"May I write words more naked than flesh, stronger than bone, more resilient than sinew, sensitive than nerve." _ Sappho

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What I know so far_

Right at the moment, I have been in the "big city" for all of seven months, after living in a small town for twenty-eight years. I am employed and seeking THE job. It was in that small town, to which I intentionally moved that I have accomplished what has brought me this far on my own in life. Sounds reasonable so far, right? It is important to note that, I have been intuiting an individualized definition to heal family history since before I ever was able to leave my mother's house at age seventeen. Because in my next posting I will begin exploring on this blog what seems to make sense to me now, concerning THE potential job I do from here. How I get there, is why I post. Stay tuned.

What is to now my own creative, personally expressive life-path has served development of an equally personal greater good. This development is what I describe as having taken shape and solidity over the past twenty years, with the benefit of different guides of varying expertise along the way. Rather than having chased the socially conditioned building of material security, my reason for being originates in a deep deep sense of magnetism to know the truth of love in the world_ for my own sanity, health and reassurance. This definition of self in western culture for now, frames the extent to which I simply grew up in an instinctive recognition for very high contrast to the contrary; that the material was the way at the expense of love. This recognition is true for me since before I was born_ I just have always been about recognizing reality concerning health and well being. A composition definition of living that can be consciously centered in love without judgment; one in which is normal for any human to flourish naturally. I feel strongly I understand this perspective for living possibly because of the family of origin from whence I came! A FACT I will continue to clear up more in the next post and the next, and continue to do as life work as long as it takes for more people to get that there are real resources within human wisdom to be accessed during one's own lifetime. To learn to alleviate many forms of hunger. To wake up to self and one's own life while alive!
My journey to know this instinctive path more consciously came when, I left home when I was seventeen having just graduated high school. Looking back, I feel I made this passage with noting more than the afore-mentioned desire to know what life means beyond even the basic knowledge of how to merely sustain myself. I started this journey with what I call 'blood money' for college_ a "compensation" from the government for my father's death in VietNam. I tell the reader point blank do not presume to know how much that truth has affected my reality, consequently, do not attempt to denigrate what I share here with any negatively spoken reaction, as that may only truly reveal your own unresolved anxst. These are my personal statements, the affect of which may unwittingly provoke in you what belongs to your responsibility to understand consciously, clearly_ for you, about you.
My own life and the experiences that I recount are what I know to talk about. The path I have walked thus far has been fraught with one obstacle-ridden impacted contradiction after another, as well as the years of unraveling the chaos of origin that ensued. What I feel empowered to share, are the benefits I have gained internally as a result of choosing a life that focused on conscious self-awareness work rather than material, the pursuit of which now ought not be as obstacle-ridden. I see taking my experiences public as furthering my solution-building way. A way that is less private, more in relationship with this world I love.
From this place of direct personal experience I can teach from a state of grace, where you might be available to learn for your own self, what healing is important for you. That you may learn by listening to, and considering my story.
After rising from the ashes over and over and over and over and over again since at least 1972, I have made it to a very important plateau. I have done so with one twenty-year-old daughter who is at one the West Coast's best liberal arts colleges, where she is a music major!
SHE embodies what I have accomplished on what I call our own family's two-way street. We have always been a team. I have never married. It has always been only the two of us. Social services programs have been the facilitation of every ounce of hard work I have put in on healing my life for both our benefit during twenty-years of a chosen social isolation lifestyle. I have also earned my bachelor's degree. Once pregnant with my child, I chose those services every step of the way that I needed them. Now, I am proud to say that I have done many good things with my life for the two of us, outside the box of social expectation. I share my story to say, you can also choose to be proud, as this is a voice of freedom. Nothing less. My offering to what is also possible for anyone who can look, hear, and adapt.
As I say, I am now a teacher by direct personal experiences. I am fairly specifically looking for ways now to accessibly plug those experiences in. Plug in to gain what credentials the marketplace requires, so not only am I appropriately empowered to continue contributing to national healing work, but I can finally make a living to take care of my daughter in her young adult development, as well as myself. I would like real access to credit which fits my history and reality now. Those goals include my abilities to think in terms of choices beyond only disciplined responsibilities for a change. We have nobly earned this.
Responsibly, I know that my story is representative of many other voices of varying hues that live and struggle in this rich, "free" country_ HEAR US, so we can save each other without exception! Not reactionism. This call is included for those who make enough money, who may have two point five children, who have colored inside the lines all their lives, etc., etc., etc. No one is excluded from healing to know that unconditional love exists in the world when we know how to find it. This hunger need not continue unabated America.

Today's posting is also a segue, to feature a portion of the work integral to my journey. The work of this incredible woman was suggested to me by my former mentor five years ago. It belongs to Karla McLaren. Karla, took a hiatus right after she wrote the work, "Emotional Genius." I consider it an amazing manifesto of healing that one simply cannot read. With every word one works what is being taught about comprehending the actual genius in ALL of the emotions. You will not practice unconscious judgmentalism against any of the emotions ever again! I found one can reach a liberation for the validity of all emotions we each feel because, one can understand they all exist for damn good reason!
No! this book isn't the quintessential silver bullet fix-all in one place, America. For me, it is one very solid stepping stone in my PROCESS. Healing, waking up, is a process_ one of the main reasons we are alive in the first place from what I can see.
So without further adieu, I give you Karla McLaren in her own words in her very recent re-emergence,(hint it is also a link under the "Searching for this Teacher" catagory, in my links section):

One caveat, or WARNING!


In Karla McLaren's own words: Sup?

"Thanks for asking. It's 2008, and I'm living with my husband and son in California. I ended my career in spiritual healing and all that stuff back in 2004, and I went back to college to get a degree in Sociology, which turned into a degree in Social Sciences with a concentration in Sociology and a minor in Career Testing and Guidance. Long story. I received my BA in May 2006, with Honors and lotsa cool medals to go with all my scholastic awards. Bling! And Sociology is the stone cold bomb! Sociology (and Micro Sociology and Social Psychology) is the most fascinating way to study humans and their behavior. Indeed!

Sociology also helped me understand my entry into, and exit from, the new age. I left my new age career for the same reasons I entered it: I was really concerned about the number of trauma survivors there, and how they were being confused and pandered to and marketed to, but not truly helped. I saw too many untreated anxiety disorders and too many untreated depressive disorders, and too many untreated PTSD sufferers, and it just got to me. I couldn't ethically support what was going on. And though I was a voice of dissent and I got pretty far in my years of writing and teaching, I realized that in my 30-plus years in the new age, I had seen no one get truly well. They had a better vocabulary for their pain, and they had more ways to soothe themselves than regular folks tend to have, but that was about it. And while self-soothing is very important, I found that the new age made too many promises with no responsible research behind them. No money-back guarantees, and lots of blaming the victim if the promises don't deliver (you must have negative energy, you're not praying hard enough, it's your karma. Feh.) No checks and balances, no consumer protection agency ... unacceptable.

In response to my concerns about the ethical lapses and the many ways that the new age trains people (especially women) to be unquestioning, undiscerning, and totally pliant consumers, I've allowed all of the books and tapes I control through Laughing Tree Press to go out of print, and I'm in talks with my other publishers to do the same. I am just now reopening this website after years of silence. But I'm really pondering my next steps. Some people want me to write a book about my unusual transition, but the intensity people have about their beliefs makes me queasy, and I don't want to be out there as an apostate flag waver, since the place I've come to in my thinking and in my studies doesn't really square up with anyone else's ideas.

For instance, I've found in my research that the skills I and other psychics have ARE understandable from a scientific and rational standpoint. Intuition is real, and it doesn't have to be paranormal in order to be fascinating and valid. The sense that there is an aura is also real, and an understanding of neural body maps, proprioception, and interoception makes for a much fuller, deeper, and more worthwhile explanation than a merely paranormal one does. Empathic abilities, which were my forte as a healer and teacher, are totally intriguing because they are also quite real. But until you have an understanding of interoception, mirror neurons, non-verbal communication and cues, animal behavior, and the kind of behaviors humans without functioning mirror neurons display, it is very natural to think that strong empathic (or intuitive) abilities are magical. They're not. And they don't need to be.

Wouldn't it be cool to be able to understand these skills without needing to rely on fables? And wouldn't it be even cooler to be able to gently let go of superstitions and delve into a deeper understanding of what it is to be human, instead of having to jump off the freaking cliff like I did when I left the new age?

Well, I have to think a great deal about re-entering the fray. I didn't enjoy fame in even the smallest way, and I didn't find book writing to be a good living. I gotta have me a real job and some real benefits.


Right now, my husband and I are playing a game that I call "degree leapfrog." When I was doing my new age career, I helped put him through his first Master's degree, and he returned the favor and helped to support me through my BA in Social Science. Now it's his turn again, and I'm working, or trying to, so that I can support him through his next degree, which is an accelerated Master's in Nursing. Very cool. When he's done, it will be my turn again, and I may pursue a Ph.D. in Microsociology or Social Psychology.

But now that I've left the world of spiritual healing and have been living in the everyday world – going to school and dealing with hierarchies and bureaucracies, working in condo associations and dealing with hierarchies and bureaucracies, and getting back into regular work in a number of ways – MAN, do I understand why new age promises and the idea of the spirit world are so important to people. Things can be really crappy out here among the straights and the stiffs! Back when I was a writer and artist and free spirit, I could just move along when people got wonky, or businesses couldn't function, or bureaucracies got so rigid that they couldn't respond to market forces (or anything, really). But now I'm trying to stay put and sort of live through what regular people put up with all the time – and I really, really get why the magic promises of the new age are so seductive.

That's something so many of the skeptics don't understand (the skeptics are a group of people I got close to and then walked away from because they were trying to make me their favorite reformed sinner or circus monkey or something). As I was leaving the new age, I wrote an article for the Skeptical Inquirer about why I was leaving. You can find it if you google my name. When I wrote it, I unconsciously adopted the style of Shakespeare's "Friend, Romans, countrymen..." speech, where I came in under their defenses and told them I agreed with them, and then gently but persistently asked them why they were such complete failures at communicating their concerns. The response was amazing. I only got one crank letter, and the rest were from smart people who not only could take a punch, but actually suggested that I hit a little harder next time.

It was so cool to write for people who weren't thin-skinned, because my experience of the new age reader was that I had to be so careful that I almost couldn't write at all. It's lucky I was born dyslexic, because I always had to find ways around my struggles with language. Writing dissent material from inside the new age (where dissent, judgment, and discernment are not welcome) was a linguistic challenge, but I did it well all those years, or as well as you can for people who were trained to ignore their own judgment. When I wrote my piece for that skeptical mag, it was nice to take off the gloves somewhat, say some very challenging things, and then have readers take the challenge and run with it. It was fun to have people actually ask to be argued with and challenged!

I also met some very smart and excellent skeptical people who agree that the skeptical approach doesn't really translate very well. Many skeptics also understand that you can be skeptical and be a new ager or a religionist at the same time. For instance, I certainly was a skeptic in all of my books and tapes, and a dissenter from many new age tenets. Check out my work on judgment, which was heresy. But it made my work interesting and fresh, not to mention useful. I never walked the line with new age ideas, and I wasn't anyone's butt monkey. The cool skeptics I met did not look down on me for an instant, though some of them had to do some mental calisthenics to fit me into their worldviews. Bully for them that they did so.

But I didn't find a way to be comfortable in the straight-up skeptical world. I don't feel comfortable with groups anyway. I am very skeptical, and I always have been, but I don't need to be a skeptic. Do you know what I mean? I don't need the T-shirt and the coffee mug and the card with my picture on it. It's an entirely different social world, and they've got rules I don't agree with. For instance, in many cases, arguing is pretty much the focus of skeptical discourse. For the most part, research doesn't happen there, but arguing about research does. And a lot of times, it's surprisingly untutored arguing amongst people who haven't got degrees or work experience in the subject at hand. So it's kind of like a fantasy football league of science fanboys. I mean, I was all D&D Sci-Fi geekgirl in my youth, so I get the feel of it, but huh.

Until recently, I was on a skeptical e-mail list where the arguing got so absurd that you'd think it was a Monty Python skit or something. It was like watching whacked out computers play verbal street hockey until one of them exploded. Oh my word, going from the extreme of new age consensus to the extreme of argumentativeness in the skeptical world was too much for me! Too much consensus is a stone drag, because what you get at the end is so often tedious and stripped of any originality. But too much argument is exhausting, and I began to wonder if the people who enjoy it have developmental delays. I'm not kidding!

These people who love to argue don't seem very sensitive to me, but the arguing may just be a cover for feelings they don't know how to deal with. I don't know. But I do know that there's nearly as much trouble in the skeptical culture as there is in the new age culture. It's a different kind of trouble, but it's trouble nevertheless, and I don't need to belong to yet another group. Never was much of a joiner. I also know that my smart, sensitive, emotionally aware, and artistic friends don't like to argue just for the sake of arguing. I think I'll hang out with them instead.

Now, having said that, I have to contrast the skeptical world with the world of scientific research. I had the great good fortune to work with two of my professors on research projects and books, and oh my word, research is the most fabulous thing ever. You don't just stand around pontificating, or taking other people's word for things. You work and think, and think and work, and challenge yourself, and open your mind, and you get to do and read some of the most amazing things! I mean, stuff that is so much more fascinating than anything I've ever seen or heard before. It's just so cool to get your hands on real research. Oh my! And real researchers, real scientists, are neither skeptics nor believers, because both positions ask you to make up your mind and become concretized in your thinking. No. Great researchers are adventurers, and visionaries, and astonishingly humble people, because they have to be able to balance their knowledge and expertise with the information that comes from the world they are studying. They have to be able to change their minds when the data disconfirm their cherished opinions. Genius!

Great researchers are now my model for how to be an exemplary human being, because they are smart enough to do the work required to question the universe, and humble enough to listen to the answers they get. They're also smart enough to stay connected with others in their field, and in far reaching fields, so that their dataset is constantly changing up and being challenged. I call these idealized researchers a model, because as you can imagine, scientists can be just as silly, myopic, egocentric, power mad, and wonky as anyone else. They can be jealous of others, married to cherished ideas, confused by data they don't understand or can't accept, isolated by their own sense of importance, hypnotized by fame, money, or power, or stuck in the morass of bureaucracy and petty infighting that occurs in academia. But even though there are tremendous obstacles in their way, we have been blessed with brilliant researchers and scientists who have helped us know more about our world. Bless their hearts!

Street Smarts and Karl Marx

Okay, so here's the thing that many people in the arguing skeptical subculture really don't get. The new age, and religion, and spirituality, and tabloid mags with wild stories and super fantastic health cures, and the diet of the minute, and beauty and longevity promises ... these things don't exist and thrive because the purveyors are manipulative money grubbers (for the most part). And they don't exist and thrive because people aren't smart (for the most part)! They exist for the reason Karl Marx felt religion existed: They are opiates for the masses.

But remember that when Karl Marx was alive (1818 to 1883), opium was not used primarily for the high. It was used as a pain killer. Karl was writing before modern painkillers, and before antibiotics, and before regular dental care, and before many of the advances conventional medicine has made. Life in Karl's day had lots of pain in it, and opiates were necessary. Opiates are excellent pain killers.

So when Karl Marx wrote, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people," he wasn't saying that the masses were hopped up on the Jesus. They weren't strung out on the Almighty. They were trying to assuage their pain.

I saw that pain when I was up on stage being the spiritual healer gal, or the empath. I don't even know how to describe it to you – the sorrow, and the fear, and the naked longing that I saw in people's faces. There was this aching hope that if they listened to me, or if I looked at them in the right way, or if I said the right things, or if I wrote the right words, their pain would be suddenly healed and they would be able to breathe and live more easily. It was oppressive up on stage for me – to see all that, and to try to do something, anything ... to make it better for people. But while I could do a great deal just by being a highly empathic mensch, I can't fix a broken world and make everything all right, or make racism and sexism and classism and greed and stupidity and warmongering and abuse go away.

I think we can all create little sanctuaries for each other, and be as kind as we can while holding each other accountable, but the magic promises aren't changing anything for the better – they're only providing temporary relief from the pain. That's nice and all, but it's no solution. And as I saw endlessly in the new age, dulling the pain only helps people learn to tolerate it. In so many cases, that pain relief actually stops people from changing things for the better, because they're so inundated with an endless, serial pelting of magical cures that they sort of forget to ask why they are in so much pain to begin with.

A new respect for competent research and evidence-based medicine, but ...

Besides all the other stuff I left behind, I also left behind the world of alternative healing and alternative medicine. And now that I'm dealing with conventional doctors and conventional medicine, I can see clearly why alternative medicine has taken such a firm hold. MAN, American healthcare is really falling apart, and the insurance companies are making everything very unpleasant and stressful for everyone. I don't go so far into unsupported sensationalism as Michael Moore does in Sicko – because even a small foray into responsible research will show that he's off the mark in many ways – but MAN, the healthcare system is in crisis.

When I go into my conventional doctors' offices, they're noisy and sterile, and you have to wait, and it's very impersonal. Some are better than others, but none of them have the warm folksiness of my old homeopath's office, or my acupuncturist's office, or even my old health food store. This isn't an original observation, but I'd say that a whopping percentage of the healing people get in alternative medicine comes from the atmosphere itself. Most alternative practitioners totally understand how to create a welcoming and soothing atmosphere. So many conventional doctors get a D or an F in atmosphere, while most alternative ones get As and Bs. The promise of feeling better is palpable in the alternative world. It feels like a guarantee. I haven't personally experienced or seen that guarantee delivered consistently, but I totally understand why people choose alternative over conventional care.

Having said all that, I also have to say that I'm happy to be getting evidence-based medical care that is backed up by actual research. I can be a much more proactive partner in my health care now. It's also lovely to just take an aspirin when I'm in physical pain, and have it relieved (I was very proud of never using pain killers, which is sad, because you should definitely reduce inflammation and let your body rest instead of always toughing it out, as I had been taught to do). If the pain continues, I can go see my doc, but I don't have to just tough it out all the time because I'm alternative.

Hmmm ... there's something interesting about my new age refusal to dull physical pain, in contrast to the new age lust for dulling all psychological and spiritual pain. That's something to think about.

I'm happy to be out of that mindset. I'm glad, for instance, to use Abreva and stop a cold sore in its tracks instead of overdosing on Lysine, getting a painful breakout anyway, and treating it with magic salves for seven days until it healed. Did you know that the lifecycle for untreated cold sores is seven days? Doh! I was just wasting my time with all that Lysine magic (also called an unnecessary overdose). It's nice not to have to do that any more. And it's nice to be in a healthcare system that respects intelligence and research. Sure, a lot of it is wildly dysfunctional, and they've got to get this insurance thing dealt with right now, but I still prefer it to the alternative.

But that makes me unusual, because the massive injustices and problems in conventional healthcare have sent millions of people running to alternative practitioners. The alternative only becomes powerful when the conventional fails. Duh.

So what's next?

That's a good question. When I left the new age, my thought was that I would write to the center of it and maybe take it down a little ... maybe help protect people from the more horrible parts. Because I know from the inside where the bodies are buried. But I see now that I was being naive. My sociological training really helped me understand the power of culture, and especially the almost overwhelming power of the gigantic, multi-tentacled behemoth called the new age. I, one person, don't have the power to effect much change, and now that I'm out here being a regular schmoe, I can totally understand why the new age exists and thrives. I don't like that it's necessary, but I see that the new age and many other forms of painkilling comfort are necessary. I'm sorry when crazy crap happens in the new age and alternative medicine and alternative spirituality, and I'm sad when people waste their time and money on stuff that has no validity. But I totally understand the powerful, seductive pull of all those promises.

The conventional world doesn't offer a lot that's better. It's sad, but it's true.

So I'm in this very Taoist place about all of it. Very perhaps ... I'm glad to be out of the new age, because after more than 30 years, and after getting to the top of the mountain, I saw enough to know that there was nothing there for me. I no longer wanted to cling to a dream, or to support a group of ideologies that were not worthy of the people who were drawn to them.

But still, I realize that organized religion has lost its meaning for many people. It has let people down and chased them into alternative belief systems. Because something is still necessary, and the religious feeling is an inborn longing for many of us. It's hardwired. Alternative spirituality, which I like to call "the pick and pull lot of the soul" seems to have become the new opiate. And I think it's a better painkiller than traditional religions in many ways, because people get to pick and choose spiritual traditions for themselves, rather than having to prostrate themselves to Bronze Age religions that espouse so many outdated, absurdist, prejudiced, and mean-spirited ideas. (And let's not even talk about the modern-day twin opiates of consumerism and the endless products of the advertainment industrial complex! Wow – if our comrade Karl saw that stuff, he'd be on it like lightning!) I am sad that we still require such massive infusions of opiates just to make it through our lives, but none of them, no matter how damaging or how helpful, is likely to disappear in our lifetimes. It's just something we all have to deal with in our own ways. And hopefully, those ways will be compassionate.

My challenge to anyone who is concerned about the reduction in critical thinking in America – and the seemingly overwhelming movement toward magical promises – is this: Instead of haranguing people who are trying to soothe their pain, do something to relieve it. Fight not against the myriad opiates. Fight against the things that make them necessary. It's a much harder job, but in the end, it's one that will actually make a difference. Research shows that in countries with adequate social support networks (such as much of Western Europe), religious observance is very low. It's not just the generally higher educational levels that make the difference, though proper education is certainly a factor in adequate social support. And it's not just because, as older societies with a remembered history of the church wielding absolute power, the people in those countries are hipper to the downside of religion. It's that the people in those countries don't tend to require as many opiates because their social structure tends to be more functional and supportive.

There are of course arguments against this conclusion, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and float it here anyway. Social support is incredibly important; therefore, the U.S.-based studies that suggest that religious observance has a beneficial effect on health and psychological fitness leave me with a whopping big question: What would these studies show if there were a way to factor out the social support aspects of churchgoing, such as the companionship, the socialization, the emotional (and often financial) support, the fellowship with people who share beliefs, and the knowledge that one is not alone? The problem is, you can't factor those things out, because there's nothing similar to the support structure of a church in modern-day America, where people are so busy that they can barely make time to visit their own extended families! I see an absolute correlation between the lack of social support in modern-day America and the movement toward group religious or spiritual activities. Which is sometimes fine.

But if you're concerned about the concurrent movement toward magical thinking and fundamentalism (and the movement away from science), do something about the social structure in your area. Work at your local humane society and love up some puppies and kitties. Tutor people in school. Find a humane way to reach out to the homeless. Teach people who are not in school to read (check with your local library). Support the families of our soldiers (and end the war). Dance. Support medical research. Share your expertise. Support youth in taking math and science classes and finishing high school. Paint. Tell the truth. Be kind to service workers and everyone who is below you on the social ladder. Visit retirement homes and see what's needed. Work with autistic people, if they want you to. Sing. Do your art. Work with outsiders. Volunteer for your political party. Strive for excellence. Visit people in prisons. Think. Love. Be a mensch! Be a voice of love and reason. Hold people accountable. Be courageous. And post funny stuff on the internet! Embrace da lolcatz!

As for me, I'm finding my way in the world without my magic slippers and rainbow glasses. We'll see how it goes. I hope that you are doing well in your life, and that anything I've written or recorded has helped you live more comfortably in the often painful culture we humans have created for each other. I also hope that you are in an environment where you can wield the power of your mind, your judgment, and your discernment, where you can feel your feelings without shame, and where you are welcomed and loved and valued. If I have any magical powers at all in this world, then that's my wish for you."

Blessings and peace,

Karla McLaren

No comments: