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Variations on Gender

 

I have heard many Christians respond to the whole “issue” of transgender people with this piece of advice:  “we need to teach our children to love their own gender.”  I believe that Christians say this to address their own fears, biases and judgements towards anything they simply don’t understand or don't want to understand.  What this advice fails to realize is that there are babies born with more than one gender.  Do we then teach them to love both of their genders? 

The kind of judgment most Christians show towards someone in the LGBT community is based on ignorance.  They don’t realize that gender, as the medical community might define it, or one’s sense of gender is based on many factors.  In Understanding Human Sexuality by Janet Shibley Hyde and John D. Delamater, there are 8 variables of gender which include:

1)     Chromosomal gender:  XX in females and XY in males

2)     Gonadal gender:  Ovaries in females and testes in males

3)     a. Prenatal hormonal gender: Testosterone and MIS in the male but not the female before birth

b. Prenatal and neonatal brain differentiation:  Testosterone present for masculization, absent for feminization

4)     Internal organs:  Fallopian tubes, uterus, and upper vagina in females; prostate, vas, and seminal vesicles in males.

5)     External genital appearance:  Clitoris, inner and outer lips, and vaginal opening in females; penis and scrotum in males.

6)     Pubertal hormonal gender:  At puberty, estrogen and progesterone in females; testosterone in males.

7)     Assigned gender:  The announcement at birth, “It’s a girl” or “It’s a boy,” based on the appearance of the external genitals; the gender the parents and the rest of society believe the child to be; the gender in which the child is reared.

8)     Gender identity:  The person’s private, internal sense of maleness or female.

In most cases, all 8 variables are in agreement, but there are many factors during the course of prenatal sexual development that can cause any of the variables to be misaligned with the others.  When there are contradictions among any of the first 6 variables, which are purely biological, a person is said to have an intersex condition.  The gender of an intersex person can then be biologically ambiguous.  There are a number of syndromes that can lead to an intersex condition or gender ambiguity.  Here are just a few:

1)     Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH):  With this condition, a genetic female develops ovaries normally as a fetus, but later in the course of prenatal development, the adrenal gland begin to function abnormally (related to recessive genes) and produces an excess amount of androgens.  Therefore, prenatal sexual differentiation does not follow the typical female course and as a result, the external genitals are partly or completely male in appearance.  The labia are partly or totally fused so there is no vaginal opening and the clitoris is enlarged to the size of a small penis or even a full-sized one.  At birth, these genetic females may be identified as males.  (Meyer-Bahlburg et al., 2004, 2006)

2)     Androgen-Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS):  In this syndrome, a genetic male produces normal levels of testosterone but because the body tissues are insensitive to the testosterone, prenatal development is feminized.  Therefore, the individual may be born with more of an external appearance of a female with a small vagina though no uterus and undescended testes. 

3)     Micropenis:  a condition in which a genetic male is born with a very small penis.  The medical standard is that an infant’s penis is 2.5 cm or more.  This condition, of course, can affect sexual satisfaction in life, more so if the infant’s parents’ chose to raise the infant as a female following surgery, according to one study (Wisniewski et al., 2001). 

4)     Genetic-endocrine problems that can lead to genetic males appearing female at birth such as 5-alpha reductase deficiency syndrome.  These infants will have a vaginal pouch instead of scrotum at birth and a clitoris-sized penis.  At, puberty, however, the biological process kicks in and these “girls” now have penises.  This phenomenon has been studied in the Dominican Republic where these individuals are called Guevodoces (“penis at 12”) by the people in their culture.  In this culture, therefore, there are three genders and not just two.  This syndrome can also be found among the Sambia of New Guinea who also have a three-gender culture.

5)     Any kind of hermaphrodite condition where people are both with both male and female parts. 

6)     Klinefelter's Syndrome:  a genetic condition where a male has an extra X chromosome.   Symptoms include low testosterone, breast development, reduced strength and possible confusion about gender identification.  Eddie Redmayne does an excellent job of portraying what might have possibly been the first trans woman, born a male with Klinefelter's Syndrome, to ever have sex reassignment surgery in the movie The Danish Girl. 

 

I’m hoping one day, the Western World and Christians in particular will not be so close-minded when it comes to sex and gender.  I recently heard of a local church who decided to accept the LGBT community into their congregation.  As a result, they lost most of their original congregation and had to shut down.  What a shame!  Any house of worship that is exclusive like that, isn’t based on the love Jesus had for everyone, regardless of what issues they are dealing with or struggling with.  But Christians continue to turn a judgmental eye to any issues or discussions involving sex or gender.  I’ll be praying that this will change one day…

 

I Love You, My Baby

 

I have always been attracted to adoptees.  I have dated a couple of them.  They have become some of my good friends, clients and co-workers.  They have been adopted into my family and adopted out of my family.  While I, myself, am not an adoptee, I do relate to the sense of abandonment they must feel at a very visceral level and to that sense of not being wanted and therefore, feeling defective somehow.  Nancy Verrier, an adoptive mother and author, calls this condition the "primal wound." 

From the time I was a small child, I heard the story told to me about the day of my birth.  I was told that I was expected to be a boy and that it was a major disappointment that I was another girl as my parents already had three girls.  My little brother was born 11 months later and I was told that my father was so happy that he was passing out cigars to everyone.  My earliest memories are of being an infant and being alone in a room, exploring my parents' bedroom.  My mother likely suffered from post-partum depression.  She started having children at age 15 and only had a 3rd grade education.  I remember being neglected. This may explain my avoidant attachment style with women.  For someone with this attachment style, there is a sense that you are on your own and cannot trust others to be there for you.  My grandmother and aunts helped to take care of us after my parents divorced when I was only 5 years old.  But by then, my attachment style was in place.

I felt more loved by my father and I also know that he bullied me and would delight in scaring me when I was little.  Though I have no memory of this, I have heard that he did so from my mother and my aunt.  It may explain my anxious/ambivalent attachment style with men.  I felt more loved, valued and paid attention to by my father when I was in the presence of my brother.  I feel that both of my parents came to love me more later in life.  I have since come to the conclusion that I must be a very lovable person if they could grow to love me at all.  Prior to this epiphany, I had felt unlovable, something that many adoptees feel. 

To try to understand myself better, I started reading and researching books and articles about the emotional issues that adoptees might deal with.  Before starting this process, my ideas about adoptees were based on the movie Annie where Daddy Warbucks saves Annie from a life of ruin with his money and charm and all ends happily.  I believed as most people believe:  that adoption is something to be celebrated and a win for everybody involved:  the orphaned infant or child, the adoptive couple who may suffer from infertility and the birth mother or birth parents who cannot or will not take care of their own child. 

Since reading books like Journey to the Adopted Self by writer, adoptee and adoption-reform advocate Betty Jean Lifton, The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier and several online articles on the subject, I have since learned that there is a grieving process for all parties involved in adoption.  And most importantly, I learned that the adoptee does have a sense of that early abandonment at a feeling level and that this abandonment is the first trauma in a series of traumas that they will likely suffer throughout their lives. 

I wasn't too surprised to learn that adoptees often feel a sense of not belonging due to being cut off from their biological roots, especially in the closed adoption system where they aren't allowed to search for their birth parents until they are 18 years old.  I too have always felt like I was different from everybody else.  This is partly due to how I was not welcomed into the world, partly because my personality type is that of an individualist and partly because I am bi-racial.  Nowadays, it is more common for a child to be biracial or multi-racial, but when I was a child, I only knew of me and my siblings being biracial. 

From my research, I learned that adoptees are 5x more likely to attempt suicide than their non-adopted peers.  This may be an attempt to actualize something which is already felt to have happened on some level.  David Winnicott, a Brittish pediatrician and psychoanalyst, believes that a simple acknowledgement that a part of the adoptee "died"  in infancy may prevent an actual suicide attempt.  Betty Jean Lifton says, "the adoptee does not literally die, but lack of recognition by one's birth mother feels like a death threat - the threat of annihilation - which the adoptee must muster all her psychic forces to survive." 

I learned that the fear of abandonment never goes away.  I learned that they are asked to see their abandonment as their birth mother loving them enough to give them up.  Therefore, they equate love with abandonment.  They are typically denied their own reality or sense of self by their adoptive families, therapists, any professional involved in the closed adoption system and the community at large.  They typically have identity issues as a result.  Though they suffer from fears of abandonment at a very visceral level, they may also fear engulfment by their adoptive parents and family. 

In Nancy Verrier's book The Primal Wound, the author states, "It is difficult to change our thinking about adoption from that of a wonderful, altruistic event to that of a traumatic, terrifying experience for the child."  It is still generally believed that an infant cannot remember the separation from their birth mother but science now shows that an infant can pick out their birth mother's face without ever having seen her before based on the 40 weeks of gestational bonding that occurs. 

Adoptees are over-represented in the mental health care system, especially as children, for a reason.  The number of health and mental health issues they suffer from never gets attributed to that unresolved grief and all the identity issues that go hand-in-hand with being abandoned and "rejected" as an infant.  Most mental health professionals, including myself, are not knowledgeable about what Betty Jean Lifton calls Accumulative Adoption Trauma, a syndrome most adoptees suffer with that it is not yet recognized in the DSM 5 which is the current way that most mental health professionals diagnose individuals seeking out therapy for emotional, mental and relational issues.

I learned about a phenomenon called Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA) which is a situation where a sexual attraction develops between the adoptee and any member of their birth family upon reuniting.  This can be especially strong for people who confuse sex with love.  In the worst situations, the GSA is consummated which of course becomes very problematic for all parties involved in the long run. One of the best online articles I read about adoption is called Adoptees, Why Are You So Angry?  You can read the full article at https://adopteeinrecovery.com/2015/01/07/adoptees-why-are-you-so-angry/

Here is one of the excerpts from that article:

I’m angry because I’m in my 50s and still not allowed access to my own birth certificate – even though I found all of my family member’s years ago. I’m angry that there is still a lack of support for family preservation in favor of adoption. I’m angry that having more money allows certain adopters to pull wanted children away from their families. I’m angry that so many childless people that claim to care about children really only want to get themselves a baby and not actually help older children in foster care or even just vulnerable families in their own community. I’m angry that whenever adoptees attempt to speak their truth and call for changes in the system they are silenced, called “ungrateful” and “angry” and told they just had a “bad experience.” I’m angry that the industry is pulling in thousands of dollars at the expense of vulnerable children. I will continue to be “angry” in order to try to affect change for today’s children and those yet unborn.

After obtaining all this knowledge about all the suffering that adoptees go through in life, I came to have more compassion for them and more understanding of myself.  After all, some of the issues that adoptees cope with are similar to those of children of divorce, children who grow up in alcoholic families, or children with any sort of developmental trauma.  But at least the later have access to their roots.  At least, I know who my mother was on some level. 

I decided to write a poem to encapsulate everything I felt after gaining all this knowledge.  It is what these child-like parts of ourselves maybe needed to hear from our birth mothers.  It is called I Love You, My Baby.

 

I Love You, My Baby

 

Climb into my arms
wide open with love
Stay as long as you want
all nuzzled up
 
Hear my words wander
all the way to your heart
when I say, "I love you, my baby,
and this is the part of me that never wanted to give you up."
 
Feel my kiss upon your cheek
Feel the warmth I have in my body
Let it pour into all the lost years
and if you feel safe enough, release your tears
 
Please know that I'll be here
as long as you like
and answer all your questions
Hard and soft alike
 
I'll be open and honest
even if it hurts us both
and within this embrace
you can be the first to let go...

 

 

 

The Spiritual Significance of Music

 

“The power of true music emanates an energetic purity and essence that is inspired only by Spirit.  This music not only uplifts the heart and soul of humanity, but will not lose its luster through passing time and superficial musical trends.”  - Aeoliah, author of Awakening Your Inner Light:  Healing Self-Abuse and Reclaiming Your True Identity

“The most evolved music on the planet that will continue to heal and inspire is one that raises and magnetizes our consciousness and awareness into a more expanded and enlightened state, acting as a tuning fork to higher dimensions.”  - Aeoliah

“Music is the language of the soul.”  - David Amram, author of Upbeat:  Nine Lives of a Musical Cat

“Music can offer us an escape from reality providing a safe and secure haven; our very own sacred sanctuary of sound.”  - Encore

 

The above are excerpts from the book The Spiritual Significance of Music by Justin St. Vincent

I hope one day, popular music will be spiritual and not sexual in nature.  Not that there's anything wrong with sex but the music business shuns anything spiritual and overdoes the sexual.  Sex may be what sells but spirit is what inspires, what heals and what unites us. 

 

Recovery from Narcissist Abuse

 

If you are in recovery from being with a narcissistic person, you can practice the following on your road to recovery:

1) Do NOT blame yourself.  You will likely feel foolish and stupid for staying with a narcissistic person for too long (and any amount of time is too long).  You might wonder:  what did I do wrong? or what could I have done better?

2) Accept that there was nothing you could have done to save or love the person into being a healthier person.  Most people with Narcissist traits have brain anomalies where the part of the brain that involves empathy is either smaller or deformed.  Also, they usually have some sort of trauma around age 2 that involves sudden neglect or lack of nurturance.

3) Research everything you can about Narcissists so that you don't take things personally and can understand yourself better (you are either a empath, HSP, codependent or other Narcissists as these are who narcissists are typically attracted to).  Knowledge is power. 

 

The Age of Narcissism

 

Much has been written about this age of narcissism in which we live.  Most of us have a level of "healthy narcissism" in us, but in today's world of mean tweets, excessive selfies, and strange talk of one's "net worth" in dollar amounts, this level of narcissism has risen to a dangerous level, especially in the United States of America, a nation who historically feels that it knows best for other countries. 

I just finished reading an excellent book called The Spontaneous Healing of Belief by Gregg Braden.  In the book, says that masters from our past such as Buddha and Jesus were "master programmers of consciousness" through the words they spoke and the lives they led.  Buddha was formerly a prince who renounced his material riches to seek spiritual enlightenment and encouraged others to do the same.  Jesus befriended fishermen and a woman, Mary Magdalene, and allowed them to join his ranks rather than seeking to please the powers that be - those in positions of power of the day.  Both leaders were able to demonstrate humility through their powerful choices, words and actions.

My favorite part of the book is when the author is able to talk about the science of "religion" or spirituality by breaking down The Lord's Prayer to reveal a code that can be applied to our lives in order to change our beliefs and recognize the power within while tapping into a higher power.  Most people believe that science and religion are mutually exclusive but I have never believed that they had to be so.  Most Americans today worship science, in a sense, and hold it up on an altar, believing anything and everything that can be "proven" through experiments.  While science obviously has a valuable place in society, so does spirituality - which is often relegated to the back burner of our lives.  

Seeing a highly narcissistic person, Donald Trump, becoming president, has put me on another quest to understand why so many people voted for someone who seems to get away with and excuse every hateful thing he says and accept every narcissistic statements he makes and degrades whole groups of people and can incite a whole crowd to chant things like "lock her up" or "build that wall" or other divisive and hateful things.  His ability to lead in this way reminds me of Hitler.  

In my limited understanding, what I have come up with is that it is our nation's collective selfishness and narcissism that have voted this man into power.  I have met millennials who hope they won't be forced to pay for health insurance that their employment, if they have such, doesn't supply.  I have heard others who say that they can't afford their premiums and hope his "promises" of repealing Obama care will give them more money in their pockets.  I have heard people, even women, say that a woman shouldn't be president.  Most people just say, "Hillary is worse" because she is deemed responsive for the deaths of Americans in Benghazi, because she was glib about the e-mail scandal, because she is one of the "elite."  It's interesting to me that Trump isn't considered to be "elite"  given the fact that he was born into his riches for the most part and not only benefits from nepotism but practices it with his children. 

 

 

Voters Remorse Pending

 

I remember seeing Michael Moore on Bill Maher talking about his fears that Donald Trump would be become our next president and felt that he was putting words to how I felt.  I agree with the latest article I read where Moore says that those who voted for Trump will have regrets when they eventually come to realize that he can't deliver on all the promises he made to people.  Since Donald has never served in government, he obviously doesn't get or doesn't care that the democratic process is slow because there are many checks and balances, thank goodness, that keeps the president from having too much power. 

And Donald Trump is all about power.  He is a classic narcissist who puts his name and gold on all his towers around the world and dismisses anyone who dares to disagree with him or challenge him.  He has gotten away with and has even been rewarded for all those racist, sexist and xenophobic comments he made.  He inspires people to hate and chant things like "Lock her up!" and "Build that Wall!"  Talk about divide and conquer. 

I've never seen such large groups of people congregate in major cities to protest a president-elect.   Many people are proclaiming, "he's not my president!"  How can women, especially those who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or abused, Muslims, Blacks  and Hispanics especially feel represented by a man who has spewed hateful messages that question their humanity and their citizenship?  How can anyone who doesn't fall into one of these groups be okay with these hateful messages?  I just don't get it.  I do believe, however, that he will be impeached eventually.  He has gotten away with bad behavior for so long by whining and complaining about the behaviors of others and taking responsibility for nothing.  It will catch up to him.  I believe in karma...

 

Too Christian for Me

 

Anytime you identify as "Christian" on any level, people judge you and reject you.  They put you in the same category as fundamentalists who decry homosexuality as a sin or tell you that you will burn in hell for all of eternity if you don't follow Jesus.  This is not the kind of Christian I am but this is what is always ascribed to me.  I could remove the "Christian" term from my bio but I would never do so because there is nothing more important to me than my spirituality, even if it gets me rejected in a music business that favors sexuality over spirituality.  I will never belong to it or be accepted by any part of the music business.  I have been rejected by every genre of the music business, in part, because I dabble in every genre and blend genres and therefore, get rejected for some part of the whole of who I am.  But I choose to be a whole person and refuse to put myself in a box and label myself as any one thing.  I will never be accepted by those in the Christian music community simply because of my "new age" beliefs. 

There seems to be an over identification with the sexual in the music and entertainment business at large.  There are so many ways to be sexual.  You can transsexual, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, asexual, pansexual, bisexual, etc.  I'm sure more terms will come out whereas you can even further identify yourself sexually.  But if you dare bring the word "spiritual" or "Christian" into the mix, you are synonymous with "religious" or "fundamentalist Christian" with a huge negative overtone.  You are immediately labelled as "homophobic" or "self-righteous" or any of the negative labels that have gone along with daring to call yourself a Christian. 

Just wanted to share with you an example of the kind of rejection that those who identify as Christian on any level face.  Here is a recent rejection based from a music organization that I submitted my music to.  The rejection was obviously based on my spiritual identification:

Rejector:

Thanks Nicole-Marie

Whilst I did enjoy what I heard - music of 'religious fundamentalism' is
something I never feature - sorry.

I realise as a Christian evangelist it may surprise you that this is a
site which features music by Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Jews,
Agnostics and Atheists etc. and absolutely refuses to support musicians
of overt religious intent.

I wish you every success with your career as your production,
song-writing and vocals are sublime - but being a 'Christian
fundamentalist' is not some mark of relevance I am able to countenance
on a site which features music from around the world with those of faith
of other religions, or none at all.

Tim

My Response

That's fine but I am NOT a Christian fundamentalist.  I am a blend of Christian and new age beliefs and I respect all faiths and religions.  Just want to make that clear.  Thanks for taking the time,
Nicole-Marie
Rejector:
Thanks for the clarification Nicole-Marie.

Tim
My Response: 
Also, I am NOT religious at all.  I am spiritual.  To me, the two terms have nothing to do with one another. 
Rejector:
I can only draw from your own bio Nicole-Marie

It is your own bio which references your Christian reference points - 
not a fantasy of mine.

http://www.nicolemariemusic.com/

' Christian Contemporary ', 'artist nomination for the genres of "folk"
and "Christian" music'.

If that is not the case - perhaps a rewrite of your bio without the
'Christian' would help to identify how you wish to portray your music.

Tim
My Response:
I am Christian.  But I am not a fundamentalist and have never identified as such.  I am not embarrassed to identify as Christian no matter how much disdain and rejection it gets me...
I eventually blocked this guy from my e-mail but I felt the need to educate him before doing so.  He clearly didn't respect my spiritual beliefs and even had disdain for them.  I get this all the time:  from agnostics, from atheists, from Christians who don't accept the new age side of me and from New agers who don't accept the Christian side of me.  There are many different ways to be a Christian.  The way I define it is that I am a follower of Christ.  I decided to give up control of my life to Christ after I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer in 2004.  I feel like my life was spared for a reason.  I must have a purpose even if I don't know what it is. 
But I have always been a spiritual person.  When I was in the 5th grade, I wanted to be a nun.  I am always trying to find the spiritual perspective on any situation.  But if you bring up the word "spiritual" in any way, people flip out or freak out or both.  I remember Oprah talking about this problem when she started to include a "Remembering Your Spirit" segment on her talk show.  Sometimes the word "spiritual" is fine by people and it is the word "Christian" that triggers them.  I can understand why given all the negative things Christianity has been associated with.  But every spiritual faith has been associated with something negative.  So, in order to avoid vitriol from others, should we be spiritual-less people all together? 
 

The Star Spangled Banner

 

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about changing the national anthem from The Star Spangled Banner to America The Beautiful or some other song.  It would be kind of cool to have more appreciation for female singer/songwriters such as Katharine Lee Bates who wrote the lyrics to America the Beautiful.  I personally like God Bless America but I'm sure agnostics, atheists and other groups of people who don't call their higher power "God" don't like it as much as I do. 

Not surprisingly, the debate about our current national anthem is being fueled by Colin Kaepernick who refuses to stand for the flag and national anthem at NFL games and is an expert at getting attention.  Good thing he's using this gift for a good cause, right?  Now, our current national anthem is being called a "celebration of slavery" and it apparently celebrates the murder of African-Americans.  Supporters of changing the national anthem point to the 3rd verse which was removed from the version of The Star Spangled Banner we are most familiar with.  The 3rd verse in question:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
 

However, there is another side to this debate, CNN writer Mark Clague, writes:

""The Star-Spangled Banner" in no way glorifies or celebrates slavery. The middle two verses of Key's lyric vilify the British enemy in the War of 1812, what Key refers to in Verse 3 as "hirelings and slaves." This enemy included both whites and blacks, largely British professional soldiers (hirelings) but also the Corps of Colonial Marines (slaves). The Colonial Marines were escaped black American slaves who joined British forces because of the promise of freedom in return for fighting their former masters."
 

Clague goes on to says, "As a founder and officer of the American Colonization Society (1816--1964), Key viewed slavery as a moral wrong that required a solution" and "To serve this community, Key helped established the Georgetown Lancaster School for freed people of color and even taught there. Over 1,000 black children were students at the school, and most attended tuition-free."  Clague also writes: "Speaking to the US Supreme Court, Key described the treatment of slaves as "extreme cruelty" and slaves as "unhappy victims."  Does this sound like a racist to you?  To me, it sounds like Black lives did matter to the songwriter of The Star Spangled Banner.

However, the author of the lyrics for The Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key, was supposedly "taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves" when he penned the third verse according to The Intercept writer, Jon Schwarz. Never mind the fact that this verse was removed.  The fact that it was there in the first place is so offensive to people that the baby should apparently be thrown out with the bathwater if any part of the song was written a "racist."  Anybody and anything can be labelled as "racist" these days.  My husband, one of the most culturally sensitive White men I know, was called a "racist" by a African-American co-worker.  This co-worker retracted her statement once she discovered that he was married to me, a woman of "color."  Apparently, being married to someone of any ethnicity other than White automatically saves you from the horror of being labelled "racist." 

Forget about the fact that Francis Scott Key freed some of his slaves in the 1830's and apparently, hired one back for wages.  Key also apparently criticized slavery's cruelties to such as degree that he was apparently called "The Nigger Lawyer" because he dared to defend African Immigrants on a voluntary basis in his job as a lawyer. 

I guess we have to find the "perfect person" and songwriter to pen a song that resonates with all Americans.  Boy, won't that be hard:  Americans all agreeing on something or someone for that matter! This transcendent person cannot be a real person with good and bad parts.  They have to be a perfect person who has never said anything or written anything they may come to regret or that is offensive in any way to others. 

Apparently, your creative creations mean nothing if you've possibly made any mistakes in life.  Apparently, it means nothing if you regret those things and try to atone for your wrongs by your present or future actions.  The Star Spangled Banner is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.  Some of the things that make it such a great song is that it is very difficult to sing and therefore reserved for only the best singers, it has lots of dynamics and it inspires us somehow on deep level.  Maybe Bob Dylan should write the next national anthem since he just won the Nobel Peace Prize.  He's not controversial at all, right?

 

 

The Plus Sides of Call-Out Culture

 

I recently came across an article titled:  What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic.  This attack on call-out culture is very popular right now.  There was even an article in Time magazine about it.  It's like anyone who calls anyone else out is currently being called out themselves.  I'm not hearing much, however, about the plus sides of call-out culture.  I do believe there is another side to every thing.  Here are some of the plus sides of call-out culture that I see:

- Keeps us from voting for the wrong president

- Holds people accountable, especially those holding public offices or in positions of power.  There are some people who repeatedly get away with bad behavior because nobody says anything.  I would choose to live in the throes of call-out culture than live in a society where you are rendered silent or you are too afraid to say anything.  

- Lets people know what behavior, words or actions are inappropriate.  Believe it or not, not everyone is socially intelligent.  People with personality disorders, especially Narcissists, will continue to behave in appalling ways or say hurtful things unless others set a boundary with them or repeatedly let them know that it's not okay. 

- Let's us know who's safe or not safe.  It's a good thing that Jerry Sandusky was called out on his sexual abuse of children, for example.  It's a good thing that Bill Cosby was called out by comedian Hannibal Buress as it led to many survivors of sexual assault finally feeling heard and also let us know that some people believes that one man's "legacy" is more important than bringing the issue of sexual assault on women out of the shadows. 

- Let's us know where other people stand on issues.  

- Let's us know that there are other cultures out there other than our own and other viewpoints out there other than our own which may make us less judgmental and provincial.  In this way, we can learn about acceptance and unity.  To say that a culture that always says the politically correct thing or that keeps most of their feelings/thoughts unexpressed is superior to a culture that just calls you out on the carpet, is close-minded and may even be racist.

- Helps us learn not to take things personally.  After all, what's being said says more about the person saying it than who they are saying it about. 

- Helps us to not feel alone or feel less shameful/confused/scared l if someone has the courage to call out someone when we either didn't have the words or the strength to do so but felt the same way about the person being called out. 

- Helps us find the balance between repressing our feelings and thoughts and speaking out on them.  It's not good mental health on a personal level or a societal level if people feel that they must not say anything for fear or repercussion, social death or other feared consequence.  Repressed feelings can become physical disease or can build up to an explosion such as a mass shooting. 

- Can help us change policies and unequities.  Where would we be as a society if there weren't whistle blowers who speak out about sexual harassment on the job?  Where would we be if we didn't have people brave enough to advocate and speak out for abused and neglected children, elderly or animals?  When we blow the whistle or speak out against abuse, we are in essence calling out the abuser(s).

- Can help bring the truth to light and encourage others to speak their truths when others don't want to see it, accept it or acknowledge it.  People usually deny your experience of someone because they have a different experience of that person.  But that doesn't make your experience any less true.  For example, females tend to bully by exclusion.  Well, if you are the person being excluded, no one is going to validate your experience of the ring leader because they don't want to align themselves with the person on the outs and be excluded as well.  Scientology thrives on this concept.  Another example is when someone denies your experience of sexual abuse because they weren't abused themselves or can't imagine the abuser doing what they did. 

- Can, believe it not, help develop compassion in our society.  Unless a person is a psychopath, narcissistic, sociopath, or other category of person that lacks empathy and may never develop it, we all have the potential to develop our compassion towards others who are suffering without having to suffer with the same affliction or circumstance as well.  When someone is calling someone else out, they are doing it for a reason.  Their motivation could come from a good place or could come from a state of suffering.  Perhaps, if we listened to the tears underneath the anger and rage rather than dismissed such people as "crazy" or "monsters" or any other negative label, we could learn something about the human experience even if we didn't experience it ourselves.  There are many forms of trauma to be had.  Most of us have been traumatized at some point in our life.  Trauma can manifest as many things such as Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, violence, bullying, health issues, and many other negative states and conditions.  I've heard people use the word "Bipolar" in a pejorative sense saying such things as "my bipolar boss."  But some of the most amazing people in our history have had Bipolar Disorder.  There can be a genetic component but there can also be a trauma component. 

I do believe that people can take it too far or call-out with a "bad" intention of doing harm, humiliating, controlling, manipulating, or publically shaming others.  But if the intention behind the call-out is to inform, to improve lives, to protect, to make people think of another side of the issue, to express our own experience, to challenge the status quo or bring a level of accountability to the table, then perhaps call-out culture isn't all bad. 

 

 

The Symbolism of the Flag

 

The American flag stands for many things including opportunity and freedom of speech.  I find it hugely ironic that Colin Kaepernick is getting all this attention and support for disrespecting something that is symbolic of the two very things that he has benefited enormously from.  After all, he had the number one selling jersey after all his attention-whoring.  I get his need to stand up and speak out on the whole police brutality against Black lives but why do it in this fashion?  If he is so against America, why not move to another country?  Why not be grateful for all the great things about America and focus on all the positive things that the flag represents about America?  I can see how the confederate flag got associated with racism but I don't understand why today's flag is being desecrated? 

The American flag is especially important to veterans and none more so than Vietnam veterans who were the only group of veterans that were spat upon and called "baby killer" when they arrived home from war.  Vietnam veterans had to sit and watch people burn the American flag on TV as they risked their lives, saw their comrades die and suffered chronic trauma that still haunts many of them today.  I am proud to say that I am the daughter of a Vietnam veteran and I spent at least 5 years of my professional life working with Vietnam vets and listening to their stories.  Anyone disrespecting the flag in anyway is just continuing to traumatize this under-served and under-appreciated group of people.  THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, PAPA!

 

The Good Enough Christian

 

I recently saw the headline to an online article that was disturbing:  "Why Amy Grant Chose Gays Over God."  There is so much judgment in that headline, in that statement.  Though I was born and raised as a Christian, I don't like being associated with some of the most judgmental people on earth.  Most Christians have their own definition of what being a "good-enough" Christian is.  For some, this definition includes going to church regularly.  For others, this definition involves not drinking alcohol or using substances of any sort.  For most Christians, this includes decrying homosexuality. 

I've spent years trying to find a Christian church that doesn't preach hatred about gays and I've yet to find one.  Most Christians will say, "it's a sin like any other" but no church that I have attended has decried a "sin" more passionately and fervently than the "sin of homosexuality." 

To be a good enough Christian, you must also decry anything that is "new age."  Because my beliefs are a blend of new age and Christian ideas, I have never fit in.  I used to have a Christian friend who would lecture me every time I saw her.  What kind of friendship is that?  Who wants a friend who does nothing but lecture you?  It was clear that she saw herself to be the superior Christian in our circle. 

Another Christian lady who sold me some essential oils said to me, "we have to take them back from the new agers."  Essential oils don't belong to any group of people.  Spirituality doesn't belong to any group of people.  But you are quick to be ostracized if you believe anything that falls outside the norm.  I once had two Christian women gang up on me in a debate on whether or not demons and evil spirits exist.  Their argument was that these things only existed at the time of Jesus. 

I have seen so many Christians interfere with any sense of unity in the world.  You either belong or you don't.  You're either good enough or you're not.  You either follow the bible to a T or you aren't truly a Christian and shouldn't be calling  yourself such. 

Amy Grant is one of my favorite artists.  She got a lot of criticism for daring to venture outside of Christian music and go into pop music in the 1980's and 1990's.  I'm sure that many Christians felt like their were losing one of their own to the world the same way that many Country fans are protective of their artists and resent it when any big Country artist dares to cross over into pop music. 

One day, these boundaries won't remain.  They will all dissolve into unity when we discover that we are just as gay as the person we don't want sitting next to us.  We already see the genres of music blending.  Pretty soon, there will be no genres.  Though most people won't admit it openly, most people do believe a blend of things when it comes to spirituality.  I really don't want to have a sense of fellowship with any group that holds themselves apart as as superior to all the rest. 

I call myself a Christian not because I have fellowship with any group of people, but because I am a follower of Christ. And I can have a direct connection with him.  I don't have to go through a priest or have fellowship to feel a sense of belonging with him. Christ loved all people.  And as follower of Christ, I aim to do the same.

 

The Anointing of the Sick

 

With all this talk about who's more healthy among our current presidential candidates, I feel compelled to blog about how I believe health to be overrated.  As a cancer survivor and also as someone who lives with a autoimmune illness, I know that being sick can make you stronger on all levels of being:  spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally.  I also believe that being sick can teach you lessons like humility, strengthen your faith in a higher power, make you wiser and enhance your spiritual growth, especially if you are here on this earth school to learn about compassion and unity.

Traditionally, those who are sick are viewed as "weak" or lazy and there is a history in our humanity of the infirmed being isolated and quarantined from the rest of society.  We have it in our genes, in our history to be scared of those who are ill.  After all, whatever ails them may be contagious and we fear that we may become ill too and possibly die from that illness.  For some, the fear of death is the biggest fear there is.  For those that fear death, it is inconceivable that one can gain anything from being sick for sickness if viewed mostly as a nuisance that you just want to rid of.  The healthy and strong may not ever have the beauty of experiencing the truth:  that illness can you assist you in overcoming your fears, even your fear of death. 

From the time I was a little girl, I suffered from Eczema.  I was called a "leper" by my peers at times especially since my open skin sores left me vulnerable to even worse-looking conditions like Impetigo.  Peers would mock the way I rubbed dead skin off my face and gossip about me behind my back, wondering amongst themselves, "what's wrong with her skin" instead of just asking me.  I still have eczema - I never "outgrew" it like a lot of children do.  My Eczema has taught me a lot about the need to look for one's inner beauty and spirit and seeing through one's outer charm or seemingly perfect aesthetics. 

Some of the wisest people that have graced our earth with their presence are people that are sick.  If you look at someone like Mattie Stepanek, the child peace advocate and motivational speaker that sold best-selling books of his poetry and was featured on Oprah, you can see that some of the wisest souls come in the most sickly bodies.  He died at age 14 in 2004 from the rare disorder, dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy, that his older siblings also died from.  But in his short life, he spread his message of hope and peace.  Sometimes having a rare condition makes you stand out and you can either choose to look at it as an opportunity to promote spiritual evolution and advancement in our society or you can choose to be as humiliated as you are sometimes treated and then hide in some corner of the world.

It took me some time to adjust to every infirmity that I have been given but I have chosen to learn what I can from the rare cancer I survived.  I learned things like gratitude and faith and I learned about the depths of my own strengths.  I am still adjusting to autoimmune hearing loss but I have already learned a lot from this condition as well.  I am learning about compassion for those who are hearing impaired and I am learning about self-love as you are often seen as someone is "stuck-up" when you don't hear people and they mistakenly believe that you are ignoring them.  You can also be accused of many other things as you display behaviors that aren't deemed socially accepted or confuses others as you struggle to adjust to your new normal and communicate and connect with others in a new way. 

I believe that some of the oldest and wisest souls are those who choose to take on or be born with serious illnesses or conditions.  Sometimes they aren't here to learn at all but have agreed to endure the "hardship" or pain in order to teach others lessons with their illness.  My brother has Neurofibromatosis (NF) and I believe that he is an old soul.  He is one of the most loving people I know.  Those with Down's Syndrome are also some of the most loving people on earth.  Perhaps of our view of sickness needs to change. 

Perhaps those with illness and developmental disorders aren't sick or disordered at all.  From a higher perspective, they really aren't the sick ones.  They are the anointed ones here to anoint the rest of us with all the blessings that have been bestowed upon them.  Will we listen to their messages?  Will we learn from them?  Can we learn from our own illnesses?  Or will we continue to attack or mock or pity those who are ill in any way as we boast about our own supposed healthiness? 

 

Let Yourself Fall Apart

 

"... You are not what will fall apart. Who you are can never fall apart. What will collapse is the haunted house of self-flattering and security seeking pictures you had mistakenly identified as a solution to your shaky life. These pictures are not the solution to your shakiness, they are the source of it." - Guy Finley, author of The Secret of Letting Go 

 

Go See Gleason

 

Yesterday, I saw an incredible movie called Gleason.  It is currently out in theaters in limited release.  Though it is a documentary, I hope this movie will have a much wider release soon.  It is already getting Oscar buzz and is getting a 96% on rotten tomatoes.  I can't imagine what 4% of people didn't like it.  The movie follows the life of retired New Orleans Saints' football player, Steve Gleason, who is from Spokane, Washington and played college football at WSU.  While playing for the Saints, he met and went on to marry New Orleans native, Michel Varisco.  Before the birth of their son, Rivers, he was diagnosed with ALS.  The movie follows their journey as a family through the progression of the illness. 

I have seen other movies about ALS including The Theory of Everything and Jason Becker:  Not Dead Yet.  Both are incredible movies but this movie offers something different.  Before losing his voice, Steve starts making video recordings for his son since the life expectancy for ALS is typically 2-5 years following diagnosis.  The movie focuses on the father son relationship with Steve and his own father as well.  Steve's father, who is highly Christian and religious, goes on his own journey of accepting Steve's way of having faith, accepting Steve's condition, and accepting that there is only so much he can do other than develop compassion to help his son.  I cried early on in the movie and didn't stop crying until the end.  But the part where I had to keep myself from wailing was when Steve, with slurred speech and as loud as he can, almost yells at his father, "my soul is saved!"  At that, his father takes him into his arms and holds him and they both cry together in a deep embrace.  The whole thing reminds me of that excellent, powerful, Christian song "He's My Son" by Mark Schultz.

 

The movie also does a great job of including the caregiver's perspective through Michel's experience of becoming Steve's main caregiver and how exhausting it can be.  Being a caregiver is highly stressful, exhausting and undervalued in our society.  It is the patient who gets all the attention, sympathy and compassion while very few stop to ask the caregiver how they are doing.  I like how the movie doesn't shy away from Michel's journey through anger, frustration, depression and apathy as a caregiver and spouse.  In some ways, it is almost harder to be in the position of caregiver or spouse to a person who is diagnosed with a life-threatening condition.  You have no control over the situation as you watch your loved one go through incredible pain.  Mental health experts say that it can be more traumatizing to witness something traumatic than to actually go through the traumatic experience yourself. 

 

Above all, the movie is so inspirational.  Steve starts an organization called Team Gleason with the slogan "No White Flags" to bring awareness to ALS and to assist those with ALS and their families in getting equipment and in funding the experiences one might miss out on due to the limited mobility and functioning those with ALS contend with.  It brings in ideas about healthcare and Team Gleason's fight to get things like Speech Generating Devices covered under Medicare.  These devices are what help those with ALS have a voice.  If they aren't covered, you are in effect saying that their voice doesn't matter.  The movie makes you think less about and complain less about the things in your life that aren't ideal.  Since seeing the movie, I have adopted a new mantra to remind myself of this when I start getting in victim mode or start complaining about things that don't really matter:  "No white flags." 

 

The Grace of God

 

"When we are aware of the divine spark that exists within us, we can go to any church, any synagogue, any temple, any mosque, any drum circle, and always find the grace of God."  - Don Miguel Ruiz Jr.

 

The Goddess Reason

 

"Our present lives are dominated by the goddess Reason, who is our greatest and most tragic illusion. By the aid of reason, so we assure ourselves, we have 'conquered nature.' " - Carl Jung

 

Anthropology

 

"Anthropologists have often described what happens to a primitive society when its spiritual values are exposed to the impact of modern civilization. Its people lose the meaning of their lives, their social organization disintegrates, and they themselves morally decay. " - Carl Jung, from Man and His Symbols 

 

A Better America for Who?

 

Trump talks about making this country great again but who has it been great for? Rich white men? It is interesting to note that white males have the highest rates of suicide while black females are on the other end of the spectrum with the lowest rates of suicide.  Having to find ways to cope with institutional racism can strengthen your inner resolve whereas entitlement born from privilege can do the opposite.  

I read an excellent article in The Week magazine titled "Gun Rights: A Good Guy Fantasy Exposed."  The article challenges the NRA's claim that "an armed society is a polite society." After all, both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile - the black men shot dead in Baton Rouge, LA and Falcon Heights, MN - were carrying guns for their own protection.  The article goes on to say, "...rather than making these men safer, as per NRA dogma, their weapons frightened police officers and led to the men's deaths."  The "open carry" law in Texas may have added to the confusion and danger for the!cops who had to contend with the one bad guy with an assault weapon among an estimated 30 gun-toting protestors.  

The article references a quote from David Graham of TheAtlantic.com, "the deaths of Sterling and Castile show that 'the second amendment does not apply to Black Americans."  Perhaps this comment refers to the NRA's differing response to these men's deaths as "troubling" when they usually defend anyone punished for exercising their second amendment rights.  The Week's article goes on to say, "ever since the Reconstruction era, white Americans haven't wanted black people to share the right to bear arms."

We still have a long way to go as a country when it comes to gun control laws and equal rights for minorities including blacks, women, the deaf and hearing impaired, the poor working class, and the LGBT community.  Why should anyone who fits into a minority group want things to return to the days when things were good for only those in positions of privilege in our society? I think I know the answer to that question: fear - the kind of fear narcissists like Trump (and other personality-disordered individuals from the cluster B group of personality disorders) use to control and manipulate people only to enhance their sense of power and stroke their egos. 

 

Master Stillness

 

"Remember that when the waters of a lake are absolutely still, the lake reflects the tress, the sky, and everything around it perfectly.  At the slightest breeze, with the smallest ripple in the waters, the lake reflects nothing but itself.  To see another with clarity and objectivity, one first must master stillness."  - Alberto Villoldo, author of Shaman, Healer, Sage

 

Updated Information for Upcoming CD Release Party

 

 

Death is No Enemy

 

"Death is no enemy of man; it is a friend who, when the work of life is done, just cuts the cord that binds the human boat to earth, that it may sail on smoother seas."  - Matheno, from The Aquarian Gospel

 

Spend Time With Nature

 

"When one attunes himself with Nature, he attunes himself to the power of the universe.  His strength then becomes limitless.  When one attunes himself to the Divine behind all natural, universal phenomena, he makes himself a channel for the Divine to flow in pristine splendor into the dark alleys and buried chambers of this relative world."  - Swami Kriyananda

 

Quote from The Art and Science of Raja Yoga

 

"In even the darkest age [] some souls are fully enlightened.  And in even the most enlightened age, some men live in a self-created darkness." - Swami Kriyananda

 

Moment of Silence

 
With this moment of silence
May you feel the peace
May you feel the love
and the unity
 
With this moment of silence
I remember thee
I remember your smile
and your beauty
 
With this moment of silence
May we all believe
we can live as one
as we all live free
 
With this moment of silence 
May we find the meaning
May we celebrate being
who we are and could be
 
As we work towards compassion
and understanding
As we find in ourselves
acceptance and serenity
 
May we remember those
who lived their truth fully
and have a moment of silence
eternally
 

Dreamless Sleep

 

"If man's sleep be deep and dreamless, for several hours he is able to transfer his consciousness or sense of I-ness, to the causal body; such sleep is revivifying.  A dreamer is contacting his astral and not his causal body; his sleep is not full refreshing."  - Sri Yukteswar

 

Indian Music and The Cosmic Song

 

Krishna, is the East Indian version of the pied piper.  He is always shown in Hindu art with a flute, on which he plays enrapturing song that recalls to their true home the human souls wandering in maya-delusion.

The Sama Veda of India contains the worlds earliest writings on musical science. 

The foundation stone of Hindu music is the ragas or fixed melodic scales.  The six basic ragas branch out into 126 derivative raginis (wives) and putras (sons).  Each raga has a minimum of 5 notes:  a leading note, a secondary note, helping notes, and a dissonant note (the enemy). 

Each of the 6 basic ragas has a natural correspondence with a certain hour of the day and season of the year.  The Hindole Raga is heard only at dawn in the spring to evoke universal love.  The Deepaka Raga is played during the evening in summer to arouse compassion.  The Megha Raga is a melody for midday in the rainy season, to summon courage.  Bhairava Raga is played in the mornings of August, September, and October to achieve tranquility.  Sri Raga is reserved for autumn twilights to attain pure love.  Malkounsa Raga is heard at midnights in winder, for valor.

The ancient rishis discovered these laws of sound alliance between nature and man.  Because nature is an objectification of Aum, the Primal Sound or Vibratory Word, man can obtain control over all natural manifestations through the use of certain mantras or chants. 

Indian music divides the octave into 22 srutis or demi-semitones.  These microtonal intervals permit fine shades of musical expression unattainable by the Western chromatic scale of 12 semitones. 

The Hindu musican does not read set notes; he clothes anew at each playing the bare skeleton of the raga, often confining himself to a single melodic sequence. 

Ancient Sanskrit literature describes 120 talas or time-measures.  The traditional founder of Hindu music, Bharata, is said to have isolated 32 kinds of tala in the song of a lark.  The origin of tala or rhythm is rooted in human movements - the double time of walking, and the triple time of respiration in sleep, when inhalation is twice the length of exhalation. 

India has always recognized the human voice as the most perfect instrument of sound.  Hindu music therefore largely confines itself to the voice range of three octaves.  For the same reason, melody is stressed, rather than harmony.

The deeper aim of the early rishi-musicians was the blend to singer with the Cosmic Song which can be heard through the awakening of man's occult spinal centers.  Indian music is a subjective, spiritual, and individualistic art, aiming not at symphonic brilliance but at personal harmony with the Oversoul. 

 

The above is an excerpt from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda

 

The Soul Has No Sex

 

"In sleep, you do not know whether you are a man or a woman," he said.  "Just as a man, impersonating a woman, does not become one, so the soul, impersonating both man and woman, has no sex.  The soul is the pure, changeless image of God."

Sri Yukteswar never avoided or blamed women as objects of seduction.  Men, he said, were also a temptation to women.  I once inquired of my guru why a great ancient saint had called women "the door to hell."

"A girl must have proved very troublesome to his peace of mind in his early life," my guru answered causticly.  "Otherwise he would have denounced, not woman, but some imperfection in his own self-control."

- The above is an excerpt from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda

 

The Real Renunciates

 

"I have left a few paltry rupees, a few petty pleasures, for a cosmic empire of endless bliss. How then have I denied myself anything? I know the joy of sharing the treasure. Is that a sacrifice? The shortsighted worldly folk are verily the real Renunciates! They relinquish an unparalleled divine possession for a poor handful of earthly toys."

- Bhaduri Mahasaya (The Levitating Saint) as quoted from Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, reportedly the only book Steve Jobs ever downloaded on his iPad 

 

 

 

Group Feeling and Belief

 

"As I mentioned in The Divine Matrix, one of the most powerful examples of group feeling and belief affecting a broad geographic area was documented as a daring experiment during the war between Lebanon and Israel that began in 1982.  It was during that time that researchers trained a group of people to "feel" peace in their bodies while believing that it was already present within them, rather than simply thinking about it in their minds or praying "for" it to occur.  For this particular experiment, those involved used a form of meditation known as TM (Transcendental Meditation) to achieve that feeling.

At appointed times on specific days of the month, these people were positioned throughout the war-torn areas of the Middle East. During the window of time when they were feeling peace, terrorist activities ceased, the rate of crimes against people went down, the number of emergency-room visits declined, and the incidence of traffic accidents dropped.  When the participants' feelings changed, the statistics were reversed.  This study confirmed the earlier findings:  When a small percentage of the population achieved peace within themselves, it was reflected in the world around them.

[]...the data was so consistent that the researchers were able to identify how many people are needed to share the experience of peace before it's mirrored in their world.  The number is the square root of one percent of the population.  This formula produces figures that are smaller than we might expect.  For example, in a city of one million people, the number is about 100.  In a world of 6 billion, it's just under 8,000.  This calculation represents only the minimum needed to begin the process.  The more people involved in feeling peace, the faster the effect is created.  The study became known as the International Peace Project in the Middle East and the results were eventually published in The Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1988."  

- Gregg Braden, author of The Spontaneous Healing of Belief

 

 

Prince Edition of Rolling Stone

 

You must read the latest Prince edition of Rolling Stone.  It contains great tributes to Prince and the best article I ever read about Prince by Brian Hiatt.  Here are some excerpts:

"If Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, then Prince should be the Emperor." - Stevie Wonder

"He was singular in his music - he was his own genre - and that same singularity extended to everything in his life." - Questlove

It's nearly 2 a.m., and Prince is done for the night.  He walks me through the depths of Paisley Park, his shoes glowing in the dark, to retrieve my jacket and bag.  As we walk, I hear doves cry - actual doves that live in a cage somewhere in the rafters.  As I put on my coat, Prince invites me to join the band in London.  The zipper catches badly on the way up.  "F@!#," I say, and my host looks stricken.  "So much for not cursing," he says.  I apologize.  Prince looks me in the eyes, and wraps me in a tight hug.  I am, as promised, dismantled by his instant forgiveness.  I can still feel that embrace as I walk outside, where moonlight shines on a thick layer of immaculate, freshly fallen snow. - A Final Visit With Prince by Brian Hiatt

 

 

Miracles Versus Work of the Devil

 

Four days after Pope John XXIII died, his apparition reportedly appeared to Sister Caterina Capitani, a nun of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul who had been suffering from severe gastric hemorrhages, a condition thought to be incurable.  She had just had unsuccessful surgery for the condition and was in a hospital in Naples preparing to die when she felt a hand upon the incision which had opened on her abdomen.  She turned to see the spirit of the late pope who said to her, "Sister, you have called to me  so many times, as have so many of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, that you have turned torn out of my heart this miracle. But now do not fear. You are healed!"  The moment the spirit of the deceased pope diasappeared, Sister Capitani was able to rise from her bed and reported no pain.  The open wound on her abdomen was gone.  Not even a surgical scar remained.  The event was deemed a miracle in May 1966.  Among Christians, the act is often deemed a miracle.  However, whenever similar phenomena occur among members of other spiritual groups, orthodox clergy are likely to denounce the "miracle" as the work of the devil. Is a reported healing by an intervening ghost or spirit entity any less valid than a miraculous act performed by a religious figure or saint?

 

The PTSD of Ilness

 

"PTSD tends to pile on top of itself.  Once you've been sick for any period of time, and you start believing your body is letting you down, and you're lost in a non-diagnosis or misdiagnosis or a diagnosis that leads to no healing, and the financial strain starts to build, and maybe you feel your hold slipping on your career or relationships - it makes you a likely candidate for a unique composition of posttraumatic stress disorders."  - Anthony William, Medical Medium

 

The Transcendence of Prince

 

I feel fortunate to have been raised on Prince's music and to have been heavily influenced by him as a musician and singer.  I have always listed him as an influence and was lucky enough to see him perform at the Gorge in George, Washington.  Besides being a musical and creative genius, Prince was transcendent in so many ways.  There's no way you can't take for granted someone who transcends gender and race and blends sex and religion, female and male into one.  He was so gifted on so many instruments that he could and did create and produce whole songs all by himself.  Despite getting recognition and success at a early age, he was so humble that he performed other people's songs at the 2007 Superbowl Halftime show and went under other names like "Christopher" on work he did for other artists - such as the awesome keyboard part he played on Stevie Nicks' "Stand Back."  He was so generous with his talent and supportive of other artists, especially women in music, that he championed people like Vanity, collaborated often with other artists such as Madonna, Sheila E and Gwen Stefani, and wrote amazing songs for others like Nothing Compares 2 U for Sinead O'Conner and Manic Monday for The Bangles. 

It seemed that Prince never got old or out of style yet at the same time he was a throwback to the greats like James Brown and Little Richard.  His music videos were always entertaining, beautiful and stylish.  He had an amazing work ethic and was so respected as a well-rounded and extraordinarily talented artist, that just showing up to any award's show as a presenter garnered standing ovations without him having to say a word.  Purple Rain is one of my favorite movies.  My favorite Prince music videos include:  Cream, 1999, When Doves Cry, and Seven.  My favorite Prince songs are:

1) When Doves Cry
2) Gold
3) Little Red Corvette
4) Raspberry Beret
5) Seven
6) Cream
7) 1999
8) Diamonds and Pearls
9) Let's Go Crazy
10) Erotic City
11) You Got the Look (duet with Sheena Easton)
12) Purple Rain
13) Kiss
 

He wasn't afraid to step outside the box and experiment with different sounds and styles.  He was gorgeous and inspiring and unique.  He was one of the first artists of mixed race to come to the forefront, was a quiet humanitarian and was willing to speak out on issues such as artists' rights.  In a growing climate of diminished creativity and musicianship, reduced diversity as far what genres and artists get promoted on the mainstream radio and on music video television, and an increasing entitlement for free music among the general public, I feel very lucky to have shared earth time with someone like Prince who was beyond genre and so out of this world that he brought the art form of music to a whole new level.  His music transcends and we should be grateful for all the songs, performances and art (videos, movies, etc.) that he left behind.  I'm sure there is more to come from his vault posthumously.  Talk about leaving the world a better place!

 

The Essence of Love

 

"... consider radiating your aura with the essence of love.  Let any negative energy that comes your way to simply flow through, around and from you and be changed to love and light to feed you and sent to God's light.  When you are connected to the Creator, negative thought-forms and psychic attacks will melt as snow in spring to create pure water to wash you clean."  - Vianna Stibal, author of ThetaHealing

 

It is Done!

 

My fourth and quite possibly last album, The Music Our Love Makes, is finally done after nearly 2 years of working on it.  I'm very proud of the work that I and my producer, Jeremy Cays, put into the project.  It turned out to be my best album so far.  It will be available for digital sales (i.e. iTunes, etc) sometime next week.  It will be available for physical CD sales around 4/13/16 through CDbaby.  I will also be doing a CD release party sometime this spring or summer.  More to come!

 

Belief Work

 

"When you change belief systems in the morphogenetic field, some illnesses and diseases can heal instantly. One of my clients was suffering from cancer of the colon. This was his third bout with this illness. After releasing the belief of 'I hate my father' from his core and genetic levels, he found his cancer disappeared."

- Vianna Stibal, author of ThetaHealing

 

Exercise as a Behavioral Prescription for Depression and Anxiety

 

 

"... Exercise regulates the release of the three Neurotransmitters most commonly associated with the maintenance of mental health: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Although exercise cannot substitute for psychiatric treatment, the role of exercise on mood is so pronounced that many psychiatrists have begun adding a regimen of physical activity to the normal course of therapy.   But in one experiment with depressed individuals, rigorous exercise was actually substituted for antidepressant medication. Even when compared against medicated controls, the treatment outcomes were astonishingly successful. For both depression and anxiety, exercise is beneficial immediately and over the long term. It is equally effective for men and women, and the longer the program is deployed, the greater the effect becomes. It is especially helpful for severe cases and for older people." - John Medina, author of Brain Rules 

 

Brain Rules

 

"We have created high-stress office environments, even though a stressed brain is significantly less productive." - John Medina, author of Brain Rules

 

The Voice Produces Only What the Ear Can Hear

 

Dr. Alfred Tomatis once said, "the voice produces only what the ear can hear."  He had an "electronic" ear and challenged the medical, educational, and musical world with that statement.  Don Campbell, author of Creating Inner Harmony, writes about Dr. Tomatis and how he was influenced by the doctor:

I realized that I'd never been taught about the ear's ability to listen; I only understood the basic mechanism.  When he amplified specific ranges in my left ear, I actually lost track of my vocal control and felt like I was a total non-singer.  Then he switched the frequencies to the right ear, and suddenly I was in tune with myself again.

While serving as director of the Institute of Music, Health and Education, I formally tested more than 500 students with right- and left-ear stimulation and observed how the texture and tuning of their voices changed.  By looking at their audiological listening charts, there was often an obvious way to see if the students' ears were hypersensitive to certain parts of their vocal ranges.  It was in those places that the ability to sing in tune was challenged.  Often, there'd be a place where tone perception in one of the ears was weak - and it always showed up in the voice.

Dr. Tomatis told me the story of the melancholy monks at Benedictine abbey in the south of France.  He was called there a few years after Vatican II because they were experiencing stress, fatigues, and sleep disorders.  The abbot thought that there was some kind of virus slowly killing the monks.  After many specialists had examined the men, only Tomatis realized that they'd been slowly weaned off their routine of singing Gregorian chants nine times a day.  This had been replaced with only a few services sung in French in a new style.

The despondence of the monks wasn't physiological, but audiological!  Tomatis put the monks back on a full diet of chant.  Within weeks, the elongated tones of devotional praise and prayer had restored the health of the abbey residents.

 

As a hearing-impaired singer, I can relate to the above.  I lost my left ear and some pitches in my right ear in 2009/2010 and I went from a first soprano to an alto.  Where music had once been a coping skill for me, I was no longer able to hear in stereo and loathed songs that didn't pan all instruments straight down the middle.  I could no longer tone the same as a singer. The assault of auditory abuse in certain work environments led me on a crusade to speak up for myself on behalf of all hearing-impaired individuals and dare to ask for accommodations.  This lead to backlash from my superiors, bullying and career execution. 

Whereas I was once profoundly afraid of becoming completely deaf and have been legally deaf at times given my illness, I feel more at peace with the idea now that I have started taken sign language, have learned more about the deaf community and culture, and have met amazing people within that community.  I will still choose to make as much music as possible while I have hearing because music was always my first love. 

I remember watching a special on TV about Jackie Evancho - the singer who gained worldwide attention at age 10 when she competed in the fifth season of America's Got Talent and finished in second place.  On the news special, Jackie's vocal chords were looked at in an attempt to see what makes her sing so well at such an early age.  I remember thinking at the time, why aren't they looking at her ears instead?

 

 

Music is the Answer

 

"Music is the answer to the mystery of life; it is the most profound of all the arts; it expresses the deepest thoughts of life and being in simple language which nonetheless cannot be translated."  - Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Our Inner Voice

 

"Our deep inner voice is often hidden by all the stimulation of daily life, and we also learn to use our thoughts to cover it."  - Don Campbell, author of Creating Inner Harmony

 

Enter the Pen

 

John 10:7-15 Jesus emphasized, "I can guarantee this truth:  I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came before I did were thieves or robbers.  However, the sheep didn't respond to them.  I am the gate.  Those who enter the sheep pen through me will be saved.  They will go in and out of the sheep pen and find food.  A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  But I came so that my sheep will have life and so that they will have everything they need.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.  A hired hand isn't a shepherd and doesn't own the sheep.  When he sees a wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and quickly runs away.  So the wolf drags the sheep away and scatters the flock.  The hired hand is concerned about what he is going to get paid and not about the sheep.  "I am the good shepherd.  I know my sheep as my Father knows me.  My sheep know me as I know the Father.  So I give my life for my sheep." 

 

Shaken Babies

 
Shaken babies, awaken
to the sound of My singing
For the day has come
My glory has risen
 
May all that you have lost
Be returned to you tenfold and more
More than you could ever imagine
More than you could ever ask for
 
The quakes will quiet down
But for now, they roar
Echo in your darkest places
Flood into your pores
 
But for all My children
Who suffered at the hands
of the wicked, wayward world
and who with the demons dance
 
Remember My promise to you
Think of the kingdom that awaits
And forgive the demon dancers
Let your hearts bloodlet the hate
as you leave them to My fate...
 
-NMJS
 

Hidden Resources

 

I believe that fear is compassion in seed form. Heal the fear, and compassion bursts forth. The instinctual self must not become the enemy. Anger, greed, and lust are all hidden resources that can be transformed into love, clarity, wisdom, and courage. Everything in nature is holy, and every chakra holds the seeds of our illumination and of who we are becoming.

Alberto Villoldo, author of Shaman, Healer, Sage

 

The Lord Looks at the Heart

 

But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him.  For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

- 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV

 

The Unconscious Group

 

"A good example of the way the unconscious group operates is the way a group selects a 'troublemaker' who then performs a function on behalf of other members of the group as well as themselves.  This is a person who always challenges administration, who constantly argues, who gives off nonverbal signs of frustration in meetings but never does anything positive, who is always tardy, and who bullies other people.  Many groups and organizations have a 'difficult', 'disturbed', or 'impossible' member whose behavior is regarded as getting in the way of the others' good work.  There may be a widely shared belief that if only that person would leave, then everything would be fine.  This view is very attractive, hard to resist and tempting to act upon... As happens very often, no sooner had one troublesome person left, than another one appeared... this unconscious suction of individuals into performing a function on behalf of others as well as themselves happens in all institutions."

- Sandra Bloom, author of Destroying Sanctuary

 

The Story of Psyche

 

People in the transition often have limited amounts of strength, health or energy as they go into the underworld. For example, the story of Psyche speaks to people living with cancer. They say, "Cancer was a cure for my co-dependency. Cancer was a way in which I could say to people, "I can't do that." The ability to say "No" is one of the challenges for a feeling man or the feminine psyche. When other people expect you to always be there for them, and you break form by saying "No," you create a crisis in a relationship. It may be that you need to not stay in the underworld of your own depression or your own addiction or your own whatever it is, it is there. Addiction, illness, and depression are images of the underworld that you need to get through in order to get out. This liminal period of transition is a very long one. The tasks to be done keep on growing. It's hard. It's scary. If you're going to make it through this transition to the new phase of your life in which you have integrated the new you, with all that you are for the next phase of your life, you've got to often learn to say "No." Otherwise the people who have expectations of you will use your energy. Say "No," and they'll say, "You're selfish." Psyche manages to do all of that. She returns to the upper world. She's no longer in the underworld. She has made it through.

http://www.peace.ca/mythofpsyche.htm

 

 

Happy New Years!

 

 

Trauma-Organized Systems

 

"The outcome of a traumatic experience will be in part determined by the pre-traumatic level of organizational health and integrity.  We believe that at this point, our social service network is functioning as a trauma-organized system still largely unaware of the multiple ways in which its adaptation to chronic stress has created a state of dysfunction that in some cases virtually prohibits the recovery of the individual clients who are the source of its underlying and original mission, and damages many of the people who work within it." - Sandra Bloom, author of Destroying Sanctuary

 

The Touch of Trauma

 

"Just the encroachment of trauma into the life of an individual client is an insidious process that turns the past into a nightmare, the present into a repetitive cycle of reenactment, and the future into a terminal illness..." - Sandra Bloom, author of Destroying Sanctuary

 

Broken and Beautiful

 

 

Trauma Stewardship

 

The following are excerpts from the book Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky with Connie Burk:

"Ethical work cannot be sustained in an eroding environment that fails to support its workers."

"... when people perceive their organizations to be supportive, they experience lower levels of vicarious trauma." 

"Service rationing refers to the process that workers go through to bridge the everyday divide between the ideal of how they would work if they were free to function to the best of their ability and the reality of how they can work, given the numerous obstacles in their way."

"Our responses to trauma exposure can foster a defended, exclusive, and hopeless culture in the organizations we work for.  Think about how your workplace feels.  What's the energy level?  What's the vibe?  These qualities have nothing to do with the intensity of the work.  Instead, they have to do with the degree to which the organization's structures, policies, and attitudes support or impede the workers' efforts to fulfill the mission." 

"An organization's culture can become so steeped in notions of scarcity that it enforces policies radically incongruent with the original mission."

"We frequently see trauma exposure response manifest in our work in two other ways:  lack of accountability and unethical behavior."

"One example of systemic oppression is structural violence.  This concept was introduced in the 1970s by Johan Galtung, a pioneering Norwegian researcher in peace and conflict, and founder of the International Peace Research Institute.  He describes structural violence as:  a form of violence which corresponds with the systemic ways in which a given social structure or social institution kills people slowly by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.  Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism and ageism are just some examples of structural violence."

"Caregiver stress is directly related to the way our society views the elderly and the people who care for them," elder-care expert Vitaliano says..."Today, caregiving is viewed largely as a burden in this country.  If it were viewed as more of a societal expectation and people were willing to offer more support, fewer caregivers would suffer in isolation, [Vitaliano] says. In turn, fewer elders and disabled people would experience abuse or neglect at the hands of caregiving individuals or institutions." 

"Many of our fields and places of work seem to function [] from a place of tremendous urgency.  This sense of urgency distracts many organizations from addressing how to best retain healthy, happy people who will continue to contribute to the betterment of the world."

"The deeper we sink into a culture of trauma, the less flexible and original our thinking becomes." 

"Only the person who is relaxed can create and to that mind, ideas flow like lightning." 

"When we contend with trauma exposure [] we often find ourselves craving more structure and less creativity.  We may resist change even when existing structures are out of date and detrimental to us personally and professionally."

"Taking sides can surface in workplace dynamics.  We may see it in the form of gossip, cliques, divisions among staff, and rigid expectations of workers."

"People who bear witness to a range of human experience may become increasingly inoculated to others' pain.  We may start being moved by each person's story, but over time it may take more and more intense or horrific expressions of suffering to deeply move us.  We may consider less extreme experiences of trauma as less real and therefore less deserving of our time and support.  Minimizing occurs when we trivialize a current situation by comparing it with another situation that we regard as more dire."

"Minimizing is not setting priorities in our work, it is the experience of losing our compassion and ability to empathize because we are comparing others' suffering or putting it into a hierarchy." 

"Often when individuals try to deal with their anger honestly, directly, and in a good-faith way, it can be so unnerving for those around them that they may be viewed as a bitch or labeled intimidating."

"The system is perfectly designed to produce the results it does - I keep hearing that quote.  The frustrating part for me is that when you have a system that is producing a lot of trauma, people focus on that trauma, and there's very little attention focused on the source.  What is this system that is churning out so many people who are suffering?  I know there are not infinite resources, but if we could put even 10 percent of our resources into what is generating trauma, then we could make a difference.  Otherwise, I think we're all going to just get overwhelmed.  I'm learning that it is incredibly hard to manifest all this in your own life.  There is a huge burden of responsibility on the individual to shift things, and of course that's true - the individual is the first place it starts.  Still, it's very, very hard to take responsibility for my own health when the systems and the culture around me are designed to provide minimal support for health." 

"While the rubble of the World Trade Center still smoldered, then-president George Bush implored us to go shopping as a testimony to our nation's resolve.  Not to grieve, not to be kind to each other, not to reflect deeply and humbly on the series of wounds and tragedies that preceded the hijackers' confoundingly violent and hopeless attacks, not to pitch in and make a difference in our own communities, but to shop.  While this comment has often been remarked upon, it remains a shining example of how distracted and numbed-out our culture and governance can become.  It also indicates how alienating it can be to work for social and environmental justice.  For many people, it can be crazy-making and lonely to see that there are tangible causes of suffering, but at the same time to be surrounded by people who are committed to obliterating any such awareness from their - and our - consciousness." 

"An important roles of the community we create around us is to refuse to collude with our harmful internal patterns." 

 

 

 

 

Evil Exists

 

"... people believe that you're some kind of basic religious nut if you believe in the devil." - Kate Bagby, mother of murdered son and grandson featured in the documentary Dear Zachary

 

Too Sensitive

 

The other day, a colleague told me I was "too sensitive."  I've been told this many times in my life and I used to internalize it and think that something was wrong with me.  After all, being "too" anything means that you have too much of that thing, right?  Usually, when someone says that you are "too sensitive", they are discounting what you are saying, how you are feeling or what you are thinking.  And then, you start to discount yourself as well because they said that.  Well, now I've come to honor my empathetic abilities and see them as a strength rather than a weakness.  After all, my sensitivity is what allows me to be compassionate towards others and meet them at their pain and walk with them in their pain and through their pain.  My sensitivity is what allows me to write songs that reach people on a deeper level and songs that translate pain that not only I feel but what others may be feeling as well.  My sensitivity is what drives me to try to understand other people rather than just dismiss them with judgments.  My sensitivity is what drives me to advocate for those that are less fortunate or cannot speak for themselves. 

I believe that God doesn't make mistakes.  I was born sensitive and I was born this way for a reason.  So, if you are also someone who has been labeled as "too sensitive", see it a strength and see it as a good thing no matter what anyone else says.  There have been so many great sensitive people throughout history that stand as wonderful examples of how to use your sensitivity for a higher purpose.  Some examples of my sensitive heroes include Oprah, Thich Nhat Hanh, Dalai Lama, Ghandi, Kurt Cobain, Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, Marsha Linehan, Wayne Dyer, Jon Conte, Rumi, Brian Weiss, Langston Hughes, Gary Zukav, Eckhart Tolle, Princess Diana, Arianna Huffington, Maya Angelou, and many more.  So, if you too are someone who has been called "too sensitive", know that you stand in good company.

Back in 2003, I wrote a poem called:

One of the Last Great Sensitives

 

I know that I am

one of the last great sensitives

for the world is warping us

into one of their own

telling us we're too sensitive

telling us to toughen up

touching us in our soft spots

sneaking cold into our hearts

and thick under our skin

and hardness into our souls

 

Don't let it work on you

and I won't let it work on me

for we're much too loving to lose what we believe

They can turn the tide whichever way they want

but if I'm to be swallowed, I am to be swallowed whole

not broken down piece by piece

by that pushy sales lady posing as a concerned caregiver

by that sea of angry mobsters posing as day care workers

by the exclusive, by the bullies, by the gossipers, by the mindless, by the selfish, by the lazy, by the unethical, by the corrupt, by the materialistic, by the chauvinistic, by the powers that be

They may all band together against me but

I will not sway, I will remain

one of the last great sensitives

 

 

For the Hearing Impaired and Those Who Love Them

 

Hearing impaired individuals such as myself can choose to advocate for themselves, seek assistance from their loved ones and from doctors at times in order to navigate through a world where those with normal hearing often are not sensitive to or compassionate towards them.  Like with any disability or impairment, doing something as simple as requesting accommodations at your job, such as asking for a quiet place to work, can bring a lot of resentment and bullying from co-workers who may feel that you are receiving special treatment.  If you have an inexperienced or unsupportive boss, supervisor or lead worker, the problem becomes magnified especially if they want to please those who are complaining.  

I was trying to find a quiet restaurant to go to with my husband on a date night yesterday evening.  While he wanted to go to The Ram, I declined going there because I find it too loud and then we wouldn't be able to have much conversation.  So we decided to check out a new restaurant by our home.  The cement floors must have added to the acoustics of the place because it was so loud, I wanted to leave as soon as I walked into the place.  I decided to give it a chance and sat down in a booth with my only hearing ear out to the waitress.  At one point, it sounded like a lawnmower was coming through the place.  After a few minutes of trying to deal with that sound, I decided I had had enough.  So we left and went to Duke's Chowder House which has a nice quiet ambience.  Though it is a little pricier, I was willing to pay the extra money to be able to dine out and have a conversation with my husband.  Sure, we had a really loud woman sitting at the table next to us, but overall, the experience was pleasant. 

Though I have some really good hearing aids, most people don't understand that wearing hearing aids isn't like wearing glasses for those with visual impairments.  You can't all of a sudden hear well, especially in a loud, noisy environment.  I have worked with co-workers who have mocked me by becoming louder after I have asked them to quiet down.  They probably feel that they shouldn't have to change who they naturally are. 

My husband gets tired of having to repeat himself and may accuse me of not listening to him but on the whole, he is pretty good at hearing and speaking for me when we are out in public in noisy places.  Given my hearing loss, those with high-pitched voices, those with soft voices, those who mumble, and those with accents are extremely difficult to hear.  If there is a meeting going on, I am not capable of having a side conversation at the same time.  If I am on the phone with someone, I am not capable of hearing anything someone else who is trying to tell me even if they are standing right by me.  I've gotten accused of ignoring people, of being stuck up and of many other things because of my hearing impairment.  I bump into people more often and get startled more often because I can't always hear people approaching me. 

When I first lost my hearing, it was one of the worst experiences in my life.  Being someone who listened to people for a living and whose passion is listening to and making music, losing my hearing was depressing to say the least.  While I have decided in my soul to continue to persevere and explore my own resiliency in order to inspire others and get on with living, I have found that the lack of compassion from those with normal hearing has been the biggest stressor in all of this.  For this reason, I am recommending that those who wish to have more compassion for the hearing impaired read the excellent article below that explains while those with hearing impairments struggle in noisy environments.  I know that for me, it is like swimming against a riptide:

http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2012/Q3/study-hearing-impaired-ears-hear-differently-in-noisy-environments.html

 

The Dream Keeper

 

Bring me all of your dreams,

You dreamers,

Bring me all of your

Heart melodies

That I may wrap them

In a blue cloud-cloth

Away from the too-rough fingers

Of the world.

 

The Best Shepherd

 

"It is also my opinion that even though we have a free will, God can sovereignly intervene and block some wrong choices.  I know that His "messing around with my plans" prevented me from accidents, wrong relationships, and hidden traps.  And there are undoubtedly a multitude of things in the unseen world that never occurred because Jesus is the best Shepherd."

- Mickey Robinson, author of Falling Into Heaven

 

Counterintuitive Thankfulness

 

"I am training you to thank Me not only for obvious blessings but also for situations you would never have chosen - a wayward child or spouse; loss of health, home, or employment.  This is counterintuitive thankfulness, and it is possible only to the extent that you trust Me at a deep level.  It is also a matter of self-discipline; willing yourself to thank Me even when your circumstances are screaming at you to find a way out.  Though it is wise to look for ways to improve your situation, you cannot force My hand - or My timing.  Just keep coming into My Presence with thanksgiving.  Your persistent thankfulness may actually provide the long-awaited key I will use to unlock major difficulties in your life.  Giving thanks to Me can open doors in ways that transcend your understanding."

- Sarah Young, author of Jesus Today

 

Stung by Jesus

 

Want to share the story of an atheist who encountered Jesus during a near-death experience after he was stung by 5 jellyfish while scuba diving:

http://www.near-death.com/experiences/notable/ian-mccormack.html

 

Hiding in the Light

 

Sharing excerpts from an excellent book I just got done reading:  Hiding in the Light by Rifqa Bary

So much for the "innocent until proven guilty" philosophy.  There's something about a prison jumpsuit that equalizes the playing field and passes sentence without saying a word.  But like before I was intent on my public face being as bright and unaffected as I could make it.  So as I approached the group, I smiled at one of the guards and chirped, "Good morning!"  "Humph!" he snorted, mocking me.  "You look so happy to be in jail.  Bless your heart," he smarted off sarcastically whle attaching heavy chains to my hands, waist, and feet..."  ... I kept telling myself, What an honor, Rifqa, to be suffering for Christ, walking in the footsteps of your Lord." 

I actually had two types of cancer.  One of them (rhabdomyosarcoma) was commonly found in young children, while the other (adenocarcinoma) was generally seen only in menopausal women.  I was neither, of course.  And yet I had both.  Taken together, they gave me one of the worse and weirdest forms of uterine cancer anybody had ever seen.

In the basement of this kind woman's house on a rainy night in Ohio, looking for the first time at my brown bald head, I made a deal with God.  "You know, Lord, the Bible says a woman's hair is her glory.  Well, I am laying down my glory tonight, all my strength and my beauty, for Yours."  I paused in my thoughts as the weight of this truth consumed me.  "And when it grows back," I said to myself in utter, undeniable faith, "will You let it be more beautiful than it was before?"

...my oncologist, of course, who looked me straight in the eye, trying to convince me with his solemn countenance.  "Rifqa, dear, do you realize what you're doing?  You are going to die if you go through with this."  I wouldn't be moved.  I'd decided.  I was dying anyway.  What the cancer wasn't doing, the chemo was.  The path I needed to walk had become - I don't know how to describe it exactly - very clear to me.  And chemotherapy wasn't part of it.  ... I knew in my spirit that God was calling me to do this, and I decided I would rather die in obedience to Him than live in disobedience and possibly survive the treatment.  ... my life was not my own anymore...

Through my own experience, I have gained a passion for justice that has not left me.  Ultimately, I know it is God who executes true justice.  There is no judicial system that can restore to me everything I have lost; it is God who avenges.

Not everyone's story can be laid over everyone else's and used as a grid or template for determining how a person is supposed to react.

 

 

All Songs Considered

 

Check out this great podcast I've discovered:

http://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2015/10/02/445007469/all-songs-1-mark-ronson-on-making-something-old-new-again

 

 

The Honor of Being a Scapegoat

 

Whenever there is hardship in life, one of the best ways Christians deal with it is by finding honor in the hardship and by taking up our crosses proudly like Jesus did. After all, Christians always try to emulate Jesus as much as they can.  For example, when part of my rib was removed after cancer was found in my abdomen, one of the things that got me through the whole cancer experience was wearing my new scar and deformity as a badge of honor.  After all, wasn't Jesus speared in the ribs when he was still on the cross?  Did he not bear a similar wound?  The rib is also mentioned in other parts of the bible such as in Genesis when God takes a rib from Adam to make Eve. 

The situation that I am currently trying to transmute is the whole experience of witnessing the scapegoating of others as well as being scapegoated myself.  I find great peace in the book of Leviticus where the bible speaks of the scapegoat needing to be innocent in order to atone for the sins of the people that are sacrificing it.  I realize that this annual ritual on the day of atonement ended, for Christians, when Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  But there were 2 scapegoats in Jewish tradition, one that was sacrificed (Jesus) and perished and one living scapegoat that was shunned from the community and took away the impurities and sins to the wilderness.  The high priest would placed his hands on the heads of the goats and symbolically transfer the sins of the people onto the goats.  Together the goat sacrificed and the living scapegoat showed that the goats were substituted for the people and that they bore the penalty of sin.

 

In the Midst of Wolves

 

"I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves."

- Matthew 10:16 NKJV

 

A Friend Who Cares

 

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not caring, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak

 

On True Stewardship

 

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?

- From The Parable of the Unrighteous Steward

 

We are all One

 

Soon I began to see and feel Jesus and he was smiling.  I felt the most intense love coming from him and at the same time emanating from my heart.  That love was just like the love I had felt in the presence of Sai Baba and Anandamayi Ma.  But it was now within me in the form of Jesus.  I kept trying to quiet the thoughts but suddenly my conscious mind popped out and shouted, "Jesus?" "What are you doing here?  I'm Jewish and looking for my Indian guru.  How did Jesus get here?"

Then I heard him gently reply that he was Jewish also, that in fact he was every religion and no religion.  He had many amazing teachings for me.  One of them was that "God does not want us to be divided in His name.  God wants us to be united in His name.  We are all One."

 

The above is an excerpt from Longing For Belonging:  Pilgrimage of Transformation by Diane Zimberoff

 

 

 

Victory of the People

 

"... the victory of a single soul over any darkness lights the path for all who follow."  - Guy Finley

 

Growing Into a Love That Lasts

 

Here is a simple set of instructions for those who want their love to last:

Don't try to please each other, for each of you has constantly changing pleasures.  Instead strive to please love... and in this you will please what is capable of being loved in one another.  This understanding alone nourishes your love, and in turn love will nourish your life together.

Teach and help each other to be independent.  Wrongful dependency on one another breeds fear and cruelty.  Instead, learn to depend on love, for love breeds love ... and real love is always independent and kind.

Don't try to change each other, either subtly or openly.  This creates resentment.  Instead, let the other find his or her way.  This doesn't mean to condone whatever is seen as being wrong or obviously mistaken.  It simply means don't condemn one another for a weakness, as love never lashes out but always strives to lift.

 

The above is an excerpt from:  The Secret of Your Immortal Self:  Key Lessons for Realizing the Divinity Within by Guy Finley

 

Mental illness

 

When we dismiss those with mental illness as simply "crazy", we miss an opportunity to develop our compassion, understanding of the problem and ability to correct the problem.

 

Endorsement of Tolerance

 

Just want to put it out there that I support Caitlyn Jenner and feel that she's being an excellent role model not only for her children but for all the children of the world, especially transgender youth who are no doubt hating themselves or living in fear at this time in history.  As I am following the online stories about Caitlyn Jenner, I am saddened to read all the hateful comments in response to her willingness to be a trailblazer and brave public figure in order to bring the issues of tolerance and self-acceptance to world's attention. 

I am a Christian but I am not any brand of Christian that spews hate.  Jesus loved everyone and I will attempt to do the same.  Regardless of my own spiritual beliefs, I am evolved enough to know that you cannot and should not expect everyone else to share your same beliefs and values.  Otherwise, there would be no diversity in the world.

I do hope that part of Caitlyn's journey will be to over come the victim mentality that she has regarding her ex-wife, Kris Jenner.  I think Kris, more than anyone, has every right to be angry as she's grieving and questioning everything about their relationship, wondering what was real.  Anger is a natural part of grief.  Who wouldn't be angry and confused in such a situation?  I don't feel people should be attacking Kris for being intolerant, including Caitlyn. 

When you are married to someone who is living a lie, you are married to a miserable person who is likely projecting their anger onto you, especially if you are someone who gets to be the gender they want to be.  You also become part of their lie unknowingly which isn't fair.  Things obviously weren't completely communicated honestly in their marriage. 

Of course, as you are struggling to accept yourself and know who you truly are inside, you can only communicate to your partner that which you are completely conscious of yourself.  We get so good at denying and repressing parts of ourselves out of fear of what our families and society will think or say. 

I can understand the concern that Caitlyn Jennner's children have about how much hate will be heaped upon her from the world.  I realize that most of these hateful remarks and comments that I read are due to people being afraid and confused.  Hopefully, our society won't see the violence that we saw during the civil rights movement when fear and hate threatened desegregation.  Of course, we must admit that we are still working on equal rights for all. 

Intolerance can be insidious but it appears to be more directly vicious at this time with Caitlyn Jenner coming out.  As I see more and more people follow their hate and justify their judgments upon others, I hope I can be like Caitlyn and dare to be different.  I hope I can choose love at every turn on this winding road towards tolerance of others and self-acceptance.   

 

Compassion

 

"Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded.  It's a relationship between equals.  Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.  Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity." 

- Pema Chodron

 

Courage

 

Courage doesn't always roar.  Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.

- Mary Anne Radmacher

 

Letting Go of the Negative

 

I challenge you today to let every NEGATIVE thing go in your life and do not pick it back up!  Throw it away!  Discard it!  Flush it!  Bury it!  It is DEAD WEIGHT!  Throw it overboard and allow it to sink to the pits of hell.  It is your time and purpose to be free and delivered from bondage!  If things and people are holding you back, release them!

Remember, you cannot go up higher, if you are hanging on to dead anchor weight!  Just LET IT GO!

- Dawgelene Sangster, author Behold You:  Change From Within

 

Healing Power

 

When you link, in love, to the light that is everywhere - healing must follow.

- Jack Angelo, author of Your Healing Power

 

Two Wolves

 

Ours is a world that two wolves try to devour - the first is the wolf of skeptical science and religious fundamentalism (they are the same one).  The second is the wolf of our cosmic connection, synchronicity, astral realms, and manifestation by intention.  The wolf that dominates our life is the wolf we feed.

- Mark Ireland, author of Soul Shift

 

New Light

 

 

 

 

 

I Remember Your Heart

 

I can't remember your name

Might not recognize your face

Bits of your story have fallen away

as beautifully as snow flakes

 

The details don't stick

in this ancient mind of mine

but when I look in your eyes, I feel the spark

For it's then that I remember your heart

 

And a flood of memories enters in

to nourish the barren fields I'm left with

and suddenly I'm swimming in a sea of love

where I can recall what's most precious

 

Your beauty as simple as a Rumi poem

Your story as timeless as a gemstone

Your heart as gentle as the fallen snow

Still pure despite the bitter cold

 

You will always mean something to me

Though circumstance pulled us apart

And as I remember less and less, dear

Please know that I'll always remember your heart

 

The Christian Mystery

 

"The Christian mystery involves knowing that we are saved by grace and yet living as if our entry to heaven depended on our service to others."  - Laura Beth Jones, author of Jesus in Blue Jeans

 

Quote of the Day

 

The quote that is inspiring today is:  "Follow me now.  Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own dead."  - Mathew 8:21-22

Great quote when you are needing to let go and start a covenant with the present.

 

Halloween Greetings!

 
 

Cool Halloween Pic

 
 

Trick or Treat

 
JellyMuffin.com graphics & Images
www.jellyMuffin.com
 

Repentance

 

"...when we repent, anything that we have done that was wrong or sinful in nature and was recorded in the books is erased for all eternity.  No one can find the record, not even God."

- Richard Sigmund, author of My Time in Heaven

 

For Survivors of Suicide

 

In the Darkest Hour

 

When the skies are blue, but there's darkness all about

Just think of me as your light,

Just ask for help and I will be there,

Because I am the guardian of your light.

Through your eyes you will see me

As I am your angel in the darkest night.

As I watch over you when you sleep,

I will protect you as you sleep,

I will let no harm come unto you.

When times are hard and tears will flow,

I will wrap my wings around you and let my love flow.

So don't give up, my beautiful one,

As we are not to meet just yet.

There will be a time when we will unite,

But until then, I will see that only

Joy and love will surround you.

 

- Sue Nicholson, author of A Call from the Other Side

 

For All You Aliens

 

I have always felt like an alien in this world trying to appear normal while feeling strange inside.  I also feel like a hypersensitive person trying to fit in by becoming cold and hard inside.  I wrote this song, Cold World, based on a dream I had where I was wandering through a dwelling in a tree's stump in the dark.  In one rooms of the dwelling, a couple were having sex.  In another room, someone was shooting up and at one point a black cat stood in my path.  Anyway, based on this dream, I wrote the lyrics and the music to this song on my piano immediately upon awakening.  This song was never mixed properly for reasons stated in my last blog.  Even though it is incomplete, I think you can still hear the haunting beauty of the song.  Click on this link to listen:  Cold_World_w_back_vox.mp3

 

Happy Halloween!

 

 http://youtu.be/maUH91X9_bI

 

Becoming Love

 

Welcome the release of my second book "Becoming Love" about recovery from love addiction.  It will be available at the following:  Apple iBookstore (for ipad), Amazon (for Kindle), Barnes & Noble (for NOOK), Reader Store (for Sony Reader), Kobo, Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, eBookPie, eSentral, and Scribd. 

 

New Music Video

 

Check out my music video for All the Lights of Heaven at http://youtu.be/T-Ebvm_j7xo

 

Music Video Project

 

Just finished editing my first music video.  I know I went crazy on the effects but it's my first attempt so gimme a break already!  Here's the youtube link if you'd like to check it out:  http://youtu.be/bcqPSotorGk

 
 

First Short Updated

 

Had to make a few edits to my first short film.  It is set to public now so all can view.  Here's the new link:  http://youtu.be/XFnGsnL7L_A

 

My First Short Film

 

I just completed my first short silent film on 8 mm.  I am taking a class at Seattle Film Institute:  Fundamentals of Filmmaking.  I'm so glad that there is a film industry starting up in Seattle.  My movie is a comedy inspired by the movie What About Bob and it stars my brother and my husband.  The film can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMWYn_p8Z8g&feature=youtu.be

 

Pray for Me

 

I believe in the power of prayer.  I already lost my left ear in 2010 to Meniere's Disease.  Now, the hearing in my right ear is going.  I am asking anyone out there reading this to pray for me, that my hearing is restored that I may continue to make music.  My birthday is tomorrow and the best birthday gift I could ever imagine would be for my hearing to be healed.  So please pray for me.  Thank you for your support.  Love always, Nicole-Marie

 

Check Out My New Singles

 

Yeahzers!  My three new singles are finally finished!  Strobe is the only dance song I have produced thus far.  A Song for Peace sounds like an anti-war song but it is actually a call to songwriters to write more peaceful songs inspired by the rapper Eminem.  I Smile is an upbeat and uplifting song dedicated to those you want to see again.  The songs were recorded at Blissman Studios in Federal Way, Washington and feature Frank Seeberger, the best guitarrist in Seattle, on the electric guitar.  Chris Crumpler is a killer drummer who played on all three songs and really slayed it on Strobe.  Wayne Bliss played bass and did the mixing.  I wrote and arranged the songs, played keyboard, acoustic guitar and did the vocals.  The songs will only be sold digitally at this time through various digital outlets such as Amazon and itunes. 

 

New Releases

 

Howdy!  I have three new singles with the projected release date of 9/3/11.  Keep an ear out for my three new songs:  I Smile, Strobe and A Song for Peace!