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Archive for the ‘Interfaith’ Category

My son, Wes, turned 16 years old a couple of days ago and as my wife and I watched him interact with a few of his friends for his birthday this past weekend, I couldn’t help but be blown away at how fast he has grown and how quickly the time has past. At almost 6 foot 3 inches, he is now an inch taller than I am and a few pounds heavier.

I thought it wonderful that he had a birthday party in which he invited 4 or 5 of his good friends and they spent the next several hours playing the interactive music game ROCK BAND as well as a few other video games.

At a time when a lot of 16-year-olds are looking to experience their first sexual encounter or get high, both my son and my 14-year-old daughter still enjoy playing on the computer and interacting with friends over good food and their shared interests. For this, I am truly grateful. However, a thought is never far from my consciousness and I’m sure is a common thought for almost all parents.

Where did the time go?

I know that phrase is such a cliché but I am still amazed at how fast life moves by – especially as we move on in our own lives. My wife and I have always been aware that our time with the kids is limited and that we need to grab each moment we can as they will grow up so fast. You know what though? I miss pushing my kids around in the shopping cart. I miss them riding their electronic little train which we all affectionately called “Choo” until they fell asleep. I miss picking up my kids and carrying them to bed. I miss the daily episodes of Thomas the Train, Barney, and the countless videos we got that taught them to count, read, and sing.

In some ways 16 years is not a long time. In other ways it feels like an eternity. I still sit by the side of their bed at night although they don’t often ask for me to do so and hold them tight when they need me to.

We have pictures along the wall of the stairs and I often stop and catch myself staring into their beautiful faces that show them growing through the various ages. At times, my eyes will grow fuzzy as the tears come as I remember how incredibly beautiful and innocent they were… and the joy and gratitude I feel come at me through the images on the wall.

I am not one to pine away my sorrows on what was or what might have been. In fact, I consider myself to be one of the eternal optimists and feel that all relationships, whether they are kids, parents, family members, friends, or colleagues are there for us to learn from and cherish. For the vast majority of my life I have done just that.

As my kids make their way through high school, I am mindful to touch them everyday – grab a shoulder, rub their back for a moment, or just give them a good old-fashioned hug. I know I am only a temporary guardian for them until they decide to leave the nest and venture out into the world. When that time comes I know I will look back on the life I spent with them to that point and be honored to have witnessed two beautiful children who’ve made their way into adulthood.

They have not become obsessed with the other sex yet and, I for one am completely okay with that and hope it continues for as long as it can! I know they will eventually begin dating and developing relationships with the opposite sex and when it comes, I will be as supportive as I can and trust in their judgment.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took the kids down to Disneyland and spent a couple of days at the park. Although it was a wonderful time – Disneyland always is – I found it different as the kids had been there 5 or 6 times in their lives and they are getting to the age where it doesn’t hold the magic it once had. Maybe when they bring their children and witness the looks on their faces, the magic will return.

I remember when my daughter was 4 or 5 and the price at Disneyland jumped drastically right about that age. My daughter Meg was born several months early and so she was very small for her age. We knew we could get her in at the younger age price and save ourselves a bunch of money. What we didn’t count on was our little angel piping up and yelling at us when we answered the question asked by the entrance person about how old she was. I believe the price increase was at 5 years of age and when we said she was 4, she started screaming, “No Daddy, I’m 5! I’m 5 Daddy! Ugh…
Kids… lol. Fortunately, Meg was so small that the person at the gate just thought she was a precocious little one and let us in at the greatly discounted price. We laughed about that for the next few minutes and whenever this story comes up it brings a chuckle and the warm memory comes back and floods my mind and heart.

I work with what is considered “at-risk” young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 and I know that a lot of them have not made it to Disneyland for whatever reasons. Some of them have been in trouble with the law, gotten involved with gangs or drugs, and have generally struggled in life. I admire these young men and women as they are striving to improve their life and make the best of their own personal situations.

It just reminds me that all of us don’t have the greatest of upbringings and didn’t necessarily have an easy life. It also reminds me that what are important are the thoughts, words, and actions that I can choose right now.

Right now I choose to finish this article and go in and sit on my daughter’s bed as it is a holiday and I’m letting her sleep in. I won’t wake her, no. Instead, I think I’ll just sit on her bed and notice how beautiful she is and how fortunate I am to have both her and her brother in my life.

I want to enjoy THIS moment and the fact that she is now 14 and her brother a new 16 and despite whatever little problems we have with them being TEENAGERS, that I am blessed and honored to have them in my life and I will do what I can to help them prepare for a life that is sure to be filled with the riches that hopefully await.

Although I am not anxious to have them grow up, I know I will relish the time when they marry and have kids of their own and discover the miracle of parenting. I’ll laugh and cry maybe at the same time as I know parenting can bring the deepest pain and the most profound joy.

It’s time for me to experience some joy with them…

As always, I hope life is unfolding for you as you have hoped and dreamed. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help!

Blessings to you and yours!

Ray

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One week ago my son and ventured into San Francisco on the final day of the President’s Cup to see the best golfer’s in the world, and specifically, Tiger Woods.

I am a huge golf fan and have followed Tiger Woods from his early days. In fact, I actually remember Tiger’s appearance on the Mike Douglas show when he was 2 years old. He was on with Bob Hope and they had Tiger hitting balls into a net and it shocked the audience how this toddler could get up and hit the ball. He didn’t have much muscle obviously but the ball nevertheless shot off the face of his club and straight into the net. Upon seeing this, Bob Hope had to make a joke of it and said something like he wouldn’t want to have to play Tiger for money but would be able to overpower him when he had to pay off the bet.

The day was very cold in San Francisco and for some reason, I left my sweater in the taxi and so I had to make due with only a couple of shirts. The cold was there in the wind and the overcast skies but the golf, the gallery, and my son made it a memorable day.

The tickets were not cheap as I paid $75 a piece for my son and I to go plus we bought these little ear radios for another $20 although it allowed us to hear what was happening all over the course. It kept us updated on the matches and that was great because Sunday was all singles matches and so people were spread out over six or seven holes.

We got there and quickly went to the driving range where they had stands set up. It was so packed that you couldn’t find a seat and they had marshals standing at the entrance to the stands and when somebody got up, you went right to their seat. We were waiting for Tiger to show up and when he did, the crowd in the stands went wild. We got a seat in the front row right behind Tiger. It was amazing to watch him hit balls… All the golfers in fact, but Tiger was something special. When he finished I felt bad because half of the entire stands got up and left with him!

Wow!

We stood along with thousands of others on the first fairway as we wanted to see Tiger tee off. He smoked his drive down the first fairway but it hooked into the trees. He eventually lost the hole and was quickly one down in the match. It’s about all he lost that day as he went on to drub Y.E. Yang, 6 and 5 I believe. Y.E. played with Tiger in the final round of the PGA championship, the last major or the year and he is also the only one Tiger has given up the lead in a major going into the final round so I knew that no matter what Tiger said, he wanted to spank Yang.

He did.

We got close to Tiger on the 7th hole as went around to the other side of the green and as they were lining up their putts, the volunteers began making a walkway through the crowd to allow the players to walk off the green and to the next tee box after they finished the hole. They used ropes and the divided us right where my son and I were and created a pathway of about 12 feet wide the players would walk through. The crowd shoved against the ropes as they wanted to get close to Tiger. Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, when the players finished the hole, they walked toward us and walked straight down the middle between the ropes, not near the ropes where they could be grabbed. I could have ALMOST reached out and touched Tiger but they gave him just enough room so that he was safe IF he stayed down the middle of the path they created.

I say safe as when he walked through the crowd people reached out and tried to touch him. It was like some rock concert!

Tiger went on to clinch the cup for the U.S. with an improbable birdie on the 11th or 12th hole.

I know this is a long lead-in to the point I want to make so you’ll have to forgive me.

My point is Tiger is the best in the world at what he does and he communicates to the media in a way that reflects an aspect of what he wants them to see. What I mean is he gives, for the most part, a very compassionate, intelligent, and planned message of how he wants to be seen. I don’t mean this in any way negative as I believe that Tiger, down deep, is just like you and me. He is down-to-earth, caring, compassionate, and wants to do his part to help make the world a better place. His foundation is a testament to that fact.

Tiger, away from the camera, so I am told and in my heart I truly believe, is an altogether different person.

The Tiger away from the camera is one of the guys. He’s funny, competitive, likes to tell jokes (not always the cleanest… lol) and in most ways exactly like the rest of us. What is the amazing part is that people put him on a different shelf. They elevate him to a status level that goes beyond normal. Tiger, its been said is the most recognizable athlete in the world and may be the most recognizable person on the planet.

Does this make him better?

No, but it does make him unique.

What can we learn from Tiger?

What I have learned from Tiger is something I believe everyone should be aware of.

Tiger makes a conscious decision about what he says and how it may reflect on him, his image, and his goals. He goes into meetings, interviews, and presentations with an idea of what he wants to convey and how he wants the message conveyed. I believe he makes a conscious decision of not only what he wants to say but how he wants to say it.

This is an incredible tool for the rest of us.

If before we go into a meeting, or even before we go into a social function we ask ourselves “how do I want to be perceived in this meeting?” it will give us direction about not only what we might say, but the intent, and emotional direction in which we may choose to speak from.

This is BIG!

By being aware of what we want to accomplish and how we want to do it, we are less likely to react to someone’s words, taunts, put-downs, or insults. It allows us to gain a greater measure of control of who we are and what comes out of our mouth. This in turn will allow us to be seen more clearly as the way in which we truly want to be seen.

I loved watching the President’s Cup and I would love to play golf with Tiger Woods one day. Not to play with him in a state of awe although his golfing skills far outstrip my own, no. I want to play with him as one of the guys – someone I can play a round with and play around with. I want to laugh with him and at him, tease him, honor him, and enjoy his company. I would hope he would do the same to me. Because although Tiger has achieved his own level of rock star fame, I know deep down he is just one of the guys who enjoy having a good time. He’s just got an exceptional skill in whacking a little white ball around.

He’s not unlike you and I as we have our own set of unique skills. Just because we aren’t perceived by the masses and treated as rock stars doesn’t mean we don’t have great value in the world.

Think about it and know it to be true.

If you see Tiger, tell him I’ll be waiting on the first tee trying to get him into a bet for lunch that he can’t win but I know we’d have fun anyway. We’d have fun because down deep, I know is one of the guys – Just like me and you.

As always, I am open to your thoughts and feelings.

Blessings to you and yours.

Ray

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I cannot tell you how many times during a typical week that I see people who complain about living a routine, boring life. They tell me that they get up, go to work, come home, watch TV and go to bed. They get up the next morning and do it all over again. I can understand the fact that a lot of us get into a career with a fixed job that doesn’t allow for much creativity. Even still, one can choose to push oneself within the career field, or, in your off time embark on something that does challenge you.

I laughed as one of my martial arts students recently told me that they have so much time on their hands that they truly didn’t know what else to do. This person spends two hours in the gym in the morning and then comes back for another hour or so at night. While this has some positive characteristics, I have shared with him the idea of finding something to PUSH himself in that would help him grow and discover more of who he is as a person.

How many of us truly look deep within ourselves and reflect on what areas of our life we might want to either improve upon or simply explore? In building a platform with my media consultant, she recently asked me to consider researching an organization that many of your may be familiar with: Toastmasters. I have heard of Toastmasters for years but have never engaged them personally. I have done trainings and given talks to thousands of people and I rationalized in my mind that I was already competent at speaking. The truth was something different.

The truth was I was afraid.

I was afraid of getting up and making a fool of myself. I was afraid that I would be so out of my element that I would literally stink up the room. Not only stink up the room but demonstrate to the people in the meeting that I was an idiot. I could just hear them saying, “This guy has a Ph.D. and he talks like that?” All kinds of negative thoughts went through my head and it made it very easy to come up with an excuse as to why I shouldn’t push myself to confront my fears, explore more of my own life, pursue my own dreams by making myself better at something that I truly love to do: speak about what I’m passionate about.

Last week I researched a group, found a local one, emailed the gentlemen in charge of education and found out about the meeting. I made my first meeting this past Thursday and even though I couldn’t get there on time due to a physical therapy appointment, the gentleman, Clay Baskin, told me to come anyway. What I witnessed was something that surprised and inspired me. The people who came to this small meeting were passionate individuals looking to improve themselves, meet other good souls, and have a good time. It was a perfect description of personal growth.

I came away so impressed not only with the people in the meeting, but with Clay himself. I found him to be a passionate man with a strong desire to grow as a human and make the world a better place. Those two qualities alone put him very high on my list. I was so impressed with the man that I asked if he would be willing to mentor me as his platform skills were that impressive. Clay, the kind soul that he is, graciously accepted and I am now set to get to work on truly improving my ability to speak.

I encourage anyone and everyone to find something that they can engage in that will push them in a way that allows them to stretch their comfort zone. Maybe it’s something as simple as volunteering at a soup kitchen, coaching a team, taking a class you always wanted to take, confronting a fear like public speaking. I will tell you that if you ever wanted to be a more confident person and confront a huge fear that most people have in public speaking, head to a Toastmasters meeting as their curriculum and philosophy is nothing short of heaven sent.

Maybe you’ll get lucky like me and meet a wonderful soul like Clay whom you can hook up and mentor. What Clay doesn’t realize is this will be a two-way street. (He realizes this… hee) I will push my new friend to continue to grow as I want him to achieve his goals. He wants to get out and speak professionally and so I will do my best to push him to do so. I can’t believe he’s not out there now as his skills are truly awesome. This is where I will be a good coach and help him as much as I can discover what he thinks is lacking and help him overcome whatever that is so he can go out and bless the planet with his mind, heart, and wonderful words.

I have typically been speaking in an environment for at-risk adults. These are people that have had some challenges… Maybe they’ve had experience with drugs, dropped out of schools, or been involved in gang-related activities. My comfort zone, while maybe not many people’s comfort zone is with this amazing, wonderful, challenging population. I’m comfortable there. I need to learn to as comfortable speaking to other populations as I am with this one…

What do you need to push on to develop yourself to another level?

I hope you choose to engage many things that allow you to appreciate the incredible talent that you are. Don’t see yourself as limited…rather, see yourself as a perpetual student who is hungry to learn, grow, discover and evolve. That is what makes life rich. That is what makes life fun. That is what keeps us from living a stagnant life.

Engage something new and let me know how it went. As always, I would love to hear from you!

Blessings to all!

Ray

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Today I had a unique opportunity in that I got to sit down and have lunch with a unique old friend. He’s not really old in that he is a few years younger than I am but he played a unique role in my life at one time. As you have read possibly in previous posts, I have been a long-time martial arts practitioner and have gotten a chance to experience and practice a number of different martial arts styles.

Early in my training, I had the opportunity to be exposed to a number of styles in which the physical training was absolutely fantastic. The memories of these workouts easily come back to me from 30 or more years ago, they were that memorable. However, it wasn’t too many years into my training when I began to sense something lacking in my training. I was not too far into my teen years when I began to think that there was more to martial arts than punch, kick, sweep, grab, choke, etc… (You get the message…lol)

I began searching for different systems and styles and sometime in the early to mid 1980’s while I was working on my undergraduate degree, I wandered into a Taekwondo school and watched one of their workouts. For whatever reason and for the life of me, I can’t remember why, I decided to give this system a go.

The main instructor was a talented African-American martial artist who appeared to be very gifted – not only physically, but seemed to carry a lot of non-physical characteristics that I found intriguing. I joined up and immediately began coming to class on a daily basis. The main instructor was often not teaching class but had a stable of young, talented martial art instructors that were in training to become certified instructors. It was here that I met a young man named Brian Hamlet.

Brian or Mr. Hamlet as students were instructed to address him was a young man in his early 20’s but you could see that he truly loved teaching and loved the martial arts. I found him to be a kind, energetic, and talented instructor and I found myself spending more and more time attending his class. As the years went by I got rank with this organization and opened my own school. I kept touch with Mr. Hamlet for 4 or 5 years as we trained occasionally together and we both took Kobudo (traditional ancient weapons together).

I left the organization a few years later as I didn’t see eye-to-eye with the organizational philosophy and then struck out on my own and developed my own system.

Mr. Hamlet, while doing a google search found me and found this blog. We began emailing back and forth and finally got a chance to sit down and have lunch and a good visit. It was great fun and I enjoyed going back 20 years and catching up. In talking about the past, we reminisced about our ancient weapons training and some of the experiences we had with our instructor.

Brian continued to train with this instructor after he and I and one other soul were the only black belts in the original group to get our black belt in this ancient weapons system. I did not as with other systems, believe in a lot of the rigid protocol and the “correct answers” you were suppose to give, even if you didn’t believe the answer yourself. Brian continued to train with this instructor and helped him out in many ways for years in demonstrations and promotions until they had a parting of the ways when this instructor opened a martial arts school a stone’s throw away from Brian’s. In my opinion (and many others) this was a disrespectful thing to do as this put this man in direct competition with Brian.

I asked him about how this made him feel and what he did when he found out. He told me was surprised and hurt by the choice of this other instructor. I asked him if he said anything to the man. He reported that he did not. We went on to have a lengthy conversation about his reasons why he chose to keep this to himself and just sever the relationship on his part. It should also be noted that Brian was not the only one to disengage as this other instructor, once he told Brian he was opening a school nearby, never called Brian back.

In Brian’s mind, one does not question the junior/senior relationship. This is very common in martial arts and has long since been a way of training that has come down for thousands of years. The problem I have with this is that the current group of martial art instructors that I have met (and I have met a TON!) in my life don’t have a fraction of the wisdom and spiritual awareness of those Buddhist monks and Samurai of old. Talented physically but their physical skills and knowlege far outweighed their social, emotional, and spiritual skills.

So the question becomes “Are we are Brother’s Keeper?” And if so, are there limitations to who we would offer our honesty and authenticity to?

I can easily see how Brian’s role with this instructor translates into everyday life. So many times we are hurt by our “seniors” and we choose to not say anything. Personally, I feel that this does damage to oneself and the other person. Damage in that we do not “air” our feelings which then doesn’t allow the other person to respond and possibly reflect on their part in the conversation.

There are many layers here and nothing is cut and dried simple. However, I still remain convinced that we are indeed our brother’s keeper when we are in a position to offer feedback. I say feedback because our intervention may be nothing more than a question. In the question however, we may choose the words that cut right to the heart of the dilemma or conflict and in putting it in the form of a question we can minimize the authority, righteousness, ego, or any other form of “I know and you don’t” mentality.

In taking on the role of being my brother’s keeper, I try to be aware of situations in which I don’t offer my wisdom, but instead, I offer something to consider. As mentioned above, this is usually in the form of a question as I find that most people do better when you allow them to discover the depth and insight within the topic. In that way I am offering my compassion and help without coming across as a “know-it-all” or even a junior/senior type of relationship.

I look forward to my next encounter with Brian as it was fun to engage in what I call “verbal martial arts.” If done from the best of intentions whether you are a martial artist or not, there is a tremendous amount we can gain and give by coming from an open compassionate heart. Once again, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from a former instructor, and who knows, maybe planted a seed for him to consider.

As always, I’m grateful and open to your thoughts and suggestions.

Blessings,

Ray

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As I sit at my computer I am thinking of the value of “good wisdom.”  Many times in my life I have made choices that I thought were the best I could do at the time, and, from a certain perspective, they were right even though they turned out painful.  I say they were right in that even though they experience was painful; I learned a tremendous amount from going through that particular process.

My question is however, “Do we have to go through the painful and difficult process to get to the wisdom?”

Sometimes I think the answer is yes and sometimes I think it is no.

Haven’t you ever noticed that sometimes we (and others) just HAVE to go through the process ourselves, experience it ourselves to truly know and gain the appreciation or knowledge that we seek?  Nothing sticks in our mind and psyche better than going through the fire, surviving, and then taking it with us forward on our journey in life.

I think though, for me, at this stage of my life, I’d rather listen and honor verbal or written wisdom more than have to go through some of the “trials by fire” methods of achieving wisdom.  In some ways that may seem a bit humorous but I feel that if we are truly open to the wisdom that may be offered at various stages and by various sources in our lives, then we may be able to bypass the suffering and move right into the state of applying the wisdom and receiving its benefits without enduring the suffering of having to live through it.

Makes sense.

Well then, where does one go to get this wisdom?

That is the question, my friends.

This may sound a bit dumb or even naïve to some people but I have truly found this to be the truth.

I find wisdom when I am looking for wisdom.

Yep. 

If I am cultivating and searching out in my heart, my thoughts, my words, and my actions, wisdom absolutely FLOWS to me.  It feels like little droplets of wisdom/rain are cascading down upon me from all sources.  I find wisdom in watching the mailman deliver the mail.  I see wisdom in the way my dog sits up on the couch and looks out our front window.  I hear wisdom coming from me from the little manmade pond my wife and I put in when we moved into our house.

Wisdom is a mindset that if cultivated grows to a place where one can see, hear, and find its treasures in everything we experience.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day regarding the podcast series I am starting called WARRIOR WISDOM.  (You’ll be able to hear it when I’m done at http://rayfaulkenberry.com)  Because we were talking about the beauty of martial arts philosophy that is not the combat application, I find myself drifting into that magical realm of the ancient Samurai warriors who lived and breathed a depth of honor, integrity, love, compassion, and wisdom.  Having spent most of my life studying martial arts, this “energy” is something I love to move in and through each day.  When allowing myself to experience this energy, wisdom and insights pour fourth.

I’ve known this in my life for the last 20 plus years and I’ve never been without the aspects of this FORCE in my life.

I’ve also had the pleasure of working with some amazing souls whom I deeply respected and admired for their depth of wisdom and compassion and willingness to share it with the rest of the world.  Interestingly enough however, those souls did not come into my life UNTIL I was ready and willing to ask/search for the wisdom.  I went LOOKING for it. 

How many of us for whatever reasons don’t go looking for wisdom from other people/sources?

I’m too busy.

My work is to demanding.

I already go to church.

I’ve got some health issues.

When I slow down a bit or when I retire I can pursue wisdom.

I don’t know where to go to find what I’m looking for.

There are plenty of reasons to NOT cultivate wisdom.

Let me say that more clearly:  There are plenty of EXCUSES to not cultivate wisdom.

I have never heard a good reason (in my mind).

I would ask you to consider looking into your own personal world and see if you can find a reliable source that you resonate with and begin tapping into the wisdom that is being offered.  Commit yourself to study and contemplate the words that come forth and see if you don’t experience some incredible insights and gifts that will be immediately noticed by yourself and others in your life.

But remember:  You must be open to see wisdom coming.  Don’t think it has to come from a little person sitting in meditation or from a famous yogi or minister or politician. 

Wisdom is everywhere you’re looking.

It’s funny in that my students in martial arts and their parents will often comment about my wisdom.  I find it funny in that wisdom, for me, easily comes from the joy in my heart and the love I feel for this life and all that it entails.  It is easy to love life when you stop and recognize the gifts that pour forth everyday.  I’m described as happy, optimistic, and compassionate.

Really? 

Sometimes I am not that. 

Sometimes you are not that.

Maybe wisdom starts with that simple realization and to know that wisdom resides within in but that we sometimes don’t see or look for it…And that’s okay.

Wisdom for me is several concepts woven together:  Compassion, authenticity, egolessness, honesty, and service. 

I know that when I am feeling these concepts or traits, I am at my best.

When are you at your best and why?

It is a question worth studying.

If you’re having trouble finding the answer, seek out the wisdom of someone else.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts about this topic.

Love and blessings to you always,

Ray

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As I scanned through the newspaper this morning I found an article in the entertainment section of the newspaper that pointed to the fact the comedians have not yet found their stride in being able to poke fun at our President.

I thought about this for a moment and reflected on these words.

According to the article, our past recent President’s of Bush and Clinton gave us so very much to poke fun at, and since they were both in office for two terms, there was literally years of opportunity to find humor in their words and actions, not to mention some of their actions and statements that were not very…how shall we say, Presidential?

For a lot of the country, President Obama represents a drastic change in so many ways.  He is not only the first man of color to be elected to the White House; he represents a drastic change when we are in need of a drastic change.  His ideas have infected those wanting a drastic change in how our government is run and how politicians are to be responsible in doing their job.  He has enthralled a nation of people eager to embrace change and terrified those who are resistant to change.

I personally have never been one to engage in national politics, or even state politics. 

Why?

For me, the answer was simple.

I found the politician’s lied.

There, I said it.

I know it is not a unique idea and I am by far not the first or the millionth person to utter the phrase.  My feelings however in watching politician after politician campaign for one thing and then once elected, don’t follow through.  It became a joke. 

A joke I got tired of listening to.

It’s strange in that my father, who now lives with us, got me more involved with this election more so than any other election I can remember. 

My father, you see is a hard-core republican. 

I am not even sure I can make honest distinctions between what republicans want versus what democrats desire.  I have heard about generalizations but the truth of the matter is I am not completely clued in to the deep and true philosophy of either party… of any party for that matter.

For whatever reason, my father saw and sees fault with Obama.  Whether he believes him to be a Muslim terrorist, hiring crooked and shady people to fill out his administration, or because maybe he holds a deep-seed belief rooted in racial prejudice, I don’t know.  All I know is whenever politics came up, he would argue against Obama.

My wife on the other hand, is an absolute believer in our new President and has been passionate from the beginning about his ideas.

This, you can imagine, made for some strained dinnertime conversations. 

Having the experience I had with dishonest politicians, I was somewhat removed entering the election.  If I had an opinion early on, I would have leaned to Obama as he represents a change from what we’ve been experiencing the last 8 years.  As I was in the middle and not too invested early on, it was interesting to watch my father and wife spar over dinner about politics.

As time progressed and I began looking closer at what was happening, both on the election front and in my own house, I began to sense a shift in my view.  I found myself realizing how much I really was looking for change.  When I thought back on the 2 terms that G.W. Bush held office, I realized that the country was not in a place that I thought was healthy.  The war in Iraq held no end in sight, our unemployment soared, housing plummeted, the budget out of control, recession continuing – yeah, the country didn’t look so good.

I realized that I really did want change so when asked about whom I would vote for, I shared my feelings of a desire for change and that I would support our Democrat candidate.  However, what really struck me was a statement my father said a week or so later.  He and I were in our kitchen and as had often been the case, the conversation turned to politics.  As the discussion grew more intense, my father said, “I just don’t understand how someone of your and Linda’s intelligence can be making this kind of a choice.”

Wow…

That floored me.

It amazes me that people will judge someone’s character, intelligence, and wisdom in life based on a belief!

I know it is common and has been done in the area of religion for thousands of years. 

But I had not experienced in my home.

It shook me but it made me realize that this view is not an uncommon one.  Thousands, millions, maybe tens of millions of people all over the world JUDGE each other based on their likes, dislikes, and what they endorse and support. 

I don’t have to like what my neighbor supports.  I don’t have to agree with him about his choice of clothes, cars, food, movies…or anything else. 

But I do need to honor and respect his choices.

And that is not done by insults.

If we as a planet are to grow, to truly evolve, we are going to have to learn to speak from the heart, and just as importantly, LISTEN FROM THE HEART.  We have to be willing to share our feelings, our beliefs, and our views, and be SUPPORTED at least in our right to share them!  When we cannot share our views then we are in the same place of every repressed, dictator-driven, oppressed culture that ever existed.

Freedom of speech, freedom to practice our religion, and so many other “guidelines” provide a framework for us to interact.  If we do not interact with compassion, honor, integrity, and humility, we will continue to fight amongst ourselves and judge people who don’t have a like mind as inferior, dumb, or ignorant. 

That is not an enlightened way of thinking.

I would hope you would develop a sense of awareness… a sense of being that is tolerant.  I would also ask you to consider creating a sense of being that is honoring of other people’s view of EVERYTHING.  It’s important to discuss anything and everything because that is a tool in which we can grow, expand, and evolve. 

However, we need to feel safe in doing so.

I for one am incredibly excited about President Obama.  I find him to be nothing short of a breath of fresh air and I have a hope and sense that he truly is the “real deal” and he will work hard to get our country on the right track. 

I like what I have heard so far and am excited about what is to unfold.  I am not going into his presidency with pessimism.  Quite the contrary, I am going into with faith, hope, and a commitment to do my part to help this country and world get to a better place.

It starts with a desire to want to do so. 

Honor yourself, those close to you, whatever creative intelligence you feel runs this “show” and have faith.  SEE a future in your mind’s eye… the FUTURE you want to see.

Until next time, may all your days bring you joy and love.

Ray

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Tonight I had a conversation with my daughter, Meg.  Meg has been having a difficult time at school as a certain event has affected her deeply. 

You see, Meg loves to write.  In fact, Meg loves to write so much that in the past she has spent hours and hours writing on a story that she is planning on turning in for the school next year.  I know that sounds weird but one of the big events they have at Meg’s school is something called Young Authors.  It is a common event at many schools and the schools encourage the students to write, design covers, and submit them.  Meg found a home in her creative stories and when she was younger she wrote exciting stories about Barney versus the Tellytubbies in which amazing battles took place.

As time went by and Meg got older her style of writing evolved as did her content.  For the last couple of years she has been writing a wonderful story about magic, wizardry, and the adventures of a young warlock named Roxas.  She has added to the story each year and evolved it into a more sophisticated, in-depth story that has rich, wonderful characters.

Meg is not an extrovert by any means.  In fact, at present she is almost fourteen and still has only a few friends despite the fact that she is one of the most sensitive, kind, and loving souls I have ever met on the planet.  She finds it hard when kids are mean, disrespectful, and lies as she doesn’t come from that place and treasures the things in her life that mean the most – her family, pets, and friends.

Meg had a friend named Maryn whom she used to be close to.  One day Maryn asked Meg if she would read her story.  Meg agreed and read Maryn’s story and shared some positive feedback about it although it was only about half done.  Maryn then asked to read Meg’s story.  Meg had just printed out the 35 or so pages of her story that she had completed so far and handed it over to Maryn.  Maryn vowed to read it as soon as possible and get it back to Meg.

A few days later Maryn brought back the story and told Meg she thought it “pretty good” and didn’t say much else.  What shocked Meg a week or so later was something that she is still troubled over.  Maryn had a new story and amazingly (or not so amazingly) it was almost exactly like Meg’s – time period, theme, story-line…the same.

Meg didn’t know what to do with this turn of events.  She came home and we talked about it and Meg left the conversation and planned to ask Maryn about the sudden change in her story.  When she confronted Maryn, not only did Maryn deny it, she quickly tried to move the conversation away from this sensitive topic.

Although we have had many conversations with Meg about this, she is struggling with this sense of betrayal and what to do about it.

The truth is I don’t have any easy answers for her. 

Being betrayed is something many of us have experienced.  I have had wonderful, spiritual people tell me great things and how they would help me achieve things that would truly help and bless the planet, and in the end, they lied, took my money, and never make amends or apologies.  I have had business people look me in the face and lie time and time again in order to make a sale, no matter what facts were fabricated, embellished, or misrepresented. 

What to do?  What should Meg do?

Not an easy question for us to answer – whether it is how to deal with it in our own lives or in the lives of our kids or employees (if we are fortunate enough to have one confide in us to this extent).

The answer lies within the individual and what they want to accomplish.

Let me explain that by looking at the case of Meg and her old friend Maryn.

Meg has been deeply hurt by the theft and dishonesty of Maryn.  Meg, in not being a hugely outspoken or extroverted soul, brought this to Maryn’s attention only to have Maryn deny and dismiss it.  This does not mean it didn’t happen and the pain that Meg feels is real.

But the question remains, what does Meg want to do to rectify the situation?

She knows to error is human and to forgive divine, but how does one do that when you’re 14 and one of your few friends lies and betrays you?

Heck, how do we deal with it in our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s… and beyond?

For me, and I’m only speaking for me, is that I owe myself the right to feel whatever it is that I am feeling and not feel guilty about it.  If I am hurt and feel violated then I have that right to feel that one and no one can or should tell me not to feel that way.

I then have to decide on what level of honesty I want to share with those involved.  And that is where the dilemma and our choices begin to shift. 

Many people tend to blow it off, they rationalize that there is nothing they can do about it, and try to let it go.  The problem is they don’t let it go.  Some get angry and get loud, judgmental, call names, and some even resort to violence.  Regardless, most if not all of these choices do not address or resolve the hurt and pain within the individual who felt violated.

What to do then?

I told my daughter Meg what I’m about to tell you, and this is something she and everyone else who has ever felt violated has to make a decision about.

What I do is simple.  I simply tell the person from my heart what they have done as clearly, as honestly, and with as much compassion as I can what I have observed they have done and how it has affected me. 

This may sound simple but often times this simple sentence can take a very long time to get out as many times thoughts, emotions (strong ones) and opinions find their way to the surface.  It does not always come out so easily or perfectly.  However, if I stick to the plan of speaking from my heart in the above method, I feel soooo much better.

The goal is to not stuff it, rationalize, or act on it in a manner that is unclear, can be misunderstood, or could make the relationship worse.  Once stated, have faith that the process will unfold in a manner that will help each party.  What I mean by that is that whatever comes from your honest and heartfelt analysis of the situation will be an opportunity for both you and the other person to grow – but you have to want it.  You have to want to grow and evolve from this situation.  If not, you’re just going to rationalize your position as right and the other person’s as wrong and you will polarize yourself from this person.

I love my daughter and have faith that she will make the right decision to move through this situation with grace and wisdom that will serve her throughout the days of her life. 

I pray that I have the wisdom to do the same.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Blessings,

Ray

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