As we settle into a new year and slowly digest the feasibility of our “2015 Resolutions”, let’s take a moment to question how the word “resolution” can set us up for failure and to explore how our individual goals relate to the rapid advancement in human evolution we’re now experiencing. Rather than focusing on losses and gains in 2014 and hopes and fears for 2015, I find myself reflecting on the large scale acceleration toward universal human consciousness, a trajectory that’s gaining momentum like never before in the history of our planet (except for maybe 80,000 years ago, but we’ll get to that later…).
Now back to my criticism of “resolutions” for a moment. From a coaching standpoint, the word is limited in its perspective and framing, which is why fewer than 10% of all stated resolutions actually stick all year long. By saying “I resolve to x,y,z…”, we leave out the all important elements of intention and relationship to personal values, driving forces behind those who are able to manifest and sustain a desired behavior change. When we’re too vague or too specific in our “resolutions”, we don’t allow wiggle room for the many ways in which they could manifest nor do we connect a value basis for why this should happen. Thirdly, “resolutions” are more likely to succeed when we connect them to our personal strengths, which motivate sustained effort and progress toward a goal. And last but not least, goals, resolutions, whatever you may call them, are MUCH more likely to be achieved if we write them down and re-visit them regularly. Do with that what you will. :)
This time of year more than thinking about goals, I find my mind wandering to my dad and the conversations I’d love to have with him while sitting outside on the porch drinking coffee together in the morning as we both loved to do.
My father was a hardworking entrepreneur who loved to forecast trends he thought would happen in the future. In short, he was a visionary. He described the cellular phone market and many facets of telecommunication to me years before they existed. In the 1980’s he predicted large universities from all over the world would broadcast lectures to share with one another, that everyone would have a cellular phone as small as the palm of their hand and that we’d all have a small ID chips embedded in our wrists that held our identity and even our credit card strip so we could scan our wrists to make transactions (that last one is a bit scary but not impossible). Dad passed away on January 19, 2003, 12 years ago today. What I wouldn’t give to sit down with him today and talk about how he sees our world, our shifting global perspective, and what he predicts will happen in the next 50 years. I can only imagine what he’d have to say…
“Hard Work, Honesty, and Good Luck”
“Success is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” –Colin Powell
My father’s father, Naseep Thomas, came to the United States from Lebanon on June 10, 1912 on a vessel named Tollbridge. My grandfather Naseep worked with his father John Thomas (my father was named after him) as a dry goods merchant for many years after they settled near the East Texas town of Tyler. They worked very hard and were honest businessmen, developing a reputation of being reliable and friendly immigrants in East Texas. They would often travel as much as 30 miles a day, peddling lace and other dry goods, and “saving every penny”. It was a significant moment for the family when my great grandfather John Thomas had saved enough to invest in a horse and buggy for his business so he could then travel farther and carry more than he could on foot.
My grandfather Naseep and his siblings all developed the same hardworking and honest traits their father and mother had taught them, and he also saved every penny. Popee (as we called him) also grew up to be a calculated and savvy businessman. Without his father knowing, my grandfather saved enough to make a small investment in an East Texas oil well. Popee was so terrified from the time he committed his money until the moment they learned it would be a successful well, that he fled town to stay with relatives in El Paso, fearing his father would punish him for being careless with their hard-earned livelihood if the investment failed. Luckily my grandfather’s intuition (or luck as he said) served him, and- although not an extravagant revenue source- it represented the first time his family was able to live without fear of not being able to put food on the table. And so began a tradition of honor and gratitude in my family for the fruits of the earth and its natural resources, particularly oil and gas from East Texas.
What would my father have to say today if we could talk about the fact that that the consequences of good fortune many have seen from the oil and gas industry and that first carried his father out of poverty is now linked to the question of whether or not humans will roam the earth two centuries from now? What would he say about carbon emissions increasing at a rate of 2% per year, contributing to the highest concentrations of greenhouse gases on earth in 800,000 years, and now changing global weather patters?
Perhaps we’d talk about how “excellence has outdone itself” in our global quest to extract more and more fossil fuels from the earth to support a growing population and consumer driven economy that has made unsafe the air we breath, causing global icecaps to melt and our oceans to rise at an unprecedented rate. What would Dad invest in or imagine we could create given our new technology in renewable energy sources?
(p.s. If you want to read more on the science but from a source that is not too excessive or dry, check out the U.K. Royal Society’s “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes.” It’s clear and accessible and includes common questions like, “If the world is warming, why are some winters and summers still very cold?” and “How fast is sea level rising?”)
“Live By Your Word”
“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” –Joseph Pristley
Dad never wanted to rely on email as a means of doing business, and in 2003, he saw things headed that direction. Dad loved people, and he feared a reliance on email would take away from the value of doing business with a handshake, a phone call, or the all important face-to-face conversation. He was right. Even though Dad predicted the rapid progression toward cellular phones use for mobile communication (he used to carry a chunky “Zack Morris” original banana phone in his car), he’d likely be both astonished and downtrodden by the way we rely so heavily on email, text messaging, and other forms of technology to communicate big ideas with one another. Given that an estimated 60-90% of communication is non-verbal, messages being primarily conveyed through other cues including body language and vocal elements, I believe Dad’s resistance to email and electronic-based communication as a primary means of doing business was correct. It would be MOST entertaining to join Dad in making fun of my brother, who is easier to get in touch with via Facebook messenger than a phone call! (granted, it is his job). J
I recently had a meaningful conversation with a friend and former colleague from my work with international non-profit Health Care Without Harm. Many of their employees and contractors work from their home offices all over the world, getting together a few times a year for conferences and group planning. The nature of their work almost requires it, developing environmental health programs for hospitals nationally and implementing them regionally. She mentioned that although her position has been quite rewarding, she was realizing how hard it has been for her to work in the virtual world: she and her co-workers across the country are collaborating on important, world changing projects together, yet they desire the ability to connect with one another face-to-face more often than is feasible. She mentioned that a couple of her colleagues were battling autoimmune illnesses and said, “I can’t help but wonder if the stress of this virtual workplace has contributed to their disease.”
An intelligent client and I were also talking the other day when she reflected on the difference in communication styles between her oldest son in his early thirties and her youngest son in his mid-twenties. The younger one is involved in online media and constantly using text messages and Facebook for information exchange and as a means of relational communicating. She said her older son prefers communication similar to her own style- face to face or over the phone. She paused for a moment and asked me directly, “I wonder if this is changing us- as in humans?” The short answer is…yes, it is.
My father died before I began building my “nursing tool belt” and before the many recent advances in the fields of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and epigenetics we’ve experienced over the past 12 years. If he were here, I’d love to talk to him about the field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)- the study between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the body. Our bodies are “Living Matrices”, energy fields that absorb and emit information from every other field they encounter, whether it be people, animals, food, or our environments. It is true that my friend’s theory about the potential of autoimmune disease to evolve from a solitary work environment is absolutely possible. We all notice how our encounters with certain people fill us with energy and we feel a synergistic “heart flutter” when spending time with people who make us happy. And other times we feel energy drains from encounters, where our gut becomes heavy and we experience the need to distance ourselves from someone. Again, I am in awe of advances in scientific research over recent years that offer insight to the evolution of our species and confirm the intuitive thoughts we may or may not have had about human nature and our interactions with one another.
And to answer my client’s question with one small piece of evidence- communication channels that rely more heavily on social media and an overload of information rather than our previously exclusive face-face talks, handwritten letters, and phone calls distract from a phenomenon many successful businesspeople learn known as “hypercommunication”, or the ability to access information from intuition- outside of his or her personal knowledge base. Stress, anxiety, and a hyperactive brain are known to prevent hypercommunication.
Nature illustrates hypercommunication in countless ways as a means of survival. Take for example ants, where hypercommunication is woven into daily existence. When the queen ant is physically removed from her colony, the other ants continue to build according to the plan. However, if the queen ant is killed even while not in the colony, all the ants from her colony become aimless and the work instantly halts.
No matter how much or little we must rely on electronic communication in our relationships and working life, let us never forget the critical need for human touch, for looking someone in the eye and telling them how you care for them, and for listening to the whispers of your own “Living Matrix”- hinting toward something out of balance, words left unsaid, or appreciation for honoring your innate intuition.
Life Force Energy
“A human being falsely identifies himself with his physical form because the life currents from the soul are breath-conveyed into the flesh with such intense power that man mistakes the effect for a cause, and idolatrously imagines the body to have life of its own.” -Paramahansa Yoganada, Autobiography of a Yogi
During the 2010-2011 Winter Break from my Masters in Community/Public Health Nursing, I visited Belize to volunteer with a team of midwives in the San Ignacio Community Hospital. It was incredible to witness the miracle of childbirth within this cultural and medical realm- how little modern medicine intervened during what is considered a natural part of life. Ibuprofen was given for labor pains, we monitored the mother and baby’s vitals, and provided emotional support to the moms, but other than these minimal interventions, I basically helped the midwives keep our patients and their families as comfortable as possible until delivery. The births I witnessed were beautiful, emotional, and miraculous. The experience for these families was also a radical contrast to those I’ve observed in the U.S.
Don’t get me wrong, when (if) the time comes for me to have a baby, I’ll be significantly relieved to know that the options of having an epidural or emergency C-section should I need them would be immediately available. But I still recall with reverence the purity of my experience in San Ignacio- and my rejuvenated awe for our physiological “life force energy” toward optimal functioning- without modern medical interventions.
The human body is not a mere mass of organs and bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments, arteries and veins, hormones and neurotransmitters. Each of us is a brilliant, perfectly choreographed orchestra, an energetic field with billions of atoms, seamlessly and constantly balancing input and output information from the world outside our field and our unconscious mind within. Coming from someone who took “physics for poets” during undergrad, this new respect for Quantum Physics has been a significant shift. But it means everything to me as a nurse, a coach, and a yogi, and in dealing with some of my own health issues (hypothyroidism and Celiac Disease). I began nursing school with a strong desire to help “fix” those suffering from disease and under the impression that modern medicine offered all the tools and research needed to do this; I now lovingly embrace the absurdity of my preconceived notion.
The process of combining integrative wellness coaching with nursing honors the life force energy within each of us. It turns the prescriptive notion of “provider as expert” on its back. Instead it shifts the paradigm to prioritize intuitive wisdom of each individual as the expert in co-creating a plan of care. It asks what optimal health looks like for each person and defines our real and imagined boundaries for getting there. Coaching is about connecting with heart, offering support for the journey, and guiding clients to be present with what is before collaboratively moving forward. It challenges reductionist diagnoses by getting us out of our heads and into our bodies and by exploring the relationship of symptoms to source. It honors the impact of body, mind, spirit, and environment on our whole health and recognizes that humans are living systems and relational beings. “Health” isn’t static, and it doesn’t happen by checking all the boxes on your insurance wellness survey.
In February of last year, I was fortunate enough to meet a nurse who utilized the concepts of Emotional Intelligence and our Living Matrix in her own work, introduced me to psychoneuroimmunology, and who applied the concepts of integrative wellness into an evidence-based systems perspective by looking at how health is generated or impaired by our work environments. She’s also outlined the template for business owners to link ROI measures with investment in the “health” of their workforce (and work processes). Her name is Kim Adams, and her business is Triskele Collaborative. I am thankful to be working with Triskele as their Integrative Wellness Consultant “hub”.
I would give almost anything to be able to talk to my dad about Triskele and how he sees its potential to impact sustainable business practices through Energy Management and Leadership Optimization, Lean Process Improvement, and of course, Integrative Wellness Coaching. Dad himself would probably hire us to evaluate his work process and help him quiet the inner voice that always told him to do more, go faster, work harder. He’d often tell me during our annual summer vacations to Florida that he wished he knew how to “turn it off” when it came to constantly thinking about business. He’d likely agree when I say it was his greatest asset and also his greatest weakness.
Out of the cave, Into the light
“The most exciting breakthroughs of the twenty-first century will not occur because of technology, but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.” – John Naisbitt
Toward the end of my trip to Belize, I took a phenomenal spelunking tour through the Actun Tunichil Muknal (Cave of the Crystal Sepulchre). Our tour guide was an indigenous Belizean who could trace his Mayan roots back over 14 generations. After swimming through the underwater entrance into the cave, our guide asked the group to hold hands, close our eyes, and walk together through waist-high waters into the dark cavernous mouth. Ancient Mayans believed caves to be a mystical portal between the world of the living and the underworld of spirits and the deceased. We reached a point after about ten minutes of walking when the guide told us to open our eyes. Pitch-black darkness surrounded us in that cold wet den, and one tiny crack of sunlight peaked through the ceiling of the cave overhead.
At the end of our tour, I asked our guide if he thought the world was going to end on December 21, 2012 as the Mayan Calendar predicted. He explained that Spanish invasions had ruined any Mayan calendars prophesying events after this date, which is part of the reason why eschatological theories predicted that to be the end of humanity. Although he said he didn’t believe our world would a year from then, he did say his Mayan ancestors unequivocally predicted that this date symbolized a global shift in consciousness, or a universal spiritual awakening in mankind.
Three years later enmeshed in the reality that is climate change, I am coming to terms with the Mayan Prophecy. And I choose to focus on the silver linings of this global shift. In many ways we are adapting to new ways of living consciously. We are coming together in interdisciplinary teams to examine the ways in which our “excellence has outdone itself” in technology that shifts the way we interact and communicate, in our ability to extract and manipulate Mother Earth’s resources, and ways of live that rob us of “whole health”. We are examining what feeds not only our physical bodies, but our minds and spirits, understanding “health” to be all of life. We are recognizing that “progress” is worthless if it moves us away from the life-giving force that is love and the spiritual glue that are community and faith. We are shifting paradigms from the merits of consumerism and introspection toward a discussion of what is feeds us as planet, toward “The Power of Outrospection”, and why this “One Mind” as Dr. Larry Dossey frames it, is critical to our survival like never more.
This universal spiritual awakening necessitates that we tune out of the incessant hum of our frenetic lives so we can tune in- to the wisdom of our bodies, to nurturing our relationships, to the beauty of the natural world. These lessons are timeless and free, yet so often we avoid them, clinging to our own ego and agendas… I know that Dad would remind me of these things through his words and more importantly, his actions. By time spent fishing and BBQ’ing and savoring the last bit of every sunset- and in his appreciation and joy of all the little things that make life worth living.
Is Evolution Repeating Itself on a Global Scale?
“It is paradoxical, yet true, to say, that the more we know, the more ignorant we become in the absolute sense, for it is only through enlightenment that we become conscious of our limitations. Precisely one of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects.” –Nikola Tesla
Research of the mitochondrial DNA of Ancient Africans suggest that a rapid expansion of cognitive capacity in the humans living in eastern or southern Africa took place between 80,000 and 60,000 years ago may have helped our ancestors move out of Africa and into Europe and Western Asia, beginning the shift toward global colonization. These brain mutations also coincided with significant environmental shifts happening at the same time: a period of rapid climate change when rainfall varied by up to 50% annually.
“It would, in short, be possible to see changes in human technology, subsistence, settlement patterns, and associated patterns of communication as a fairly direct response to the new environmental challenges that emerged at this time,” says Paul Mellars, professor of prehistory and human evolution at the University of Cambridge in England. He states that one likely trigger for our rapid cognitive and cultural advances in human evolution was climate change. Changes in rain patterns and environmental shifts may have forced humans to develop new technologies as they searched for viable food sources in efforts to survive.
We are currently exposed to as much information in one single day as our Neanderthal ancestors were in their entire lives 60,000 years ago. We’ve been forced to expand our cognitive capacity and invent new technologies in response to rapidly changing physical, cultural, and sociological environments. And now climate change is accelerating this shift even more. The concepts of Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Load Theory are both relevant in navigating our way forward down the path of human evolution.
In his book One Mind Dr. Larry Dossey shares a private conversation with physicist David Bohm as they exchanged ideas on universal meaning and the mind’s role in healing (Bohm gained international recognition in the 20th century for his theory of unitary consciousness through a perspective of modern physics). Larry says he asked Bohm about his opinion of the future of humankind, saying “Do you think we’ll make it?” to which Bohm paused intently before replying, “Yes. Barely,” (p. 33).
My 2015 Intention: SPREAD LOVE
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” –MLK, Jr.
While reveling in the glow of fireworks and champagne with friends and my boyfriend on a rooftop party 19 days ago, a stranger approached me smiling. Before I could say anything, he’d given me a huge hug, put his hands on my shoulders and looked me in the eye to say, “You are beautiful. You are beautiful because you are so full of love and joy, I can just see it radiating from your smile. Please, SPREAD LOVE in 2015! This is the year to spread love.” I thanked him and promised, “In 2015, I will spread love.” I think he continued sharing this message with everyone on the rooftop, but I appreciated his words wholeheartedly. This is the year to SPREAD LOVE!!!
In her book Kitchen Table Wisdom Dr. Rachel Remen reflects on our obstacles to “spreading love”: “Perfectionism is the belief that life is broken…[It] is so widespread in this culture that we actually have had to invent another word for love. “Unconditional love,” we say. Yet, all love is unconditional. Anything else is just approval.” (p. 47).
In coaching we call it “unconditional positive regard”, the ability to see people as their best self, particularly when they can’t remember who their “best self” is at the moment. Or perhaps they’ve never experienced their best self? This is also why I wanted to become a nurse- I am my most authentic self when I see and love people in their best light, perfect as they were created to be at every moment. We are so judgmental of ourselves and of others, whether consciously or unconsciously. The ego is a part of survival at its core; so no matter where we are in our personal evolution and in our awareness of judgment and biases, as humans the ego still permeates some part of our psyche while we are on earth.
My parents had three children together, and I was the eldest. My mom told when I was born, my dad looked at her said, “I finally understand what you were talking about- about ‘unconditional love’. There is nothing this little girl can say or do that will every make me love her less than I do at this moment. She is perfect. My love for her is perfect.”
If Dad were here today, I would relish in talking to him about the frequency of the spirit— how three years after many thought mankind would end its time on planet earth that we are learning everyday how we (ALL of us!) are capable of more than we ever thought or imagined possible. And we are also recognizing the temptation for “Excellence to outdo itself” in our evolution. We have learned to re-ignite thousands year-old practices such as mindfulness, yoga, looking toward nature to design progress, and slowly removing our egos from self-imposed silos to remember our universal purpose.
As a nurse and cheerleader for environmental health, I often forget how little is required of me to heal: many times the only requirements are that I step away from self-judgment and the guilt of feeling like I should always being doing more, and to simply spread love. My intention in 2015 is to spread love, to view myself and others in that perfect light of unconditional love every single one of us deserves. To live in the joy of unconditional love my Dad felt when he first saw his children, which was given to him from his parents and from our Creator. As we move forward toward the global transition of “One Mind” and intentional living, let us not hold back in our desire to SPREAD LOVE- in how we view ourselves and one another, in honoring the limits of earth’s finite natural resources, and in appreciation for our time on this planet, which is if nothing else, is finite and precious.
“During extraordinary historical moments…the usual categories dividing ‘activists’ from ‘regular people’ became meaningless because the project of changing society was so deeply woven into the project of life. Activists were, quite simply, everyone.” -Naomi Klein for The Nation, October 6, 2014