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What does independence really mean?

The value of independence and the dangers

As we are about to observe Independence Day here in the United States, I got to thinking about what independence truly means. For the early colonialists, it meant freedom from tyranny and winning a fight for independence from an aristocracy. It meant that the 13 newly formed colonies would be sovereign in and among themselves and independent from England.

Sovereignty as a person and as a nation state has its own value, indeed. I’ll explore that further in this blog article.

Does that independence also mean, however, total independence from one another and the planet, in a manner that absolves each of us and all of us from a shared responsibility for our present and our future?

Untethered from royal rule, as our founders acknowledged, need not mean untethered from a moral compass. Hence, along with the Declaration of Independence soon thereafter came the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Not unlike a piece of cloth, the tighter the societal weave, the stronger the fabric. Conversely, the more threadbare, the weaker the cloth. Single threads, while separate, 100% independent, if you will, as strong as they may be individually, become that much stronger as they are woven together.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my independence. I’ve built a life fueled in large part by a no one is the boss of me attitude. I came into my own as a young adult during the heyday of Ronald Reagan’s rugged individualism of the 1980s. With bravado, I would stand up to anyone or any institution that tried to fence me in. I started my first ‘real job’ as a W2 employee at age 14. By age 18, I had moved out and away to an entirely new environment to attend college at U.C. Berkeley.  I resented having to rely on anyone.  I enjoyed great success and many adventures along the way as I graduated from Berkeley with a double major with honors, gave the student commencement address, traveled the country and the world on my own, and went on to law school and into a career practicing law as a litigator.  My family didn’t really ‘get it,’ and they would have been happier if I went to a school that had a top-ranked football team.

All that pulling myself up by my own boot straps, however, did take its toll. It took me years of life living and deep spiritual growth to excavate and repair the broken threads of mistrust and to allow others to support me in healthy ways. It took me awhile to get out of survival mode and into thriving mode in a way that invited others in to help shoulder the load. Even now, sometimes the heaviness of ‘decision fatigue’ threatens to pull me down into the depths of metaphoric quick sand.

While I enjoy the freedom to chart my own course, I also realize how much more effective and enjoyable it can be to have a crew with me on deck. Sometimes, it truly is easier and more rejuvenating to share the load. For more on this, see previous editions of Soul Notes: A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats article here, and In Support of Support, here.

For your consideration

So, as you sit down with your friends and family to watch the fireworks this year, consider this:

While we honor and revere our freedoms, what can we do in this moment, to honor and revere the fact that we don’t need to do it all alone?  Not unlike the early colonists, we can decide to band together to hold each other up — not from a place of fighting against outside forces of domination, but from a place of shared sovereignty and collaboration.

I know for me, the fireworks this year will be taking on the shape of a renewed vision of a shared responsibility and contributions toward a better future for all.

Okay, your turn:

What does independence mean to you? We’ve come to learn that being ‘codependent,’ in the psychological sense, is unhealthy. What about interdependence? Does it take a village?  Where in your life are you instead a steadfast fan of rugged individualism?

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

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Imagine all that’s in the highest good of all

Imagine if you will

Where in your life does your imagination play a role? Where does it fall on your priority list? Okay, so I’m not here to cause any panic or self-criticism.  As you’re reading this, I gather that the idea of invoking your imagination is now in your field of awareness.

In this edition of Soul Notes, we explore the ways in which imagination can take you to places well beyond what your mind, your intellect, your braniac brain can take you, and why that matters.  – Why that matters for you, your loved ones, your law practice, your trial team, your clients, the litigation process and legal system as a whole, and anywhere else that the ripple effects of your presence in the world may produce a valuable result.

I realize that is a tall order, and I’m confident that the tapping into the full extent of our imagination truly is that powerful. I invite you to welcome it in, and to use it as fuel for bringing forth outcomes that are beyond-the-beyond, as I like to say.

I know for me, when I stay too much in my head, I miss out on so much.  So, let’s dive deeper:

“Think like a lawyer”

Remember how we were often told that law school purportedly was designed to teach us to “think like a lawyer”? That has its place in our role as lawyers, for sure. Does that, however, make for the best of all possible outcomes? What about our imagination, our intuition, our instincts, our inner knowing…you know, all those things that come from the heart and spirit, our bodies even, and not from our intellect?

What if we were to bring all of ourselves into the practice of law?  What if we were to approach litigation, including our early case assessment (ECA) strategies and ideas generated from those processes into play, so as to produce wildly different and dare I say even surprisingly novel results?

Back when I was a law clerk, I was put in charge of ECA on a few of the firm’s incoming cases, including one involving defamation allegations. Upon my initial review of the Complaint, along with spending some quiet time pondering the underlying scenario and fact pattern, and mulling over the details a bit – a line of inquiry led me to pose this question to the lead partner on the case:  What if the alleged defamatory statements actually may have improved the plaintiff’s reputation, rather than damaged it?  That one question completely turned our ECA on its head, and changed dramatically our defense to the lawsuit, on behalf of our defendant client.  In our sometimes rush to draw quick conclusions, we run the risk of missing entirely different angles.

Setting aside time to think (and then some)

Once when traveling for work several years ago, I was reading the in-flight magazine and delved into an article where a CEO was describing how he prioritized his work day, and his work week.  He emphasized the importance of and the value he gleaned from blocking out time in his calendar for thinking.  He set aside specific hours as purely “think-time.”

I would suggest that we take this concept even further….MUCH further.  Let’s decide to extend our analysis beyond the mind and into the feeling and the emotions and the instincts, the “hunches” we may have about something, and following the intuitive bread crumb trails.

Yes, we CAN bring our hearts into the practice of law.  For many of us, our hearts (as well as our minds, of course) brought us to law school and to the legal profession, with the intention of making a positive impact in the world.  Why should we leave our hearts behind?  Why should we compartmentalize ourselves, and so much so that we feel ‘cut off’ from what we’re doing whenever we put our lawyer hat and heels on?

The so-what:

Succumbing to the industry-wide leanings toward intellectualizing the approach to law means we’re not only contorting ourselves to leave our internal, true wisdom behind – we’re also bringing less than the full plate of possible results and outcomes to the table for our clients.  And that, I contend, IS a big deal.

Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.

– Albert Einstein

Yes, expanding the circle of possibilities may also bring up the dreaded ‘irrelevant’ along with the relevant. Some sifting through the sand may still be required.

The importance of discernment:

Your lawyer brain is still going to be put to good use. Don’t fret. (I can hear your brain protesting already…”But what about thinking like a lawyer?  That’s what I sweated through law school for!  That’s what my clients pay me for!”)  You’ll still need to invoke a certain amount of discernment.  You’ll need to make a few (or several) precise demarcations – before proceeding with your case strategy, for example.  I’m suggesting, however, that be made from the full array of options that only your imagination can bring to the forefront – and not from the limited array that your brain can come up with on its own.

And, this need not be done solely on your own. Inviting others into your imaginative process can be helpful as well.  Inviting in other points of view, and asking the question, “what am I possibly not seeing with regard to this case?” may reap substantial rewards. For more on this, and ways to bring this to your work team or other groups you’re a part of, take a quick view and listen to my short (6-minute) video, here.  Also, for more on the ways to facilitate a ‘talking circle’ so that each person’s voice is fully heard, review my previous blog post here.

For your consideration:

What all would be possible, if you evoked and invoked a spirit of imagination in all aspects of your law practice and in your life?  Where has your intellect only taken you ‘so far’ and stopped you short of reaching a full understanding of a scenario?

If you need help with this, leave a comment below or book an exploratory session here. Together we’ll see where you can bring more creativity into your law practice.

Okay, your turn:

Where, if at all, do you devote time and space in your day or week, for day dreaming?  Or, for creativity? Or, pure imagination?  When has going beyond using only your intellect brought you surprising (or at least more creative) results?

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

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Promise me

Promise me

 Often:

Promise me “you’ll be good,” says one.

Promise me “you’ll stay,” says the other.

Promise me “you’ll always be mine,” they say in unison.

 

Instead,

Promise me you’ll be you.

Promise me you’ll be true

to you

and to me

And not to whom you think

I desire you to be

Promise me you’ll stay true to what you intend to be true

Promise me you’ll only make promises you sincerely intend to keep

Promise me.

Will you?

I will, too.

I promise.

~~~~

Tomorrow is not promised.

Today is all we’ve got.

And that is everything.

For your consideration:

What about “broken promises”?  Are they based on unrealistic expectations, wishful thinking, both, or neither?

I know for me, an unfulfilled promise hurts more than no promise at all.

Like most every child growing up in Southern California, I fantasized about going to visit The Magic Kingdom…Disneyland.  We did get to go when I was really little, and I was “too short to ride the rides,” as the signs said in front of the line for all the ‘big kid’ rides that my older brothers got to go on without me.

As I got a little older and a little taller, nearly every year, at some point, I would tug on my dad’s shirt sleeve and pester him with “please Dad, can we go to Disneyland again soon, can we, can we?” I believe my father did desire to make me happy, and sometimes, as I know now, he would say what I wanted to hear, without giving much thought as to whether it was likely to actually happen.

One time in particular, I remember when my dad announced to the family: “Yes, we are going to Disneyland,” and we set the date.  I practically squealed with glee and leaped with joy.  I counted down the days, imagining all the fun rides we’d ride at the amusement park, and how I’d get to have my picture taken with Pluto and maybe even Goofy, my favorite.

On the morning of the day that we were supposed to jump in the car and head out to Disneyland, I eagerly asked my dad what time we needed to be ready to leave. I was antsy with anticipation.

Engraved in my memory are these words in his reply:  “Oh, Lori, we’re not going to Disneyland today.”

He didn’t provide a reason why.  He dismissed the promise, and me, as quickly as I had asked the question.

I slumped down into my dejected heart and glumly walked back into my room without a spark of joy left in me.

I didn’t know what to believe.

So:

What if we were to commit to making promises from a place of what’s truly true? What if we made the decision to embody that promising promise now, and to carry it through…for ourselves and for all concerned?

Okay, your turn:

When have you felt the impact of a broken promise?  What does it mean for you to make a promise?

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

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Going viral

Going viral

In social media terms, we describe something — whether it be an article, a photo, a video, a particular hashtag, or meme — as “going viral” when it spreads rapidly and in effect takes on a life of its own.  In common parlance, we say something spreads like wild fire. We use phrases such as “circles of influence,” and “ripple effects.”

Is it no surprise then that influence and influenza both stem from the same origins, etymologically? (These are the things I ponder as I prepare to craft a blog article for you all. Grin).

During this time of year, we talk of physical viruses spreading from person to person, and “sick buildings,” and diseases in the form of “contagions.”

What if, instead, however, we chose to focus on ease-ease, instead of dis-ease? Hashtag, ease-ease. Let’s see that go viral.  Kidding. Not kidding. Well; sort of.

Not unlike going viral in social media terms, we do also speak of someone having an infectious laugh, and we say things like “we got to giggling so much it hurt.”  That’s the kind of world I’d like to replicate and to see catching on with wild abandon.  Particularly during these times of seemingly widening rather than narrowing political divides, especially in the United States — and of course increasingly being amplified by way of social media – I’d say we would all benefit from an emotional recess. Maybe we each need to put ourselves, myself included, in a political time-out?  Sit in the corner, take deep breaths, and let the high fever simmer down.

Less hate, more love. Less ridicule, more understanding.  Less disdain, more compassion.  Less anger, more joy. Call me crazy. Crazy good. Crazy human. Going viral. Pass it on. Hand sanitizer not included.

For your consideration:

What is it that you’d like to pass along from one person to the next?

Remember when paying it forward was a thing? When it was an actual cultural phenomenon, not just a movie?  The idea was: You go out and positively impact three people, and they positively impact three people, and so on. And so on. That’s what we could focus on as the new, old way of going viral – not for the fame, but for the humanity of it. For you, for me, for us all.

Okay, your turn:

What are you willing to share that brings about comfort, solace, happiness, or pure joy in  someone else?

When’s the last time you got together with a friend and laughed so hard it hurt?

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

© 2019 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.

 

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The power of remaining calm

Calm among the chaos

As details continue to surface surrounding the rescue of the 12 young soccer players and their coach from miles deep within a set of interlocking waterways flowing between the jagged rocks of sea caves, we are learning that among other amazing aspects of this story, meditation likely played a key role in their more-than-a-fortnight’s survival under what were extremely perilous and life-threatening conditions.

This group having found themselves trapped miles away from their original entrance into the caves, it would be more than a week before anyone would locate them and provide food.  And it would be another several days before the first of three sets of rescues could be made, eventually bringing all the boys and their coach to safety — out from the deep darkness and into the light above.

The cave divers and the meditating monk

The flood waters and threat of the impending monsoon season had kept them held captive as a group, huddled atop a small ledge above the water line, with little air and little food or other basic life-sustaining necessities.  What they did have, was their Buddhist monk-trained coach who, it has been reported, led them through an ongoing practice of meditation. Meditation helped to calm their nervous systems and likely served to focus them on the possibilities of sustaining life rather than on the dread of extreme suffering or even possible death.  It allowed them to reserve and extend their precious, seemingly limited resources.

They had each other.  They had meditation.  And they had an unending access to a depth of another kind – that of spiritual sustenance.

None of this is to say, of course, that without the unparalleled coordination and carefully orchestrated efforts of the expert cave divers and other rescue volunteers and medical personnel, this group would have made it out safely.  All the individuals involved with their rescue (including one former Thai navy Seal who lost his life) are due a profound debt of gratitude, respect, and honor.  It’s beautiful to see all this humanity working together.  It is also, however, to acknowledge that more than physics, technology, and biology were at work here.  As the monk’s training and meditation exemplify, it was heart, mind and soul over matter. And it all mattered.

Hearing their story reminded me of the quotation from Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. In describing the importance of maintaining a strong inner strength while being held captive in the concentration camps during World War II, he said that in spite of the severe, primitive conditions, those who survived the best were the ones who “were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom.” (Page 36, emphasis added).

Thankful for inner calm

One time while swimming in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California as a teenager, I found myself facing a near-death experience.  Thankfully, the experience was quick and I emerged without any dire consequences. But, after swimming out in the ocean away from the beach, I was suddenly wrapped up in a set of cross-currents, and was being pummeled around under water pretty forcefully.  I recall thinking that eventually I was going to run out of air, and saying to myself:  “If it’s my time to die, this may be it.”

I thank in part my ability to remain calm and clear-headed.  Instinctively, I (or my body, rather?) knew to preserve my breath and my strength while submerged in open water. I was fairly confident in that moment, that I could probably make it back to shore, if I could only determine which way was “up.” I released any resistance to the oncoming series of waves, and surrendered as eventually a big curling wave scooped me up and carried me up to the surface. If I had allowed myself to panic, at best I risked flailing around wasting precious breath; and at worst, I risked swimming in the completely wrong direction, going deeper and away from the surface rather than popping back up to the top and catching a fresh breath of air.

My experience, although potentially dangerous, was nonetheless brief. The extended period of time that the young soccer players and their coach faced deep within that set of sea caves, however, and their ability to remain that calm for that long, is nothing less than awe inspiring.  It will be so illuminating to learn more about them as they fully recover in the days and weeks to come.

For your consideration:

If and when our conditions are suddenly such that we are stripped down to the barest of elements and a matter of basic survival, priorities become abundantly apparent.  Choices to be made are brought into sharp focus.  In those moments, it helps, I would say, to have a deeply contemplative practice already in place.

Okay, your turn:

When have you found yourself in a turbulent situation, and one where maintaining a sense of calm ended up serving you well?  Has there been any other time you didn’t remain calm and wish that you had?

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.
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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.
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The wisdom of the sages

There’s sage and then there’s sage !

Sage, as we know, is a type of herb. The sage plant has been used by a number of cultures for thousands of years.  It has been used in Chinese medicine.  It has been used by Native Americans in various ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. Some have even suggested that it leads to immortality!

In China, sage tea has been called the “thinker’s tea.” Along with its anti-inflammatory properties, it has been known to help improve memory and overall brain function.  Perhaps that is why the word “sage” also is used to describe a person who is wise.  It can also be used as an adjective (as in “sage advice”).

The title of this article is a deliberate play on words.  Sages and ages. They both connote a harkening back to ancient times as well as serve as a current example of ancient traditions put to good use in the so-called modern age.  Has there been a resurgence, or have these practices been put to good use all along?  Are we perhaps simply more aware of them now, due to the internet, globalization, and social media?

Sage has even become a somewhat trendy baby name, at least in the United States.  I wonder if it’s part of the ‘Apple’ craze?  (Referring to the celebrity’s baby’s name, not the computer company.)

We all remember being asked the question when we were young: What do you want to be when you grow up?  Me:  a philosopher.  I didn’t hear anyone around me saying that they wanted to be that.  It wasn’t exactly listed anywhere as a possible career track.  That didn’t matter to me.  If it was needed, and served a purpose, why couldn’t it be an occupation?

I wasn’t even exactly sure what all a job as a philosopher would entail. I knew in my heart, though, that it was a role that would be important and one that would be of service to others.  In my imagination, philosophers were the wisest people in their communities.  And, as such, they had a responsibility to answer seekers’ questions and provide helpful suggestions, recommendations, and solutions.

Sometimes we picture “wise ones” sitting on a mountain top, or living in caves in the Himalayas.  In my mind’s eye, I pictured them more along the lines of a wise man or wise woman in Ancient Greece sitting quietly in a town square, as the local villagers would stop by whenever they were seeking an answer to an inquiry or when wrestling with a concern that was weighing heavily on their soul, or when struggling with a conflict they couldn’t quite resolve.

I pictured philosophers dispensing wisdom not unlike a modern day pharmacist dispensing medicine.  And, I did truly envision “philosopher” as an actual vocation, and a paid position, for sure.  I even had a specific annual salary in mind.  I thought that a philosopher should make $300,000 a year.  Here was my reasoning:  At the time, the President of the United States’ annual salary was set at $200,000. Knowing that, accordingly, I figured that philosophers should be paid at least 50% more than the President, as they would be at least that much more wise and valuable to the country and citizenry!  Apparently, I really had put a lot of thought into this (grin).

While Philosopher or Sage may not be a job title, certainly there are modern day professions where others seek their guidance and advice.   Lawyers fall into that category (hence, the term “counselor at law”).  As with some other professions, within law, there are rules of professional responsibility.  It is part of the licensing process, and continuing legal education requirements as well.  And, as covered in this week’s Six-Minute Saturdays episode, many lawyers including myself were drawn to the law as a career because of a deep desire to be of service.

Admittedly, not all legal advice is the sagest or the wisest. I would suggest, though, that the profession is at least designed to serve that purpose, and with that intention.  And, ultimately, the client retains control over whether to heed that advice, ignore it, or even to seek additional opinions.

For your consideration:

So, with that in mind then, allow me to pose this question: Upon whom, ultimately, do we need to rely, for the sagest advice of all?

Are we not, each of us, deep down, our own best philosopher?  We simply need to access that inner wise sage.  That’s why meditation is important.  That’s why getting quiet and still is wise. By listening to our own inner guidance and messages, we each hold the power and divinity to reach the most appropriate conclusions and answers for ourselves.  And, that is valuable beyond compare.

Okay, your turn:

What’s been the sagest advice that you’ve ever received?  What’s the sagest advice that you’ve ever given? What’s the best advice that your inner-sage has revealed to you?  What made it so?  Did you act on it?

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.
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An Ode to Love (aka, ‘not your usual’ love letter)

February, the month of love.  Oh, how we love (and sometimes don’t) love thee, February!

This new moon’s edition of Soul Notes is dedicated to love.  May love find you and you find love in all the divinely inspired ways possible…this month, and always.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Dear Love,

Thank you for sunsets

and sunrises

Thank you for moonrises

and moonsets

 

Thank you for rainbows

and moonbows

and mountain tops

and mountain bottoms

And landscapes

and horizons far and near

and seas to cross

and seas to see

and salty wind sprays

off the ocean

And unswept beaches

with crawly sand crabs

and scurrying sandpipers

 

Thank you for the crunch of gravel

and the scent of pine needles

and the shape of pine cones

and the sweetness of pineapples

 

Thank you for fireflies

and hummingbirds

and macaws

and geckos

 

and the clippity clop

of Clydesdales

 

and the sounds of drumming heard from the drum circle

down in the valley

 

Thank you for heart beats

and heart swells

and heart warmings

 

Thank you for goodbyes

and hellos

 

Thank you for touch

and taste

and ecstasy

and bliss

 

Thank you for stretches

and stretching

and growing

and restoring

and

Thank you for the

remembering

 

Thank you for new levels

and old reliables

 

Thank you for healing

and healing space…s

 

Thank you for being there

even when I don’t seem to notice

 

Thank you for seeing me

Thank you for hearing me

Thank you for listening

 

Thank you for knowing all the things

The secret secrets

and the not so secret

 

Thank you for the holding

and the mystery

and the understanding

and the hope

and the reassurance

 

Thank you for the reason

and the unreason

of it all

 

I am with you

We are with you

I am you

We are you

And it is…

divine

Okay, your turn:

What does this poem bring up for you?  What is love?

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.

 

 

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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.
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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.