What would your sign say?

by Joyce and Barry Vissell

january 21 womens' marchJanuary 21 will long be remembered as the day of the women’s marches. It is so inspiring that women from each continent participated, even Antarctica. We just watched a women’s march that took place in Israel in which Jewish and Arab women marched together. We could not read their signs but I could only imagine that they all wanted peace. There seems to have been such a feeling of joy within these marches.

Barry and I had scheduled our second mentorship four day session during this time, not knowing that these marches would take place. I woke up that morning feeling that something special must be done to honor all of the women and men marching all around the world, and in some way join in their energy. And so Barry and I and the nine women in our group sat at our dining room table and made our own signs using large pieces of paper, crayons, markers and colored pencils. We asked each woman to express the deepest feeling they would like to put on their sign, just as if they would be on full display in Washington DC.

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When the signs were finished, we went into the living room and each person stood up with their sign and spoke why the words were so meaningful to them. In this way each person gave a little talk which was inspiring and also insightful into who they are and their deepest values.

My sign was quite simple and said, “Love one another as I have loved you –Jesus.” I have always loved this quote, and my mother repeated it to me often when I was growing up. Jesus loved all people. They did not have to be his own Jewish religion for him to love them and reach out to help. He gave water to a non-Jewish woman at a well, which was forbidden to do. He helped a prostitute and saw goodness in her so that she wanted to change her life and follow him. He had dinner at a tax collector’s house, a man that everyone despised. He even invited another tax collector to be one of his followers. Even his own disciples criticized him for opening his heart and love to so many different types of people that others were shunning. And his response was that he came to help all, a true sense of equality. Equality and love for all beings is what I want to march for.

Barry went last to hold up his sign and we all loved it. “I am a man dedicated to making it safe for all women.” Truly this is who Barry is. Can you only imagine a world in which more men could hold up a sign like that and truly mean it? I posted Barry holding this sign on my very small Facebook page and am pleased with how far this photo went. It is a message needed at this time.

After each person spoke about their sign we then marched around our living room holding our signs and singing a powerful song. We felt connected to each person who was out marching the streets in towns and cities around the world.

Did the marches all over the world do any good?

Forty-eight years ago, Barry and I were in one of the first civil rights marches in the south. We lived in Nashville, Tennessee at the time and we heard about a civil rights march several hours away in the deeper rural south. We, along with our friend Jim, were excited to go and participate. We reached this small southern town and a man named Dick Gregory was there as the organizer and speaker. There were many blacks, but we were the only whites. We were welcomed, but told it was more dangerous for us as whites. We marched with these poor blacks down the streets of the town. The whites looking on yelled and cursed at us and some threw things. It was loud and noisy and scary, but we continued down the street. Then it became violent. The police came and started using clubs and arresting people. One of the organizers told us to leave quickly as they would be hardest on us. Like Harry Potter and the invisible cloak, we left undetected and drove home realizing that we had placed ourselves in a very dangerous situation. There must have been TV coverage of the march, for the next day I was called into my place of work as a public health nurse and told I could never march again or I would lose my job and never be able to get another one in the city.

One march. Did it do any good? Was our effort and putting ourselves in danger worth it? I like to feel that yes it was. True it was only a drop in the bucket of what had to happen, and yet it was a drop and we participated in that drop. Forty years later, our country proudly elected our first black president. All those marches, all those signs, all of that effort in the end truly paid off.

What would your sign say? As a really good practice, sit at your dining room table with crayons or markers and paper and make a sign that holds your deepest feeling about what is going on right now in our world. Make it positive, inspiring and loving, something you could show your children and explain why you wrote what you did. Or you could sit with a group of friends and create your signs together, or sit with your children and talk about it. Your sign, and especially how you live the truth of what it says, will place another drop into the bucket of what is needed right now.

Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell:

Feb 5-12, 2017 Hawaii Couples Retreat on the Big Island

Jul 16-21 Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, OR

Oct 11-17Assisi Retreat, Italy

About the authors:

Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift.

Call Toll-Free 1-800-766-0629 (locally 831-684-2299) or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.


The Harmonic Convergence Revisited—Or, Why this Election Is Going to Be One Big F*&#ing Deal

lynn woodlandby Lynn Woodland

Does anyone remember the Harmonic Convergence? Back in 1987? It was an unusual astrological pile-up that according to organizer, José Arguelles, was supposed to send a “vibrational signal” to our species to change in the direction of unity and peace. Just a flash-in-the-pan, fringe spiritual event with no lasting consequences, right? There isn’t much peace on earth to show for it.

The event, in and of itself, had some historical significance in that it was massive, and only the second time such a large, global event had been organized to direct consciousness toward the goal of unity (the first being the World Peace Meditation sponsored just months earlier by the Global Family, which became an important organizer for the Harmonic Convergence). Many famous people participated, including John Denver, Shirley MacLaine and Timothy Leary. Even Johnny Carson of the Tonight Show got his audience to chant OM for the event. Probably millions were touched in some way and nothing of this magnitude had ever happened before. Remember, this was before we were all connected by social media and the internet. It was a much bigger deal to organize something like that. But still… ushering in peace on earth? Come on!

As this event was based on an astrological happening, I decided to explore this question for myself by looking at it astrologically. In particular, I looked at the movement of the planet Saturn because, astrologically, Saturn is said to create time frames, stress points and structure. It takes roughly 29 years to transit 360 degrees, full circle, around the zodiac and if you look at the moment in time when something begins, be it a human life, an organization, or the birth of a new impulse toward unity, approximately every 7 years—the time it takes Saturn to move 90 degrees from where it was at the starting point—there will a testing or eventful marker of some sort. What’s strong will become stronger, what’s weak will be stressed, often to the point of breakdown.

So I dug out my ephemeris and tracked the progress of Saturn by precise 90 degree intervals. First I found this date: September 11, 2001, (at the 180 degree mark) the day the Towers fell in New York City—definitely a world-shaking event. I also found a late September date in 2008 (the 270 degree mark)—the time when Lehman Bros collapsed, starting a serious nose dive of the global economy. The loud and dire nature of these events certainly speaks to Saturn’s capacity to create stress and breakdown but do they have anything to do with unity consciousness? And what about the first 90 degree mark in 1995? Nothing as world-changing as the beginning of the war on terror or global economic disaster seemed to happen that year.

Or maybe it did, though there were reputable journalists of the era saying it would never amount to much. The years between 1987 and 1995 pretty closely bracketed the incubation phase of a world-changing phenomenon. 1987 marked the first year that the internet had significantly more users than the tiny, elite group it had prior to this time, and 1995 is when the internet was privatized and really took off in a huge way. So 1987-95 is the period of time when the internet as we know it was developed and launched for mass consumption.

Since then, the internet has played a huge role in evolving global consciousness. It has created infrastructures for new models of egalitarian power and given access to global interconnectedness to nearly everyone. This quietly growing infrastructure has so quickly become a daily necessity that it’s easy to lose perspective of its magnitude. As old infrastructures based on greed, fear and hierarchical power escalate to extremes with dire consequences that could destroy us, this amazing new infrastructure has been growing into a web of life that just might save us.

1995, 2001, 2008…. This brings us to… now. Saturn has now come precisely (to the exact degree) full circle around the zodiac from where it was on 8/17/87. Symbolically, a Saturn return is said to be a coming-of-age time when what’s weak falls apart, what’s strong solidifies, and there’s an opportunity to see the consequences of our choices coming fully to fruition. How does that translate to in the “growing up” of a vibrational impulse? Where have our choices since then led us?

Well, we’re seeing that waging war against terrorism has created more terrorists than ever before. So, the war on terror—maybe not a good choice. And, did you know that only 55% of the electorate voted in the 2012 election? And less than 40% in the 2014 midterms? Consequently, big money interests have been able to pour enough money into elections, especially in mid-term years, to easily swing them toward their preferred candidates. Heck, they only need to sway as little as 18% of low information, single issue voters with anti-abortion/gay rights/gun laws/immigration platforms. Then—oh no!—one day we wake up to find the children of an entire Midwestern city have been irreparably poisoned due to cost cutting. So… political apathy, maybe not a good choice either.

I could keep going with all of our not-so-good choices coming back to bite us, but we’re also seeing that the internet has profoundly shaped a whole generation who now takes for granted a high level of connectivity and easy access to decentralized, nonhierarchical, global communities. For the first time, a generation of tech-savvy young people are growing up to have more in common with their peers in other parts of the world than they do with older generations of their own culture.

The people born in the time frame since 1987 are showing an enormous proclivity for embracing principles of sharing, collaboration and egalitarianism, and are much less concerned about such differences as race, culture or gender orientation. Unlike the 1980’s when “young urban professionals” aspired to heights of conspicuous consumption, today’s youth aspire toward collaborative consumption, sharing economy, and sustainability—much of which is internet-enabled.

Might they be the most obvious manifestation of this unity impulse that’s come to change the direction of our species? Interestingly, it’s this millennial generation that is embracing the grumpy granddad of the presidential race. If this leaves you baffled, just take a look at this: http://together.vote/It’s a real Harmonic Convergence moment.

So this most recent transit of Saturn made its touchdown in January of 2016 (coinciding with a dramatic stock market crash) and the effects of the transit will be felt all year due to the slow and retrograding motion of the planet. Then in mid-February, Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia, the most senior and most conservative member of the Court, suddenly and unexpectedly died. Now, for the first time in decades the sharply polarized court is no longer a 5-4 conservative majority and Scalia’s replacement will have unprecedented power to reshape the law of our land in enormously consequential ways—a huge game-changer for years to come.

The Saturn return ends with one more exact pass over the precise degree in late October/early November of 2016. I wonder what will be happening then? Oh, yeah, the presidential election. Hang on to your hats. Something tells me that this year and this election are going to be a wild ride.

This is a pivotal moment. If we don’t wake up and learn to stand together now, the next seven to twenty-nine years are likely to be a lot rougher than the last. But on the other hand, if we get it, if we truly get it, without everyone over 29 having to die off first; if we realize how easy it is to simply show up together—even if it’s just to stay informed and vote every couple of years—maybe even aging baby boomers like me who remember the heady promise of the Harmonic Convergence, will live to see promise fulfilled.

About the author:
Lynn Woodland is an international teacher, author of Making Miracles: Create New Realities for Your Life and Our World, and creator of the online Miracles Course. Her particular expertise is in what gives rise to miracles and in teaching ordinary people to live extraordinary lives so that miracles become, not just possible, but natural. www.lynnwoodland.com.


The Tipping Point – Why it’s Important to Tune Back in to Politics

lynn woodlandby Lynn Woodland

I’m a spiritual teacher, not a political nerd. I generally keep my politics separate from my spiritual teachings—until I see the two colliding so dramatically that I can’t help but comment. I’m also feeling compelled to speak out because of how many people in my spiritual circle, when asked their thoughts on political turns of events, respond that they don’t pay attention to politics. I understand it. For those of us intent on meditating into a peaceful state, politics is a rough and crude vibration. For those of us who have turned to spirituality as a balm for our heightened sensitivities to the world around us, politics can be the worst of allergens. And some of us have simply given up because we don’t see politics changing anything. For all of you who have tuned out of politics for one reason or another, THIS IS THE TIME TO TUNE BACK IN and here’s why.

People from radically different backgrounds and for different reasons seem to agree that something monumental is about to happen and perhaps is already happening. Many economists are predicting an extreme global economic crash this year—bigger than in 2008. Historian and political commentator, Thom Hartmann, wrote a whole book about this next year: The Crash of 2016, putting together the pieces of why this kind of crash is very possible. Storms, droughts, fires and other environmental incidents are growing more extreme and environmentalists are becoming increasingly dire in their predictions for the very near future.

But not all predictions are dire. Well-known economist and futurist, Jeremy Rifkin, speculates that the increasing availability of free stuff enabled by the internet is quickly leading to an era of nearly free goods and services that will eclipse capitalism, resulting in heightened quality of life for masses of people. (He explains in this fascinating talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-iDUcETjvo.) Many metaphysical seers are calling this year a powerful turning point in humanity’s evolution, suggesting that we’ve collectively reached a tipping point where there are now enough of us aligned with a high vibration of love to tip the planet in a new, better direction.

We live in the midst of a paradigm change. The old order is made up of hierarchical power structures where small groups at the top control and often exploit everyone else. The emerging, new order is an egalitarian form of empowerment, made up of connected communities, both local and global, working cooperatively for the benefit of all. This is no futuristic utopian fantasy; it’s already happening in countless contexts as a result of the heightened connectivity afforded by the internet and the sheer numbers of us who are now connected.

Think, for example, of the huge amounts of information available to us through the internet. Organizing infrastructures such as Google and Wikipedia have put libraries full of knowledge literally in the palm of anyone with a smart phone. This instant access to information, that was impossible just short decades ago, is created by countless individuals contributing small bits of information into various organizing and delivery infrastructures.

There are now endless examples of this kind of resource sharing. It gutted established music and publishing industries as individuals became able to take their work directly to the public without any intermediary. Entrepreneur and best-selling author, Lisa Gansky, describes in her book, The Mesh—Why the Future of Business is Sharing, how cooperative resource-sharing is the hot new business model.

This is the emerging new order. It’s one where individuals are empowered beyond anything we’ve previously known through small efforts contributed by masses of us into an organizing infrastructure. It’s win/win; it’s easy; it’s the virtually limitless power of all of us together. Thomas W. Malone of MIT, established the Center for Collective Intelligence to study this new phenomenon suggesting that the “hive mind” of millions of people and millions of computers all connected to one another just might be able to, “act more intelligently than any individual, group, or computer has ever done before” and solve such collective problems as climate change. This new model of collective power is already replacing many hierarchical power structures that not so long ago seemed inevitable, and it’s already begun to change us.

This brings us to the upcoming election. In spite of many fast, heady changes coming via our quickly evolving technology, the old, hierarchical power structures are still alive and well—perhaps stronger than ever in a last-gasp struggle for control. We see it playing out with a vengeance in our political system.

Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in 2010 (in the “Citizens United” case) corporations may now pour an unlimited amount of money into elections. This, combined with high public apathy and low voter turn-out, means elections can easily be bought by the highest bidder. With less than a 40% turnout, is it any wonder that in 2012 we saw a wave of ultraconservative Tea Party candidates elected who were heavily funded by billionaires? They vote for billionaire interests while speaking to the sensibilities of easily mobilized fringe groups: anti-gay, anti-brown, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, etc. Many of these candidates were voted in by as little as 18 or 19% of eligible voters.

We are surely at a cusp where the bad is getting worse while the wave to rise above it is getting stronger, and this dynamic is clearly evident in the scramble toward the 2016 election. Perfectly representing the extreme of old-order power is Donald Trump, telling us that he will fix everything and will run the country as an effective CEO, just as he has run his companies. He claims not to be bought because he can fund himself—in other words, he is at the very top of the hierarchical power chain. Of course, a CEO is basically a dictator who requires obedience from all beneath him, and while efficiency is of the highest priority, the beneficiaries of this efficiency are the small leader class, not the large employee class.

Then there’s Ben Carson, with a quiet, hypnotic voice that make voter suppression laws sound reasonable because, as he puts it, voting should only be “done by the appropriate people.” He doesn’t rouse us or promise to take care of us; he just lulls us into lethargy and sleep.

On the Democratic side, one of the two front runners is Hillary Clinton who, though still significantly funded by old-order, big-business money, is promising to fight for many populist causes. As an experienced insider, she makes an excellent case for being the one best able to do battle with the old-order powers that have created political deadlock throughout Obama’s presidency. She is the seasoned, democratic pit bull ready to fight hard within a stagnant system for realistic results.

In contrast, Bernie Sanders refuses big industry money and is funded largely by small, individual donations and labor union support. More significantly, Sanders has made it clear that the power to change doesn’t reside in him—it’s in all of us together. In the first democratic debate, he was the only candidate who never once used the word “I” in his opening introduction. Even when speaking of his own campaign, he tends to say “we.” He is calling for a movement, a “revolution,” driven by everyone stepping up together.

Bernie Sanders isn’t a brash and entertaining reality TV star like Donald Trump, nor the handsome, charismatic “rock star” that Barack Obama was eight years ago. He’s not the polished and high-powered Hillary Clinton ready to break the gender barrier as our first woman president. He’s just another old, white guy. In fact, he’s known for being rumpled, curmudgeonly and none too charming. So what does he have that’s drawing the crowds, especially younger people?

Perhaps it’s that he’s speaking to something that has already collectively shifted within us, and is asking us to tap a power source that we’ve already begun to take for granted in other contexts: the power of all of us together. Maybe it’s because he’s offering a path so simple that it requires nothing more than large numbers of us making tiny contributions; or because his message—that we can accomplish any magnitude of change together—is the purest representation among the current presidential hopefuls of the new order. And because, unlike 2008, now we’ve reached the Tipping Point.

The revolution that Sanders describes doesn’t require a pit bull, a rock star, or an authoritarian TV personality telling us what to do. Neither does it require marching in the street. It doesn’t even ask us to fundamentally change our sensibilities to embrace a radically un-American socialist agenda (Sanders’ idea of democratic socialism isn’t much different from FDR’s). What’s more, the infrastructure for this revolution is already in place—it’s voting, and not just once for a president, then tuning out for another four years. It’s time to start paying attention, not to how bad everything is but to how open the possibilities are.

Trump, Carson, Clinton, Sanders. If we take the players out of the equation, these four might well represent the bigger choices for life we have in this Tipping Point era of monumental change. Some of us will surrender our power altogether in a Stockholm syndrome kind of attachment to the very structures that keep us entrapped. Some of us will sink into apathy and sleep. Some of us will fight, even though the odds seem overwhelmingly against us, because it’s better than giving up. Others of us will step into a new paradigm where change can happen quickly and without fighting, simply by showing up together.

We’re in unprecedented times environmentally, economically, technologically and spiritually. At this Tipping Point, change will come whether we’re ready for it or not. It will come with a crash while we’re sleeping, or one hard-fought crumb at a time. It will be wrenching if we try to cling to what used to be. But, just possibly, it will come with ease and grace as we all choose it together. And you? How will you move into the new order?

About the author:

Lynn Woodland is an international teacher, author of Making Miracles: Create New Realities for Your Life and Our World, and creator of the online Miracles Course. Her particular expertise is in what gives rise to miracles and in teaching ordinary people to live extraordinary lives so that miracles become, not just possible, but natural. www.lynnwoodland.com.


World Peace: Could Better Communication End Wars?

War. A large majority of people would prefer to live without it, yet it’s all around us.  Countries fight other countries, or they fight themselves in bitter civil wars. Spouses and siblings square off against one another and neighbors cannot see eye to eye. It seems that war will always be with us.

For Mary Ann Callahan, who spent nine years in Afghanistan working on humanitarian projects under the aegis of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the lessons learned there could make a significant contribution toward mitigating the effects of war in all its forms. By opening real lines of communication, many conflicts can be stopped before they start. 

It’s a simple, yet profound concept. If conflicting parties could begin to understand one another, a large percentage of the violence and misfortune in the world that comes with war could be avoided, or at least lessened.

“As human beings, we’re naturally very conversant with our own points of view. Most of us do not hesitate to expound on them whenever possible.  What we often lack is the ability to listen to and understand the viewpoints of others, especially if they come from people who are very different from us.” says Callahan, (http://callahans-pen.com/), author of “Clouded Hopes”, the second in a series about her experiences overseas that also includes “Clear Differences: Short Stories from Afghanistan.”

“The failure of mutual understanding because of missed chances for real communication accounts for a large percentage of human conflict,” says Callahan, who lived independently in Afghan neighborhoods from 2003 to 2011, when she was forced to move behind international barricades because of increasing threats to foreigners in Afghanistan.

“When I think about the various failings in Afghanistan, America’s longest war, it’s clear to me that the inability to understand differences in culture and unsuccessful communication account for a tragic cost in human life and treasure. They also helped to ruin a remarkable opportunity to build bridges between two very different cultures, which might have produced real peace founded upon mutual respect.”

As a journalism teacher, Callahan’s job was to communicate with Afghans who spoke a different language and had a very different world view.

She shares some of the lessons she learned:

•  To really listen.  A great deal of human communication is really a series of talking at rather than dialoguing with.  Real dialogue is a series of questions whose answers are absorbed by the person asking the question.  If done well, it usually leads to more questions and can produce the kind of understanding that can build bridges rather than bomb them.

•  To promote empathy.  America’s love of individuality and personal rights is one of our most cherished characteristics, but we must understand that our society, not to mention the world, is a cooperative of millions of people different from us. Empathy is a fundamental and necessary component for being able to live together. By putting ourselves in the shoes of another we gain insights into why they do what they do. Understanding that “why” can build positive relationships that lead to conflict resolution. 

•  Know who you’re talking to. Most people stay within a fairly closed and comfortable circle. Foreign locations, whether they are the different sections of the same country or a war-torn land like Afghanistan, can pose a real challenge. Whether the talk is between a Northern Yankee and someone from the Deep South, or an American and an Afghan, understanding something about the other person can help to make communication more effective and better communication can make so many things possible, maybe even peace.

About Mary Ann Callahan

Mary Ann Callahan (www.callahans-pen.com) worked in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2012 in a variety of capacities, most involving communications. She developed and implemented an independent journalism program that trained Afghans to accurately report on international development efforts in their country, and received recognition from both the U.S. and Afghan governments for her work. She is the author of three books based on her experiences. “Clouded Hopes” is the second in a series that also includes “Clear Differences: Short Stories from Afghanistan.” Her children’s book, “Little Heroes,” is about two cats growing up in Kabul and Paris and helps to acquaint young readers with the disparities of our world