The Right Question

 

How many times do we ask the wrong question? How do we know when we are asking the right question? Is there a way to know when we could be asking a better question?

Last night a friend shared a story about a young man who broke into a woman’s home and attacked her and her child with a PVC pipe. The random act of violence generated the following questions and statements:

Why did he do it?

Wonder if he was on drugs?

I bet he’s mentally ill.

See, they should ban PVC.

I read the story and my first thought was, “I wonder what demons he was facing that led him to commit such an atrocity?”

While I’m glad that was my first thought and not, “What a scumbag!” I must admit that it might not be the right question. I mean it’s a good question, but is it the best question?

What if instead of wondering what was wrong with the young man, I instead asked, “What is wrong with our society?” I mean why do I want to put the blame on this man instead of on myself? Isn’t the right question the question that figures out what it is in our world that is failing others? Something isn’t working here. We have too many people using drugs. We have too many people suffering from mental illness. What can I do, or better yet, what can we all do to create a loving society? How can we eradicate violence, hatred, hurt and pain?

I have never before taken the blame for acts of violence committed by others, but if we truly all are one human family–and we are–then I share responsibility for an unloving environment. I mean think about your home. If there is fighting in your home who’s fault is it?  Sure there may be one child who is more difficult than others, or who is more commonly the instigator, but doesn’t everyone in the family bear some responsibility for the disharmony? What is causing one of the children to act out? How are the other family members contributing to the lack of peace?

The right question is always the one where we all take responsibility. This approach, owning the blame, is my new barometer for knowing when I’m asking the right question. Since I can only control my actions, I must ask questions that put me in the driver’s seat.

So maybe there aren’t really any “wrong” questions, just good, better and best questions. A bad or unhelpful question is one that pushes blame or responsibility on others–or any question that separates you from the whole of humanity. A crummy question would be, “Why is he such a psychopath?”

The good or better question would be the one that demonstrates compassion, such as, “I wonder what has happened in his life that has caused him to hurt so much and therefore hurt others?”

The best or right question would be, “I wonder how I can help him and all others who are hurting like him meet their needs so that no one feels the need to hurt others again?

When we ask better questions, we’ll get better answers. The right question = The right answer.

Squeezing an Orange

Loved the idea Dr. Dyer conveyed today about squeezing an orange. A woman called into his daily radio show all concerned about her upcoming trip home. Her parents vex her and she sought advice on how not to let them pull her strings. She was so worried that they would bring out the worst in her.

Dr. Dyer explained what I’m going to call The Parable of Squeezing Oranges.

What do you get when you squeeze an orange? It’s impossible to get grape juice. It’s impossible to get grapefruit juice. If you squeeze an orange you get orange juice.

The same is true with people. If you are a loving, kind person, when someone squeezes you, they should get loving kindness. If they get something other than orange juice when they squeeze you, you aren’t an orange.

Here this woman was worried about how her parents would bring out the worst in her and Dr. Dyer so lovingly explained that her parents were only squeezing out what she was. If she wasn’t full of craziness, her parents wouldn’t be able to squeeze that out of her.

This concept reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ teaching about rats in the cellar. If you want to know if there are rats in a cellar you won’t find them when you are in bustling about in the cellar lights on. You are going to discover rats in the cellar when you take them by surprise. You’ve got to fling open the door when they are least prepared.

If oranges are love, then I want to produce orange juice when squeezed.

Which leads me to believe that if God is love, he can’t produce anything but love when squeezed. Which means I can never do anything to produce anything but love from Him. Which means He loves me no matter what. Whew, that’s a relief. There goes a whole lot of pressure.

squeeze an orange

the juice is sweet

squeeze my God

the love runs deep

squeeze myself

what do you see?

loving-kindness?

or bitter seeds?

The title to this poem shall be God is Love

Divergent

We watched Divergent Saturday night and I loved it! I loved the social commentary each character supplied. First, there was Triss who was born into the Abnegation faction. She never felt like she belonged there and rather longed to join the Dauntless faction. Triss’s aptitude test revealed that she didn’t belong to just one faction for she possessed Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite capabilities. The fact that she was different than the others made her dangerous as she couldn’t easily be categorized and controlled by the cookie cutter factions. Triss was advised to never divulge her divergent ways and instead choose a faction wherein to fit and thrive. Triss followed her heart, left her native faction and joined Dauntless. Triss’s decision to leave her native faction demonstrated courage, but another faction cannot be a divergent’s final destination, for like Four, divergents see the beauty in all factions and rather than join them, they rise above them and try to bring all the divisions together in one. Their goal is unity not division.

Perhaps this is why I loved the movie so much. I see myself as divergent. I find it impossible to thrive in one faction. Leaving one’s family or faction behind requires undaunted courage for true divergents become factionless as they cannot choose sides when they see the beauty in all beings, beliefs, and ways of life. We divergents want to unite not categorize. Peace, love and harmony are our battle cry.

I love that the author of Divergent chose the word faction. It reminds me of fraction. Factions cause division. Divergents refuse to divide and classify. Although factionless, they are the only ones who are not fractioned and therefore the only ones truly whole. Who better to bring everyone together than those who diverge from the fractured, factioned paths?

I am diverging for divergent am I.

Don’t Let Me Die Till I’ve Learned to Love

I was writing my post yesterday about the Universe manifesting that which we need right when we need it most and it led me down the rabbit hole of the meaning and purpose of life. I found myself having deep realizations or revelations about why we are here and what we are to accomplish. I recognized so clearly that the whole purpose of our life’s experience is to help us gain wisdom. And wisdom can be acquired in one of two ways:

  1. through personal learning–meaning we must experience insights from our own life–or
  2. through studying and observing the lives of others

And what is it we are to learn?

Love.

Patience.

Temperance.

Equanimity.

Forgiveness.

Trust.

And More. .

But above all these is Love for Love encapsulates all other virtues. And so if one lifetime is sufficient to teach us all we need to know to live perfectly in love, then one lifetime is all we will need. But personally, I believe I will never learn to love perfectly in one lifetime. Already I feel the crunch of time,  and I worry that I will never learn all that I need to learn nor glean all the wisdom I need to glean in order to be perfect.

And that is why the idea of having multiple lifetimes to learn, gain greater insights, and additional wisdom, along with practicing love is growing on me. I find it extremely comforting for it lessens the pressure to become perfect now. I am able to let go of the frantic, frenetic pace to voraciously consume one more book or implement one more idea about becoming better. Instead, it invites me to slow down, be present, and take my time. For time is never ending, and I have sufficient if this “life” “time” is just one of many.

Yes, I want to learn as much as possible from this particular “life” “time” but I need not worry about learning it all for I will have other classrooms to which I’ll be called to study. I will collectively accumulate knowledge, experience and wisdom that will bless me and others as I progress from each life to the next.

Will I ultimately one day be perfected then? I don’t know. It seems like the more perfect I become the more “perfection” moves for I’m able to see more clearly what perfection means. And so increased understanding moves my target farther yonder. Can one not see the beauty of the perfection conundrum? The better I become the more perfectly I see, therefore true perfection is always just a little out of reach–for how I now see perfection is clearly different than how I saw it before for I am different than I was before because I am seeing a little more perfectly than I was seeing before.

So perfection is like a floating bar that moves with me, ever so slightly ahead of me, as we both progress higher. I’m okay never attaining perfection for to me it is merely the pursuit of perfection that helps me more perfectly see. And it doesn’t feel like some cruel trick where some task master is keeping perfection forever out of my reach. Instead it’s a beckoning, a calling to move ever higher in a most thrilling climb where each move increases my view, it heightens my perception and elevates my perspective.

I am rambling now as these are literally brand new thoughts. They require much more thinking. Time will help me refine these ideas, but I do know I’m on to something because right now as I write my soul is singing. And when my soul sings, I’ve come to know it’s truth that rings. 

I once penned these words after making a climb atop a precipitous rock:

The higher I climb the more clearly I see. 

WOW, I think I’ll end with those powerful words. I want to ruminate a bit more so I can refine and perfect this theory I’m considering calling the paradox of perfection or the perfection paradox. Stay tuned for more.

Talked About Beliefs

Well, I just talked about beliefs and it went really well. I was pleased with where spirit directed my thoughts and with how well it was received. The audience was all nodding along and giving me out loud comments like “Amen” and “oh yes.” The real-time feedback was super fun.

I LOVE old people. First, they have so much wisdom–gleaned from time and experience. Second, they are just like little children in that they blurt out whatever they are thinking, and they talk super loudly. When I held up the picture of the old/young lady, some of the audience saw the old lady and some saw the young lady. I asked them who was right and who was wrong and it couldn’t have been

When I held up the picture of the old/young lady, some of the audience saw the old lady, and some saw the young lady. I asked them who was right, and who was wrong? It couldn’t have been more perfect because this adorable, old lady in the front row said, “There isn’t any old lady!” I said, “Well half of the audience insists there is.  Are you saying they are wrong?” She didn’t answer the question, but simply said, “I just don’t see it!”  I held up the picture higher and asked her if it would help if I bore my testimony that I knew there was an old lady in there? I said, “I testify that there is an old lady in this picture for I know this to be true.” I was being dramatic of course to make a point and the point was well made and well received.

I held up the picture higher and asked her if it would help if I bore my testimony that I knew there was an old lady in there? I said, “I testify that there is an old lady in this picture for I know this to be true.” I was being dramatic of course to make a point and the point was well made and well received.

I immediately shared Bertrand Russell’s quote about “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” And then we discussed that it is our behavior, not our beliefs that make us great. I shared the part in my blog post from yesterday about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and Jesus. It was their love that changed the world. The spirit zinged through my soul, and as I shook every single person’s hand after the sacrament meeting, many told me that was a most wonderful message and how much they loved and appreciated and agreed with it. They thanked me for helping them see something in a totally new way. It meant a lot to me to know that what has enlightened me, also enlightened them.

I closed my message by sharing my love for them and thanking them for sharing their love with me.  I enjoyed sitting up front and looking at them through the remainder of the meeting. I could see all their light. And after the meeting, I shook each and every one of their hands and asked their name and had some sort of lovely exchange. It fed my soul, and as I type this, I realize that my behavior of staying, shaking hands, and sharing compliments was what made me great today–not my words. I confessed my love in my talk, that is true, but those words were indelibly impressed upon their hearts by my actions thereafter. I did not premeditate any of the after meeting actions, and it is only now–as I write–that my heart warms with delight for I realize that I did not speak today in vain. My actions matched my message.

Talking About Beliefs

Looks like I’d better start talking about beliefs because tomorrow I’ve been asked to give a 10 min talk on honoring and staying true to your beliefs. That’s kind of an interesting topic for me to consider because personally, I believe that beliefs are fluid. They are always evolving and changing with time and experience. What I believe today is different than what I believed yesterday, and what I believe tomorrow will be different than what I believe today.

Some of my favorite thoughts on beliefs include:

I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.

~Bertrand Russell (British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist and Nobel laureate)

Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.

And of course, Morpheus is always profound:

In response to captain who said, “Not everyone believes what you believe”, Morpheus replies: “My beliefs do not require them to”

Your beliefs don’t make you a free thinker. Your ability to change your mind based on new information does.

Beliefs are interesting things. I can tell you what I believe and some of it may ring true to you and some of it may not. I may believe that BYU is the finest university with the finest collegiate teams. You, however, may believe that the U of U is.  Who is right? Who is wrong?

Here’s the reality. I grew up a die hard Cougar fan. My father bled blue, and so did my entire family, until my dad became a professor at the U of U, my brother attended graduate school there, and the Huntsman U of U Hospital saved 3 of my family members from cancer. With time and experience, our die hard belief that that the Cougars are the best has changed.  We now love the Utes just the same. Who changed?

So when it comes to beliefs, I don’t know that giving a talk telling you to “honor” or be “true” to your beliefs is really the most important message that can be given about beliefs because how do you know your belief is more valid than someone else’s? I think any worthy discussion on beliefs must begin at the beginning. One must ask, “How are beliefs born?” “What determines an individuals’ beliefs? Have you ever asked yourself that question?

Beliefs are products of our nature, nurture, culture (societal, religious, familial), life experiences, geography, etc.  Have you ever wondered how your beliefs would differ from what you hold to be true today had you been born in a remote village in Nepal, India? Would you be sitting in a Mormon Sacrament Meeting today? What if you had been born an Eskimo in Eastern Siberia? Would you believe seal blubber to be the finest delicacy on the planet and prefer the freezing cold to the infernal heat? Check out this image:

What do you see? Who is right? Who is wrong? Those who first saw the old lady, were you right? Now that you see the young lady are you wrong? Or are both of you now just “enlightened” because you all now see more. Beliefs really are lame to talk about since we don’t really see things as they are, we see them as we really are.

You see, I don’t see a whole lot of merit in discussing the importance of standing for and honoring your beliefs because frankly, I don’t think beliefs are what make people great. No, I believe that it is our behavior, not our beliefs, that make us great. And the greatest way to behave is in LOVE. Love is the sine qua non (sahy-nee kwey non) or essential ingredient in greatness. Was it Martin Luther King’s belief in racial equality that made him great or was it the way he led the civil rights movement in love that inspired a nation to change? Would his “Dream” to “Let Freedom Ring” have inspired hearts had he bombed and blasted his way to greatness? No, Martin Luther King’s legacy lives on because he led in love. Gandhi was no different. His belief in a united, free India is not what made him great? No, it was his love for his fellow man. And what of Mother Teresa? Was it her belief in the Roman Catholic faith that made her great? And the way she defended those beliefs? Or was it her loving service that made her a literal saint?

Again I ask, what makes a man or woman great? Their beliefs or their behavior? Their religion or their love? Jesus, teaching on the shores of Galilee, said, “As I have loved you, love one another.” In the Sermon on the Mount, he proclaimed, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” And again, he spoke, “The first great commandment is to Love God with all thy heart, might, mind, and strength, and the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (on these hang all the laws and the prophets)”. To which a lawyer responded, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by sharing the story of the Good Samaritan. He concluded by asking, “Who of these three was neighbor unto him who fell among thieves?” To which the lawyer responded, “He that shewed mercy on him.” Jesus responded, “Go and do thou likewise.” Isn’t it interesting that it was the Pharisees, lawyers and scribes beliefs that kept them from seeing God when he came in the flesh as their savior?” Brothers and Sisters, if we are not careful, our beliefs can likewise prevent us from seeing God in the flesh. Our brothers and sisters are all divine beings, offspring of the Most High. It isn’t our beliefs that matter. It is our love, for God is love, and are we not all god’s in training?

May our beliefs lead us to greater love and I am now done talking about beliefs! You can read how well my talk was received here.

Seattle Sites

WOW! Today was remarkable! We saw so many Seattle sites. I woke up early and went walking all over Beacon Hill. It is such a beautiful area. I read my new numerology book and found out that my Name Number is 7 and my life number is 4.  Some of the stuff was fascinating, but some of it felt pretty far fetched. It was fun nonetheless and I agreed with much of my life number, mostly because it pinned me as a mystic and spiritualist. Spot on.

When Matt woke up we called Uber and had a driver take us out to Snoqualmie Falls. It was so gorgeous. We hiked to the lower falls after viewing the upper. The funnest part was hopping the fence to climb down to the falls. It was Cinque Terra all over again. Look how great our pics turned out.

After exploring the falls, we hitch-hiked a ride to Little Mt. Si with a couple from Costa Rica and Maryland. We offered to pay them, but they wouldn’t allow it, so we shared our handmade chocolates from Mercer Island and Matt helped her restore her iphone. It was fun to get to know them.

Mt. Si was a gorgeous hike that came highly recommended. I found a cool tree with a hole in it:

and we made it to the summit where you could see Tiger Mountain and barely the top of Mt. Ranier. We were hoping to get grand views of Mt. Ranier, but Tiger Mtn was blocking it. That’s okay though, because we had some incredible views of Mt Ranier on our bike ride out to Alki Beach.

After our 4 mile hike, we asked two ladies in the parking lot that were headed to Seattle if we could grab a ride with them. They were from the Czech Republic and we insisted on paying them $20. Which was a $30 savings from our Uber driver. They told us all about their country and lives and we had the most pleasant ride. It was so fun to hitch hike around like hippies and really get to know our fellow life travelers. 

We next rode to downtown and did the Seattle Underground Tour. It was so awesome to see how this city has been built on top of itself. The first Seattle had many problems (esp with their sewage) and thank goodness it burnt to the ground (which is a great story btw). They rebuilt on top of the old city and now there is an entire city under the city and we got to walk all over it. Who knew! I learned some awesome things about Seattle that I can’t wait to share.

After the Underground Tour, we grabbed some grub at Subway and ate with the homeless. A lady needed some food so we shared and then AC came and sat with us. I tried to buy him some food, but he was just interested in some friendly conversation. It was tender. We had another opportunity to help someone at the gas station by filling up their fuel can and it made me smile to know how much we had all relied on each other today. Some people helped us by giving us rides and we in turn helped others by sharing our money and our food. The interconnectedness and brotherhood/sisterhood is endearing.

We decided to catch an uber ride home from Alki Beach as we were pretty beat. And man the beach at Alki was SO awesome! We saw people playing volleyball, sitting around bonfires visiting, dancing, walking, biking, roller blading, longboarding and more. Such a fun night life. Oh and the city skyline at dusk was divine! Seattle, I love you!

Loyalty

Today I want to write briefly about loyalty. Stephen Covey shared this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

He went on to say that what we say about others when they are not around reveals our character, integrity, and loyalty. We should never say anything about anyone that we wouldn’t want them to hear, or that we would be too ashamed or embarrassed to say in their presence. When we talk about others we should do so with the understanding that whatever we say they will eventually end up hearing–because most of the time they will. Not only does backbiting and gossip often get back to the individual, but it convinces those witnessing it that we would be just as quick to criticize them if they were not around.

I love the food for thought Covey dishes out when he queries:

When have you participated in talking about people behind their backs? What is the consequence of this behavior to your own character? to other people’s view of you? When you defend the integrity of a person who is absent, what does that say to those who are present?

The next time people within your hearing are criticizing or discussing a person who is absent , decline to participate. See what happens as a result.

I agree with Eleanor and Mr. Covey. What we say about others when they are not around says a whole lot about us. We should be loyal to other human beings and only say what we wouldn’t be ashamed to have them hear. I try valiantly to always live by this rule, but I do know I’m not perfect and therefore there is room to improve. I want to be impeccable with my word.

Still In Awe

You know those moments when your kids just blow you away? Well, that happened today! I’m still in awe. Hey, I like that statement. My original intent was to convey that I was even at this very moment in awe from what occurred earlier this evening, but I’m also sitting here very still on the couch in complete awe as I reminisce about tonight’s performances.

We’ve been in Idaho all week at the renowned Rise Up and Sing Music CampIt’s our 5th year coming here and every year my kids get better. BUT, I was not prepared for this:

Page Singing I Don’t Know My Name (click link to play)

Luke Singing Count on Me (click link to play)

Gwen Singing Tomorrow (click link to play)

I was one proud mama! It is so fun to watch your kids try something new and really exciting when they excel. I don’t know that I would have been brave enough to sing to an auditorium full of people at that age. I’m still in awe.

Apostasy and Revelation

We had an interesting lesson in Gospel Doctrine on Sunday. It was all about apostasy and revelation. I found the comments to the teacher’s question quite amusing despite the amazing ignorance.

The teacher queried:

Why do people apostacize from the church? Or what causes people to leave the church.

The answers included:

  • They’ve been offended
  • They were never fully in the church to begin with
  • They can’t live the commandments–basically, they have some secret sin(s)
  • They stop doing what they should be doing
  • It’s a sign of the times–even the very elect will be led astray
  • They’ve been deceived
  • They are proud
  • They refuse to repent
  • They can’t forgive
  • They are lazy–being a member of the church requires a lot of hard work

There were more answers, and while surely some of them may be true, I felt it was a judgmental, hypocritical, and shallow list at best. I refrained from sharing my thoughts till the very end. I guess I was secretly hoping someone else would speak up so I wouldn’t have to. Actually, I was wondering if anyone else was feeling what I was–which was embarrassment. I felt sad that no one else realized–or at least felt courageous enough to give voice to–what I think may be the number one reason people leave the church (or any native faith culture for that matter) and that is simply “they found something else that suits them better.”

Why do we have to make up sad stories about why people leave their original faith culture? Why does it have to be about sin, deception, pride, or prophecy? Why can’t it be about individuals seeking for answers and greater understanding? Why can’t it be about individuals awakening to a new spiritual path?

Why don’t we tell the story about children who inherited their parents’ beliefs and who as they grow begin to discover additional truths that serve them better? Many don’t want to leave their faith culture (it’s their culture, hello!), but their feelings of separateness intensify as they sit through lessons where they are reminded that they don’t believe as their fellow members do. And to borrow Elder Holland’s parable of the choir, perhaps after trying to sing the songs of redeeming love when the words on the sheet music supplied no longer ring true, they realize it’s time to find another choir in which to sing as they still desire to raise their voice in praises to their King.

And so raise my hand and voice did I –and boldly did I cry (haha I’m just being a dork with all my rhyming):

I think some people leave simply because they find something else that’s a better fit.

And it is–and was–just that simple. Wouldn’t it truly be wonderful if we all could love a little more and be a whole lot less judgmental? Indeed, sticking to your beliefs takes gumption, and courage, ’tis noble and commendable–but condemning and judging others for following theirs is annoyingly hypocritical.