, , , , , , , , , ,

Emerging from a slumber: Lessons from nature this time of year

Emerging from a slumber

As we approach Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere – I honor that it is a time when nature nears its completion of its turn toward what we experience as the “shortest” days of the year.  The days are not actually shorter; we simply experience them as shorter because we “see” less daytime, and observe more evening time during a 24-hour period.

As Winter Solstice comes and goes, we tend to say that the light returns. May we all remember that the light never truly goes away.  It’s always there. It’s only that during certain portions of our planet’s orbit around the sun, we experience fewer hours of daylight.  Physically, on the earth, the more north we are, the more extreme the disparity between the total hours of lightness and of darkness.

Not unlike the planet, we, too, as humans are turning and rotating through the seasons…through the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives.

What is it about slowing down, lying dormant, by nature’s design, only to be later awakened from our slumber – that sometimes seemingly troubles us? Why is it that in modern day society, we tend to choose overindulgences over what is more meaningful and is more apt to sustain us? Typically, we tend to go for the immediate gratification. Silly humans!

We can take a lesson from the great grizzlies who “den” in the wintertime, seeking refuge from the severe weather conditions. Hibernation affords them an opportunity to preserve their bodies and life force energy when the natural resources on the outside are less readily available and more difficult to come by. It’s a time when the wind picks up, and the temperature drops. The grizzlies forage and bulk up during the weeks preceding their hibernation; they re-emerge leaner and yet just as strong as when they entered.

How does this parallel our own lives as spiritual seekers? Does this open up an opportunity for us each year, to “go inside” and take refuge from the outside forces?  For me, that means surrendering into the natural rhythm of the seasonal shifts, rather than fighting against them.  I used to express disdain for the wintertime.  I saw it as an inconvenience to drive home from work in the dark, and to have fewer hours of sunshine to enjoy the beach and other outdoor activities.

While I’m still practicing my surrendering into the darker times of the year, each trip around the sun I get a little closer to full acceptance. Turning inward, this time of year, I make an even more concerted effort to slow down and tap into my own inner light, my own soulful center.  We all have one.  And, yes, like the sun, it’s always there, too.  Sometimes it’s a flicker; other times, it’s a full glow. It may appear dark and stark from time to time.  I remind myself that it only appears that way. The source of the light remains the same: constant, steadfast, reliable, and true. I have much to receive from it, much to sustain me.  I appreciate it now.  I’m thankful for all that it offers.  And, for you?

For your consideration:

As individuals and as a society, have we been slumbering too long?  Or, to mix metaphors:  Have we been asleep at the wheel?

From a spiritual standpoint: Are we now emerging from our slumber and stepping into a higher level of consciousness?  I would say yes, for many, this is indeed the case.  That’s what’s been the challenge as well as the opportunity…for growth, for a remembrance of what’s pure and true, and for paving a renewed path: a path that honors us, our sacred institutions, and our precious planet and all those who inhabit it.

For me, the recent political landscape in the United States has served as a powerfully potent catalyst that has reawakened me from my own slumber and reactivated my political and legal activism. The misuse of power across many sectors of our federal government, coupled with the blatant disregard for the United States Constitution hurts my heart.  And, at the same time, it fuels my passion. If you’re a regular reader of Soul Notes, then you’ll recall some of my chronicles of such matters the past two years.  I’m feeling into what that means for me, heading into 2019.

Okay, your turn:

Where in your life would you like to take temporary refuge, and regroup, so that later you may re-emerge lean and strong?  What needs shedding or letting go?   What lessons can be found in the darkness?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , , , , , ,

Why do we resist change? (Or, do we?)

Why do we resist change?

In this edition of Soul Notes, let’s talk about change.  I’m not talking about change for change’s sake.  I’m referring to those anticipated or even avoided changes that gnaw at us, and keep us at best distracted or at worst completely stuck, immobile, and hunkering down and ducking from opportunities that may expand us, help us and others, and even allow us fully to flourish.

Rather than resisting or avoiding change, perhaps it’s worth flipping it on its head:

What if instead it was a matter of welcoming and embracing change, in spite of, or even especially when, the outcome is uncertain?  It need not be reckless nor done with wanton abandon.

With, in many instances, hotly contested races in the midterm elections held in the United States this week, many voters heartily embraced a change in the ruling political party and a rebalancing of power among the three branches of government.  Not everyone held on for dear life to the status quo.

Some changes are certain.  They are taken as a given, without resistance: The ebbing and flowing of the tides.  The waxing and waning of the moon.  The rising and setting of the sun.

Stages and seasons of growth in nature:  those are accepted as certain, or nearly always so. Nature takes a certain trajectory, follows a certain course, pattern, cycle, movement, and rhythm. Of all the species, it is humankind that is perhaps the most not-so-kind to the natural world.  We are the species that most interferes with the grand design of this world.

It is we who inject and impose contorted calendars and appointment schedules into what is an otherwise orderly order.  We invoke what are for the most part arbitrary time changes such as “daylight saving time.” It is this imposing of our will over divine will that I would venture to say brings us strife and grief, and long-term suffering at the hands of fleeting, or even altogether unmaterialized, gains.

Maybe it really does come down to the invocations expressed in the Serenity Prayer:  Accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and invite in the wisdom to know the difference. For those circumstances we cannot change, we can still indeed change our response.  (See The Meaningfulness of Meaning here, referencing the work of Viktor Frankl.)

We are in control.  We get to decide how we respond. We get to take inspired action.  We get to adapt, move forward, expand, and grow.  And why not?  To stay stuck is tiring, uninspiring, and altogether dull.

For your consideration:

Is change something to be avoided at all costs?  Why or why not?  Does it depend on the situation?

Okay, your turn

Where has embracing change, even when initially it seemed scary, brought about improved outcomes for you?  On the other hand, when would you have benefited from accepting a situation exactly as-is, and had fully appreciated it in that moment?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , , , , , , , , , ,

The honoring of union and unity: Are you in?

Oneness

Union and unity

or, at least the potential of it

exists

within ourselves

and with and among each other

and with the Divine.

We are more alike than we are different.

We are all made of the same ‘stuff,’ the same stuff as the stuff of the earth and the stars.

 

As we hear spoken at Mass on Ash Wednesday, from the Old Testament:

From dust we came and to dust we shall return.  (Genesis 3:19)

And, as set forth in the New Testament, we are reminded that:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. (Mark 3:25)

 

Also, as Americans we’ve often heard repeated this pre-revolutionary war era rallying cry:

United we stand; divided we fall. (“The Liberty Song,” by John Dickinson (1768))

 

Each of us has this one life to live – staying true to ourselves and our convictions, and with our own sense of right and wrong – while also living as members of our increasingly globalized society.

So, why do we so often seem to be hell-bent on finding ways to emphasize our differences in such a way that, rather than uplifting each other, threatens to cut each other down, and keep us separated?  Why must we do so in ways that are disrespectful and even dare I say dehumanizing?

To do so, is to forget an important spiritual principle, as so eloquently set forth in Yogi Bhajan’s First Sutra of the Aquarian Age:

Recognize that the other person is you.

I have this sutra, included in the list of all five sutras, posted on a wall right next to my bathroom mirror.  It reminds me of the mirror, if you will, that each of us is of each other and for each other.  (For more on this First Sutra, go here.)

How We Express Ourselves To One Another

On social media, I find it challenging.  I may not always, and may not ever, truly get it ‘right.’  I do approach it with the intention, however, of striking some sort of proportionate distribution among: raising awareness and shining a light on issues that matter to me in this world, and doing so without inflicting harm, shame or blame on another – especially on anyone in the private sphere.  Elected and appointed officials, in my opinion, are subject to a bit more scrutiny, although there too I do my best to raise awareness, clarify facts, and share my point of view in a way that’s not focused on shaming the person on a purely personal level.

For the most part, I look for examples of what I’d like to “see more of” in the world.  By contrast, I suppose that in so doing, I’m also pointing out what I’d like to see “less of” in the world – and yet, why give extra mileage to those things, is my thinking?  Haven’t those negative things already gained more than enough traction?

Sometimes, by design, I take a moment to reflect, and refrain from posting anything at all. It’s not that I don’t care.  Sometimes, I feel maybe I care too much?  Is there such a thing as caring too much?  I don’t know, really.  I do know that often there is much more to be learned from listening than from telling, and certainly more to be gained by showing compassion rather than by “making a point” in a way that’s browbeating and berating to another.

As I write this, I’m reminded of the proverb: There but for the grace of God, go I.

We never fully know what another person’s experience or conditions may be.  We can only hope to heed even but the briefest moments and garner but the slightest glimpses of understanding.  What would we do if we were in their particular situation or living within their particular circumstances?  What if the roles were reversed?  I am not suggesting that I have it all figured out.  I do know, though, that at least I’m trying to be conscientious and expressing myself with a certain level of decency while also maintaining my sense of advocacy on behalf of those values and ideals I hold most dearly. It’s an ongoing, day-by-day, invocation.

For your consideration:

With friends, colleagues, and even strangers, can we aim to be more compassionate, and less quick to dehumanize?  Have social media “won” the game — in terms of reducing us to online bullies and to showing up as web-based wielding knife-throwers? Can we change the rules of the game?  I say we can.

Are we up for raising the level of discourse? I’m game! Are you in?

Okay, your turn:

Where do you feel we’ve gone astray with regard to how we treat one another, and why? How can we improve our discourse? From a loving place, and not from a place of vindictiveness, harshness, or shame or blame, are there any examples you’d like to share?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , , , , ,

Peaceful assembly and why we march

Why We March

Assuredly, the legal profession is part of a system (the judicial system) that plays an important role in the proper functioning of our society.  So, too, does the First Amendment and the fundamental right to peacefully assemble and freely express our ideas and opinions, all in the furtherance of an informed citizenry and responsible discourse.

Ever since I set out to attend U.C. Berkeley as an undergraduate and budding journalist, I’ve had a deep reverence for the First Amendment, and to being an active participant in our electoral system.

My senior year in college, I lived in an international house with students who came to U.C. Berkeley from around the world.  I was one of the few Americans who lived in this shared housing that had space for about 20 students.   On Wednesday evenings, all the student residents were expected to participate in the household dinner preparations, followed by a group discussion.  We would rotate through, with each of us taking a turn at least one Wednesday per term serving as the ‘keynote speaker’ for the evening.  We were encouraged to share cultural insights about our home countries.  Typically, students would provide photos or slide shows from home.

When it came around for my turn at the helm, I decided to make the U.S. Constitution my topic of discussion. I read aloud the words of the First Amendment, and asked for each person to share what that meant to them when comparing it to the concept of freedom of expression in their home countries.  Naively on my part, I expected a lively discussion.  The most “telling” part of the conversation, however, was the silence.  Hardly any of the foreign students felt comfortable enough to speak up.   I learned a lot that evening.  More than I ever anticipated.  And more than I could have ever learned without the diversity of that group assembled.

This edition of Soul Notes is dedicated to free speech, the right to be heard, and the right to vote.

“What they all had in common: A sincere desire to make a positive impact in our country, and to have their voices and opinions heard.  There were tears and cheers.  Laughs and smiles.  There were also expressions of focused determination.” 

A Legion of Women Brought Together for a Common Purpose

This past weekend, I attended a gathering of women, and one man, who met at a co-work space near midtown for an event led by the organizers of this year’s Women’s March Los Angeles.  My intentions were two-fold: 1. Learn more about this year’s March and what the organizers were planning; and 2. Receive the facts firsthand (and not via potentially wildly incorrect secondhand information) about the organization, its functions and mission.

Taking place one week prior to the second annual Women’s March, at this weekend’s gathering, we painted signs, and chatted with others who either went to the March last year, or were planning to go this year, or both.  Midway through the event, several of the organizers spoke to the group, and fielded questions from the audience.  In the audience were school teachers, business owners, stay at home parents, community leaders, and activists from a wide spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, and countries of origin.

What they all had in common:  A sincere desire to make a positive impact in our country, and to have their voices and opinions heard.  There were tears and cheers.  Laughs and smiles.  There were also expressions of focused determination.  As I looked around the room, and conversed with some of the women, and listened to impassioned comments from the audience, and asked my own questions of the organizers – a visceral response came over me.  What must it have felt like to be one of the women who attended the early organized suffragette meetings?  Was it something akin to what I was experiencing at that very instant?  My next realization was this:  I, however, wasn’t risking life and limb to attend this gathering.  Those women, though, a short century ago – the suffragettes — certainly were and did.  In that moment and in my heart, I thanked them for paving the way for us.

A few things that I was able to confirm at the meeting, hearing directly from the organizers:  Women’s March Los Angeles is a 100% volunteer run, nonprofit organization.  All proceeds made through the sale of tshirts and hats and other merchandise go toward administrative costs.  No one is paid to participate in the March.  Billionaire George Soros is not a donor, nor has he had any involvement with Women’s March Los Angeles.

“The march is open to everyone who stands for human rights, civil liberties, tolerance of diversity, and compassion for our shared humanity.”  — Women’s March Los Angeles

While an estimated 750,000 marchers participated in last year’s March in downtown Los Angeles, the organizers are expecting a smaller crowd in L.A. this year.  Is that because of diminished interest this year?  According to the organizers, it’s the opposite:  Last year’s large turn-out inspired a number of other, smaller cities throughout California this year to form their own Marches. So instead of traveling hundreds of miles to participate in the March in L.A., many are staying closer to home.  At least twenty other formally organized Marches are scheduled to take place throughout California this time around.

An Election Year

Like last year, the organizers planned out this year’s March with careful precision and with the full intention of bringing together a peaceful assembly.  The organizers have put into place various levels of security and safeguards to allow for an environment that’s conducive to raising awareness, respectfully, about what they deem to be critical issues.  With 2018 being an election year, this year’s March will be focused on addressing: voter turnout, access to the polls, voting restrictions, and voter intimidation.  The organizers intend to continue a dialog about these issues and to create a concerted plan of action leading up to and after the November 2018 elections.  I applaud their efforts, and am grateful to have been able to participate in that planning meeting.

While the intricacies and merits of specific policies may be debatable – and that’s the beauty of a representative democratic republic – the rallying cries remain the same:

Being heard matters.

Unifying our voices matters.

Access to voting matters.

And, so it is.

To the Republic for Which We Stand.

Okay, your turn:

In what ways have you voiced your concerns, if any, about the electoral process?  What actions, if any, have you taken?  Is marching in the streets effective – why or why not?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All rights reserved.
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Meaningfulness of Meaning: Living a Life Worthwhile

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the concept of meaning and what that constitutes in terms of a meaningful life.  In this article, I’ll make references to one of Viktor Frankl’s books, originally entitled From Death Camp to Existentialism, now more commonly known by the title: Man’s Search for Meaning.

A doctor of psychiatry, Viktor Frankl (Frankl) is the founder of the psychotherapeutic school of thought he named logotherapy.  In contrast to Sigmund Freud’s focus on human instincts and the human drive for pleasure, Frankl focused his work on man’s (humankind’s) quest for finding meaning in one’s life.

Part One of Man’s Search for Meaning documents Frankl’s personal experiences as an inmate in concentration camps during World War II.  In Part Two of the book, he elaborates on logotherapy and how his experiences in the camps provided the backdrop for himself to become in effect his own best patient.  Part Two includes examples of patients he treated outside of the camps along with scientific and statistical data to illustrate his points.

Prior to being captured, Frankl had already written the manuscript for his first book, The Doctor and the Soul.  He had tucked the manuscript into his coat before being forced onto the train for Auschwitz.  Once at the camp, he and all the other prisoners were stripped of their personal belongings.  Accordingly, the manuscript he had hidden in his coat was quickly confiscated.

Adding then to the already deep poignancy of Frankl’s observations made during the Holocaust, is the fact that he by necessity documented them all from memory.  He kept his mind sharp by reconstructing in his head the original manuscript of that first book that he would later rewrite and publish.  The only physical remnants of the original manuscript that he had been able to reconstruct while in the camps were in the form of key words and phrases that he would surreptitiously scribble on tiny scraps of paper.

Beyond the Physical:  Love, Spirituality, and A  Life Mission

Physically separated from his wife in the concentration camps, Frankl didn’t know if his wife was still alive.  It was in his mind’s eye that he would hold onto an image of her.  Just as through love he would cling to an image of his wife –- through a sense of commitment to his life’s work and overall life’s mission –- Frankl with devotion clung to the hope and intention of (re)writing his manuscript and publishing his psychological findings, all to the benefit of his profession and mental patients worldwide.

According to Frankl, love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. Love finds its deepest meaning in one’s spiritual being, within the inner self. He also said that even during his time in captivity, glimpses of nature, music, and humor helped him and others to survive.  They were grateful, he said, for the smallest of mercies.

Frankl further went on to contend that by devoting oneself to a cause to serve or another person to love, that the more human and actualized one becomes. In view of the possibility of finding meaning in suffering, he suggested then that life’s meaning even can be potentially unconditional.

If and when conditions get tough on the outside, spirituality can play an even more important role from the inside:

“In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 36, emphasis added).

In other words, the type of person each prisoner would become resulted more from that person’s mental and spiritual state, than purely his physical state.  Profoundly, Frankl maintained that one can decide to keep (and benefit from keeping) one’s human dignity, even in a concentration camp.

The Meaning in Suffering

Frankl was not suggesting that to have a meaningful life, one must suffer.  He did profess, however, that if there is meaning in life at all, there must certainly be meaning in suffering.  According to Frankl, those prisoners who discarded their inner morals, and who concluded that their lives were pointless, and thus “gave up” psychologically, were those who “forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 72).

The Importance of Having Faith in the Future and the Power of Personal Choice

Frankl also understood the importance of having faith in the future. Without a belief in a better future, he said, a prisoner was subject to losing his spiritual hold, and thereby made himself more susceptible to mental and physical decay at a much more fervent pace.

So, what to do?

We may not be able to change every situation that we face in life.  We can, however, change ourselves and our approach.

Through our attitudes, choices and decisions we make and the actions we take, we can rise to any challenge and accept the opportunity to infuse any situation with meaning, even the most difficult ones.  Meaning is possible with or without (although perhaps most strikingly during times of) suffering.

Our lives are lived in moments.  And every human being, as exemplified by Frankl, has the freedom to change themselves — and their experience of any situation in life — in an instant.

 “[E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Man’s Search for Meaning, page 66).

Each of us gets to decide what our existence will be in any given moment, and what we will become in the next moment.

That is true freedom.

Freedom Plus Reasonableness

Freedom alone, however, is not enough.  Frankl makes clear that freedom to choose must be combined with responsibleness.  Otherwise, as a race, the human race, we are destined for destruction. Every person has both potentialities within us – to be either a swine or saint, he said.  Which one is actualized, says Frankl, depends on the decisions we make, and not on the conditions we face.

So the beauty and the promise of Frankl’s work and legacy I would say is this:

Each of us has the challenge and the opportunity to bring with us the values of our past, make empowered choices and take responsible actions in the present, and thereby create futures of the highest value to humankind.

With that, we find meaning.

All is not lost.

Much is gained.

 

For your consideration:

What makes life meaningful? Can there be meaning in suffering?  Is suffering required?

Okay, your turn:

What has helped you bring a sense of meaning into your life?  Was suffering a part of it?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Total Solar Eclipse Edition: Lessons from the Dark Side

The Great American Eclipse, Oh My!

It’s a particularly energetically charged time in the United States, as evidenced by recent politically volatile and even at times highly venomous and violence-infused protests, and counterprotests, resulting in understandable public outcries and feelings of despair and disbelief.

Perhaps then not-so-coincidentally, with this rare total solar eclipse, in the U.S. we are also witnesses to:

The sun’s shadow being cast upon the Earth, traversing along in a large swath forming an arc from West to East, across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina.

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the need to rise above the fracas of duality and instead embrace a renewed commitment to bringing forth a new dawn – one of universality.  We truly are all in this together.  Our survival as a society and as a nation may depend on it.

Lessons from the dark side

“We have an opportunity to rebuild, from a strengthened foundation, together, rather than as separate and apart.”

Perhaps one of the most well-known among Pink Floyd’s albums, The Dark Side of the Moon contains a song with that phrase within the lyrics of the album’s final song entitled “Eclipse.”

That song describes a descent into madness. While symbolic and figurative, the song is also based in part on what actually does happen in the natural world.  Due to tidal locking, the moon rotates on its axis in nearly exact correlation with its revolving around the Earth. (This is known in the science world as synchronous rotation.) Accordingly, from Earth we always see only the same, one side of the moon.  The opposite side remains dark to us, hidden from view.

So, too, is the case with our own sensibilities, upbringings, cultural orientations, and pre-judgments of ourselves and others.  What is our part to play in all this?  As citizens? As voters?  As participants in our political system and in our legal system?

Unless we challenge the “usual orbit” of love and hate, we will always be seeing only the one side or viewpoint – as it’s the only one we’re willing to see.  What if could do an “about-face” and take a long not so easy look at the dark side of our own beliefs?  What if we were to shed light on the shady undertones of our prejudices? I dare say that’s the golden opportunity afforded to each of us as we experience these seemingly insurmountable (perceived) differences among us.

If each of us chooses to be driven by love and not by fear, and not by unbridled anxiety and distrust, then we can take conscious action and effectuate positive change. We can choose to evolve rather than devolve.  As a society, we have an opportunity to rebuild, from a strengthened foundation, together, rather than as separate and apart.

Scientifically, we know that the universe is expanding.  This time of tumult affords us all the opportunity to expand with it, rather than contract or constrict.

It’s Time to Invoke Our Collective Imagination Over Mind

As with a solar eclipse, when the light appears blocked out, we can then better feel into what’s been lying in wait — what’s been hidden in the shadows.

As the divine feminine reemerges, and ethnic equity and gender equity gain more ground, the apparent  threat to the outdated patriarchy becomes all the more real.  Are we reaching a cosmic collision point?  As a nation, are we going to come out the other side of this stronger, more unified?  Or, will we end up even further divided?  Are we moving forward, or regressing?

The conditions are ripe for creative, imaginative solutions to emerge.  Not unlike the financial downfall of the Great Depression serving as a great catalyst and driver for an unprecedented influx of innovation -–the time is now for the collective imagination to become the order of the day.

What if duality were no longer how we positioned things?  What if we were to approach these political divides from a place of universality, instead?  As humans, after all:  We share the same air, bleed the same blood, shed the same tears.

Dualities keep us in a power struggle.  It’s as if we’re each sitting on opposite ends of a teeter totter, competing with each other to fling the other one up and down off the same, single fulcrum.  What if both sides were to step off the teeter totter altogether, and join together on common ground?

Polarities, Dualities and the Opportunity for Growth:  “A Justice of Wholeness”

As Celtic mystic John O’Donohue suggests:  As humans, having a mind “means we’re always confronted by dualities.”

During an interview with Krista Tippett, he went on to say:

“And, I think this is where the beauty of the imagination works.  I think the imagination is committed to what I’d call a ‘justice of wholeness’ and bringing these [polarizing sides] together.”

“The mind separates. And when the mind separates and draws barriers in the heart of these dualities, and the barrier becomes a real barrier as there are [sic] no longer space for breathing, then you have dualism.”

Prophetically, O’Donohue concluded:

“And then you have things cut off that should belong together.  And that’s the heart of all fundamentalisms and fascisms.”

His solution?  He offered this:

“I think that keeping one’s imagination alive always keeps you in vital conversation with the ‘othernesses’ that you tend to avoid or neglect.” (Emphasis added.)

Vital Conversations

Now is the time to reflect on how we treat each other — not only face to face, but on social media as well.  As we covered in last moon’s edition of Soul Notes, Dr. Emoto’s water experiments demonstrated that water’s exposure to written words such as “Thank You” resulted in dramatically different results than when exposed to the word, “Fool.”

So, what is it that we’d like to amplify?  The hatred or the love?  How far apart we are, or how closely we can come together?

It’s time for us to have those vital conversations.  Try having the first one or two with someone who is more likely to lean into the conversation with you from a place of respect and willingness to listen, rather than the urge to berate or cajole.  It’s time to be consciously selective, and with the intention of healing hearts.

It’s going to take all of us: Meaning all of me; all of you.  Are you in?

For your consideration:

We need to adjust our eyesight to examine what we have been conveniently avoiding, or simply keeping in the dark altogether.  And, from that place, we can take compassionate action.  This is the true power of love.

Okay, your turn:

In what ways have recent events brought out into the light for you new insights?  Are you ready to have a vital conversation or two?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What does it mean to have a strong constitution?

A Strong Constitution

When someone refers to someone else as having a “strong constitution,” they usually mean that the person is of strong mind and body.  They see that person as having a grounded, centeredness about them – a hardy, stable core and foundation, from which all else stems.

The same can be said with regard to a country’s Constitution.  The United States (U.S.) Constitution dates back to 1787 and is the oldest formal national Constitution.

Presidential Oath

In Article VI, Section 1, Clause 8,  the U.S. Constitution sets forth (and the one and only place where it does so) a word for word Oath to be taken by a member of the federal government.  It is the Presidential oath, and it states, as written in the Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” 

Many constitutional scholars contend that this oath was explicitly spelled out in the Constitution precisely so that the Office of the President and the person holding that Office would be different from a King – in both power and structure.  This was by design.  The oath was memorialized in the Constitution to remind future presidents that they are not royalty. Presidents are not to “rule over,” but rather to act as servants of, the people.  This oath was written into the Constitution as a safeguard to ensure Presidential restraint.

All of this, of course, is to be done in service of (not denying), the Constitution and its tenets.  Those tenets include:  “Separation of Powers” and a predetermined set of “Checks and Balances.”

As designed, the Constitution established a separation of powers among the three branches of government:  the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.  The triangular form of government was built upon the foundational belief that no one branch should have authority over another.  And specifically with regard to the Executive: The Presidential Oath was designed to serve as a reminder and explicit “internal check” on what would otherwise be unbridled power in the hands of a singular person at the helm of the Executive branch.  It is important to note that the Presidential oath is the only  oath that is spelled out in the Constitution itself.   Having left behind a monarchy, our country’s founders felt strongly about limiting the powers of the President.

Cooperation and Collaboration

The framers of the Constitution also captured their thoughts and intentions in a series of essays known as The Federalist Papers. As made clear by James Madison in Federalist Paper No. 51 (entitled, The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances between the Different Departments):

“[T]he separation of powers frustrates designs for power and at the same time creates an incentive to collaborate and cooperate, lessening conflict and concretizing a practical community of interest among political leaders.”(Emphasis added).

The nation’s founders desired that the members of our government work together on behalf of the greater good.  Collaboration rather than conflict was the message of the day.

So, what is one to make of it, when we now see such divisiveness within the federal government, and in particular with regard to what many contend is an irreverent, cavalier attitude and stark semblances of “king-like” behavior being displayed by our current President?

Some examples:

-Signing more than 30 Executive Orders within the first 100 days of the presidency, including two international travel bans that were quickly challenged on Constitutional grounds;

-Removing several mainstream media outlets from White House press briefings; and

-Resisting any limits on business dealings that raise potential conflicts of interests, as proscribed by the Constitution’s Emoluments clause (which prohibits public office holders from accepting gifts or monetary remuneration from a foreign state).

While not the first or likely the last Presidential administration to invoke executive orders, the sheer number of them being signed so quickly at the start of a President’s Administration is nearly unprecedented.

And, limiting and even excluding certain members of the press corps at the White House press briefings smacks of blatant disregard for the First Amendment.  Traditionally, journalists and the news media have been considered to be a “fourth estate,” and as such are often considered to be another “check” on any otherwise untethered governmental power.

Also, the current President has demonstrated complete disdain for members of the Judiciary.  He openly criticized and scoffed at federal judges who, on Constitutional grounds, ruled against him on two of his so-called Muslim Bans.

Reflections

The past few months have been rather disheartening for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. In particular, I have been feeling as if the fabric of our Constitution, over and over, was being sliced to shreds. For me, the impact of recent news events and what’s being revealed about members of our federal government, extends well beyond political party lines and affiliations.  It hits at the very core of our nation’s, and by extension the world’s, stability.

The ultimate outcome of this Presidency, and of any federal investigations and the like, remain beyond the purview of this blog article.  My focus and intention here, however, remains this:  to shed some light on why all this matters.  It matters to us here in the United States; and, it has worldwide implications, because:  Put simply, unexamined and unchecked abuses of power are a threat to everyone.  Carefully examined (ab)uses of power, however, are critical to the ongoing survival of our nation and the planet.

Accordingly, it brings me great solace to see that recently:

The ever flowing tide of executive orders has noticeably ebbed.

Journalists at the White House press briefings are literally and figuratively standing up to apparent obfuscations and inconsistencies in statements made by the Press Secretary on behalf of the Administration.

Members of both parties less and less seem willing to simply “look the other way” with regard to potential or actual conflicts of interest, and other strains on our Constitutional safeguards.

And, most recently, the appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee an investigation into the role, if any, that the Russian government may have played in the 2016 presidential election — and potential collusion by members of the Administration — sends a strong signal that unbridled uses of Executive power and influence will not go forever unexamined or unchecked.

While the Constitution may have suffered a few incisions during the past several months, I’m comforted to see signs that they may ultimately have been only flesh wounds.  The Constitutional net formed by the threads woven together by the framers more than two centuries ago remains strong.  Throughout the various attempts to unravel it, the Constitution continues to hold it all!

We do have a strong Constitution.  It rests, as can we, on a solid foundation.  And, its well-crafted weave keeps the bottom from falling out.  That is, indeed, good news.

Okay, your turn:

What does a “strong constitution” mean to you?  As citizens and constituents, what should we expect or even demand of our elected representatives?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2017 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.