How Life Works

by Ross Bishop
Before we proceed, we need to make two things clear:First, you are here to learn to love everything (especially yourself), freely and openly. That is the only reason you are here.

Second, anything not directly connected to the first point may be real, but it is not relevant (unless it brings a lesson relating to the first point).

It’s not that things like houses, money and success aren’t real, but they have little bearing on why you are here. You allow yourself to get caught up in the events of life – paying bills, getting the kids through school, dealing with medical issues, etc. and avoid (temporarily) the reasons you have come. But daily life does surface unresolved ego issues, so it is useful.

In many ways life is like a child’s sandbox. Happenings there can seem important – castles are built, empires are created and lost, dragons slain; but other than lessons learned – like playing together and sharing – events within the sandbox have no real meaning in the outside world. Your life is probably like that. The things you worry about have little eternal significance other than they illustrate your unwillingness to love.

You spend most of your time focused on earthly concerns because they are less challenging than the things The Universe asks of you. We pretty much ignore or at least shove those aside. You don’t want to challenge your feelings of unworthiness or self doubt because you fear that somehow they might prove to be true. And you don’t want to rake that risk. Even though these things cannot possibly be true, you fear them. So we clog the channels with worries about “stuff” instead.

The sadhus of India shun worldly possessions because it makes finding the truth more straightforward. A sandal maker in Chiapas or a beggar in Benares may actually have a better chance at reaching the light because their lives are built around spirituality and their minds aren’t clogged with concerns about “stuff”. Of course you must put food on the table and a roof over your head, but unfortunately your attachment to materialistic things goes well beyond that.

You can ignore life’s larger lessons – for a time. But The Universe is persistent. When you defer or ignore, it ups the ante and brings the lesson around again. So dealing with your stuff today, although it may be challenging, is a great deal easier than being backed into a corner later.

If you persist in ignoring the urgings of The Universe you move into the realm of disease. Facing the threat of death is a great eye opener for most people. It finally forces them to get off the pot. In case you have forgotten, that was the great lesson for Scrooge in Dicken’s, A Christmas Carol. That’s also why there are ministers at hospitals.

The question is, “Are you listening to your life?” Are you looking at the bumps in the road as obstacles – as judgements on your worth – or as opportunities for growth? Are you responding with love and compassion to the challenges life throws your way (especially towards yourself), or are you choosing to be angry at God and ignore or rationalize away your lessons?

When things fall apart – as they must, how will you react? Will you lash out at others (or yourself) with blame, anger and resentment, or will you introspectively look at what The Universe has brought you and grow from it? Remember in the Old Testament, “a satan” was merely an obstacle to a person’s growth. It was only later that St. Paul transformed satan into the Devil.

Put very simply, will you make the changes life is asking of you? Will you confront the false beliefs of your unworthiness and live in the truth?

Consider: what are the lessons about love that you can take from this day? What is The Universe asking of you in this moment? More compassion, especially toward yourself? . . . What are your kids or your partner trying to tell you? Are you growing? Changing? Or are you stuck in a rut? If you persist in staying the same, expect to get blown out of the rut. That’s the way The Universe works.

“Every person that enters your life offers you a lesson that needs to be learned. This doesn’t mean they are going to remain in your life and guide you forever, but there’s usually a logical reason why you two crossed paths. It could be to put you in your place, help you overcome an obstacle, break you in order to rebuild yourself or show you there is more to life than you have ever imagined. . .
Allow this person to do their job and teach what you need to learn. Once they are finished, and if they have nothing further to offer you, then their task is complete. You can now move on to your next teacher to learn your next lesson.
Everyone you meet in life is a learning experience. Take what they have to offer and soak it in. Knowledge is powerful. Never stop learning.”
copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2014

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by Ross Bishop
When conducting a workshop, if there is one topic guaranteed to snap a room to attention, it is the issue of parenting. No one, it seems is comfortable with their ability to parent and everyone feels pretty vulnerable about it. It is a shame that we don’t teach parenting in schools because you’re certain to need it more than algebra or chemistry.Raising children challenges us in our most intimate and vulnerable places. A child simply asks us to open our hearts (as does a good relationship). That frightens many people, and yet they have this child that they asked for, that they love, that they must respond to. . . and at times they would also like to strangle. And that’s the inherent conflict that drives most parents up the wall.

First of all, know that you are not alone. I don’t know a single parent who doesn’t feel the same way. It doesn’t make you defective, it only makes you human. A parent is totally responsible for a child, and that is an extraordinary responsibility and a very large emotional burden (more about that in a minute). “Flaws” in the child’s behavior reflect directly back on your self-worth and parenting skills. We work so hard to mask our own fears and anxieties and then send the kid to school for all the world to see.

Yes, there are parenting skills you can learn – they are mostly relational skills like communicating, being honest and understanding the limitations of a child to cope, but the biggest single parenting technique you will ever learn is, “DO EVERYTHING WITH LOVE.” No matter what else you do, if you keep that admonition before you, you won’t go too far afield (it’s good advice for relationships too). I am asked what to do in this situation or that situation, and after dealing with the particulars I always add, “Do what’s in your heart.”

But there is a major complication in being in your heart that most child care books don’t talk about, and that has to do with the child’s ability to push your buttons. You see, it’s a child’s job. Think about it for a moment. God has only a couple of good ways to get you to look at your issues. Your partner is one, your family is another and sometimes we get tangled up with friends, but nothing and I mean nothing, can get to you like your child can.

When your child “pushes your buttons”, he or she is offering you an opportunity to look at something that is not finished in your own development. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reacting! The child needs to learn his or her lessons and you get to look at your stuff. It’s a twofer! Deal with the kid’s behavior for sure, but don’t neglect the opportunity to look into your reaction, too.

The truth is, you don’t really want to deal with these issues (otherwise you would have done so already), and the kid has put them right in your face. And there isn’t anything can do about it! This is the reason that most parents hold resentments toward their children. You don’t let the resentments surface because you know they are misplaced, but when pushed into a corner . . . And because we don’t want to deal with these issues, we deflect them away through resentment (it’s what you probably do with your partner, too).

What got set off in you was from your childhood – a lingering insecurity, a belief – that you have yet to resolve. And this is The Universe’s way of calling your attention to it. If your child is having a hard time, you’re not enough as a parent, you’re not good enough, smart enough, lovable – etc., etc., etc. And as an imperfect being, how can you keep from passing those attitudes on to your kids?

The answer, as I said before, is to love your children. If you show them real love, then what you do won’t matter so much because they will know that they are loved. Note that I said “show.” We all love our kids, but some of us are really bad at openly giving that love.

Kids will give you a surprising amount of leeway. And if you cannot love them openly, that’s The Universe knocking at your door, asking you to look at, “Why not?” In addition to your own healing, dealing with your issues is important in another way because when you know the origin of your feelings, you’re less likely to dump your stuff all over a child who may need guidance, but probably doesn’t deserve that.

As a child grows, he/she must create independence from you, and yet the child will still be (at times) dependent upon you for emotional support. It’s a minefield! – from one point of view. But, from another perspective, it is the most potent opportunity you will ever have to look at your own fears and anxieties. What a remarkable gift!

A very wise dog trainer once told me, “It’s never the dog.” Yes, dogs, like children, can become imprinted with dysfunctional behavior, but they merely reflect the environment they live in. Heal yourself and your kids will do OK.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2014

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Social Change

by Ross Bishop

In 1964, while we were busy tearing down the leftovers of the social institutions of the 1940′s and 50′s – (civil rights, voting rights, the rights of women and the war in Viet Nam), John W. Gardner, a prolific social science writer, was thinking about about the process of social change. The result of his efforts was a book called, Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society – now a forgotten book of extraordinary prescience and wisdom.

Gardner’s words are even more timely today than they were when he wrote them. The revolutionary zeal of the ’60′s has fallen into middle-aged complacency and self-absorption. We have allowed the bankers and other capitalists to quietly seize the reins of power while we were busy watching NCIS.

Gardner’s book is a must-read for entrepreneurs and leaders who seek to infuse their organizations, public and private, with ongoing vitality.

The renewal of societies and organizations can go forward only if someone cares. Apathy and lowered motivation are the most widely noted characteristics of a civilization on the downward path. . .

Gardner explored what it takes – as individuals, as a society, even as a civilization – to counter “the dry rot produced by apathy, by rigidity and by moral emptiness,” which comes hand-in-hand with complacency. He saw social upheaval as necessary, a catalyst, that shook up the establishment. He worried about what might happen in its absence – something we are going to have to confront if we are to turn this lethargic society of ours around.

Everyone, either in his career or as a part-time activity, should be doing something about which he cares deeply. And if he is to escape the prison of the self, it must be something not essentially egocentric in nature… Institutions are renewed by individuals who refuse to be satisfied with the outer husks of things. And self-renewal requires somewhat the same impatience with empty forms. . .

Unless we attend to the requirements of renewal, aging institutions and organizations will eventually bring our civilization to moldering ruin. Unless we cope with the ways in which modern society oppresses the individual, we shall lose the creative spark that renews both societies and [individuals].

A society decays when its institutions and individuals lose their vitality… When organizations and societies are young, they are flexible, fluid, not yet paralyzed by rigid specialization and willing to try anything once. As the organization or society ages, vitality diminishes, flexibility gives way to rigidity, creativity fades and there is a loss of capacity to meet challenges from unexpected directions. Call to mind the adaptability of youth, and the way in which that adaptability diminishes with the years. Call to mind the vigor and recklessness of some new organizations and societies – our own frontier settlements, for example – and reflect on how frequently these qualities are buried under the weight of tradition and history. . . .

Gardner points out that the self-renewing human has mutually fruitful relations with other human beings. This person is capable of accepting love and giving it and is both capable of depending on others and of being depended upon. This person can see life through another’s eyes and be sensitive to what they are feeling.

The man or woman who cannot achieve these relationships is imprisoned, cut off from a great part of the world of experience. The joy and suffering of those we love are part of our own experience. We feel their triumphs and defeats, their hopes and fears, their anger and pity, and our lives are richer for it. . . .

Love and friendship dissolve the rigidities of the isolated self, force new perspectives, alter judgments and keep in working order the emotional substratum on which all profound comprehension of human affairs must rest.

Gardner goes on to explore how we can optimize our capacity for self-renewal by understanding its obstacles and essential conditions, the limits of individuality, how our attitudes toward the future impact it, its relationship with creativity and innovation, and more.

One wonders if we will ever return to the days of social activism and real social change or will we simply slide into oblivion like so many other societies before us? Half a century later, Self-Renewal remains a remarkable and prescient read.

Copyright 2014 Blue Lotus Press

The Art of Self-Renewal: A Timeless 1964 Field Guide to Keeping Your Company and Your Soul Vibrantly Alive, by John W. Gardner.

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by Ross Bishop

If I were to say that emotions play a role in disease, you would agree. If I said that emotions cause disease, some of you would agree. Now, If I said this to your physician, I’d get the equivalent of a blank stare. He wouldn’t deny it outright, but he could not bring himself to accept it either.

Emotional causality is outside the accepted paradigm of the world of pharmaceutical medicine. In spite of hundreds of studies establishing the role of emotion as in fact, causal, doctors who above all, claim to be scientists, cannot, will not, accept the scientifically established proof of their own research. Emotions cause disease. As a dodge, they’ll accept it as “one factor among others.”

Dr. Gabor Mate` M.D. has been on a crusade to get his fellow physicians to heed their own research. He is not bringing new ideas to the table. He is simply trying to get doctors to accept what their own researchers have been telling them for a long time – “When emotions are repressed, this inhibition disarms the body’s defenses against illness.” There is compelling evidence that, “an intimate relationship exists between the brain and the immune system.”

Dr. Mate` is a pretty good speaker. Yet when he talks about emotion causing disease to a group of physicians, he will often be greeted by silence. They don’t exactly disagree, nor do they respond with facts and contrary opinions, they simply are unable to respond! His premise is so far outside the bounds of what they have been trained to believe, that these incredibly intelligent and otherwise competent physicians are simply at a loss as to what to say – at least publicly. Much of the rest of this article is taken from Dr. Mate`s book, When The Body Says NO. Exploring The Stress Disease Connection.

Millions of you will go to these same physicians seeking help for your diseases, but you will only get your symptoms treated. And treating symptoms is necessary, but only a partial solution to your problem. But you’ll go home feeling confident that your disease has been treated. And that takes us to the heart of the problem: pharmaceutical physicians are not trained to deal with the causes of disease, they basically treat symptoms.

Going to the cause of disease requires an entirely different perspective and techniques and pharmaceutical doctors are simply not trained for this. And I want to be very clear, if you have a heart attack or cancer, you want these folks to treat you! They are great at that sort of thing! But, what is not talked about is that a heart attack or cancer are symptoms of a deeper emotional disharmony. And, if that disharmony is not addressed it will simply manifest elsewhere in the body.

A story: Estaban takes his mule, Emily to the vet. She is lethargic and can’t pull the cart like she used to. He tells the vet that he thinks her hips and knees are bothering her. So the vet examines her and injects her with cortisone and pain killers to help her inflamed joints. Then when the vet’s assistant brings Emily out to hitch her back up to her cart, he is astonished by the burden she’s expected to pull. “My God,” he says, “no wonder her knees and back are shot!” Had the vet seen the whole problem, his treatment might have been more extensive. And that’s the problem with only viewing symptoms and not seeing the whole picture.

In one of Plato’s dialogues, Socrates quotes a Thracian doctor’s criticism of his Greek colleagues, “This is the reason why the cure of so many diseases is unknown to the physicians of Hellas; they are ignorant of the whole. For this is the great error of our day in the treatment of of the human body, that physicians separate the mind from the body.” And so it has been for over 2,500 years.

As far back as 1892, Dr. Wm. Osler, one of the greatest doctors of all time, suspected that rheumatoid arthritis was a stress related disorder. Typical of many persons affected with rheumatiod disease is a stoicism carried to an extreme, a deeply ingrained reticence to seek help, perfectionism, a fear of one’s own anger, denial of hostility and strong feelings of inadequacy. Osler’s insightful perspective was simply ignored. As recently as 1985, almost a century later, an editorial in the august New England Journal of Medicine proclaimed, “ . . it is time to acknowledge that our belief in disease as a direct reflection of mental state is largely folklore.”

Dr. Mate` writes, “Research has suggested for decades that women are more prone to develop breast cancer if their childhoods were characterized by emotional disconnection from their parents or other disturbances in their upbringing; if they tend to repress emotions, particularly anger; if they lack nurturing social relationships in adulthood; and if they are the altruistic, compulsively caregiving types.”

In one study, researchers psychologically profiled patients admitted to hospital for breast cancer biopsy. Using only psychological profiles, they successfully predicted the presence of cancer in 94 percent of the cases! In another study, 40 cases with breast cancer were mixed with 40 controls who did not have the disease and again, using emotional profiles alone, researchers were able to identify the cancer victims with a 96 percent accuracy! Repression of anger increases the risk of cancer for the very practical reason that it magnifies exposure to physiological stress. In this case prolonged exposure to the very potent hormone, Cortisol.

“A large European study compared 357 cancer patients with 330 controls. The women with cancer were much less likely to recall childhood homes with positive feelings. As many as 40 percent of cancer patients had suffered the death of a parent before they were 17.”

Dr. David Kissen, a surgeon, found that patients with lung cancer had a tendency to “bottle up” emotions. A number of studies have subsequently found that people with lung cancer “have poor and restricted outlets for the expression of emotion . . .” The risk of lung cancer is five times higher for men who lack the ability to express emotion effectively.

Researchers conducted a ten-year study of the population of the whole town of Cvrenka, Yugoslavia. During the ten years, of the 600 people who died, cancer incidence was 40 times higher for people classified as “rational and anti-emotional.” Instead of one death per 100 people, the rate was 40 per 100!

At the University of Rochester, a fifteen-year study of people who developed lymphoma or leukemia reportedly found that those malignancies were “apt to occur in a setting of emotional loss or separation which in turn brought about feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger or hopelessness.”

Japanese men who migrate to America experience two and a half times more prostate cancer than men who remain in Japan. The evidence for the difference points to stress. American black men experience prostate cancer at a rate six times higher than black men in Nigeria. Regarding patients with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), there is a high incidence of emotional and physical abuse in the histories of patients with intestinal diseases and especially those patients with IBS.

In 1946 Johns Hopkins undertook a long term study of its medical students. Over the next 18 years, 1,130 former medical students, were studied. Colo-rectal cancer patients and suicide cases were more likely to demonstrate denial, repression of anger and other negative emotions while maintaining the appearance of a “nice” or “good” persona and suppressing reactions which might offend. They avoid conflict.

Dr. Cai Strong is an internationally known researcher at The University of British Columbia. He says about Alzheimer’s, “I am convinced that Alzheimer’s is an autoimmune disease. It is probably triggered by chronic stress acting on an aging immune system.”

I could go on for pages listing other research studies. Their number is legion, but you get the point. Unfortunately, your doctor, in all probability, does not.

Dr. Mate` writes that, “Emotional repression is also a coping style rather than a personality trait set in stone. Not one of the many adults interviewed for this book could answer in the affirmative when asked the following: ‘When, as a child, you felt sad, upset or angry, was there anyone you could talk to – even when he or she was the one who had triggered your negative emotions?’ In a quarter century of clinical practice, including a decade of palliative work, I have never had anyone with cancer or with any chronic illness or condition say yes to that question.”

To simplify: What we know is that physiological stress is the link between beliefs about oneself and disease. Certain traits, called coping styles, magnify the risk of illness by increasing the likelihood of chronic stress. Common to them all is a diminished capacity for emotional expression. Emotional experiences are translated into potentially damaging biological events when we are prevented from learning how to express our feelings effectively. The learning occurs – or fails to occur – during childhood.

One of the reasons this is so important is that as Dr. Mate` says, “Disease frequently causes people to see themselves in a different light, to reassess how they have lived their lives.” This is the gift of disease. It challenges us to change how we see ourselves. It is the final challenge in a life of denial. If we only treat it’s symptoms, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn and grow from it and secondly, insure that the learning will come in some other, more devastating, way.
If your doctor is not familiar with Dr. Mate`’s book, When The Body Says NO. Exploring The Stress-Disease Connection, you might get a copy for them. You’ll be doing both of you a favor.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2014

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Higher Consciousness

by Ross Bishop

When you read a novel, you don’t want to know the plot before you finish it. That works for novels, but it’s not a very good formula for life. But that’s what a lot of us end up doing. We go from problem to problem, without any real grasp of the bigger picture. If you want to make your life better and easier, it helps to understand what’s really going on, and few people do.

We get so caught up in the tumult and struggles of the leftovers from our childhood that we rarely raise our eyes from the smoke of our personal battles. Because of that we fail to see that everyone else is having essentially the same struggles. We have to learn to untangle ourselves from the limitations of our egos and open ourselves to higher levels of consciousness. That is how we will evolve individually and collectively.

In the old myths and fairy tales the hero or heroine undergoes trials to eventually emerge victorious over the forces of darkness. Although the plot of these stories involves struggling with dragons or trolls, fairy tales are not really about struggles with an external threat, but with the forces contained in our own shadows. Just as there are no dragons or trolls, the demons in your shadow are not real either, except to you. Although ancient, these stories are about YOUR struggle.

Fairy tales contain the wisdom of thousands of years of experience of dealing with life, and the hero or heroine always comes out on top. That’s not just to make for a happy ending, that’s really the way life is. In this game, the deck is totally stacked in your favor. Regardless of how it may feel today, you’re going to win this one! However, that doesn’t say anything about what you’ll put yourself through on the way!

Our rational culture has trampled the old myths into the dust, so instead of an intriguing story about slaying dragons or defeating witches, I’ll just give you the facts, although it sort of takes the fun and adventure out of it.

FACT: When you came to earth, because of your unfinished awareness, you felt separated from the Creator and this lead to profound feelings of shame – unworthiness, being rejected, being abandoned, etc. This was intended. It happens to everyone. It exposes the unfinished areas of your awareness. Read that again – every-one – feels shame. Africans, Chinese, Hispanics, Anglos and Eskimos – everyone. Coincidence? Hardly. It is the opening round of this business called life.

FACT: The shame issues exacerbated by your separation from the Creator are directly connected to the issues raised in your relationship with your parents. There have been 7.2 billion children in the world and every one of them found childhood to be a trial. Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd? No matter how hard some parents try, life remains a challenge for their children. And again, this is not coincidental.

This is an extension of the shame issues as they play out into our daily lives. Our shame determines the parents we select, the life experiences we have and the intensity of our life lessons. As much as we’d like to blame the “bad guys” in our lives, they are simply actors in a play created for our learning. The perfection of the process is that this interaction gives the other people exactly what they need for their learning as well. Think about how easily your parents can get to you, and if you are a parent, how easily your kids can push your buttons. Again, coincidence? In every case? I don’t think so.

FACT: You have free will. And although this is a powerful resource, it can pose a real problem when it comes to learning. You cannot just be told or taught, you must find the truth for yourself. And interestingly enough, the best way to convince you of the truth is to start you off believing an untruth. Example: “I have been separated from God, therefore I must be unworthy.”

Eventually you see through the deception and hold the truth in a way not possible by any other means. But you have to come to it on your own – with a lot of help and nudging from the Creator for sure – but ultimately each of us must find the truth individually.

FACT: None of the things you have come to believe about yourself can be true! The whole shame thing and all the beliefs that go with it, cannot possibly be true. It is a zero-sum game because unworthiness is a deception. It is a grand set-up, pitting your personal feelings of inadequacy against the ultimate truth that you are a child of God and cannot be any of the things you believe.

Today when pushed, you move to shame. And so long as you believe in it and the beliefs associated with it, there will be friction with others. And as difficult as that may be, friction also creates opportunities for learning and change. Conversely, when you hold the Truth about who you are, your life is friction free!

Because it is universal, we accept life almost without question. And, since it happens to everyone, it just must be the way life is, right? At some point you have to stand back from all this – the same thing happening to every person on the planet, believing things that cannot possibly be true, everyone having difficult childhoods – and realize that something far more significant is taking place, specifically, your evolution into a being of higher level consciousness.

Still think that your problems are uniquely your own? Now, you do have your own journey to complete, and you can cause yourself a lot of unnecessary pain on the way, but are you feeling perhaps a little less isolated?

As a species, we do not yet accept who we are. We do not yet embrace the fullness of our beingness. But, that is changing. How will that happen? By our – individually and collectively – deciding that we have nothing to be ashamed of. By our learning to pay attention to the every-day frictions we have with others (especially those close to us) and learning and growing from them. And finally, by accepting the truth about who we are.

Now, if you will excuse me, I will go back to my fairy tales. . . .

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2014

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Self Criticism

by Ross Bishop

The Universe doesn’t care that you keep a perfect checkbook. What it does care about is how you respond when you get an overdraft notice. How badly do you beat yourself up?

No one likes screwing up their checking account and we’ve all done it, but the real question is, “How badly do you beat yourself up when something goes wrong?” The Universe could care less about money. It just wants you to stop beating yourself up when you blow it.

As the entity Bartholomew points out: “We are all thrown off balance by external events, but nothing pulls us off center like the things we do to ourselves. If you had a friend who said the things you say to yourself, you’d get another friend!”

It’s true. Ask your friends how they see you. Then contrast that with how you see yourself. I’ll guarantee that you paint a much darker picture. Why is that? Why are we so hard on ourselves? This becomes especially important when you consider that this is not even a constructive process. Feeling lousy doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t even motivate you to change! Its real purpose is to keep you down. Now why in the world would we want to do that?

It’s actually rather simple. If you feel badly about yourself your not as likely to take risks. And that serves the needs of the one inside – your hurt inner child. She doesn’t think much of herself. She was possibly rejected or felt unloved when she was young, so she concluded that she was unlovable, unworthy. . . whatever. She fears that if you go out and do things, people will see your flaws and reject you. Therefore it’s better not to get into the game in the first place. And one of the ways she does that is to make you feel ashamed.

And it isn’t just about your bank account. She’ll push away healthy relationships, steer you into dysfunctional ones, keep you from being successful, ball up your friendships, mess up your sex life, whatever . . and she has the power to do that! Ignore her or push her aside and the unresolved tension will end up as disease.

Some people are uncomfortable “blaming” their parents, but that’s mostly smoke. Your parents just played a role in your drama. You see, The Creator had to have a way to illustrate the foolishness of your beliefs. He used your parents to set you up – to manifest the things you were inclined to believe anyway – so that eventually you would come to see the falseness of those beliefs. And life is the process through which He chose to do that.

You cannot be the wretched, incapable soul your inner one has come to believe you are. You can certainly act that way, but that does’t make your beliefs any more true. Your beliefs are not who you are, that’s just how you act.

What to do? The principles are simple, but the work can be difficult. I’ve written books on the process and I cannot deal with all of that here, but I want you to understand that it can be done. You can do this! It takes commitment and courage but getting on the other side of your beliefs is simply fabulous! As Joseph Campbell said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2014

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Dealing With Crime

by Ross Bishop

OK, so someone harms another – steals their property or harms their person. That’s not OK, and cannot go unaddressed. But it’s the next series of steps that gets us into trouble. We go through all this falderal to prove these people are guilty and then throw them into prison, as though that were a solution to the problem.

In truth, we don’t know what to do with them. Crime is a societal issue and cultures have been fighting it for millenia. I doubt if crime can ever be eradicated, but I do believe it can be seriously reduced from the levels we see today. But we have chosen to do the moral equivalent of nothing. We lock convicts up in isolated warehouses – prisons, hoping that somehow, being locked away and “punished”, they will reform. I believe the men who run and administer the criminal justice system also have an abiding faith in the tooth fairy.

Let’s talk about the origins of crime, because our current understanding, or mis-understanding of it underlies our criminal justice system. Stated very simply, crime can be traced to, “Treat a kid badly and he will respond.”

It seems obvious, but the scope of the problem is so broad that it presents a problem for the whole society. Dealing with the origins of crime overwhelms families, politicians, churches and schools. And while each can have a role in preventing and dealing with it, no single social institution reaches broadly enough to encompass the whole problem. And the criminal justice system gets the bitter end, after the good options are largely gone. It is simply the wrong place to introduce meaningful solutions. We need to pay attention to the front end – were the drives that lead to crime are created.

I repeat, “mistreat a child and you’ll pay for it later.” Survey after soreiurvey has shown that the entire prison population – 100% – has been abused, sexually, physically and emotionally. Sexual and physical abuse tends to lead to violent behavior. Emotional abuse tends to produce social deviance – like drug dealers or white collar criminals.

There are exceptions – people who rise above their abuse, but they are just that, exceptions. Nothing could be clearer from the research. The point is, a society doesn’t get a free ride by ignoring what happens to a child. Abuse or neglect him and that abuse will eventually echo back somewhere else in the culture. There is no free lunch. In fact, if we were smart, we’d start paying a lot more attention to the rage and dysfunctional family situations of some of our kids.

Abuse or treat a child violently and his developing brain takes on the perspective that the world is a dangerous and violent place. As a result, he is going to respond! It is simple survival. His inner child, the seat of his emotions is, in most cases, going to react to emotionally challenging situations with violence. His behavior may not be criminal, but when pushed he is likely to become violent.

If he cannot heal his pain, an abused person either internalizes his rage or externalizes it. He may join a gang, become a thief, get into the drug business or in some other way, lash out at the wrongs done to him. He will justify his behavior by the abuse he received as a child and by his denigrated social position. He will want to “get back” at a society/parents he feels wronged him. And, if he belongs to a minority group, he can certainly build a case for racial or ethnic prejudice. His will be the easy way. Compared to honest work, crime is easy money. Mix this with the easy availability of guns with no background checks and you create an explosive situation that is very likely to cost someone, somewhere.

Conversely, if he belongs to the “white elite,” he can compensate for his feelings of inadequacy by creating the appearance of external success. He may internalize his rage by cooking the company books, cheat on environmental regulations, commit insider trading or create a ponzi scheme as a way to get back at dysfunctional parents and a dysfunctional culture. His is not a cry for help. He wants payback, and as I said, he’s going to take the easy way to get it.

The criminal will follow the capitalistic model, after all, crime is simply good business without morality. And with all that money, it’s easy to buy off a politician or a cop who’s lucky to make $25 an hour.

One thing that stands out from the research is how often gang members speak of the gang as “family”. These men and women are looking for something that was not a part of their upbringing, and the gang provides a sense of community, of acceptance, of family and social order; free from the constraints of conventional society. It is not coincidental that gang members refer to each other as “brother” or “sister”.

Returning to the criminal justice system, from any angle except as warehouses, prisons are a complete failure. A prison culture is the absolute worst place to put a human being if one is hoping for any kind of redemption. Prison hardens them, teaches contrary social values and criminal skills to an already aberrant population, supports gang culture and makes heroes out of the very people we are trying the hardest to sanction. Put simply, if you were trying to create the perfect environment to recruit and train criminals, you’d build a prison.

If one were to say publicly, “Let’s create an ideal environment to turn our troubled kids into hardened criminals,” people would be repulsed. But, that is exactly what we do! If you want a clear example of this, the present crop of jihadists we face in the Middle East can be directly traced to the prisons of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s were al-Qaeda got its start and where to this day, it does much of its recruiting. It’s the same thing for crime in the U.S.

But what’s really interesting is that no one wants to hear that. The cultural shift it would entail would change Western culture. We would have to go back to the kind of tribal culture where the community guides and nourishes its young people instead of largely ignoring them for turing them over to video games. But we have trouble making even minor cultural changes! As a sub-issue, it also threatens the criminal justice mindset. And it threatens a huge government bureaucracy and a multi-billion dollar private prison industry (that hires former government employees).

The criminal justice problem itself is twofold. First there is a conservative mindset and secondly, a system that actually discourages convicts from straightening themselves out.

The conservative mind operates on the principle that wrongs need to be punished. So the criminal justice system – judges, police, etc. – a bastion of conservative thinking, plus politicians who play the issue for votes, want punishment for crimes, they want the proverbial “eye for an eye.”

Secondly, there is no incentive in the criminal justice system to reward self improvement. In fact, there are disincentives. There are few meaningful programs to help prisoners who want to straighten their lives out and no real incentives for prison administrations to help prisoners straighten out their lives. And if the system does parole an inmate who later commits a crime, there will be hell to pay. Besides, meaningful prisoner help programs add significantly to stressed budgets and an overburdened staff. And, even if there were support for inmate healing, the psychological philosophy that would administer it is woefully inadequate to meet the task.

The prison system struggles under another handicap, this one not of its own making. Most of the big mental hospitals were closed years ago because they were expensive and didn’t work very well. Community based treatment facilities were found to be much more effective. So we closed most of the big hospitals but then never bothered to fund community-based ones.

There were the up-front costs but primarily, politicians were reluctant to confront the inevitable NIMBY’s from the neighborhoods where these facilities were to be located. The locals were ignorant of the realities of mental illness and reacted from fear, FOX News and Hollywood stereotypes of the mentally ill. So, the prisons have been saddled with the responsibility of housing many of these people, adding a considerable burden to an already faltering system. So, we kicked the mental health can down the road (or under freeway underpasses).

OK, so what to do?

Starting at the back end, there isn’t a large body of evidence, but the few examples we do have demonstrate that the shamanic healing process can be extremely effective in dealing with the interpersonal pain that drives the criminal mind. It has been demonstrated that we can successfully return many of these people to society. It’s not easy to undue a lifetime of crime, but shamanism addresses the disharmonies within the person that drive their behaviors and in doing so, offers the potential for real healing, not just a temporary behavioral change.

Some criminals have become so hardened and bitter that they are almost impossible to reach and then there are the criminally insane, but these are a small percentage of the prison population.

The vast majority of the people now in prison can be helped, and we should do that, but that is also working the problem from the wrong end. We need to address the early years, where most dysfunctional behaviors are created. We must be willing to provide the assistance our young people and their families need. Not just label them as social “failures” and write them off. And we need to do it from a community perspective. Community (not just governmental) involvement could address the pockets of crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, gang violence, job skills, mental illness and family dysfunctionality. After all, it takes a community to raise a child and a committed community to help a troubled one. And this is one area where an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

But we divorce ourselves from our “troubled kids” the same way we divorce our troubled fellow men and women who end up on the short end of the economic stick. We leave our homeless people for the agencies or the street, our sick for the doctors and hospitals, our drug addicts for rehab centers, our hungry for the soup kitchens and our troubled kids for schools or the police. But the courts and the “experts” – who, no matter how well intended, can never replace the role of a concerned community or a parent in a young person’s development. But up until now, we have not been so inclined to get involved. That would require a major cultural overhaul.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2014

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The Gospel of Greed

by Ross Bishop

Economic inequality is getting worse in America every day. People are working harder and harder and making less, jobs continue to go overseas and structural unemployment remains high. Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” confirmed what we already felt, that america is well into its second “Gilded Age” where the divide between the wealthy and the rest of us makes the Grand Canyon look like a New Mexico creekbed.

The myth of capitalism, if it ever was true, was that an honest man who earnestly applied himself could better his place in life and quite likely do even better than that. Today’s truth with governmental corruption, Wall Street shenanigans, profitless IPO’s and CEO greed is that the person who can game the system, con the markets and buy off the politicians has a better chance of being “successful” than the mythical Horatio Alger or George Bailey from “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Driving a good bit of today’s moral corruption is a Christian religious doctrine called the “Prosperity Gospel.” This is an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed into mainstream status.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” Mark tells us he also said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” In spite of these and many other warnings about the dangers of wealth, this modern “gospel” holds that God wills that those who are “born again” be materially wealthy and free from disease.

Known also as the “Health and Wealth Gospel” or “Faith Message,” the theology connects a wide range of non-denominational and charismatic ministries based in what is known as the “Word of Faith Movement.” The “gospel” teaches that God blesses those He favors most with material wealth. This doctrine fits nicely into the current preoccupation Americans have with greed and narcissism.

The Prosperity movement is no religious sideshow. Seventeen percent of all American Christians openly identify with it. Every Sunday, over a million people attend Prosperity-oriented mega-churches and millions more watch prosperity-centered television and radio broadcasts. Although largely under the radar of the media, it is closer to the mainstream than you might imagine.

Joel Osteen, the 46-year-old head of Lakewood Church in Houston, has a TV ministry that reaches more than 7 million viewers, and his 2004 book “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” has sold millions of copies. In a letter to the faithful, Osteen wrote, “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us.” Never mind that this is completely contrary to virtually all Christian teachings.

Some of the other preachers associated with the movement — like Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Kenneth Copeland and the aptly named Creflo Dollar, have some of the largest congregations and best-selling books in the world. They host television programs that air at all hours of the day and night and are some of the most-watched programs on television.

Steve Furtick, the pastor of the 12,000 member Elevation Church with seven branches around Charlotte NC, thanked God for his blessings and defended his multimillion dollar house as a gift from God, “It’s a big house, and it’s a beautiful house, and we thank God for it. . . We understand everything we have comes from God.” (Not to mention the contributions of the faithful.)

When one says that material fortune is the result of God’s blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. Pastor Shane Claiborne from The Simple Way in Philadelphia shared his understanding of the role of money within the Gospel: “The prosperity Gospel is self centered, and narcissistic and it is very dangerous but also attractive, especially to those who have the money.”

Prosperity preachers teach that those who give abundantly (to the church) will be rewarded with generous financial success and that this prosperity will continue as long as one keeps giving. They tell devotees they are robbing God by not tithing. Plus, they challenge adherents by telling them that God wants them to test him by them giving more, so that he can give them more. Members whose testimonials tout the success of this mega-tithing concept are praised in front of congregations and on television programs. Sadly, there are no laws against this sort of televised pyramid scheme.

One would assume that this doctrine has a special appeal to middle and upper class whites – which it does, especially because it is promoted by thousands of life coaches who misrepresent the “Law of Attraction” as a prosperity gospel. But nowhere has this gospel flourished more than among the poor and the working class. Told that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and favor, followers strive for trappings of luxury they can little afford in an effort to prove that they are blessed spiritually. Some critics have gone so far as to place part of the blame for the past decade’s spending binge and foreclosure crisis at the foot of the prosperity gospel’s altar.

The problem with the prosperity gospel is that if you’re not already wealthy or healthy, then your faith must be suspect. You must try even harder to win God’s favor in order to achieve “blessed prosperity.” You can see the trap in this logic.

It is truly sad to think how far Christianity has fallen that the only way you can connect to God is through a guy in a $5,000 suit and perfect hair who lives in a multimillion dollar house. At first pass, this may seem like a stretch, but it’s really not a giant leap from “The Prosperity Gospel” and “American Exceptionalism,” to the Nazi doctrine of the “Arian Super Race.” The “Super Race” remember, also had more humble and benign origins.

We don’t very often see our own foibles, but Muslims around the world look at the “Prosperity Gospel,” our pornography industry, Hollywood’s preoccupation with violence, our addiction to prescription drugs and alcohol, street gangs, violent crime and guns, our prison system and the homeless, and wonder if the American model is really superior to what they find in everyday Muslim life.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2014

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Domestic Violence

by Ross Bishop

We call it “domestic violence” as one way of segregating out violence against women (which it largely is). Thirty five percent of women in America have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by a partner. Although this problem is concentrated in poor and minority households, it is not unknown throughout the culture(1). Around the globe, 30 percent of all women have suffered intimate partner violence – including physical and sexual attacks.(2)

Each year there are 552,000 nonfatal violent victimizations (rape/sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated or simple assault) by an intimate partner reported to the police. Many more assaults never get reported. Then there are the non-assaults (which don’t get counted either): things like emotional threats, physical threats, economic pressure, stalking, threats with weapons and most recently, cyberstalking. Those add a staggering number to the total.

Regarding fatalities, in 2007 14% of all homicides in the U.S were committed by intimate partners. (The total number was 2,340; 1,640 were females and 700 were males.)(3) In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 6,614 American soldiers were killed, a truly sad number. During that same period, almost twice as many (11,766) women were killed in the U.S. because of domestic violence. And if there is a gun in the home the likelihood that a woman will die a violent death increases by 270 percent.

The point is, there is a lot of domestic abuse!

Most abuse begins in relationships between people who both have lousy self-esteem. They don’t just want relationships, they need it to fill the hole they feel in themselves. Things go pretty much downhill from there. That is not to sanction abuse, but to explain the conditions which foster it.

If a man who grows up in a household where there is domestic violence, he is likely to be an abuser: 3 to 4 times more likely. And about half the men who abuse women will also abuse children.(4)

Domestic violence has an insidiously long half-life. Women who left their abusers five, 10, even 20 years ago and believed they had closed that chapter of their lives, now face far higher than normal rates of chronic health problems including arthritis and hormonal disorders, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain, severe headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

To be fair, some women are provocative. Some of them will invite or endure abuse – because they think they deserve it. Other women live on conflict and they will select partners that they know are explosive. Some live on the excitement of keeping a potentially violent man at bay. Others are afraid to be alone and believe that this is all they deserve. Then there are most women who are simply victims. Sadly too, there are those who for various reasons, will go back to their abusers.

There are the men (consciously or unconsciously) who look for women they can abuse. Ones who will “take it.” Abuser’s look for women with low self-esteem. A woman who was violated as a child projects a different energy than a non-abused woman. And an abuser’s radar can pick that energy up across a room. It isn’t fair, but if you know that, it may help you avoid a difficult situation.

Then there are guys who choose women they know cannot be trusted, women with questionable histories. These guys actually look for provocative women. It keeps the relationship exciting!As with so many other things, the vast majority of people would never hurt another, but then there are the explosive ones . . . The point is:

Domestic violence should not happen to anybody. Ever. Period.

The simple solution is for guys to learn to walk. In the ideal, when a guy finds himself reaching that flash point, he needs to turn around and head for the door. But as you’ll see in a minute, that can be very difficult. Some guys were abused as children and have very short fuses. They respond to life violently because they were treated badly. But one thing that everyone should remember is that abuse is actually an expression of powerlessness.

If a person feels they have a modicum of influence over a situation, they will use that influence to try and manage it. But if they feel powerless, either because of their childhood conditioning or by the circumstances of the situation (in most cases both), some guys will snap into an explosion of rage (not anger).

Think about a caged animal, that’s how it feels on the inside. That may not be how things are, but to the abuser, that’s how it feels. His motivation is to protect an insult to his personhood, his sense of self, his dignity as a person (real or imagined). He feels that he has been stripped naked and his worthlessness exposed for all the world to see. It may be completely irrational, but to him it is real. In that moment, he really is a wounded animal.

Notice that how, when confronted with a situation, the abuser does not leave. He cannot. That is to admit not only defeat, but the thing he fears most. He feels he must punish the one he feels has (unjustly) wronged him – to lash out at what has been done to him – and that can include the whole world! He’s not interested in the facts and he doesn’t want a discussion. In his confused mind he’s trying to rescue what’s left of his dignity.

His methods of course, are totally counterproductive and that tells us a lot. He doesn’t want resolution. He needs to close the hole he feels has been ripped in the fabric of his self, to cover up the shame and punish the gross aggravation he feels has been done to him . . . In all likelihood, someone close has confirmed his worst fear – that he really is a worthless piece of slime. And he doesn’t have the skills to cope with the situation. He has allowed himself to become trapped.

A note to women for your survival: If you are in a relationship with an explosive man, the first question you must ask yourself is, “Why are you there?” “Is this really what you deserve?” “Is this really love?” On a practical note, talk to him about the problem at a calm time. See if you can get him into some kind of sensitivity or self-awareness training. He will resist, but deep down, he knows that something is wrong inside. If he refuses, you have to ask yourself why you stay.

Once you start down the path of his rage, it’s way too late. Self defense training, although very good for confidence building, for this purpose is pretty much a waste of time. This isn’t going to be some stranger in a dark alley, this is your partner or boyfriend and your feelings for him will prohibit you from doing what you need to do to protect yourself. And unless your defense is devastating, you run the serious risk of escalation. By the way, if there are other people nearby, learn to scream for help. It’s one of the best defenses you have and surprisingly few people use it. If you see a storm coming, get out of the house or apartment to where you can enlist the help of neighbors or even strangers.

Unfortunately his violence is reinforced by a violent culture (or sub-culture) with a sick gun fetish. In the twenty year period between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers. As appalling as that statistic is, Americans with guns kill more people than that every two years.

More than 39,000 people died by suicide in the United States in 2011. Homicide claimed another 17,000 people. Most of those deaths were by guns. Americans are twenty times more likely to die from gunshot than citizens of other countries.

Street gangs roam freely in some of our cities. Drive-by shootings are frequent. In Chicago over the fourth of July, 82 people were shot, 14 of them fatally. The PTSD from those shootings affects thousands of people. And the NRA wants us all to carry guns to “alleviate” the problem. Although city shootings get media attention, in rural areas twice as many people die from self-inflicted suicide.

Ray Rice has become the poster boy for domestic violence, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the lightning rod for institutionalized insensitivity towards women. And both deserve the public scorn they have received. But we live in a culture of violence. Football, the nation’s most popular sport, markets violence. Football news is a compilation of whose bodies have been too badly damaged to play next week. The concussion problem in the league is massive. Boxing, pro wrestling, NASCAR and hockey are sports of incredible violence. Even once tame basketball has migrated into a sport of violence. It is argued that sport offers outlets for public aggression that might manifest in other ways. If that is true, then I say to the public, “It’s time to grow up.”

Expecting a young – and often immature – man who is paid hundreds of millions of dollars and receives great public notoriety for his excellence at violence on the field to just turn it off when he walks off the field, is asking a lot. To their credit, that’s exactly what the vast majority of sportspeople do. Unfortunately there are those few, and it’s always the ones with false pride, who cannot leave the violence on the field.

Joe Biden’s 1994 Violence Against Women Act is a good beginning, providing help and support for women after the fact. Unfortunately it’s re-approval this year faced stiff Republican opposition because it included support for battered gay people as well as women. But if we are to deal with this problem, as with crime, we need to pay a great deal more attention to the family circumstances of our young people. Particularly, young men in dysfunctional families. Until we do that, domestic abuse will continue.

1. 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
2. (UN study)
3. US Dept. of Justice, Female Victims of Violence Report, 9/2009
4. American Psychological Association, Violence and the Family, 1996.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2014

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Parents and Children

by Ross Bishop

We assume that a child comes into the world with a clean slate. That’s both true and not. In a child’s conscious awareness, everything is new. His or her immediate circle is a world of wonder, newness and exploration. There is little conscious awareness of anything outside his or her world. But at another level, The Universe is busy creating exactly the experiences the child will need to further the development of his or her unfinished awareness. We can debate as to whether this is actually a part of the child’s unconscious, but it really doesn’t matter because either way, it’s going to profoundly effect the child’s life.

So here’s the way it works: You come in needing to learn to love yourself. The Universe selects a set of parents for you who have difficulty loving unconditionally. The result is a difficult experience for everyone. You come away feeling conditionally loved and your parents have been challenged beyond their comfort limits. That is the perfection of the process. It pushes on everyone’s boundaries.

Let’s say you emerge from childhood being needy, insecure, angry or whatever. That is a direct reflection of your parent’s inability to give love and your predictable reaction. For their part, they were reluctant to deal with their issues, so they passed them off to you as “faults.” It wasn’t just that you were shy, or noisy or messy, it was that something was wrong with you. Your part in this was to let their judgments hook you into your shame. That it is exactly what you came here to work on, so we can see that this is not coincidental.

This can seem like a pretty screwed up way to run a universe. People get hurt, childhoods are wrecked, families are torn apart – except when you consider one factor: free will. In order for your newly found awareness to “stick,” you have to come to it on your own, and you must hold it deeply. That cannot be given to you, as advantageous as sometimes that might seem.

When you have free will, the most powerful way for you to learn something is to first get you to believe an untruth, and then let your life experiences lead you to the truth. When this happens you will hold that truth like nothing else, it will be unshakeable. This process however, as you undoubtedly already know, is not a walk in the park.

Because we buy into our shame, we get stuck in believing the “not-true” part of the experience. And we can hold onto our feelings of unworthiness with great tenacity. Besides, being inadequate gives you something to hide behind. Living in the truth means standing in the light, something we have no experience with and that we don’t really trust.

In order to change, you must confront the negative things you believe about yourself. But right or wrong, you have built your whole life around those untruths. And that means replacing the untruths with the truth. And as advantageous as that may seem, it means replacing what is familiar, even though a negative, with an unknown and we are creatures of habit. Also, regardless of what we are told, we’re just not sure how God feels about our past behavior. But this is an important part of your learning process, too.

copyright © Blue Lotus Press 2013

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