“Earth School”

Spent the last few nights with Gary Zukav and Linda Francis. So grateful for their dedication to the path.

Books_The_Seat_ofthe_SoulAlthough Gary has been on Oprah 37 times, he is one of the most humble, vulnerable, and authentic men I have ever met.

A few pieces of wisdom really resonated with me.

First, Gary said that at one point in his life he was afraid of being afraid. He said the clinical term for this is “macho.” I realized how much of my life I overcompensated for being afraid—afraid of being alone, afraid of my emotions, afraid of not being good enough.

Next, Gary and Linda said there are only two intentions—one that comes from love and one that comes from fear. Other intentions they referred to as “out-tensions.” When deciding on any course of action, they ask themselves if they are coming from love or fear.

This reminded me of a conversation we had with a Hawaiian elder named Manulani Aluli Meyer. She said, “When love is at the center, ego isn’t.”

Manu continues, “We are dedicated to the purpose of what love means in this lifetime. And it must start within your own practices and your own commitments and your own deeds. That is why I love Shakespeare’s quotation when he said, ‘By my actions teach my mind’. I love that because it is not by our talk or by our words, it is by our actions. So that is a very cultural statement. Basically, stop talking, start doing. And when you are doing in the vibrancy of what aloha is, then there is a healing on the planet.”

As a grandson of a Hawaiian man, I have the kuleana (responsibility) to dedicate my life to “what love means in this life time.” My purpose is to be aloha. To be pono (righteous).

I often ask my sons, “Are you being pono (righteous) or pilikia (troublesome)?” This is similar to Gary and Linda’s practice of questioning whether they are coming from love or fear.

Lastly, both Gary and Linda refer to this life as “earth school.” We are souls here to learn. I love that view of life.

During one circle, I felt obliged to share a talk I had with my cousin. I was telling him how I was a compassionate boy when I was young. I remember crying while watching Laura Ingals on Little House on the Prairie.

Then my step-father entered my life and started whipping me with a leather belt when I was 5 years old. Talking to my cousin, I was furious that I didn’t have a choice in this monumental event in my life.

After 12 years of abuse, I turned into a cruel and angry adolescent who lacked compassion. This lack of compassion torpedoed my life. I lost lovers, friends, and jobs. After I hit rock bottom, I dedicated myself to becoming a compassionate man and raising compassionate boys.

But it was/is a process. On the phone with my cousin, I simultaneously grieved the innocence of that 4 year old compassionate boy and raged at the injustice that he was forced to suffer.

Then I was struck with a vision. I saw my soul floating above the earth plane before I was born. My soul could see my whole life laid out before it. And then…it CHOSE to incarnate into this life.

I chose physical abuse. I chose cancer. I chose unemployment. I chose all these things because I knew that they would bring me to the awakening I am experiencing right now.

I thanked Gary and Linda for the term “earth school,” because I now realize that I chose my own curriculum. Of all the classes available, I chose Physical Abuse 101, Introduction to Cancer, Financial Hardship 2B, Mediation 100, Advanced Surfing, Intro to Kapu Aloha, and the Noble Friends Seminar.

After this realization, I no longer blame others for what is happening in my life. I don’t blame my step-father for using corporal punishment. I don’t blame my mom for choosing to marry my step-father. I don’t blame my biological father for choosing to go back for a second tour of duty in Vietnam from which he never returned. I don’t even blame myself for all the trespasses I have committed.

When there is no one left to blame, we can only love. Love everyone. Love everything. I hope this new path helps me do “in the vibrancy of what aloha is” and heals the planet.

Who are some of your influential spiritual teachers? What realizations have shaped your life?

 

 

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The “I Need Your Love” Myth

The boys have the week off, so we decided to go to my parent’s cabin in Tahoe. After inviting 3 other families to join us and confirming the dates with my mom, I almost screamed when I found out a few days before departing that my mom had given the cabin away to some friends from Hawaii.

Reading the remorseless email from my mom, I felt the same dismay I experienced as a child when she stood with her arms crossed while my step-father beat me. Luckily, I had just returned from a weekend at Interchange Counseling Institute devoted to trauma. During the weekend, I had released any need for love from my parents.

My Dad before going MIA

My Dad before going MIA

Working through my childhood traumas, I realized that I did not need the love and approval of not only my mom and step-father, but also my deceased father. In one exercise in somatic healing, I role played with Meg, an intuitive and powerful woman counselor. She played my father who was leaving for his second tour of duty in Vietnam. I gripped her legs with all my strength begging my father not to abandon me.

“Don’t leave me, Dad. He’s going to beat me,” I pleaded desperately.

Meg wedged her free leg on my shoulder and tried to wiggle loose.

I tackled her and screamed with anger, “Daddy, why are you abandoning me?”

The three year old me could not have understood my father’s obsession to be the first Asian American General in the US Army. My child-like mind hadn’t experienced the kind of trauma that had blindsided my father when as an American citizen, he was imprisoned in the Internment Camps during World War II.

Looking back, I understand why my father felt the need to die for this country. In a way, he sacrificed himself for me and my brothers, so that we might some day be completely accepted as Americans.

“I love you, son,” Meg whispered as she stopped struggling to escape and chose to embrace me.

After the 30 minutes of struggling, tackling, crying, and loving with Meg, I felt lighter. A space opened up for me to love my father in a way I hadn’t since I was three. Experiencing these insights in both mind and body set me free from reacting to old distress patterns.

My mother’s decision to allow my step-father to physically abuse my older brother and I might have been born from similar trauma. Her decision to withdrawal emotionally from her sons might have been a self-preservation strategy born the day my father went missing in action in Vietnam.

I choose to love my mother, father, and step-father regardless of the decisions they have made in the past. I choose to love my country regardless of the decisions it made in the past. True freedom lies in loving the present moment without resentment from past events.

It occurred to me that being “born again” might refer to becoming one’s own father and mother–from releasing the people who happened to bore us from the socially constructed illusions of what makes a good parent. I love my parents, but I no longer need their love or approval. As cliche as it sounds, I am my own man.

Label Me A Loving Abuser

My 6 year old son would not get out of bed until 7:45 this morning. We have to leave for school at 8:15. Then he wouldn’t eat his eggs since he was distracted by his Pokemon cards, so I threw the cards in the garbage. This is when his meltdown started. It was 8 AM, so I asked him to put some clothes on which he threw back in my face. This is when my meltdown started. I grabbed him and put him in the car in his pajamas. Then I dragged him without shoes or a jacket in front of the whole school to his classroom. He was kicking and screaming the whole way, which is why I couldn’t put his shoes or jacket on.

The whole time I was seeing tunnel vision. I did not notice all the other kids laughing at my son or all the parents aghast at me dragging him across the rain drenched pavement without shoes. When we got to the classroom, I awoke from my sleep state and realized how much my son was suffering.

Onelove photoIt is International Label Day at Rarasaur’s house, so it only seems appropriate that I wear the label of abuser or bad father which is quite different from the photo I sent Rara with “LUV” scribbled across my forehead. But like I told Rara in the comments, “Labels like the ego are neither good nor bad. They are a necessary step in claiming our identities so that we can give them up to reach a higher consciousness or what Fr. Richard Rohr would call the Second Half of Life.”

One way I’m breaking the label of abuser is by how I treated my son after I realized that I was being irrational. As the survivor of physical abuse, I speak from experience when I say that although the beatings hurt, they were not the cause of the deepest emotional scars. What really tore me up as a child was the lack of compassion from my step-father and mother AFTER the beatings. No one ever comforted me and explained to me why I was beaten. No one put an arm around my shoulder and told me that the beatings were done out of love.

Jett at school

Photo of Jett Post-Meltdown

So I told the teacher that Jett would be late and we went back home. At home, I let my son pick out his favorite shirt. I washed his feet, fully aware of the religious connotations of this action, and warmed up his half-eaten breakfast. I explained to him how sorry I was for taking him to school in his pajamas, but also how sad I was that he refused to listen to me. I told him that I loved him, but I needed his cooperation if we were going to get to school on time. I also told him how to handle any teasing that the other kids might dish out today. I will make sure to check in with him after school and honor any shame he felt in front of the other kids at school.

Being a compassionate man is hard. Raising compassionate boys is even harder. Social conditioning and past scars take constant vigilance to overcome. The good news is that compassion is a skill that can be learned over time. We can heal ourselves and heal others in the process.

Although I am not proud of my actions today, I am thankful for the growth I displayed and the hug my son gave me when he finally got to his classroom.

Thank you for reading, empathizing, and/or sharing.

Have you transcended your labels? How? Please share.

 

 

I Will Rise

How neuroscience offers hope to survivors of abuse and peacemakers of the future

“What happened to you, then?” my step-father’s booming voice echoed out into the early evening crowd at Outback Steakhouse.

The question was not asked with compassion or caring. It was a jab, an attack, a verbal confirmation that I was a failure in his eyes.

I had been explaining to my extended family how my son was a highly sensitive boy (HSB), when my mom chimed in that I, too, was highly sensitive as a child. She used the term “glass feelings.”

I explained to my sister-in-law how HSBs, if nurtured, could become compassionate artists or peacemakers like Abraham Lincoln, Mozart, and Carl Jung.

That is when my step-father interrupted me with “What happened to you, then?”

What amazed me most was my reaction. In the past, an aggressive comment like this would have sent me to fight or flight mode. As a survivor of abuse, my amygdala and sympathetic nervous system were trained to go into over-drive and flood my system with epinephrine and cortisol. With clenched fists, I would normally either ignore my step-father completely, retaliate with a sarcastic remark, or flee the scene. But this time, I remained calm as I stuttered for words.

“Well, I…um…I…um.” The thought of saying “Someone beat the sensitivity out of me” occurred to me, but the desire to retaliate was absent.

Finally, my wife jumped in to help me, “He wasn’t nurtured.” (Sometimes it is great to have a wife who is a psychologist.)

I still remained calm. In fact, I protected my mother by explaining, “They didn’t know about highly sensitive boys back then.”

Writing about this scene today, I realize that my parent may never realize how damaging 12 years of physical abuse can be on a child. I am almost positive that I will never receive an apology.

But I feel no ill-will towards them at this moment. I’m reminded what of Brene Brown said about her parents instilling shame in her as a child. She said she doesn’t blame them anymore than she blames her grandmother for letting her ride standing in the front seat of the car. They just didn’t know any better.

Armsreach

Armsreach (Photo credit: Awen o greu)

Some of you may argue with this point, but the truth is that I have stopped blaming others for my shortcomings. I am thrilled with the idea of neuroplasticity—that we can change our brains and our lives, just by changing the thoughts we think everyday.

I have seen and felt tremendous changes in how I react to outside stimuli. If we can re-wire our lives with just a few minutes of mindfulness and cultivating compassion practice everyday, then world peace truly is possible.

Thank you for reading, empathizing, and/or sharing.

Have you seen signs that world peace is possible? Have you felt healing occur in your soul? Please share.