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Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fear of Being You

“It is a sad day when you find out that it is not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself, that kept things from you.” ~ Lillian Hellman

            There is a very important lesson we can learn from people with mental challenges. It is to be ourselves without fear of judgment. Many people with mental challenges do not fear what other people think of them. They behave how they want to, they say what they want to, they dance like nobody’s watching and they have no fear of being judged. Imagine living like that! How much more fun would dancing be? How much more rich would your life feel? The most important question is who would you truly become?
            I love to walk into a store with my son, Joshua. If he is wearing a hat he takes it off and waves it in the air, if he does not have one he pretends to wave one in the air, either way, he walks swiftly along 
with a very pronounced bounce in his step. He is happy to be there and he shows the world with his celebration. Some people look at him like he has some marbles loose, but he does not notice. If he sees someone looking at him he just continues his celebration right on past them. I remember the first time he did it, I thought, “Oh Lord, people are going to think he is nuts!” But then I realized I did not care because I know that what people think is never about the object of their judgment, but about their own fear of judgment. It is a joy to see Joshua that way. It is a gift to watch him at Special Olympics practices, too. Sometimes he gets so excited he does a skipping type of thing and he reminds me of a character I have always loved, Martin Short’s Ed Grimley. At basketball practice, he lobs the ball towards the hoop in a casual manner. It does not come close to hitting the hoop, but he does not care. In the spring, he competes in the men’s 50 meter run at Special Olympics, but for Josh, it is not about winning. He just loves being there. He starts the race pretty well. As soon as the starter pistol fires he takes off running, as he gets about half way to the finish line he begins to walk, sometimes he stops and waves to the crowd. The crowd is shouting, “Run, Josh, go!” but he just turns and continues on as if he has all the time in the world. It is not about the destination or winning for him; his joy is in the moment. We could all learn a lot from him about being authentic and enjoying life in this moment without being attached to outcomes. I think about my school days in gym class, never wanting to play sports because I feared being judged for not performing well. It would have been so much more fun if I did not fear the judgment!
Joshua strolling along in 2000
Special Olympics Boys 50 meter Run
            In his book, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Michael Singer says that if you had no fear you could do anything, go anywhere, say anything, you could be your true self and still be happy because there is no fear to stop you. There would be no disturbance inside of you. That is what fear is, it is a disturbance that keeps us from living the life we want. We are afraid of what people will think of us if we say or do what we want. We fear what they will say about us to others, whether or not others will agree with them, maybe we will lose friends, no one will want to hang out with us anymore, or the worst could happen – we remain part of the group, but they make fun of us behind our back! So, in every interaction, we put on a face. Michael Singer says that we have built an idea of who we are; a façade of ourselves that we present to the world. We may even believe this is who we are. It is our public, false, ego self. It is not real. We might be someone who truly enjoys acting goofy, but we will not do it around people until we feel relatively sure they will still love us. We might hate our job and wish we could do something completely different, but when we get to work, our work face goes on and we perform in order to keep the checks coming. We are afraid of how being ourselves and saying what we honestly think will impact other people and how other people’s reactions will impact us, never stopping to think about the consequences of not being authentic.
            One of Josh’s doctors put on a façade as she tried to explain away her confusion when looking at his CT scans. He was four years old at the time. My husband, Josh and I were at her office because she recently had sent Josh to have new scans taken of his brain and we were there to get the results. The first scans had been done when Josh was only one-year-old. At that time, the doctor told us the scans showed bi-frontal atrophy and abnormalities in his white matter. The new scans looked perfectly normal. She placed both scans up to the light box and proceeded to explain to us that the first scan showed a normal brain while the new scan showed abnormalities. My husband corrected her pointing out that she had the films mixed up. She looked again and proceeded to say that the first scan was normal. My husband suggested that she look at the dates on the scans. She did and was shocked when she realized the new scan showed a normal brain. She muttered a few words and excused herself from the room. We waited several minutes for her to return and when she came back in she measured his head and began talking about how his brain was not growing normally, as his head was too small for his age, which explained the bi-frontal atrophy in the first scan, but she said nothing about the abnormalities disappearing. We questioned her about why the new scan would show a normal brain when the first one did not and we reminded her that she had told us his brain would never repair itself from the abnormalities. She continued to talk about his small head and brain. My husband and I both realized she was not admitting that she did not know why his brain had changed. It was obvious to us that she was confused. Years later when Josh was seven years old, we discovered that an infant's brain looks different than an older child’s brain and some doctors mistake it for abnormalities.
            The doctor’s ego would not allow her to simply say, “I am sorry, but I do not know what is going on with your child’s brain.” It would have been so simple and, in a strange way, more reassuring for us to hear, but it was too much for her pride to admit. We would have respected her if she had been honest and helped us figure out where to go for answers, but that is not what she did. Instead, it made us feel like we had wasted valuable time with her as Joshua’s doctor. Her façade of being a knowledgeable pediatric neurologist and her fear of looking stupid took precedence over helping her patient find answers. The doctor had her doctor face on, but we were also displaying a façade. Honesty would have helped us all if we had been brave enough to help her tell the truth. I knew she did not know what was going on with our child. It was obvious the way she spoke to us without confidence and avoided answering our questions, but I was too timid and fearful to tell her that I knew. If I had not been intimidated by her title, if I had not been fearful of her reaction, I could have asked her some questions without judgment or said something to let her know that it was okay to admit her confusion. Instead, I sat there and let her pretend while I pretended along with her. It did none of us any good. We can learn to stop pretending by recognizing our fear and understanding where it comes from.

“When a child is born we look at this beautiful little creature and say, ‘Nice work, God, we’ll take over from here!’ Then our culture takes over and we start to shape this person by our rules. [As we grow] we are told we cannot trust in who we are…” 
~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

            The fear based ego is a powerful force that is programmed into our minds from the time we are born. Our fear comes from our subconscious mind which is our default mind, meaning it is running in the background all of the time. This is the part of your mind that was programmed from birth to age seven before you were consciously aware of thinking, according to Bruce Lipton, PhD. It is not all bad and fear based, however. It is the part of you that allows you to do things like walk without thinking about everything that goes into the act of walking. Your subconscious mind was programmed by your early childhood experiences and these experiences taught you who you are and how to behave in the world, according to the people in your life. This default, sometimes fearful, mind is where most of your life choices originate. The good news is you can reprogram your subconscious mind to be less fearful and you can consciously stop making fear-based choices.
            At some point in our childhood we become conscious of our own thinking, but most often we do not pay attention to our thinking because it is automatic. To stop living from a place of fear, we must recognize when our fear based ego is triggered and we can do this by learning to consciously observe our Self. Observing your Self is the first step towards reprogramming your subconscious mind and overcoming your life of fear. The more often you observe your Self the faster you can begin to change things in your life. Meditation is helpful, but not necessary. Consciously observing yourself is very simple. You do it by focusing your consciousness on itself. This helps to distinguish between your ego thoughts and thoughts that originate from your Being. Here are some questions to help you understand:
When you think, who is the one thinking?
When you notice your thoughts, who is it that is noticing?
When think to yourself, who is thinking and who is listening?
            The part of you that is noticing or observing is the true you; not the ego part of you, but your consciousness; your consciousness is now aware of itself, as it observes the ego. The ego part of you is the one feeling the fear or thinking the negative thought. It can also think loving thoughts and make you feel good, but it is still not the real you. You are the Being inside that can choose to just observe what is going on in your mind and body. You can feel fear, but the feeling does not have to overcome you. You can just watch it happening and not judge it. You can realize that you are not your thoughts and you are not your emotions. Thoughts and emotions are energy patterns that come up within you, but they are not you. You are the observer. You are the consciousness. When you feel fear or any emotion, let that be your trigger to observe your thoughts and feelings. Observe how it feels within, this is the time that you can clearly see your choices: You can consciously choose to continue to act from fear or you can choose to start living the life you want to live. You will still feel the fear, but now you know where it is coming from and you know it is keeping you stuck. You can observe your Self any time you are alone or going about your day. The more you practice it the more you will be able to do it around other people. This will make your interactions more authentic because you will consciously choose how to interact with others. You will see their ego at work and you will see your own ego at work and you can act accordingly.  
            It can be freeing if you let it. You will stand up for yourself and your family more often. You will become your own advocate. If you have a child with a disability you will stop putting up with the bad behaviors of teachers, doctors, and family members, and you will more freely give praise to the ones who do well for your child. If you begin to live this way you will see what a beautiful person you really are. You will begin to love yourself and, in turn, you will give love more freely to others. Living without allowing the fear to stop you will change your life and you will experience the joy that my son displays whenever the urge strikes him.

Be you and be well, My Friends! And always remember to 
“Never let your fears become bigger than your faith.” ~ Stevie Wonder

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Books I love and recommend are here. I hope this blog helps you to create a more peaceful life. Keep in touch by the following methods: Use the links under the archive menu to subscribe or follow by e-mail. Help me get this message out by sharing it with your friends on social media! If you enjoyed it and were helped by it, they will, too! Comment by using the comment link below or write to me with your comments and questions at mindchange4all@gmail.com  I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fear of God, Part Two: Healing Revelations

            This is a two part post. Read the first part here: Confusion.

       In part one, I spoke about my confusion over God and all of the contradicting messages I received about God, Jesus, hell and the possible reasons for my son being born with disabilities. This post is about my understanding now. As I have said many times in my various posts, my son led me to discover the Truth. Part of that truth is that God is The Creative Force of Love.
            I ended my last post with a couple of sentences about some of our religious leaders teaching us about a false god. That may have made some people angry, but I would not say it if I did not truly believe it. I do not think they are doing it on purpose. I think they believe what they are teaching because that is how they were taught and so far it has worked for them. It works for many people, at least until something happens to shake the foundation this false god is based upon. It worked for me, even though I had major questions about it because there was no reason for me to pursue answers until my son came along. My son is the reason I decided God did not exist. In my suffering, I dropped all my belief and everything I had learned up to that point. The door was wide open for healing and The Creative Force of Love was longing to be revealed.
            Where should we look for healing? Most of the time we look to our clergy, but even when the answers do not feel right, we do not question their answers because we are afraid. If we do question them we are sometimes dismissed as a trouble maker or a non-believer. They might give us a quote from the bible for an answer and that is difficult to argue with. I used to think, ‘Well, there you go! It is in the bible and the bible is the word of God, so that is that!’ As a teenager, I discovered that the bible was not written as “The Bible” and that all of the books of the bible were not assembled until many years after the death of Jesus. Later I discovered that the books assembled were not the only books written; there are more books that were excluded and some were even destroyed. I also learned that some of the words in the bible, when translated from the original language into English, were misinterpreted and some of the words have many possible meanings. This blows my mind because it says to me that when we read the bible we are bound by the assumptions of the original interpreter. Not only that but too often, we are bound by the assumptions and interpretations of the clergy who are teaching it to us. It is kind of like the gossip game we played in school, where one person whispers a story and by the time it gets to the last person in class it is completely different. I am not saying the bible is all wrong, by any means, but this knowledge raised more questions in my mind. Why would someone want to destroy some of the other books? What do the other books say? Who wrote them? What are the other possible meanings for some of the words? I have found some answers, but I am not going to go into all that here because there is too much to talk about. I urge you to explore the history of Christianity and to explore other religions because what you discover may surprise you.
            As I began to learn more and more about the history of Christianity, other religious teachings and about the nature of the ego, it all fell into place for me. The ego can be found everywhere and it can have an effect on everything, including religion. It can affect entire nations, races, genders, or any group of people as well as individuals. I learned that every confusing question I had was a result of someone’s or some group’s collective ego.

“You could rename your ego Fear.” 
~ Michael Singer, Author of The Untethered Soul

            The ego represents, fear. People fear what they do not understand. I can clearly see that, before the time of Jesus, people had a very different and limited view of the world and many things were beyond their understanding. Rob Bell speaks powerfully of this in his book, Love Wins. Imagine living back in the Old Testament days and not having the knowledge of science and physics and astronomy that we now have. They were not completely ignorant, but it is easy to see how they would have been very confused by things that happened that seemed to have no rational explanation. The famines, the fire raining down from the sky, the locusts eating all of the crops; in their minds, it had to be an angry god who did these things to them. What else were they to think? Now we have scientific explanations. It is not personal. God is not punishing us when disasters strike. When you open your mind and accept that God is not a mystical man in the sky, you can see that nature is impersonal. The universal laws of physics are just the way the world works; the way The Creative Force organizes the universe. We don’t have to choose between science and religion. There are things beyond our understanding, even in science. Some will say that is where God comes in and fills the void. Of course, that is where God fills the void, but not as a man in the sky is who is there to control us and punish us. I will never believe that a god made my son disabled for atonement or because I am strong enough to handle it or because I have sinned. I do not believe it was personal. I believe Jesus was telling us that it is not personal on God’s part, but we have some personal responsibility in the energy we put out. He tells us that it is up to us what we gain and what we lose.

Joshua, 8 months old

            I have learned that we must drop all of our false ideas and theories and concepts so that we are able to accept Truth into our hearts. We must learn to separate our Love based thoughts and feelings from our ego based thoughts and feelings, recognizing that we place our human traits onto God, not the other way around. We are created in God’s image, but we think of God in our own fear-based image. There is a difference. We do this because we cannot fathom the true wonder and power of The Creative Force of Love. We bind God to our own limitations. God is whatever there is beyond our human concepts and understanding. God is beyond male and female, beyond our sense perceptions, running through us and everything we perceive in this world and beyond. Strip away all of your mental concepts, everything you have learned thus far about God. The Creative Force of Love is more than you can imagine and everything you can perceive, all at once. Feel The Creative Force in your heart. See The Creative Force in all of the things within your view at this moment. Look at a tree or imagine one in your mind. Know that what grows and sustains that tree is also what animates you. It beats your heart without you thinking about it. This Creative Force of Love that beats your heart is the same Love within each blade of grass that causes it to sprout from the ground and reach toward the sky. It is the Love that moves the rivers and streams towards the ocean and twinkles all of the stars in the sky. It is the Love that allows us to judge, to love, to hate, to reproduce, even to kill a man like Jesus and still that Love sustains our lives. It is a love that allowed our collective ego to stand by and watch as Hitler brought hell on earth to millions of Jewish people. All the while this Love waited patiently for someone, anyone, to know they contain the same Power of Love and to act with compassion for the oppressed and stop the madness. Now explain to me how a love like that could send someone to a fiery hell for eternity or why it would even need to. Hell is our creation, not God’s. Sit in stillness and feel the truth that you cannot possibly understand all there is to know about The Creative Force of Love.
            Rob Bell makes a very good point about hell in Love Wins. He tells of a 17-year-old boy being killed in a car accident. This boy has not accepted Jesus Christ as his savior at the time of his death because he was an atheist. This boy has lived 17 years out of all of the time in eternity. That is the equivalent of less than a pinprick on the scale of time, so why would god send him to hell for eternity because of a decision he made in the course of a pinprick of time? It makes no sense. It does not fit with a loving god, either. This story illustrates our ego based way of thinking about God. It shows that punishment and hell are based on our system of justice, not God’s, and it shows how we think of God in our own image. As for heaven and hell, Jesus says many times that the Kingdom of God is within us and among us and that we can have it now.

“Christianity is not about being rewarded with heaven or hell because you believe or do not believe the right thing about Jesus and God. Christianity, certainly, is not about God sending Jesus to earth to be executed on the cross as some kind of cosmic payment for the sins of humanity. God does not need a sacrificial payoff as some satisfaction to cool down divine wrath as if God had an anger management problem. God’s nature, power, and love are to forgive freely. That is the nature of Grace.” ~ Marcus Borg

            Heaven and hell are creations we can achieve right here on earth through the energies we produce within. Think of a time when something wonderful happened in your life – you fell in love, you got a perfect job, a baby was born, you got a new house – you felt like you were on top of the world; like you were in heaven. Now think of a bad time in your life. It felt like hell, right? I believe this is what Jesus meant. It is your choice, your free will, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, to have acceptance for everything that happens in your life and to create heaven here on earth; or to behave in harmful ways, to want things to be different than they are and create hell. God allows all ways of being in the world.

Hell is:
When you are trying to figure out which one of your sins caused your child’s disability;
The feeling of realizing you will never hear them say I love you, Mom;
Your heartache when your adult child feels lonely because they are incapable of calling up their friends to get together;
Watching your child being ridiculed and humiliated;
What you feel when you are watching your loved one suffer cancer;
The feeling of wanting anything to be different than it is.

Heaven is:
When your child grows up and becomes a loving member of society;
The love you felt the day your child was born;
Knowing your family is healthy and happy;
The feeling you get from helping someone who can never return the favor;
The feeling of being grateful;
The realization that God is not something to fear and the only sin is the refusal to do better today than you did yesterday;
Accepting every situation in your life no matter what it is.

            You move just a little bit closer to heaven when you feel that maybe your child with disabilities chose to enter that body because their soul loves you and wants to share wisdom with you; or maybe you attracted them into your life so that you could learn to be more compassionate or to help others learn compassion; or maybe there is no reason at all for their disabilities, it is just the way things are and it is up to you and other families like yours to teach the world acceptance and to see perfection in everyone.

“Every time your heart is broken it is God hooking up with you, inviting you to hook up with him. It is God saying, ‘I have no hands but yours, I have no arms but yours, I have no intervention of hope but yours.” ~ Rev. Ed Bacon

            Our religious teachers sometimes tell us not to doubt, not to question, to just believe what they are telling us. ‘Follow the laws of God and someday we will understand,’ they say. We remain content with what they told us because we do not realize it is our own laws we are teaching each other. Our laws are fear based and came from our human egos in an attempt to explain why bad things happen. Even when good things happen we feel undeserving because we have been taught that we are sinners.

            I believe The Creative Force of Love is within us. It is our connection to everyone and everything in the world. I believe it is part of us in such a way that we are able to create for ourselves the kind of world we want and deserve. This is where we get confused. We believe bad things happen to us because a god outside of us is punishing us, but it is The Creative Force within ourselves that brings pain or pleasure into our world. If we can accept what science tells us about the energies all around us, then we will know this Creative Force is real and that it is a power within us allowing us to create. We all accept Newton’s Third Law of Motion, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Science has shown that this is true for energy as well as objects. It is true of your thoughts, as well because they are made of energy. The Creative Force of Love is energy within you and all around you. The more we believe we are separate from it, the more chaos we create in our lives. The more separate we feel we are from it, the more negativity we have within, and this is the cause of evil. This is the negative energy that produces harm within us and in others. It is the reason we are all capable of atrocious acts, even if we do not want to admit it. In the East, the effects of our actions are called Karma. Jesus called it heaven and hell.

    I think of God as the Creative Force of LOVE even though it is capable of drawing harm to us because The Creative Force matches us. It is a mirror of the energy we place into the world. It draws to us what we feel and what we believe about ourselves. It matches the energy we put out, reflecting back to us what we are, in a loving imitation. It is up to us to be a positive energy of love if that is what we want because The Force gives us our match. It does not create bad things and bad situations; It allows things to be as we are.
            In our confusion, it is hard to know what to believe. We have a difficult time letting go of things we learned in childhood and have believed our entire lives. In our confusion, we must let them go to find the answers. If your childhood teachings confused you like mine did, but you feel you must hold on to something, let it be this one thing:
God is love.
            That is all you need to know. God thinks with love, speaks with love, acts with love, creates with love, comforts with love and forgives with love. God’s will is purely and simply love. Add nothing to it. Take nothing from it. God gives you, with love, everything you give to the world. When any question arises for you, go deep into your heart to find the answers. Go deep down to where only Love and Peace reside. When you get down to the basic level of pure love, fully and completely, you are held in God’s peaceful embrace. How do you get there? You get there by stripping away all of the layers of fear. You get there through full and complete acceptance of all that is. That is where confusion dissolves into a healing revelation. 

I have a Facebook page called Love Button Worthy! It features photos, blogs, quotes, and other content full of positivity and inspiration. Click here to check it out. Please like the page if it suits you and don’t forget to invite your friends to like it, too.  

Read, Sweetheart. Read! I hope this blog helps you to create a more peaceful life. Keep in touch by the following methods: Use the links under the archive menu to subscribe or follow by e-mail. Help me get this message out by sharing it with your friends on social media! If you enjoyed it and were helped by it, they will, too! Comment by using the comment link below or write to me with your comments and questions at mindchange4all@gmail.com  I look forward to hearing from you!