Here’s a quiz:
Please define the group about which this paragraph refers.
“I wish they would just keep to themselves. No one wants to see them in public. They’re not welcome here. Good people cannot allow that type of people to live in our neighborhoods, teach in our schools, or be around children.”
Of course, few people will admit out loud or in a comment to this blog that a group immediately came to mind when they read this paragraph, which is a conglomeration of things we’ve all heard said about various groups over the years. We’ve heard this kind of judgmental, exclusive, and unkind language since the beginning of civilization. Because this type of language has existed since the beginning of our human history makes it neither right nor contemporary with how we should treat others.
So, if a group did come to mind, let that be a message to your inner voice that you, along with all the rest of us, still have a little more work to do in becoming an inclusive, loving, and accepting… and perhaps, even celebrating… community of humankind.
There are many clinical components to depression including hormones, enzymes, physical manifestations, and emotional experiences. They can be objectively and subjectively assessed, categorized, and treated. What about the personal experience of depression? How would one describe that?
For each person, depression is a deeply personal event. Each episode is varied and unique in its expression. For me, today, it is a lethargy, a dark shadow cast over everything and everyone I see. No matter how much I love those around me, these momentary glitches in my brain chemistry leave me feeling very much alone, inadequate, and sad. These dips in my otherwise healthy emotional state, are surprises to me, even after nearly 40 years since receiving my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, then called manic depression.
I hated the medications prescribed for me. Some made me feel like a zombie. Others gave me hives. Others caused me to go to sleep. None of them truly helped. I chose a more spiritual path in my treatment. I chose to look at the disorder as something that was present irregularly or mildly because I am fortunate to have a less injurious level of bipolar. Some of my peers, with a more serious condition, could not afford to take the path I take because it could lead to severe and deleterious effects. I suppose by some accounts, I am lucky.
Today, though, most feelings of good fortune and joy elude me. They are memories in my past and hope for my future. I don’t usually talk about my depression much because most people are afraid of that word. They fear it for themselves and for their families. They avoid the possibility that someone they love could experience such deep sadness for no reason other than the body disconnecting with those chemicals that would heal the weighty malaise. So, most don’t talk about it.
The funniest part is when some people whisper like chattering monkeys, “She must be depressed because she’s not very strong,” or “He must not have very good tools at his disposal if he’s giving into his depression.” Anyone who knows me knows that my personal, emotional strength is abundant, and that my tools are many. It simply is a fact that I have a medically psychiatric condition called bipolar. That’s all. In the same way as someone with high cholesterol or mild type-2 diabetes tries to keep his numbers down through diet and exercise, I work very hard at staying mentally healthy. Most of the time I am effective. Once in a while, like now, it gets away from me.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that silence magnifies my condition. Isolation adds fuel to the fire of sadness. So, here I am telling the truth about how I feel. Acknowledging that I am struggling with what has become a lifelong difficulty. Quite honestly, I feel better for doing so.
I share this information with you, dear reader, not because I need your sympathy or pity, because I don’t. I simply want to share with you my process. I want you to understand that perfectly normal people, strong people, wise people, happy people, sometimes have a condition that can, on occasion, get out of control.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one-quarter of all adults in the United States are diagnosed with one or more mental disorders. That’s 75 million people. 2.6% of the adult population have severe bipolar disorder. I am not the oddball by any stretch of the imagination. Many go undiagnosed because of the stigma of mental illness. Sorry, but that’s just plain stupid. If one had cancer, phlebitis, alopecia, or gingivitis, one would not have a stigma applied to those conditions or diseases. So, why should mental illness? There is no reason except that people are afraid that they will succumb to some mental insufficiency.
Again, fear plays out as judgment against a group of people. So, to face that fear, I speak out against the ugly stigma, tell the truth about my disorder, and share with you what happens for me, at least. And I’m one of the lucky ones. It doesn’t strike very hard, even at its worst. For others, it hits harder. It is debilitating. It is overwhelmingly lonely. It can even be deadly. Yet because of the stigma, they cannot reach out for help, even to professionals or programs that would certainly assist in diagnosis and treatment.
I reach out to you so that perhaps, somehow, you will find a way to reach out when you sense someone close to you is having difficulty with mental illness. Speak honestly and without harsh judgment. Avoid terms like, “buck up,” or “toughen up,” or “don’t worry, this, too, shall pass.” Would you say that to someone with an obvious tumor on their head or bleeding profusely? Not likely.
Thank you for reading this message. I will feel better more likely sooner than later. For those who need you, don’t be afraid. They are simply the same people you love when they are healthier as when they are feeling worse. They may reach out to you verbally, or by a change in their interactions with you. They are not trying to drag you down in the darkness with them. They simply are reaching for the light.
January 1, 2012, is simply another day in the long string of days that have passed during the multiple millenia of our history. Of course, this is true, but is there more to the story? I suspect there is more.
As a civilization, we, along with our planetary brothers and sisters, are learning new things about ourselves. We are discovering we have voices and hearts and minds that must be recognized and valued by those in power. We are anticipating a major shift of spiritual consciousness. We are trying to find our ways back toward intimacy. Is this because the calendar reads, “2012?” Is it solely because the Mayans said there would be a shift of some sort in November of the coming year? Probably not.
The likeliest candidate for this awakening is that after tens of thousand of years, our evolution has insisted we grow. In the same way as plants, in order to survive, become larger or smaller, depending on their environment, we are ready to raise the bar on our consciousness. It’s simply time!
Everyone will have a different suggestion on how to do this. Prayer, meditation, thought, action, or stillness. My vote is for stillness of the mind. I suggest we simply listen to the wind as my ancestors might have said. I call it, “Openly Sensing Life.”
Have you ever had a sudden distraction and thought, “Oh! I need to call so-and-so immediately.” You had no reason to think that thought, but when you called, you realized that person needed you in some way. You intuitively responded to that voice within. Most parents can share examples of this happening about their children more than once. You openly sensed your Life with a capital “L.” I suspect that is where we find ourselves at this point. We are anxious and feeling fidgety about nothing at all; but is it about nothing at all?
Every single one of us is capable of listening and openly sensing life. It requires us to set aside what we so righteously “know.” It requires us to be humble in those moments when we open ourselves to that life sensation. It requires us to set aside our historical and cultural knowledge so that we may be surprised by what we hear. It requires us to breathe peacefully, allowing all the troubles of our lives with the lower-case “l” to dissipate if only for those few minutes.
My suggestion is that this action is not just for one’s own well-being. It is for the global well-being also. When we open ourselves to the forthcoming message from within, we are better able to receive that message. It may help guide us to the growth we seem so ready to embrace.
Some will call this listening for the voice of God. Some will say it is the vibration of global consciousness. People will have many things to call this process. It doesn’t matter how you name it as long as you participate. When a majority of us open ourselves to this voice, we will likely hear how we fit into this important process of growth, and may even discover how we can become more actively involved in this shift.
Of course, there will be people who reply with, “Phooey!”
That’s fine. You who choose not to take part are certainly entitled to express your free will anyway you want. Those who do participate will find answers to questions we may never have known were there. We may find new ways to love and new ways to welcome others into the process.
However one chooses to look at this process, know that it is happening with or without him or her. We will see these changes happen whether we drag our feet, join hands with others who encourage this process, or simply stand by and watch.
So as we approach 2012, listen to what the wind tells you, and as you do, I wish you a happy, abundant, and productive New Year, full of unity, good health, and joy.
I simply want to wish each reader and family a happy holiday season, no matter what or how you celebrate. Whether you…
Welcome the increasing light each day with the advent of the Earth-old Winter Solstice by dancing around a bonfire…
Remember the rededication of the Second Temple during the Revolt of the Maccabees in the 2nd Century B.C.E. with the Festival of Lights, Chanukah…
Celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior, in Bethlehem 2,011 years ago…
Celebrate the dynamic strength of family, community, and culture with Kwanzaa…
Or, simply enjoy the jolly old elf, Santa Claus, and all he represents,
Our family wishes you and your family a season full of joy enough to make your face hurt from smiling, laughter enough to make your belly ache, love and unity enough to make your heart and life feel radiantly warm and incredibly abundant, and peace enough to freely enjoy all of the above in their fullness.
Blessings and Love to you all!
The Glica-Hernandez Family
Although I rarely post about my dreams, this one has really stuck with me this morning. It was a vivid dream and in such detail that I cannot get it out of my mind. The bizarre quality of the dream leaves me distressed.
I dreamed that I was delivering medications to the top of Mt. Shasta for my late father, Floyd, who was a pharmacist. I don’t know to whom I was delivering the prescriptions, but we made repeated trips, so I assume there were several people there. My husband, David, was driving us up a snowy, extremely curvy road to the pinnacle in my old, blue 1963 Ford Fairlane 500 Stationwagon. We were driving very fast, but it didn’t feel dangerous to me. We made several trips up this 14,000′ mountain. As we got to the top of the mountain on one of the trips, it looked like I could reach out the window and touch the craggy rock outside my car window. I asked David stop the car; as he did so, I got out, and started climbing up the rocks to the peak. There was a little snow along my path, and my late cat, Angelique, a long-haired, grey Persian mix, scampered up with me. I remember thinking to myself that I’d better be careful or I’d fall. Immediately, I realized that I was not at all afraid. Considering that in my wakeful life, I am very nervous about great heights, I was surprisingly fearless. I smiled endlessly as I climbed, and felt a peaceful elation at ascending this amazing apex and seeing this thrilling vista.
The scene cut away to a ski lodge about halfway down the mountain that was in the middle of a small, snowy village that had narrow streets, a row of connected, wooden buildings on either side of the street. This particular village, to which I have never been in my waking life, has shown up in many of my dreams. Frequently in my dreams, my mother resides in this village. While at the lodge, my late mother approached me in the company of other women who may have been her late cousins, looking strong and healthy. Mom demanded that I stop making the trip up the mountain. I told her that I was fine and that I wanted to return. She insisted that I not make the trip again, and I agreed, thinking to myself that I would go when I want to go. I was clearly trying to appease my beloved mother. She was particularly agitated about what she was saying, though. The thought kept crossing my mind that I wasn’t sure why she was so adamant in her remarks.
In several other parts of this dream, I was newly teaching in a boarding school in McCloud, at the base of Mt. Shasta in Northern California, with a huge number of children. I remember only that we were setting the table with mismatched silverware, dishes, and glasses, for a larger group than we had anticipated. The children were rude and paid no attention to the rules. I kept thinking, “These children are not anything like my wonderful students.”
In another period of my dream, in my bedroom at the school, I had a porcelain wash basin, the type used with a pitcher during the Wild West era, in which I was washing myself. I had a large growth on my upper left forehead that looked like a large pimple. I pulled at the white head on the growth and an encapsulated sac came out leaving an open hole to my skull. It was painless, but I kept worrying that I was at risk for infection with a gaping wound in my head. Usually very attentive to issues like this, I felt particularly calm, but couldn’t help wondering what the sac was and why I was remaining so peaceful.
The setting of my entire dream was in my hometown region of Southern Siskiyou County. Although I have never climbed Mt. Shasta, in my dream the peak looked surprisingly similar to this photograph, if there was a road immediately below the craggy outcroppings. I don’t know what the dream means, but I felt compelled to write about it.
All yesterday afternoon, I smelled something that had the aroma of a dead mouse. Considering we live a quarter mile from an expanse of fields, it is common for us to hear and even see mice scampering in our house and around our yard. Sometimes, our traps catch them. We then follow our noses to the carcasses, and we have to take them outside to the garbage. This time, however, was different.
The smell permeated the house and I could not pinpoint the source of the malodorous stench. At about 9:30 PM, watching television, something suddenly said, “Go check the stove.” Without thinking I got up, and there on the far right face of the stove was one knob turned slightly to the left. The gas had been on all afternoon in a house with two smokers. Thankfully, we don’t smoke in the house. Thankfully, we regularly keep the doors open to get cross-ventilation and to let Diego, our dog, wander in and out. Thankfully, there was not enough gas escaping through the patio door to cause an explosion when we lit a cigarette on the lanai. Thankfully, we hadn’t closed up the house for bed yet to go to sleep. Thankfully, the three of us didn’t die last night.
What inspired me to check the stove? Not one time during the day had I even considered that what I smelled was gas. David had stopped smelling it completely, which is scary enough to think about. The truth is that if I had not gotten up to check in the kitchen, we could have just as easily closed the patio and bedroom doors to the outside, turned off the lights, and slept with the gas filling our house all night long. We have great neighbors, so I know that when they hadn’t heard or seen us for a couple of days, they would have called the police. Likely, had the cell phone or home phone rung, they wouldn’t have had a question as to where we were; our house may have gone up like a nuclear explosion. David, Diego, and I would have been nothing but a memory.
As often happens to many of us, there was a wee voice that whispered in my ear that pushed the alarm button and sent me to the right place to avoid tragedy. Many parents can relate the experience of “knowing something is wrong with my child.” The experiences have no basis in knowledge, though. They are our intuitive leaps that keep us connected to our loved ones. Perhaps, they are the voices of those who have left our planet who act as our guardian angels protecting us, whispering to us to keep us safe. In this case, it feels like my mother guided me to get out of my comfortable bed to find the source of danger. Her voice alone would get me to do what I did not want to otherwise do.
Some may say that I am being melodramatic in the “what if” contemplation of yesterday’s alternative events. They may be right; however, we read about events just like this in the news. Could this morning have been very different for our family and friends?
The voices we hear, whether we believe that they are our family members from beyond the grave, our astute intuition, or simply our active imagination, are often the source of life-changing opportunities to alter the future. This was just such an example. Once again, I have an opportunity to express my gratitude for another day of loving and living, and that my family continues to be well. I have learned over the years to listen to that small voice and yesterday was a testament to that fact. Without reckoning the reasonability of my actions, I got up to check the stove, and my family is now alive to tell the story.
Once, 30 years ago, my former wife was sleeping in the living room with my children, taking a nap in the middle of a hot day with the air conditioning running. I arrived home from work to an horrific smell in the house. For some reason, I immediately recognized the smell as gas. I went to the kitchen, turned off the stove, and revived my wife and children. They had likely passed out from the gas since my ex-wife has no sense of smell. They awoke feeling “weird.” Within a few weeks, we had completely changed over to all electric appliances.
I believe everything is for a reason, even if it is simply the reason we give it. The purpose I see in this event reminds me that I am still connected with those I love who have gone before me to find their place in the larger Universal order. I recall that I must remain focused on my journey here to serve those who need me. Finally, I must live in gratitude to God for my life, always looking forward, because without warning, it could all just end.
According to Dictionary.com, a theocracy is defined as:
“A form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler,
the God’s or deity’s laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities.”
A republic, on the other hand, is identified in that same source as:
“A state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is
exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.”
What would one call a government that is elected by the people, but is governed by the tenets of religiosity? Might it be a theorepublic or a theodemocracy?
The orthodoxy of this particular form of government relegates the beliefs of nonbelievers or those who believe differently to second class citizenship under this rule, and would force everyone to live under the governmental belief system as the rulers and their religious advisors divine as appropriate. The United States thankfully does not fall under this category… yet.
There are those who would invite us to live according to Christian dogma and patterns because the believers are convinced that through governmental intervention, citizens will be saved from their sins and go to heaven. Because they are called to minister to those nonbelievers, their intention is to create a society that reflects these healing and saving traditions. It is clear that their intentions are good. The challenge is that these well-intended people are missing a basic American conviction that the laws of the land are meant to serve all people, of every race, creed, and tradition with respect and freedom, without regard at the legislative level to any religious beliefs.
In the Middle East, several forms of this religious-based legal system are in place. In Turkey, Mali, and Kazakhstan, Islamic religious leaders are welcomed to guide the legislators in the development of their sharia-based laws. In places like Afghanistan, Morocco, and Malaysia, sharia law takes a larger, but blended role. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, sharia law is the strict foundation of the governmental and legal systems.
Israel, although not a true theocracy, has many of the trappings of this type of government, including granting automatic citizenship only to Jewish individuals, and ensuring this system has many halakhic qualities.
Roman Catholics have Vatican City, a city-state ruled by the pope. Even in America, Catholic priests were threatening excommunication of legislators that voted against church teachings regarding abortion, marriage equality, and the death penalty. Geneva was a near-theocracy with Lutheranism leading its government. The exiled Tibetan government is overseen by the Dalai Lama. Even in United States history, the region from Colorado to the California Coast was identified as the State of Deseret by the Mormons until that area was incorporated into the United States by the Treaty of Hidalgo.
The concept of theorepublicanism or theodemocracy is not new. We can certainly see the revisitation of this concept today in our campaigns. A quality has developed to the language of those desirous of elected office to couch their beliefs in more acceptable terms; however, let there be no misunderstanding: In the same way as when “those people” were not welcome to move into the neighborhood, or when segregated areas were identified for individuals who did not meet certain standards of color, religion, or tradition, we are seeing an upsurge in exclusionary focus. This cannot be healthy or wise for the United States. We must look to people who are inclusive, both in language and action, to lead us forward. Intelligence, wisdom, and strength must be the only qualities that guide us.
When one hears individuals such as Barack Obama and Rudolph Giuliani, and others of their quality speaking to all the people in the country, regardless of identification, one has hope that we will see the light of day with our drive toward a theorepublic.
James Madison offered a speech in 1789 regarding the developing Bill of Rights, one of which was intended to secure the rights of all Americans in practicing their religion or not practicing any religion. In that speech, Madisons said:
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”
Inasmuch as an individual has the freedom and right to espouse, speak about, and act on their beliefs in their own lives, we also have the responsibility, based on our Constitution, to ensure that no one group dictates the religious beliefs or practices of another American citizen. A theodemocracy is antithetical to the very structure of our government and anyone who suggests it should be otherwise should be seen as misunderstanding our way of American life. We must depend on those leaders who ask the question, “What did our founding fathers intend for our people,” rather than, “What does my religion require me to do?” For those who practice a strong orthodoxy, this is admittedly a terrific challenge; however, to hold an elected office, there can only be one answer that will truly benefit the American people. After all, they were elected to uphold our Constitution, not our holy books.
Since I was a young boy, I have always questioned my faith. I was reared Roman Catholic, playing the organ and singing in the choir, and devoutly serving as an altar boy. I always loved my Catholicism; however, I also wondered what else was out there. I innately knew there were many doors available, and that others chose some of the myriad doors. This awareness was enhanced by my father who was a former Catholic and thereafter an agnostic. My challenge is that I am finding it increasingly difficult to hear people speak of their traditions as exclusively correct, not just for them, but for others as well.
In the 1960s, my mother taught me that other religions were not the right ones for us. How she knew that, I never fully understood until I was older and realized that this was what the church taught us to believe. Even as I became an adult and realized that there was no room for me as I was, in my fullness as a whole human being, I never stopped loving the church; I just could not go back. Today, we are told that as gay people, we can participate in the church, but that we must confess our sins and promise to abstain from the activities with those we love specified by the church. Certainly, that is not consistent with what I know of God, so I had to move forward in my search.
Christianity is the predominate overarching faith in the United States. That is not true in other regions such as Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Near East. They believe in other traditions that, to them, are just as valid as Christianity is to the majority of Americans. In fact, there are more people worldwide who believe in their various Eastern and folk religions than believe in Judaism, the founding tradition of the Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam, the largest groups of faith on the planet . Some researchers indicate that Islam has overtaken Catholicism as the number one specific religion in the world .
I have meandered my way through Eastern religions, New Age philosophies, ancient religions, native traditions, and other belief systems. I have read, discussed, meditated, and prayed my way to this moment. All I know for certain is that there is a Greater Spirit, one that has many, many names. This spirit connects us all in love and unity. I believe that sin and hell do not exist. I believe that we live in the constant light of God. I believe our fears cause us to choose to turn our backs on the light; to ignore that radiance eternally emanating through the door before, during, and after this human existence. This is why we sometimes perceive evil and live in the shadows. I believe that all paths lead to God, because God has given us every opportunity to remember who we truly are in unity with the Universe. We learn by example and we learn by contrast. I believe we have many teachers and that all our teachers are sent from God, even the ones that scare us the most. Perhaps, the ones that scare us or bring up anger in us are our best teachers, because like pain from an injury, they call us to focus on where our fears exist.
These beliefs are mine and mine alone. I do not expect anyone else, let alone everyone else, to believe what I believe. If others condemn me for my faith, they can contemplate why they do so. That is not my job. If others feel joy or growth through my awareness of my faith, all the better. I have accepted that I will always question the structure of my faith, but I suspect that my faith itself will be everlasting.
Perhaps in my questioning, I have walked through the door that was meant for me, the door of a seeker of knowledge and wisdom. I believe everyone has a job to do on this planet, and one of my jobs is to ask questions out loud. I can’t possibly have the answers for anyone else, but that is fine with me because I am not walking another person’s path. I can only find my peace, my truth, and my unity with others in my own way, celebrating others’ light along the way. To me, that is consistent with my faith and the God I believe in.
So, I offer my little prayer of thanksgiving to those who have been my teachers, friends and challengers alike, for they have given me opportunities to find happiness. I am grateful to not tolerate, but celebrate the paths of my brothers- and sisters-in-light. I continue to welcome new thought, new wisdom into my life, brought by generous souls, whether they are aware of the gifts they bring or not. I remain aware that I still have an inconceivably long journey ahead of me to understand God. These are the gifts I receive from God for which I am so very thankful. For those who insist on others believing as they do, I ask you this: How did you choose your door?
 Wikipedia (2011) “Major Religious Groups” Wikipedia. Retrieved July 15, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups
 Rizzo, Allesandra (2008, March 31) “Muslims ‘overtake’ Catholics, become world’s largest religion.” National Geographic. Retrieved July 15, 2011 from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080331-AP-islam-largest.html