Chastened by the Light of Christmas

How better to celebrate the life of my mother-in-law than to pair a Christmas service with a remembrance service for her at the same time. It came as a delightful discovery that Mary’s cemetery provides the families with loved ones buried there an annual Christmas/Remembrance ceremony. So with great anticipation I looked forward to this unique opportunity to pair the joy of this holiday with the grief of my loss, expecting to both help me heal and bless her with a radiant remembrance. Little could I anticipate the illumination that came for me.

Seems I have much to learn and unlearn about putting myself in a context celebrating the overwhelming glory of the birth of God’s Son, choosing against all other options for the day, to allow myself to sit awash in song and meaning for such an infinite affirmation of life and death, and yet to drop right off in the next second to grief, loss and emptiness that eclipsed that Glory. The heart of my lesson appears to be unlearning the contraction of my fullest being around my sense of being an atomistic, discrete and separate self in order to grow big enough to embrace the ravishment of both the Glory of the Christmas event and the ravaging grief that comes with the loss of a beloved.

It’s a cliché we rattle off regularly that we only use 20% of our brain at best, which means we aren’t even looking at the glass half empty!!! That unused 80% functions then as a loss of great capacity, which is what we seem to identify with most, and shows up with our nagging insecurities and learned helplessness. I have to suspect this is part of why it’s easier to plunge into the depths of loss and despair than open to the joyousness available in any moment where we stop ignoring the miracle that we’re here at all and awaken into the taken-for-granted miracle of all we see and know arising in fullest contradiction to using only that meager 20%. I confess I have that experience often where the beauty-beyond-belief of this very world opens to me, like maybe when I’m simply driving around town running the mundane errands, but yet and still, in spite of that gleaning of beauty, my mood will shift and I’ll start dwelling on negative things instead. That sets me to juxtapose a loss experience or even a minor worry and turn the opportunity for exquisite ecstasy into the torments of loss.

Now, actually, I think the intensities of both glorious experiences and the despair of loss, that traces back to the fear of death’s emptiness, are two sides of the same coin. Instead of toggling between these two extremes, or preferring one and trying to stop the other, better to become the coin that holds both. In order to do that, we have to make the ironic move and enable ourselves to honestly and actually step into and experience the Glory as readily as we do grief and loss. Let’s remember, if God is infinite and we feel separate from God, who moved? Meaning, it’s ourselves who split Being into life and death and then lament that splitting as if it happens to us, and thus, making ourselves victims to our own ignoring of That which holds them in Unity.

I say, use this season of Light, Christmas time, where we intentionally decorate our homes, raise and light trees during the season where the nights are longer and the days shorter to remember the Glory of that Light our seasonal behaviors enact. Let’s feel into Christmas carols and truly listen to the words as we sing them so they can open us to the redemptive Glory that holds ourselves and all our lost loved and living ones alike in a Love that outshines our identification with very petty selves and the selfishness that consumes them. It takes a concerted renewed intention, and I’m only reporting what I know to be true, not claiming any more encroachment into that 80% than anyone else. Oh, well, maybe being able to see this and write about it gives me a 1% advantage.
Maybe.

What I can say from direct experience is that, when I truly open to this Light, my eyes well up, my heart goes into my throat, and from this fullness I can see the networks of love linking each and everyone in my family that creates the net of support we live and provide for each other, as best we can, through-out the year. At Christmas time, those beautiful nets of lights we spread on our bushes and line the roofs of our homes well reflect That Network—That One that illuminates us and our world every second of every day.

But whoa! That’s a child’s dream, right? Christmas every day of the year?! Yet, when we practice remembrance of the miracle of being here at all, it helps open us to the willingness to make another choice about how we wish to be. That choice, in turn, enables us to open beyond that mere 20% and choose to drop the obscurations of petty moods and strife, availing us to experience how we actually live and love one another every moment. Whew! Can and/or will you really let yourself feel that power? I am.

Merry Christmas!

A Men’s Group For Men Facing the Challenges of Their ADHD

Recent meetings of our Denver-Metro CHADD support groups have revealed to me the need for an ADHD support group for men alone. Men face many challenges with their ADHD unique to themselves that profoundly affect their self esteem, their careers and relationships. The impacts of their ADHD conflicts can cut to the core of their sense of masculinity and foster its own kind of shame, making it hard to reveal and discuss their issues in the company of women.

The Value of Men’s Groups for Any Man

For nearly 40 years now, modern men have found profound value meeting in intentional groups to explore the challenges unique to their own gender. The focus of these groups address the many challenges of men in our time:

  • Learning to overcome the competitive conditioning that separate men from deeper connection and trust in each other
  • Finding another source of intimacy/communion than depending on women alone for this
  • Teaching each other the language of emotions to recover that long- suppressed aspect of our selves
  • Fostering the courage to own and live from our feelings and emotions
  • Envisioning: Identifying our intentions, purpose and direction so we can make the meaning of our lives
  • Holding each other accountable in our commitments to ourselves and others
  • Developing and empowering our sense of integrity
  • Becoming resolute, consistent and trustworthy
  • Encouraging each other along the journey to recover and sustain self-esteem, personal value and self worth

The ADHD Focus

Since the early 1990’s I have worked extensively with these challenges, running several men’s groups and retreats for years. Presently I am leading one and a participant in another. Yet, only upon the diagnosis of my daughter did the discovery of my own ADD reveal yet another, now neurological, challenge behind the struggles of being a man in our time. Ironically, where many people find a late-life diagnosis fraught with grief and shame, for me it was so clarifying of my life’s challenges that it came as a relief. Knowing that so much of what I had taken as a shortage of character was extensively rooted in my neurology allowed me to release much of the shame that haunted my self-esteem.

I would like to help other men with ADHD come to the same relief from chronic anxiety, shame, inhibited potential and emotional wrenching that has characterized much of their lives. At first the prospect of admitting to and facing these demeaning aspects of our selves seems scary and could make them worse. However, there is a safety in the company of men willing to team together and support one another that can’t be known until one stretches to explore the possibility.

As ADHDers here are some of our specific issues we will focus on. The list is long because our challenges are many. Persevering through the list can be a revelation itself. Naming our struggles brings them into the light of awareness, which is the first step in our learning to free ourselves from their unconscious confinement of our greater potentials.

  • Facing our histories of under-performance and the secret sense of shame and inadequacy our ADHD has fostered
  • Acknowledging our contributions to relational conflicts from lovers to friends to colleagues and our kids
  • The dysfunctions in our management of money
  • Our checkered academic and professional histories
  • Our chronic defensiveness in the face of critical feedback
  • Our inclinations to anger and defiance
  • Our addictions, from caffeine to porn to substance abuse, gambling etc, no matter how minor or improper
  • Our conflicts with responsibility
  • The paradox of our gifts and our dysfunctions
  • Our fear of setting goals and making commitments to future endeavors
  • Our chronic forgetfulness
  • The use of sex for motivation and empowerment

Recognize any or all of these traits? Certainly, if we’re going to open ourselves to addressing these issues intentionally with other men, we will need to be able to trust one another to do so effectively. But trust takes time to develop, requiring members to commit to several sessions to make that happen. Each of us must be willing to bring the trust to the group that we want to receive. This will take some courage. We can do this.

The commitment: six sessions. The time: 6:30 to 8:30 PM every other Wednesday, starting whenever you sign up. Location: SE Denver. Cost: sliding scale, starting at $180.00 for the six sessions. Please show your interest by responding here: mailto:eric@erichornak.com. I will call you to arrange the necessary logistical details.

 

Choice and Gender: (Work in progress 9/93)

“I will not allow any son of mine to be drawn into another European war.”

Josef Hornak, my grandfather, explaining his reason for emigrating from Czechoslovakia to the U.S.A. in 1920, following four years of forced military service along the Eastern Front with the Austro-Hungarian Empire during WW I.
Twenty-five years later, sometime in the Spring of 1945–the closing months of the European Theatre of Operations of WW II, my father, Vladimir Josef Hornak, son of Josef Hornak, lands with 3,000 other American soldiers on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France.
Fall 1968, nearly fifty years later, I, Eric A. Hornak, grandson of Josef Hornak, son of V.J. Hornak, choose to refuse the draft and begin work on establishing conscientious objector status against the war in Vietnam.
Seventy three years later, August 1993, Warren Farrell heralds a New Age of gender relations by liberating the power of choice for men to become soldiers or not from the domination of the social unconscious.

I had been involved in “men’s work” for over three years when, with the publication of Warren Farrell’s The Myth of Male Power, whole new orders of implications rose before my awareness, making me feel like I’d been blind and naive despite my efforts to awaken from unconscious assumptions about sex roles and functions.
At about the same time, a rare visit with my father found us reviewing old and familiar tales from my father’s life, but from wholly new ground. As early as I can remember, the above story of my grandfather’s choice to move to America had been a familiar piece of my family history. But this time, hearing how my grandfather’s choice to remove himself from his homeland revolved around the lack of choice he faced so grievously in WWI about being a soldier, moved me to recognize how it has taken over seventy years for such a choice to become a socially conscious possibility for more than an isolated and courageous peasant.
Perhaps my memory fails me, or perhaps I was more naive and ignorant of the scope of the debate at the time, but my recollection of the heart of resistance to the draft was whether a man had the right to refuse military service or not–of whether one could determine the scope of his military service depending on his own judgment of the justness of his country’s cause in going to war. I was not all that aware at the time that I, and the other draft protestors, were also creating the possibility for myself and other men to become conscious of the way we were being run by the Warrior Archetype. Even though as a draft resistor I had to endure the opprobrium of coward and sissy for refusing automatic submission to the collective expectation to throw myself at the chance to be a real man through socially sanctioned killing, I was only specifically aware of the political disruption refusing the draft created. I did not appreciate how such a refusal struck at a deeper foundation of the social order’s (even perhaps the foundation of at least the Western, if not the more global, collective unconscious) expectations of my gender role.
This can be a very confusing issue: It is one thing to refuse the draft and another altogether to refuse to be a soldier. The one leads immediately to political expediency questions about how a society would operate if its members recognized no obligation to serve the body politic. But this is of secondary concern to the focus of the other point which asks us to step back from what has become so totally accepted as the way of things that we no longer see alternative possibilities, much less the destructive consequences to such blindness.
Actually, Warren Farrell has created nothing new in his call to reflect on our socialization of men to be killers. His contribution amounts to the slightly less miraculous act of resurrecting a near dead vision–a vision that has haunted every generation of humanity, but visits with more color, clarity and urgency upon some generations than others: the vision of a humanity at peace. It is the members of those generations who find themselves in a time of war where their future options are lost by the implacable forces of required military conscription–with its expectation to kill and risk being killed–who reflect seriously upon the peace alternative.
With the cessation of the draft following the war in Vietnam, and without any major conflicts since that might have called forth its reinstatement, nearly a generation has passed without its members having to face the prospect of a future lost to war. Along with this blessing has come the loss of a popular urgency to look more deeply at how we might create a world without war–until Farrell that is.
To help illustrate the value of his question, Farrell draws from the feminists’ war cry, “My body, my choice!” Though we are still trying to work out the implications of this demand in the areas of abortion rights and the rights of the father to the unborn child, the demand itself is accepted as valid and is reshaping our regard of women’s’ reproductive processes and the experience of women in our society. The demand arose, in great part, as a result of the advent of birth control. This singular piece of bio-technology transformed women’s’ previous biological determinism as mothers into a career option.
No such option has liberated men from the societal determinism to risk bodily maiming, mutilation or death should his country demand it of him. Which is not to say technological innovations haven’t in fact served this very point! Of all things, it is the technology of apocalyptic ruin—nuclear holocaust—that has created the ultimate obsolescence of war—society’s once favored option of killing to solve its differences with other countries. Farrell captures this turn of events concisely and lucidly when he writes, “For the first time in history the politics of love are consistent with the politics of survival.”

The Biological Roots of Men As the “Disposable Sex”

Dr. Warren Farrell’s notion of men as the disposable sex could begin at any one of the myriad points he describes in his book, The Myth of Male Power, but an intellectual double-take easily sweeps the mind when we add the medical perspective that even the sperm themselves within men’s testicles must be protected from the body’s immune system because they are considered not-self (other), that is, foreign and therefore an “enemy” to the host body.
Deadly hostility further greets the sperm when they are ejaculated for conception into a hopeful recipient. The vagina secretes acids hostile to the alkaline nature of the sperm, and over a quarter of the 200 to 350 million sperm originally ejaculated will die there. Additionally, the female immune system sends out white blood cells which attack these intruders from a foreign body, killing off additional millions of them. For protection against the acid, the sperm swim in dense bundles where those on the outside of the bundles effectively sacrifice themselves so their “brethren” may continue on. Not until they reach the cervix do the sperm receive any kind of welcoming assistance for their mission of creation. There, strands of a fluid protein are secreted by the cervix which creates tiny channels that make it easy for the sperm to swim in. Yet many sperm don’t find these strands and more die in the acidic environment.
Once through the uterus, the sperm reach another fateful moment as they divide into two groups to search the fallopian tubes where only one of which houses the waiting egg. In the tubes the sperm again engage resistive structures in the form of cilia which line the sides of the tubes. These little hair-like strands sway constantly and generate a downward current the sperm must swim mightily against.
All along the sperms’ quest enzyme inhibitors surrounding the sperm have been eroding away, but at this point, struggling against the cilia and their current, the last of the inhibitors are removed and the digestive enzyme of the sperms’ heads is exposed. This enzyme will begin its work, should it make it to the egg, of dissolving through the two nutritive layers that surround the egg and nourished it on its journey through the ovaries.
By the time the surviving sperm reach the egg, only about 50 of the original 200 to 350 million will live to compete in the final contest of fertilization, and only one will achieve that goal. In its final consummating moment, only wonder is left to us as we contemplate what it means to the sperm to finally lose its morphic integrity. First its motive tail is severed from its head as enzymatic action on the wall of the egg dissolves the tail from the sperm’s head. Then a hole seems to open in the head of the sperm, and in a final orgasmic explosion, the sperm virtually ejaculates its genetic cargo into the vast domain of the egg. The egg completes this annihilation of the sperm’s remains by absorbing its empty and lifeless husk into its protoplasmic surround.
Contrast this to the experience of the egg through-out its life: Except for the moment in which it is penetrated by the sperm, the structural integrity of its outer membrane is never violated. At the micro-level of gender developmental experience, we can see women enjoying a morphic continuity unavailable to men. Again following the old Hermetic adage “As above, so below” can such discontinuity be found at the macro-levels of male developmental processes?

Discontinuity in Male Development

As a matter of fact, discontinuity in development is a primary characteristic of male life. After its expression micro-biologically in the generation of a male child, psychologically the development of males suffers further discontinuity. Whether male or female, there is always that intrinsic differentiation from every biological organism’s original Ground, Mother, that portends great drama and trauma in the course of development. But the male child must add an additional and equivalent differentiation–that he is of different gender from that Ground. He and the Mother-Ground are fundamentally different, and where the female child may have a possible prolonging of the separation process from her Mother-Ground through semblances of similarity, the male child’s difference is irrefutable and final.
And it gets worse. This difference becomes amplified and aggravated sociologically. Most cultures expect boys and girls to handle different functions through the assignment of social roles for each sex, and certainly different self-images accrue to these roles and functions. A boy is “told” by society that he must leave his mama’s apron strings, to quit hiding (seeking protection for his natural and appropriate vulnerability) behind a skirt. “Come out and learn to handle the world on your own as men do!” is the injunction he receives from the world around him. This would be fine if there were any men to show him how to do this. But father is at work. He’s rarely around, or at least barely around enough, to model, demonstrate, or teach the youth just how and what a man is supposed to do and be.
This rude interruption of the necessary cultivation of the human child is tough for the male because he is left on his own to determine what he’s supposed to be and become. The problem of the absent father is well documented, and its implications reach right into the problem of early male disposability in gang activity. Not only have the socio-economic-political forces of our time damaged marriages in the ghettos and barrios of our inner cities where fathers end up leaving, but social programs to rescue mothers and families reward men for doing so. Furthermore, we also have the problem of pre-school and elementary educators being almost exclusively female. In his various books on the crisis of men in our society, Dr. Warren Farrell documents the systemic discrimination against men in elementary education due to fears of male sexuality. This exists in spite of innumerable statistical studies demonstrating the greater extent of female abuse of children, hidden from us, however, by our prejudices against men.
Where stereotypical attitudes towards women’s greater compassion and emotional sensitivity would lead us to believe boys would benefit from such feminine influence, research actually demonstrates school teachers’ impatience with boys’ behaviors in the classroom. Boys’ highly kinetic nature is often assessed as hyper, resulting boys getting drugged into submission to girls’ ways of learning and behaving.
Discontinuity in development continues, then, as boys lose society’s affection for childhood innocence in another unambiguous injunction society enacts in the process of shaping boys: “Don’t be a Momma’s Boy!” Instead of encouragements that would provide something positive around which they might begin molding a model of male identity, boys are told what not to be. At least along that biological fork in the road at week six the instructions of the gene code were quite positive, clear and unambiguous, barring any undue interference (any of which result in what is called in embryology a “default” to the female). Society’s absence of clarity and lack of support leave a critical gap in a man’s emotional development and constitutes a wounding-through- neglect by his society. Add to this the additional messages that for a man to talk about his wounds is effeminate and you have very few men who become conscious of their condition.
What further aggravates this latter point is the expectation of men to serve as soldiers for their country. Appropriately described as the “protector” function, generations of men have been positively and purposefully conditioned by military training to thoroughly embody these values. Psychiatrists Joel Osler Brende and Randolph Parson describe the identity shaping influence of military training in their book Vietnam Veterans: the Road to Recovery;

“The green recruit entering military service in the 1960’s painfully discovered when he first entered boot camp that he was stripped of all of the symbolic visible markings of his own identity. His clothes, hairstyle, address, property, education, and social status (unless he was an officer) vanished within a week. If he sought personal recognition, he found his only symbol of identity to be his rank and if he resisted an order, he could lose that. Thus, he was not only an impressionable 18-year-old soldier looking for a cause and a sense of identity but, bereft of any other identity, he was now receptive to the ‘indoctrination’ process providing him with a new cause and a new identity. Consequently the duly trained soldier left basic training for Vietnam fully ‘programmed’ to kill the Vietcong and stop Communism under an illusion of certainty that he was part of a just cause.”

The psychological effects of this process are essential to the effective fulfillment of the military’s function of protecting society. However, the toll it takes on the individuals (women now as well as men) involved is not the only cost. How it shapes the citizenry of a society and the values they continue to pursue following their military training and service, which in turn shape the society, can be equally devastating. Drawing from Brende and Parson again where they quote a Vietnam veteran:

“For the fist time in my life I was really good at what I did. I believed that I was fighting for my country and I would do it again. In fact, I feel like my purpose will not be completed until I go back there and fight to win or die trying.”

And let’s take it one step further to see another aspect of the loss of personal identity and its implications for a nation founded on the integrity of the individual to make positive and personally responsible political choices. Again Brende and Parson:

“Thus, the painful process of giving up the trappings of civilian status was made easier as each man developed a more intense sense of belonging to the military, that is, believing in a common ideology, learning loyalty to one another, and sharing a common purpose. In fact, being in close proximity without race or class distinctions often broke down social barriers. It created a feeling of exhilaration and liberation as close personal bonds emerged. This unique identification with comrades became fraught with new meaning. “I” became “we,” the nucleus for an identity that was prepared to fight and die together, as one unit.”
Let’s take a moment of comic relief to see this in the light of typical military humor: “After enlisting in the 82nd Airborne Division, I eagerly asked my recruiter what I could expect from jump school. ‘It’s three weeks long,’ he said. ‘What else?’ I asked. ‘The first week they separate the men from the boys,’ he said. ‘The second week, they separate the men from the fools.’ ‘And the third week?’ I asked. ‘The third week, the fools jump.’”
Anonymous quote taken from the net.

Anything relegated to the unconscious will eventually out, and usually in a terribly distorted form. Wounded as they are then, and left untreated, is it really any mystery why some men become toxic, infected and infectious in their behavior: Why men act-out mother projections onto their wives, why they seem boyish, or why they carry the opprobrium of having such fragile egos, or even why in some men the pain of the wound progresses into the darknesses of resentment, anger, perversion and violence?
Make no mistake, these comments are not meant to justify men’s limitations and crimes against women politically, economically and physically, but to trace their causes to their actual sources and to reverse the extremities of the feminist backlash against male “oppression,” which only recreates sexism in reverse.

The Acolyte

Some of the best stories we can share with one another come from that realm of experience where we all find creative genius emerge from the mysterious depths of ourselves. Let me share one of my dreams with you here where mundane experience mixed with the transcendent potential of myself and left with me with a significant teaching.

One night several years ago, I spent several hours typically immersed in the spiritual writings of the American mystic Vitvan. Just before turning in I turned on television and caught the beginning of a movie starring Burt Lancaster. It wasn’t long before I fell asleep and slipped into a dream where he starred in a movie of my own making.

As the dream opens, I am clearly three aspects at once. Just as if it were a movie, I am like a cameraman shooting high above a Sinai desert scene. It’s actually a split-screen shot. In the right screen I am a classic, ascetic-looking, desert Holy Man, very much like Charlton Heston playing Moses. Complete with long hair and beard, dressed in burlap rags, carrying a staff, and shorn in sandals, he strides with a powerful and majestic glide across the baked landscape. There is a timeless quality to his graceful and fluid movement, as if he goes through the motions of walking, but it is the landscape that passes under him. He holds his head high with a face expressing formidable strength and serenity. As him I experience unchallengeable faith, knowing and communion with all creation.

In the left screen, I am also a crowd of about thirty men and women made up of reporters and psychologists scrambling to catch up with the Holy Man so they can evaluate him and make a definitive assessment of his ostensibly divine status. The reporters intend to use their clever wits and the shrinks their “scientific” tests, but no matter how much they speed up their pace, some of them even breaking out into a jog, they can never catch up with the Holy Man. You can just imagine how the clamor of their self-important minds contrasts starkly with the open serenity of the Holy Man.

With the dream screen still split, the Holy Man reaches a dramatic change in the terrain, one that transitions from the desolate climes of the Sinai to an alpine terrain much like the foothills of our Rocky Mountains. He steps into the trees and disappears, just as the baseball players disappeared into the cornfield in the movie “Field of Dreams.” In that moment a voice-over explains that the Holy Man has “come to his land.” This doesn’t daunt the rabble of me following some distance behind. We continue to pursue him right on into the hills, and, after a short distance, we come upon a kind of encampment with a singularly commanding figure poised off to the right. Simply awesome in his magnificence, he but barely raises much more than a slight eyebrow-raising curiosity in any of my arrogant and cynical gang of pros.

But the being we behold is unique indeed. Imagine an old, WW2- vintage DC-3 transport, its wings, fuselage, and tail sections covered in feathers of every color of the rainbow, iridescent with a psychedelic luminosity. As the being breathes, his skin shivers and the colors shimmer, throwing light off itself like sunlight refracted through a crystal. Where the nose and windshield of the plane should be, the face of Burt Lancaster looks down upon us. Don’t laugh! You must remember how bold and charismatic his features could be, which perfectly fits the stature of this magnificent being.

After a very short pause for a moment of orientation, one reporter asks the being who and what it is. The being explains that he is a keeper of this gateway into “The Land.” When one of the psychologists asks if his unique appearance makes him of divine stature like the Holy Man, the being replies that, to the contrary, he is a lowly beginner, a mere acolyte, and that his assignment here at the gateway is one of his first duties as an new aspirant. One of the shrinks rushes to the front of the group saying that that is good enough for her and proceeds to explain to the being what she and her colleagues intend to do with the Master, and could she possibly test the being to see what results she might obtain. The being tries to explain that her tests are really not appropriate for a consciousness such as his because his is of such another order that these tests could not register accurate information. Naturally, our pros are not convinced and beg the being to allow them to proceed. With a gentle, stately equanimity, he says, “Sure. Suit yourselves, but you’ll see what I mean.”

The shrinks then lay out a set of cards like those of the Thematic Aptitude Test and ask him to choose three cards that impress him the most. The airplane-bird-man-being makes what sounds like his version of a chuckling noise as he repeats the word “choose,” and then promptly lifts straight up from where he is resting on his wheels. Hovering just inches over the ground, his landing gear/feet turn into bird-like claws.

To fully appreciate what happens next, you must picture the structure of a DC-3. This old plane is what’s known as a “tail dragger,” meaning it has no nose wheel. Its landing gear consists of two struts attached just behind the leading edges of the wings, which are set back from the nose several feet. The tail-wheel is very short causing the nose of the plane to point upward. In a person we would consider this the quintessential pose of the snooty and arrogant, but somehow on the DC-3 this posture gives the plane a proud but humble manner, a characteristic magnified in this mysterious being.

So, where the tires once touched the ground, his bony claws open, and as he hovers over the cards, the difference of consciousness his chuckling alludes to reveals itself. With his head so far forward of the feet, with no ability to see what they are grasping, choosing is an impossible and irrelevant function. Just so, as his feet grasp the cards, a narrator’s voice explains over the unfolding drama, “And thus when we choose, the probability vectors collapse.”

That’s all it says, but at once the drama stops, an over-screen appears showing a sunburst of many arrow-like vectors, and then in an instant all the arrows collapse into one. What follows is a sequence of thoughts elaborating on what I have just witnessed in the whole drama. Just like my own talking to myself when I’m thinking, but with an unusual clarity and authority, the teaching unfolds: “From multiple possibilities, we choose, and in so doing, we close to ourselves alternatives and thus we create the specific pathways that comprise the stories of our lives. For this being, however, there is no choosing as we do. He makes no deliberations and engages in no calculations between alternative possibilities; he just acts. His acceptance of whatever occurs— by his own actions or by whatever cause —is so great, the actions of choice have been transcended. Events flow through him. He has no need to feel himself either the cause of his reality nor the effect of it, whether the effect be benevolent or malevolent. With no need to choose, his anatomy is no longer structured for choice.” And with that I awaken.

And with that I’ll close, allowing you that ambiguous freedom provided by all our dreams to ponder what was revealed and to make of it what you will. Enjoy.

Dangerous Liaison

When exploring the limits of our human potential, we can so easily confuse a breakthrough with a breakdown. The difference lies in how we respond to critical life-junctures. I recently recovered an old journal where I wrote about such an occasion in my life. Accident or deeper design? Breakdown or breakthrough? You be the judge.

No matter how far I look up or down the beach, I can see only four people walking or gazing into the golden pink of this ending day. Millions of people behind us, and yet, only the four of us taking sanctuary here at this edge of the world. Santa Monica Beach, the western edge of Los Angeles, the “City of Angels,” at Evening Tide. Mesmerized, I watch the sun lower itself into the sea like a weary worker settling into his favorite chair at the end of a day’s toils, its slowly fading radiance illuminating wispy clouds transformed into diaphanous bodies and wings.
With such angelic splendors above, the sea stretches below, promising in its unfathomable depths a complete cleansing of my diverse torments. Together, sea, sky and sand combine to fashion a sanctuary infused with powers of mythic proportions. There’s no small touch of irony here, too. The roiling waves of the Pacific frighten most people. For me only the wave-hands of the sea are powerful enough to massage away the kinks of my soul.
Ahhh. Mara. Mara Pacifica, Sea-Goddess of Peace. For me the sea-masseuse, the ultimate massage therapist. What an office! She certainly has Her own technique. She doesn’t lay her hands on me. No–I must lay me in them, totally, utterly, and with no ordinary surrender. This one demands that I dance with inner and outer elements of timing and balance, strength and gravity, flow and surge. And then there’s undertow; that most well known threat from the play of land and sea. It’s the ocean’s version of vertigo, compelling in its pull from under where cliffs on mountain sides beckon with a pulling-over. But it’s not as if the ocean is without its own cliffs, which demand skillfully, controlled falling, too.
So irresistible in the pinkish splendor of a smog-tinged sunset reflecting off the wet iridescence of her waves, Mara calls me like a Siren. I know well how She works. To get the best treatment I have to wade out to where Her body envelops me over my head and tread steadily within Her until She swells to just the right peak. I must then turn, and with practiced timing and strength, swim right with Her urgency to glide down Her silky power just ahead of its curling, crushing, roiling frenzy. Then, just before She is spent, I come into the foamy end-spume of that wave-journey where lie the gentle urgings of Her own massive stirrings, now released into soothing caresses of my puny form.
Enough power remains on some days to throw me around, more or less violently, in a kind of vigorous Swedish rubdown. Other times, most times, She plays with me more like the tossing and wrestling of a loving father with child. But always there is the healing, relieving knowing at this point that it is over as she delivers me upon the shore. I can choose at this point to continue to lie in Her spent spume where Her coming and going only splash harmlessly, sandily, deliciously salty. But that’s never for me. Our strugglings together always leave me excitedly finished, and I run, if not back out to Her for another round, then with a renewed vigor back into the city, the voices of turmoil quiet for awhile. Hope once again pumps excitedly through my muscles and refreshes my mind as I seek to find some way to express this reborn me in that denser realm of the land and the city’s collective sea of mind.

That’s how it was for a long time. Then one evening, I went to Her complacent, and maybe a little arrogant. I could see the clouds coming and feel in the growing chilly breeze that Sky was having His own way upon Her that evening. Mara’s aggravation showed in Her treatment of the beach. The fingers of Her wave-hands were coming straight down in forceful proddings of that sandy flesh, the kind that reshape the shoreline for several days into steep slopings downward into Her domains. I was seeing only from the corner of my awareness, though. I wasn’t paying Her proper attention, and I took my machismo intensity of that evening into Her.
Already an ill-omened Friday the 13th, Mara’s swells felt colder than usual. But I ignored that discomforting warning, too. After struggling around a short while, trying to match Her mood and realizing we’d not be able to achieve simpatico this time, I prepared to ride one of Her cresting, long traveled stirrings back to ground. I knew something was wrong when at the height of Her urge, I looked down a near vertical wall of water. More than vertical— actually, it was like being poised atop a yogini’s sucked-in abdomen. That wall of water was concave as it reared up, pulling the floor of the beachhead below into raw, sandy exposure, preparing to pile drive me into bloody, bony smithereens.
How’d I get here? How could I be so careless after so much time with Mara and Her moods? Obviously, something else was happening. Something within me. Mara had Sky moving Her out of sorts. What was moving me? Because, hell, I knew how to abort at this point by bringing my feet down and forward while paddling furiously to get back into the body of the wave where I could ride its cushioning mass protectively down into the crushing maelstrom to follow. But no. Headlong I continued. Two ardent strokes of my arms and then my right arm thrust forward to propel me as if I could speed my body suspended across the concave surface to safety where the curl was only beginning to form. My strength only served to pull me over the top of the wave, just ahead of the weight of the water. For a moment there was a strange feeling of something absent, a being poised in non-space and no-time. Almost completely free of the water, falling not in the embrace of Mara’s substance, but alone, I fell out of touch with Her, ahead of Her, with a kind of fatalistic exuberance as my own strength combined with Hers into a plunge that would wake me up, transform my life, and nearly ruin me.
A brief timelessness later my head smashed into the sand, slamming the breath out of me and shattering the darkness of my closed eyes with an explosion of white-light pain. I immediately surrendered into Mara’s turbulent writhings as Her wall of water crashed upon me, roiling me and boiling me, throwing me over and over and over. With each roll I instinctively softened, letting the water have its way with my body. It kept me deep, and I began to feel a growing panic wondering how long before I could drive my feet downward to the bottom to rocket me up for a desperate gulp of air. Mara returned to our ritual about this time, and soon rolled me to my feet, the water just below my neck, and delivered me back to shore. The pain in my left clavicle began to grow. Fearing it broken and soon to explode again as the shock of my session with Mara wore off, I used the momentum of Her fading push towards shore to help me walk to my towel, bend gingerly to pick it up, and make my way to the van. Fearful of what we had done together this time, I drove timidly home, the voices of turmoil once again gnashing away—this time riled by no abstract issues of mind, but by very physical cries of uncertain damage to my physical ground.
Whatever was broken physically, emotionally I felt shattered by the end of my innocent play with Mara. Now psychological crosscurrents and undertow began to pull me under. Feeling abandoned by Her, a galling embarrassment also called me to responsibility for the arrogance I brought to this day’s play. Mine had been a very secretive affair with Mara. Outwardly I looked very much the heroic male, taking on Mara’s stirrings each and every day no matter how cold or how rough the sea. Only I knew how I hid in her embrace; how her physical dangers helped me dissociate from my own inner struggles. I’d always known the stakes. I knew what I sought from Mara day in and day out. My arrogance had finally cost me the omnipotence an innocent seeks from false union with a goddess.

Turned out it was my neck, not my collarbone. And how appropriate, the connecting link between those ten pounds of muddled mass and a body overflowing with muscular exuberance. It’s a risky business seeking succor from a Goddess, and Goddess healings have their own time and go their own ways. Mine required a God of Medicine, a Neurosurgeon, to complete my repair. And like Mara, His treatment plan went beyond the physical and demanded my psyche step in and do its share.
After an impeccable fusion of bone taken from my hip and inserted between my sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, He came in to check on me the morning after surgery. Big as a god, He loomed over my bed, His thick jet-black hair crowning a head set with a face cut with indomitable confidence. So strong and perfectly scaled, His sheer physicality withered any attempt to escape His commanding presence. He had the voice of authority to match, and He used it on me with full effect. Looking down from on high as I lay there braced not to move while His artistry in spinal sculpting set, He said, voice oozing the righteous sarcasm only a god can use to humiliate one to become greater, “What a waste. Every advantage: health, education, intelligence, love and look what you’ve been doing with it. Let me tell you young man what it’s all about. Service. Service. And don’t forget it. Don’t waste this. Complete your healing, then get out of here and serve.” With that, He turned and walked out.
He was right of course. Oh, I still have my litany of justifications, but they wither before His specter over my bed. Indulgence can take on many forms and be insidiously hard to see, but between them, my Healers have begun to heal my bodymind and provide me new opportunity to learn to contain my youthful avoidance and wildness. Mara frightened me that evening, and I know it will take a long time before I approach Her again. Surely His strike that morning with a lightening bolt charged with responsibility and integrity will take its own time to unfold into a greater Wholeness.

Now, here it is, twenty seven years later, and I find my place and peace land-bound in the Rockies, no longer adrift when upon the land, no longer seeking succor within the margins along the edges of the world. Oh, I still surf, but now I surf the shorelines of the body-mind. I “dry-land” swim as the Chinese characterize T’ai Chi Ch’uan, but that’s only the shoreline of a larger landscape I serve. Yes, serve. For I retain my lessons learned that evening… and that morning, too, so many years ago.

Did It Stop When You Did?

Thought I’d give you some time before talking with you further about your pause time. How did it go? Did you take the time at all or just let it be another reading experience? If the latter, it could be a good example of how hard it is to stop, pause, center and “reboot.”

It is so important at this point to not go into judgment of yourself, the exercise… or even me! Yes, the mind can be that jealous of its activity that it will displace responsibility in so many ways. So, OK. That’s just the “what it is” we’re dealing with.

So what can we do next? My inclination is not to revert to the conventional cries for more discipline. No, I’d follow the T’ai Chi principle of “Four ounces can move a thousand pounds.” I’d soften in the face of this resistance to simply stop and be.

I suggest beginning by moving out of your chair and maybe even the whole space you’ve been reading this in. Next, make a cup of tea or coffee. Find a new seat, somewhere that welcomes you to gaze outside, or if on a patio, look around and actually see the natural world around you in all its detail. Nurture yourself and the moment with the warmth and comfort of a satisfying “cuppa.”

Wherever you choose to sit, turn your attention to your sensate experience in the moment. Feel your muscles relax as you settle into your seat. Now don’t take this simple action for granted! Really and honestly attend to the sensations of your muscles. These sensations are so immediate (if you will actually feel them) and so pleasurable they move your shift of focus and relaxation instantly. Attend closely to which muscles relax the most and let your attention join them. Add the warmth of the cup in your hands and the pleasure of its flavor as you sip and swallow. If it’s caffeinated, try and feel for its very first stirring and follow it as it brings new energy to you.

And yes. Breath consciously. Recovering the feeling of the regeneration each breath brings to your life can be a mental and emotional renewal as well. Take a few deep ones to make those feelings vivid. Attend to the cycle of inhale and exhale. You’ll refresh your mind and sooth conflicted emotions and feelings.

Now slowly close your eyes and really open your ears. Listen closely to hear each and every single sound in your environment. Don’t let a single one capture and hog your attention. Hear one then move on to another, then another and on and on. Next, listen for the qualities of each sound; its timbre, volume and energy. Listen even more closely. Imagine you’ve stepped into a conversation between all the elements in the environment around you; as though you can listen to the chat between the trees and the grass, and what the air has to say to all it embraces. Listen to the wind’s caress as it blows across all things. Listen, listen, lissssennnn.

Now listen to all the sounds at once. Hear every single sound you inventoried. All…at…once. Hold them all in your full field of awareness. Feel the space left over in your awareness. Always room for another sound. Now listen to the space in-between and all around your sounds. Hear the silence of those spaces; feel the quietude that silence brings. Savor its effect on your body. The quietude slips into peace. Let the breath take in this peace. It’s subtly is its power to affect you deliciously.

Now, slowly open your eyes and look out into the world before you. Give it a good scan and actually inventory all you can see. Nothing is too unimportant for the gentle acknowledgement of your gaze. Yes, make it a soft seeing, one where you imagine the object comes to your eyes and touches them gently and your eyes return the caress. See them all in their separateness, not letting any one capture your gaze for too long. And after this visual inventory, see them all at once. Hold all things in your visual field of awareness all at once.

Now see your seeing. All things become seen as IN your visual field but don’t fill it entirely to block your seeing. Your seeing envelopes them, and to see any one becomes a functional choice—a chosen shift in the way you see. As you see this way, you become aware of the space before you too. Space itself becomes a feature of your seeing. You can see space’s own containment of all things, just like your seeing sees them all plus space itself. Notice how you’re free to choose what you want to look at. No thing demands your focus.

And now I’m sure you’re expecting me to suggest you watch the grass grow. Well yeah, but with the spin of maybe just feeling into its aliveness. All things before you are dynamic, no matter how hard or dense, and so many are alive and in relationship with each other, as we’ve been reminded by ecologists. And you are in relationship with them. You are not separate from them; just watching them. No, you changed the scene and the dynamics of all things there the moment you stepped out to be with them. You are irrevocably included…unless you shift your focus and put yourself separate from them. That’s a real perception and one that can aid your time-out and reconnection with yourself and your place in the world. You do belong.

This moment is all about you, all about your giving yourself a chance to open to the openness of awareness itself. It gives you the space to let new, more pleasurable and positive thoughts arise; ones that may bring new insights and remind you of more of who you are than you’ve allowed to come out and play.

All right and OK, enough reading these suggestions. Leave this page and employ the words. It will serve us all.

It Won’t Stop If You Don’t

I’m talking here again about the need to Pause in your life, if just for moments. Between myself, my friends and my clients, I’ve recently noticed how even those of us who know better have not been taking time-outs to release ourselves from our compulsive actions and thoughts. And the obvious truth is, actions and thoughts won’t stop of themselves. We’ve got to choose to do it.

But you can’t very well choose when you’re not aware you even have a choice, right? The automaticity of our habits of thoughts, actions and worldly demands arise and weave themselves into such a tight—what—Maitrix, of course, that it takes a rupture of some sort to break that Maitrix’s spell.

What kind of rupture? Well, like this moment right now. My very words are calling you to attend to your automaticity and….pause. Go ahead. Choose. Take this moment. Take some breaths…conscious ones that you really feel. Look out the window. No matter the view, you’ll break your visual trance. But don’t stop listening. No. Listen exquisitley to EVERY single sound in your environment RIGHT NOW. Don’t ignore even one! Savor each and every one you can hear. And then listen to them all at once.

Choose. It will stop if you will. I’m stopping my writing so you can stop reading and pause…now.

Creating the “Ecology of Change”

One of the most helpful insights from my coaching instructor Roger DeWitt is his notion of  “the ecology of change.” It provides a great way to ground my clients’ change processes with fundamental structures of understanding and practice. Thinking of the client’s self-system as an ecosystem comprised of both inner and outer resources, I marshal their awareness of these two poles of the self and coordinate them to ensure successful change.

To apply this insight most effectively in our work together, it is helpful for my clients and me to remember three of the most fundamental, structural understandings we establish in our work from the beginning:

1.  ADHD is not about character, but about one of our most intrinsic structures—our nervous system— and its challenges for meeting a social environment generally not receptive to its modes of operation. ADDers are measured at only about 10% of the population, which means that our social institutions from education to work performance standards and processes have been designed around the nervous system of the majority of people (often referred to as “Neurotypicals”).  Metaphorically, this makes ADDers  like left-handers in a right-handed world; it’s really hard to fit in! We extend this insight of, “it’s biology not character,” by further dispelling the cultural myth and internalized belief that we must draw upon our inner resources only to effect the changes we seek in our lives. This is simply not true. We all, Neurotypicals and ADDers alike, live in an environment surrounded by forces outside ourselves, from people to things that, if arranged and coordinated properly, can complement our own inner capacities and help assure our success.

2.  Identify where and how the client’s ADHD shows up in their lives: What is the nature of their attention patterns; in what situations are they compromised and in which are they strong? Knowing this helps us to better align their inner and outer environments.

3.  Differentiating the client’s own authentic values from those of the culture outside them. Like a ripening walnut whose inner meat pulls away from its outer shell, the client must learn to  “individuate” by wresting and condensing their own agency from their cultural surroundings comprised of rules, roles and values of family, friends and authorities who taught them their value sets of “shoulds.” Establishing the difference between the values a client really knows are their own, versus those they simply took on as “shoulds” from outside authorities growing up, is always a profoundly liberating insight.

This dance with the client’s interior world (their subjective processes) with the external environment of cultural values, beliefs, customs and expectations, as well as the physical aspects of home, family, friends, office, work mates, employer etc., continues as we identify other ways to bring the inner and outer worlds together in practices that harmonize the two.

Typically I use the following five structural support methods I learned from my coach academy to do this:

1.  Clear the decks

2.  New practices to guarantee follow through

3.  Establishing healthy habits of body and mind for greater effectiveness

4.  Identifying the client’s work pace and building in appropriate cycles of work and rest

5.  Negotiate/coordinate with family and employers for cooperation with all of the needs above

Let me round-out each one:

1.   Clearing the decks:

    1. Time:  The mind works at near light-speed, but the body and the whole world of matter much more slowly. It takes time for the impulse of change to move through our muscles and interact with the environment. In making change, taking time into account is of the essence. We must make/take the time necessary for this work. To do this, the client and I will go to the client’s calendar to see when they will commit the time for it.
    2. Significant others:  The client notifies family members, school counselors, office managers and colleagues of the plans for change so space and time is coordinated and these folks don’t become obstacles to the plan. An additional benefit is that such notification of the client’s intentions serves as a great reinforcement for the client to follow through on their intentions.
    3. The workspace: Whether at home or at the office, one invaluable support for a client’s success (especially ADDers) is an ordered and organized workspace.

2.   New practices to guarantee follow through: This structure requires some creativity. For this, I found the book Following Through by Steven Levinson, PhD and Pete Greider, M.Ed. to be an invaluable source for strategies and techniques to follow through on intentions. Examples:

    1. Creating compelling reasons to follow through: If you won’t act on something for the right reason, find a reason that compels you to follow through. Identify someone whose positive regard for you is terribly important to you. Tell them of your intention so that failure to do it is too embarrassing.
    2. Strike While The Iron is Hot: Take action the moment you identify something you want to do. Don’t give the intention time to cool.
    3. Going Too Far: When you find yourself wanting to resist an urge to eat chocolate, this strategy allows you not to fight the urge, but to make a deal with yourself that if you’re going to eat one, you must eat five. This makes the intention to quit stronger than the urge to indulge by amplifying the harm you recognize the chocolate causes your body.
    4. Utilizing alerting devices to remind you of your intention to fulfill a goal: Use a watch alarm, your computer screen saver or a program that will send you regular messages, or employ your Smart Phone alerting capabilities. While the authors prescribe this for everyone, we certainly know its value for ADDers with working memory challenges.
    5. Leading the Horse to Water: With any identified task, first simply show up to do the task with the permission to quit. With this release from the pressure to do the task, being there to do it makes starting easier, and once started with permission to quit at any time, the inclination to complete can grow.

These are just five strategies the authors of Following Through offer to make it too difficult to fail to follow through on your intentions. They are worth studying and practicing on your self to feel their convincing effectiveness. Understanding my clients’ ways of attention helps them identify the most effective strategy in any given instance.

3.   Establishing healthy habits of body and mind for greater effectiveness: The structure outlined above will make this support system more effective, as it pertains to establishing such things as regular exercise for physical and mental health. Brain scientists have clearly shown how invaluable exercise is for ignition and sustained attention in ADDers. The authors of Following Through also emphasize how essential fulfilling intentions are for knowing one’s effectiveness in the world, and how not fulfilling even the smallest of intentions creates a powerful pattern of erosion of one’s confidence and self-esteem.

4.   Identifying the client’s work pace and building in appropriate cycles of work and rest: Once again, knowing the client’s attention patterns is crucial for supporting their effectiveness. Distractibility and impulsiveness can be barriers to attention if the client tries to stay on task beyond their ability to resist outer distractions or inner impulses.

5.   Negotiate/coordinate with family and employers for cooperation with all of the needs above: Another way of describing this support is establishing “functional fit” with the external world. There are several facets to it:

    1. Commitments to family and work can become severe barriers to a client’s intentions if they don’t enlist the support of these others to help make time and space for the client’s efforts. It pays not to begin a commitment for change that doesn’t have a chance to succeed if there are already too many commitments to family situations or work projects.
    2. Overcoming the notion that one must do it alone. Enrolling others for support can provide further creative insights and strategies.
    3. Otherwise known as the “Buddy System,” enrolling companionship as one engages the tasks for fulfilling a goal can assist in keeping one on task, if not also getting help with the task.

Establishing structure for the client’s success means identifying, marshaling and aligning the inner and outer resources of the self’s ecosystem. My coaching relationship with my clients is one of their already precious and engaged resources, and an encouragement to recognize they’ve decided to reach out and garner support from their outer world. The supports we find together become foundational features of their reinvented selves, their world and the space of interaction between the two.