Lucid Dreaming and Breathing, to Reduce Pain and Clear the Mind

Last night around 3 am, I woke up due to pain in my upper chest. The pain was a weight pressing down on me. I didn’t know what was causing it, so there was also a little panic. I was sweating and my heart started beating faster. I thought about trying to just go back to sleep but realized the pain was too strong and my worry too present. I got out of bed, put on warmer clothing, grabbed a book, and went downstairs to sit in the recliner in the living room.

 

But I didn’t feel like turning on the light. I was too tired. So I just focused on breathing into my chest. I felt my body expand as I inhaled, and relax, settle down, as I exhaled. I focused on the sensations and let go of the thoughts.

 

And when I breathed in, the expansion of the chest decreased the pain. The pain was no longer one solid block. And I noticed it was not as continuous as I first thought it was; there were gaps. Sometimes, my hand would hurt instead. Or I could feel my back pressing comfortably against the chair, or my stomach expand and contract. My breathing got slower and calmer.

 

I went deeper into the pain and remembered similar ones from the past. I realized I could feel a restriction in my esophagus. It was not a heart attack causing the pain but probably acid reflux.

 

And then I fell asleep. But the sleep was unusual, and in spurts. I would wake up mentally, check in on myself, while my body was largely frozen and asleep. I couldn’t move my arms or legs. At first, I felt very vulnerable and scared, but then realized this inability to move was normal. Normal sleep is called paradoxical because you are unable to move your larger muscles, yet your mind, especially while dreaming, can be very active.

 

What was not normal was that I was mentally awake while being asleep. I could see one of our cats sleeping under the nightlight in front of me. Another one jumped off the couch and went to eat from his bowl. I could hear him but couldn’t move my head to see him. This state is called lucid dreaming. In some cultures and traditions, it is taught as part of meditation or healing. I entered this state rarely⎼ usually to change or escape from a dream I didn’t like. I decided I could wake up if I needed to do so.

 

And then I relaxed and fell asleep again, only to awaken a little later. And then I fell asleep for about three hours.

 

It might seem counter-intuitive to mentally go toward a pain instead of trying to immediately cut off all feeling. Certainly, pain can set the mind to screaming, so this is sometimes impossible to do. But to actually go toward the pain can signal to yourself you can relax, you can face the situation, and this can often decrease it and stop the mind from imagining threats that aren’t there.

 

Calming your mind can also allow you to feel and think clearly enough to gather the information the pain is sending you. You can then close your eyes and imagine taking a certain medication and discern if the feel of that pill would be helpful, or if drinking a certain tea or walking around or eating would increase or decrease it. Or whether you should call an ambulance or ask your partner or roommate to wake up and drive you to the emergency room. You could feel out different courses of action with more clarity.

 

However, the time to practice how to be calm in emergencies is now, when you are not experiencing one. Practicing closing your eyes partly or fully and taking 3 slower, deeper breaths when you notice you are angry or feel threatened is a good way to start. Or practicing mindfulness each day.

 

Of course, sometimes you immediately need that pill or ambulance. But how you respond to pain can either increase or decrease it. Simply allowing yourself to be aware and to be calm can not only reduce the pain, but clear the mind so you know better how to act.

 

 

Teaching Mindfulness and Compassion Through Seasonal Moments

To understand the season, winter, spring, summer or fall, what must we do? What is a season? Understanding the seasons is not just a matter of looking at a calendar or being aware of what the weather was yesterday, and the week or month before that, or today.

 

It is not simply exploring the basic science: The earth rotates, causing day and night. And it is tilted on an axis, so it follows a path around the sun. In summer one half of the earth faces the sun more directly so it gets the light from the sun more intensely and for a longer period of the day. The other half experiences winter, as it is turned away from the sun.

 

To understand what the seasons mean to us, we utilize memories of past years, and past moments. We become aware of how everything is constantly changing. That life itself is change. One minute is different than the last.

 

And we must be aware how we, also, change. Not just our moods, sensations and thoughts, but how we feel as the earth changes.  We and the earth change together, although maybe not in the same way or at the same pace. Because the earth moves around the sun and is tilted at a certain angle, we experience sensations of cold or warmth. We become aware of what it feels like to be alive on this earth in this particular moment.* We become aware that to understand the seasons we must understand the being who is doing the studying, namely ourselves.

 

And one way to generate compassion for other humans is to imagine how people throughout history have tried to live a seasonal moment similar to this one. Here are two seasonal mindfulness practices. As with any guided meditation or visualization, please try these practices yourself before sharing them with your students. Make adjustments to fit their needs and history.

 

Winter

 

You might ask students: What purposes, ecologically and psychologically, might the seasons serve?  In the fall, when you see the first snowfall, what do you feel?

In November, when we set the clocks back, what do you feel?

 

I know some people love the snow and look forward to winter. When I was still working as a teacher, I remember the joy that filled the school with the first snowfall. Students could barely focus on the academic lesson when Mother Nature had a deeper lesson in store for us. They would rush to the window and look out with wonder. Each snow was the only snow they had seen, ever, so beautiful and exciting.

 

Yet, for others, winter is a turning in. We cuddle within an extra blanket of clothing to find something kinder than the chill we get from fear and doubt. We wonder if the warmth will ever return. Will the earth ever bear fruit again? Will the dark continue to dominate the light?…

 

*The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, by David Loy, can be extremely helpful for developing lessons using modern fantasy literature and films to teach lessons about time, nonviolence, and engaging in the world.

 

To read the whole post, go to: MindfulTeachers.org.

 

Anger at Boomers: We Can’t Allow Ourselves to be Manipulated Into Setting One Generation, Race, Religion, Gender Against Another

In writing and publishing two of my last three blogs, I ran into people angry at Boomers or the 60s. The anger was sometimes loud and aggressive, and it was difficult, when it was in a one-on-one situation, to say anything in response that the attacker would hear. One person criticized my post on resolving to vote and imagine a true democracy, claiming I was glorifying the Boomers and blaming Millennials for the situation we are in today. I never mentioned Boomers anywhere in the piece, although I clearly spoke from a Boomer perspective, being part of that generation myself. In the other post, I described someone who blamed Boomers for DT.

 

Where is the anger and blame coming from? Certainly, people are feeling hurt, possibly that they were treated unjustly. But what is the source of that hurt?

 

At the heart of one critique was a study by Yascha Mounk at Harvard who had found that the people of the 1930s who fought the Nazis said democracy was extremely important to them, and people born much later (like Millennials) did not value democracy as highly. One reason for this difference, speculated Mounk, was that Millennials and Gen-X’ers had not fought against Nazis or against other non-democratic governments in order to safeguard democracy. The younger generations of Americans were not familiar with the threat to our freedoms these other governments could pose.

 

The critic said I had claimed Boomers had fought the Nazis and thus knew what it was like to face a threat to our democratic institutions. Maybe I wasn’t as articulate as I could have been, but clearly we Boomers could not have fought against the Nazi Germans. We weren’t alive yet. Once alive and speaking, we certainly heard about the war and Nazis quite often, from relatives who had fought, as well as from the news and literature, as we were born right after the war had ended.

 

All of us alive in the US in the 1950s felt the threat of Soviet Russia daily, whose leaders threatened to destroy US democracy. We went through the McCarthy Era, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and “duck and cover drills” that were created in fear of a nuclear war. Likewise, people today are feeling the threats of gun violence, global warming, increasing terrorism, the loss of democratic institutions, etc.

 

While young people in general tended in the past to vote at lower rates then older people, as I said in my earlier blog, this is changing. The Pew Research Center, whose statistics showed, for example, that the number of millennials who voted nearly doubled from 2014 to 2018 ⎼ and more voted than older generations of Americans. Things are changing quickly, and I welcome this particular change. Young people today are leading in several fronts, including the environment and ending gun violence.

 

Boomers are attacked for dropping out of society and also for dropping in and becoming greedy capitalists. For being too idealistic and for not caring at all about democracy. For drugs, sex, and rock’n’roll or being without morals and for being too judgmental. I was attacked for dropping out of society to return to the land as well as for supposedly claiming Millennials were responsible for all the ills of our society today, or for DT ⎼ but I never said they were responsible. Neither are all the Boomers or Gen-X’ers. The people who support DT are responsible.

 

The 60s decade was alive with experimentation, protests, art, music, and the promise of great political and social change, of increasing equity and opportunity. It was the decade that saw not only the anti-war movement but civil rights advanced, and the passing of the Voting Rights Act, Medicaid and Medicare. And early in the 70s, we saw the women’s rights and environmental movement grow, the Clean Air Act passed and the EPA created. The Clean Waters Restoration Act was passed in 1966 and the Clean Waters Act in 1972, all resulting in a great improvement in air and water quality. There was Woodstock ⎼ and there was Altamont, the assassination of a President, his Presidential candidate brother, as well as civil rights leaders.

 

But although we heard President Eisenhower’s warning in 1961 about the Military-Industrial Complex, the people of the 60s grew up in a capitalist society, as did everyone else who was born in the US alive today. Some of the super-rich capitalists are Boomers, but you can’t blame Boomers for capitalism.

 

But much of the promise of the 60s rebellion never bore fruit and fell apart, and there is anger about that. The 60s became the 70s. And then the 80s, Ronald Reagan, and the economic divide between the top 1% and the rest of us started to increase once again. The limitations on the rich that were enacted just before and during the war and were extended through the 60s and 70s, were undermined or terminated in the Reagan years, and the economic divide has been getting worse ever since. And the Boomers did not stop that injustice.

 

According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group in 2017, around 70% of the nation’s wealth will be concentrated in the hands of millionaires and billionaires by 2021. Matt Bruenig of the Peoples Policy Project, said “…the top one percent owns nearly $30 trillion of assets while the bottom half owns less than nothing, meaning they have more debts than they have assets.” And according to CBS news, the rich pay a lower tax rate than most in the middle class. If my math is correct, and we took the total income earned in the US in 2018 ($17.6 trillion) and divided it by the number of full-time workers (128.57 million),  we get $136,890. Imagine that as the salary of each worker. All this accumulation of wealth in so few hands is undermining the future for most Americans.

 

Many factors contribute to the ease by which we attack each other, but one could be social isolation, which can negatively affect our physical and emotional health. How we use social media and other technology plays a big role here. For example, instead of going out to the movies, or to work, or to shop, or even gather with friends, more of us stay home on our computers, Prime or Hulu or Xboxes or FB or texts or whatever. This makes it easier for us to experience loneliness, anger, and lose sight of the humanity of others. Face to face communication is so much more than words. It is the felt presence of a breathing being, and texts, written words, even images cannot replicate that.

 

With all the talk about different generations of Americans, it’s easy to pit one generation against another.  But a generation is simply a group of people born at a certain time in history under a certain set of conditions, and we need to remember that. Any statistics about a generation can be useful to know, but it is just a generalization. In-between the generalizations are the truths about individual people, and it is those individuals who we meet in the gym or on the street ⎼ or who write blogs.

 

There is cause for anger, but it should be directed at the actions of those super-rich people who are trying to undermine democracy right now by setting one generation, one group of people ⎼ or one race, religion, or gender ⎼ against another. And we can’t let ourselves take part in that manipulation or allow it to succeed.

 

 

This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

 

For the New Year, Imagine A True Democracy and a President We Can Respect

What are your resolutions for the New Year? Before I discuss one of mine, let me give the  context.

 

Last week, did you read DT’s letter to Nancy Pelosi about his impeachment? Or listen to the impeachment hearings? Many of us talk about the constant lies by DT and how the GOP has become his army of deception. Or we joke about it because the deceptions are just so blatant and outrageous that it’s too incredible to believe that he said what he did, or we don’t want to believe it. But it’s true. We are witnessing the GOP defining truth as whatever DT says it is as they attempt to create a dictatorship right before our eyes.

 

DT’s letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi is so full of lies and distortions stated so forcefully and blatantly that I cringed reading it. The GOP during the hearings were so off base in most of their comments that it appeared to many news commentators that we were witnessing an alternative reality.

 

We’re facing the possibility that anyone who opposes DT will get investigated or arrested as a traitor. DT called any GOP who oppose him, as well as FBI officials who investigate Russian interference in our election, “human scum.” He has accused Democrats of treason for opposing or impeaching him, a label he earlier applied to the New York Times.

 

His Attorney General, William Barr, has been acting as the President’s agent, appointing US attorney John Durham to investigate former CIA Director John Brennan for his stated views on the investigations of DT’s Russian connections. Barr’s DOJ also opened a criminal investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe of Russian Interference in the 2016 election.

 

We’re facing the possibility of our public schools being further undermined by the GOP and replaced with private, yet publicly funded, Charter and Christian schools where education quality is formally tied to economic class and/or race and critical thinking is limited and controlled through standardized testing. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has worked for years to end public education and build “God’s Kingdom” here in the US.

 

Back in 2016, Diane Rehms had three guests (Moises Naim, Alina Polyakova, Yascha Mounk) on her NPR radio show who discussed their analysis that many Americans had been taking democracy for granted. Yascha Mounk said that when Americans born in the 1930s were asked how important it was to live in a democracy, over two thirds said it was of top importance, ten on a one-to-ten scale. When, for example, Millennials in the US were asked the same question prior to 2016, less than one third thought democracy important.

 

Maybe some Millennials did not understand then what they understand now, namely how it would be like to live in a dictatorship, Fascist state or an oligarchy, where the majority of citizens of a nation had no institutionalized power. They never fought a Fascist government, for example. They did not understand that democracy in a large and diverse nation meant compromise and required effort and were focused only on the negative side of US politics. They did not understand that once the institutions of a democracy were undermined, it would be extremely difficult to build them back. Now, 2 years later, I think more of them, and us, recognize the value of democracy ⎼ as we see it murdered before our eyes. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of millennials who voted nearly doubled from 2014 to 2018 and outvoted the older generations of Americans.

 

Even though 49.3% of eligible voters voted in 2018, the highest percentage since 1914 to vote in a midterm election according to the United States Election Project, the number of Americans who do not vote is astounding. In 2014, the turnout was 36.7%, the lowest in 72 years. In the Presidential election of 2012, it was 58.6%. In 2016, it was 60.1%. This means about 40% of Americans didn’t vote. Why?

 

The Pew Research Center says 4% of voters did not vote in the past due to “registration problems,” like being expunged from the voter rolls or due to having a criminal history, and the problem is getting worse. The Brennan Center found 4 million were purged between 2014 and 2016 and more are being purged in GOP controlled states right now. In fact, one of DT’s advisers said on tape that voter suppression was the key to the GOP’s efforts in 2020. Other people are apathetic, too busy, think the system is corrupt or they lack information. Some argue that the vote is meaningless, the Dems are just as bad as Republicans, or the vote doesn’t affect their daily life.

 

Imagine everything that you think is wrong or falling apart now getting worse ⎼ police attacks on people of color, or the court system being biased, or more children of immigrants being separated from parents, or public schooling destroyed, or roads, water supply, and electric becoming even more undependable or unsafe. Imagine being jailed for speaking out against a politician’s corruption. Imagine tanks…

 

Or imagine the opposite future. Imagine education being considered as important as military defense and schools being designed to promote the well-being and expand the critical thinking capacity of each individual student. Imagine higher education and vocational training easily affordable by everyone.

 

Imagine health care that is comprehensive and affordable. In France, for example, health care is much less expensive and open to everyone. Two of my cousins live in France part of the year and have described to me how easy it is to see a doctor and how much less it costs. Doctors have even made house calls for them.

 

Imagine the costs of phones and phone service (which is much higher in the US than Europe, for example⎼ DT’s FCC, headed by Ajit Pai, has worked to decrease controls on providers and increase costs to consumers) and the quality, speed and cost of internet service improving. Imagine alternative energy being cheaply available to everyone.

 

Imagine scientific research into medicine, alternative energy, and simply a better understanding of our universe being applied to political policy and admired alongside emotional intelligence, diversity, and compassion. Imagine friends and neighbors getting together in groups to advise politicians. And imagine voting is encouraged so much that it is a national holiday. Imagine a President we can respect, who knows the facts and will speak truthfully (even most of the time) about the state of the world.

 

This is why we vote. The difference between one future and the other is largely up to all of us, up to our votes, and up to how much political action we take. And it might be up to how willing we are to talk with anyone who claims voting and politics don’t matter.

 

So, if this is how you feel, this is the year to act.

 

This post has been syndicated by the Good Men Project.

Embracing Winter: And the Dread that Spring Will Never Return

I am looking out my second story bedroom window into the old orchard that surrounds the house and is being covered in snow. The snow makes the wind visible in constantly shifting currents. One minute, the whole earth seems to pause as if it was taking a breath in. The frozen wind disappears. And then, it breathes out and the frozen fury appears.

 

In November, when we set the clocks back, I felt a sense of trepidation, a fear of the approaching winter and of what it might bring with it. This year might bring more fear than most, due to the unstable political climate. Now, it’s almost the solstice and the holidays. Winter is clearly here, despite the calendar date. Snow covers the ground. It’s cold and the nights are longer and the daylight disappears faster each day.

 

I know some people love the snow and look forward to winter. When I was still working as a teacher, I remember the joy that filled the school with the first snowfall. Students could barely focus on the academic lesson when Mother Nature had a deeper lesson in store for us. They would rush to the window and look out with wonder. Each snow was the only snow they had seen, ever. The first snow, beautiful and exciting.

 

Yet, for others, winter is a turning in. We cuddle within a new skin or shell, not only of warm clothing, but of doubt. We wonder if the warmth will ever return. Will the earth ever bear fruit again? Will the dark continue to dominate the light?

 

And probably ever since there have been human beings, ever since there has been life on this planet, this dread has been experienced. Not only due to snow⎼ or ice-covered orchards and roads ⎼ but the earth itself turning within.

 

Somehow, we need to embrace rather than turn away from this challenging time, and appreciate this snow fall, the light reflected off snow drops, even the feel of being cuddled by warm clothing. The felt need to get to work, school or wherever can create a conflict within, set us at war with ourselves, and make it difficult to embrace this time. So, we need to be aware of our own warmth. …

 

To read the whole post, please go to The Good Men Project.

The Better Rebels of Our Nature: Friends Can Help Us Remember to “Be the Change We Want in the World”

Three close friends and I recently had a reunion. We visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we went to school in the 1960s and rented a house together for a long weekend. When we are together anything can come up for conversation and does. At dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant, we discussed everything from free will to selling out, from politics to Ancient Sumeria, to the music of Dylan, Cohen, and Ramstein, and Michigan football.

 

My friends were not shy about bringing others, who happened to wander by or be standing around us, into our conversation. We were debating if we had free will or if it mattered if we believed that we did, and soon our waiter was involved in the conversation. He and I basically agreed. One of my friends said since our actions were purposeful and the motivation for those purposes were largely unconscious and thus beyond our control, how can we claim to be free? We are more like machines than we like to think.

 

I disagreed. Yes, our actions derive from many unconscious determining factors.  But included in those determining factors is the whole universe, in which we are a part. I brought up the Chinese Taoist concept of Wu Wei, which can be defined as “effortless action” or “acting without acting.” Our actions arise as part of the whole universe moving interdependently together. We can never step out of the universe to view all the consequences of, or influences on, our actions. However, we, meaning our body, memory, intention, and way of thinking participate in determining what we do, along with everyone and everything else in and around us. We all act together.

 

One of my friends asked the waiter about his own life. It turns out he had been a doctoral candidate in ancient middle eastern religions and was studying Akkadian, Sumerian, and other languages as a required part of his study. Then he got bored with learning these dead languages, quit the program, and got a job as a waiter. We wound up discussing Gilgamesh, the first written extended story or epic poem and one of the earliest takes on male friendship.

 

One of my friends then asked, Did I sell out? Have I given up the ideals I fought for in my youth and has my life become merely the pursuit of money and power? Is what I am doing worthwhile and should I continue doing it?

 

We discussed the important successes he had achieved in his life. The question arose how did the world, or the state of U. S. politics, get so bad ⎼ and were we responsible for T?

 

This turn in the conversation reminded me of one I had had in the gym earlier in the week. After greeting me, a man who was more than an acquaintance but not yet a friend asked what I was doing with my life. I mentioned house repairs, teaching martial arts twice a week, and writing. I asked him the same question. He replied by switching topics and stating that all the people from the 1960s who dropped out of society to “go back to the land” (implying that I was one of those people) were responsible for the awful state of our nation today. We should have stayed in society, he said, become CEOs and reformed the corporate world.

 

Although I could understand his argument, I was incredulous. He seemed to be following a meme inspired by conservatives of blaming the 60’s for almost anything. I agreed that if conscientious people do nothing, they therefore leave the world in the hands of those who think only of their own power and money. But making people aware of this was what the 1960s rebellions were about.

 

I don’t think anybody who knows me would say I had dropped out or given up. In the early 70s I did move to a rural location to build a house with my then girlfriend and now wife. We moved with a group of people involved in creating a free school, not-for-profit businesses, and a community development fund. We were intent on changing the economy and the values that drove this society.

 

Going back to the land was not a running away from responsibility but a refusal to live by materialistic values. It was a way to educate ourselves in how to live in a more sustainable and less destructive way. If we had joined the corporate world and tried to change it from within, how long would we have been able to sustain that motivation if we hadn’t, first, learned how to live without all the material rewards of corporate wealth?

 

The 1960s rebellions warned us about the dangers we face today, of narcissistic leaders, of politicians lying to the people, and of alienated men and women who refused to look at the state of our world and the dark side of technological advances. The 1960s, or people like Martin Luther King, Jr., the Berrigan brothers, so many writers, artists, musicians, and activists, taught us that poverty, racism, sexism and the lust for power do not just hurt the people immediately affected by these blights on humanity, but undermine the whole society.

 

There were also people like G. Gordon Liddy, one of President Nixon’s “plumbers” who organized the break-in at the Watergate Hotel and illustrated just how far alienated men could go. His autobiography, Will, described a man whose hero was Adolf Hitler and whose primary motivation was to become as powerful as possible. Besides admiring Hitler, he envied and tried to create in himself the power and emotionlessness of machines. Here was a man who had not just accepted the simplified metaphor that humans were machines, but glorified the possibility.

 

The argument by the man in the gym was akin to blaming the victim. The people responsible for putting profit before people ⎼ and personal power before the health of our world ⎼ were primarily responsible for making working for the common good and democracy impossible.

 

But, since we are all interdependent, every one of us is part of us, part of all that is happening. Because we can be affected, we can affect others. Our true power and freedom lie not in escaping emotion and our responsibility for what happens in the world, but in becoming more aware of it. Only by increasing our mindful awareness of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that affect our behavior can we have any conscious power to direct that behavior.

 

For example, our theories and beliefs about reality tell us how much power and choice we have in affecting that reality. If we think we are machines with no free will, then we are more likely to abdicate responsibility for our actions and allow ourselves to act mechanically.

 

Our fault in the 1960s was not in our building communal groups and rebelling against jobs and politics as we knew them.  It was in not understanding how complex the struggle would be. It was in focusing so much on our own righteous need to achieve our goals that we couldn’t compromise or adapt and believed we could and had to change the world in a few months or years. The result was that when the revolution didn’t happen, many gave up the struggle.

 

Even though we children of the 60s embraced a sentiment later attributed to Gandhi about being the change we wanted to see in the world, or about living the revolution, we didn’t know how to do it. And we are still learning this. Learning how to be the change is what life is about. And our deepest friendships can help remind us of this, and how to be the better rebels of our nature.

 

This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s So Easy to Lose Our Heads: The Need to Secure and Advance Democracy

It is so easy to lose our heads. To get angry or depressed or want to run and hide. Or blame someone ⎼ that’s always been a strategy to clutch at. Blame this person or that group. Blame Muslims, if you’re a supporter of T, or blame Congresswomen of color or just women. Or just people of color. Or just journalists. Or people who actually examine the news and think critically about it. Or scientists⎼ that’s a clever strategy. Blame the people who actually study our universe and invent things and keep our technology and healthcare, etc. advancing.

 

Or blame the Democratic Party and DNC. But wait. Some of my FB friends do that, too. Fellow progressives, liberals and lefties. Afterall, the DNC has certainly been despicable at times in the past. Some even claim the Democrats are no better than the Grand Old Party, the party which is no longer republican, but despotic or dictatorial, or the party of denial, denial of global warming, of the facts in the Ukrainian scandal, of facts, period. The GOP will deny global warming, but the Democrats just won’t act, they say.

 

This equation of the two parties distorts the reality and undermines our ability to act effectively. Just compare the efforts of the GOP, for example, to undermine voting and women’s rights and public education while protecting foreign interference in our elections and increasing the wealth of the wealthiest Americans, with the record of legislation passed by the House since the election of 2018.

 

We know the costs to ourselves and others of the blame game. When we look inside ourselves, we can see and feel it. It is the deadliest game out there in terms of creating suffering and delusion. To blame like this we build a wall between ourselves and the rest of humanity and the rest of the world, between what we see and feel and what we won’t. And we use emotions like fear and hate for the construction materials. The more we use fear and hate, the more we crave it.

 

We should support Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg or Joe Biden or any of the other Democrats for President. Support whomever we feel will do the best job at building a truly democratic nation, creating a sane environmental and energy policy, providing good, affordable health care for all ⎼ and will support an equitable and meaningful public education system. But support them in a way that doesn’t undermine the other Democratic candidates in the general election if our favorite is not chosen.

 

Above all, we must keep in mind that without defeating T and his supporters, all that we hold dear might literally be destroyed. We can’t allow ourselves to lose our head or hope. Getting a little depressed might be common sense but we can’t let it go further than that. It’s just not an option we can afford. We must all put in time not only for getting T impeached, but for winning the Presidency and the Senate, getting out the vote and educating people about what’s at stake.

 

And we can’t allow ourselves to destroy possible alliances with would-be allies in the effort to unseat T and his followers. No matter how much I want Elizabeth or Bernie or Pete or Cory, I don’t want T.

 

We, those of us who truly value and want to strengthen democracy in this country, need someone in the White House who will listen to us, the people, not just rich white men. Who will give us a chance at saving our environment and thinking clearly about the problems we face, and who care about the other people and species that live in this world with us.

 

Many of the old Democratic politicians were bought out by corporate interests. But this is a different time. And this is a different party. Even if Democrats weren’t focused enough in the past on global warming, gun violence, etc. we have a chance with them, right now, that we will never have with T’s GOP. We must use this chance. Maybe we can also make the Democratic Party the party of democrats.

Is It Arrogance, Ignorance, An Impeachment Wish, Or All Three?

Hiding Investigations Crucial For the Rule of Law Behind Ones That Undermine that Rule

 

Last week was dramatic and this week more of the same has been occurring. We have heard clear evidence, once again, of possible criminal acts by T, lies and distortions topped with extortion. We’ve seen the President and his minions try to cover up, obfuscate, or distract our attention from what T did and attack those who reveal what occurred.

 

But this latest series of revelations regarding the Ukrainian affair is so obvious a violation of what any President should do and so obviously screams for impeachment, I wondered, once again how much of T’s behavior is from pure narcissistic arrogance and the craving for absolute power, how much from ignorance, and how much is it an impeachment-wish?

 

The most obvious evidence that the phone call between T and President Zelensky of Ukraine is impeachable (aside from the transcript of the call itself) comes from State Department official David Holmes who testified last Friday behind closed doors and will testify before a public hearing this Thursday. If you haven’t heard about his testimony, he overheard a phone call from the Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland to T on July 26th, the day after the infamous phone call that is at the heart of the impeachment proceedings. This second phone call took place on Sondland’s non-secure cell phone in a restaurant in Kiev. Holmes could hear Mr. T clearly, as the Ambassador held the phone at a distance from his ear because the President was speaking very loudly.

 

In the July 26th call, T asked Sondland if the Ukrainians were “going to do the investigations?” Sondland replied that they were ready to do anything T asked of them. Later on, Sondland told Holmes that T only cared about “the big stuff.” When asked if the war in Ukraine was “big stuff” Sondland clarified that “big stuff” referred to anything that personally “benefits the President, like the quote, unquote, ‘Biden investigation’ that Mr. Giulani was pushing.” Saving Ukraine from Russia or supporting democracy were not “the big stuff.”

 

Earlier last Friday afternoon (11/15), I also felt a mixture of outrage and disbelief when I heard about the President’s tweet attacking Ambassador Yovanovitch during her testimony to Congress.  This tweet destroyed any pretense that the President cared about the law. It was not only a clear and very public example of witness intimidation, but it was done on the day it was announced that T’s adviser, Roger Stone, was found guilty of witness intimidation and other crimes.

 

The main point of the phone call between T and President Zelensky, as David Holmes and others made clear, was to force the Ukrainians to do T’s bidding. If they wanted a public meeting with the U. S. President and the military aid passed by Congress, they would have to announce they were undertaking two investigations, one into the Bidens and one to create evidence supporting the Russia backed claim that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia.

 

This is a strategy often utilized by the T administration and other Republicans in the past. Remember months of investigation into Benghazi and the eventual revelation that Mrs. Clinton followed procedure and that responsibility for the deaths at our embassy lay elsewhere? Remember “Lock her up” and T’s continual attacks and calls for investigations not only of Hillary Clinton but President Obama?

 

In the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, possibly to detract from Russia working to help him win the election as well as to counter the fact that he lost the popular vote, T claimed that millions of people voted illegally, despite there being no evidence to back up that claim. David Becker, from the Center for Election Innovation & Research, and others have examined Trump’s claim. They found no evidence of any massive illegal voting or fraud.

 

Despite the lack of evidence, T went on to appoint a White House Commission into voter fraud. The commission, despite being conducted by T supporters, also found that no state in the union uncovered any significant evidence of voter fraud and the commission was disbanded in 2018.

 

This strategy has been used to smear Democrats and undermine the rule of law. It is being used to attempt to make any investigation of T meaningless by creating counter and unwarranted investigations of their own. It is part of his larger tactic of attacking anyone who disagrees with him and creating fear in his political or economic opponents.

 

All through the Mueller Investigation, T claimed, without any evidence, that the investigation was a “Witch-hunt”, that it was based on shoddy intelligence or illegal wiretaps or a bias against him. When the Mueller Investigation was coming to an end, T and his GOP sycophants pushed to “investigate the investigators.”

 

The Trump DOJ has started several investigations to advance their agenda to hide the facts of T’s abuse of power and utilizing Russian interference to win an election. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz has been examining how the FBI obtained a warrant to wiretap Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

 

The DOJ has now opened a criminal investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe into the Russian Interference in the 2016 election. This investigation is being overseen by the Attorney General himself, William Barr, although it is being officially run by John Durham, the U. S. attorney in Connecticut. The targets of the investigation include FBI officials like James Comey, or anyone that was part of the Mueller team that could be accused of anti-Trump bias. Durham has been asking witnesses if the CIA somehow tricked the FBI into opening the Russia probe. Mr. Barr has personally participated in the investigation. According to the New York Times, he has flown to Italy to speak to their Prime Minister, and also contacted officials in Australia and Britain, and possibly Ukraine.

 

A recent blog by Mark Sumner for Daily Kos speaks about this and Barr’s efforts to protect T with a report on the Russia investigations. The report is due to come out before Thanksgiving and aims to re-write history and distract from the impeachment proceedings. It will repeat Russia’s claim that it never interfered in the 2016 election and attempt to discredit the evidence of 16 U. S. intelligence agencies to the contrary. And it will claim that T has been unfairly attacked ever since he was called the winner of the 2016 election.

 

Barr has often attacked the Democrats and the courts for working against the President’s agenda and, according to NPR and in his own words, working to “cripple the T administration from the beginning.” His position is that there are almost no legal restraints on T’s presidential power. He accused Democrats of the “systematic shredding of norms and undermining the rule of law.” According to Neil Kinkopf, a law professor who testified at Barr’s confirmation hearing, Barr believes that any dissent or opposition to the president is contrary to democracy. This is in line with T calling for Democrats to be arrested for treason for opposing him or calling for his impeachment.

 

So, this is what we face. I don’t know if T has a secret wish to be removed from office or not.  But I do know that if I had had any doubts about why T must be impeached or legally removed from office, ASAP, this evidence would convince me. The fight here is to preserve the rule of law, preserve our rights, freedoms, and the principle that political power resides in the people of this nation as a whole, not one person, party, class, race or gender, and not Russian or other foreign agents. And we must be prepared to defend those rights.

 

 

This blog was also published by The Good Men Project.

 

 

 

 

 

What You Model, You Teach: The World Is A Miraculous Place, If Only We Can Imagine and Act to Make It So

One of the most important lessons a good teacher teaches, beyond the subject matter, is how to live a moment or a year of moments. On the first day of classes, you teach how to meet new people, how to start an endeavor, how to imagine what might be and yet be open to whatever comes. On the last day of classes, you model how to end something and how to say goodbye.

You model how to face freaky spring weather in winter and winter weather in the spring. How to face a test, sickness or other challenges. To share insights, listen to the insights of others, think deeply about questions raised, and fears and joys expressed. How to face evil with insight and violence with clarity.

In this way you create a community and you model the most important lessons one person can give to another. You model with your very life that a loving, caring community is possible and, thusly, create the seeds for a more loving and sustainable future.  Without such a model, it is nearly impossible for a young person to imagine that such a community, or relationship, is possible.

You think of teaching not as a job, not even an avocation, but just what you are doing, now, with your life. You think of each moment as an opportunity to learn, to expand your sense of self, to see others in you and you in others. All of us, in this world that we share, need this sort of gift daily.

Starting the School Day

So, before you enter the classroom, or maybe before you enter the school building, stop in a safe location, maybe near a tree or a place with a pleasing view, close your eyes, and take 2 deep breaths. You might then pick one area of your body to focus on ⎼ the area around your eyes or mouth, your shoulders or belly ⎼ and simply feel how the area expands as you breathe in, and relaxes, settles down as you breathe out.

You might imagine yourself in the classroom ⎼ calm, ready to listen to your students, emotionally strong. Then bring to mind your students. Imagine how they walk, stand, enter the classroom. If you feel tension with anyone, bring him or her to mind. Imagine how they might feel, and that they feel and think, in a manner similar to, yet different from, your own. Hold them in your heart for a moment.

Then take another breath in and out. Open your eyes and look around you, noticing how you feel….

 

To read the whole post, please go to Education That Inspires.

5 Improvisational Mindfulness Activities for Academic Classes

One way to increase student engagement and decrease anxiety in the classroom is to combine mindfulness and improvisation theatre exercises to teach subject matter. Improvisation develops a sense of trust in self and others, as well as whole body thinking and awareness. It is also fun.

 

Improvisational mindfulness activities can be used in most academic subjects. Personally, I have used them in English, Social Studies and Social Science classes. My colleagues have used them to teach foreign languages. They can also be used by teachers trainers to show how to present material in a lively way, relate compassionately with students, and face challenging situations with empathy and clarity.

 

For example, In English classes, improvisation can be used to examine a character in a novel, develop a plot for a short story, or explore the meaning of an essay. In history or social studies classes, it can be used to develop empathy and in-depth understanding of an event in history or explore the meaning of concepts like freedom, compassion, nationalism or the need for equal rights for all. In any class, it can be used to encourage class participation or to assess student understanding. For example, in a class on psychological literature, I asked students to take turns playing the main 3 characters in the novel Ordinary People in an imagined family therapy session. The school counselor played the therapist, and I observed the session and took notes on how the students’ words and gestures showed how well they understood and embodied their character.

 

A Few Games and Exercises: Before you introduce any of these activities to your students, practice the technique yourself several times and imagine how each of your students will respond. You may need to modify in order to better suit your students and your context.

 

  1. Mirroring: Mirroring can be a wonderful way for students to develop a subliminal understanding of and ability to harmonize with others as well as a way to pick up on body messaging. (See my book, Compassionate Critical Thinking, page 63.)
    1. If you have space or can move tables out of the way, ask students to stand up and pick a partner or assign partners.
    2. Have the pairs stand with feet shoulder width apart, facing each other, hands up and open, slightly in front, with hands facing those of their partner.
    3. Imagine that the surface of the mirror is halfway between you. Pick one of you to be the leader, the other mirrors. Move slowly, without breaking eye contact or breaking the mirror. An example of breaking the mirror would be if the leader’s right hand goes outward, toward her partner and past the partner’s left hand.
    4. After a few minutes, have them switch who leads. After a minute or two, before they tire, switch again⎼ and then again. After switching two or three times, of shorter and shorter intervals, tell them to move with no leader.
    5. After a minute or so with no leader, ask them to stop and close their eyes. Lead them in a body scan or an exercise in mindfulness of feeling and sensation .
    6. Have them thank and share their reactions with their partner.
    7. Ask the whole class how difficult it was to follow their partner without losing eye contact and if they were able to move freely without a leader.  Discuss the importance of being able to move with awareness in tune with others.
  2. Exploring images: Show the class a photograph of a group of people in a social situation (or in a social studies class, a historical event) who are discussing, arguing, celebrating, or having some other type of interaction. Then ask the class to intuit what is going on and why. …

To read the whole post, please go to MindfulTeachers.org.