USM Tribute

 I grew up HUGELY externally focused; my mother was exacting and unforgiving. So from an early age, when I was present enough to contemplate my impending actions, I naturally vetted everything I did from the viewpoint of how my mother would perceive what I was attempting. Sometimes, I chose correctly, and, in the vast sea of “not good enough,” there were exhilarating instances of praise, if short-lived.

As I grew older, I transferred that power over me to others: my younger sister, peers, dates, my wife, and even my daughter at times. This adaptation led to external approval, which then translated into a sense of enhanced self-worth. Unfortunately, this was not feeling worthy of my true self, but my adaptations, my false self.

I have not thoroughly examined my external referencing origins, but it was undoubtedly instilled by my mother’s Germanic, Roman Catholic, narcissistic, and Scorpio parenting style! It was not until I attended the University of Santa Monica (USM) to obtain my master’s of Spiritual Psychology in my early 50s that I learned to honor and celebrate my true self. To allow my heart to be my cheerleader, guide, and champion, what a concept!

While I do receive accolades now for my therapy sessions, writings, and even projects around the house, they no longer are the end-all, be-all. Each one is appreciated and heartening, but I accept praise and Love from me in even greater abundance. In mid-July, after my birthday, this culminated in the most glorious recognition I have yet encountered.

I was trimming my goatee, as I do periodically, and severely gapped myself. I still do not know how it happened; I have been doing this for thirty years without ever cutting so profoundly, but as I looked at the “Grand Canyon” on my upper lip, nothing happened. I did not cuss, get upset, or, worse, criticize myself.

There was a moment of disbelief and then another moment of wondering what to do, and that was it. Even now, in recounting the incident, I want to cry; I am so happy. I trimmed my beard down to a four-day-old stubble and went on with my life. The old Wade would have been apoplectic over what others would think; so far, only my wife has commented!

This one incident encapsulates four powerful lessons I learned at USM. The first, positive projection, is a bit round-about. Projections in psychology are when people attribute to others what is unconscious in their psyche, commonly called our shadow. An example is when we criticize others for what we do not want to see in ourselves; almost everything we condemn in others comes from our shadow side. As Ram Dass states, “What you meet in another being is the projection of your own evolution.”

Unlike traditional psychology programs, USM also teaches “positive projections.” We cannot see and appreciate excellence in others if we do not have that potential. Almost all the books we read at USM spoke to gaining authenticity, mastery, and equanimity. The Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle, and others encapsulate these great concepts, but my obtaining these qualities, yeh, right!

As time passed, even though I continued to work on becoming my authentic self, I forgot about the premise of positive projections. And yet, there I stood after “scalping” my upper lip, nonplussed. The old Wade would have argued that I had just matured, lost my vanity, etc.; is that not the definition of becoming more authentic, to lose what defined the old Wade? Our authentic selves are precisely like Michelangelo’s statues; he stated, “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”

The next lesson was incremental achievements or the Three-Foot Toss. There was a game (a game-changer for me!) one weekend where stakes were laid out in three-foot intervals. We each had six rings to toss onto a stake, and scoring was the number of rings thrown onto a stake, times the stake’s distance.

The further the stake, the more challenging it was to toss a ring onto it despite the higher score. While a very few did score big on distant stakes, those who easily cast all six rings onto the stake only three feet away consistently scored the highest! That is my life’s achievements in a game!

While I consistently work on my issues, scoring many three-foot tosses, the flip side is I often do not see my progress nor my successes until something happens to highlight how far I have traveled. My equanimity after gapping my mustache was a HUGE ah-ha moment that spotlighted my incremental but steady growth.

The third concept was “Stackers.” That was USM’s term for our subconscious, which continues to challenge us to release old habits and actions that no longer serve us. If we find ourselves getting angry at someone or something (usually stemming from a developmental issue in our childhood), Stackers will ensure we keep running into that person, or another like them, until we heal our anger.

USM also postulates that, even after we have healed, Stackers will sometimes throw a situation at you to see if you have, indeed, become more authentic. Ram Dass has another beautiful quote on this subject, “If you think you are so enlightened, go and spend a week with your parents.”

When a client states that they want to get rid of a tendency that no longer serves them, I counsel them that they first incorporated that protection as a child to be safe and that it just no longer serves them as an adult. Rather than eliminating that defense, we change its focus to help them in an adult world. I seem to have done that with my Stackers; they no longer throw old situations at me to determine if I have genuinely healed but to bring to my attention all the three-foot tosses that have repaired my inauthenticity!

And, finally, Love (yes, with a capital “L”). We are talking unconditional Love; Love for the beloved without expectations from the beloved. The culmination of this Love is when we, too, count ourselves amongst the beloved!

While we covered Love extensively, I do not remember if the following specific concept came from USM, but I have no doubt it was discussed. I counsel many mothers who give their all for their family, that they cannot genuinely Love their family members if they do not provide the same Love to themselves. They need to be a co-equal recipient of their generosity!

USM teaches that when we lose our natural state of Love, we become fearful, and then as the fear metastasizes, anger erupts. Rumi offers the solution to our rage and despair, “Your task is not to seek Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” For me, this incident with my razor confirmed the unconditional Love that I now have for myself. In this area! And now, onto the next psychological issue to conquer!

On the acknowledgment page of my dissertation, I wrote that my journey to authenticity had been an “E-Ticket” ride, a reference to how Disneyland used to price its most entertaining and exhilarating rides. And that ride hit warp speed at the University of Santa Monica. My journey has not been easy nor quick, but it has been uplifting and infinitely compassionate and rewarding.

I will close with two more quotes that encapsulate my life’s journey through this fabulous incident. The first is from a Michael Martin Murphey’s song about a country-western dance, “The two-step is easy, but the first step is hard.” And lastly, from my Ashtanga teacher, K. Pattabhi Jois, about yoga philosophy, “One percent theory, 99% practice.” Happy practicing!

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Let’s Talk Hate…

I am always amazed at the way people talk and the way in which they use words. Add in hyperbolized and selective usage and there is an excellent chance the speaker is, at best, negating what they are trying to say or, at worst, being a hypocrite. These days, hate is used quite a bit and, in my opinion, in an incorrect way. Now it is all over the news.

First, what is hate? Is it an emotion, a feeling, a thought, or a state of being? It can be all of these, but the one thing they have in common is these descriptions of hate stem from a mental construct. I hate lima beans, insects, bats, negative people, etc.; these express your opinion that you have possibly formed from experience. However, is it true? As Shakespeare stated in Hamlet, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

So in the above example, hating lima beans as an adult might be that lima beans interact with your palate in a way that is unpleasant. That is an observation, not a judgment; but do you “hate” lima beans or just find them disagreeable? Also, ask yourself if you have objectively and with full attention evaluated lima beans in the last five years; remember, our palate is always changing.

What if you came into contact with lima beans, insects, and bats (or heard stories about them) as a child and determined you disliked then without actually giving them a chance. Children do this quite often over new foods, experiencing an automatic “yuck” simply because the parent wants them to try it. Children are also notorious for determining they “hate” a new food without even tasting it!

And then, our minds can change in an instant; this might be because we taste a formerly disliked food prepared a different way before realizing it is what we were supposed to hate! Peer pressure is also a huge determinant. Look at the diversity of behaviors when children react to many things; some play with spiders, other will run screaming. Seeing their best friend do something they thought they “hated” could push children to try, and possibly like, something they shunned.

Some think hate is the opposite of love; again, this comes from when we are very young children, and our brains think only in black/white. So when a child has to do something her mom says that the child does not want to do, they tend to say, “I hate you!” We can all probably agree that the child does not truly hate her mom; it is merely a go-to expression that articulates her dislike.

I think the opposite of love is indifference. We see children all the time trying to get their parent’s attention; if positive things do not work, they will do what the parent “hates,” as even bad attention is better than no attention. But this still falls under judgment, what one parent hates, another can love.

Now there is another word that I feel is frequently applied incorrectly. I remember my daughter at about three saying, “If you get me that (fill in the blank), I will love you forever!” Love can also be a state of mind (judgment) or a state of being. So now, like so often when I blog, we are getting into the nit-picky weeds! But those nuances around words are where the subtle energy lays. If I say, “I love ice cream!” would anyone think I am equating ice cream with my love for my spouse, my daughter, or granddaughter?

When I hear a client say he loves his spouse/partner, I ask questions because I do not know his frame of reference with that word. Is it love (lust, companionship, how it makes him feel) or is it Love, he reveres them and only wants for them? Is it Love like Robert Tizon states, “I would rather have eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, lips that cannot speak, than a heart that cannot love.”

That is where I feel the word “hate” gets misused these days. I like to look at issues as being on a line; where on the intensity line does it fall? I would think that most of us would say that hating lima beans and hating a murderer denote different points on the intensity line. And yet, any hatred, these days, seem to be homogenized, notwithstanding their disparate impact.

Why has the nation devolved into infantile black/white thinking? Why is it so hard to compartmentalize our feelings? My dad is a wonderful dad and also a bigot. Out of earshot of other (mostly), he still uses the “N” word. Every time, I feel udder disdain and call him on it. And yet he consistently received the Teacher of the Year Award from students in an inner city, poor high school teaching black and Hispanic (yes, he has a word for them also) students that he championed to excel. By not allowing something I loathe about my dad become all consuming, I can pigeonhole some things he does, and I can love him for all the amazing things he has done and continues to do for me.

When I was pursuing my master’s in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica, we were taught that when we feel bereft of being Loved in some aspect of our life, we feel fear. When we live in that fear long enough, we become angry and retaliate.

This hate quandary is where Charlottesville falls. So the neo-Nazis and white supremacists get a legal permit to march and do so, spewing their intolerance. Gross, but protected free speech. Antifa then shows up in masks and with clubs (without a permit to march) and attack the neo-Nazis who, it turns out, also have weapons. Where on the “hate line” do both these groups fall? Are they not the flip side of the same coin? As John Lennon said many years ago, “We live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.”

Hate is hate. You cannot attack hate with more hate; this will only increase the level of hatred. Further, when we enter into an agreement with others to hate, our greater numbers further magnify that hatred. Hoards of angry folks will commit atrocities that many of the individuals would never do on their own. Agree with others to apply Love, and the same magnification occurs!

Don’t believe me? I offer two powerful examples where Love overcame hate… Gandhi and Martin Luther King; using peaceful demonstrations are what Cuba’s Women in White are doing now. We laud their accomplishments and peaceful protests, acting in the spirit of Love! We revel in how, with persistence and non-violence, they succeeded (or, with the Women in White, are trying to succeed). Why then do we persist in opposing hate with hate?

Words and the actions that follow have meanings; since everything in this universe is made up of energy, so do those meanings. Mother Teresa was asked to join an anti-war rally, and she declined, saying (and I paraphrase) she would, however, march for peace. This example points to a huge distention and pays homage to the meaning and energy behind words.

Worse, this undifferentiated, black/white hated is invading all aspect of our lives. I read an article recently where a yoga instructor said, “I get angry at the way yoga seems synonymous with whiteness, spiritual bypassing, and cultural appropriation.” Wow, did we study different yoga courses to become instructors? Her supposition may be correct (I wholly disagree), but why would she respond with anger? The yoga teachings I received and practice stress Love, oneness, and unity. I feel the same when I read some postings by my USM classmates, did we study the same spiritual psychology based on Love?

In every minute, we have a choice, are we responding to life with Love or are we responding in fear or anger? Are we going to be a beacon of a light of Love shining on anger and hate, or are we going to add to the level of fear and hatred? And do not be fooled, while the intensity of wielding a baseball bat against another human and writing of feeling angry with a person is different, it is a matter of adding a few hundred dollars to darkness or adding a few cents.

I am sometimes accused of being “Woo-Woo” when it comes to this energy of words and living in Love stuff. Well, then I am in good company; another John Lennon quote, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”

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Stay single until…

A yoga instructor I know posted on Facebook a list of positive qualities to look for in a guy before deciding to marry him. We became friends while in the same Ashtanga certification class and I would see her from time to time either in the studio or her place of work. She is still single and dating, so I can see why this speaks to her.

Checking the source, I realize I have seen some of this website’s ( other postings on Facebook, but I had not checked any out until now. For the most part, I agree with most of the list; maybe this is showing a bias against millennial (and Gen Ys) guys, but if a guy does even half these things, he is probably a keeper!

The qualities are:

  1. Stay single until you meet a guy who opens every door you walk through.
  2. Stay single until you meet a guy who makes sure you walk on the inside of the sidewalk away from the street.
  3. The guy who holds your hand shamelessly and will kiss you in public.
  4. Stay single until you meet a guy who wants to bring you home to his parents.
  5. Stay single until you meet the guy whose friend’s already know about you before you meet them.
  6. Stay single until you meet the guy who will drop whatever to be wherever you need him.
  7. The guy who says, “text me when you’re home safe,” and stays up until he knows you are.
  8. Stay single until you meet the guy you’d proudly introduce to your father.
  9. The one who doesn’t try and change you.
  10. The guy who always texts back no questions asked.
  11. Stay single until you meet a guy who doesn’t have time for games and is brutally honest always.
  12. The one who pulls you close in public and kisses your forehead.
  13. Stay single until you meet the guy pays out of respect for you and doesn’t let you touch your wallet.
  14. Stay single until you meet the guy who keeps his word.
  15. The one who knows when to apologize when he’s wrong.
  16. The one who sends you flowers to your office, just because.
  17. The guys who sends sweet texts in the middle of the meeting he knows you’re stressing over.
  18. Stay single until you meet the guy who makes you want to be a better woman.
  19. The one who motivates you to achieve more and be better.
  20. Stay single until you meet a guy who is sure of you and never makes you doubt how he feels.
  21. The one who is certain of you and his career and a future he wants you apart of.
  22. The one who says I love you first just because he wants you to know.
  23. Stay single until you meet the guy who never stops trying to keep you.
  24. Because he knows getting you wasn’t the hard part but constantly giving you a reason to stay is what you deserve.
  25. Stay single until you meet the guy who makes you feel more beautiful just standing beside him.
  26. The one who still gives you butterflies when you walk in a room.
  27. Stay single until you meet the guy who makes you not want to be.
  28. The one who changes the standard you once had and suddenly no one can compare.
  29. Stay single until you meet the guy you can’t live without.
  30. Until then. Stay single.

Naturally, I have some comments on a few of these and would add a couple more!

  1. I encourage clients to refrain from using words like “every,” “none,” “always,” “never,” etc. I do not know the author but have heard “Always, and Never statements are always false!” Every door! So a guy ticks off 99% of this list and forgets to open one door and you supposed to dump him; I do not think so! I also think this applies to everyone, a nice courtesy to a fellow traveler on Earth.
  2. Wow, that is an oldie, but goodie. I remember my dad telling me this 50 years ago!
  3. & 4., 5. Yes!
  4. Come on. Drop something unimportant for him and very important to you, yes. Otherwise whatever he is doing should be considered just as important to him as what you want to do is important for you.
  5. & 8. Yes!
  6. Yes and vice-versa! There is an adage that women marry men with a list they want to change in him, and men marry women thinking they will never change; both are so wrong!
  7. Yes!
  8. Here we go with “always” again! And what is with the word “brutally?” Honesty, yes, yes, yes; brutally, a big no! Many guys think that “softening” the truth (still a lie!) will make it easier on the relationship when the opposite is true. Bad news gets worse with time. However, in love, the truth is not brutal. In love, hurtful truths need kindness, understanding, and no expectation on how it will be received. The truth might still shatter a relationship, but truth wins more often than not.
  9. Yes!
  10. Another blast from the past. Today’s women do not need taking care of; they are quite capable of doing this for themselves. Money can be a HUGE issue in relationships, but only because it is not usually discussed until there are problems. Just talk about who is paying for what before going out, but do not allow the relationship to degrade into an accounting ledger!
  11. & 15. Yes!
  12. & 17. Mostly yes! Sending flowers to her home is one of life’s few absolute “yeses!” But to work, forgo the surprise and ask first to ensure it is appropriate. Same with texting during a meeting, this can be very inappropriate. He will give the same boost doing it before the meeting and then again afterward.
  13. & 19., 20. Yes!
  14. Mostly yes! Again, this is an area relationships may have problems if not discussed early on and revisited as situations change. Most guys are internal processors, to whom the five worst words are “Honey, we need to talk!” External processing and negotiating when the issue is not hot will usually allow for a smooth relationship journey.
  15. – 25. Mostly yes!
  16. Yes and… Relationships are like a warm fire; both sides need to fed, stoked, and nurture that fire to keep it burning.
  17. & 28. Yes!
  18. Yes and… This sounds romantic, and I am parsing words here, but words have meanings. What if your guy dies, are you really going to not go on living? Feel like it, yes, but not literally.

Oh, and ladies, do the same for him; each of you is 100% responsible for your 50% of the relationship, so don’t think he can carry the whole load. One last pet peeve of mine (I can be so old fashion sometimes!): Guys, ask what your date is wearing and match her effort! I am amazed at the number of young ladies I see on dates “dressed to the nines” with a fellow in a T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Have a little pride in yourself and show respect for your dates! I know, I know, now I am judging!

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Heaven or Hell?

It has been a while since I wrote on my blog, partly because we’ve been moving which both sucked up all the available spare time and partly because there was so much going on that I encountered what I have affectionately termed “moving mind!” Luckily, we have now been stable long enough that I can get back to my writing. One other note, probably more to myself since I don’t believe I actually have any readers for this blog, I’m going to allow my writing to become a little more “edgy.” Up until now, I have stayed somewhat professorial in my writings; I am now going to become a little bit more, at times, paternalistic (I can see my daughter’s eyes rolling in anticipation of the lecture)!

Almost every morning, I enjoy reading out of a book by Alan Cohen entitled “A Deep Breath of Life.” It is subtitled a daily inspiration for heart-centered living and is filled with wonderful one-page inspirational stories for each day of the year. There was an interesting juxtaposition between yesterday’s passage, the one for today on the Fourth of July, and what is transpiring in some areas and/or some subsections of our country. Up until now, I have shied away from anything political unless it simply highlighted an underlying psychological, developmental, or emotional issue; daily we are now confronted by all three stemming from both President Trump, the 24/7 media coverage, and the incessant need by some to discuss him.

Yesterday’s reading was entitled Heaven and Hell and talked about a samurai warrior commanding a Zen Master to teach him about Heaven and Hell. The Master laughed at the warrior, ridiculing him, and the samurai, duly insulted, drew his sword to kill the Master. The Master then pointed out, “That, sir, is hell.” The warrior was overcome with humility and thanked the Master, who pointed out “and that, sir, is heaven.” The point is that, as all Master and Saints have pointed out, while there are external Heavens and Hells, we are able to choose to live our life on this planet either in heaven or hell by way of our thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Today’s reading, “Declaration of Inner Independence” talked about celebrating the birth of our nation, freeing us from British rule, but asked the question, are we “… free of the inner bondage of fear and separation?” I would point out that, to me, this is redundant, we live in fear because we are separated from our true nature of love. Once again, this is a recurrent theme throughout time from every Master and Saint and, since I was brought up a Christian, I will point out two instances in the Bible; however every religion and spiritual path say the same thing. As an aside, when studying many different spiritual paths, I used to marvel at what seemed to be constant plagiarism! Genesis 1:27 states, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” And in Matthew 5:48, Christ says, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The latter passage, of course, plays into the narrative of doing “good” on earth to reap your rewards later; it is equally true as a directive to live in perfect love daily, in this human body, in this present moment, and in every moment. To live separate from this perfect love is to live in fear and anger. Think back in your life to a time when you presented yourself as someone you were not or thought you were not. Did you not live in fear that you would be found out? This was true in middle school when trying to fit into a group or as an adult when making a presentation to peers having self-doubt, thinking and feeling that you will be “found out” to be a “fraud!” Now think about a time when you were living outside of your authenticity, and someone called you on it, did you not vehemently protest, trying to extend the lie?

When we are in our authenticity and integrity, we know who we are and when someone calls you on it, there is no emotional response. Why would we care if someone else thinks bad of us when we know who we are and live it; especially if that person, like so many, are themselves living, acting, and speaking out of fear out anger. There mere fact that they spoke out against you speaks volumes; remember, if they are living in their own authenticity and integrity, they will not care that something you say or do seemingly conflicts with their way of life!

So there is always fear and anger that accompanies living outside of love. In my Master’s course in spiritual psychology, we were taught when we live outside of the loving, we descend to the next level down, fear, and then below fear is anger. We were also taught that any issue that we are facing is not the issue; our response to any issue is the issue. If we are responding out of fear and anger, that is the issue; namely, we have now stepped out of being in the loving and are living a lie.

So what do we make of those around us that are in constant turmoil over some issue, be it President Trump, climate change, corporate greed, etc.? These are all legitimate issues that need addressing, but how will we successfully succeed in working these issues if we are coming from anger and fear? If we have a flat tire and are living in our authenticity, we simply replace the flat tire with the spare, call ahead if we are going to be late for a meeting, and do our best to keep moving through the day in love. If we allow anger to take over, we may damage the car with a kick or hurt ourselves changing the tire since we are not focused. Or we might suffer from some fear over what might transpire in the future surrounding the flat tire event. Either way, we are in anguish, and that impairs our functioning, not to mention the damage it does to our physical bodies.

I marvel that Post Traumatic Stress is so easily accepted if caused by a large, external event, war or car crash, also known as a big “T” trauma, but not recognized, or worst dismissed, when internally generated by our response to some issue (small “t” trauma). The Big “T” trauma might be seen to exact a bigger toll on us, but that is because it is a Big “T” trauma. Think in terms of a knife wound; we would rush to a hospital if we accidentally stabbed ourselves deeply, but wouldn’t hundreds of small nicks each day also severely maim us physically, even to the point of finally killing us? It is the same with small “t” traumas.

So on this Fourth of July, Independence Day, let us do as Alan suggests and begin to cultivate inner independence, freeing ourselves from the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual hell that is living in fear and anger. For you, President Trump might be considered the ultimate challenge to live in the loving, but that can lead to the ultimate healing. Then we can experience Independence Day from fear and anger every day!

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