Tag Archives: fear

Heart and Soul

The heart of a dairy farm may be in the barn, but the soul is in the soil, and my ego is grounded in both. Status of a farm boy is embodied in chores, and mine included duties inside and outside our barn. Rites of passage became new chores requiring greater skill and more responsibility.

NOTE: This blog series is dedicated to the quest for understanding who I am and how I came to be me.

My dad was a dirt farmer. I say that with pride of the narrow meaning of the term: a man who farms his own soil, land he owns. That was a big deal in our family. Mom and dad only bought that farm a year or so before I was born. Before that, they were share croppers.

I never knew my Grandpa Barnes because he died when Dad was about fifteen. Being one of the younger children of a family of twelve, my dad went to live with older siblings until he was old enough to find a job as a hired man, a young man working on a farm for room and board plus a few dollars. It was many years before a WWII need for farmers provided opportunities for sharecroppers to buy farms with little money down.

Dad never let go of that land. He was still spending summers there and working on the farm when he was seventy-eight. One brother lives in the house and our other brother and I help out a little every summer. There is a spiritual umbilical cord none of us wishes to cut.

We grew up in that barn and on that land—we might as well grow old there, too. We learned to work, to take care of livestock, to till the land, and to care for each other on that farm. One fear I have never had is the thought of being homeless. And, when I think about how I became me, I think about that farm.

It was a proud moment the day I graduated from scraping the barn to sweeping it. Scraping then became the chore of the younger boy my mom cared for during the day while his widowed mother worked. I was no longer the baby. Soon, the two of us could scrape, sweep, and lime the barn. There is real pride in viewing a clean barn aisle you created.

I carried a soup can with kerosene through the garden, one of my earliest memories. My job was picking the potato bugs off our potato plants and dropping them into the can. Killing is a part of gardening, a part of farming, and I gave no thought to it. It was my job.

Planting was more fun. Mom would hoe a small fresh hole in the soil Dad had tilled, and I would drop in the seeds. We planted a lot of garden that way and I never tired of it. Many years later I did the same with my daughters. Once when they were teenagers, I kept them both busy at the same time running the hoe—a two row planter.

To this day soil calls me. I hurry home to our land in the north woods to plant garden in spring. It isn’t for the harvest, because we frequently leave before the season, but for the planting. It’s funny how those childhood things remain so important so long.

But, they were important. We lived on the products of that barn and garden. It was survival, but it was so much more. It was security and comfort and reality. When I was young, it was all I knew. When we wanted popcorn, we went to the back room and got some ears of popcorn, shelled them into a pan, winnowed them in the breeze on our porch, and then went to the stove. And before we could get that popcorn from the back room, we had to till the soil, plant the seeds, hoe the weeds, pick the corn, and dry, husk, and store it.

It was the same with almost everything we ate. Even the apples and peaches we bought were canned or pickled for winter. Maybe it seems like such a life is tenuous or even dangerous, depending upon your own hands to grow your own food, but I see the opposite. It is freedom: freedom from want, freedom from fear of scarcity, and freedom from dependence upon uncertain times.

Yes, I think that has a lot to do with my view of the world. “A country boy can survive.”

If he has land. And family. That is security.

I find no wonder that people without land and family get scared and angry, get mean and crazy. Especially when they cannot work to earn money to buy food they cannot hunt or grow. My heart and soul have never had to live that fear. I was a lucky boy.

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Be Longing

Life is the brief experience of separation from God, the durable discrimination of moments into experiences, the simultaneous celebration and lament for what we almost remember and fear we have lost. We spend our lives longing to belong. Relax. This is neither reality nor illusion; it is choice.

NOTE: This blog series addresses twelve attributes I see conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past stress. June embraces Love.

Erotic (eros) love is both fear and celebration of separation. Really? Without separation there is neither union nor reunion.

Yes, there are times when two lovers feel so close they lose sentience of the boundary between them–when they touch the mysterious oneness, when all desire has matured. But, alas, there are other times.

Brotherly love (philos) is a sharing of time or treasure beyond individuality that dimly reflects the oneness we almost remember. It is a real expansion of self to others we like and trust, those within some group we perceive as like us. But, alas, there are others.

Godly love (Agape) is a grace of charity for others like our children. “Our” children. But, alas, there are “other” children.

For Biology students I give this definition: “Life is self-controlled chemistry.” Define “self”. Tell me, if you will, precisely where you end and the rest of the universe begins.

Bullets and bombs help one define the boundary. Enemies are not brothers, not lovers, and certainly neither our children nor parents.

We enlarge our definition of self and other. We trust less, share less, love less.

Relax. Trauma is an experience, a durable, discriminate, momentous experience. It is not the loss of choice, although it does challenge it.

It is primal biological drive to maintain this separation of self. It is survival.

There is another drive within us, perhaps even more primal, to go home to the oneness we almost remember.

I am grateful for the experience of lovers’ oneness. I am grateful for the experience of love for brothers and sisters. I am grateful for the experience of something approaching Agape for my children and grandchildren. These are all gifts, I know; but they are gifts I requested.

Today, I would like to gaze upon a fourth kind of love I have also experienced, a love of oneness sometimes referred to as Henosis.

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” (Black Elk)

I have sat in the forest and known that I belong. I belong to the forest and it belongs to me. I have sat in the desert and known that I belong. I do not need to be longing for something I almost remember because I feel it in this moment of belonging.

I am grateful for the experience of oneness I have found within the forest, within the desert, and within myself. This is the greatest gift of my life for it allows me to be grateful for all the other gifts. I know it is a gift, but it is a gift I requested.

Have you asked for gifts? Have you sought them? Have you prayed and Quested for them?

Deep down inside you, where you almost remember oneness with God, is there a tiny prayer for experiences of love? Have you sung that prayer, danced that prayer, or even whispered it to yourself?

Happy Tracking!

Perfect World

We live in prisons of our own creation, trapped between two contrasting worlds of our imagination. The first is our utopia, the way we come to believe the world should be. The second is our dystopia, the way we come to believe the world might be. Both are false.

NOTE: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past trauma. May aspires to Hope.

We spend our days and nights drowning in the cold dark sea of reality, desperately trying to climb the icebergs of our imagination, alternately trying to climb the iceberg of our fantasies where everything works out just right for us and trying to climb back on that iceberg of our past trauma just to, you know, fix things and make them right.

Like the icebergs, these worlds lie mostly below the surface of our awareness, in our subconscious. The rules we choose to govern our lives are those we accept without judgment, for judgment requires acknowledgement of their existence. We pretend these worlds are reality. We deny that they are our own creations.

We hold the visions in our heads, the dreams of our perfect world and the nightmare of our fears and traumas. We do not rule them for they rule us.

Now, that is depressing.

In a perfect world, our childish fantasies are cherished memories replaced in governance by the beautiful schema of reality. We come to know the way the world really works. We learn to negotiate reality, to manage our lives, to accept the way things are.

Many of us do not live in a perfect world. We fail to accept the rules of the universe, clinging to our fantasies. Things never seem to work out the way we believe they should. We live with high expectations and dashed hopes simply because we cling to the iceberg we created rather than to swim the reality we come to know through experience. We live in denial.

Some of us live in the darkness of dread, fears of terrible nightmares and repeated trauma. Our experiences have been too terrible to reconcile with our world views, especially if our world views are dream world fantasies.

Maybe I should get to the Hope, already.

The world is not falling apart. The world works perfectly according to immutable laws, principles we can discern with careful observation and honest reflection. Well, WE can as a community. Any one of us is unlikely to figure out very much on our own, but together we can understand reality. We can explain and predict, we can negotiate and manage, and we can appreciate and accept.

I am in da Nort’ Woods this day. My body is sharing time and space with my heart, that is, my passion.

I cannot cheat the woods. There are mosquitoes and ticks and bears here, and poison ivy, too. I cannot deny that, and I cannot change that. I wouldn’t if I could.

Who am I to disapprove of the woods? The woods does not disapprove of me. I am accepted here the same as the mosquitoes and ticks and bears. Nobody gets special treatment of favor or discrimination. There is a blessed egality in the woods, in all of Nature. I appreciate that. I accept that.

I cannot find egality at the mall, on cable news, or anywhere in manmade worlds. Here, in Nature, I cannot escape it.

So, why am I alone, here? No, I am not lonely. I just marvel that most people spend so little time in Nature. I surmise that most of us prefer to keep climbing the icebergs of our childhood fantasies or our traumas.

Do you want freedom from dread and depression? Do you want Hope?

Well, you are going to have to melt those icebergs, and that begins with acceptance. In my case, time in Nature always helps me to accept the way things are in reality, and that allows me to perceive and accept my imaginary worlds as that, imaginary. That helps me to see my dream as childish folly and my trauma as a reason to need Nature even more.

Yes, there is Hope if you will have it, and all you really have to do is put your childhood fantasies in the toy box, turn the light on the closet of your fears, and accept the world the way it is.

This is a Perfect World. Go wonder in Nature.

Happy Tracking!

V Is for Vulnerability

Wait, what? I thought “V” was for Valor?

There is no valor without vulnerability. True, vulnerability does not produce valor, but it is a prerequisite condition for the expression of it. Valor is a courageous behavioral response to trauma. Vulnerability is the escape from denial of trauma.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. April aspires to Faith.

Many months ago, I hit a pickup truck with my motorcycle. I was riding along a two-lane street at 40 mph on a December Sunday morning in Yuma, just living life, and I saw this older pickup begin to pull out from a stop sign on my right. I saw the front wheels turning and a young woman behind the wheel.

I recall hearing myself think, “She’s not going to pull out in front of me.” Yes, she was.

I braked and swerved to the right to go behind her. I thought I was going to make it all the way up to the time I was bouncing off her truck and muttering something profane, probably quite aloud.

The next thing I knew I was up walking around and a jogger I had just passed was asking me if I was alright. He looked at my chin and said that I might need stitches.

“Am I bleeding?” I asked.

“My hand hurts,” I said, and pulled off my left glove to find a laceration, actually a tear, on the inside of my ring finger, right where a ring might have been.

Another motorist stopped and used my phone to call the police while the jogger checked on the young lady. She was unhurt but shaken and sitting in a bunch of broken glass. I deduced that I had smacked her mirror, on that foldable aluminum frame pickups used to have, through her door window.

I had some bruises on my left hand, a couple of raspberries on my chin, and that little tear in my finger. That was all. My bike took the worst of it, but it is all better now, too.

I have pieced together what happened. There is a lot of traffic on 40th Street in the Yuma Foothills, particularly because I had just passed two large churches and was approaching two more small ones. The young lady, who did not have a license, was looking for a break in the traffic to her right and pulled out, but when she saw me, she stopped—otherwise I could have gotten around her. I still might have made it had I not hit her mirror with the shoulder armor in my jacket. That jerked me left into the side of her truck.

Of course I knew that riding motorcycle is a vulnerable act. It is a risk element activity. Combat veterans like that. But, until that day, I had only known it in my head, logically. Now I know it in my bones, emotionally.

I feel the vulnerability every time I ride. I watch all movements, especially front wheels. I am always expecting people to pull out in front of me or, worse, turn left across my lane.

There is one particularly bad road right by my house on the way home from work. I have to make a left turn onto four lanes at a light. So far, so good. There is an immediate Walmart entrance and exit on my right. I have to change into the right lane (and lots of people here turn left directly into that lane, as behind me). One block ahead is another Walmart street entrance and exit where vehicles pull out in front of me from the right. Other oncoming traffic turns left across in front of me.

That is more vulnerability than I am willing to endure, especially during winter when I come home in the dark. I seldom ride my bike to work anymore during the Snowbird season, November to March, and, yes, it makes me feel rather cowardly.

It is a terrible thing for a man who has faced the fire with diligence and something approaching valor to have to face his own vulnerability, but it happens to all of us. We get old, our eyesight fades, our reactions slow, and we get a lot smarter, smart enough to recognize the dangers.

We generally have two ways to face those realities:
1. We get depressed; or,
2. We get angry.

Sometimes we vacillate between the two.

Perhaps you can find tracks of vulnerability in your heart, but don’t dwell on them long.

We will soon address the cure: Acceptance.

Shades of Anger

Sometimes we have to be angry. We HAVE to be angry. Sometimes.

Still, anger is always a painful alternative to Faith.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. April aspires to Faith.

Anger is a feeling, an intense, unpleasant, often painful feeling.

So, why do we have to be angry, sometimes?

Because the alternative to individuals with Post Traumatic Stress symptoms is depression, and depression kills.

Anger swallowed is guilt—which leads to depression.

Anger accepted from others is shame—which leads to depression.

Anger blamed on others is resentment—which is poison to the mind, body, and soul, but it may avoid depression, temporarily.

Anger fueled becomes rage—which leads to loss of control and prison (or worse).

Lest I rouse anger, allow me to remind you that I am neither psychologist nor sociologist. I’m just an old soldier trying to claw his way back to mental and spiritual health who has done a little research.

Okay, now, resentment fueled becomes war—which leads to anger, guilt, shame, resentment, rage, and more war. That is a positive feedback loop that defines disease.

Oh, and anger turned sideways is comedy (of a sort), especially satire and sarcasm.

Getting depressed? Time to bring in the experts, a group of kindergarteners addressing the pain and remedy for anger in a short video called, “Just Breathe.”

Yes, I know, it is not that simple for those who have survived traumatic experiences, but it is good advice on two counts:
1. Anger does hurt; and,
2. Mindful breathing does help.

Here is the problem as I see it. The beast is chasing us toward the cliff and great chasm, a less than gorgeous gorge. If we leap, we will surely die. If we surrender to the beast, we will surely die. If we focus all of our energy by turning and fighting the beast, we just might survive for a little while—maybe.

Ah, but there is a bridge, flimsy ropes with a few rotting boards on the bottom, swinging in the wind; but, it crosses the chasm.

Are you afraid of heights?

Running across that bridge requires an act of faith, faith in the materials, the engineers, yourself, and maybe God Almighty.

And, there is our problem, a lack of Faith. It is hard to have faith in engineers you have never met (or, people at all) and a God that seems to have let you down, you know, back there in that ungodly experience of trauma.

No, I am not suggesting a leap of Faith. Your vulnerability is real and it can kill you. We will discuss that next week before we get to a way of escaping the beast.

In the meantime, you might take a brief look at the tracks of your anger, but be good to yourself.

Happy Tracking!

V is for Valor

“Valor is a gift. Those having it never know for sure whether they have it till the test comes. And those having it in one test never know for sure if they will have it when the next test comes.” (Carl Sandburg)

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. April aspires to Faith.

Every defect of my character that I have had the courage to face has had the stench of fear. Every moral indecision, every ethical dilemma, every regretted omission or transgression, has always been traceable back to a hidden fear, a fear I had kept even from myself.

Every shadow of resentment, every rick of rage, every shock of angst or anger, has always left tracks back to some fear.

Fear is not the culprit; my choice in each and every case, that is the culprit. Fear is not the cause, but it is the impetus. To yield to fear is the coward’s surrender.

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” (Kahil Gibran)

The pain of doubt is the great fear of the human heart. We ignore it, poison it, deny it, hide it and from it, but we seldom face it. For the sincere heart, this is a great dilemma: Shall I admit the frailties of my doubt and concede cowardice, or shall I deny my pain and concede conceit of the false hero?

No. Dichotomies are the false reasoning of a fearful heart. There is another way. What is it?

Perhaps valor is a gift I do not deserve.

No. Life is not a contest we win or lose. Competitive culture is the false affect of a fearful heart. There are enough gifts for all of us and deserving is not a factor. Willingness is.

Am I willing to accept valor? Am I willing to accept the consequences of valor?

I wonder this: Where shall I carry this gift called valor if my satchel is full of the treasures of my fears and resentments? How shall I accept a gift of valor if my hands are full of the denials of my doubts?

Would you like freedom from doubt?

“Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” (Luther Standing Bear Oglala Sioux)

It is a culmination of my observations of humanity past and present that all human demise, including the collapse of great cultures before history, has always been a direct result of man relying on the magic of man, the technologies of the times and the illusions of power in those technologies.

Life is no illusion. The Native American way of life, like so many aboriginal peoples’, remains faithful to the laws governing water and air, light and darkness, bear and cricket, and the Faith and fear of human existence. I find comfort in these laws for no person or group has the power to change them. The laws of Nature are immutable and unavoidable. All else is illusion.

Inside you, deep down at the bottom of your satchel of treasures, beneath your collection of fears and resentments, do you find tracks of valor rooted in Faith?

Happy Tracking!

Profound Power

The path to serenity is through the power of unselfishness.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. March seeks serenity.

The state of being calm, peaceful, untroubled. Have you known it? When all is right with the world—even though things are not the way you think you think they should be? There is profound power in such a state, power to create and tolerate, power to abide, to endure, to be sure.

Care to know how to get there?

“When we become hollow bones there is no limit to what the Higher Powers can do in and through us in spiritual things.” (Frank Fools Crow)

The hollow bone was the Lakota medicine man’s metaphor for himself as an empty vessel open to Power to serve others. His description of his methods for clearing himself, of emptying himself, to become ready to help heal someone who had come to him for help, shows us the path to serenity.

His is an old, familiar story. Contrary to the habits of a busy, competitive culture, this is how the universe works, and there is good reason for that.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Selfish men cannot be trusted with power. Bad things happen. Power feeds their egos and their egos thirst for more power in a positive feedback loop of addiction. The more power they get, the thirstier for power they become.

Selfish people are spiritually constipated, so the power does not pass through them. They get drunk upon it, and it destroys them.

That is a familiar story, isn’t it?

Yes, you can have power without serenity, but it is not conducive to health.

Yes, you can have serenity without power, but not for long, because…if you open a window to your soul, light will enter. If you open a window from your soul to others, light will pass through you.

The light is Profound Power, and that really is all there is to it.

Oh, one more thing. If your purpose is to seek power for yourself, you are in danger of spiritual constipation.

If you seek serenity, if you choose to become a hollow bone, power will pass through you to bless others. And, it all starts with the unselfishness of emptying your ego of wants, needs, fears, and resentments, emptying yourself even of the wish for serenity—except as a state of power to serve others.

Next week we will seek this unselfishness within us. It is there.

Happy Tracking!