habit as well. Every several weeks, five women convene at a home to share a meal and deep communication. I am one of them. We come from different walks of life, life stages and range of experiences and talents. Not all of us even knew the others when we began to gather. Yet we are a homogenous group in that we all seek the same thing: a safe haven where we can let our hair down, talk about tough nuggets we encounter, explore new ideas and celebrate each other. I think I can speak for all of those involved in saying: We’ve become significant to each other, a family of choice.

Santa Catalinas

Santa Catalinas

Salad Nicoise

Salad Nicoise with seared ahi with thanks to our gourmet chef who has mastered champagne camping.

Two years ago, we added an annual camping trip. I have to laugh because we have different ideas of what camping is and the activities involved. But we came to consensus, and this days-long respite has become paramount, too. Last year we camped in the Manti-La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah. Two weeks ago we were in the Catalinas north of Tucson. We were early this year, and those of us in tents, rather than the camper, froze some nights. Indeed, when I got up at 5 a.m. there was frost blanketing the outside of my tent. But the sun came up. The coffee was hot and the conversation warm. As normal, we undertook our individual pursuits—reading, napping, hiking in quiet places and birdwatching, writing, one-on-one time—and gathering as a group for meals or when we felt like it for deep conversation. It’s fully free and easy.

It was to this group I entrusted the initial reading of my forthcoming novel Portals to the Vision Serpent, to test the flow and story. Any author will understand what it is to let others view their work at that early stage. I knew I could let them hold my fragile newborn, and they would make it dear and be honest. I made changes based on their feedback.

 So, I also knew that I could test an idea I have for the next novel with them. I’ve been mulling it over for the past few years, bits and pieces coming to me over time. It’s fairly complex and pushes the boundaries of a religious doctrine. Right before our camping trip somehow I stumbled upon an actual person who may serve as the inspiration for the main character. It finally seemed time to share, even though the framework wasn’t fully formed. I was grateful I had their full attention.  After listening to my somewhat disjointed dissertation, they agreed the idea had sturdy legs. Now I’m further inspired.

I’ll end here by relating what I’ve learned to be true:

       Daily respite enriches life and is a necessity to mine;

       Gathering regularly with intended community encourages risk-taking, provides comfort and is a sacred respite in itself;

       Even though I live in a wilderness area where silence prevails, leaving home and work for retreat invites further Presence into my life.

This post is dedicated to my Moon Sistars.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Healthy Living, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Solitude, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Speaking Truth

I’ve been reviewing some of my archived newsletter content and came across this paragraph I included in my old “Metaphors for Life” column back in 2009. This one bears repeating. Knowing the truth, or backstory, instead of taking something at face value is always a good idea before opening your mouth to speak, particularly when doing so could inadvertently create damage when none is deserved.

The Media Mantra on Coca

Despacho Photo

Despacho, or prayer offering, containing coca leaves.
Photo credit: Peter Coppola.

Several weeks ago while driving into town I was listening to NPR. A BBC correspondent who had been in Bolivia was being interviewed about the political situation there. During the course of the program, he made a side comment that he’d had a problem with altitude sickness. Then in a sneering tone said something to the effect, “You know what they did for it? Brought me coca tea. You know what they use that for!”

The reporter had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, but merely passed on propaganda. If he had bothered to find out what coca is really about, he’d have discovered it’s largely the spiritual and nutritional mainstay of the Quechua culture. Coca in its natural form is not a drug. Nor do they use it as such, but instead in sacred ceremonies and as a food source. The black market for coca, for purposes of processing into cocaine, is only sustained through demand from the USA and Europe. Take care of the issue at home and the black market trade virtually disappears.

By making the statement he did, especially on NPR, the reporter helped spread an assumption that the Quechua people who chew coca must be addicts. Out of ignorance, people often pick up a carefully manufactured mantra meant to further a misguided cause, parrot the message and create more damage.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, cultural interests, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Lifepath Dialogues Gathering: The Ways of Inclusion (Audio)

The Lifepath Dialogues Gathering is held on the fourth Wednesdays, 6:30-8 PM, at Creekside Center in Prescott, Arizona. The intent is to build like-hearted community and dialogue about what truly matters. I choose monthly topics from my blog and host the evening with special invited guest(s) whose philosophies and work are relevant to the topic. The format involves my presentation of material to create a framework and interview of the special guests. This portion is recorded to share with the world community—wherever you are. Then we turn off the recorder and turn to intimate sharing.

The November 28 Lifepath Dialogues Gathering:

The Ways of Inclusion

The complete unedited audio is about 40 minutes long. Click below to listen. Please be patient as it may take a few minutes to download! I hope you enjoy.

This discussion was based on the post: The Gift of Mother India

By CARLA WOODY
Author of Calling Our Spirits Home and Standing Stark
Founder, Kenosis and Kenosis Spirit Keepers

Yaqin Lance Sandleben PhotoNovember’s special guest was Yaqin Lance Sandleben. Yaqin is a Cherag, an ordained minister of American Sufism following the Chisti Sufi lineage of India. He leads the Dances of Universal Peace, Universal Worship Service and offers guidance on the path of spiritual awakening. Yaqin lives in Prescott, Arizona, where he has practiced pharmacy for 35 years, raised a family, and served the community in different ways—mostly through volunteering.  His interests in religion, spiritual development, and the awakening process began at the age of 12 in the Christian Church.   For many years he studied well known and obscure paths of awakening.  He began meditating 40 years ago and embraced American Sufism 33 years ago.   He has also studied and practiced Buddhism with many teachers, including HH the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan teachers.  His Sufi connection has led him to India, to the shrines of saints, and to the study of Raga, Indian Classical music.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Healing, Healthy Living, Meditation, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Learning to Love Globally

In the spring of 2010 some local artists and students began a mural project at Miller Valley Elementary School depicting some of the actual students at work and play. This empowering slogan ran across the walls at the major intersection where the school is located: “Learning to Love, Loving to Learn.” It was part of a public mural project that was started around town years before to depict history, enhance beauty, relay affirming messages, and engage the public.

The portrait of a Hispanic boy featured prominently in the artwork. A City Council member objected and became quite vocal via his radio show, inciting racism. The artists and students endured drive-by insults and demonstrations, both pro and con. Giving into pressure, the principal told the artists to lighten the boy’s complexion, then retracted that direction. The town known as “Everybody’s Hometown” ended up on national news and talk shows showing that it was anything but that.

The wife of a Native person we’d sponsored for our Spirit Keepers Series contacted me from Washington saying, “Tell me it’s not so.” I was absolutely incensed and ashamed that such a thing would happen here—or anywhere for that matter.

Here’s what I note about the backlash: When the pendulum is ready to swing dramatically, resistance becomes even stronger to hold things back. This is true whether it happens within the psyche of an individual or globally. The important thing is: to acknowledge the resistance, the clashing factions, indeed document it; and move forward anyway. The intensity wouldn’t have happened unless progress was being made.

But integration and healing must take place. Such things can’t slip by or remain simmering beneath the surface. This certainly goes for us as individuals—and the wider world we inhabit.

Jacob Devaney of Culture Collective intends to produce a film of the mural controversy. Here’s what Jacob said to me: “One aspect that relates to work you’re doing is the idea of ‘listening is healing, or being heard is healing.’ When a community is able to feel heard and able to define itself through its own stories instead of having the outside world define them, it is healing. It is true in many indigenous cultures as well, we need to be able to listen to each other and feel heard. That’s how healing works. It’s not about being right or wrong. It’s about having your voice counted. That’s what public art does; and that’s what this film seeks to accomplish.”

This will be a film that helps heal a community—but also the larger world. Culture Collective is now raising the funds needed. I invite you to support inclusiveness. To learn more visit Up Against the Wall Film—Public Art Indicted.

Categories: Arts, Compassionate Communication, Healing, Personal Growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: