Reflections. . . Life during the Kali Yuga

It has been just over a week since a bomb exploded at the Erawan Shrine in downtown Bangkok, which killed 20 people and wounded many others.  The following day another bomb was thrown at a busy river pier, but thankfully fell into the canal causing no injuries and little harm.  I deeply respect the Thai official’s honest acknowledgement about what is and is not known, together with their consistent, calm pursuit of the truth, a steady search for the culprit, the loving re-dedication of the Shrine, and compassionate honoring of those lost and injured (instead of sensationalizing the event.)

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Most times when I have traveled I seem to have experienced a taste of contemporary life . . . from landing in Heathrow in 2001 only to discover that Mad-Cow disease was infecting UK livestock; to being caught in a typhoon in Manila in 2002; to traveling to Toronto during the SARS epidemic in the summer of 2003 when a couple of days after we landed, the city was hit by the three-day long Northeast power outage, which stretched from Ontario, through New York and down to Ohio.  Oh, yes, and there was the time I happened to have a board meeting in Mexico during the Swine Flu epidemic in 2009.

These serendipitous events do not include my volunteer work as a trauma recovery trainer—traveling in 2005 and 2006 to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami; nor does it include joining journalist Susan McClelland on a research trip to post civil war Sierra Leon in 2008; or work in Haiti 2010 and 2011 after the earthquake.

During my early 20’s I realized that taking a vacation to visit family did not mean I could ‘vacate’.  What I discovered then is that it is more important to stay present and ‘witness’ what is happening around you, and within you.  Witnessing includes keeping your wits about you—staying aware and as conscious as possible.  Then, taking a holiday may become a series of ‘holy-days’ which are made even more sacred by seeking and appreciating the gifts and learning that Life brings forward each day—no matter where we find ourselves.

Tell me, do you take Holidays or Holy-days — do you go on Vacations to Vacate or return to a state of Presence?

I wish us all Safe Travels

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Bangkok August 17th . . . In the Face of Destruction, there is a Deeper Truth

As many of you know I am traveling right now, and as some of you know I am in Bangkok.

My friend sent me a note via Facebook on Monday, asking, “Are you ok, were you anywhere near the bomb blast?”  My friend’s comment was the first that I had heard about the bomb blast at the popular Hindu Erawan Shrine to Brahma, in Central Bangkok yesterday (August 17th).

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At the time of the blast my husband and I were on our way to dinner about half a kilometer away.  My husband remembers seeing a flash of light down the street as we entered the up-scale mall at Central Chitlom.  The flash lasted only an instant … with all the lights and marketing gimmicks going on in Bangkok, the flash was no surprise to the people around us.  They (and we) all went on with walking and talking, when only moments later there was a huge loud bang.  Harold did not connect the flash and the sound as related.  As for me—not knowing what Bangkok sounds like, the blast was just part of the ambient sounds of a huge ‘over-populated’ city.

An hour later (after dinner) we took the sky train home and had a bird’s eye view from the Chitlom sky train platform.  I notice that the already over-busy traffic intersection of Phloen Chit Road west of Langsuan Road was jammed with the flashing blue and red lights of police cars.

We are quite safe and sound where we are, and I am not worried.  As for my experience here and now in Bangkok . . . I am feeling ‘safe’, although there is speculation that tourists are being targeted.

I find it interesting that in November of 2012, when I was outside Canada teaching Sacred Sexuality with ISTSA in Israel, a war broke out between Gaza and Israel the day before I left Canada. (A cease-fire was called 5 days after my arrival.)  Then too I felt ‘safe’.

I am more and more convinced that ‘safety’ is an internal state as well as an external reality.  In reality Bangkok is a very peaceful and welcoming city.  The people of Thailand are mainly Buddhist—truly kind and obviously compassionate—and the horror of violence and unexpected loss of lives in this recent bomb blast is not a reflection of the whole city (nor of the country) any more than is the experience of violence in large cities in every country (whether due to family violence, bullying, corruption and crime, social conflict, political factions and social unrest).

Risk verses Safety is more the landscape that comes with living in a world full of radical discontinuity and accelerated change.  And from my experience in traveling, these kinds of incidents allow us to come together in ways that, in the long-term, bring greater clarity, awareness and ultimately, understanding.

Please, send prayers to those who are discontent, worried, injured–and for those 22 souls who died, and their family and friends who are shocked and grieving, please send prayers to them as well.

Share the Journey

As some of you know, I will be traveling throughout most of August and September.  While on the road, I will keep in touch with you through my blog, and through posts on Facebook and Twitter.

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I plan to share with you some of my experiences from my travels, along with thoughts that hold energy for me, and events that I know are important.

I also invite you to share your thoughts and experiences around Embodied Awareness.

I invite you to share your encounters from your own journey – no matter where you are and no matter what you are discovering.  

We are all part of this current time and space, so let us all enjoy this voyage together.

… Bon Voyage!

Our Reaction to Change

So why do we react to change the way we do?

Our reactions to change indicate the youth of our evolutionary process.  Our first reaction – fight, flight, freeze, faint comes as an instinctive animal response to change.

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Fight-flight-freeze-faint is actually a reptilian response – an automatic brain stem reaction formed hundreds of millions of years ago.  Our reptilian brainstem’s immediate sensory-motor reaction is responsible for instinctive drives like hunger, sex, territoriality, and ritualistic behavior.  The reptile in us wants to predict what is going to happen next to create a sense of safety – even if it is false safety – because, after all, our world is constantly changing.  Our emotional, mammalian limbic-brain showed up after the dinosaurs with the evolution of warm-blooded mammals that care for their young.  Our mammalian brain gives us a tend-and-befriend reaction to stress.  We find safety in numbers and we seek help from those who soothe and support us. It is the mammal in us that is also responsible for our emotional-cognitive brain’s and value-judgments.

Ultimately, our human capacity to be conscious of change (aware of past-present-and future) is thanks to the development of a ‘new mammalian brain,’ called the cortex.  Finally, our pre-frontal cortex, which is a mere 40,000 years old and still evolving, is providing us with greater and greater insight and understanding about Life’s Mysteries as we make meaning out of the changes we go through.

The question is how do we begin, each of us individually, to love and tame the younger parts of us… the cold-blooded animal within us-the snake, the turtle, crocodile or lizard, mad-dog, chimpanzee, or human? This takes another brain entirely – our heart-brain.  The wisdom of the heart-brain energetically and telepathically emits acceptance and love, embraces us with compassion and provides us with the courage to become humane beings.

I invite you to engage in this exercise:

First begin to tame your automatic reactions in yourself by having compassion for “you” and for the reality that when faced with change, you will most likely automatically react (fight, flight, freeze or faint).

Next, after you realize you have reacted, begin to be “present” with yourself in a soothing, healing way, to calm your physiological reaction (tend-and-befriend).

Breathe.

Consciously tense and relax the muscles.  Shake your body to let the energy release. (gain insight and understanding)

Then talk to yourself in a calming, soothing inner voice (instead of using a harsh, critical or punishing tone). Embrace your human-ness with compassion and acceptance.

This is one way we are able to tame our younger-selves.  This is part of the mystery that we are facing right now in our world, worldwide.