July, 2013

How does your Life Context Impact Sustainability?

Sustainability, simply defined, is meeting the needs of the present without hindering future generations from meeting their own needs. For the past forty years, much of the focus on sustainability has been directed toward environmental awareness and impact. Today, the economic and social dimensions of sustainability are equally as relevant. Sustainability is not simply the act of “being green.” The notion of “green” is but one aspect of a broader and more consequential concept for the generation alive here and now. Sustainability is about finding balance, amid the many trade-offs that exist, and by making a decision to take action on the most suitable options while considering the context of life one person (or an entire generation) if living within.

Sustainability is often misunderstood. And to “achieve sustainability” can feel overwhelming. Where does one begin? By buying a more fuel efficient car? By purchasing “greener” clothes detergents? By eating organic foods? Sure, these are all options for consumers to evaluate. Living a sustainable lifestyle is as much about what you consume as it is about what you don’t consume. It is equally about “green products” as it is about finding alternative products. Sustainability then is about YOU and the myriad of choices evaluated, and decisions made, on a daily basis. How you engage your mind, body, and spirit in those choices and decisions is up to you. But in those acts you determine your role and impact in creating a more balanced, civilized, and sustainable world. The values, beliefs, actions and inactions of individuals represent the common denominator by which a sustainable world will be realized or not.

Sustainability is tied to your “life context.” Your life context is comprised of the opportunities, demands, constraints or circumstances which drive your specific daily life and lifestyle. You have control over much of your “life context” including your beliefs, wants and desires, needs, and how you choose to spend your time and engage your energies. Yet, there are influences and impacts on your “life context” that you simply cannot control. But how you choose to accept your “life context” at any given phase of life has a direct impact on who you are today, and who you will be in the future. Sustainability then, is a process of self-enlightenment and fulfillment that begins with you. Achieving sustainability is about embracing life, finding your happiness, and empowering others to do the same.

Adapting to Subtle and Swift Changes in Our Life Context

My wife Aileen and I are the parents of two boys, 4 and 2. As many will appreciate, even when we are not at work, we are still “working” and continuously look to find a balance in our life. Within the past two years Aileen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). As strange as it sounds, we are thankful that Aileen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she was. The cancer diagnosis came when she delivered our 2nd boy by cesarean. Had the doctors not performed the cesarean, and had they not removed a cancerous tumor, perhaps they would not have caught the disease as early as they did. Aileen does not talk about the moment very much. But I remember the anxiety on her face, and sense of fear she had when doctors told her they removed a tumor and was having it tested. It was as if she had known what the diagnosis outcome would be. She was overjoyed at being a mom to a 2nd boy, and for the moment had repressed her concerns of cancer toward the joy of our new baby.

Aileen is a 6th grade teacher. Approximately three months after the birth of our 2nd boy Aileen reentered the workforce. In September 2010 she was in full swing, working full time, teaching children at school, and raising our own in our home. She had worked so hard on her Masters education to be a teacher. I remember a two year period when she was completing her Masters while working full-time as a teacher. There was even a brief period after the birth of our first son that she completed the last couple of graduate courses, in the evening, while working and being a first time mom. Aileen struggled with the decision to go back to work in 2010. There was no financial or marital pressure for her to return. It was her choice. But she felt she had invested so much time, energy, and passion into her profession, she did not want to see it “wasted.” At the same time her heart was with our two young boys and she felt, like many women, frustrated by having to choose between career and family, professional identity and personal ideology.

We reluctantly hired a nanny for the 2010-11 school year closed our eyes, and hoped for the best. The year went by, as they all do, in a flash. As summer 2011 emerged, we reassessed our “life balance” and working and parenting situation. At that time we determined that Aileen staying at work was generally working for us. We had a great nanny; we were enjoying daily life as a family; and Aileen enjoyed being back at work and having a “professional” aspect to balance her day.

By the following school year life would prove not as balanced. In September of 2011 Aileen went back to teaching another year of 6th grade. Our nanny from the year prior was no longer working with us (she had also earned her Masters and was looking for a full-time job), and so we had hired a new nanny for the boys. September went by in a flurry, and Aileen was feeling the stress of work and the anxieties of the new nanny. Exacerbating the discomfort of her work-life balance and the introduction of a new nanny was the fickle health of our oldest son who has severe food allergies, asthma, and ulcerative colitis. As parents we want the best for our children, and the complexity of our oldest son’s health issues can feel at times, overwhelming. The fall of 2011 was also election season, and Aileen was putting in additional time to support her father’s reelection bid for City Council. As November emerged, the amount of time Aileen put into work and family intensified and her stress followed in-suit.

And then, over the course of a couple days in mid-November 2011, after the busyness of the fall seemed to quiet down, and right before the ramp-up of the holiday season, Aileen’s right eye sight deteriorated rapidly over the course of a couple days. Thinking it was nothing serious, she waited through a weekend to go to the doctors. The delay to see a doctor proved detrimental. By the following Monday, everything went black in Aileen’s right eye. We went to an Optometrist, and spent what felt like hours in exam room after exam room, test after test. Everything that could be wrong seemed to be ruled out. The Optometrist spoke with me several times during the day, and in each instance his tone seemed to be getting more serious and consolatory. Aileen expressed a myriad of emotion throughout the process. And I did my best to comfort her during a situation that seemed to have no answers.

The Optometrist finally ruled that the issue with Aileen’s sight had nothing to do with the eye, but the optical nerves that attach to the back of the eye. He recommended a neurologist she should see right away, and we shifted gears to another doctor. Fast forward a series of steroid treatments, several neurologist visitations, more eye exams, blood tests, and a MRI and it was determined based upon the body of information, data, images, and results that Aileen had multiple sclerosis (MS). We were shocked, scared, and confused. We both went through a period of withdrawal, fear, and stress that quite frankly we had ever gone through before in our lives together or independently, and were not prepared to manage. But as doctors appointments were made, and as we learned more about the disease and Aileen’s specific condition, we slowly began to take back a sense of control that had been lost. This took time. I did my best to support Aileen in every way that I knew how.

When loved ones go through these kinds of events, they often look to their partner to be their “rock,” for unconditional support. I believe I did fine, but know I could have done better. When a loved one goes through so much shock, pain, and crisis it is challenging to pull out of the chaotic convergence of emotion, data, and uncertainty to fully address their needs. And with two young boys also in need of daily attention, the challenge was great.

Time may heal all things. For those with MS, time feels like a double edged sword. Living with MS brings with it a high degree of ambiguity, uncertainty and risks associated with Aileen’s long-term health and quality of life. The idea of how she will be impacted across time is as frightening as much as it is a reality that we must face. MS is an autoimmune disease 2-3 times more common in woman than in men. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society , approximately 400,000 people in the U.S. have MS, and 200 more people are diagnosed every week. It is also estimated that MS affects more than 2.1 million people worldwide. Epidemiologists, the scientists who study patterns of MS, believe that certain factors appear to be characteristic of who gets MS including: gender, genetics, age, geography, and ethnic background.

MS has been a widely researched disease, however, after more than 140 years of research, there remains no known cause or cure to MS. Scientists have developed treatments that, for some patients may slow the progression of MS and may manage certain symptoms. However, no one singular treatment is effective for all patients. MS can literally manifest within each individual patient differently, thereby also contributing to symptoms and quality of life impacts that vary for each person who lives with the disease. The illness is also highly unpredictable leaving those who have MS to always have a certain amount of anxiety over a health issue that they cannot, with the current state of science, fully cure or truly control.

Reframing Success: Discovering a New Balance and
Life Context for Happiness, Strength, and Sustainability

Since being diagnosed with cancer and MS, Aileen has refocused her energies on herself, her family, and how she wants to spend her time in the world. It is not that she wasn’t focused on these aspects of life before, she was. But now much of the minutia and details that consumed and clouded her thoughts have faded. She continues to feel a tug-of-war between professional and personal identity, but not as much as she once did. She has discovered that living life with a sense of purpose and strength comes from within, and that true happiness is an outcome of who she is inside. She is focused on her personal health, wellness, and spirituality. And in this inward and reflective process she is rediscovering her identity and how she will choose to reinsert herself into the world as a stronger, healthier, and happier person. In short, Aileen has chosen to be accountable first and foremost to her! And in the process all else in her life will align with her spirit and greatness.

I do not have a disease, but in conversations with Aileen and others I have learned that for many, having a disease was a catalyst for reevaluate their life, their role in the world, and how they make the most of each day. It is so easy to get caught up in the details and complexities of daily life that we often forget what is important, including who our true “self” is. Working parents and working mothers in particular focus so intently on being responsible and accountable to everyone in their universe: husbands, children, teachers, colleagues, co-workers, friends, family, parents, etc. Yet what often gets overlooked is the need to be accountable to one self.

Everyone has the capacity to endure life’s challenges. And, everyone has potential to feel fulfilled and happy. Yet so few of us quiet our ego’s desire for recognition and enable our true self to live free of external judgment or personal regret. Humans are inherently resilient. When faced with adversity we typically meander our way to finding resolution and meaning in our life. Sustainability is a human endeavor. Much like the way Aileen is reevaluating her role in the world and in living with MS and cancer, sustainability offers a platform for introspection, critical thinking, and accountability. In its simplest form sustainability is all about asking ourselves if what we are doing, right here and now, aligns with our values, beliefs, and true self. Sustainability is about asking if our “life context” makes sense. Are we brokering our children’s futures in the actions and decisions we make today? Are we doing our best to protect the earth from unsustainable practices or human induced behaviors and impacts? How can we be the stewards of our own health and quality of life and in turn, the stewards of a more sustainable world?

Sustainability is about making the decisions and taking action on your life in the face of those things that we never saw coming, like being diagnosed and living with an incurable disease. As you self evaluate your role in creating a more sustainable world, consider: What are your needs, and are you paying enough attention to those? How are you managing your “life context”? Do you feel that you live your life with balance, sense of purpose, resolve, and impact? Are you being accountable to who you are and your needs? How do you define the measures of success, health, happiness in your life?

Change is inevitable. How we react and respond to change is critical to whether we sink or swim, as individuals, as parents, as spouses, and as a generation that has the capacity, will, and know-how to find balance today, and for a stronger and healthier tomorrow.

mark(Mark Coleman is the author of the book The Sustainability Generation: The Politics of Change and Why Personal Accountability is Essential NOW!, see, www.thesustainabilitygeneration.com. Throughout his career Mark Coleman has developed a strong focus on the critical areas of energy, environment, and sustainability. His career has spanned strategic and leadership positions in government, applied research, technology development, and management consulting organizations. This rich and diverse experience has enabled Mr. Coleman to have access to, engage, and work with a broad range of regional, national, and international leaders on the subject of sustainability. Mr. Coleman resides in Auburn, NY with his wife Aileen and two sons Owen and Neal.)

(If you would like to contribute an article you have authored to the Guest Column, please submit it to our Managing Editor, Lisa McCormack, for possible publication in this space. Not all submissions can be published, due to the number of submissions and sometimes because of other content considerations, but all are encouraged. Send submissions to Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com. Please label the topic: “Guest Column.”)

Some people are quite surprised, and many gasp with disbelief, when they hear the story of how my husband and I both completely forgot our one-year anniversary.  I know, it sounds semi-plausible that perhaps one of us might overlook such an important milestone in our relationship, but both of us forgetting altogether seems rather comical, a nearly an impossible idea to believe.

This unusual blunder does not stem from a lack of caring, nor does it reflect some level of mutual apathy towards our partnership.  You see, it truly is, rather, that our relationship has not demonstrated itself as yearning to be measured or defined within the parameters of time.  Measuring or gauging our relationship in terms of days or months or years, while it does hold sentimental enjoyment for us to reflect upon, has never been the focus or intent of our partnership.

Neither is the expectation of our relationship to be in a constant state of blissful agreement.  We understand deeply, although we sometimes forget, that at times our Souls will yearn for different experiences, and that the richness of our partnership is not determined by only those moments in which we see eye to eye. And even on those occasions when life has called upon us to experience contrast, or when we have stepped off the path of remembrance, forgetting who we are, the sanctity of our holy union has always been held in the palm of tenderness, compassion, and understanding.

Sure, we disagree about some of the day-to-day tasks in life — taking out the trash and cleaning the kitchen, which television program to watch in the evening, selecting the appropriate temperature setting in our home, dirty socks on the floor, etc.  And at times we find ourselves on opposite sides of issues which carry much more importance in our lives, and the lives of others.  But the one thing that we do not waiver on, ever, is our understanding of and commitment to the partnership of our souls and the mutual desire and devotion to each other’s experience of and communion with God.

And the experience of communion with God is not something forever lost in days gone by, nor is it something that we can only hope and wish for in the moments of tomorrow.  It is for us to experience right here, right now.  It doesn’t magically happen at a 1-year anniversary or a 10-year anniversary or a 50-year anniversary, nor does it happen with only one person.  It happens the moment you choose for it happen.  It happens as often as you desire for it to happen.  And it happens with whomever you choose for it to happen with.  Because, quite simply, it is always happening.  Sometimes we just have to peel back the layers of what we think we see to be able to experience what is really there.

Perhaps now more than ever before, relationships are stretched and challenged by the push and pull of the demands of a fast-paced world.  It seems to me that so many of us are forgetting, rather than remembering, the purpose for which we exist in each other’s lives.  Maybe these very words will cause one or two or three people to pause and think about what that reason might be, maybe even for the very first time.  It is never too late.  You are never too old, too poor, too sick, too busy, too tired, or too anything to make a change in your relationships and create your life anew.

(Lisa McCormack is the Managing Editor & Administrator of The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at www.ChangingChange.net, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

You are not your body. Your body is something you have.

You are not your mind. Your mind is something you have.

You are not your soul. Your soul is something you have.

Who, then, are you?

You are the sum total of all of these things—a loving, caring, sensitive, compassionate sentient being that has these things—and each of these things has a purpose and a function that serves the agenda of all three.

This Body/Mind/Soul trio will be referred to in this self-exploration as The Totality of You.

The function of the Mind is to guarantee the survival of the current physicalization of The Totality of You for as long as it takes to fulfill the Soul’s Agenda.

The function of the Body is to gather data from the physical environment to assist the Mind in guaranteeing your survival, and to place within that environment, in physical form, the non-physical ideas, concepts, and decisions of the Mind.

The function of the Soul is to experience as many aspects as possible of Who and What It Really Is, using the Body, the Mind, and the physical environment in which It has placed Itself, as tools with which to accomplish this.

 === * ===

 Because your Mind has been given little—or worse yet, totally inaccurateinformation about the Soul’s Agenda (which is Life’s agenda), neither your Mind nor your Body can very often serve that agenda well—unless it is working in conjunction with the Soul.

Right now, if your Mind does not know what the Soul knows, your life could feel as if it’s being pulled in different directions. Indeed, your very purpose for being on Earth could wind up being compromised—if not completely ignored.

This is, in fact, the circumstance in which most of humanity finds itself today.

 === * ===

 What must happen if you wish to live a life that serves its actual purpose is that your Mind must bring into its database that of which the Soul is already aware, so that you can produce the experience of it. The Soul holds Knowledge, while the Mind creates the Experience, of what you call Reality.

This is the very reason that The Totality of You came into the physical realm: to Experience that of which It has full Knowledge. Yet if the Mind’s data does not include the Soul’s Awareness, the continuing experiences the Mind creates will not be expressions of what the Soul knows—and that will not serve The Totality of You.

It is very important to understand that the “database” from which you may construct any present reality (i.e., the information that is stored within you), exists in two different places and is accessed in two different ways.

The challenge in human life is that most people do not know this—or do know it, but have not yet learned how to shift their point of focus from one well of information to the other at will…much less bring the two together.

What is being said here is that data about Life is held in “memory” within the Totality of You—and that one kind of memory is Physical, while the other is Metaphysical. The first kind of memory we have called Experience and the second, Knowledge. The first type of memory produces Desire (a yearning for more experience), the second reveals Intention (a yearning for a particular kind of experience—based on Knowledge, not prior Experience).

=== * ===

As you may have guessed, the first kind of “memory” is held in the Mind, the second in the Soul. The Mind captures, categorizes, files, and brings forward memories of every experience your Body and Mind have ever had. The Soul is the repository of all Knowledge about Who You Are, Where You Are, Why You Are Where You Are, and all other aspects of Everlasting Life. This Knowledge is what has also been called here your Awareness. The terms are used synonymously.

As explained earlier, the sum of these two “data banks” is what humans call Consciousness. You no doubt have often heard the term “consciousness raising.” This refers to the increase or expansion of the Mind’s database—its limited storehouse of Experience–to include more of the Soul’s unlimited Knowledge or Awareness of Life.


The level of your Consciousness depends upon how much Experience you have had not only of your physical life, but also of your metaphysical life, the knowledge of which exists in your Soul’s Awareness.

When, in any particular moment, your Present Experience (that is, the experience you are now having, rather than your memories of previous experience) and your Present Awareness (that is, the awareness to which you now have given yourself access) are joined together, the Mind’s Desire and the Soul’s Intention become One.

This is, truly, a marriage made in heaven: the merging of the Mind and the Soul. And what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

The above excerpt is from The Only Thing That Matters, which the author, Neale Donald Walsch, has described as the most important writing he has been inspired to produce since Conversations with God-Book One

The world is being visited by yet another revolution, this one toppling the government in Egypt—just two years after it was put in place in a democratic election. What do you see as the spiritual significance of this—if any?

And so, another government and another president are removed from office in a revolution, this time (again) in Egypt. (I wonder if anyone in the U.S. sees the irony of this news first making headlines during the time that Americans were once again celebrating their own revolution — the Fourth of July weekend.)

In the book The Storm Before the Calm, published two years ago, I wrote of the human experience of revolution — and called for a new kind of revolution. Here is some of what I had to say there:

A search on Wikipedia under the word “revolutions” brings up a virtually endless catalogue of uprisings, beginning with the popular revolt in the Sumarian city of Lagash that deposed King Lugalanda and put the reformer Urukagina on the throne in 2380 B.C., ending with the revolutions that overturned governments in the Arab world in 2011.

Let me just give you part of this list, just to take a quick look at how people have been responding on this planet to how they’ve been governed…

We have seen literally hundreds of uprisings and revolutions across our history, including the Fall of the Roman Empire, the First of the Wars of Scottish Independence, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the revolution in India, the Boer Revolt, revolutions all over South America, the European Revolutions of 1848, the revolutions in modern Hungary, in Yugoslavia, in Haiti, the dissolution of the Soviet Union by 1991…

…take my word for it. This is a tiny portion of a list that goes on and on and on…and ON. We’ve been “revolting” since the beginning of our gathering together in clans and tribes and then, nations.

What is this all about, do you think?

What do you imagine has been causing all of this? Why do you think it never ends? And what do you think could make it end?

I can tell you what it’s about. And I can also tell you how to make it end, with one Final Revolution. Indeed, that’s what the Storm Before The Calm is all about. What has bee causing all of this for so long is that…

Human beings have been clear for a very long time that the way those in power have constructed life on this planet is not the way it was intended to be lived.

And so, since forever—for centuries and millennia—people on every spot on the globe have been agitating. They’ve wanted a new way of life—a new way of being human; a way that they know it was intended for them to be human.

Their agitations have continued right up to this present day. Even as this is being written, people in many places on earth are still saying No! to the way things are, and are demanding change. They’re prepared to die for it. They have been dying for it. They’re dying right now, as you’re reading this.

But we are ready now, as a global community, for that dying to stop. We’ve had it. We’re done. There’s got to be a better way. We wonder, why don’t those who seek to govern us get it? But they don’t, so now we’re seeing what I have been calling here the Overhaul of Humanity. This is a revolution that will not ask people to die, but will simply ask people to inquire. It will invite people to make inquiries of themselves and others that could change everything in such a huge way that, finally, future violent revolutions may never again be necessary.

We continue in this space our ongoing series on how to present the concept and reality of God to your offspring. Please know and understand this: your children will come home with questions. Even if you never open a discussion of God in your family, your children ultimately will. The notion of “God” is ubiquitous. It is not something you can avoid—or should want to. Rather, be there, be fully present, for your children when they have questions.

Theirs will not be unimportant questions, because we are talking here about the unknown (that is, about something that cannot be scientifically, statistically, or empirically proven), and when it comes to the unknown, our children (as I have tried to emphasize here) look to us for answers. And if our only reply is: “I don’t know; nobody knows,” that could leave our children, depending on their age, bewildered. It could also leave them—depending on what they hear about God from others and from the world at large—in a scary place.

Recently I spoke with a 40-year-old woman on this subject, and she told me that while her family did not speak much about God and belonged to no religion, she, as a child, had friends whose families did. And her parents encouraged and allowed her to investigate the concept of God and decide for herself what it meant.

So one week her friend’s family invited her to join their own child and go to church with them. Here is this woman’s own narrative, more than three decades later…

“I remember that I came home from my first church experience—I must have been six or seven—with the feeling that I had done something wrong, and that I had to bring Jesus into my heart or something really bad was going to happen to me, and so I lay in my bed night after night trying to bring Jesus into my heart, and feeling really stressed out about it.”

The church folks had presented their newcomer with a child’s Bible study reader, and in it this woman, when she was six or seven, read something about how God sent people to hell if they lived a gay lifestyle. And while she wasn’t quite sure at that age what a “gay” lifestyle was, she was clear about what “hell” was (her one visit to church having made it abundantly clear that it was a very bad place of terrible suffering). So this little girl said to her Mom, “I don’t want to believe in a God who hurts people.”

She remembers that her Mom replied, without equivocation: “Well, sweetheart, we don’t believe that God does hurt people, for any reason. Your father and I just don’t believe that.”

And that was the end of the fear for this little girl. Her parents’ word was good enough for her.

This is an important lesson. It is important to know, then, that—particularly at the youngest ages—your children look to you for guidance, not uncertainty; for clarity, not confusion; for wisdom, not bewilderment.

You cannot be a clear, wise, and helpful guide, however, if you yourself have not come to clarity about God.

And we will continue this series in our next entry here. We hope that all parents are receiving benefit from it.

Part One: I’ll Tell You What I Want!!

Oh My God. He just broke up with her after three months! She’s already got a new boyfriend! He’s just as moody as Robert Pattison! Now they’re back together again! Aww…they’re celebrating their fourth month together!

If this drama sounds familiar to you, then you are a teenager. With over 89% of teens claiming to be dating or have dated, it seems as if no one is safe from the drama of relationships.  Call it angst, anguish, or agony, for all seem to have described the state of most teenage couples. So, why is there so much unnecessary drama within relationships? Why does it seem that there is no easy way?

Well teens of the world, I have good news for you:

There is an easier way.

I know, it’s shocking, so I will say it again.  There is an easier way. There is a way to be with your boyfriend/girlfriend without pain, without guilt, and certainly without suffering from either party. It may take an entire series to explain, but it can be done.

When looking at relationships, it is very easy to know that they “have gone wrong.” Unfortunately, what’s not as easy is to know where things went wrong and why things went wrong. To solve this problem, we have to go back to square one: our own intentions.

So right now, with whatever relationship you are in (or wish to be in), ask yourself the following question:

What do I want from this relationship?

Don’t worry, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer; it’s all based on your personal desires. In the most general sense, two people enter a relationship because they want something from the other person. This could be something physical, such as money, sex, or a yacht; something abstract, as in attention, security, or intimacy. Though this may sound very egotistical, but we must recognize our intentions. Whether the reason is mental, emotional, or even spiritual, we desire to have our needs satisfied.  

 As we begin to explore our own answers to this question, we understand the ‘why’ behind the relationship. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we form these expectations of what we want from the other person before the relationship begins, and even before we even know who the person is! When we form our ideas about the relationship, we set benchmarks for when we want our needs fulfilled. Even further, we judge the relationship as ‘failure’ or ‘success’ by the speed or capacity of our wants being fulfilled by that time!  

For an exaggerated example, think that as if you wanted an increase in status in your relationship with the high school quarterback, you would expect to eat at the coolest table in the cafeteria by the end of the first month of the relationship. However, if after that first month you still only eat at the 4th coolest table in the cafeteria instead of the 1st, then your wants were not fulfilled in the right amount of time. Thus, because you didn’t advance socially as far as you wanted to, your relationship (and its purpose) was a ‘failure’. Now do you understand the drama?

Though it would be very easy to say that we still are ‘above this egotism’, we all still have intentions, and being conscious of our intentions is one of the most powerful tools that we can access. So, with a little self-reflection, we understand where we stand in our relationships. By recognizing our intentions for what they are, we can change them to fit our grandest version of the greatest vision of Who We Are. If you have answered this question and are displeased with your answers, then it is very possible and very easy to simply have your desires rooted in a higher intention. If you realized that your desires had more to do with having then being, then just transform your intent to ‘know unconditional love’ or ‘experience compassion’.

After understanding our own intentions, we also have to recognize our boyfriend/girlfriend’s intentions as well. Identifying their wants, and having a REAL conversation about what they are, is essential in any healthy relationship. With this recognition, we can decide how to live out both intentions in a harmonious matter. By being ‘attuned’ to each other, we can be ‘in tune’ with each other. IF we decide to. This leads us to our other fundamental relationship question:

What do I choose to be in this relationship?

As always, the importance of Be Do Have influences everything, including our teenage love sagas. Understanding right from the beginning what you choose to be in the relationship WILL make life easier. Choosing to be compassion, empathy, joy, are all options. Your call. Your choice. Your happy ending.

(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at Lauren@TheGlobalConversation.com)

They knew going in that it was an extremely dangerous job, and that they could lose their lives. That is the extraordinary thing. They knew going in.

And still, they did it. They went into that Arizona wildfire. And 19 of those incredibly brave firefighters died in the service of their fellow humans. The loss — for their families, for their fellow firefighters, for their community, their state, and their nation — is almost unbearable. We keen and we ponder: What is the meaning of this? If there is a God, why did He not protect these, His bravest and most courageous? Why did they have to die?

The Conversations with God cosmology offers us, on this topic, a message difficult to embrace and challenging to even repeat. Yet I must do so here, if I am to remain true to the messages that have been given to me to send.

They did not “have to” die. We are told in HOME WITH GOD in a Life That Never Ends that “no one dies at a time or in a way that is not of their choosing.”

Can this be true? If it is true, how and why did those 19 Arizona firefighters make such a “choice”?

As we consider this, it must first be understood that this was not a conscious choice. Clearly, by every normal human measure, these men did not wish to die, did not seek to end their lives, did not choose to perish. So the statement above from Home with God refers to a choosing that is done not by the conscious mind, but at the level of soul.

I cannot know, and will not presume to state, the reasons, in each individual case, why these souls made the choice to leave the Earth in this way last Sunday. But I do know that these 19 souls allowing their lives to end in the service of others as they did places before us an indelible statement of Who They Are — and a testament to who we all are at the core of our being.

It has been said that survival is the basic instinct of human beings. The Conversations with God messages tell us otherwise. They tell us that the survival instinct is not our fundamental impulse, but that our prime desire is to express our Divinity. That is why some people — most people — find themselves doing extraordinarily brave things when the lives of others are on the line.

We step between the child who has wandered off the curb and the bus about to hit her. We jump on top of the man who has fallen from the subway platform just before the roaring train passes overhed. We run into the burning building in response to the cries for help — or into the blazing wildfire in response to the pleadings to protect the lives and dearest possessions of others.

This is Who We Are, this species we call Humanity. And some of our species demonstrate Who We All Are so that all of us may know who we really are, may remember who we are, underneath our fears. Some of us demonstrate what it means to be Divine so that all of us may have a model, may have a way of seeing in action, may have living proof, of the goodness and love for each other of which we are all capable, if we would but embrace that part of our nature, and stop thinking, first, of ourselves.

This is the spiritual message that I received as I pondered the death of those Arizona Angels: Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher Mackenzie, 30; Eric Marsh, 43; Grant McKee, 21; Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin, 24; Anthony Rose, 23; Jesse Steed, 36; Joe Thurston, 32; Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Warneke, 25; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; and Garret Zuppiger, 27.

We can all pledge to them this day to use their acts of valor and selflessness as inspiration to live our own lives as free as we possibly can of self-interest first, of self-preservation first, of simple selfishness first, and to reflect as best we can the impeccable demonstration they have given us of the true greatness of the human spirit, the true love that resides in the human heart, and the true glory of the human soul.

Sometimes it takes a great tragedy to wake us up to the unspeakable glory of Who We Really Are, to shake us loose from the moorings of our fears and our self-serving limitations, setting us free to sail again the seas of our souls’ wondrous journey back home. In humble gratitude for what they have shown us of what it truly means to be greatly human, we today honor and salute those Arizona firefighters, and we choose and announce by our oath that their demonstration shall not be in vain.

Dear Therese,

Been reading some of your advice columns. I think your advice is so thought out and great. One question in particular I resonated with was the man asking where our leaders are and who do we follow. I really feel that is the question of my generation (30’s) and younger. I agree with you 100%,  but I just want to add a little. Your generation had real news (for the most part). It was opinionated and honest reporting, such as the hippie movement, Vietnam, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  My generation comes from filtered, agenda oriented, media. If there is an icon to follow, look to,  (such as the way many opinions were changed with MLK), our media makes them look like lunatics.  That is, if they even choose to do a story on them. If today was 1960, Neale would be main stream news with his new way of thinking. Hell no, you Google him today and he’s made to look like a crazy for saying God spoke to him. And that’s my point, anything to do with God is not news. The only news about Christians is about things like Westboro Baptist and how God hates fags (their word). Why? Because the news is that people who believe in God are insane. People who don’t believe in abortion are out of touch. My point here is that people like Neale don’t get face time anymore. I could go on here but my point is younger generations are lost.

Also, its about finding the pure courage and sacrifice for speaking up and finding a graceful way of demanding a better way. We are taught that the only heros are fiction. Anyway, the word “peace” and its meaning, and how to achieve it in ourselves and others around, is completely mutilated and twisted.

I also want to give you an example how what was taught to me, mainly through media, was so contorted and wrong. Woman’s right to choose. This act is to be empowering, it’s my body, I can choose to abort. Because I believed what I saw on TV, media, hidden messages in TV shows etc. I felt I was empowering myself as a woman to abort. Knowing what I know now, no, I was manipulated into this thinking and I chose wrong. I’m not empowered,  neither man nor woman has a right to choose this. Life can not be debated. A life is a life, period. If someone buys a gun, points it and kills someone, there is no debate, there is no empowerment. The man who held the gun and killed goes to prison. Why in the world have we bought into it’s ok to abort?? Let me be more clear,  why have we accepted it’s a woman’s right to kill a baby?? A woman who’s not in her right mind drowns her children in a tub  is demonized for the rest of her life for doing so. But it’s ok to rip a 6 month old fetus (in some states) out of the womb and break its neck and dispose of it??? It’s OK because the person doing it is a doctor?? And to think our country ALLOWS a person to choose killing babies on a daily basis as a PROFESSION??!! How twisted and numb we are toward life! My point is, I don’t feel empowered for exercising my right to choose, I feel like a killer and every woman who thinks twice about the decision will one day feel the same on some level. Or perhaps they won’t because they have chosen to bury the burden.

I chose to share my insight about this to show you how I didn’t think twice because of what was fed to me. Just think of how manipulated younger generations are now because its taught more and more there is no God, only government.

Georgia, in PA

Dear Georgia,

I left your letter pretty intact, because I believe these are important issues you raise.  I will not use this column to give any advice as to whether or not a woman should choose to have an abortion, but will address what I believe to be larger issues surrounding the specific issue, that may help you with the guilt you feel surrounding your decision to abort.  So…

If you believe in God, you have to define what kind of God you believe in.

I believe in a God who does not judge me or condemn me for things that I did when I did not have a fully formed opinion of God and Life.  Sweet lady, I don’t believe God would have any desire for you to have a moment of guilt beyond the point where it served you to think about something and form your own feelings about things.  Guilt harms our mind and our bodies, and God has no need for anything that harms us.  Her only desire is for our happiness.

I also believe, if one believes in God, that no life, no matter how short, is without purpose.  I believe that even the aborted fetus (child), chose to have that experience.  You see, just as the life of a brother murdered in a drive-by shooting, or a beloved grandparent dying, causes us to reflect on the meaning of that person in our lives, so, too, does the life of that unborn child.

My reflection on abortion has gotten me to the point where I don’t believe it is a matter of whether or not we have taken a life…because I don’t believe that life ever ends, and is, rather, something we will do again and again.  My reflection has me at the same point you are…why do we even think that this child isn’t Life?  Why do we value life, in general, so little?  Or is it something more?  Are we beginning to value ourselves, as women in particular, once again?  Inappropriately, to be sure, but just as the abused becomes the abuser, couldn’t it be that women, given choices now, don’t know how to make those choices very well sometimes?

Or is the choice of abortion, and the purpose of those children, greater than even that?  Is it so much about the child/mother, as it is about culture (government/big business/media…are they really separate?), and religion that got us to the point of even thinking that there is a need for this choice?

Let’s back up to before the point of making the decision to abort.  What would have to change in a woman’s life to change this decision?

I believe what would have to change is that no woman, married or not, would ever be reviled, or thought to be sinful or wrong in their choice to carry a child to full term.  Nor would she be made wrong for choosing to give that child up for adoption.  I believe that when every woman knows that they will not be thrown into poverty because they have a child, or be given, essentially, second class citizenship, they will have those children.  And if abortion is to be something that no one ever chooses, then we must believe, as I mentioned earlier, that we lose nothing when we die…so dying in the act of birthing would not be considered anything but a natural continuation of life…of the mother’s and the child’s.

I, with all of my heart, believe what CWG says regarding “right’ and “wrong”.  There is no right and wrong, only what works and doesn’t work.  Abortion IS working to get the conversation going…but it is NOT working as something we should choose once we have our moment of enlightenment on the topic, individually, then, hopefully, collectively.

These changes in our world can happen.  I believe that there are so many abortions now, because these little unborn souls are choosing to get this dialog going.  I think that extremists (political, religious) , are currently monopolizing this conversation, turning it into a distorted dialog…that is tied up in the larger agenda of money/control, and until the dialog turns to how we think about ourselves, in relation to one another and to Divinity, it will continue to be a point that will never be universally resolved.  The issue of abortion, for me, is also representative of how we are re-thinking the killing another human being…period.  If it is not okay to end the life of an unborn child, how is it okay to end the life of a “born” child…through war?  via the death penalty?  We are having to ask ourselves why is the temporal deemed so valuable as to justify offering up human lives to possess?

However, it is people like you and I, who will, ultimately, effect this change.  As I said in the column you referred to, I believe that WE are the leaders who will change the world, and we have to stop waiting for others to change it for us!  Change ourselves, change the person next to us, change the whole darn world!  (Shades of Mother Teresa and Ghandi!)

Georgia, this is a very timely topic, and one with which many struggle, especially those who have had an abortion.  I thank you SO much for your input about this.  My thoughts about abortion have been floating around for about a month, and now I know why!  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express them.  You might also consider that without your experience with abortion,  this column might not have been written, and others would not know your thoughts…and your thoughts could be part of the shift in this world we seek.

Oh, one last thing…I agree that today’s news is very skewed and full of agenda, but that might just be a good thing, because it is, at least, very transparent now.  We definitely know who is the liberal and who is the conservative etc.  My generation (baby boomer), had very censored news in its own way.  Neale might have gotten more “face time”, but I doubt he would have been accepted. (But I get what you are saying…take the more transparency and lay it over today)  The point of any of the generations is that we must think for ourselves, and the best way to “think” for ourselves, is to feel what any input does to our bodies.  “Truth” and “Lie” feel very different in our bodies, but we have been taught to ignore our body for a very long time…way before your generation or mine.  Now is the time to teach our own children something different, don’t you think?


(Therese Wilson is a published poet, and is the administrator of the global website at www.ChangingChange.net . She may be contacted at:                                                              Therese@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

(If you would like a question considered for publication, please submit your request to Advice@TheGlobalConversation.com, where our team is waiting to hear from you.)

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