Wednesday, May 27, 2009

BOOK TALK: A Whole New Mind

BOOK TALK: A WHOLE NEW MIND: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

I came upon a remarkable book because of Oprah Winfrey. That shouldn’t be a surprise because we all know that Oprah loves books and isn’t afraid to pass on a good word or two about those she especially likes. The book is A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink (Riverhead Books, 2005). Oprah tells the story herself: “In June 2008, I was invited to Stanford University to give the commencement address.” She had just finished reading this book by Daniel Pink and was so impressed that she wanted to share the book with as many people as possible. And so she “ordered 4,500 copies, one for each student in Stanford’s class of 2008.” She presented them along with another Oprah favorite book—Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth--as graduation presents. This story led me to order the book. Following Oprah’s model, I have also sent a copy to my granddaughter, a 2009 graduate of Michigan State University.

This book intrigues me in many ways. I have been interested in the right-brain/left brain discussions over the years. The sub-title of the book states that “right-brainers will rule the future.” Early in the book the author explains how our recent society has been largely focused on left-brain thinking: “linear, sequential, spreadsheet kind of faculties.” Now, he says, we need more of the right-brain characteristics: “artistry, empathy, inventiveness, and big-picture thinking.” Ultimately, of course, the point is to balance the two, using both sides of the brain to our greatest efficiency and thereby having “A Whole New Mind.”

The author provides a mini-history of mankind’s eras of development.

For thousands of years we lived in an agricultural age. This involved very hands-on, physical labor. People largely hunted or grew their own food. The last 150 years or so, however, have been very different, and the changes along the way have happened faster and faster. First came the Industrial Age. With this machine age, our great manufacturing systems developed. Mass production focused on workers favored for their physical strength and endurance. That lasted for a while, but following World War II, technology developed automation. In 30 years or so, the manufacturing lines moved largely from hands-on machines to automated ones, to in current days, largely computer run equipment. What happened to the workers? The few workers needed were no longer required to be Herculean. Even a small woman could press a button or operate a computer. The work was easily shipped to less expensive sites overseas.

This development was linked to what Pink calls the Information Age.

So now, both agriculture and manufacturing are largely a part of computerized, managed operations. Now the major worker was “the knowledge worker.” This was still a left-brain directed thinking process. Daniel Pink notes that “Each year, India’s colleges and universities produce about 350,000 engineering graduates.” Similarly, they are graduating computer specialists and business students. Whereas in the U.S. “a typical chip designer earns about $7,000 per month; in India, she earns about $1,000.” Is it any wonder that so many of these jobs go overseas. The author’s explanation of how this has all happened is easy to read and understand. We get a truly clear picture of this transition and why it has occurred.

All of this leads us to the author’s main point: that we are now in a very different time. Manufacturing is largely automated. Anyone can do it—anywhere in the world. Computers have linked the world, and educated people, anywhere in the world, can work with computerized functions. Where does this leave the American worker? What is our next step? In other words, if someone overseas can do it cheaper, and if a computer can do it faster, what does the contemporary worker need to offer that is different and useful? Pink’s answer is: right-brain directed thinking. That is what this book is largely about. He says, “I’ve distilled the answer to six specific high-concept and high-touch aptitudes that have become essential in this new era. I call these aptitudes “the six senses.” Design. Story. Symphony. Empathy. Play. Meaning. And it is to helping you understand and master these six aptitudes that I devote the second part of this book.”

So what we find in this work is about 60 pages of highly interesting, easy reading explaining the basic background to this theory. And then about 200 fascinating and highly useful pages tell us how to learn more R-Directed thinking. Each of those six aptitudes become chapters that both explain and lead the reader to complete understanding. Each chapter follows the same pattern. First the author thoroughly explains the concept, making it easy for the reader to grasp the point. He includes many interesting facts, photos, and stories that make this book easy to read. The second part of each chapter, he calls a “Portfolio.” Here the author gets the reader right into the program with all sorts of exercises, things to do, books to read, places to explore, and websites to check-out. Each chapter offers appropriate sources and ideas to learn how to actually use that particular aptitude. For example, I ended up with a personal list of books I want to read and websites I want to see.

There is so much thoughtful, even fascinating information in each chapter that it is beyond our discussion to include any of that. Instead, we’ll just briefly review what the author means with those six aptitudes. “Design” involves more than the usual left-brained “function.” Pink notes, “Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.” Just think about how design influences us all. Don’t we choose a product, or a home because there is something about it that just feels or looks right to us? That involves design. And design is largely a right-brained aptitude.

Today we hear lots of arguments about everything. That is largely L-brained. Pink says that “Story” is becoming more and more important. “The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative.” Writing narratives and telling stories is largely a R-brained activity.

What does he mean by Symphony? He isn’t talking about music, although music is known to be quite right-brained. What Daniel Pink means here is “putting the pieces together.” I recall in previous studies of the right and left brain that the left brain analyzes the pieces. The right brain sees the whole picture. Pink says, “What’s in greatest demand today isn’t analysis but synthesis—seeing the big picture, crossing boundaries, and being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole.” Therefore “symphony” refers to a harmony, like a blend of ideas or sounds that portray the “whole picture.”

Pink notes that logic has been very important in the past, and of course, it continues to be important, but Empathy is also needed. Logic alone will no longer do. In this new global society where our co-workers may be somewhere around the globe, or working at home, or come from totally different cultures, “what will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.”

The author’s inclusion of “Play” as an important attribute may be surprising. I guess I am reminded of the old proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Pink notes the “Ample evidence [that] points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games, and humor.” He says, “In the Conceptual Age, in work and in life, we all need to play.”

Finally, Daniel Pink notes how contemporary society is more and more concerned about “Meaning.” In the past the focus may have been on “accumulation,” but we all end up finally asking big questions about the meaning of it all. The author notes how our material plenty has actually freed us enough from “day-to-day struggles” so that we can “pursue more significant desires: purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment.”

The whole point of the book is to bring these six aptitudes to our focus so that we can understand them, learn how to use them, and thereby prepare ourselves to participate in our rapidly changing world and its rapidly changing demands for new ideas. Does mean that we will forego our left-brain aptitudes? Daniel Pink asserts that “Thinking remains necessary but [is] no longer sufficient.” For the economy of the United States to recover and to regain its position in the world, “We must perform work that overseas knowledge workers can’t do cheaper, that computers can’t do faster, and that satisfies the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands of a prosperous time.” In other words, we must develop our “Whole New Mind.” This thought-provoking, but also entertaining book, is a must read for everybody, but especially for all those young folks who are entering the workplace. This brings us back to Oprah Winfrey and her insight in deciding to present copies of this work to a graduating class from Stanford. This book will open a lot of eyes to where we are today and how we can become better and stronger as individuals and as a country. As one reviewer wrote: [This book] “Will give you a new way to look at your work, your talent, your future.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Life Between Lives - Part Two


Dr. Michael Newton, Ph.D., Master Hypnotherapist with a doctorate in Counseling, rather unwillingly became involved with past-life regression, which then led him to discover, through his clients, possible answers to the age-old mystery of what happens to souls in the spirit world after death. His first book on the subject, Journey of Souls, was published in 1994 (Llewellyn Publication) with a Fifth Revised Edition published in 1996. We discussed a few of the truly amazing stories and insights highlighted in that volume in our last “Book Talk.”

One of Dr. Newton’s missions in that book was to “combat the fear of death by offering people understanding about the nature of their souls and their spiritual home.” In that first work Newton “presented a tight, orderly progression of events of what it is like to die and cross over--who meets us, where we go, and what we do in the spirit world before choosing our next body for reincarnation.” It was a kind of “travelogue through time using actual case histories from clients.” He thought he was done with this exploration and that the material was relatively complete, but people at his lectures and interviews wanted more and clients clamored for his attention. When he resumed his client practice he “noticed a higher percentage of more developed souls” turning up in counseling sessions, perhaps because they wanted to explore life between lives and didn’t need to solve earthly problems. What he learned through these clients led to his second book, Destiny of Souls (Llewellyn Publications, 2000). Newton “designed this book by topical categories rather than by progressive time and location.” Hence this “second expedition” into the spirit world deals in much greater detail with some topics introduced in the first volume.

It is important, I believe, to remind readers once again of the consistency in Dr. Newton’s clients’ reports. He “found that it did not matter if a person was an atheist, deeply religious, or believed in any philosophical persuasion in between--once they were in the proper superconscious state of hypnosis, all were consistent in their reports.” This consistency is important to me as a reader because it underscores the authenticity of the reported information.

The author begins this second volume with an overview of what he has learned through his clients’ regressions into the world after death. Dr. Newton grew “to think of souls as intelligent light forms of energy” which can surprisingly “divide into identical parts.” Readers will need to read the books to comprehend this because it is too complex to explain here. Evil-doing is not punished, but rather, “rehabilitated” in various ways, including treatment in “intensive care units.” “Wrongdoing, intentional or unintentional [is] redressed in some form in a future life.” This is not considered to be punishment, but rather “an opportunity for karmic growth.”

The concept of “soul groups” was introduced in the first book. “Soul groups may range between 3 and 25 members, with the average having about 15.” The way souls “view their group cluster setting” depends on the soul’s state of advancement. Education continues in the after life and “educational placement depends on the level of soul development.”

The author found very meaningful in his research the discovery that souls display different colors. These colors have little or no relation to the aura associated with the physical body. Rather, these colors indicate a soul’s state of advancement. For example, “pure white denotes a younger soul;” more advanced souls move into “orange, yellow, green, and finally the blue ranges” with greatly advanced souls displaying a deep indigo. Again the author reiterates that “in the spirit world no soul is looked down upon as having less value than any other soul. We are all in a process of transformation to something greater . . . [and] each of us is considered uniquely qualified to make some contribution toward the whole, . . .”

The value system of the spirit world is one of “overwhelming kindness, tolerance, patience, and absolute love.” Each soul can make its own choices:
“In the spirit world we are not forced to reincarnate or participate in group projects. If souls want solitude they can have it.” One of the author’s major insights from what he has learned is “that the only thing of true importance in this material life is the way we live and how we treat people.”

Following this review of what he has learned in general about the spirit world, author Michael Newton begins his discussions of various specific topics, all of which are intensely interesting, but more than we can cover in our “Book Talk.” In his discussions in Destiny of Souls Dr. Newton includes 67 case histories, more than twice as many as in his first volume.

His first major topic is “Death, Grief, and Comfort,” chosen no doubt because so many people want to know more about connecting with departed loved ones. We see this concern manifested in current popular television shows, such as James Van Praagh’s Beyond, and John Edward’s Crossing Over. Michael Newton’s discussion should be comforting to everyone. Do you remember my mention several paragraphs back that souls can “divide into separate parts”? This difficult to comprehend point relates to an important insight that Newton and his clients discovered. It seems that we only bring part of our soul energy into any incarnation. “Part of your energy [self] was left behind in the spirit world. . . . When your [loved one] arrives back home again, you will already be there waiting with that portion of your energy which was left behind.” This was a whole new idea for me, but I find the thought quite wonderful. Also in this chapter Newton discusses many ways that spirits connect with the living, such as through objects, dreams, children, environmental settings, or even strangers.

Another very comforting chapter discussion is about “Spiritual Energy Restoration.” Most of us can think of multiple examples of individuals who upon their deaths might need help of various kinds. Those who die traumatic deaths might need reorientation and understanding of “what happened?” Those in great mental distress or depression and suicides could use emotional healing. Those who pass over after long debilitating bouts of cancer or other deteriorating diseases must feel great fatigue. It is stunning to learn that the spirit world is ready in all cases to help and heal each individual soul, according to its needs, when it returns from its tests on Earth. There is often “emergency treatment” right at the “gateway.” Newton reports that “most all returning souls will continue on to some sort of healing station before finally joining their groups.” We also learn that those souls who work as healers in the spirit world often work as healers when they are in the physical state. Dr. Newton includes several such cases in this chapter, such as a woman who is a Reiki practitioner in her current life.

Another intriguing discussion involves the creation of souls and soul group systems. Just as in physical life where no two individuals are identical, as fingerprints and eye scans can prove, every soul is unique. Newton’s clients’ descriptions of the “birth” of souls reads like science fiction. Nevertheless the point is reiterated by a client: “Each soul is unique in its totality of characteristics created by a perfection that I cannot begin to describe. What I can tell you is that no two souls are alike--none--ever!”

Some other points in this very complex chapter are very interesting. One statement is that “there are many physical worlds similar to Earth.” Clients also continually refer to schoolrooms, libraries, and temples in the spirit world, explained by one client this way: “We can create anything we want in the spirit world to remind us of places and things we enjoyed on Earth.” Another point involves so-called genetic memory, or what some writers today call “cell memory.” Newton says this is actually “soul memory emanating from the unconscious mind.” Part of this chapter also includes a much expanded explanation and discussion of the aforementioned colors associated with soul levels of advancement.

Because so many humans fear judgment and punishment after death, Dr. Newton’s chapter on “The Council of Elders” is especially relevant and reassuring. Much of human fear derives from physical life experiences, such as “religious institutions, civil courts and military tribunals [which] give us codes of morality and justice which impact the conduct of millions.” From these institutions people have experienced patterns of “crime and punishment and cultural traditions of harsh judgment for human transgressions” and then they transfer these patterns to their beliefs in an after life.

What Newton and his clients report instead is very different. He says, “Rather than stages of punishment, we go through stages of enlightenment.” Moreover, besides our individual guides, we have some major help along the way from very advanced souls. Dr. Newton says “the two most common names” he has heard “to describe these highly evolved masters are ‘council’ and ‘Elders,’ so I use these designations to describe this body.” As always, Newton tells us, “The spirit world is a place of order and the Council of Elders exemplifies justice. . . . These wise beings have great compassion for human weakness and they demonstrate infinite patience with our faults. We will be given many second chances in future lives.”

Once again Newton confirms the consistency of clients’ reports of their “between lives” experiences. “The descriptions about the form and procedure of council meetings are very consistent among all hypnosis subjects.” The place of meeting is often domed like temples, mosques, synagogues, and churches. At the first meeting following an incarnation, the Council reviews with the soul “the major choices we made in the life [just completed].” The soul’s spirit guide always accompanies and supports the soul during the soul’s review with the Council. The purpose of the meeting is not to “demean the souls . . . or to punish them. . . . The purpose of the Elders is to question the souls in order to help them achieve their goals in the next lifetime.” Newton says, “The Elders are like loving but firm parents, managing directors, encouraging teachers and behavioral counselors all rolled into one..” What is most important is “our intent in life” and if our influence in life was positive and made “original contributions.”

All of the information in this chapter and others in Newton’s book is exceptionally relevant and applicable to each reader’s current life. It all helps us understand better why we are here on Earth and what we are meant to do. We learn that even great problems, difficulties, and pain can have a positive outcome. One client reported a significant statement from a Council Elder: “That which you gain from each difficult life, you gain for all eternity.” A different client also shared a statement from an Elder he called “the Wise One:” “Forgive yourself . . . it is our desire that you accept yourself for who you are with the same unconditional love we have for you. We are here to support you in your work on Earth.” Clients also learn that small, seemingly insignificant deeds of kindness on Earth are recognized as important. “In the spirit world nothing is
insignificant. No act goes unrecorded.”

It is clear that one could go on and on about all the astonishing as well as comforting information in this important work by Dr. Michael Newton. One outstanding chapter explains the importance of relationships, both on Earth and in the spirit world. Newton notes, “Always there are karmic reasons behind the serious events involving relationships in our lives.” One significant, and huge, insight for many people is that “Being with the ‘wrong’ person for a period in your life does not mean that the time was wasted. The relationship was probably intended in advance.” This chapter also gets into the fascinating subjects of gender choice, and linkages between spiritual [groups] and human families. One thoughtful statement may help us feel greater compassion towards those we may consider abusive, or our enemies. “When we are hurt by someone close to us in life, or caused them hurt resulting in alienation and separation, it is because they volunteer to teach us lessons of some sort while learning lessons themselves.”

Clearly, Dr. Michael Newton’s two books, Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls, contain an exceptional richness of information. So much is thought provoking. So much is comforting. So much encourages each reader to grow, to evolve, to become more aware of one’s soul. We feel empowered by these books. A few words from the author will conclude our discussion. “We are not evaluated after death by our religious associations but rather by our conduct and values . . . we are measured more by what we do for others rather than ourselves. . . . You were not given your body by a chance of nature. It was selected for you by spiritual advisors and after previewing their offerings of other host bodies, you agreed to accept the body you have. Thus, you are not a victim of circumstance. . . . We must not lose sight of the idea that we accepted this sacred contract of life and this means the roles we play on Earth are actually greater than ourselves.”

Saturday, May 23, 2009

BOOK TALK: Life Between Lives - Part I

(I just finished reading the third book written by "life between lives" (LBL) therapist, Michael Newton, Ph.D., titled unsurprisingly: Life Between Lives: Hypnotherapy for Spiritual Regression (Llewellyn Publications 2008). Unlike his first two books--Journey of Souls (Llewellyn 1994) and Destiny of Souls (Llewellyn 2000), both intended for the general public--this work isintended to guide professional hypnotherapists who would like to learn his spiritual regression techniques. Still, the book is interesting to readers in that it describes the step-by-step methods that Dr. Newton has used for many years as he helped clients explore the afterlife, their spiritual guides, soul companiions, and the purpose of their lives. Reading this volume has inspired me to go back and re-read those two previous works once again.

Over many years Dr. Michael Newton "presonally [facilitated] over 7,000 LBL clients into their spiritual life between physical incarnations on Earth." In his retirement he has written this new volume to help the "next generation of LBL therapists." General readers are likely to be impressed, as was I, with the deep insight and care that Dr. Newton demonstrates with his suggested format and questions to use with each client. It is clear that any therapist needs great skill and understanding to utilize this method of therapy.

Given that I was familiar with his two previous books, this book was especially interesting to me. I would recommend, however, that readers unfamiliar with his work should read and Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls to learn about what happens when we die. For that reason, I'm publishing my two book discussions on "life between lives." The first part is below. Part Two will follow in a day or two.)


One of the chief fears of human beings concerns death. It is the great unknown, and yet it is an inescapable event in each of our lives. Part of the fears surrounding death involves what happens to us after we die. Is there an afterlife, a heaven, a hell? Will we be punished for our misdeeds and mistakes? Would we have fewer fears if we could know what happens after we die?

Like most people, any knowledge I have acquired about any afterlife has derived from spiritual or esoteric works which I could choose to believe or not, largely based on faith. Also I have I gained possible insights from the many reports of near-death experiences in various books, or case histories from psychiatrists like Brian Weiss, M.D., whose clients occasionally report on experiences between lives in the course of their past-life regression therapy.

Then I read an article about Michael Newton, Ph.D., and I immediately ordered his two books: Journey of Souls: Case Studies of LIfe Between Lives (Llewellyn Publications, 1994; 5th Rev. Ed, 1996); and Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of LIfe Between Lives (Llewellyn Publications, 2000). It is no exaggeration to say that these two volumes have completely changed my thinking about life after death. Fascinating in their content, the two works totally gripped my attention while I explored this rare glimpse into the world beyond.

Both books are easy to read. The dialogue of numerous case studies in each one is intriguing. There is so much thoughtful, even astonishing, information in each book, I will only be able to touch upon a limited number of issues. Nevertheless, this “Book Talk” discussion will be in two parts.

First it is important to have a context for the data and that necessarily begins with the author, Michael Newton, Ph.D. Michael D. Newton holds a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, is a certified Master Hynotherapist, and a member of the American Counseling Association. He has taught in higher educational institutions and has had a private practice in Los Angeles. Trained in traditional therapy, Newton avoided requests for “past-life regressions” from clients in his early days of practice. But like many other therapists, he rather accidentally worked into past-life regressions while trying to help a client find the cause for a lifetime of chronic pain. Discovering the cause in a past life and thereby able to eliminate the pain, Dr. Newton began to experiment with other clients who requested this kind of therapy. He “came to appreciate just how therapeutically important the link is between the bodies and events of our former lives and who we are today.”

But then Dr. Newton made an amazing discovery “of enormous proportions.” He reports, “I found it was possible to see into the spirit world through the mind’s eye of a hypnotized subject who could report back to me of life between lives on Earth.” This discovery became the focus of his practice. He notes that, “There are many books about past lives, but none I could find which told about our life as souls, . . .” He “learned that finding their place in the spirit world was far more meaningful to people than recounting their former lives on Earth.”

Both of his books contain numerous case histories and actual dialogues from client sessions, all of which detail amazing facts and insights about the soul’s life between lives. Cynics would likely question the authenticity of the reports. Are they just examples of client’s imagination and fancies? Dr. Newton makes important points about hypnosis, his techniques, and the consistencies in clients responses. He says, “Once in hypnosis, . . . in response to questions, subjects cannot lie, but they may misinterpret something seen in their unconscious mind, . . . . In hypnosis, people have trouble relating to anything they don’t believe is the truth.”

Dr. Newton developed a technique rather like cross-examination that he uses with his clients. He treats “each case as if I were hearing the information for the first time.” He says, “I found no evidence of anyone faking their spiritual experiences to please me.” What he discovered over many years and hundreds of subjects was “that once subjects were regressed back to their soul state they all displayed a remarkable consistency in responding to questions about the spirit world.” The only differences in reporting “was due more to the level of soul development than to variances in how each subject basically saw the spirit world.” By the time he wrote his second book, Newton unequivocally says, “It did not matter if a person was an atheist, deeply religious, or believed in any philosophical persuasion in between--once they were in the proper

superconscious state of hypnosis, all were consistent in their reports.” Such consistency is important to me as a reader because it reinforces my trust in the content of these books.

Journey of Souls
has a logical progression in its organization. Using 29 cases out of hundreds in his case files, Dr. Newton presents the story of the experiences of souls from the moment of their death from their physical body to the moment of their next rebirth. In between we learn of the gateway to the spirit world, homecoming to old soul friends, problems for displaced souls, various steps of orientation and transition to life in spirit, our guides, the various levels of soul development and what that entails, and finally the steps in selecting a new life, choosing a new body, and the embarkation into the physical once more.

It’s an astounding trip I can assure you. Reading the pages is as gripping as any adventure novel. Newton includes many excerpts of the case reports with actual client dialogues. This adds great authenticity and reality to the work. Many questions that readers have about “after death” are answered in these pages. Some answers may differ considerably from what most of us have been taught to believe. All the answers, however, should offer enlightenment and comfort to all. Those who expect a “hell” in the afterworld may be exceptionally relieved to discover that “hell” is on Earth and not in the afterworld.

There is no way that I can begin to mention all that I have learned from Journey of Souls. Hence, we’ll limit our discussion to three topics: death and the return to the spirit world, levels of soul development, and choosing a new life. Newton’s case reports on death and the immediate after-life experiences are similar to those reported in many other sources, such as reports of near-deaths, or in other books about past-life regressions. Nevertheless it is clear that we receive extensive help and assistance from those on the other side. Most of Newton’s subjects “report the first person they see in the spirit world is their personal guide.” Also, “after any life we can be met by a soulmate” and other important people in our lives. Moreover, “unseen intelligent energy forces guide each of us” on our passage from the physical world to the spirit world.

How does each individual adjust to being in the spirit world after a life on Earth? There are apparently diverse reactions. Newton says, “The time of soul adjustment depends upon the circumstances of death, attachments of each soul to the memories of the life just ended, and level of advancement.” Nearly all souls seem to require some kinds of healing after time on Earth, and this takes place appropriately. Souls are also “debriefed” of the life just ended and in counseling sessions, “held accountable for their past lives.” Nevertheless, “there is overwhelming forgiveness in the spirit world.”

A good question many of us ask is, “What is the purpose of living on earth and experiencing the pain and violence of this world, especially if the spiritual matrix is one of love and wisdom?” Newton provides answers throughout his books, but most concisely when he says, “If a soul only knew love and peace, it would gain no insight and never truly appreciate the value of these positive feelings. The test of reincarnation for a soul coming to Earth is the conquering of fear in a human body. A soul grows by trying to overcome all negative emotions connected to fear through perseverance in many lifetimes.”

Upon returning to the spirit world each soul moves back to its “group.” It was a surprise for many of Newton’s clients to discover that “everyone has a designated place in the spirit world.” Group placement “is determined by soul level” and “Peer members have a sensitivity to each other which is far beyond our conception on Earth.” It feels comforting to learn from Newton’s subjects that “Members of the same cluster group are closely united for all eternity.” Such clusters “are often composed of like-minded souls with common objectives which they continually work out with each other.” Newton discovered that these peer group members most commonly manifest as siblings and close friends on Earth. Parents, in general, are not from one’s soul group, but from “secondary” or other related groups.

One point in the stories related so consistently by Newton’s case histories is the structure and organization in the afterworld. There is nothing haphazard about it. Gentle, patient guidance is always operative. Everything and everyone has a “place.” For Newton the spirit world resembles “one great schoolhouse with a multitude of classrooms under the direction of teacher-souls who monitor our progress.” Is it not comforting to know that throughout eternity “we are always protected, supported and directed within the system by master souls”?

Whereas some people may be uncomfortable with the idea of different “levels” of souls, “Newton notes that “the whole idea of a hierarchy of souls has been part of both Eastern and Western cultures for many centuries.” Haven’t we all heard the term “old soul” and hoped (or believed) that we are one? Newton warns that the idea is not to be thought of in an elitist way, either socially or intellectually. All souls start as “beginners” and earn their development. What we see on Earth may have little to do with a soul’s “level.” It may be disconcerting to some readers that “souls in a high state of advancement are often found in humble circumstances on Earth. By the same token, people in the upper strata of influence in human society are by no means in a blissful state of soul maturity. Often, just the reverse is true.”

Newton devotes a chapter each to discussions and examples of beginner, intermediate, and advanced souls. From his experience and research with hundreds of clients, Newton “believes almost three-quarters of all souls who inhabit human bodies on Earth today are still in the early stages of development.” He admits this is “a grossly discouraging statement,” but quite appropriate considering our current “world population beset by so much negative cross-cultural misunderstanding and violence.” On the other hand, his research indicates that “each century brings improvement of awareness in all humans.” So we are making progress, even if it seems to be at a slow pace.

Michael Newton has maintained a statistical count of clients soul levels in his case files. In his first book he acknowledges that his cases could over-represent souls at the lower level of development because those are the ones who most often need assistance in life and seek counseling. Nevertheless, his statistics by soul level of all his cases are: Level I, 42%; Level II, 31%; Level III, 17%; Level IV, 9%; and Level V, 1%. This suggests to Newton that there are “only a few hundred thousand people on Earth at Level V, meaning most advanced.

What I find to be exceptionally interesting in Newton’s Journey of Souls are his descriptions of the various soul level characteristics. For beginner souls typical characteristics include: “a lifetime of getting into disastrous ruts;” a lack of “generosity of spirit toward others;” not taking “much personal responsibility” for one’s actions; an “inability to bond with people;” an inclination to surrender their will to authorities; a “lack of independent thinking;” and a tendency towards self-centeredness and not accepting “others for who they are.” Now it must be emphasized that these are not bad people. Like small children, they are just learning. Newton emphasizes: “No stigma should be attached to these souls, since every soul was once a beginner.” Clearly, a major task for all souls beyond the “beginner level” is to aid, instruct, encourage, and assist beginners, just as parents or other helping adults would do for a small child. Here we may recall the wise statement, “We are our brothers’ keeper.”

Newton says that “intermediate” souls reincarnate less frequently than “beginners,” and they are “ready for more serious responsibilities.” Characteristics apparent in the intermediate souls include: high standards of morality and conduct, modesty about achievements, more composure, “trust rather than suspicion toward the motives of others,” and a “forward-looking attitude of faith and confidence for the future of humanity.” Newton also reports, “The more advanced souls of the world possess remarkable comprehension of a universal life plan.” He says, “Levels III and IV are significant stages” for evolving souls “because now they are given increased responsibilities for younger souls” and “these are trial periods for potential teachers.”

Newton reports that highly advanced souls are “scarce.” They generally don’t turn up in his practice because “a person whose maturity is this high doesn’t seek out a regression therapist to resolve life-plan conflicts. In most cases, Level V’s are here as incarnated guides.” The fulfillment for advanced souls “comes from improving the lives of other people.” Newton describes the characteristics of advanced souls as: “one who has patience with society and shows extraordinary coping skills;” has exceptional insight; “radiates composure, kindness, and understanding toward others.” Dr. Newton’s session with an advanced soul, Case 23 in Journey of Souls, is exceptional in its insights and wisdom.

Finally we must at least touch upon the grand finale of this book which involves the soul setting about to return to Earth again. The soul must decide if it is ready for a new physical life, what specific lessons it wants to address, who it should be, and where in the world would offer the best opportunity to work on its goals. It may console some readers to learn that souls can refuse to be reborn. Nothing is forced in the spirit world. The soul makes some of its decisions based on a kind of “movie preview” that is similar to today’s “virtual reality” in that the souls can actually get “into” the “movie” and try out the various possible “roles” they could assume in a physical body. It all sounds quite like science fiction, but again, Dr. Newton says all his clients “use remarkable similar descriptions” of this process. The resulting life still includes much free will.

Readers can acquire thoughtful insights from Journey of Souls. All of it, for me, was reassuring, comforting, and corroborative of other studies. I have only included small bits of the extensive information and unique insights in this book which also delves into topics including infant death, suicide, physical and emotional pain, relationships, physical and mental handicaps, the Holocaust, racial and gender choices, childhood traumas, intelligence, abortion, birth, and more. Newton emphasizes, “Whatever happens to us in life, it is important we understand that our happiness or pain does not reflect either blessings or betrayal on the part of a God-oversoul, our guides, or life-selection coordinators. We are the masters of our destiny.”

He concludes his first volume with some of the insights he gained from his experiences interviewing his clients. He acknowledges there is “no scientific foundation to prove the statements” of his clients. For those who find the information “too unprecedented to accept,” he hopes, “If you carry away nothing except the idea that you may have a permanent identity worth finding, I will have accomplished a great deal . . . . The awareness that we do belong somewhere is reassuring and offers us peace, . . .”

(To be continued in Part Two)

Monday, May 11, 2009

BOOK TALK: A New Earth

(The following article was originally published in my "Book Talk" column in phenomeNEWS in 2008. Since it is one of my favorite books, I decided to publish it here on my blog as I may be referring to it sometime and need it to be here. It is a book one can read and re-read and always find something inspiring or insightful to think about.)


Last month in “Book Talk” we reviewed The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (New World Library, 1999). Now we shall examine his newest work, an Oprah Book Club choice, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (hardcover: Dutton, 2005; softcover: Plume 2006). Clearly, the two works are inter-related. Both deal with spiritual awakening in individuals. A New Earth, however, takes the transformation a step further, relating it to the world around us as well as to the individual. Readers will also discover much greater insights into dealing with the troublesome ego that blocks so much of our attempt to move forward spiritually.

Just as in his first book, author Tolle intends A New Earth to be more than just something inspirational to read. In an article published on the Borders website, he notes how a person can be awakened by a book. He names three conditions to be met. “First, there must be a readiness on the part of the reader, an openness, a receptivity to spiritual truth. . . .Secondly, the text must have transformative power. This means the words must have come out of the awakened consciousness rather than the accumulated knowledge of a person’s mind. . . . Thirdly, the terminology used needs to be as neutral as possible so that it transcends the confines of any one culture, religion, or spiritual tradition. Only then will it be accessible to a broad range of readers world-wide, regardless of cultural background.”

The author notes that these conditions were met in The Power of Now, and it is clear that they form his intention in A New Earth. But he has “new perspectives, new signposts” and “an added sense or urgency” to reach “an even wider audience.” Like many writers and teachers today, Tolle believes that “we are running out of time.” He warns, “Spiritual awakening is not an option anymore, but a necessity if humanity and the planet are to survive.” And so let us examine Tolle’s New Earth to learn ways in which we can evolve and awaken spiritually.

[Note: the book has 10 chapters. Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle began 10 weekly website classes in March, 2008 on Oprah still identifies this book as her "favorite."]

Chapter One states the purpose of this book, which is to facilitate a “transformation of consciousness,” through the means of the book itself. “As you read, a shift takes place within you.” In order to achieve an “awakening,” however, each of us has to recognize the “unawakened us”--the ego. Therefore, this book, in much greater detail than Tolle’s previous work, clearly depicts “the main aspects of the ego and how they operate in the individual as well as the collective.” This is definitely a key issue. Unless we really recognize and catch the ego in action, it will effectively block any and all progress that we might intend to make. Moreover, Tolle says, “The act of recognition itself is one of the ways in which awakening happens.” In this chapter as well, Tolle relates his insights to original teachings in the great religions and spiritual traditions. He also refers to “the voice in the head” and encourages readers that the voice “is not who I [you] am [are].” He concludes this introductory chapter with a reference to “a new heaven and a new earth.” This single chapter, like all Tolle chapters, is rich in insights.

Chapters Two through Five all deal with the ego. Readers will find a plethora of insights in these chapters. It’s a fact that all of us are currently living in what might be called “ego-states.” We think we are what we appear to be. We perpetuate this state with labels and words. When asked to describe ourselves, we usually refer to gender, profession, nationality, race, religion, roles, or we tell the “story” of our past, “things that happened to me”! All this and more becomes the “I” for each of us. In this and following chapters, Tolle helps us move from this limited perception to a far broader one.

We learn how ego-identification creates attachment to “things.” Now obviously, some “things” in ordinary life are necessary. But as Tolle points out, we are living at a time that emphasizes “more” in every sense of that word. Even our government seems based on constant “growth” of the economy. Tolle also emphasizes how we often “identify” with things. If I have “more” things than you, does that mean I’m superior (more important, more powerful, smarter)? The implications of ego-attachments are astonishing. Tolle urges us to “just be aware of your attachment to things.” Of course, to get to the real point of the chapter, the objective is to “realize your true identity as consciousness itself. . . .The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I AM.”

Chapter Three will surely resonate with readers. It is rather like a mirror in which we can view ourselves as well as everyone we know. Titled “The Core of Ego,” it describes how the ego behaves. First, its intention is to protect and enlarge itself in order to survive. The ego believes it is us. We need to realize that it isn’t our real Self, but to survive it acts in many recognizable ways. A favorite behavior is complaining “especially about other people.” It labels and name-calls. It feels resentment, expressing this as bitterness, indignation, or being offended by this or that. It resents all situations not to its immediate liking. It takes everything personally, and often moves to a stronger emotion, such as anger.

The ego builds its strength by being “right” and making others “wrong.” This provides the ego with “moral superiority.” All of this behavior is apparent not only in individuals, but also in collective groups: “Nations, races, tribes, religions and other ideologies.” Given that all such ego-driven behaviors lead to an “us versus them” mentality, in turn it drives violence everywhere in the world.

Eckhart Tolle does more than point out all the faults of our ego-driven selves and groups. He teaches us what we need to do to change this behavior. A surprising point is that we cannot “fight” it. He says, “unconsciousness, dysfunctional egoic behavior, can never be defeated by attacking it . . . whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.” The key point, emphasized over and over, is: “All that is required to become free of the ego is to be aware of it.”

We might say that one way to discover our true self is to recognize what we are not. We are not the ego, the persona, the personality that for so long a time we have believed to be our identity. We can only move on to spiritual awareness when we can finally realize that this ego is the major distraction preventing us from reaching that goal. Author Tolle helps us by identifying the ego’s behavioral clues so specifically that we are able to recognize them and act from a point of the aware observer.

We might take a look again at the sub-title for A New Earth: “Awakening to your Life’s Purpose.” What does Tolle say about that? He says, “Awareness is the power that is concealed within the present moment. . . . The ultimate purpose of human existence, which is to say, your purpose, is to bring that power into this world.” Are we getting the message? It should start to become clear that we have a double purpose: first to work on our own spiritual awareness; and secondly, with that awareness, add that to the world and thereby raise the level of the world’s awareness.

I keep thinking that each chapter in Tolle’s book is a little book in and of itself because each chapter contains so many helpful insights that open our perceptions to a clearer view of who we are. His chapter on “Role-Playing: the Many Faces of the Ego” clearly depicts how we role play throughout our lives. It is as if we are actors in a drama, but unlike true actors, we come to think we are the roles we are playing. One very common role, Tolle notes, “is the one of victim, and the form of attention it seeks is sympathy or pity or others’ interest in my problems, ‘me and my story.’” If this doesn’t sound like you, no doubt you know this person as a friend or relative. And guess who is playing that role of victim? Did you figure out it is the ego?

Given that we live in a world of role-players, it is interesting to note what Tolle has to say about the famous and powerful: “Most of the people who are in positions of power in this world, such as politicians, TV personalities, business as well as religious leaders, are completely identified with their role, with a few notable exceptions.” What we learn here is that “when you don’t play roles, it means there is no self (ego) in what you do.” In other words, the advice is to just be there “as a field of conscious Presence.”

In The Power of Now Eckhard Tolle devoted large portions of the book to discussions of what he calls “the pain-body.” In A New Earth he limits discussion of the “pain-body” to two chapters, focusing more on the ego and our need for awareness of that part of us. Step by step Tolle helps us understand the relation of emotions to mind and to ego. For example, “an emotion can . . . be a response to an actual situation or event, but it will be a response to the event seen through the filter of a mental interpretation.” Moreover, the body “cannot tell the difference between an actual situation and a thought. It reacts to every thought as if it were a reality.” If you have trouble accepting this point, consider why you cry at the movies. The ego, “the voice in the head tells a story that the body believes in and reacts to” with emotions. When we experience a negative situation (or thought), the ego, the voice in the head, on and on “spins tales, still thinking and talking about it days, months, or years later. As far as the body is concerned, the fight is still continuing.”

Thusly, Tolle explains what he terms the “pain-body.” He says, “Most people carry a large amount of unnecessary baggage, both mental and emotional throughout their lives.” This “accumulation of old emotional pain” is the “pain-body.” The pain-body doesn’t just relate to individuals, but also relates to “pain suffered by countless humans throughout the history of humanity.” Tolle speculates that “the collective pain-body is probably encoded within every human’s DNA.”

Tolle’s discussion of the pain-body is extremely significant because he points out how it gains control of our thinking, making us become very negative. He devotes an entire chapter to “Breaking Free” and once again, first steps are important. “The beginning of freedom from the pain-body lies first of all in the realization that you have a pain-body.” So we see, once again, that as in dealing with the ego with awareness, the same awareness--recognition--works with the pain-body. Becoming the observer, the witness, is the key, and Tolle helps readers understand how to accomplish this.

Tolle assures us that “it is not the pain-body, but identification with it that causes the suffering that you inflict on yourself and others.” We can all acknowledge that when we hurt, we aren’t all that nice to the other folks in our lives. But we can choose to be more conscious and aware. Of course, it takes practice as well as understanding, and that is what this book helps us achieve.

There is so much more in this book. Tolle’s concluding four chapters deal with “Finding Who You Truly Are,” “The Discovery of Inner Space,” “Your Inner Purpose,” and “A New Earth.” We can only touch upon a few points and that isn’t easy because my copy of Tolle’s book is so heavily highlighted and underlined! But as I often do in “Book Talk,” I’ll use this opportunity to share a few choice quotations that may tempt readers to explore this exceptional work.

Tolle says, “Nothing you can know about you is you. . . . Knowing yourself is being yourself, and being yourself is ceasing to identify with content.”

I was reminded of the delightful Beatle’s song “Let it Be” when I read the following: “To be in alignment with what is means to be in a relationship of inner nonresistance with that happens. It means not to label it mentally as good or bad, but to let it be.” Tolle continues, “The Master responds to falsehood and truth, bad news and good news, in exactly the same way: ‘Is that so?’ . . . Events are not personalized.”

Given that Tolle’s first book was The Power of Now, we expect to find references to the Present Moment in this book as well. Tolle says: “You discover that there is only ever this moment. Life is always now.”

A very helpful piece of advice for me, especially in this year of political debates, is to “consciously allow the diminishment of ego” by “occasionally refraining from expressing your opinion when everybody is expressing his or hers, and seeing what that feels like.” How about that?

Here are some more words of wisdom: “Nonresistance, non-judgment and nonattachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.”

Finally, I would urge readers of Tolle’s A New Earth, or his previous work, The Power of Now, to share their thoughts and experience with others. That is, both books are perfect vehicles for group study, whether that group is just one other person, or a group of friends, or a classroom of sorts. Discussing the insights in these books with others helps clarify and reinforce their message. No doubt, this is why Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle elected to present ten “classes” on the book on the Oprah website.

Tolle says, “We are in the midst of a momentous event in the evolution of human consciousness, but they won’t be talking about it in the news tonight.” But you can hear Tolle and Oprah talk about it. And you can read about it in these books and share the thoughts with some friends. Thereby, you can become a part of that new earth and an awakened consciousness.”

Eckhart Tolle’s website is:
Oprah Winfrey’s website is:

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Thoughts Along the Way - May 2, 2009

Thoughts Along the Way

(Today I am writing more of a real blog. That is, most of my writing in recent years have been a series of book commentaries, written for the publication, phenomeNEWS. I never wrote my own thoughts as an essay for the "Book Talk" column. But that is what I am doing today. The following little essay explores some recent thoughts on current human problems.)

Rather suddenly the other day a fairly simple thought came to me, one that seems to answer a lot of questions. It seems to me that most people, to some degree or other, have difficulty dealing with life AS IT IS. Rather, they long for life AS IT WAS, or at least as they think they remember it, or even as they wish it would be. Taking this thought one step further, we see that the difficulty begins with our relationship to reality.

This discussion will approach this idea in as many ways as I can think of. The idea relates to philosophy, psychology, religion, politics, and everyday living of all sorts. What my exploration of this idea is leading me to conclude, at least tentatively, is that what we most commonly think are political or religious disagreements are largely the results of our level of dealing with what is versus what we would like things to be.

Although everyone of us has this problem, I have observed that certain groups of people appear to have greater difficulty dealing with “what is,” and others seem to find “what is” not all that troublesome. I was curious about why that is the case. Clearly, it is not a matter of intelligence, or education. My observation is that older people, people from smaller towns, and those with a generally more conservative philosophy, either political, religious, or both, have a greater degree of difficulty in dealing with life today as it is. Younger people, people from big cities, and those with a more liberal philosophy seem to handle life “as it is” with greater serenity. There must be a reason for these differences, and they are worth exploring. We also must repeat here that everybody has some difficulty with dealing with the “now.”

Now that I have mentioned “now,” let’s begin with the writings of numerous psychologists and philosophical writers who have emphasized in contemporary writings the importance of being in the “present moment” and dealing with “now.” (Refer to Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, Don Miguel Ruiz, and others.) People who have read these kinds of works are likely to be some of those folks who at least attempt to face the facts of today with some sense of purpose and acceptance. Perhaps this is just because they have been exposed to the idea of focusing on the present.

Let’s look briefly at that present. For some reason beyond the understanding of any of us, life on Earth has been in acceleration mode for a number of years. Everything is moving so quickly. Styles come and go overnight. Technology develops so quickly that it is no longer a joke to say that your computer is obsolete the moment you take it out of the box. Much of technology today is so advanced, the major portion of society can’t cope with it, let alone understand it or comprehend its implications, and heaven help us if any of it needs repair. Most of my older friends love their computers, largely for e-mail purposes, but have no idea how to deal with even the smallest of computer glitches. That’s not their fault. Again, it is the speed of the changes in our world.

So here we are living in a world that changes constantly, often overnight, and it seems that each day brings new things to absorb, to try to understand, and for many of us, it is more than we can deal with. The result is that we spend a great amount of energy thinking about “the way it was” and wishing that life would be as simple as it was in years past. This very human and common reaction manifests in our society in many ways.

Given that we live in a world of constant change, constant challenges, it still might be something we could handle if we didn’t have 24/7 media reports on that very situation. Anything that happens anywhere in the world immediately turns up on our television screens. It is difficult to avoid this constant reminder that the world is difficult, changing, and challenging. Moreover, we don’t just get the news, but we get multiple interpretations and opinionated commentary on every little thing. The world has always had problems, from the weather to wars, but it is only NOW that we have this distraction constantly shoved in our faces. If we don’t see it on TV, it pops up on our computer screens.

All of this helps me understand the red/blue maps that appear rather often on television cable commentary shows. I can’t help but notice that the red states, those in the deep South and the middle of the country are those that largely have small towns. Conversely, the “blue” states most commonly contain the big cities: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, etc. Now why should this make a difference?

Given that I am one in that “elder” category, I am thinking back to my younger years. Small towns and usually suburbs of the larger cities were quite homogeneous. That is, there were at that time few ethnic or racial differences in those places. Most people looked the same, sounded the same, and if they were churchgoers, attended the same few churches in town. In high school, for example, most students knew all the other students by name. When humans are surrounded by “same,” they feel a certain level of security. The “other” as often discussed by psychologists, is not, in these particular circumstances, very different from oneself. On the other hand, in the big cities, even in my youth, one would find a much greater diversity of people--ethnic, racial, and religious. The “different” has always been a problem for human beings. When someone looks different, sounds different, acts different, it poses a challenge. Should I fear that person? Am I safe? Usually, of course, one is perfectly safe, but psychologically, may not feel safe because life now is not as it was before.

The observations above bring me back to the small town/ big city difference. People raised in small towns feel safe, often leaving their doors unlocked. People raised in big cities generally don’t feel as safe, and have multiple locks on their doors. Nevertheless, the people in big cities grow used to diversity and to some degree it becomes “normal” to them. People raised in small towns in the past (and perhaps present) aren’t as used to diversity, and the recent changes in those towns with perhaps influx of (legal or illegal) immigrants or refugees from other countries, suddenly pose something new to deal with. It becomes a challenge.

I could use my own teaching experience as an example. When I attended high school, as I already noted, the entire student body was quite homogeneous. But when I taught high school some 20 plus years later, the suburban high school where I taught (in the same metropolitan area where I was raised) had already developed great diversity, with students’ families originating in more than sixty different countries, and all major religions represented in the student body. Let me say that again: twenty years!

Let’s briefly discuss the political philosophy called “Conservative” I don’t intend this to be a critical discussion, but rather, informative as it relates to our thesis that all of us have trouble relating to “life as it is,” but also that some folks find this even more difficult than the average. To remain as neutral as possible, I’m taking a definition of “conservative” from the dictionary, which says: “Conservative—disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc. and to agree with gradual rather than abrupt change.” I find that definition both interesting and insightful. (And just to set it straight, my personal stand is that we need both Conservative and Liberal parties in our government, and that the whole system works best when they are fairly equal in strength and power.)

The definition refers to “preserving existing conditions.” This is an important part of the conservative philosophy, and it is undeniably important to preserve that which has proven to be useful to the country, or to humans in general. But by its very wording, it refers to things in the past, or that originated in the past. There’s nothing “wrong” with that at all. But this approach reinforces my point that people with a conservative bent are more focused on the past, and therefore have a greater difficulty dealing with the present. The definition also notes that conservatives can handle change if it is “gradual” rather than “abrupt.” The problem we have noted about today’s world is that changes are taking places very rapidly in all areas of society: political, technological, ecological, etc. There is little disagreement on this particular fact. Many books have come out in recent years discussing these developments.

The fact of the matter, however, as I see it, is that we live in a world of constant change. Those changes seem to be accelerating exponentially. This creates great stresses, especially for those folks who recall or wish for times “as they were,” or to keep those values or life styles that they see as “good.” This is a very human response. So the problem isn’t really just a matter of political preferences, or religious beliefs, or even prejudices. It is quite basic. ALL of us, again to some degree, have difficulty dealing with LIFE AS IT IS. Those of us who recall a different experience, whether in our youth or some other experiential area, spend energy wanting our life to be AS IT WAS. Surely, if we really ponder this idea, we can see that it is quite fruitless to waste our energy in this fashion. We may not like the changes going on around us, but most of them are outside of our control. Fighting what we can’t control is wasted energy. We do, however, have the responsibility and right to express our needs or opinions via voting, letters, and other legal means, and to be proactive in positive, helpful ways. If this discussion is starting to sound like the notable “Serenity Prayer” I would agree. Just as a reminder, that little prayer goes as follows:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The strength to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Each of us might find it useful to self examine our approach to life “as it is.”

Are we using life’s challenges, no matter how much they contradict what we would like our life to be, in as positive a manner as we are capable of? Are we using our talents to be in the present, and perhaps to develop new attitudes toward life as it is? Only each one of us can make those choices. If we glue ourselves to a wishful longing for the past, we can never fully function in the present. To be in the present, to accept “life as it is” even when we don’t like it, gives us the opportunity to be a contributory agent to the world we have been given.

The only way to deal with current situations is to be more pragmatic and alert, attempting to deal with whatever issue comes up in the present moment. We can’t control what happens “out there.” We can only change what happens “in here,” that is, inside ourselves. Gandhi may have said it best: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”