Tag Archives: Positive Paradigm

As Conflict Escalates, What Can Be Done NOW?

As Conflict Escalates, What Can Be Done NOW? originally appeared in the August edition of Prabuddha Bharata, or Awakened India – an English-language monthly magazine of the Ramakrishna Order. Founded by Swami Vivekenanda — a disciple of Ramakrisha who traveled to the West — it has been in publication since July 1896. With the kind permission of Editor Swami Narasimhananda, I am reposting the full-length article here.

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by Patricia E. West, Ph.D.

The Creator’s most miraculous and precious gift is often the least appreciated. In fact, in the midst of hectic daily life, it sustains everyone – friend and foe, good and evil doers alike – virtually unnoticed by all. Increasing strife and conflict bombards us from every direction. Yet we have very close to our hearts the elusive means of reconciling illusory differences and restoring original unity, first within and then without.

The priceless gift of which I speak is, of course, the breath.

Magically and mystically, every breath each person on the planet takes is infused with prana, that which links the individual being with the Universal Life Source.

Swami Vivekananda defined prana as “a manifestation of the universal power, indefinite and omnipresent.”1 Riding on the vehicle of the physical breath, prana is the most basic, potentially unifying aspect everyone everywhere shares in common.

In Meditation as Medicine, Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. writes, “According to the ancient masters, prana is the mystical force found in all living physical entities. It is in the air without being air. It is in water without being water. It is in food without being food.”2

This commonality repeats on every scale of magnitude. Thus Vivekananda quoted, “I am the thread that runs through all these pearls.” According to him, “Each pearl is a religion or even a sect thereof. Such are the different pearls, and God is the thread that runs through all of them.”3

He continues, “most people, however, are entirely unconscious of it.”

So how has it come to pass that most people remain unaware of the energizing life force that breathes through them every minute of every day, and even dare to deny its single origin? How is it that so many pass through their lives ungrateful for the waves of potential abundance they move through like fish in the ocean, seemingly starving for what is so close and so freely given?

As a possible answer, let me tell you a favorite story. It seems that long ago, there was a very old man who took his lunch every day at the same restaurant. He often complained about the service. So, one day when he called the waiter over, the waiter asked impatiently, “What is the matter this time, old man?”

The answer: “Taste the soup and find out for yourself.”

All right,” said the waiter. “Where is the spoon?”

Aha,” exclaimed the old man, delighted. “Now you see!” There was a delicious soup, but no spoon for taking it in.

Which is to say, most people have the nourishment of their heart’s desire everywhere about them, but no means or methods for accessing it. Medical research finds that, for many reasons, very few humans get enough oxygen into the body to fuel the brain or move the muscles properly. Although many are learned and accomplished in intellectual matters, the basics of practical breath control are often ignored. All too few have learned basic paranayama exercises or benefited from the profound insights gained from regular practice.

Workers who slouch long hours at their desks cut off their wind. Tight-fitting clothes force shallow breathing that fills only the top part of the lungs. Habitual tension and chronic anxiety further reduce the limited portion taken in. Attitudes of boredom, apathy and depression produce postures that strangle and suffocate the lungs. Pride stiffens the neck and twists the spine, strangling air circulation. Anger hardens and explodes the heart. Terror causes panic breathing and paralysis in the face of crisis, exactly when full powers are most urgently needed.

In such ways, sadly, many people ultimately cut themselves off from that Universal Source of blessings which everyone everywhere shares in common. So here we have a “chicken and egg” question. Which comes first? Does escalating religious intolerance and extreme violence cause people to increasingly forget their common humanity? Or does lack of fundamental awareness and oxygen deprivation increase the sense of alienation, illusion of lack, and rush for retaliation? Perhaps each feeds the other, causing a downward-spiraling disaster.

The Universal Key

To address the related question of why leaders at every level have failed to correctly identify and heal the root causes of conflict, first within and then without, I will draw contrasting pictures. One is the complete and accurate world view I’ve called the Positive Paradigm. Another shows distortions of the Universal Life Wheel responsible for today’s worldwide deficit of inspired leadership.

Here is the Life Wheel described in Rethinking Survival: Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change.4 It embodies Einstein’s dearly sought Unified Theory. Ironically, he had already received it, but, for lack of yoga training, didn’t recognize what he’d been given. Being universal, its applications are seemingly infinite.

Utopia.sized

This multi-directional, mandala-like pattern of interdependent wheels-within-wheels is equally compatible with the world’s enduring religions, the teachings of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and modern physics.

It is universal key, the answer to Shaunaka’s question, “What is that, knowing which, all else is known?”

This structure mirrors the pattern of each cell, where electrons and protons spin around a single nucleus.

It likewise pictures our solar system’s organization of planets circling the sun. As written:

This well-familiar atomic structure repeats smallest to largest in the patterns of nature, from snowflakes and intricate flowers to spiders’ webs and sea shells. Similar symmetrical patterns repeat worldwide in the art of every culture — including, to name but a few, the prayer wheels of Native Americans, the colored sand mandalas of Tibetan Buddhists, the stained glass windows of European cathedrals and the intricate geometrical patterns that cover Muslim Mosques. They offer proof of the universal awareness of a central inner reality, of an inner structure common to all humanity, and to a continuity of experience deeper than individual lives or transitory cultures.”5

The “m = mass” level at the surface correlates with daily experience and tangible, physical objects measured by empirical science. The “e = energy” level corresponds with subtle energies which, though invisible, are experienced by their effects. Prana and electrical energy reside here. It is the field of motion and e-motion. The level of “c = light” is associated with intuition and guidance. Deeper still, within the stable hub of the Wheel, beyond the duality of polar opposites, resides the changeless eternal source.

According to medical brain science, the vibrational speed of the levels slows with inward progression. Beta waves correlate with the busy, cluttered surface of the Life Wheel. Alpha waves associated with relaxation and then theta waves produced in revere or meditation rest increasingly deeper within. Delta waves are slowest of all. Measurable brain waves, in turn, match closely with the states of waking, dream and dreamless sleep described in the Mandaka Upanishad.

In clinical psychology, intelligence at the outermost level is measured by IQ tests. At the middle level it is described as EQ (emotional intelligence) and towards the center as SQ (spiritual intelligence). The levels, which flow along a continuum, neither separate nor totally distinct, are linked in an infinite, two-way loop. One who succeeds in joining the levels, living here and yet there, in the world but not of it, enjoys the experience of enlightenment – Christ Consciousness.

Integrating and balancing the levels of the Life Wheel produces health in every aspect of life – personal, social, economic and political. The executive equally capable of both inspired decisions and effective action embodies Plato’s ideal of the Philosopher-King. Such accomplishment is the goal of Raja Yoga and of holistic leadership. Masters of the creative in- and out-breathing process hold the key to Life itself. For teaching purposes, they occasionally demonstrate their ability to perform apparently miraculous feats of magic.

The Life Wheel is especially useful because, in a clear, simple way, it shows the critically important distinction between 1) what is absolute, eternal and real at the center hub and 2) that which is ephemeral, transitory and subject to change on the surface rim. A very early version the Life Wheel shown below pictures where genuine Unity is to be found as well as where it is NOT.

062514 Balanced World View

The “Pleasure and Pain” level includes the pairs of opposite sensations/ emotions, hot and cold, anger and fear.

The “Right and Wrong” level includes not only competing religions, but also the social/political and economic “-isms.”

The surface, material rim of the Life Wheel is the abode of fashions and fads as well as power and ego contests. Generational swings are reflected on the surface. Enduring, timeless values abide at the eternal center.

Distortions of the Universal Pattern

Those who focus exclusively on the material surface of the Life Wheel cause themselves and those obliged to depend upon them untold amounts of unnecessary pain and suffering. Sometimes, calling it “unity” – whether in the name of God, the common good, or world domination – they seek to impose unnatural social regimentation and political conformance upon others. This naturally stirs up violent reactions from those who have different ideas about such things.

Now, why is it that international leaders have brought the world to its current state of violence and fragmentation? Put another way, why — given the demonstrated and documented benefits of something as basic and simple as mindful breath awareness – is this not taught to every school child and to every medical patient suffering from degenerative diseases and mental disorders? Where is the method in such irresponsible madness?

One hint can be gleaned from the description of a basic pranayama exercise, the Complete Breath. Benefits listed include increased calmness, reduction of toxins, increase of pranic intake, enhanced oxygenation of the blood and even synchronization of personal breath rhythm with universal vibration. However, another benefit is “increased consciousness of unconscious acts.” 6

Sadly, for a host of different reasons, most are unwilling to increase conscious awareness of matters “conveniently” tucked out of sight. They lock themselves in uncomfortable, rigid postures that freeze out self-awareness. There is too much they prefer to hide from themselves and others. Further, monied elites and tyrannical governments have no interest in the education of a self-aware, self-responsible public capable of throwing off the chains of functional slavery.

Like the protagonist of Oscar Wilde’s Faustian tale The Picture of Dorian Gray,7 many choose to focus exclusively on the surface of the Life Wheel. They strive to maintain the physical appearance of youth and beauty, while concealing the internal ravages of ill-spent time from public view. They delude themselves into believing that the paltry profits gained by saving face while heartlessly exploiting others are worth the ultimate price.

It appears as if many world leaders today, the ones we should be able to depend upon to help improve our lives, have themselves chosen the fragmented path of self-deception, cutting themselves off from conscience and inner truth. As educators, such leaders cram youthful heads with hypnotic information to make them passive yet useful workers. They deny followers the basic knowledge of who they truly are, thus preventing access to the Universal Source from which infinite intelligence and power flows.

The following illustration shows how levels become fragmented by living inauthentic to Life, cutting oneself off from the Creative Source. This is but one suggestive version of what it looks like to distort the natural, complete pattern of Creation. Those who themselves are cut off in turn enforce this sorry state on others.

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In the extreme, individuals dissociated from their inner lives become psychopaths capable of committing horrific crimes with no apparent remorse. Out of touch with their True Selves, they remain insatiably hungry, thirsty, afraid and very, very angry. No addiction can satisfy. No amount of wealth or worldly success can compensate for the loss of inner connection.

Sages Transcend Conflict

Now then, wherein is consolation to be found during the present difficult times? For Hindu sages foresaw them. We are now enduring the decline described as the Kali Yuga. Christ similarly foretold the End of Times.

It lies in this. Time does not exist for sages established in the eternal center of the Life Wheel. To enlightened beings, it is but an illusion. Because they experience themselves as eternal, at one with the Creator, their inner peace cannot be disturbed by outer violence. For them, life will go on whether or not the world as we now know it continues. Even if for this reason alone, seeking enlightenment should be a top priority.

To the point, a modern day Chinese meditator acknowledged the seamless continuity connecting his tradition with Einstein’s vision:8

Truly, Einstein was an exceptional man, not only because he proved the theory of relativity, but because he took the chance of pursuing the goal of his enlightenment. The important point is that although we might not reach enlightenment through meditation, it is a grand enough aspiration for us to make the effort.

In this, the wisdom of Jou, Tsung Hwa reflects the teachings of the much earlier, world-loved Lao Tze, who knew that true survivors ride the crest of repeating historical cycles to carry on.

Passage 42 of the Tao Te Ching describes the experience of sages who have purified, integrated and mastered the elements of their animal nature. Like the numerous watercolors and ink drawings which depict Lao Tze riding his ox, sages of all times harness instinctive impulses to the service of intentional goals to reach their metaphorical mountain top destination.9

PB LT 1

Wisdom is Lao Tze’s antidote to the instinctive dread of death. He assures us that merging with the Source, the unchanging Tao, overcomes the illusion of mortality. Passage 16 illumines the apparent paradox that death cannot change the sage:10

PB LT 2

For those of us who are less attained, the best efforts made to improve and preserve Life at all levels NOW are noble and worthy in themselves, as valuable as for the experience of the journey as for the end result of achieving immortality.

What Can We Do NOW?

Now then, wherein is consolation to be found during the present difficult times? For Hindu sages foresaw them. We are now enduring the decline described as the Kali Yuga. Christ similarly foretold the End of Times.

It lies in this. Time does not exist for sages established in the eternal center of the Life Wheel. To enlightened beings, it is but an illusion. Because they experience themselves as eternal, at one with the Creator, their inner peace cannot be disturbed by outer violence. For them, life will go on whether or not the world as we now know it continues. Even if for this reason alone, seeking enlightenment should be a top priority.

In the past, monasteries arose as islands of hospitality, learning and civility during Europe and Asia’s so-called dark ages. Once again, as another dark age looms on the horizon, intentional communities dedicated to preserving the essential teachings will naturally arise. My best hope is that future leaders will meet the responsibility of shaping hopeful new beginnings; that they will succeed in transmitting the wisdom of the ancients to future generations along side the complimentary technical know-how of today’s sciences.

In the Positive Paradigm reality map, future educators have a versatile self-awareness tool with which to teach the basics of leading an integrated, self-responsible life. Building on the seven basic axioms which flow from it, tomorrow’s leaders have a viable model upon which to structure healthy social organizations.

As described in The Positive Paradigm Handbook,11 these basic axioms are:

1.  A complete and correct paradigm is the key to personal well-being and success.

2.  We are each a world complete, containing the potentials of the universe.

3.  Unity and diversity are necessary compliments.

4.  The consequences of action are inevitable; those who respect the law of karma survive.

5.  History is neither linear or progressive, nor can human survival be taken for granted.

6.  Used as a linguistic tool, the Life Wheel promotes clear, accurate and effective communication.

7.  With a correct paradigm, practical methods and useful tools, you can make yourself whole.

Herein lies another discussion, complete in itself.

Conclusion

Resolving conflict necessarily occurs one person at a time, and from the inside out. For this reason, however complex and overwhelming world problems may seem, we each have the option and responsibility to improve that which is closest to home: ourselves. By reducing internal conflict within, each of us has the potential, if only in modest ways, to reduce the conflict without. By remaining ever mindful of the breath and the Divine Source from which it flows, self-selected survivors will surely find from deep within the answers to every question along with sufficient intelligence, courage and power to overcome and outlast every challenge.

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References

  1. Swami Vivekananda, quoted by Dharma Sing Khalsa, M.D. and Cameron Stauth in Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of Your Natural Healing Force. (New York: Pocket Books, 2001), 55

  2. Meditation as Medicine, 55

  3. Swami Vivekananda, quoted at http://izquotes.com/author/swami-vivekananda

  4. Patricia E. West, Rethinking Survival: Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change. (Wisconsin: +A Positive Action Press, 2014)

  5. Rethinking Survival, 104

  6. Meditation as Medicine, 64

  1. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray. (originally published in England, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, 1891)

  2. Jou,Tsung Hwa, The Tao of Meditation: Way to Enlightenment. (Scottsdale, AZ: Tai Chi Foundation, 1983), 71

  3. Patricia E. West, Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change. (Wisconsin: +A Positive Action Press, 2014), 31-32

  4. Two Sides of a Coin, 70

  5. Patricia E. West, The Positive Paradigm Handbook: Make Yourself Whole Using the Wheel of Change. (Wisconsin: +A Positive Action Press, 2014)

Truth or Consequences

truth or consequences

Have you ever wondered what Truth has to do with TV game shows? I have.

Follow along, if you will, and I’ll entertain you with what I’ve learned.

It started with an earlier post using as its title the name of a long-running show: To Tell the Truth. I had to wonder, what did Truth mean in this setting?

There, celebrity panelists were challenged to identify one from among three guests. One was authentic, presenting personal facts correctly. The others were impostors who pretended to be the first. Their goal was to deceive the panelists about the Truth.

So Truth was being defined exclusively at the material surface level of the Life Wheel – accurate representation of the facts. Truth of the middle, energy level of the Life Wheel – honesty about feelings and behavior – wasn’t a factor. At a still deeper level, Truth -– meaning honesty about underlying motives — was irrelevant. For impostor guests, lying to hide one’s true identity was highly valued — an accepted part of the game rules.

If you recall, in To Be or Not To Be PC, I used the story-line of Karate Kid III as an example of why awareness on all three levels – three-out-of-three – is essential to survival. In that movie, until the end, Daniel-san fails to understand who is truly his best friend and who is, in fact, his worst enemy.

Judging only from surface appearances, Daniel is deceived into believing Terry Silver is teaching him how to win. What he doesn’t know is that Silver is acting as the agent of an old enemy. This false friend’s underlying, hidden motive is to destroy Daniel as a way to get revenge on Mr. Miagi.

Mr. Miagi, in contrast, appears to be unhelpful, but only because he has Daniel’s best interests at heart. His deepest motive is to protect Daniel, whom he loves as a son.

Now this is an important point for all of us, because the war between Truth v. Deception is pervasive and ongoing. First, we experience conflicts internally. Then, externalized, they are mirrored in the politics of personal relationships, and continue to expand with an ever-broader ripple effect into the conduct of national and global affairs.

I’m not finger pointing. Just saying: For those concerned with survival on any or all of the Life Wheel’s levels, it’s something to think about very very carefully.

Moving on, the second Truth-named game show I’m remembering was called Truth or Consequences. It started as a radio show in the 1940-50s, followed by several television versions into the late 1980’s.

As ominous as the game name sounds, content was strictly light-hearted entertainment, often with an emotional “feel-good” component. Contestants were asked questions of fact –-  usually ones with no clear answer. If contestants could not correctly tell the “Truth” in short time, there were “Consequences,” usually involving a hilarious or embarrassing stunt.

In many broadcasts, stunts included a heart-warming surprise for the contestant. It could be a reunion with a long-lost relative or with an enlisted son or daughter returning from military duty overseas. When the military person was based in California, spouse or parents were flown in.

So here again, the game concept of Truth was shallow and incomplete. The idea of Consequences was similarly given short shrift. (For those interested, the Essay on Consequences offers a comprehensive view.)

Next, please stay with me and I’ll take the notion of Truth or Consequences to the next level.

For this, I need to tell you a story from childhood. It images much the same lessons Daniel-san learned the hard way.

The year would have been about 1953. It was after my father died, but before Mom remarried. That made me between six and seven years old. For that short time, we lived in a run-down old apartment building on Buffalo’s show-case Delavan Boulevard.

The incident I’m recalling involved a neighbor lady who lived all alone in an attic-like room on the top floor. To me, she looked very old and seemed terribly sad. Being a friendly and curious kid, I tried to get to know her.

Not so easy. I pestered her with childish questions. She wanted no part of it. Instead of speaking, she diverted my attention, pointing to a chipped and faded plaster-of-Paris nicknack on her shabby dresser that said it all.

I picked it up and examined it closely. On the water-colored figurine sat three monkeys. The first covered its ears with its hands. The second held both hands over its mouth. The third held both hands over its eyes. This motto was carved into the base: “Hear no evil. Speak no evil. See no evil.”

Three wise monkeys

This childhood experience made such a powerful impression because it was loaded with contradictions that left me bewildered. I had no idea what evil was. Why did she feel compelled to point out non-verbally that recognizing it was taboo? Most importantly, why was she so . . . now it seems . . . yes, afraid.

I remembered this experience while writing about Terry Silver’s three rules for winning an unfair fight. He advised Daniel:

  • If a man can’t stand, he can’t fight. So break his knees.
  • If a man can’t breathe, he can’t fight. So break his nose.
  • If a man can’t see, he can’t fight. So gouge out his eyes.

Granted, I appreciate what the monkey prohibitions were getting at originally. It has to do with the meditative discipline of Stillness. If the bans are a warning not to get entangled in negative situations that poison mental clarity, not to speak impulsively or slander others, and not to project dark side urges onto others, then fine. Otherwise not.

First off, humans are not monkeys. Unless drugged, lobotomized or otherwise incapacitated, the faculties of reason and intuition compliment and complete the animal part of our being.

Today, repressing the sensory faculties of awareness is proof of an increasing sense of helplessness. Looking back, I understand that my neighbor lady was telling me without words that her life was unspeakably difficult and painful. She survived by not being aware. The battered wife syndrome fits here, as does the slave mentality – passively accepting an unfulfilling life of toil and misery.

Second, genuine evil does exist. To deny that it does makes one powerless to deal with its effects, opening the door to a world of hurt. I’ve defined what I mean when I use the word elsewhere. Here are quotes:

Evil in Positive Paradigm context is defined as “destructive acts or intentions which violate the integrity of the whole, with the aim of destroying the life pattern itself.”

And again:

In Positive Paradigm context, the intentions and actions of any person (or group) that destroys its own and/or threatens to annihilate enemy groups, devoid of respect for the inherent sanctity of life, are defined as evil.

Tai Chi Tu - sized

One final point about Truth or Consequences. This article initially came to mind over concern for LinkedIn readers who gladly gobble up superficial articles written by polished prosperity-consciousness authors to promote purchase of their books. In one place, I was actually moved to comment:

I’ve found the formula for this author’s content. To make yourself popular and rich, tell people whatever it is you think they want to hear. End of story.

Was it unkind of me to say this? In the same way Mr. Miagi seemed unkind, maybe so. But I was motivated by good will. I have readers’ long-term interests at heart. I have, for a long time, had a survival issue with gurus who make themselves rich by selling abundance consciousness masked as spirituality. (Sketches below explain why.)

In essence, going full bore for whatever it is you want lacks realistic balance. In a natural world view, there is a time for every purpose under heaven: a time for gain and a time for loss, a time for prosperity in the cycles of history and times of inevitable adversity as well.

Remaining blind to the cycles of history – pretending everything can be however we want it to be because we really really passionately want what we want, is, well . . . unrealistic. In the real world, pretending everything is rosy even when it’s not is disempowering. Buying into the temptation to seemingly pleasant self-deception doesn’t change the way things are. It only renders those who choose to remain unaware at extreme disadvantage, unable to make situation-appropriate, effective decisions.

Put another way, positivity has become the new opiate of the masses. It prevents starry-eyed dreamers from seeing the world as the gravely dangerous place has become. It prevents them from recognizing and responding wisely to protect themselves and those they care for from genuine evil.

Bottom line: What I’m hoping you’ll gather from all this is: 1) Truth embodied as keen, alert awareness on all levels is life sustaining; and 2) today, in the real world, Truth or Consequences is NOT a game. Ignoring the facts as they are, refusing to hear warnings and failing to take positive action is having disastrous CONSEQUENCES.

If you’ll forgive me for repeating myself once again, human survival hangs in the balance. It is that serious.

Just saying. Food for thought.

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Although it never happened, I originally planned to expand thumbnail sketches into full chapters to include in a book called Essays on Positive Action. They were written in the year 2000, but are as relevant now as they were earlier. The following four address the prosperity-consciousness issue.

WHO TURNED NAPOLEON HILL UPSIDE DOWN & WHY? At Andrew Carnegie’s request, Attorney Napoleon Hill undertook a 20-year research project to discover the common denominators which explain the effectiveness of highly successful businessmen. The upshot, Think and Grow Rich, has had vast international influence and inspired a small army of imitators to build a lucrative “prosperity consciousness” profession. Perhaps coincidentally (perhaps not), his findings are reminiscent of occult teachings. An organization claiming to further Hill’s work continues to publish new titles using his name, including Napoleon Hill’s Positive Action Plan. Something’s been seriously distorted in the translation.

NATURAL LAW VERSUS UNNATURAL GREED. A host of imitators jumping on the lucrative prosperity consciousness bandwagon, each selling seductive feel-good half-truth formulas for material success, are misdirecting pristine natural law into the twilight zone of insatiable greed. The ancient law is that every extreme changes to its opposite. In The 10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make and How To Avoid Them, Dr. Freeman correctly observes that “an overdose of positive thinking can produce negative results.” Economic euphoria driven by a misleading paradigm of science at end-century will inevitably cycle past unnatural expansion to opposite and equal contraction in the next millennium.

THE QUESTION DETERMINES YOUR RESULT. “Ask and it shall be answered. Seek and ye shall find” — but only what you have the heart/vision to ask/seek. Ask along with Dale how to win friends and influence people. Ask with Napoleon how to become a millionaire. Ask Deepak how to use spiritual laws to get worldly success. Ask Anthony how to awaken the giant within. But the will of God? To know it? Serve it? Who asks this? Who asks what is right? What is wise? Could current human condition be result of failure to ask wisely? Shallow questions yield paltry results. So in wishing, remember the law of karma and be very careful what you ask for. Long-term payback for greedy goals is frightful to behold.

NO MATTER WHERE YOU START, THE GOAL IS HERE & NOW. Though cultures East and West begin from opposite ends of the planet, in striving for wisdom they join as one at the center of life’s wheel. The financially rich at apex and poor at nadir of life’s arc are same in inner origin and ultimate destination. So also, those of every persuasion who do their best to live with uncompromising courage, heart, wisdom and strength find common home at day’s end. Like Job who endured unimaginable torment but remained steadfast in faith, like Noah who listened and followed through regardless of heedless/scornful contemporaries, those who hold to fast to center actualize promise of safe passage to new beginnings.

A Birthday Gift to YOU

 Gift

I’ve been busy working to keep promises made to you earlier.

In Under Construction, I outlined changes to rethinkingsurvival to occur over the summer months and into the fall.

Today, August 3, marks my 70th birthday. Yesterday, I was spontaneously offered a photo shoot to mark the occasion. Paying the birthday gift forward, I’ve made the results available to you. Along with comments, they are now posted on a new page called, logically, NEW PHOTOS. So that’s one promise kept. : )

The evening before that offer was made, I worked through the night to make good on my promise to make content of books about positive change available on the website. As a result, for starters, another four value-filled pages have been added for your viewing.

Each includes content from the keystone of the change series: The Positive Paradigm Handbook: Make Yourself Whole Using the Wheel of Change.

  • The second lists the Seven Axioms and Corollaries which follow from this complete and accurate but deceptively simple world view.
  • The third puts the Wheel into motion, showing how to create personalized Life Wheels that take you “from here to there.” It gives the practical tool and a step-by-step method for becoming an intentional agent of positive change, first in your own life and then in the world.
  • The fourth reveals the Mind Map that pictures where the work leads, including building intentional communities and saving as many lives as possible in Titanic Times.

This is just the start. Please stay tuned. There’s more to follow.

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MY Worst Fear

When I posted What is YOUR Worst Fear, I intended to follow the next week with a sequil, MY Worst Fear. But it has taken a full month of soul-searching labor to deliver. The outcome – a yin-yang re-birthing of this website.

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The original sequel would have expressed the persistent fear described in Rethinking Survival:

The greatest personal obstacle I listed was pessimism, an attitude embedded deep in my upbringing, which crops up from the reservoir of inherited weaknesses from time-to-inconvenient-time. . . . the demon that surfaces when things get especially rough, taunting that all I’ve learned has been in vain, all the books I’ve written were for naught.

I feared the fate of Cassandra. I feared that I’ll fall short in warning that we urgently need to recognize an unwelcome elephant’s presence in civilization’s room – the hovering uncertainty of human survival.

Then doubts crept in. I decided to learn more about Cassandra, sung of by the bard, Homer, in The Iliad. I knew she was a priestess gifted with foresight. I knew her warnings went unheeded. Her prescience failed to prevent the destruction of her people.

But research uncovered another side to her story. According to legend, she received her gift from the Sun god Apollo in exchange for promises which she failed to keep. The curse of disbelief was attached to her prophetic abilities – so it is said – as punishment for deceiving the gods.

Obviously, I hope there’s no similarity between us on that count. Also, Cassandra died a hideous death, a fate which isn’t included in my particular fear portfolio.

So I searched my memory banks for a more accurate image of my worst fear. Immediately, one came forward.

As a teen, I spent two wonderful summers at Interlochen, the National Music Camp. One night, as was my habit, after the bugle sounded taps and the lights went out, I hid, wide awake, completely covered under my heavy olive drab army blanket and turned on a flashlight to read in the dark.

My borrowed book chronicled atrocities of the WWII holocaust. The powerfully horrifying image that remains with me was an enforced still birth. Enroute to death camps, Nazi guards responded to calls for help when a Jewish woman went to labor by chaining her legs tightly together at the ankles. Suffering oceans of agony, she died together with her unborn child.

Over the years, this is the repeating image of agony that comes to mind whenever the constellation of conspiring events seems to prevent me from bringing my writing into the world.

But again, rethinking led to doubts. I put this fear to Plato’s test, remembering his standard:

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

I decided, figuratively speaking, to turn the flashlight formerly hidden furtively under my youthful pillow for secret night-time use to submit my adult fears to the daylight of reason. Knowing that fear invites danger, I asked myself, “Am I allowing festering fears to become a self-fulfilling prophecy?”

So I named my immediate fears, one-by-one, and took responsibility for allowing them to influence my decisions, yielding a new array of options for correcting old mistakes. I can now proceed to direct future choices toward better outcomes.

For one thing, I decided to take on the paralyzing web of Catch 22s that plague a writer’s career. This is not the place to digress into war stories and bitter complaints. Suffice it to say that trusting authors are all-too-easy prey for members of the established publishing profession who specialize in eating them for their lunch.

But then, the alternative – to do everything alone, wear the many diverse hats required to bring a finished product to the general public – has just as many pitfalls. Marketing especially has been an issue. I took this position in The Positive Paradigm Handbook:

To my way of thinking, a person with something of extraordinary value to offer should be eagerly sought out and welcomed.

This is the book I dearly wanted for myself, the one that wasn’t on the shelves no matter where I looked. I’d have given everything I had for the knowledge in the Handbook. It’s the sum of what I’ve searched a lifetime to find. I’ve sacrificed a great deal to write and make the information usefully available. I’m offering it whole, on a silver platter, to those with an ear to hear.

So courting readers seems inappropriate and undignified, even embarrassing. I’ve accepted the necessity of marketing as a humbling, character-building opportunity. I can gladly swallow personal pride for the sake of human survival. The trade-off is more than worth it.

In some respects, however, I stand my ground. When marketing standards go against the grain of the Positive Paradigm, I draw the line. One fashionable marketing concept is called branding. “The author is the brand.”

Here I disagree wholeheartedly. It’s not about me. I’m just an imperfect messenger, not the message. I am but a transient visitor, briefly here, soon enough gone. The universal structure of the Positive Paradigm is the brand and its center hub is forever.

In this, yet another Greek myth is relevant. Again, from Rethinking Survival:

The Titans were gods sired by Kronos (Father Time). Fearfully jealous, as each was born, Kronos stole the male infants from his wife Gia (Mother Earth), swallowing his sons whole. This story is a metaphor for the Law of Karma. Our deeds may seem to be swallowed up by time, but in fact they never die.

In the cyclical course of natural events, they come back, as did the Titans, returning to conquer and replace the old gods.

Suffice it to say this self-assessment has resulted in a total rethinking of my attitudes and approach. These will be mirrored in the redesign of this website, to take place gently and gradually over the summer months. I’ll save the transformations of specific fears into action plans for a future post, “Under Construction.”

Nothing of substance – the archetypal ideas presented here – will change, but presentation will improve dramatically.

In sum, facing my worst fears for the purpose of writing this post has had a marvelously healing effect. Just so, I remember the Bene-Gesserit fear mantra from Frank Herbert’s Dune:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

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The Evolution of My Aspirations

Leaders can’t be defined by a standardized, one-size-fits-all list of traits. This is the premise of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. Instead, authors Bill George and Peter Sims found that authentic leaders consistently define themselves in terms of their unique personal stories.

Naturally, they got me to asking myself, what’s mine?

There definitely have been defining moments. Looking back, there have also been consistently recurring themes.

But it took a recent direct message from a new twitter follower to put my answer into focus. Chelsea Hanson, a Business Growth Coach from Green Bay Wisconsin tweeted, “Great to connect . . . I love learning about how people got started in their work. . . how did you get into what you are doing?”

I tweeted back, “Likewise! 🙂 Step by little step. Pieces of mosaic fall into place to form the patterned picture recognized only with hindsight.”

It’s been my consistent belief that, of all the things I could do with my life, I should choose that which does the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. With that standard in mind, my aspirations have been shaped and transformed, expanded and focused with each new experience.

The autobiographical section of Rethinking Survival describes early influences. It started with Miss Elson, my senior year English teacher.

Though I didn’t take her seriously at the time, Miss Elson told me I should be a writer. My answers to her essay questions showed the marks of an original thinker. In contrast, she let me read a batch of classmates’ papers to demonstrate the mindlessness she labored to shake up.

What is life?” she asked. Like wind-up toys, most regurgitated definitions memorized in biology class. Catholics added their church credo to the mix. From her I learned that there’s more to being human than the ability parrot others’ words. It includes the capacity to reason and articulate clearly.

Later, while I was earning an M.A. in English M.A. at the UW-Madison, my aspiration was to be like Miss Elson. Without the tools of language and logic to analyze experience and express one’s concerns, how could people name, much less solve their problems? At the time, the highest calling I could imagine was to teach students how to think — really think — for themselves.

My aspirations continued to evolve as a music student in Düsseldorf, Germany. For me, the highlight of studies at the Robert Schumann Konservatorium wasn’t the music teachers, but a modest, insightful kinesiology instructor. Frau Lehru wasn’t a musician herself. But vocal and instrumental teachers alike sent students beyond their help to her.

The pianist whose lessons were scheduled the hour before mine told me her story. Herr Dreschel had given up on her as either lazy or untalented. But Frau Lehru diagnosed the real problem — pinched spinal nerves. Recommended visits to a chiropractor worked “miracles.” Elated, she was a “new person.”

I went to her studio and asked Frau Lehru to coach me. Her lessons were wonderful. She saw timidity in my posture and tension in the way I held my violin. She gave me exercises to correct not only my posture, but the underlying attitudes which bent me out of shape.

“Platz machen,” she encouraged me. “Make room! Don’t crowd me!” And, “Auf wiederstand waschen.” Figuratively, Grow upwards. Stand tall under the pressure of resistance and adversity.

In retrospect, it was as if she’d reinvented the yogic disciplines which sitar and tabla students are taught in India, where music technique is balanced with breathing and physical exercises. Her gift inspired a change in my career goals.

Rather than teach technique, I could help many more musicians by becoming an exercise-and-therapy coach in one, like her. She was much too busy to consider writing about her methods and results. I would do this for her with a book called The Body as Instrument: How to Tune It.

Still later, ratcheting up another notch, I aspired to build schools to facilitate an entire generation of coaches like Frau Lehru. A primary purpose for earning the Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the UW-Madison was to hold the credential required to build an accredited alternative school. My envisioned School-Without-Walls was intended to serve the unmet needs of other boundary-spanners also seeking to fill in the gaps of our failing educational system.

Each new experience has continued to lead to the next. Many steps later, I’ve come full circle to fulfill Miss Elson’s early prediction. Today, I’m a writer because I’m certain that I’ve succeeded in putting my finger on the pulse of a critical information deficit. It explains the excruciating painful, potentially fatal world-wide leadership deficit.

Further, I am certain that the Positive Paradigm of Change not only fills a critical information gap in the way we train our leaders, but that, like a laser beam, it illumines every field of endeavor towards which it’s pointed. This includes not only leadership and governance, but also education, the arts and sciences.

Today my aspiration is for this information to reach the greatest number of people possible, in order to do the greatest possible amount of good. The stakes could not be higher, for I take Einstein’s prophetic warning deeply to heart: “We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

If you agree, and if you can help, let’s talk!

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Hidden Giants

According to the world-loved Tao Te Ching, when the times reach critical mass, leaders arise in response to the deep-felt heart-cries of the suffering masses for deliverance.

This assurance is repeated twice, first in Passage 18. “When countries degenerate into strife, anarchy sets in. / When danger peaks, however, heroes emerge and come forward.”

It appears again in Passage 78. “Like water, the sage takes the world’s suffering to heart, endures its hardships, / and responsive to the times, becomes the catalyst of collective action.

This is the underlying thought in the following rethinking of the David and Goliath scenario. The upcoming anthology, The BEST of WEST will include this excerpt from Rethinking Survival. It’s taken from the section called “We’re Never Alone: Gladwell’s Misfits and Giants in Perspective.”

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When Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath came out in October of 2013, I had to read it. The subject promised to be a perfect fit with the vision of Rethinking. After all, King David is my ideal: musician, psalmist, warrior and king in one.

It turns out this book is a perfect example of how sorely the Positive Paradigm of Change is needed. “We need a better guide for facing giants,” Gladwell wrote. I agree. Here it is.

As far as it goes, the book is a good read. What’s lacking is the Positive Paradigm to put David and Goliath in context. From this viewpoint, Goliath was stuck on the surface. Despite his physical size, he was ultimately powerless. David, on the other hand, was connected to center. That gave him the advantage.

Using this Einstein-inspired model of concentric circles linked in an infinite, two-directional loop, we can place the source of David’s strength as well as his strategies and his deadly slingshot.

Resting in the innermost hub of the Life Wheel associated with light was the source of little David’s confidence — the timeless God of Israel.

His strategies, however, belonged to the middle, dynamic level associated with energy.

His prowess as a straight-shooter depended on physical strength, visual acuity and years of experience. Those have their place on the outermost material surface associated with mass.

In other words, the levels of David’s life were coordinated. They were in synch. Unified.

If David had drawn a blank on any one of the three levels, he wouldn’t have succeed then. Nor can anyone succeed today. Vision that’s not backed by a good plan and technical competence is incomplete. Cunning strategies lacking equal competence to execute them are lop-sided. Without a direct connection with the creative center, all the physical resources in the world aren’t enough.

There are several reasons, however, why the story of David and Goliath isn’t the best model for coping with adversity today. For one, we’re at a very different point in history. This is end stage. Civilization was relatively young back then. Different times call for different responses.

Further, confronting a single foe face-to-face was one matter. The tangled mess of corporate-faced, alien-driven evil which little guys are up against now is a much different threat. Different dangers call for different protections.

Another point: Gladwell’s subtitle refers to underdogs and misfits. It’s not a good idea to romanticize misfits. Not all are creative geniuses. Timothy McVey and Charles Manson were also misfits. They too didn’t fit in with mainstream society, but with good cause.

It’s the telescoping mistake. Extremes on both sides of the bell-shaped median are lumped together and written off as “deviant.” But spiritual geniuses and murderous psychopaths don’t belong in the same category.

Further, not all giants are enemies of the people. There are corporate CEOs who treat their workers decently and genuinely serve the public. When I searched my memory banks for a good example, I thought back to Glenn Beck’s billionaire philanthropist friend. What was his name?!

It took me a couple days to find it. Strangely, he doesn’t get much media attention. (Why not is an interesting question!)

But Jon Huntsman, Sr. is living proof. A corporate giant can be as much a part of the solution as the underdogs. Sometimes even more.

A web search comes up with several sides to his story. He gained his wealth by climbing the corporate ladder of success. In 1974, Huntsman Container Corporation created the “clamshell” container for the McDonald’s Big Mac. It developed other popular products, including the first plastic plates and bowls. This led to the 1994 founding of the multi-billion dollar Huntsman Corporation. He continues to expand into new business ventures.

As a philanthropist, Huntsman has given away more than $1.2 billion to both domestic and international charities. His humanitarian aid includes help to the homeless, ill and under-privileged. He holds that the very rich should give not half, as Gates and Buffet say, but a full 80 percent of their wealth to worthy causes. It should be through voluntary choice, however. Not taxation. In this, he agrees with Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

His goal is to give away everything before he dies. But this isn’t an easy task. He keeps making too much money.

On the personal side, Huntsman not only lost parents to cancer, but is himself a four-time cancer survivor. His response has been to turn adversity into opposite and equal good. The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City accelerates the work of curing cancer through human genetics. It also focuses on providing humane care to cancer patients.

Huntsman has been married to his wife Karen for over fifty years. He’s the father of nine children. The eldest son, Jon Jr. is a public servant. He was the governor of Utah, and later an ambassador to China. (Small world.) The second son is a corporate executive who carries on his father’s business.

Come to find out, Jon Huntsman. Sr. is also an author. One of his books is Winners Never Cheat – Even in Difficult Times. Amazon’s editorial review calls him “one of the finest human beings, industrial leaders and philanthropists on the planet.” His book drills down on “ten timeless, universal values” for business and life. The review concludes that Huntsman’s work edifies, inspires and motivates all of us to model his common sense lessons.

Timeless? Universal? Common sense? I like it!

Moving on, Gladwell also says little guys need to redefine power. I’ve done that too. In Positive Paradigm context, true power comes from within. Goliath, who drew strength primarily from the physical plane, was puny compared to the force behind David’s sling.

Gladwell notes that a single smooth stone to center of Goliath’s head probably destroyed the pituitary gland. He quotes researchers who theorize that the giant had a glandular disorder which explains his huge size. This same pituitary disease would have caused eye problems. That’s probably why a slave had to lead him into battle. Presumably his vision was failing.

But from a holistic perspective, the same story has a deeper meaning. David’s single shot went straight to the third eye, the ajna center located in the center of the forehead. It correlates with the pineal gland, a close neighbor of the pituitary. In yoga anatomy, this center is associated with spiritual vision.

David’s projectile put out the giant’s lights. It was poetic justice for an enemy who was closed to inner truth. That was the giant’s weakness. It remains the weakness of bad guys today as well. A single shot is all it takes, when you know where to aim.

Here’s yet another point. David and Goliath has one take on the giants of the world. But there’s also another way to think about giants. The reverse, shadow side – the opposite side of the coin. Early on, for example, I was inspired by Awaken the Giant Within. I founded the +A Positive Action Press in response to Tony Robbins’ book. From a Positive Paradigm perspective, his words take on new meaning:

If we want to discover the unlimited possibilities within us, we must find a goal big enough and grand enough to challenge us to push beyond our limits and discover our true potential. . . The answer to our current energy challenges will lie in the imagination and resourcefulness of today’s physicists and engineers. And the resolution to our social crises, like the alarming spread of racial hate groups, homelessness, and hunger, can only be addressed with the inventiveness and compassion of dedicated individuals like you and me.

The threat of evil giants in the world serves to awaken the true giant that resides deep within each of us. That’s the blessing hidden in adversity. It’s the opportunity latent in Titanic Times. The Greek Titans, the giants sired by Kronos, survived his murderous envy and returned to claim their heritage.

Similarly, as Lao Tze assures us, there are surely sleeping giants are among us now.

It’s time for them to WAKE UP!

Are you a sleeping giant? Do you work or live with one? What will it take for you (or them) to wake up?

You Can Have It All

A most excellent article recently brought to my attention on LinkedIn by Frank Feather serves as springboard to this rethinking of pinnacle experience.

For starters, since “you can’t leave a place you’ve never been,” I searched the web for current definitions and uses of “pinnacle.”

In geography, the highest elevation point of a rugged mountain is called its pinnacle. In architecture, the spire or steeple that tapes to a point at the top is called the building’s pinnacle. In athletics, the peak of success (playing in the Olympics, for example), is called the pinnacle of achievement.

Because it’s entertaining, I also searched for clip art images. Icons include a victorious athlete grasping his gold trophy cup, banners proclaiming WINNER, and business-suited people crawling and racing up stairs towards the top. I even found a quote saying that his physics formula “catapulted Einstein to the pinnacle of fame.”

Graphics portray a figure in hiking gear standing on a mountain top, planting a flag signifying his presence. The also picture organizational charts with a larger-than-life CEO dominating diminutive subordinates.

Applied to government and corporate dynamics, these images imply the elevation of a single, unique and exclusively outstanding individual. By current standards, the pinnacle of achievement glorifies personal ego and winning at everyone else’s expense.

But there is an alternative way to look at the pinnacle experience. In Rethinking Survival, the illustration the illustration called PARADOX places the illusion of separateness in Positive Paradigm context. Here, each of us occupies only a tiny sliver of space in the integrated matrix of the Life Wheel. The broad base of the hierarchy rests on the outermost material level of ephemeral appearances. The apex, the pinnacle of life and leadership, rests deep within the unchanging center.

Here — reminiscent of the first LinkedIn post, “Boundary Spanners Connect at the Center” — illumined minds meet at the universal point which everyone everywhere shares in common looks. It looks like this:

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Unlike conventional wisdom, a holistic pinnacle of experience is neither the most visible nor a winner-takes-all position gotten through ruthless competition. Here, the apex of experience is universal and inclusive.

This is where the article recommended by Frank Feather comes in. Just as a holistic vision of pinnacle experience shapes a new standard for success, so does Shane Snow’s most excellent post,”The Counterintuitive Trait That Will Make You Significantly More Successful.”

Shane finds that crossing a horizontal base line with a complimentary vertical axis yields a useful picture of the relationship between attitudes and outcomes. He starts with a horizontal axis that locates Faith in the center. The extreme of Optimism is placed on the right-hand side, due East. The extreme of Pessimism is on the left-hand, due West.

Next he adds a vertical axis that intersects the horizontal line through the central point of Faith. The extreme of Credulous is placed to the North. The extreme of Skeptical is placed due South.

Positive change, he found, is a paradoxical balance between contradictory attitudes:

The most counter-intuitive quadrant is the one where the most breakthrough success can be found: Optimistic, but Skeptical. This is where the innovators reside, where inventors who dare to doubt the status quo ask the questions that need to be asked in order for the world to change. They need a healthy amount of optimism to believe that the world can change for the better, and that drives them to make transformative things happen.

In this case, to complete the Positive Paradigm picture, an additional illustration is needed. “Success” has its shadow side, “failure.” Redefining one necessarily redefines the other. In the same vein, “achievement” also has an opposite, necessary compliment.

What’s needed to complete the pattern is the distinction between two words frequently used interchangeably, but which have diametrically opposed meanings: “achievement” versus “attainment.”

Technically, “attainment” is best used in the context of inward growth. An enlightened sage is said to be spiritually attained. In contrast, “accomplishment” is correctly used to describe the tangible results of sustained effort on the surface rim of the Life Wheel.

Anti-social mass murderers are highly accomplished at what they do. So are highly successful financial geniuses who “make a killing” on the stock-market — at horrific cost to others. (Surely a few names come instantly to mind.)

In the following illustration, Attainment is placed on the vertical North-South axis. Achievement is placed on the intersecting horizontal East-West line. Positive, creative and unifying achievement is placed on the right-hand side, East of the eternal center. Negative, fragmenting, destructive achievement is on the Western, left-hand side.

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Is “the pinnacle of achievement” an oxymoron, meaning a combo of mutually exclusive terms? Sometimes, but not always. When the levels of the Life Wheel are linked in an infinite continuum of Do-ing and Be-ing, we experience what Loehr & Schwartz call “The Power of Full Engagement.”

The seated figure with the levels (chakras) activated and unified is the image of a philosopher-king — a leader capable of balancing inspiration with wise decision-making and decisive action. Attainment in-spires and fuels achievement. In turn, professional achievements express and complete the spiritual journey.

Put another way, in a holistic worldview, attainment and achievement aren’t an either/or choice. Seen in this perspective, it is possible to “have it all.”

It would benefit power-seeking over-achievers to keep this picture in mind. For when the levels aren’t balanced, prioritized and integrated — when power isn’t motivated by good will and implemented with self-aware competence — drastically destructive consequences follow. Up to and including atomic bombs. The destruction of nations. The end of the world as we know it.

In a recent post, a Millennial marketer gushed that she “wants it all.” But her extravagant wish list includes only the things she wants to accomplish — things of the economic-political world. No mention of aspiration for wisdom, compassion or enlightenment.

I confess that in the heat of momentary outrage, I commented that Satan offered the whole world to Christ. Perhaps if she approached him, he’d cut her the same special deal offered to the rich and infamous political leaders of every generation.

To the politically correct, this may seem extreme. Probably so. But everyone has their own personal limits. Expressing personal opinions is one thing. Presuming to represent and lead others in a disastrous direction is quite another. Especially when it comes to young people.

As written elsewhere, I have a special place in my heart for Millennials. I regard them as the children and grandchildren I never had. I’m protective as a mama bear towards the generation from whose ranks tomorrow’s best leader-followers will emerge.

In balance, I assure you, the comment wasn’t intended to demean or offend anyone. It was meant as a proactive warning. Ambitious wanna-be leaders who operate on dysfunctional paradigms are, even if unknowingly, a grave danger to themselves as well as the rest of us. History repeatedly confirms the maxim, “Good intentions pave the road to hell.”

On the other hand, human survival will depend upon fully engaged individuals — even if only a handful — who operate on the basis of a complete and accurate reality map, one with an inner compass (or GPS, if you will) at the center.

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