Articles From the April 1995 Unification News
Heaven Is Sitting Around And Laughing With A Group Of Friends
Once a group of us were sharing what our idea of heaven was. We each had some sort of idealistic vision, but I remember only what a philosophy professor from Germany said: "Heaven is sitting around and laughing with a group of friends." At the time I thought that was rather superficial and even limited. However, more and more I see the in-touch-with-self-and-the-moment-ness behind what he said.
Barry Kaufman (author of Son-Rise and Happiness Is a Choice, Summer '93 HW) wrote another beautiful book called To Love Is to Be Happy With. What a simple way to describe nourishing loving closeness.
But if much of our life experience has taught us to be closed instead of close, we often have to humbly learn how to create true and joyful intimacy with others--and with our own best self. My relationship with my husband improved a quantum leap when I finally began to allow myself to learn from him, to practice what Jon Townsend, an international conflict mediator, calls the "Platinum Rule": Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.
In my work trying to help teens and preteens make healthy choices, a bottom-line issue is the longing for emotional intimacy. We all need it, but it's not easy to achieve. We can learn, though.
Gertrud Yasutake writes: "Here is a good quote I found in the book Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World, by H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen:
In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. --Eric Hoffer."
Learning is a profound ability and joy. For me, it's the true entertainment, beside which other more passive activities seem like junk food. It's growth. It requires a conscious engaged mind, however, and too often we seem to be on automatic pilot, with controls that may have been set generations ago.
Learning and the change that can result also require courage. Just as in some inner city neighborhoods there is intense peer pressure against kids doing well in school, similarly many of us exist in social and cultural environs that don't encourage us to rise above the mediocrity around us.
I'd like to share some wonderful comments from clinical psychologist, Dr. George Pransky. Though he specifically is advising parents on how to relate with their kids, his insight is universally applicable. His basic assumption is that we all innately have healthy functioning available to us; we can always access what he calls our "commonsense," our inner wisdom and creativity, IF we are in what he calls a higher, responsive state of mind vs. a lower or reactive state, or mood.
He feels that giving children a warm, forgiving, lighthearted emotional environment is essential. In such an environment, the parent and child have a close rapport, the child tends to feel secure and happy, and, like a plant with plenty of light, warmth, and nutrients, the child naturally grows to be healthy and happy.
He says our healthy state of mind often becomes increasingly contaminated as we grow older and we may even lose touch with it. Then we operate on the lower levels of conflict and stress--and devote our time and energy to coping with these, rather than realizing that the healthy state is within our reach if we just relax and let go of our contaminated thinking. When in that higher state, we naturally do things well, and don't need parenting "strategies." Our "heart is in the right place," so to speak.
Kids are often more in touch with this innate wisdom and creativity, and Dr. Pransky says the best way to help our children become self- reliant is to encourage them to connect with and practice this commonsense. He advises us to parent from a deep trust that the child wants to be good, and if s/he is "misbehaving," it is because something needs to be learned--either by the child or by us, or both.
"So when you listen to kids, you can respect their commonsense, even though they don't have the experience you do and aren't the boss. This can lead you to a higher place possibly, or at least to a meeting of the minds with your kids, and out of that can come something better than you've already conceived of.
The wiser people are, the more respect they have for their kids, and in turn, the better is their rapport, the more they learn from their kids, the higher their kids' self-esteem, and the greater the kids' ability to use that commonsense. If you don't listen to them because you 'know better' and you don't let them practice their commonsense and their rapport, then you're leading them away from it and they'll grow farther away from it like you are.
"Inside of everything your kid, or anyone, says, there will be a grain of truth and you have to listen until that grain of truth comes out and you can say, 'Oh yeah, I can relate to that; I don't agree with it, but I can imagine a reasonable person saying that.' That's when you respect it. In every interaction you have, ideally, you get to that point of respect.
"Our state of mind affects the quality of our thinking. The important thing to remember is that if you clear your mind, you will have a healthy state of mind. The reactive state of mind comes from actively contaminating your healthy state of mind."
His description of three levels of parenting relationships apply to all relationships:
"The lowest level is where there's conflict, adversariness between parents and child; everybody's looking out for their own interests, and there's no meeting ground of commonsense or principle, just a tug of war. This reality has a lot of anger, resentment, and bitterness toward each other. Kids who grow up on this level have a chip on their shoulder, problems with authority, and low self-esteem, etc.
"Second is the reality of stress. This isn't conflict. This is families that are basically getting along and improving over time, but it's stressful. . . . Instead of giving others the benefit of the doubt, there's a little suspicion on people's parts. These families tend to try various 'parenting strategies,' but often these just muddle things up."
The highest level, of warm rapport and closeness, sounds something like what the German professor called heaven:
"At this level, there's a certain feeling of understanding and benefit of the doubt in the mentality of all parties, so all are capable of getting a lot out of each interaction. People don't struggle because when they see their mind is filled with a lot of ambivalence, they wait for their mind to clear so they can operate from a higher state of mind. Then people spend their time enjoying and learning from each other, having a good time, kidding, pipe dreaming and laughing, because they don't have to spend time dealing with the fruits of the lower states.
"The best indicator of how you are doing as a parent is how much enjoyment you're getting from being a parent. Enjoying it means you are close to your kids, and they have self-esteem because they see themselves as enjoyable to be around instead of a hassle. When you are laughing, it's easier to have access to your commonsense. That's why a lot of people who are excellent parents will say it's really easy.
This commonsense/wisdom is available in everyone, and when accessed, it's one of the most powerful forces in the human experience." --"The Commonsense Parenting Series," George S. Pransky, MFCC, Ph.D., PO Box 498, La Conner, WA 98257, 206 466-5200.
Learning to be close to others and to our own truest self requires humility and courage. It requires going beyond an adversarial approach--"I'm right/you're wrong"--and recognizing that all of us are innately precious people. Several items in this issue explore these topics. I hope they help you experience commonsense and delight in all your relationships.
THE (not so) WISE MEN
Contributed by Esther Batino, Minneapolis, MN. This thought-provoking poem may challenge us to think more deeply about the reality of Jesus' life, about what God actually wanted to happen then, and about learning a "wiser" way to encounter the Christ in our lives now. --VC
Was it but two thousand years ago
That a tiny star with a warm, bright glow
Cast its soft and wondrous light
To guide three wise men by day, by night
To a place that was "oh so far"
Yes, all depended on that little bright star.
The sky was not like that of any night
Three wise men held captive by a little bright light
Mile per mile, step by step
Onward and onwards they went
Never a moment to rest or set up a tent.
A vision they had, a vision they'd seen
A mission from God, an incredible dream
Far in a far off land
Which to soon they would come
Was going to be born, the most Glorious of Sons.
A king, a champion, a leader of men
Oh yes, these three wise kings
From the East
Were most certainly invited to God's banquet and feast.
So mile upon mile, and step by step
Onwards and forwards with never a rest
Went these kings with a vision, a mission, a quest.
The time it passed as time is ought
Until the desert sea became a port
Of a city that was filled with many a man
The city of King Herod, called Jerusalem
And here they stayed and took their fill
Of hospitality from that king and city on a hill.
Their spirits warm, their tongues were loose
To King Herod they told the good news,
"Rejoice, rejoice, may your heart feel glad
We bring you good news, the best you've ever had
For soon to be born, now hear us sing
A savior, a saint, most worthy to be king."
Yes, these three men I told you are wise
Their tongues spoke truth with no disguise
And no, not even the tiniest of tiny white lies.
That little bright star with its wondrous bright light
If you looked very carefully and with all of your might
Seemed to quiver and flicker and sputter a bit,
And then another just as quickly and quick
Resumed its constant and unchanging job
Of guiding these wise men to meet the Son of God.
And onwards and forwards and step by step
Closer and closer they were to get
To their vision, their mission, their wondrous job
Of meeting and greeting the Son of God.
And finally with a most joyous cry
These three wise men did utter a sigh
"Here's the place, the hallowed ground of all men
Little bright star you shine more gloriously over Bethlehem."
"But where is the palace, the castle of the king?
Our savior, our master of everything?"
And twinkle and twinkle with all her might
Until finally no doubt she gave off her brightest light
And with all that she could and was truly able
The little bright star shone brightly over a stable.
The wise men, abashed and a little abent
Went into the humblest of places tired and spent
And there they saw in an old wooden manger
Not a prince, not a king, but to them "a stranger"
"Oh littlest one," (perhaps that's what they said)
"Art thou for what we have come?
Or have we misread, perhaps another place we should be instead?"
And so these wise men
To make their load light
(and darn it just darn it, maybe another star
Out there was bright)
Left frankincense and myrrh and gifts
For a king, yet left nothing, no nothing that
Wisdom could bring.
And the little bright star
Like a tear in the sky
Was heard, if you listened with all of your might,
To let out oh the smallest of small, little sighs
And then like the blinking of a twinkling of an eye
The little bright star fell down from the sky
--Peggy B. Weller
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