May 10th, 2013
Bring heightened awareness and an expanded capacity for pleasure into every aspect of your daily life.
Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson are a devoted married couple who have been teaching traditional and contemporary approaches to Tantric sexual practices together since 1999.
Michaels and Johnson are multi-award-winning authors of The Essence of Tantric Sexuality, Tantra for Erotic Empowerment: The Key to Enriching Your Sexual Life, and, most recently, Great Sex Made Simple: Tantric Tips to Deepen Intimacy and Heighten Pleasure, which just won the 2013 Gold Medal from Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Sexuality/Relationships category.
They’ve also produced instructional DVDs and a meditation CD set: all of these and more can be found on their website tantrapm.com
Michaels is a lawyer, playwright and translator. He translated and adapted Goldoni's The Mistress of the Inn for the Roundabout Theatre Company, and co-wrote The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Debate, which premiered at New York's Primary Stages. Johnson is a retired professional operatic soprano who toured as a performer throughout the United States, Europe, and South America.
April 25th, 2011
Narcissists and Sociopaths live to dominate and thrill to win. They can excel marvelously anywhere ruthlessness is rewarding.
And recent research brings us new understanding of just what these serious emotional disabilities are; what causes them, how prevalent they are, and how studying them helps us to draw the connections between psyche and society.
Join host/producer Jari Chevalier as she talks with experts Dr. Nina W. Brown, Dr. Linda Martinez-Lewi, social worker Lisa Charlebois, Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Gabor Maté, MD, Dr. Sandy Hotchkiss, Dr. Scott Baum, and Dr, Martha Stout. Narration includes in-depth research and synthesis of the work of these and many other researchers and healers.
Learn just how and why narcissists and sociopaths might be a bigger part of your life than you imagine. We focus on the many factors of unreality inherent in these personality structures and how they spin unreality into the world.
November 3rd, 2010
" . . . understanding this problem [sociopathy] creates an entire paradigm shift in the way we view human nature."
--Dr. Martha Stout
This episode of our program brings you an interview with Dr. Martha Stout, clinical psychologist and bestselling, award-winning author on the subject of sociopathy. For twenty-six years, she served as a Psychology Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and also taught at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Wellesley College, The New School for Social Research, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Stout has worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Psychiatric Hospital. She is author of The Myth of Sanity, The Paranoia Switch, and The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us, a National Bestseller and winner of a Books for a Better Life Award.
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October 1st, 2010
Several hundred people gathered for the 4th annual Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference at the Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square South on September 24-26.
This conference surveys the current research and social issues in the field of psychedelics. Readings by John Perry Barlow from Birth of a Psychedelic Culture and Don Lattin, author of The Harvard Psychedelic Club, provided historical context and Cosmo D set the atmosphere with a performance of textured cello improvisation over original electronic rhythms to open the weekend.
Why has psychedelic research been discriminated against in academia? Dr. Torsten Passie took us through the reasons. He showed slides of tribal people lying back all together with their eyes closed: not very productive! A Western capitalist worldview, which requires relations with nature to be utilitarian and depth of feeling to be kept private is not likely to embrace the potential value of trance states, the sharing of dreams, or the hallucinogenic experience.
Furthermore, ecstatic experience through psychedelics can engender direct, unmediated experience of the divine in oneself and in all of nature. This does not comport particularly well with the teachings of the Christian church, which holds forth that each and every one of us needs Jesus Christ to mediate our salvation.
Psychedelics deconceptualize and deconstruct entrenched value systems and, therefore, authority over truth is destabilized. So let's add that those who socially engineer and control populations don’t much care for that sort of thing. It becomes a real problem for those in power when people tap into a larger, more satisfying and holistic sense of reality, endemic to their own true natures, accessed intuitively.
Dr. Passie does not expect interest in psychedelics to spread beyond a small, secret society in the foreseeable future.
Dr. Jeffrey Guss, who heads up a current study at NYU on psychedelics in the reduction of cancer anxiety with very positive psychospiritual results, agrees with Dr. Passie that psychedelics will not become mainstream in society and he doesn’t believe that they should, that they are not for everyone.
But, standing in disagreement with these men on this point is independent Manhattan and Sag Harbor-based psychologist in private practice, Neal Goldsmith, PhD. Along with organizer Kevin Balktic, Dr. Goldsmith facilitates the conference. His sense is that to move into an age beyond post-modernism, one integrating the Cartesian split, psychedelics may play an important role.
He speaks of his own transformation through psychedelic experiences and how it altered his personality theory and views on personal growth and change. He describes a step-wise developmental process with dramatic growth to a new level of development after periods on a plateau. In essence, he says the issue is not to change a pathology, but to form genuine trusting relationships through which his clients can re-identify with their core selves. The person you were born, before you “punted” to a compensatory Plan B, personality, to get by in early childhood, is who you really are. Healing is getting back to that core self.
He's seen that transformative developmental change takes a long time and is very difficult to sustain in this culture. A combination of transcendent and cathartic approaches are most effective, and in this, psychedelics can be catalysts to insight, although insight alone, he says, only goes so far.
The large-scale collective process of what he calls psyche-ology, the study and healing of soul, is really concerned now with successfully joining mechanistic, scientific and technological knowledge with the realities of human psychosocial needs.
Eric Davis, a current PhD candidate, author, speaker and radio host discussed inner and outer Cartesian dualities by way of a metaphor, a mobius strip on which the material at some point turns over into the spiritual, the secular into the sacred and vice versa, in a flow.
There is a hunger in our culture (with its resistance to all things mystical) for the ritual and ceremonial context in which the hallucinogen Ayahuasca is taken by tribal peoples from the rain forests of South America; and this is likely why Ayahuasca has become so popular in North America in recent years.
Davis also pointed to Roland Griffiths’ 2008 Johns Hopkins study which proved that the use of psychedelics gives rise to religious experience (“No shit, Sherlock,” he said, “we knew that!”) And so the open question is: what does a secular, materialistic research model do with this scientific confirmation? And does moving the psychedelic experience into the psychopharmaceutical, clinical environment of the lab, perhaps diminish its potential for healing self and society?
The scientific approach is valuable, Davis upholds, because of the nagging questions it prompts us to ask about the brain. For instance, if you’re going to coin terms like “neurotheology” as a way to account for the experience of God, then you must also account for déjà vu, clairvoyance, and many other experiences of the mind.
For scientists to be seriously engaged in psychedelic research they eventually must take the psychedelics themselves. And that could just stimulate changes in the scientific approach itself. We may find ourselves up against our culture’s addictions to limiting ideas.
Psychedelic use for the treatment of addiction was reported on by researchers Matthew Johnson and Mary Cosimano of Johns Hopkins University who are currently investigating psilocybin in the treatment of nicotine dependence.
Most striking was the presentation by Clare Wilkins, director of Pangea Biomedics in Tijuana, Mexico on the remarkable properties of Ibogaine, a hallucinogenic root from Gabon, Africa that reverses addictions to opiates; such as heroine and methadone, as well as to cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, nicotine, and all manner of addictive behaviors and neurotic thoughts.
Ninety-two percent of clients who enter the clinic leave free of their chemical dependency, and without any withdrawal symptoms. Eighteen percent are still living without their drug of choice after six months, and this is a remarkable liberation rate. The hallucinogen gives addicts a real chance at choice. While exactly how ibogaine works is still unknown, there is clearly repair to brain receptors and an adjustment in neurochemistry.
She describes Ibogaine as a “relationship interrupter,” accomplishing “shame washing, empowerment, and the reawakening of the body’s intelligence.” Ibogaine “enables you to look at your life and eliminate anything that is not serving you.” Self-harm becomes self-care. “You fall back in love with yourself, with others and with life. It brings love back into the equation.”
Several of the non-academic speakers praised visionary experience and its influence on art, music, fashion, film, eco-consciousness and the integration of Eastern and Western mysticism. Annie Oak spoke about her grant-making organization, the Women’s Visionary Congress, and how this multigenerational community of “psychedelic women” support one another in their ongoing catalytic work as artists, healers, activists and visionaries.
But some brought up the dark side and limitations of psychedelics. Associate producer of the annual Bioneers conference, J.P. Harpignies, reminded us that in the 60s many a psych-ward and hospital was packed with LSD casualties. And poet, Dale Pendell, while acknowledging that we have yet to complete the psychedelic revolution, that the Earth is in need of a deep and radical cure, also cautioned us to consider that psychedelics are not effective on narcissism. In fact, with their tendency to stimulate messianic fantasies in some people, psychedelics may have contributed to the rapid rise of Me-ism in society.
Jill Harris of the Drug Policy Alliance urged the Horizons audience to come out about their psychedelic experiences, to break the taboo and share stories. “They have been important to us; they have mattered.” Let’s be vocal about how transformative these drugs can be and about the fact that prohibition doesn’t work. At the 40th anniversary of the War on Drugs, “it’s time to set the exit strategy.”
Heading home through Washington Square park at twilight, the great stone arch with its bold, engraved quotation was all lit up:
“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.”
Washington spoke those words to inspire his delegates to aim high in the writing of the Constitution of the United States. It was crafted, in this spirit, over the next 17 weeks.
And I thought, yes, here it is, the time Washington expected for the wise and honest to repair to those standards. And it will be, indeed, up to the wise and the honest to do the job.
“There are methods for changing social policies,” Neal Goldsmith tells us, “and we’ve got to power through, shoulder to the wheel, and do the work.”
©2010 Jari Chevalier
August 1st, 2009
Sex and pleasure expert, Stella Resnick, PhD joins us to encourage, inform and delight you! Dr. Resnick is author of The Pleasure Zone: How We Resist Good Feelings and How to Let Go and Be Happy.
She is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA and currently serves on the faculty of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Formerly President of the Western Region of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Dr. Resnick is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, CE Provider, and Clinical Supervisor, Stella has appeared many times on TV including the Oprah, Leeza, and Montel Williams shows, CNN Live, The O’Reilly Factor, KCBS’ Morning News, and UPN’s Evening News. Her seminar on The Pleasure Zone is featured in the PBS television series Body & Soul in the segment "Ode to Joy".
Stella is frequently quoted in popular magazines; such as, Reader’s Digest, Women’s World, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Self, Redbook, McCall’s, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, Glamour, Mademoiselle, Family Circle, Parenting, and the Utne Reader. She has written numerous professional papers, and authored cover stories for Self, New Age, and Psychology Today magazines.
We talked about:
Demonizing pleasure in a history of domination ● Fear of peace, fulfillment and pleasure programmed in our nervous systems ● The 8 Core Pleasures and how we resist them ● Pleasure and the stages of human and societal development ● Infant needs and our tenacious early experiences ● Societal health and childhood sexuality ● How we learn to be human ● Two kinds of discipline and your pleasure ● Relearning how to be sexual ● Of what is sexuality an expression? ● Bridging the gap between heart and libido in adult partnerships ● A role for conscious breathing in your life
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 52 minutes.)
Listen at your convenience!
Click through to buy Stella's book on Amazon right from this site in the sidebar to the left.
May 1st, 2009
Radical Simplicity! The Living Hero program presents an interview with author, educator, and activist Jim Merkel.
Jim began as a military engineer. Just after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, Jim quit his job and took immediate personal responsibility for his own part in global problems. This meant taking radical actions to scale back consumption and deeply reconsider life in all its dimensions. He subsequently authored Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth. Merkel received an Earthwatch Gaia Fellowship to research sustainable living in Kerala, India and in regions of the Himalayas.
He founded the Global Living Project and was hired by Dartmouth College to serve as its first Sustainability Director.
Jim lives the life of radical simplicity—cycling hundreds of miles to give lectures and workshops at colleges , universities, and community centers. He is a homesteader, growing and preserving his own food, and living on about $5,000 a year. Jim has given hundreds of hours of his time as a volunteer to share his wealth of knowledge on the new good life of sustainable living.
We talked about:
• the present pulse of the sustainability movement
• the real root of simplicity
• engaging the heart
• Jim's childhood and influences
• the real challenge of society: the common good
• how radical simplicity crosses party lines
• Jim's revolutionary shift after Exxon-Valdez
• what it means to exceed the carrying capacity of the Earth
• what is an ecological footprint
• Jim's view of the economic crisis
• living on $5000 a year in America
• the roots of violence and fear
• population control, women, and wisdom
• falling in love with the Earth
Enjoy the show! (The program is around 50 minutes)
Listen at your convenience!
November 1st, 2008
The Living Hero program presents an interview with celebrated neuroscientist, Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is a William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He directs the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior where he conducts research on the short- and long-term effects of meditation practices on human emotion and the circuitry of the brain.
He holds a doctorate from Harvard University and has published more than 250 articles, chapters and reviews. The founding co-editor of the new American Psychological Association journal, EMOTION and he has also edited 13 books.
One of Dr. Davidson's most valuable findings is that happiness and compassion are trainable skills that can be developed, just as we can learn to play a musical instrument; that it is possible to train a mind to be happy and peaceful.
We talked about:
• What prompted Dr. Davidson's career path
• Meditation as a path of transformation
• The different forms of meditation
• How meditation changes the brain
• Meditation in health and in education
• Long-term effects of meditation on brain function and gene expression
• Meditation and Christianity
• How to learn more about Dr. Davidson's work
Numerous honors and awards of distinction have come to Dr. Davidson, including the most distinguished award for science given by the American Psychological Association – the Scientific Contribution Award. He has also received the Research Scientist Award and the MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH); and many other honors recognizing his groundbreaking contributions.
In 2003, Dr. Davidson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2004, to the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. In 2006, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
Davidson maintains a close, collaborative relationship with Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, the world's best-known practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The Dalai Lama first invited Davidson to his home in Dharamsala, India, in 1992 after learning about Davidson's innovative research into the neuroscience of emotions. Dr. Davidson has had the opportunity to study the brains of many of the world’s most advanced meditation practitioners.
Visit these websites for more information:
Waisman Lab website
U of Wisconsin Psychology Department website
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about 25 minutes)
Listen at your convenience!
October 1st, 2008
The Living Hero podcast welcomes our distinguished guest, clinical psychologist and bioenergetic analyst, Scott Baum, Ph.D.
Dr. Baum is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology. He is also a certified Bioenergetic Therapist, and a member of the Faculty of The International Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis. He has been affiliated with the DiMele Center for Psychotherapy since 1994.
Scott Baum views psychotherapy as an experiential, problem solving process. He believes that the deepest, fullest, and most complex understanding of a person’s problem yields the best, most creative and enduring results.
We talked about:
• The premise that underlies bioenergetic analysis
• A more refined view of stress
• How human beings are biologically organized
• What goes on in a bioenergetic session
• Males, fathers, patriarchal society, power and the unknown
• The disparity between mothers and fathers
• Why men don’t ask for directions
• Healthy narcissism, narcissistic disorders and the true self
• A dividing line among therapists
• What’s possible with therapy
• How to learn more about Bioenergetics.
Visit the website for the New York Society for Bioenergetic Analysis
Enjoy the show! (The interview is about an hour)
Listen at your convenience!
June 4th, 2008
Sometimes the mind and tongue go quiet for a stretch, precipitated by an event or experience, or just because.
This time, for me, it was the BBC video series entitled Planet Earth, a monumental piece of work that brings us, as never before, into the wilderness areas of our planet, as they remain at this time.
Watching this series daily has left me quite speechless; and therefore, I have been inactive in my blogging or reaching out to people by phone.
I am poignantly aware that the very technological advancements required to visually record the Earth’s wild creatures in the far reaches of their habitats, such that they are not disturbed in the course of their natural activities, rode in on the trajectory of industrialization, which also gave us toxic pollution, mass extinctions, shrinking habitats, global warming and all the other threats human beings have posed in pursuit of information, understanding, and ostensibly, reality.
So, if it was necessary for worldwide human consciousness to behold this planet and realize our place in the family of living things, then we have hereby accomplished this. Done deal! Time to celebrate and to retreat! And, on the way, let us make amends to the native peoples we considered primitive, who had figured all this out already before we decimated them.
Pythagoras, who was born in 507 BC, is credited for coining the word philosophy (love of wisdom). To him, a “philosopher” was someone who “gives himself up to discovering the meaning and purpose of life itself . . . to uncover the secrets of nature.”
But, now we must go beyond this original definition of philosophy to find wisdom, to give ourselves up to something else entirely: to the recognition that our notions about discovering the meaning and purpose of life, or uncovering the secrets of nature, have been misguided ones.
We have seen the ends of the Earth now--mission accomplished--so, the question is: will we, the people, be willing to act with the wisdom actually called for in our time--to shift our systems and morph our power structures? Can we stop advancing and relinquish our strangling power over the land and its marvelous creatures, and instead withdraw, back down, give way, surrender to our hard-won larger view of life?
Do we have the larger smarts to put to rest all our fascinating illusions and fantasies of figuring things out through the human mind, our inventions and our instruments?
In the bookstore the other day, I stood before the shelves marked Western Philosophy and noticed how dominated those book spines are with male names. Nice try guys, thank you very much. But let's have some feminine wisdom to guide our species now.
What if there is no meaning and purpose to life except to live it in a state of poise and grace? Maybe it’s kind of jerky and pathetic to keep believing that we will ever comprehend the hows, whys, and wherefores of the universe. It’s like an abused and jilted lover who just keeps calling and coming back for another kick in the head, or a neglected child who just cannot accept his parents’ indifference, trying in vain to get their attention, only to be hurt and dismayed again and again. There are instances where hope springing eternal is just stupid. The universe will never be ours. It's not available for that. Can't we get over it?! Why don’t we give up on nailing the universe and find fulfillment in the here and now with the aspects of life that are wholesome, available and satisfying?
I am suggesting that we set aside our childish things, to enter and consider lives of love (there's that L-Word), craft, community and intimacy, rather than ideas and puffed-up, jacked-up enterprises built on myths, misgivings, and false understandings.
The whole scientific enterprise has surely brought focused and precise attention to unsolvable mysteries; such as, Pi, The Golden Ratio, fractals, the intricacies of body functions and sense-organs in living things; but we don’t, and never will, understand them or know why there is life here on Earth. All our efforts will only bring us deeper into the shapeshifting mysteries of life and death. We would do better to concern ourselves with conscience than with science.
Yesterday's NY Times article on the latest extremely expensive scientific roundabout.
Rather than penetrate these mysteries, it would help us immensely to really understand something: that it is for us to embrace, love, protect and revere them, not to parse, categorize, compartmentalize and use them. Let us retreat from dissecting and theorizing about them, not with a sense of failure, but with a sense of maturation.
Do we really need more science? Do we need more technology? Consider that the answer is: no, we don't. What we do need is greater mental and physical health, greater wisdom and intimacy. And we wouldn't need a fraction of the hospitals, prisons, techno-medicine and machinery, if we were living healthier, more loving lives to begin with.
The healthiest and wisest people are psychologically strong enough to soften and be tender, to expose their vulnerability, to let down, give way, express their fears, longings, idiosyncracies . . . and to share themselves with another person, one whom they admire on many levels, to share the experience of spiritual and physical energetic surrender in the act of sexual love.
How are we doing with that? Do we have healthy sex lives? Have we lives with time for stillness, slowness, sustained attention, quiet, peace and pleasure? Or are we continually fooled, like a fish, by the next glittering thing out there--the next thought, idea, prospect, product, structure, icon, expert, or procedure?
Do we celebrate our world and the gift of life with simple gestures, recognizing the things that truly bring peace and pleasure; such as real care and affection, acting in all conscience and virtue?
As creative beings, have we cultivated our creative gifts? Do we know how to let down and enter a passive-receptive state that fosters imaginative power through wholesome means?
The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes the rituals and practices of a people dedicated to wisdom and peace. So much of their attention is focused on preparation for death, on having the spiritual fortitude to die in peace.
Sooner or later we all have to surrender to life, to mystery, to that which we don't understand. Some will do so with grace, peace, and dignity, others will not.
If we truly want disarmament and ecological restoration in our world; if we are willing to take the path of health and sanity, we must learn the art, honor and pleasure of surrender, of laying down and relinquishing our misguided pursuits, our divisive attitudes and ideas, and our physical and mental tensions.
We also want to put aside our cynicism, which has arisen from the consistent thwarting of our breathless pursuit of impossibilities and illusions: dominating, classifying, and understanding nature, the psyche, or the universe. Instead let's consider sentiment, love, and brotherhood not the naïve, embarrassing, and obsolete concepts we taint with our cynicism, but the very center of a salt-of-the-Earth, reality-based life that brings about health, contentment and satisfaction.
©2008 Jari Chevalier
May 12th, 2008
In our movement toward wholeness and maturity, perhaps the most fundamental challenge—and our goal—is the acceptance and embrace of our freedom. To live as sovereign individuals, so that our highest authority is our own sense of what is right, and knowing that we hold the wisdom to assess for ourselves the particulars of a situation, means that we fully trust ourselves and are willing to stand alone, if and when necessary.
Since creative people are so often ahead of their time, we must really know, as an experience deep in our bodies, that our assessments of relationships are right; and this deep, inner knowledge gives us the courage to be harbingers of what may one day also be discovered by the masses. Galileo knew he was right; Blake knew; Einstein knew; Walt Whitman . . . the great ones knew.
This type of innate knowledge comes through the experiences of intuition, inspiration, epiphany, and insight. These are spiritual experiences: understanding moves through you energetically, so that you see something and feel the rightness of it at the same time. This spirituality is fresh and personal; it exists apart from any particular theology or ideology.
Sadly, living without a personal spiritual connection to life and the freedom it supports is the grim lot of most people. Lives lacking a genuine, experiential spiritual foundation tend to oscillate between controlling others and being controlled. Without the spiritual ground of experience which is the very will of freedom, the prospect of freedom is just too much for people, and power is the woeful tether by which they aim to feel secure.
Erich Fromm's Escape from Freedom explores the widespread aversion to freedom and persuades us that sadomasochistic tendencies underpin it. "It is always the inability to stand the aloneness of one’s individual self that leads to the drive to enter into a symbiotic relationship with someone else. It is evident from this why masochistic and sadistic trends are always blended with each other. Although on the surface they seem contradictions, they are essentially rooted in the same basic need. People are not sadistic or masochistic, but there is a constant oscillation between the active and the passive side of the symbiotic complex, so that it is often difficult to determine which side of it is operating at a given moment. In both cases individuality and freedom are lost."
Later in his book, Fromm relates that these destructive tendencies to escape from freedom result from the thwarting of the individual’s sensuous, emotional, and intellectual expansiveness in childhood. These perversions are the torque our spirits take from the suppression of our exuberance, curiosity, and creative will in childhood and, which can continue all our lives. By continuing to suppress our natural tendencies to explore, move and stretch our bodies, imagine, try things out and invent, we perpetuate our pain and give rise to yet another generation of frustrated human beings stuck on a see-saw of power relations.
Here's the remedy: reactivation of our creative and expressive pleasures goes straight to the root of perversions of spirit that we witness in our lives and our societies. Encouraging our children and each other to spend more time puttering and tinkering with things out of curiosity, creativity, and imaginative play, fostering our spiritual connection to life through observation, meditation, and the many means that help us to do this, and providing ourselves with the conditions for the experience of intuition, inspiration, epiphany and insight will all feed the hope of a new humanity that has the courage for real freedom.
©Jari Chevalier, 2008
February 29th, 2008
Our fingerprints and faces tell us we are each “sui generis,” (one-of-a-kind), although most of us were raised to conform to, and plug into, a social structure, rather than encouraged to discover and display our distinctive gifts.
I often imagine a world of people brought up to shine as one-of-a-kind, creative expressions of humanity and wonder what such a world would be like. Each child would be approached with utter curiosity and a sense of reverence for the unforeseen gifts they might bring to both family and society. Their sui generis idiosyncracies would be nurtured by parents, teachers, leaders and the culture at large.
Would this approach help to bring about whole and fulfilled people, people who feel unashamed, confident, and appreciated for who they truly are?
Most kids have jumping-for-joy natures, abounding life energies and strong emotions. Yet, their unusual thoughts and insights, self-love, love of pleasure and of life are considered, at best, adorable in the cute way, rather than the worthy-of-adoration way. They are asked, in so many instances, to conform to what’s expected of them, to apply themselves to finding their place (a.s.a.p.!) in existing models, roles and societal structures, rather than to engender new systems and create new forms.
We may, in fact, be asking children to thwart their natural love of life to better fit into a system that is stressful, unhealthy and inhumane. Young people, whose heart-intelligence and innate compassion are still very much in tact, are one day treated to a movie about how sweet and wonderful penguins are and the next day informed of the destruction of the penguin habitat due to human profligacy. What tools do we provide them for dealing with their feelings about such ironies and inconsistencies?
When children object to societal emotional confusion, in their immature sui generis way, their rebellions are often attacked, shamed, undermined. I recently witnessed a young boy of about seven with his mother in front of a fish counter at Whole Foods. I saw him looking up at her and overheard her say, dismissively, unwilling to look down to meet his eyes, "There are plenty of fish in the sea, Johnny; it’s perfectly fine for us to eat them."
The point is not the fish here, the point is this boy’s heart and how his mother responded to his heart’s cry. And we wonder how the steep rise of childhood mental health disorders, and all the consequences associated with them, could be happening in such a wonderful place as the suburbs of the United States!
The erroneously attributed Chinese dish named Chop Suey is a bland, overcooked, and unpalatable dish of cheap, canned vegetables and water chestnuts held together with corn starch, invented in America and passed off as Chinese.
Do American adults turn their children into Chop Sui, while worrying that the Chinese are taking away their opportunities and wealth, spoiling their American Dream?! Would the children, if they knew what the choices were in our world, even choose the values of the American Dream?
The futurist author Daniel Pink details Six Senses needed in the coming generations in his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. These senses are Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. I believe Empathy is the most important one of these senses to encourage and develop in the lives of children. Empathy is the ability to feel what another is feeling, to really meet other people and other creatures where they live, so to speak. Just imagine what a world this would be if empathy were an aptitude highly developed and prized in society at large, right from the way children are conceived, carried and birthed!
Imagine how that value of tenderness and care would naturally change the nature and aptitudes of their imaginations and contribute to the sensitivities of their other senses. And extend this imagining to how the products and services that drive the economy would also, organically, change in response to increased and concerted empathy in mass culture.
Imagine how a robust sense of empathy would influence the questions each individual would be asking about society; such as: Just what are we putting ourselves in service to? Are our enterprises honest and caring? How are we making and interpreting meaning in our educational and media presentations? How are we putting all the informational pieces of our society together? What are our fundamental narratives about? What are we designing and for what purposes?
In the presence of pervasive and abiding empathy, all our activities are in service to a healthier, more integrated way of life. And, I might dare to add, true empathy is what makes it possible for the sui generis nature of each face, each individual, each living thing, to truly shine and be held dear.
©2008 Jari Chevalier
February 6th, 2008
". . . the greatest economic competition in the world going forward is not going to be between countries and countries. And it’s not going to be between companies and companies. The greatest economic competition going forward is going to be between you and your own imagination. Your ability to act on your imagination is going to be so decisive in driving your future and the standard of living in your country. So the school, the state, the country that empowers, nurtures, enables imagination among its students and citizens, that’s who’s going to be the winner."
--Tom Friedman (The World is Flat)
from an interview with Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind)
We are a people longing to see beyond our current dilemmas and dangers to a future that is reasonable and sustainable. But we need more than reason to get to reasonable. We need imagination.
How can we become visionaries and nurture our visions in the reality of community? How can we recognize a vision worth pursuing when one comes along?
The world’s best and brightest leaders, philosophers, artists and inventors have always relied on imagination to envision a better future and to bring it to life through creative expression and invention.
Now it is time for all of us to actively put our imaginative powers to work, to open our minds and to face the imperative of envisioning a future that will truly work for the global community.
This means strengthening and nurturing a healthier balance of thought and feeling, which will bring more wisdom to bear as we imagine, work, create. Getting to this healthier balance in the midst of our high-pressured, busy days is a real challenge and we are all in this together.
Our next podcast (scheduled for late February) will feature futurist Daniel Pink talking with us about how he sees practices such as yoga, art and meditation contributing to the shift he describes in his latest book A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers will Rule the Future. He’ll explain how he came to use the creative genre of manga (Japanese for "comics") for his upcoming business book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need, due to be released on April 1st.
He’ll also speak about the early adopters and also any resistors of the whole new mind he describes and share what’s on the creative horizon for him after The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.
To make the most of the podcast, please enjoy A Whole New Mind prior to listening! Get it right here!
January 28th, 2008
In our language, we have two similarly named thresholds of awareness. One is the subliminal, “that which lies below,” that which we generally refer to as the subconscious. The other is the sublime, which we speak of mostly at times when we have briefly transcended that upper limit, when we are momentarily sent “over the top” with feeling, with awe, surprise or beauty, surpassing our usual realm of sensation and awareness. People have been known to faint from being unable to sustain the sublime.
We would not know these boundaries if we didn’t, in unusual states and circumstances, access what is beyond them. Symbols, metaphors and buried memories do break into consciousness from the unconscious. And we do have wondrous and sublime experiences in nature, through love, in beholding our own newborn child, in moments of discovery, and through the experience of insight.
These thresholds of awareness frame not where you have been and what you have done, but the range of perception and feeling you were fit to bear, whereever you went and whatever you did.
Our ability to access both the subliminal and the sublime is integral to our capacity to accept and bear their truth and their gifts. These thresholds in the self are not fixed. They can go from brick walls to accessible doorways to a mere change in the landscape within yourself. As you develop yourself as a human being and become someone more psychologically mature, of greater spiritual fortitude, your range of awareness and capacity to feel into both the subliminal and the sublime will grow. You will be able to experience more feeling without fear, awkwardness, overwhelm or discomfort. You will also be much more in touch with the tremendous creative and integrative forces that are within you.
How do you open the range of your awareness and enlarge your capacity to feel and know more of your own life’s forces and riches? The best ways I know involve yoga, creativity and meditation.
©Jari Chevalier, 2008