Ego as judge

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

How often have you or someone you know said, “he thinks that just because…?” These types of expressions seem ubiquitous in our communications. Let’s think about this for a moment. When we do this, we are assuming we know the thoughts and motivations of others. Essentially, we think we can read someone’s mind, but we are actually projecting our own thoughts onto another.

 

This is the work of our pesky egos. Generally, these types of assumptions are part of a judgment or criticism. There are two problems here: we are being judge and jury with no input from the defendant and we are repeating our guilty verdict to another as though it is truth.

Why does ego do this? It’s because ego likes to be right. In order for ego to be right, it has to make the other wrong. This is the nature of the polarity thinking so characteristic of ego. Ego shares its judgments with others in order to marshall support for itself. This is the essence of gossip. It is like a toxic cloud released into the environment, be it an office, school or neighborhood. It creates division, ill will and negativity. Taken to its extreme, it is the bullying in schools that has led to student suicides. We all agree this is wrong, yet adults do it all the time. Children overhear mom in conversations where someone is being judged so they think it’s okay.

Let’s go back for a moment to the mind reading. If you have ever been in a heated discussion with a significant other and he or she said, “Oh yeah, well you think….” My guess is the person was wrong about your thoughts and you did not like it one bit. How do you defend yourself when someone assumes to know your mind better that you do? You can disagree with their assessment, saying you do not think that, and the reply is “Oh yes you do.” This is completely negating and it is a battle, not a communication.

When ego gets into judgment, it only creates negativity, conflict, distance, resentment, distrust and drama. It is not healthy for our bodies or our relationships. How do we change the patterns so we put only good energy into the world rather than the toxic kind?

It really has nothing to do with other people and what they do. It has to do with an inner commitment about the kind of person we want to be. It is about making conscious choices rather than defaulting to an unevolved ego.

If we check in with our higher wisdom, which we all have, we know which behaviours are negative or unkind. We all learned this as children when we watched Bambi and Thumper said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Our conscious choice as adults is to stop judging and criticizing others and to not talk negatively about people, particularly behind their backs. It requires courage to stop others who are doing this as well. Significantly, when we do this we raise the consciousness of those around us. Some of us – many in fact – must begin to regularly choose the high road if we are ever to evolve beyond the conflict mentality that characterizes so much of our world.

We all belong to the same tribe and every tribe needs some wise ones.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visitwww.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.

Vancouver riots can teach us about compassion

 

In the days following the June 15th Vancouver riot, I feel I have been witnessing a second riot. A verbal and written riot against the rioters in the form of name-calling, insults, degrading comments, labelling, stereotyping, demonizing and out-casting. This second riot reminds me of George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” in the sense that it is supposedly “against” something and meant to put a stop to it, but is, in fact, creating more of the same energy. What I have found disheartening is that some members of my communities are engaging in this or supporting this to varying degrees, some subtly and indirectly and others obviously and directly. If a willingness to engage in hate and violence exists, even on subtle levels, among teachers and “conscious” communities, how can we expect or even hope for positive change?

If we have decided to lead conscious lives, to take on leadership roles or to stand for values such as non-violent communication, radical inclusion, love, compassion, healing and consciousness, these values must be put into practice at all times with all people, rather than at select times with a chosen few. Perhaps a measure of whether one has truly taken on and committed to these values is by their response to challenging situations and challenging people. I’m not saying that I’m perfect, or that I manage to respond from a place of love as often as I would like to. But in the past year, I’ve become increasingly aware of this issue and have begun to observe myself and practice this. Because my own consciousness in this area has recently expanded, I’ve become more sensitive to how those around me use language, the energy dynamics that are created by it, and whether it’s coming from a place of consciousness and love or from a place of unconsciousness and fear. To move from one to the other is a choice and a practice.

We’re all at different places on our journeys, but we are all divine beings and equal members of the human family. In many ways, the rioters are our teachers, pointing to the flaws that exist in our culture and society. They also point to the darkness that exists within all of us, as well as the need to embrace it and to have safe and healthy ways of expressing, and not denying, the full range of human emotion. If we dug deeper and discovered the life stories and experiences of each and every individual rioter, if we opened our minds and hearts completely, we would find valid reasons for their actions, reasons that would make sense and that we could understand. I believe that everyone does the best they can given what they know at the time, that people who cause pain are in pain, and that when people know better they do better. The amount of love, compassion and forgiveness that we are able to extend to others is a reflection of how willing we are to look at our own faults and love ourselves.

Verbal and written insults are violence too. As Mahatma Ghandi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” If we want a non-violent world, we must practice non-violence, including the words that come out of our mouths and fingertips. I believe that we can express all of our feelings and opinions in non-violent ways and take creative and proactive steps towards healing and repairing the multi-level damage that was done, while respecting the rioters as our fellow human beings at the same time. Many great spiritual teachers and leaders throughout history have done so and were highly effective. In fact, their non-violent, positive and loving approach even toward their “enemies” is what made them powerful, timeless and unforgettable community and world leaders who created positive and lasting change.

– Celina Mikolajczyk

Growing a gastroeconomy

 

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

As we look to create greater food security by expanding regional food production, we will inevitably be drawn into new ways of making a living, something I refer to as the new “gastroeconomy.” This describes the myriad ways people can earn an income by putting more regionally produced food on the table.

There’s a great deal of room for expansion on Vancouver Island and the Coastal Islands where we currently produce no more than 5% of the food we consume. Even if we aimed at producing only 50% of our own food, we’d have a massive expansion of opportunities in the field of agriculture, both traditional and non-traditional (urban farming). There’s a lot of money to be made by growing a gastroeconomy, which not only feeds us, but also puts us on the map as a destination location for gourmet artisan foods. Once we have created the Vancouver Island Diet, everyone will benefit from the value-added spin-offs.

Making a living from the land has been given such a bad rap that many people have become skeptical about it being possible or worthwhile. Twenty years of experience has taught me not only can you make a good living from the land, but it also provides a good life. It’s hard work, which gets easier as the years go by, offering rewards over time that are well worth the effort.

Many years ago I had to come up with a name for a business, which began when I borrowed one-quarter of an acre of land from a neighbour in town to grow food for my family. “The Garden Path” was the name I chose because everything I was then doing was connected to growing plants and planting gardens. After 10 years, my organic nursery business became so well known for its spring sale of heritage food plants and quarter-acre demonstration food garden that we had to expand to two and a half acres of agricultural land, 25 minutes away. The nursery expanded, as did the garden, and I grew more seeds for my certified organic seed business Seeds of Victoria.

From 15 feet of clay fill, we created a beautiful edible landscape that inspires visitors to grow food, without a word being said. The garden provides us with fruits, herbs, flowers and vegetables year round, the majority grown with seeds we have saved. As the garden developed so did the range of educational programs and workshops offered, which eventually led to me becoming a writer and author. All this from 15 feet of clay fill!

How can we change a culture that tells our young folk it’s futile to enter the world of farming? A restructuring of the whole system might help because there is very little investment or incentives for the next generation of farmers. We will need training, education and mentorship programs to encourage more people to get involved. We could support aging farmers and keep them on their farms by providing keen, young farmers to take over their work, for which we’d only have to change a few by-laws. We’d have to rebuild a supportive infrastructure, which has all but disappeared, for cooperatives, distributors, processors and packagers. When we begin to realize it’s not only about the money, but also about a quality of life, more farmers, foragers and fisherman will jump on board to get the gastroeconomy growing.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet, a Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing). She grows ‘Seeds of Victoria’ at The Garden Path Centre in Victoria, BC. earthfuture.com/gardenpath/

Growing a relationship

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

The greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. 

– Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

If we look back over past generations, we see many areas where progress has been made. Whether we think in terms of technological change, advances in medicine, environmental awareness or human rights, we can see how things are much better than they once were. We are infinitely better off than our grandparents and great grandparents.

Ironically and surprisingly, there is one area in which little seems to have changed. That is the area of intimate relationships. Certainly, there is more equality; women work outside the home and men change diapers, but I am not talking about these things. I am referring to the patterns that occur between couples.

Communication is still often an area of difficulty. Couples still get into cycles of conflict, anger and withdrawal and still have great difficulty understanding the other’s point of view. Often, they are not even interested in how the other sees things, so determined are they that their view is the correct one. They get stuck in adversarial positions and are unable to move past them.

Most marriage vows include something about loving, honouring and caring for the other. When a relationship is new, the individuals are excited to have this person in their life and tend to treat them well. Over time, when the newness is gone, sometimes things shift so the relationship becomes more of a competition or a contest and less of a cooperative venture.

So what happens to move things from wedded bliss to the divorce courts or to lives of quiet (or not so quiet) desperation? Ego happens.

True love is unconditional. Think of the love we have for a baby or a favourite pet. They may inconvenience us at times or make messes for us to clean up, but we take all of that in stride because we accept it will not always be perfect. We forget those things quickly and easily return to a place where we can give love freely.

Although we may start out that way in relationships, ego takes us off course. We may have baggage in the form of old hurts or defensiveness that we bring to a relationship. Ego may have ideas about what it should receive and how it should be treated, without too much thought about what it should give to the other and how the other should be treated. Ego has tunnel vision that way.

When we are in conflict, ego has taken over. Even if things happen in the relationship that cause distress for one or the other, in an evolved relationship the sense of love and caring for the other allows for real listening and working it out.

Conflict tends to come when the other is not taken into consideration and is neither heard nor valued. When ego is busy defending itself or going on the attack, it is completely unavailable to the other. Often the one in distress ends up feeling even worse after bringing up the issue for there is an added sense of rejection and abandonment in the face of an unsympathetic, uncompassionate ego.

It is not surprising that this same pattern has existed for generations. Effective communication and relationship building seem to be a blind spot in our culture.

In school, children learn to write essays and solve math problems, but not how to solve interpersonal problems and verbally communicate in a productive way when there are differences.

At home, if parents are still reliving the old patterns of their parents, the children will not learn new ways there either.

We have a long way to go. If we could simply grasp that we do not kick the dog or hit the baby and similarly we should not be harsh with loved ones, it might be a start. We must value the happiness of others as much as our own and sometimes even put their happiness first. And not simply to please them, but rather to show genuine compassion.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles, and information about her books, CDs and new “Creating Healthy Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.