Archive for the ‘awakening’ Category

In junior high school, I was a painfully shy student. It was to the point I would go through an entire week without peeping a single sound. While it was quite easy to shield my anxiety during most classroom activity, the lunchroom was always my greatest test. How could I possibly hide myself in a crowded cafeteria?
There was always one table in the back of the room which only had about five kids sitting there (the tables sat about 20-30 people).With so many empty seats at the table, it was the perfect spot for someone with severe, debilitating social anxiety.

This group was the outcasts of the school. They wore the same clothes every day, never paid attention in class, didn’t follow the rules, had long straggly hair, and were already experimenting with drugs and alcohol – likely due to their living situations at home. But, they were also different in the sense that they had no desire to fit in with the “cool kids.” They were perfectly content being in their own skin.

They also held different views on the world. They didn’t gossip about other students, blame teachers, or talk bad about the janitorial staff. In fact they talked about how they helped the janitors after school in exchange for being taught how to use certain tools. For it was these kids – the outcasts – who saw the world for how it was, they did not just blindly obey the forces that were trying to socialize them into robots.

“Irwin!” a teacher shouted from across the room, “What are you doing sitting there!?

She shouted as if my life was in imminent danger, sprinting across the room with her arms flailing like she was rescuing a drowning child. Her overly-dramatic antics created a major scene – the exact opposite of what a child with social anxiety desires. But, it was clear, this incident wasn’t about me – it was about her saving a kid from harm. She yanked my shoulder back and with fear in her eyes.

“You don’t have to sit here! Are they making you do this? You can sit somewhere else!”

Embarrassed, I slowly looked at my frantic teacher and then looked back over at the kids at this table. All of them had a look in their eyes as if to say, “It’s OK to leave. We don’t blame you.”

Then I looked back at my teacher and spoke with confidence in my voice for the first time in my life.

“I want to sit here.”

“What!?” She shook her head in disbelief, “You want to sit here? With them!?”

“Yes,” I looked back at them, “I want to sit here.”

She threw her arms up in disbelief as if another child was lost to these terrible monsters. But, my question is where was she as I sat alone in her classroom for a semester? Where was her dire need to save me when she notice the bruises on my arm and cuts on my eye? For it wasn’t about “saving” me, it was about the opportunity to save me in front of a crowd.

 

Over The Rainbow:

This teacher is one of many that take part in the everyday presentation we put on for the world. We wake up in the morning, put on our masks, and then put on a play for the world to see. The thing I enjoyed about this group of kids, they saw behind the phoniness of the world and I felt together we shared a passion to discover the truth.

We celebrate truth-seekers throughout children’s books, films, and stories; yet, when children look to reenact this behavior in “real” life, it is frowned upon.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is tired of the boring and dull life on the farm in rural Kansas. She is trying to explore and the adults continue to push her away, telling her to “go somewhere you can’t get into any trouble.”

This turned into a breakthrough for Dorothy as she dreamed away of a different life, another dimension, a home void of the displeasures of going through the motions of life. She breaks into singing the classic song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which describes this desire to go to a place where “dreams that you dare to dream, really can come true.”

But Dorothy is not the only character with this yearning for truth. Alice from Alice in Wonderland, also was in a depressed state of mind in which she couldn’t find the energy to do the things she once loved until chasing a white rabbit down his rabbit hole. In The Little Mermaid, Ariel is criticized and discouraged about seeking life above the sea and searching for a different existence. And Belle from Beauty and the Beast is considered odd because she does not go accept the norms of society.

We are attracted to these tales, because it is our innate desire to seek the truth beyond the mask. Everyone has this desire because it is how we are brought into this world, before it is blocked away from us by the masks we are told to wear.

 

The Twister:

Quite often in the recovery community, you will hear people talk about their absolute worst moment on earth as a “blessing in disguise.” People talk about the point of hitting rock bottom was the time that the fall finally stopped, and gave them the opportunity to get back up.

Frustrated with this existence, Dorothy runs away from home just before gusty winds sweep over the farmland. Her family rushes into the cellar for shelter and locks the doors before Dorothy can make it back home. Finally Dorothy makes it inside the house and tries to seek refuge in her upstairs bedroom. While debris from the twister is whipping around, she is hit with an object and loses consciousness. Before she knows it her entire home and life is being turned upside down and carried away.

This is addiction.

It is important to note that everything in this film is symbolic. Dorothy cannot get in the locked house and is trapped outside in this twister (addiction). Her home represents basic needs and values, and the fact she is locked outside is showing that something is being rejected and she is not receiving these basic needs. Dorothy finally gets in and she is struck in the head by a falling window and knocked unconscious, indicating her state of powerlessness to the twister.

After regaining consciousness, Dorothy peers out the open window as she is doing some soul searching in the midst of her active addiction. She starts seeing happy images of her aunt, uncle, farm hands, and animals. The final object she notices is Miss Gulch – the woman who was trying to take Toto away. Toto is always by her side and always knows what to do, hence, he is her intuition. Miss Gulch is Dorothy’s human shadow – the dark part of our self in which we constantly reject. It is our inner voice telling us we are not good enough. Once she recognizes Miss Gulch, she suddenly transforms into a witch with an evil laugh before Dorothy is brought to the ground by her own fear and confusion. It isn’t until this point that Dorothy recognizes she is engulfed in the twister (addiction).

Then, Bam! The houses crashes and Dorothy has hit rock bottom.

She wakes up and nobody is around. She is all alone in a dark and quiet home. She has no one to talk to and no place to turn. Everything she has ever loved has disappeared. It isn’t until this point that she is to begin the process of recovery and begin a new life.

 

Early Recovery – Journey into the Self:

Dorothy opens the door and the screen lights up in full color for the first time in the film. In the background, the music to “Somewhere over the Rainbow” is playing as she steps outside into a beautiful new existence.

This is early recovery – an inward journey to self-discovery.

We have arrived at that place we dreamed about, the place in which we could be ourselves, and a place in which we were free. We have found our way over the rainbow, without the use of drugs or alcohol for the first time.

Dorothy is first greeted by the Good Witch of the North, Glinda, who looks more like a fairy or angel. This is the part of our recovery in which we start to realize that things aren’t always as they appear. The things we used to view as “old and ugly” can be presented in a new light of majestic beauty.

To Dorothy’s surprise she even comments, “I never heard of beautiful witch before.”

Dorothy is then informed that her house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East, who has been oppressing the munchkins for years. The munchkins are fun-loving people who represent our playful youth in which we love things unconditionally, forgive easily, and live in the present moment. They have been trapped by the destructive part of ourselves (Wicked Witch). Dorothy is treated as a queen by her inner child (munchkins) for finally putting an end to the mask she has been wearing.

While the munchkins view this situation as a miracle, Dorothy claims it was no miracle at all. This is the blessing of rock bottom, the twister, our past mistakes, and the worst parts of our existence typically tend to be the greatest blessing in disguise.

 

Killing the False Self:

When we are young, we are free and loving to the world around us. As we grow, we become socialized into fearing one another and being constantly discouraged to be ourselves. We are domesticated to think a certain way, act a certain way, talk, and behave just like others. This is our mask, also known as the false self.

The Wicked Witch of the East was the mask that was put over our true self, or munchkins. It took a twister, or addiction, which spiraled out of control and had to hit rock bottom before we could finally accidentally kill this false self. And then start all over, reborn, as our true self.

In Dorothy’s journey, this is celebrated to the notorious tune of “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.”

In recovery, this is referred to as the “Pink Cloud” phase as life seems quite magical and perfect. However, there are still obstacles and adversity we must face. Dorothy meets her first one with the poof of pinkish-reddish cloud of smoke and is introduced to the Wicked Witch of the West – same character as Miss Gulch.

Dorothy has more shadow work to do, and the Wicked Witch of the West makes it clear that she is going to be her enemy on this journey. The object the Wicked Witch most desires is the Ruby Red Slippers in which Dorothy has recently acquired. Glinda informs Dorothy that “those shoes must be very powerful if the witch wants them so badly.”

This leads to Dorothy’s first longing for “home.” Yet, she is still a lost soul and has no idea where to turn and where to go. She is immediately informed that her best option is to find God, which is symbolically represented in the film as the Wizard of Oz.

Confused, Dorothy questions whether this is a good or bad wizard, to which Glinda replies “He is very good, but also very mysterious.” In order to meet the wizard, she must follow the yellow brick road and never remove her slippers.

The Yellow Brick Road is our spiritual path that we must all take to find our way “home,” or in finding our true spiritual self.

 

Follow the Yellow Brick Road:

While instructed to stay on this path, we soon find out that it is not exactly the destination – in this case the Wizard of Oz – but the journey in which we discover our answers. Dorothy is told that the Wizard of Oz will have all the answers; however, the problem is she was searching for the Wizard when she should have been seeking Oz (the land that surrounds her).

Along her inward journey, she encounters other important aspects of herself – wisdom, compassion, and courage. Once again they are in symbolic form of a scarecrow, tinman, and lion, respectively.

At a fork in the road, Dorothy first encounters the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow talks about not having a brain and it his greatest desire, yet throughout the film he comes up with creative ideas. Next, she meets the Tin Man who yearns to have a heart just to register emotions. Likewise, the Tin Man continues to show compassion throughout the film despite his belief of being heartless. Then finally they encounter the cowardly lion who reveals his secret of lack of courage; although, he too, uses his bravery throughout the journey.

 

Ego Traps:

However, our shadow is never finished with us. The Wicked Witch of the West plays games by luring in the gang off their path. She creates something that is soothing to the eye, yet will put them to sleep and end their journey – poppy fields that cover their path.

This is one example of an ego trap. Each religion has a variation of what is referred to as spiritual warfare. Some refer to it as the angel and the devil on your shoulders; good versus evil; god versus satan; heaven versus hell; the ying and yang; the Cherokee proverb of the two wolves fighting inside of you – one good and one evil – and the one that wins depends on which one you feed; the lessons from karma which state each choice you make determines your future circumstances; and of course the ongoing spiritual battle of the ego/false self versus the soul/true self.

While this battle is ongoing, the ego pulls out all the tricks in the book to regain control. Ego traps are the most effective way to detour you from your path. Some of the most common ego traps include:

  1. Knowing the Path versus Walking the Path: Quite literally in the film, it is clear that their path is to follow the yellow brick road; however, despite this knowledge, they are easily guided off course with the beauty of the Emerald City and the poppy fields which nearly ends their journey.
  2. Feeling Spiritually Superior: Prior to their first meeting with the Wizard of Oz, the Lion is sensing that his lifelong quest for courage is coming soon and he begins singing “If I were King of the Forest” and talks about having others bow down to him. In our spiritual journey, it is easy to fall into this trap of the need to be right about spirituality. As Lao Tzu says “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.” It feels good to gain insight and recognize these positive changes in our life, but the ego can use this as a trap into believing that it is I (the ego) that is responsible for our advanced spirituality.
  3. Judging Others who are “Less Spiritual”: While this one is not prevalent in the film, it is probably the most common. The notorious quote that I hear often in meetings is “Religion is for people that are afraid to go to hell; spirituality is for people that have already been there.” This gets people excited and can relate, but the religion bashing is stating that we are better than a group of people because our beliefs are right and theirs are wrong – isn’t this the same reason most people get turned away by religion? At the end of the film, Dorothy nearly falls into this ego trap as she explains her awakening. Nobody believes her and they tell her it was all a dream, but she is certain it wasn’t. But, she realizes the trap and says “Anyway, I am glad you are all here and I love you all.” Other examples are when we spend more time in nature, do yoga, eat organic food, stop watching the news, etc., but then start judging and labeling those who still do those things because they are not on our level.
  4. Positivity Mask: Also not in the film, but worth mentioning as this trap involves pretending to be overly positive at all times. Even the most advanced spiritual beings will have their bad days and feel a full range of emotions. When the group first meets the Lion, he is into this trap in a different type of way by trying to scare the crew. Later he confesses his true feelings of lacking courage, which ironically takes a great deal of courage to express how we are truly feeling inside. Just another example the cowardly lion expresses courage throughout the film.

The Church of Oz

The Wizard represents the Western Christian version of God. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, but yet mysterious figure. Whereas Oz, is the name of the entire land in which the majority of the story takes place. The Wizard represents a religious interpretation of God in which he is one powerful creature who is the ruler of the universe; whereas, Oz would represent that God is actually in all things – the trees, fields, color, all characters, etc.

At the door of the Emerald City, the gang starts to notice some peculiar traits of this magical place. Their first impression is dampened when they ring the door bell and are greeted by a crabby man who refuses to serve them because they did not “follow the rules” of knocking on the door instead. Once they knock, he returns with a friendly smile on his face. This is symbolic to the modern-day lifestyle of the church in which you come in on Sunday and everyone greets you with a smile, handshake, and maybe a hug. But, then after leaving for an hour of connection, it is back to competition, resentment, anger, and disgust for each other.

They ask to see Oz, but are told that nobody has ever seen him. He only agrees to do so, once seeing the Ruby Red Slippers on Dorothy’s feet. Here we have this all-powerful being that refuses access at first glance and then changes his mind based on appearance.

This symbolism continues as they group is not granted access until they clean up first. The scarecrow is given new straw to help keep him young, the tinman is treated with being sharpened and new oil to help keep him repaired, and the lion receives a manicure and pedicure to look as externally beautiful as possible before appearing before the magnificent Oz.

This, too, is an ego trap. While it feels good to be well-polished, it is creating a mask/false self. This occurs often when someone goes from poverty into fortune and soon forgets the roots of their struggle.

In their first encounter, Oz is quite harsh to the gang. He refers to the tinman as “clinking clanking piece of junk” and the scarecrow as a “billing bail of fodder” and the lion faints before taking on any insults.

The Wizard eventually makes a deal with them and promises to grant their wishes only after they can prove that they are worthy of his power. They are instructed bring the broomstick of the Witch of the West. The group pleads that this could only be possible if they were to execute her, in which he instructs to “Just go.” This great powerful Oz is asking us to kill one another just so we can prove we are worthy of his help?

Similarly, so many wars are fought over religion and claiming to be doing things in the name of our God. What kind of God are we following in which we create artificial borders, discriminate, judge, hurt, and kill each other? God’s love is unconditional; yet, here this is clearly a condition of proving ourselves worthy of his love and assistance.

 

Shadow Work:

As they are walking through the forest to find the witch, she sends her flying monkeys out to attack them and capture Dorothy. The monkeys represent our mischievous side of our personality, which is why they are protecting the witch (our shadow).

The only way to free ourselves, and return home, is to do shadow work and embrace the deepest darkest fears of our soul. The haunted forest represents the journey into the subconscious, which stores the repressed memories, thoughts, and feelings.

Once at the castle, the witch threatens to kill Toto (intuition). Intuition is soul-guided, it is when our true self is running the ship and guiding our decisions. The Witch (shadow) knows that if we are to remove the intuition, the ego will forever be in control. Dorothy offers to give up all her power (slippers) in exchange for her intuition (Toto). But before this can happen, Toto escapes. Her intuition knows that the only way to survive is to find the other aspects of herself that need shadow work – the Lion (courage), Tinman (compassion), and Scarecrow (wisdom).

Toto leads the crew back to the castle, which literally represents our subconscious mind. The guards are put in place to protect us from releasing these painful memories. And it is here in which the shadow work takes place.

The scarecrow, fearful of not having a brain is the one who develops the plan. This plan includes the Lion leading the way; although quite fearful, courageously states “I’ll do it if it means saving Dorothy….I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there.” It takes true courage to take on the hidden aspects of ourselves.

The climatic scene within the castle comes when the witch sets the scarecrow on fire – his greatest weakness. In an effort to put out the fire, Dorothy throws water on the fire and it subsequently gets on the Witch. To their surprise, the water begins to melt away the witch leading to her demise.

The greatest threat to our true self, the Wicked Witch of the West, could only be defeated by the most basic, purest substance of all – water. The substances that we carry within every cell and makes up the majority of our body is the very purity that we needed to defeat our shadow.

Once she melts away, the guards rejoice that the wicked witch is dead. The guards forgot that what they were protecting this entire time was working against us. This is how repressed thoughts work, they feel they are protecting us, but in reality they are still apart of us and always will be until we face them directly.

The difficulty about shadows, is the more we try to resist them, the more they appear. We cannot run, hide, or drink away these hidden aspects of ourselves.

 

The Power Lies Within:

Upon returning to the Wizard, the group presents the broomstick. The broomstick is symbolic for sweeping away aspects of our self which is why the Wizard required the group to do so.

However, he still refuses to grant their wishes. This time, the group starts to argue with him due to his lack of integrity. This is the beginning of their questioning of the organized religious system and the brainwashing of everything they had been told to be true. They are ready for the awakening process. Of course it is Toto, the intuition, who takes the next step by removing the sheet to reveal that the Wizard is just an old man using a voice projector and a smoke machine to create the effects of “the Wizard.”

Here is their breaking away from organized religion, the Wizard has been exposed. The group is infuriated and demands the gifts of a brain, heart, and courage.

The Wizard affirms that it is all a lie. He then goes on to tell the Scarecrow that everyone has a brain before presenting him with a diploma. Instantaneously the Scarecrow recites a complex mathematical equation. The Wizard then tells the lion that he has disorganized thinking and that he only thinks he lacks courage because he runs away from danger – which he instructs him is actually wisdom. He then explains that the lion has displayed courage and presents him with a medal of honor. The same is done for the Tinman by explaining everyone has a heart and is then presented with a heart-shaped clock.

Next, he needs to fulfill Dorothy’s promise – to send her home. Once we are on the spiritual path we start to have this longing for home. This feeling that there is a greater existence out there and that this life is a temporary placement but eventually we will return to a place we call home.

The Wizards is a big talker and explains how he will fly her home in a hot air balloon. There is a major celebration and spectacle of an event in which he boasts about his great powers one final time. Just as the balloon is ready to take off, Toto hops out of the balloon knowing that Dorothy will follow shortly thereafter.

The balloon sails away and the Wizard says he cannot return as he does not know how to operate the balloon. Hot air balloons represent feelings of social elevation and superiority, fame, or popularity. Toto realizes this is another ego trap and escapes from the situation.

Another panic ensues for a short period of time as Dorothy feels stuck, stranded, and unable to return home. At this point, Glinda returns to their aid. Dorothy starts begging for help before the following exchange:

“Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?” Dorothy pleaded.

“You don’t need help any longer,” Glinda smiled, “You always had the power to go back to Kansas.”

“Then why didn’t you tell her before?” demanded the scarecrow

“Because she wouldn’t have believed me,” said Glinda, “She had to learn it for herself.”

“What have your learned Dorothy?” asked the Tinman.

“I think that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntee Em. And if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

While her friends found this concept too simple, they were confused as to why they never thought of it earlier. Glinda simply responds:

“No, she had to find it out for herself.”

While the story has to do with Dorothy going back to a physical home, this symbolizes of a peaceful state of mind and redemption of the Self. Home refers to our true self. We all have the power within us to return home at anytime, but just like for Dorothy, it is a journey that we have to figure out on our own.

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Ebook is only 3.99. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

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“It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.”

By Irwin Ozborne

As a child, I remember walking in my grandmother’s backyard and one day noticed a litter of kittens near her garage in the alleyway. They were hissing, crying, and yelping with the hair sticking up on their backs as their frames were so thin you could see their skeletons.

“I want to pet them,” I told my grandmother.

“Oh no. They are not ready for that,” she insisted, “Someone must have dropped them off and they need food and water first.”

“Why not?” I asked, “Are they bad kittens?”

“Of course not, “ she laughed, “there is no such thing as bad or evil. There is only misguided love. These kittens were abandoned and they just need love. But they are also starving so we need to first feed them so they can refill what is missing.”

We went inside and came back with dishes of tuna fish, milk, and water for the kittens. Like always, grandmothers are always right. As the kittens indulged in the meal we brought them, the hair on their backs went down and their growls turned to purring sounds. When cats purr it is an instinctive reaction to communicate their mood as content, calm, and safe.

It was truly amazing. They were lacking basic survival needs of food and water, which had altered their behavior to aggressive and mean. Yet, once that need was met, they were content and friendly.

I look back at this story often as it has so many wonderful lessons attached. The first such is that when these kittens were lacking basic needs – such as food and water – and then finally presented with this need, they instinctively indulged. In fact, a few of the kittens actually vomited after eating so fast.

It makes perfect sense. If I am walking in the desert and dehydrated and finally brought to an oasis, I am going to indulge in water to replenish the fluids and nutrients that were have been missing. If I am starving, I am going to crave high fatty foods to relieve all the nutrients that are missing and most certainly indulge. But, what if I am spiritually starving or thirsty? Wouldn’t it only make sense that if presented with a substance that would instantly fill this void, I would also indulge?

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is not religion; although religion is a type of spirituality.

Most people that get turned off by the word spirituality have had a negative experience with religion, which is why it is essential to differentiate between the two terms. Spirituality refers to finding purpose and meaning in life, as well as a sense of connection to the universe outside of our self. Some people find this in religion, which is why religion is a type of spirituality. Religion does so with traditions, customs, books, and preachers. And at the core, all religions have the exact same spiritual message – to love one another unconditionally.

Spirituality can be found in any type of connection such as nature, sports teams, understanding the universe, in meditation, groups of people with a common goal, love, friendships, and mindfulness. All of use experience spirituality at times of our lives, though may not have used that term or understood what the term actually means.

As Ekhart Tolle explains that the word is not the experience, “The word honey isn’t honey. You can study and talk about it as long as you like, but you won’t really know it until after you taste it. After you tasted it, the word becomes less important to you.”

In this same sense, the word spirituality turns people off. But it is not the word, it is the experience in which we have all had in our lives such as:

· Moment of clarity

· Sense of inner peace or calmness

· A burst of euphoria

· A feeling of interconnection with the world around us

· Being in the present  moment

· Detached from all of life’s labels and feeling as your true self

· Unconditional love

Is Spirituality a Human Need / Desire?

In the opening story, I share the story of the kittens that were derived of their basic animal needs of food and water for survival. But is spirituality also a human need and/or desire?

This answer comes in two parts. The first portion involves the innate need for love and connection, whereas the second part involves a historical perspective of spirituality in humanity.

In 1958, Harry Harlow performed the controversial “Wire Mother Experiment” which was a designed experiment on the overlooked human need of love.

In one study, the monkeys were reared in isolation in which many died and others were frightened and acted abnormally. Once they grew older, they could not interact with other monkeys. The second study separated monkeys from their mother and gave them options of two surrogate mothers – one made from wire and the other with a soft cloth, both which provided milk. All the monkeys spent more time with the mother made of cloth, even if she had no milk. They would only go to the wire mother when they were hungry and then spent the remainder of the day with the soft cloth mother.

Futhermore, when a scary object was placed in the cage, they rushed to the cloth mother for support. The monkeys were also more willing to explore, or take risks, when the cloth mother was present. This allowed Harlow to conclude that for a monkey to develop normally they must have some interaction with an object they can cling to during those critical first few months.

Back to the story with my grandmother, the behavioral theory would suggest that the kittens needed food and water which is why they responded with joy after that need was met. However, Harlow’s theory shows that it is actually that these kittens were abandoned of their basic animal need, love and security, which created the erratic behavior and they were only brought back to loving animals once they established trust and love.

In regards to the human history of spirituality it goes back to the beginning of humanity. Humans have always shared a desire to alter their level of consciousness in one way or another. The oldest evidence dates back 40,000 years ago in which archeologists have discovered cave paintings in France that show images of humans in a trance-like states, indicating the first recorded history of humans intentionally altering their consciousness.

All ancient cultures have had different ways in attempting to do the same, including indigenous tribes in the Americas would go on vision quests in nature in which they tried to find their mission or purpose in life. Tribes in Africa dance in the streets until they feel the presence of their creator, other tribes in the east will dance on hot coals to try to free their spirit from the body, and many other cultures use meditation as a means to alter their consciousness.

As shown by Harlow, spirituality in regards to love and connection is a basic human need. As indicated by historical accounts, for at least the past 40,000 years humans have had a strong desire to alter their consciousness.

And psychoactive substances have always contributed to this.

Historical Substance Use

One of the oldest organized religions today is Hinduism, which was founded around 3500 B.C. in eastern India. The scrolls and texts of the Hindu religion is organized in books known as the Vedas, which is put together by a series of poems and hymns. Throughout the texts, there are numerous references to the drug/plant called Soma. The drug is basically idolized and worshipped as a hallucinogenic drug that helps the people of this time feel a sense of connection to the world.

Today, experts still do not know what this plant is and have been unable to discover its origins. Historians believe that the drug got into the public’s hands and started to be abused recreationally which led to the first prohibition of a drug.

In the southwestern American tribes they used peyote buttons from cactus at religious ceremonies to feel the presence of the Great Spirit. Also in the ancient Americas, tobacco was initially used in prayer and in South America the Coca plant was originally deemed a gift from the Gods.

In the East, opium and cannabis also first were believed to be gifts from the Gods and used in religious ceremonies as it served as a way to alter the level of consciousness.  While these ancient cultures it seemed worshipped these drugs by their texts, documents, and artifacts, one could argue that not much has changed.

If someone were to research our current times a couple thousand years from now, they will report that this generation wore clothing and jewelry with a hemp plant, 90-percent of their popular music made references to this hemp plant, and their passionate conversations and debates all revolved around the use of this plant. They will clearly say that cannabis was worshipped in this time.

Even alcohol has its spiritual roots as the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all had Goddesses of Wine. Today, go into any liquor store and they still refer to hard liquor as spirits. As Bill W, the founder of AA refers to the formula for addiction as “spiritus contra spiritum,” which is directly translated to spirits against spirits. This means that the only solution to fight the spirits (alcohol) is to find a spiritual solution in a natural way.

The Craving Behind The Craving:

Addiction is a spiritual disease. It is a thirst, quench, hunger, or starvation for some type of fulfillment or wholeness in a person’s life. People who become addicted to something or another either have an initial void of spirituality, a innate higher drive for a spiritual connection, or a combination of the two.

In listening to many speakers over the years it is quite apparent that the first time the person uses their drug of choice, it significantly alters their consciousness to the point that addiction is inevitable. Just as the opening story indicates that the kittens indulged in food and water because of they were dangerously lacking the nutrients to fill what was missing, people who become addicted certainly share the same behavior in indulging in alcohol and drugs that help fill their spiritual void.

The craving behind the craving refers to looking beyond the desire to use the drug, but rather the desire of the spiritual connection.

In an unofficial collegiate study, a graduate student surveyed about 200 people including students, professors, and staff in regards to the reasons why they use alcohol. The student provided a checklist of ten reasons why the person uses and they could check off however many applied. The results showed that 100-percent of the people in the survey checked off the box marked, “I like the feeling.”

Every single person that drinks alcohol does so because they like the feeling. Which made me dig deeper into examining exactly what is this feeling that everyone craves?

Using personal experience along with talking with others that are actively using or in early recovery, we came up with a list of our own in describing the feeling of being drunk or being high:

· Everything makes sense / I just get it……………………………….…(Moment of clarity)

· I just relax and not worry about all the stressors of life………(Inner peace)

· Everything is better – food, people, jokes, experiences…….(Euphoria)

· I understand people better / love for everyone………………..(Interconnection/oneness)

· Not worried about minor things / Content in moment….….(Being present)

· Freedom from self-criticism and anxiety  …………..……………..(True self)

· No judgments about anyone……………………………………………..(Unconditional love)

In reviewing the list, you see that it is the exact same feelings of a spiritual moment. This proves it is not the drug we are craving, we are craving the feeling the drug provides. The drug is just a tool to help us reach that spiritual connection.

If I am dehydrated, I am going to indulge in water or fluids that help replenish what missing. If I am starving, I am going to indulge in some greasy food that brings energy and life back into my body to restore what was missing. If I am spiritually starving, of course I am going to indulge in a drink, a joint, or a pill that will revitalize all these things that have been depleted.

See the Forest for the Trees

It is highly common for people to find their first encounter with spirituality in the natural world and in nature. On a sober trip that I took with a group a few years ago, we went camping in one of the most beautiful places in the country – Northern California. We spent a couple of days in the Redwood Natural Forest and finding instant connection with the world around us.

In observing the Redwood Trees, there was something quite majestic about these giants. They stood about 300 feet high, some were 20 feet wide, in fact some of the trees have tunnels carved in the middle of them through the highway and our bus drove right through the center. The Redwoods are the tallest living organism on Earth and some of them date back to the time of the Ancient Greek Empire 2,500 years ago.

I always wondered, how do they grow so tall? Whenever there are storms, the tallest trees always topple over because they lack the strength to survive the strong winds. In order for a tree to grow tall, it needs strong and deep roots. But, in looking at the size of the Redwoods, you would think that the roots must reach to the center of the Earth to keep these trees upright amidst strong winds.

But then I discovered that the Redwood Trees roots only grow about five or six feet deep, only adding to my confusion and admiration of the species. Upon further research, I was told that the roots of the Redwoods actually grow horizontally and go about 100 feet wide. Also, they need to grow together in forests so that their roots can interlock underneath and they help prop each other up. You can not grow an individual Redwood tree, they can only grow together so their roots can connect and ensure that they grow together.

The trees also cycle nutrients amongst each other to help each other grow. The tallest trees collect moisture from the fog and share with the shorter trees, and the barks of the trees are intentionally burnt so help cycle the nutrients at the bottoms of the trees.

The story of the Redwoods is a perfect metaphor for spirituality and addiction. We can not survive the storm alone, but once we are able to interlock and find a sense of connection outside of ourselves we are able to embrace the stor more tant to know what sort of person thing as bad or evil. There is only misguided love. These kittens were abandoned and they just need love. But they are also starving so we need to first feed them so they can refill what is missing.”

We went inside and came back with dishes of tuna fish, milk, and water for the kittens. Like always, grandmothers are always right. As the kittens indulged in the meal we brought them, the hair on their backs went down and their growls turned to purring sounds. When cats purr it is an instinctive reaction to communicate their mood as content, calm, and safe.

It was truly amazing. They were lacking basic survival needs of food and water, which had altered their behavior to aggressive and mean. Yet, once that need was met, they were content and friendly.

I look back at this story often as it has so many wonderful lessons attached. The first such is that when these kittens were lacking basic needs – such as food and water – and then finally presented with fulfillment of these needs, they instinctively indulged. In fact, a few of the kittens actually vomited after eating so fast.

It makes perfect sense. If I am walking in the desert and dehydrated and finally brought to an oasis, I am going to drink water to replenish the fluids and nutrients that were have been missing. If I am starving, I am going to crave foods to relieve all the nutrients that are missing. But, what if I am spiritually starving or thirsty? Wouldn’t it only make sense that if presented with a substance that would seem to instantly fill this void, I would also indulge?

Spirituality

Spirituality is not religion; although religion is a type of spirituality.

Most people that get turned off by the word spirituality have had a negative experience with religion, which is why it is essential to differentiate between the two terms. Spirituality refers to finding purpose and meaning in life, as well as a sense of connection to the universe outside of our self. Some people find this in religion, which is why religion is a type of spirituality. Religion does so with traditions, customs, books, and preachers. And at the core, all religions have the exact same spiritual message – to love one another unconditionally.

Spirituality can be found in any type of connection such as nature, sports teams, understanding the universe, in meditation, groups of people with a common goal, love, friendships, and mindfulness. All of use experience spirituality at times of our lives, though may not have used that term or understood what the term actually means.

As Ekhart Tolle explains, the word is not the experience, “The word honey isn’t honey. You can study and talk about it as long as you like, but you won’t really know it until after you taste it. After you tasted it, the word becomes less important to you.

In this same sense, the word spirituality turns people off. But it is not the word, it is the experience in which we have all had in our lives such as:

  • Moment of clarity
  • Sense of inner peace or calmness
  • A burst of euphoria
  • A feeling of interconnection with the world around us
  • Being in the present  moment
  • Detached from all of life’s labels and feeling as your true self
  • Unconditional love

Is Spirituality a Human Need / Desire?

At every stage, addiction is driven by one of the most powerful, mysterious, and vital forces of human existence. What drives addiction is longing — a longing not just of the brain, belly, or loins but finally, of the heart.” ~ Cornelius Plantinga

In the opening story, I share the story of the kittens that were derived of their basic animal needs of food and water for survival. But is spirituality also a human need and/or desire?

This answer comes in two parts. The first portion involves the innate need for love and connection, whereas the second part involves a historical perspective of spirituality in humanity.

In 1958, Harry Harlow performed the controversial “Wire Mother Experiment” which was a designed experiment on the overlooked human need of love.

In one part of the study, the monkeys were reared in isolation in which many died and others were frightened and acted abnormally. Once they grew older, they could not interact with other monkeys. The second study separated monkeys from their mother and gave them options of two surrogate mothers – one made from wire and the other with a soft cloth, both which provided milk. All the monkeys spent more time with the mother made of cloth, even if she had no milk. They would only go to the wire mother when they were hungry and then spent the remainder of the day with the soft cloth mother.

Furthermore, when a scary object was placed in the cage, they rushed to the cloth mother for support. The monkeys were also more willing to explore, or take risks, when the cloth mother was present. This allowed Harlow to conclude that for a monkey to develop normally they must have some interaction with an object they can cling to during those critical first few months.

Back to the story with my grandmother, the behavioral theory would suggest that the kittens needed food and water which is why they responded with joy after that need was met. However, Harlow’s theory shows that it is actually that these kittens were abandoned of their basic animal need, love and security, which created the erratic behavior and they were only brought back to loving animals once they established trust and love.

In regards to the human history of spirituality it goes back to the beginning of humanity. Humans have always shared a desire to alter their level of consciousness in one way or another. The oldest evidence dates back 40,000 years ago in which archeologists have discovered cave paintings in France that show images of humans in a trance-like states, indicating the first recorded history of humans intentionally altering their consciousness.

All ancient cultures have had different ways in attempting to do the same, including indigenous tribes in the Americas would go on vision quests in nature in which they tried to find their mission or purpose in life. Tribes in Africa dance in the streets until they feel the presence of their creator, other tribes in the east will dance on hot coals to try to free their spirit from the body, and many other cultures use meditation as a means to alter their consciousness.

As shown by Harlow, spirituality in regards to love and connection is a basic human need. As indicated by historical accounts, for at least the past 40,000 years humans have had a strong desire to alter their consciousness.

And psychoactive substances have always contributed to this.

Historical Substance Use

One of the oldest organized religions today is Hinduism, which was founded around 3500 B.C. in eastern India. The scrolls and texts of the Hindu religion is organized in books known as the Vedas, which is put together by a series of poems and hymns. Throughout the texts, there are numerous references to the drug/plant called Soma. The drug is basically idolized and worshipped as a hallucinogenic drug that helps the people of this time feel a sense of connection to the world.

Today, experts still do not know what this plant is and have been unable to discover its origins. Historians believe that the drug got into the public’s hands and started to be abused recreationally which led to the first prohibition of a drug.

In the southwestern American tribes they used peyote buttons from cactus at religious ceremonies to feel the presence of the Great Spirit. Also in the ancient Americas, tobacco was initially used in prayer and in South America the Coca plant was originally deemed a gift from the Gods. In the East, opium andcannabis also first were believed to be gifts from the Gods and used in religious ceremonies as it served as a way to alter the level of consciousness. While these ancient cultures it seemed worshiped these drugs by their texts, documents, and artifacts, one could argue that not much has changed.

If someone were to research our current times a couple thousand years from now, they will report that this generation wore clothing and jewelry with a hemp plant, 90-percent of their popular music made references to this hemp plant, and their passionate conversations and debates all revolved around the use of this plant. They will clearly say that cannabis was worshipped in this time.

Even alcohol has its spiritual roots as the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all had Goddesses of Wine. Today, go into any liquor store and they still refer to hard liquor as spirits. As Bill W, the founder of AA refers to the formula for addiction as “spiritus contra spiritum,” which is directly translated to spirits against spirits. This means that the only solution to fight the spirits (alcohol) is to find a spiritual solution in a natural way.

The Craving Behind The Craving

Addiction is a spiritual disease. It is a thirst, quench, hunger, or starvation for some type of fulfillment or wholeness in a person’s life. People who become addicted to something or another either have an initial void of spirituality, a innate higher drive for a spiritual connection, or a combination of the two.

In listening to many speakers over the years it is quite apparent that the first time the person uses their drug of choice, it significantly alters their consciousness to the point that addiction is inevitable. Just as the opening story indicates that the kittens indulged in food and water because of they were dangerously lacking the nutrients to fill what was missing, people who become addicted certainly share the same behavior in indulging in alcohol and drugs that help fill their spiritual void.

The craving behind the craving refers to looking beyond the desire to use the drug, but rather the desire of the spiritual connection.

In an unofficial collegiate study, a graduate student surveyed about 200 people including students, professors, and staff in regards to the reasons why they use alcohol. The student provided a checklist of ten reasons why the person uses and they could check off however many applied. The results showed that 100-percent of the people in the survey checked off the box marked, “I like the feeling.”

Every single person that drinks alcohol does so because they like the feeling. Which made me dig deeper into examining exactly what is this feeling that everyone craves?

Using personal experience along with talking with others that are actively using or in early recovery, we came up with a list of our own in describing the feeling of being drunk or being high:

  • Everything makes sense / I just get it……………………………….…(Moment of clarity)
  • I just relax and not worry about all the stressors of life………(Inner peace)
  • Everything is better – food, people, jokes, experiences…….(Euphoria)
  • I understand people better / love for everyone………………..(Interconnection/oneness)
  • Not worried about minor things / Content in moment….….(Being present)
  • Freedom from self-criticism and anxiety  …………..……………..(True self)
  • No judgments about anyone……………………………………………..(Unconditional love)

In reviewing the list, you see that it is the exact same feelings of a spiritual moment. This proves it is not the drug we are craving, we are craving the feeling the drug provides. The drug is just a tool to help us reach that spiritual connection.

If I am dehydrated, I am going to drink water or fluids that help replenish what missing. If I am starving, I am going to eat some food that brings energy and life back into my body to restore what was missing. If I am spiritually starving, and have not yet identified that unfulfilled need, I am likely to indulge in a drink, a joint, or a pill that will temporarily revitalize all these things that have been depleted.

See the Forest for the Trees

It is highly common for people to find their first encounter with spirituality in the natural world and in nature. On a sober trip that I took with a group a few years ago, we went camping in one of the most beautiful places in the country – Northern California. We spent a couple of days in the Redwood Natural Forest and finding instant connection with the world around us.

In observing the Redwood Trees, there was something quite majestic about these giants. They stood about 300 feet high, some were 20 feet wide, in fact some of the trees have tunnels carved in the middle of them through the highway and our bus drove right through the center. The Redwoods are the tallest living organism on Earth and some of them date back to the time of the Ancient Greek Empire 2,500 years ago.

I always wondered, how do they grow so tall? Whenever there are storms, the tallest trees always topple over because they lack the strength to survive the strong winds. In order for a tree to grow tall, it needs strong and deep roots. But, in looking at the size of the Redwoods, you would think that the roots must reach to the center of the Earth to keep these trees upright amidst strong winds.

But then I discovered that the Redwood Trees roots only grow about five or six feet deep, only adding to my confusion and admiration of the species. Upon further research, I was told that the roots of the Redwoods actually grow horizontally and go about 100 feet wide. Also, they need to grow together in forests so that their roots can interlock underneath and they help prop each other up. You can not grow an individual Redwood tree, they can only grow together so their roots can connect and ensure that they grow together.

The trees also cycle nutrients amongst each other to help each other grow. The tallest trees collect moisture from the fog and share with the shorter trees, and the barks of the trees are intentionally burnt so help cycle the nutrients at the bottoms of the trees.

The story of the Redwoods is a perfect metaphor for spirituality and addiction. We can not survive the storm alone, but once we are able to interlock and find a sense of connection outside of ourselves we are able to embrace the storm and help each other flourish as we rise above and reach the skyline.

 

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution $3.99

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

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“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” – Janis Joplin

 

 

As my mind was returning to consciousness, I had no idea what had just taken place. My eyes were still closed and I felt too weak to open them. Bits and pieces of the previous evening started playing in front of me. The laughs, the good times, and the extra shots of liquor, but also there was a lot of missing scenes from the blackout I had experienced. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed with an unbearable guilt that brings more pain that the physical pain I am trying to withstand.

It is at this point I remember being the “least drunk” and most OK to drive home last night. These scenes start returning to my conscious memory. I remember the curve in the road and then everything goes blank. My heart starts pounding and I am hearing loud machines and voices of strangers around me.

Out of fear and confusion my eyes open to discover I am in the emergency room of a hospital with excruciating pain in every cell of my body. But, again, there is an overwhelming feeling of guilt pressed against my body as I am trying to figure out what happened last night.

“Where is John?” I asked. John was my boyfriend and father of our six-month old child and was also the passenger in my vehicle last night.

Nobody answered.

“Where is John!?” I managed to shout louder.

But the louder I cried, the quieter the room grew. The police officer in the back approached me and took off his cap and with a tear in his eye, he put his hand on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry Holly,” he couldn’t even maintain eye contact, “He didn’t make it. He was ejected from the vehicle and died on impact.”

With so much intoxicants still in my system, I could only hope this was part of the worst nightmare of my life. I yelled, screamed, tried to do anything to escape reality but nothing could be done. I had just killed my boyfriend and my child’s father because I drove drunk and lost control of the vehicle.

Powerless, hopeless, trapped, and unable to escape, I momentarily lost touch with reality.

Once stabilized and deemed safe for discharge from the hospital, I was put into handcuffs and walked to the back of a squad car on sent to the county jail. I sat there in a lifeless form of a body as they took my mug shot and notified me of my charge – homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

I only sat two days as my wealthy parents were able to post $5,000 bond. I felt like I had cheated the system as I had a far more severe crime than any of the women in that jail, but I was able to go home due to the condition my parents had money. While I awaited my court date, I felt completely numb and they had checked me into a psychiatric unit but they did not keep me because I was not suicidal. Honestly, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that I had a six-month old daughter that I was trying to raise the best I could before my judgment date.

I signed the rights over to my parents, knowing that I would be facing prison time in the near future. There are no words that can describe the pain trying to play with your six-month old daughter, knowing she will never know her father and the most crucial parts of her development her mother will be incarcerated. But beyond all of this, all I wanted to do was to apologize to John and his family.

On the day of my sentence, I couldn’t even bare to have words come out of my mouth as the state prosecutor questioned me. All I could repeat that I was sorry and that I feel nothing and only want to make sure my daughter is safe.

At this point, there was nothing anyone could say to me that hurt any more. I have heard it all. My name is on the front page of the paper, I read all the comments on the article, I read the comments on John’s social media pages, along with many hate messages of my own. There was nothing that could be said that could push me down any further.

“The maximum sentence for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is twenty-five years in state prison,” the judge looked at me as my heart sank.

He went on and explained the results of the Pre-Sentence Investigation and how I would be better served to be a part of society as opposed to a long prison sentence. Following some more lecturing he handed down my sentence – two years in state prison along with seven years of parole.

As tears rolled down my cheeks and I hugged my parents and kissed my child, I knew how fortunate I was to only be serving two years. But at the same time, I realized that my life was forever changed. My name will always be linked to the word homicide. How will I explain to my daughter when she asks about her father? Every time I apply for a job, this will come up on a background check or a simple Google search and you can see my mug shot.

 

Welcome to the Jungle:

My attorney had pleaded for a lesser sentence and argued that I was not mentally prepared to handle being incarcerated with the general population. Terrified for my life, I was sure my parents would find a way out of this. But, there was nothing anybody could do. The judge informed us that I had taken another person’s life and if I am capable of doing so, then I am capable of living with other criminals.

I was powerless, hopeless, and terrified for my life. For the first time, things were completely out of my control. I had no choice but to fully surrender. And it was this forced surrender that granted me this irony – finding greater freedom while locked behind bars than I had ever experienced in my privileged life in the affluent suburbs.

As I sat alone in my cell, I refused to talk or make eye contact with anyone.

“Welcome to the jungle princess,” said one of the guards as he smiled at me and seemed to be getting joy in my anguish.

For the next two years, nobody used my name. I was always referred to as “Princess” due to my privileged lifestyle outside the prison walls. I would estimate that ninety-percent of the people in that prison were minorities and came from poverty. In those that I got to know, I would argue that 100-percent of them have experienced some sort of trauma or abuse in their life.

And then there was me, the incarcerated princess. I had been sheltered my entire life and had no idea how the rest of the world lived.

Every day, I witnessed the prisoners being abused and ridiculed. Nobody deserves this type of treatment. The guards were untrained, highly judgmental, and abusing their power daily. If anyone saw how they treated the inmates there would be a public uproar.

 

Punishing the Abused:

Since I was a young child, it had been engrained in my mind that prison was the place that the “bad guys” go for committing crimes. It did not take long to realize nobody in this prison was a bad person. Nearly all of them were in there for drug-related charges.

And why did they do drugs? They turned to drugs to escape the trauma and abuse they had suffered their entire lives. What kind of system is this? We are punishing people for being abused without giving them the tools they need.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all the people serving time in prison for drug offenses, 45-percent were black and 30-percent were white. Yet, the general population is 77-percent white and 13-percent black.

Now the logic, that we are brainwashed by the media would tell us that the reason for this inequality is that black people are committing more crimes and doing more drugs. But the factual studies discredit this racist rhetoric we have been fed our entire lives.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that a greater percentage of white people use alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, hallucinogens, nicotine, methamphetamine, heroin, and all opiates. Yet, blacks are arrested three times as often as whites and the sentences are always more severe.

In fact, the only drug that blacks use at a higher percentage than whites was crack cocaine with a slim margin of 5.0 percent to 3.4 percent, respectively. And, not coincidentally, that is the one drug that receives the higher sentence.

In the past, the ratio was 100:1 for the sentencing of crack/cocaine. This meant your sentence would be 100 times larger for possessing the same amount of crack than if you had the powder cocaine. The “Fair Sentencing Act” reduced this, albeit still not “fair,” as it is not reduced to 17:1.

 

The New Slavery:

However, they did offer people to get diplomas and certificates while incarcerated so they could adjust to the outside world. They granted us opportunities to work and “build skills”. While this seemed like a great opportunity at first, it was brought to my attention that it was an extended form of slavery.

One of my cell mates informed me that we were working for corporations who wanted cheap labor and they set up contracts with the prisons. She explained that America was built into a economic superpower by stealing the land of native Americans and using free labor from slaves stolen from Africa. The greatest exports were tobacco and cotton which were labor intensive and required great amounts of land. After the slaves were freed, the prisons started incarcerating African-Americans for petty crimes for long sentences and corporations would hire them out to work for free.

Slavery never ended, they just got smarter at hiding it from the public.

Here I was among a group of African-Americans that grew up in poverty, were abused, and lived traumatic lives. Then they were arrested for doing the same drugs that people in the suburbs do just as much, yet they were locked up for years and put to work for free to help the rich get richer.

 

Freedom:

When I was released, I went back to being the “privileged, white, stuck-up, greedy, ignorant bitch” as the day I came in. My father would easily be able to get me back into society as if nothing had happened. People were ready to give me opportunities.

And I said no.

I am a convicted felon, a killer. Why should I get to just jump back in as if I did not do this crime? I had to struggle to find places to live, places to work, financial aid for school just like all the other “felons” who only crime they committed was being born into poverty.

John’s family, once accepted me as their own, has disowned me as I took their only son from them. Which I did, I am sorry, but sorry does not bring back their child. As I look into my own daughter’s eyes, I am not sure if I could forgive someone who did that to her – so I get it and I do not blame them. They did not deserve this pain and anguish that I put them through.

My parents hardly speak with me since I was released from prison because I refuse to live their phony existence and I refuse to take the “get out of poverty” free card. They still do not want to hear about my experiences in prison and the lessons I learned about how the rest of the world lives.

I regained custody of my daughter and met a guy from the recovery community that has a son of his own. We are doing fine, working our way back up in society without the handouts we had been accustomed to based on the color of our skin.

We are more free now than ever before. It is highly liberating to be able to see through the lies of society, the lies of our teachers, parents, government, and culture to see the world as it truly is. There is an incredible feeling of inner peace to live without a mask, to be your true self, and enjoy every minute of the people you are with.

I already know the comments that will come from this article. I’ve already seen them all before – I am a criminal, I am a murderer, I am privileged, I am a bitch, I am a slut, I am a terrible person and do not deserve to live. I’ve heard it all. The one comment that I have never agreed with is that I should not have had my child so young – that I do not agree with you. But, go ahead and type it for the world to see, I’ve seen much worse.

Don’t get me wrong, there is not a single day that I wish I could go back in time and bring John back and have our little family again. But each time I try to resist, try to change the past, I start to build those mental prison walls. Freedom comes from accepting the past as it is unconditionally.

We grow up believing we live in a “free country” and proudly proclaim this is the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Yet, we never teach anyone to be free. In fact, we teach everyone to be slaves and go along with the masses – buy this, do that, talk to this person, don’t try that, conform, and be like everyone else.

It is comfortable with the masses and knowing what to expect, but it is not true freedom. Freedom comes from surrender and removing our masks.

So write your comments and judgments, but realize that is just you building your own mask. You have already seen behind my mask, let me seen what is behind yours.

soulretrevial33

“Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend, somewhere along in the bitterness; and I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life.” 

By Cortland Pfeffer

In Shamanism, we believe that when we go through a trauma, we lose a part of our soul. It is believed we do this for protection. For instance, if you were about to crash in a plane, the last thing you want to remember is how that felt on impact. So that part of your soul is lost. Due to the trauma and the lost part of our soul, we lose part of our most true selves.  This can be retrieved in what is known as soul retrieval.

If you look at it scientifically, the part of our brain that shuts down during a trauma is the Hippocampus. This is the part of the brain involved in memory. It is our Brains way of protecting us from the entire recall of the trauma.

What is stress to one person may not be stressful to the next. We are all born with an innate temperament. Highly sensitive people are more prone to trauma.

We may not recall the trauma due to this shutdown, but our neurochemistry is changed. This leads to hyper vigilance, anxiety, and lasts for a lifetime.  It will lead to addiction of all kinds. Eating disorders, gambling, over consuming, drug abuse and more.

In western culture and medicine, we try to treat this with medicines that only make us numb. For instance Prozac’s main ingredient is fluoride. Fluoride makes you apathetic. Your problems do not go away, you just do not care about them.

In Shamanism, there is a practice called soul retrieval.  Instead of medicines, we retrieve the lost part of the soul. That is the most true way to heal from trauma. The following is an example of soul retrieval:

I wake up. It is blurry. I am in a room with machines going off. There is a curtain. It is blue. There are people talking. I can see them talking. I look over to my right. My mom is there. She’s crying. Not just crying but sobbing. There are a lot of people in blue. They are talking. None of them talk to me.

After a while I am up. Now I remember. I am supposed to be dead. Why am I here? Am I dead? Is this real?

I am alive. I had tried to kill myself the night before by taking every pill in the house; I spent the next day being forced to drink charcoal and throwing up for hours.

But why are all the doctors in my room in the middle of the night?

I learned later that what had happened was I had 3rd degree heart block in the night.

Third-degree heart block limits the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. This type of heart block may cause fatigue (tiredness), dizziness, and fainting. Third-degree heart block requires prompt treatment because it can be fatal.

I was 17 years old. I was now remembering and I am angry that I am alive. I yell at my mother, because that is what I did. She loved and loved; she took on all of my anger and pain and I used her as an emotional punching bag. That was her life growing up and that is her life again. So I screamed at her, “Get out of here!!”

She cried more and she took it, as she always did. She always returned love.

I pass out again.

I wake up the next day. In walks this guy. He has blue on. He has brown hair, normal length with a beard. I am watching this guy thinking to myself, “Do not even say anything or I am going to punch you.”

“Hi, I am Tom. I will be the nurse working with you today.”

Ok that’s it, I am going to hit him. I do not say a word.

“Ok I will be here if you need anything. I have a menu here if you want to order food.”

I am not going to eat; I throw the menu away.

The food comes in daily and I do not eat. I think I am angry, but I know now that was not the case.

Day after day this guy says “Hi, how are you? Can I help with anything?” He does his work and I ignore him. My mom is by my side every day as I lash out at her. Tom doesn’t judge me for yelling at her. He does not say a word about it. He talks to my mom because she was an RN as well so she was asking him questions. I didn’t care. I wanted to punch them both was the thought in my mind.

I kept yelling at my mom, but my god I didn’t want her to leave that room. She never did leave. That was her way. A love that cannot be matched by anyone, anywhere, and it was given to me. I may have had hard times, but I had that. I had her. I had a love that everyone should experience as my core. It is what allows me to overcome everything. I would not trade it for anything.

It has been four days at this point. My mom has brought me a sweatshirt. My favorite team, The Minnesota Twins, sweatshirt. I loved baseball and I loved that sweatshirt. My mom knew this. I was going to ask her to bring it, but it was already there. Every time I looked, she was there. She was in tears, but she was there.

I wore the shirt. In comes this Tom guy. He won’t go away. I guess it is his job. But it’s others jobs, too. But they aren’t dumb enough to ask me how I am doing every day. My anger pushes them away as it is supposed to. This idiot Tom doesn’t seem to get it.

“Oh you like baseball? Me too. The Twins are my favorite team, too. Do you think they were better in 1991 or 1987?” (Those were the two years that they won the World Series). I was 11 and 15 when they won and they were moments I will always remember as a child.

I speak. I cannot let this go. “Yeah I like baseball. I think they were better in 1991.”

Tom starts talking to me about baseball, the ins and outs of the sport. I start to give one word answers that become two or three word answers. Then they become sentences.

Tom then says, “I know you haven’t been eating a lot and your mom says you’re a picky eater. Do you think I can make you a special order? I know they say you can’t have a burger yet, but I think I can make sure you get one if you’ll eat it.”

“Ok,” is what I say.

I eat the burger.

The next day. I am actually waiting for Tom to come. Some other lady walks in the room. I am thinking to myself, “where is that idiot who keeps talking to me? What the heck. This is stupid. Where is that corny dude?”

I ask my mom, “where is Tom?”

He has a day off.

“Whatever, he’s a moron anyways.” I say.

Tom is back after 2 days off. I won’t admit it, but I am excited to see him and I have been waiting for him to come back.

“Well you are starting to feel better it looks like we can take you off some of these machines.”

I am eating now and Tom helps me fill out the menu and helps me to understand what is happening.

The psychiatrist from the hospital comes down and I refuse to talk. Tom then walks in.

“I heard you didn’t talk to the doctor. It is really important so they know what to do to help you.”

I have learned to trust this moron. I think he has my best interest in mind. He is on my side. He got me a burger, he likes baseball, and he actually notices me and what I like. He takes time and has taken an interest in me. IN ME. He actually seems to care even though I think he is a corny moron. He is on my side. So I talk to the doctor.

Then I get the news that they want me to go to a psychiatric floor in the hospital. There is no way I am doing that. I am going to get up and leave. No No No No No.

Then Tom comes in and speaks to me. “I need to talk to you about this. You know, if you do not go willingly, they may force you to go and then you have no say in it; you could end up being here even longer that way. You said you hate it at home anyways. Think of it as a vacation. You get to go talk to people, to play games. They have a ping pong table and you said you like ping pong. ”

Tom knew I liked ping pong and no one else did because no one else had asked. No one else noticed my sweatshirt, talked baseball, or knew I liked hamburgers. No one else went against the hospital rules and got me a burger. No one else talked to me as a person. So, if he says it is ok, I believe him. I say, “Ok I will go.”

He says, “Great I will walk up there with you. But first I have a surprise.”

In walks Tony Oliva, a retired Twins all star, (who missed the hall of fame by 1 vote in 2014,) with a baseball bat from the world series. He talks baseball with me and Tom for an hour. He signs a bat and gives it to me.

Tom found him visiting someone else in the hospital and went out of his way and bothered him until he would come. Tom did this on his breaks and his off time.

I, being a 17 year old Twins fanatic, thought this was heaven. Baseball was my favorite sport. This was the best thing ever. I smiled. My mom said, “That is the first time I have seen him smile in months” as she sobbed. It is like in her soul, she knew at that point I was going to be ok.

I walked up with Tom to the adolescent psych ward. As I walked I had my bat in my hand. When I opened the doors, my new life was about to begin. It was not the end for me, but the beginning.

I had the idea right. I had to kill myself, but not literally. I needed to kill my false self. That is how you heal.

I walked through those doors. The doors opened and it was the beginning of a long, painful journey. It was the opening to the beginning. Tom was my shepherd . I was the lost sheep.

I never would have made it through those doors without Tom.

It all started with him being present and saying hi. Him noticing things, building a relationship, going out of his way, and not always following the rules. Being invested in me. He had a wife and kids and he had a life, but in that hospital, he made me a priority. For the time I was with him, in that room, at those moments I was the most important thing in the world. When he left, I am sure he moved on. But for the time he was with me, he was focused completely on me. He was not distracted or thinking of other things. He was present completely with me. Before that, he was just there. Saying Hi.

I heard people say Tony Oliva got me to go up there; that he saved my life. While that was great, and it made my day, truth is, I was going with Tom regardless. Tom is the one that saved my life. What happened in those doors is another story for another day.

You think that you save someone’s life like you see on TV or the movies like this:

Someone is on fire; burning in the building. The fireman rushes in to save him. The fireman has all his armor on and has been trained well. He is ready for this and pulls him out of the building.

But it does not really go like that. Sometimes people are burning and dying inside. We do nothing. We let them burn. We all do. We are too caught up in our own lives.

You do not save a life by running into a burning building. You save a life by saying hi.

May you all be someone’s Tom today.

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“Make no mistake about it – Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or becoming happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It is seeing through the façade of pretense. It is the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”

 Adyashanti

By Irwin Ozborne

Dreams are one of the most fascinating aspects of the human experience. For thousands of years, the dream state has puzzled the greatest minds in human history. What are dreams? Why do we dream? What do they mean?

We still do not have all the answers to these questions. But, what we do know is that when we go to sleep our conscious mind shuts down to rest and restore, while our subconscious mind is highly active. One of the wonders of the dreaming state is that everything, as bizarre as it might be, appears to be completely real throughout the dream. Once we wake up, we look back at the dream and think, “Wow that was crazy! But it seemed so real!”

Sometimes the dream scares us to the point that we wake up on our own out of fear, or out of a last resort to save ourselves from the nightmare. There are other times where the dream is magical, and far supersedes the reality of our waking world, before we are frustratingly woken up by the dreaded sound of the alarm clock. Either way, the dream is over and we know that it was all an illusion.

It has been repeatedly proven by quantum physics that the world we live in is actually more of an illusion, or a dream. In fact the quantum theories have been tested more than just about any other theory in the history of science, and always come back to be true. So, if the reality that we perceive to be true is actually an illusion and the entire world is actually sleeping, how can they be woken up?

The same way we wake from our sleep every night…by the sound of the alarm clock.

It was my junior year of college; I remember being stuck in some psychology class watching a boring video which gave me a chance to sleep off my hangover from the night before. The kid in front of me had tuned out and was listening to the radio through some headphones and nodding in-and-out of wakefulness.

Then suddenly he pops his head up and says out loud, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.”

“What is the World Trade Center?” was my thought that I kept to myself. I’ve heard of it, but I have no clue what or where it exists. The teacher tells everyone to calm down and stay focused on the video for class.

“Another plane just hit the other Twin Tower,” the kid says out loud again which creates some commotion. “It is like Pearl Harbor out there.”

“Nothing will ever be like Pearl Harbor,” the teacher ensures the class. But it is a little too late, there is something truly bizarre happening today. I feel everything in my body trembling as I could not even fathom that the “good guys” were under attack. All the “freedom” propaganda was being threatened, and for the first time in my life I thought that the “greatest country on earth,” might not be so.

The university was closed and the students were sent home immediately after a plane had struck the Pentagon. The overwhelming consensus was that hijacked planes were going to strike landmarks across America throughout the day and people had to take cover.

Every media outlet on the globe had live coverage of the greatest attack on American soil, and we watched innocent people lose their lives. We watched people covered in blood, running for their life, trapped in the rubble, and terrified of what might come next.

Then, I’ll never forget as they showed these young Palestinian children dancing in the street and celebrating the attack while burning an American flag. “Why do they hate us?” is all I could think. I felt confused, sad, and then of course intense anger and rage. “How could they do this to us? We are the good guys!”

This was the alarm clock of human consciousness.

The western world had been sleeping to the way the rest of the world was living along with the atrocities carried out by the United States Government and everything was about to be exposed. While I would never condone or support whoever is responsible for the systematic killing of another human, but this is the moment that the world woke up. It took a dramatic, diabolical event to help the west understand the east.

“Where is Palestine? I’ve never heard of it,” I asked my friends. Later they shifted blame to a guy named Osama Bin Laden who was stationed in Afghanistan. Where is Afghanistan? Why are they messing with us? It absolutely blindsided most American people as to why would this part of the world be so happy to watch us suffer.

After a few weeks went by, my anger subsided but the confusion still existed. Why do they hate us? That is all I could ask. There needs to be some explanation. It was nice to know that I wasn’t alone.

I started to research Palestine and see their side to the story. Soon, I began to understand that their homeland had been invaded and they were being pushed aside which had been supported by the west. I had no idea about any of this. Where was this in the history books?  But still, why do they hate us? What do they mean by “the Americans are the real terrorists?” Where are they coming up with these false claims?

A few years later, documentaries like Loose Change surfaced and the 911-Truthers started investigating everything about the event. I became obsessed with these conspiracy theories and they all seemed to be more believable than the official reports. I showed them to everyone, only to get mocked and ridiculed.

“I thought you were smarter than that,” is what I was told. This prevented me from digging any further, which just left me in a state of confusion. What is the truth?

I am not alone.

In order for global enlightenment to take place, it requires the destruction of everything we have been told to be true. This moment was the moment in which the world started to question everything. We started questioning governments, laws, religion, the media, teachers, doctors, and everything written in history books.

In the year 2015, less than half the people in America believe the official 911 Commission to be true. In a global poll of 16,000 random citizens of 17 different countries, only nine of the 17 countries attribute the attacks to Al Queda. There is still no answer to why WTC Building 7 collapsed, and the government refuses to address this issue. It is similar to the Kennedy Assassination in 1963. Immediately, everyone was angry and went along with the “lone nut” theory that Lee Harvey Oswald fired three bullets that left seven wounds. The “magic bullet” theory of 1963 states that one bullet created five wounds in two different people and then came out completely unmarked. It is just as ludicrous as the WTC Building 7 theory of 2001, without ever being hit by a plane and collapsing at free fall speed.

This has led to other nations questioning what their governments tell them. In 2011, the people of Iceland revolted and overthrew their government.  In 2012, the Arab Spring saw many governments topple due to the demand of their people refusing to be ruled by oppressive dictators.

More people in the west are turning to ancient forms of spirituality which center around oneness, connection, love, and peace. It is much like the counterculture of the 1960s in which the students hit the streets and demanded peace by protesting the Vietnam War on every campus across the nation. The younger generation rebelled as they understood that freedom comes from within, it is not a slogan that your government tells you to be true.

One of the queens of the 1960s, Janis Joplin told us, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” It is truly the only way to be free, is to lose everything you know to be true, and to awaken the inner child. We come into this world with a clean slate, free, loving everyone and everything, with wonder and awe for everything around us. As each day goes by, this freedom is taken from us unintentionally. We are told what to wear, how to talk, how to behave, and we create separation. A child can still be walking down the street and wave to a stranger, ask questions, sing, dance, or just ask another child to be their friend without any embarrassment, guilt, or remorse. When an adult does the same, the instinctual reaction is “what is wrong with this person?”

We have been domesticated, trained to think a certain way, told what to believe, and convinced it is all true. We are born pure, then we put on a mask for protection from the world. We then cling to the mask, believe the mask is to be true, and it becomes harder and harder to remove the mask.

While the mask may make us feel safe, it is destroying us as individuals and as a society. And we will never be truly free, never be able to truly love, connect, and live in harmony, until we realize the mask is not true and we are able to take the mask off.

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People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.

  • Mother Teresa

By Irwin Ozborne contributing writer to TTMO

There are no coincidences in life. A coincidence is defined as a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent connection or significant meaning. Again, these do not exist because all coincidences have meaning which is what Carl Jung defined as a synchronicity.

Synchronicities refer to the law of unity, that we are all linked through our unconscious. There is no separation between you, me, anyone, or anything. Any movement, no matter how small, will eventually be felt by us all.

Every interaction we have with others will trigger a chain reaction that impacts the universe. This can be small interactions that include a friendly smile to the clerk at the gas station, changing her day, which may make her smile at the next person, who treats his clients better, and they go along and feel better and pass along the chain of love to the next. It can also have enormous impacts on the world such as a woman in Montgomery, Alabama, refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955 which led to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Once we are aware of synchronicities, we start seeing them every day and with every moment, interaction, and movement. In fact, we see that not only are synchronicities true, but that they exist in every single moment. Everything is a synchronicity; every moment is changing the course of history for the world.

Yesterday, I had one of these that reminded me of how simple this works.

I had plans to meet up with someone at 9:00 p.m., and I was early so I stopped by my local gym to go for a quick 45 minute jog. Cardio has become a form of meditation for me and allows me to clear my mind and come up with new ideas. Currently, I had been struggling with how I can do more to give back to others and make a difference on the world. I was hoping that a quick cardio session would boost some creative juices and give me some ideas.

However, the universe had a greater plan in place. About seven minutes into my jog, the sole of my shoe had started to rip open and I could feel my big toe pressing against the moving rubber of the treadmill. Frustrated, I wanted to “fight through it,” but knew that it would only create much greater pain. I had no choice, but to end my session at this point. I didn’t feel like lifting, so I returned to my car to text my friend and see if we could meet earlier.

As I drove away from the gym, I was receiving about twenty texts and needed to pull over and see what was going on. Through the intersection, there is a Super America gas station on the left and a Walgreens pharmacy on the right. I come here often, and I would say 99 percent of the time I stop for a snack or anything that I always go to the gas station. I had every intent on going to the gas station today, in fact, had my left blinker on and there was a car behind me and it was clear to turn.

Just at this instant, it was if somebody grabbed hold of the wheel because I felt an incredibly strong urge to go to Walgreens suddenly. I switched my blinker to the right side and made a quick, sharp turn into the pharmacy so fast that my tires squealed which was quite embarrassing to say the least.

While I sat in my car responding to texts and in my own world, I continued to ask what I can do to give back and help the world. I grabbed a piece of paper and started making a list of the things I wanted to do to help volunteer, start new projects, or reach out to others. I came up with an incredible list and then just asked, “If only an opportunity would present itself to me.”

Then, opportunity knocked.

Literally, a knock on my passenger side glass startled me and I looked up. As I looked out the window, there was a middle-aged African-American man that had taken a good couple steps back from my car and had both his hands up as if to show me that he had no weapon and that he was not a threat. He had a sincere look of helplessness on his face and I almost wondered what my facial expression looked like to have him jump back a few steps. I rolled down the window and you could see everything in this man’s body language that he was in dire need.

“I am so very sorry,” the man stated with remorse in his eyes, “I really hate to bother you but I am in need of some help.”

“Sure what’s up?” I asked curiously.

“Do you know where Brooklyn Park is?” he asked, “It’s a long ass way from here. I came out here to help some people out and now I’m the one stuck here.”

Just to clarify, Brooklyn Park is a predominately black suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul area. I live in a predominately white suburb about an hour away from this man’s destination. I wasn’t sure what he needed at this time and just kept my window down and waiting for him to continue.

“This is so embarrassing, but I was out here helping someone out and I am just about out of gas,” he said with a shamed look in his face, “I have to make it all the way back to Brooklyn Park and I forgot my wallet. I’m trying to do a good thing and this is what happens. Is there any chance you could help me out?”

“Yeah, let’s go inside and I’ll grab you some cash,” I told him and you could see the life go back into this man’s life. As if hope in humanity had been restored.

As we walked inside to the ATM machine, I felt all eyes were upon us. An elderly couple looked at me in disgust, a middle-aged white man scowled at the man who was in need, one of the younger female workers had fear in her eyes. The woman behind the counter, the only other African-American in the store, gave me a look in her eye which said “you have a kind heart” but her facial expression had a tone as if to say, “but you are being taken advantage of by this guy.”

I gave them man $20 and asked if that would be enough to get him home.

“Thank you so much, you have no idea how embarrassing this is,” he said with a tear in his eye, “I asked a couple people and you wouldn’t believe their response. One man told me, ‘How the HELL does a GROWN-ASS man forget his wallet!’”

“I do it all the time,” I told him, “We’ve all been there. I’d hope someone would do the same for me if I were in your situation.”

He gave me a hug in front of everyone in the store and wished me a happy Fourth of July weekend. I wished him well and went on my way to pick up a few snacks at the store myself.

This is what I call a soul contract. A soul contract is a prearranged contract prior to entering this lifetime that we make with others. We do so in order to teach each other lessons that help us grow. This was part of our plan to meet at this encounter, and the universe works in ways to make sure we meet.

The worn out soles of my tennis shoes led me to another worn out soul asking for help.

But this is not where the soul contracts end, it goes much deeper. We actually have soul contracts with every person we encounter, every single day. There were other soul contracts with each person in that store for us to teach each other lessons.

As I made my way to the counter, the middle-aged man who had previously yelled at the guy asking for help was in front of me. He spent $34.17 that day, mostly on junk food, soda, candy, and unnecessary items.

“I can’t believe you gave that man money,” he tells me in disgust, “You realize he is taking it to the liquor store or a crack house right now.”

“That is not up to me,” I told the man as I looked directly into his eyes that filled with hurt of his own, “I am only responsible for my actions, choices, and behaviors. I am not responsible for the outcome. The man asked for money to get home and I willingly gave him some money. That is all that happened. Nobody knows the outcome, nor do we need to know.”

The man grumbled and threw his hands at me as to say, “The hell with you.” Then he took his bags of junk food and walked out the store continuing to carry with him his bitterness of this entire situation.

I also had a soul contract with this man. He was teaching me of how I have acted in situations in the past. In fact, just thirty minutes ago, worn out soles of my sneakers had ruined my day and I was getting bitter. Everyone we encounter is just a reflection of ourselves, and this man was portraying the way I was acting internally not too long ago. I was letting a minor inconvenience ruin my day. That is the lesson he was providing me. Hopefully, my lesson to him was spreading love. But again, it is not up to me what my lesson is to him. I am not responsible for results.

The woman behind the counter did not even mention the interaction. She just smiled and wished me well after paying for my items. There was a soul contract there too. I do not know the reasons, nor do I need to know. I have no idea how this story ends and probably never will. It brings great inner peace to no longer have the need to attach to outcomes. But it also brings great humility to remember that each person I meet, despite our difference is beliefs, opinions and attitudes, is there to teach me something and help me grow.

There are three main ways to help remember soul contracts and help use them throughout our daily lives. The first one is remembering the story of Brahma. In this tale, Brahma creates the universe and all the people. His friend Maya then asks to play a game in which she cuts Brahma up into millions of pieces and puts a piece of him in every human. She erases his memory so he does not remember, and the game is for him to find himself in every person – or for each of us to find God in each other.

Taking this concept one step deeper, I realize that every person is actually me from a different lifetime. It works on the same level as the story of Brahma. We are all one interconnected being and experiencing the world from different perspectives. When I view the world this way, I see the pain and hurt in others eyes, and see into their soul. I do not know the man’s story that was so angry, but I know that was me from a different lifetime and I am trying to help him grow and flourish.

The third way of thinking of soul contracts, is taking the second concept even one step further. Since we are all God from a different perspective, I think of each person I encounter as an enlightened master and have been put in my path to teach me a lesson. Everyone I meet is enlightened, except for myself. With this perspective, I learn from everyone. The man needing gas, the old couple, the angry man, the scared employee, and the kind woman behind the counter, were all put there to teach me something. I can only hope that I learned the lesson. But if I do not learn the lesson, the soul contracts have stipulations to ensure that we do not move on until we get what we needed to know from that interaction.

Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to go about looking at the world; as if nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” I prefer the latter. I prefer to believe that worn out soles leads me to worn out souls, and that worn out souls will always lead me to greater peace, freedom, and serenity.

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“Sometimes you have to break down someone’s walls and take off their mask to see who they truly are.”

By Cortland Pfeffer

I’ve created a website and blog which all stems from the notion of removing our psychological masks. It is time to lead by example and remove my mask.

This information has never been shared before publicly or privately; hence, I have been wearing a mask for protection. I preach about inner peace, tranquility, and serenity is the direct result of “taking the mask off,” so that is what I am going to do.

I left my ex-wife. We have 2 little children. I have left her twice.

There you go, I said it. That is all the information you need to make a decision about my character and place me in the category of “good” or “bad.” It really is that black and white. I am the bad guy and she is the victim. This is how our society works; we create a villain, and then demonize him/her, which allows for justifying complete blame.

This starts from the time we are children: Batman is the “good guy” and the Joker is the “bad guy.” We categorize everything and everyone into two black-and-white categories of “good” vs. “bad.” While this is entertaining in movies, television shows, and stories, it is highly detrimental when we place all of life into absolute categories.

In elementary school when they try to teach us about American history and we seem to skip over essential parts of modern history such as the Korean War and Vietnam War. When asked about it, we like to describe it as the communists are “bad” and we are “good.” We had to invade others homeland to stop evil from spreading in the Pacific. If you tell any story from the perspective of the villain, you will almost certainly understand the reason behind the actions.

So, let me go along with this mask that society has placed on me as the villain in this scenario. This alleviates blame off of everyone else which makes the mask so appealing for everyone else.

As I remove this mask, let me start by apologizing to everyone that I have let down by my horrendous actions:

First off, I need to apologize to my ex-wife for the pain that I have caused. On the days that I left, she was so devastated that it put her body into shock. The mental anguish created physical debilitation to the point she was hospitalized and had intent to end her own life. She did not deserve that kind of pain, nobody does. She grew up always doing the right thing, went to school, got good grades, on the honor roll, graduated from college, and then helped me raise my daughter. We started our own family and everything in her life was going as planned, as it should when you always do the right thing. She had always been in control of her emotions, but hearing these words literally took the life out of her as she could not breathe, talk, or walk because the emotional pain was overwhelming. This turned her mad, angry, and untrusting of the world. I am responsible for this and I am sorry. I will never forgive myself and I am sorry for the tremendous pain that I have caused.

Then to my children, who now live separate lives. Their entire world is now shook up as they will have had to adjust to living in different homes, with different rules, and making difficult decisions. Children do not deserve this type of cruelty. They will have to hear about how their father destroyed the once-happy family from their mother and vice versa from their father, creating dissention and confusion. I did this and I am responsible for this pain. To even think about how lives have been changed hurts me so deep that it brings about physical pain in which I can never fully recover.

To her family that took me in, accepted me, befriended me, and tried their best to include me – I am sorry for letting you down. They saw me as different and I did not fit into their culture, yet they accepted me as one of their own as a part of the family. Then, I broke their daughter’s heart and left her devastated. They needed to stop their lives to pick her back up, get her on her feet, and begin her new life. As I watched this play out like a scene from a movie that is too difficult to watch that you need to look away, but I couldn’t look away. Because I created it and I had to watch it play out with remorse, shame, and regret.

Then there is my family. After years of failures, letting them down, and hurting them, I finally had stability in my life. I had struggled my entire life to rebuild this trust with my own family, only for them to watch it all implode once again. They had to watch this horror scene unfold and couldn’t believe that they had been so foolish to trust me with their hearts, knowing that this is how it would always end.  They were forced to pick sides between me and my ex-wife, and they were able to empathize with her as they have been on the receiving end from my hurtful actions in the past.

I am also sorry that it took me so long to speak and I am sorry that I have been wearing this mask for so long. Life really is more beautiful when we take off our mask, we get to see the world as it is. When we expose our flaws, our shortcomings, and our weaknesses, only then can we grow and evolve.

Now that you have seen behind my mask, let me see behind yours.

To my ex-wife, I am sorry that the pressure of being “normal” became too intense for you to bear and you rushed into a marriage with someone you truly did not share a spiritual connection. Because of this, there was resentment because the man you married does not fit the mold of “manly.” I am sorry that I am not into hunting, fishing, fixing cars, yard work, and repairing things around the home. I apologize that because of this, resentment grew to the point that communication was cut off with your husband for not being someone he never was. You did exactly as you were told and were sold the concept of the “American Dream” and would do anything to achieve it. I am sorry that your desire for “normalcy” grasped you like a drug-addiction to the point you sacrificed lifelong morals and values in an effort to inflate your image. You moved in too soon with a man you barely knew with his teenage daughter without developing any type of true relationship for society’s acceptance, and I am sorry the world pushed this on you.

I also feel the need to apologize that society lied to you about how life was supposed to be and that you believed in this illusion of the American Dream. Sometimes you do everything you are supposed to do and things still go astray. We all have a script of how we feel life is supposed to go and sometimes those scripts do not match up. I am sorry that this was your first encounter with this reality and I’m sorry that I didn’t fit your knight in shiny armor.

Later, you were told you were not able have your own children which altered your life plan to the point of having a mental break down along with verbally attacking the person closest to you – your husband. I am sorry you felt these verbal assaults on others were your way of coping with life’s adversity that we all face. And I am sorry that once your world started to fall apart, that you chose me as the scapegoat for all life’s problems. And I am sorry I accepted this role.

I am also sorry that you believed if you changed enough externally, it would fix things internally. Big house, fancy cars, and material possessions will always fade away and will only create temporary happiness; whereas, true joy can only come from within. You were led to believe that having a baby or two was the missing link to your lack of joy. I’m sorry that after paying for in vitro and having two children still did not change anything. And I am sorry I could no longer wear my mask at your family functions and pretend everything was OK.

I am sorry that our kids saw us fighting, screaming. I am sorry that the kids started going into the corner and screaming and fighting as well. I am sorry the kids looked scared all the time.

So yes, I am sorry that I left you. I am the villain.

I am sorry my actions shook up everything in your world, your fairy tale world in which the beauty trains the beast to be civilized and they live happily ever after. I’m sorry for destroying your mask and deciding I was no longer going to participate in this phony play you were showcasing to the world.

I let you see behind my mask and I wanted to see behind yours. I was the Phantom and you were Christine. I showed you the deformities behind my mask and my need to be loved, my need to be real, and my need to be myself. I need my kids to see real love and genuineness, rather than build them a mask of their own.

But, this is not just the Phantom of the Opera; this is the Phantom of Society – it seems real, but it really doesn’t exist.

To my children, you will not have a life like that of your friends. You will get to see a mother and father that are happy; you will get to see love. You will not have to see me repressed, unloved, or unhappy. You will not have to see a marriage which is silent, bitterness, or anger. You will not see a fake life and then try to imitate it when you are adults. You will never hear a bad word about your mother from me and you will never see us fight ever again.

As my role as the villain, living with a mask under the stage, I would like to apologize for my actions. I knew something was wrong and I could not do it anymore, I need to be loved. But I am the villain, and I am sorry for playing this role.

And to my ex-wife’s family, I am incredibly sorry that you taught her that her self-worth is based on being married and having children. That your traditional beliefs were so engrained in her head that she never got to express herself and develop a true identity. She has the intelligence and work-ethic to be many things, but she only found her worth in being a housewife. She wanted to be a doctor and had the ability, but was pressured into social work. I am very sorry that she had to see this fake life while growing up and then mimicked all she knew to be true. She was domesticated to the values of getting together and hugging one another, then leaving events and not speaking for one year. You created a robot to take center stage and I apologize for spoiling it to her that it is just an act and everything you taught her was a lie.

Now, everyone in your small community knows. You have a divorced child, and in your inverted values, feel that you have failed as parents. I am sorry for the anger you have towards me and that you had to see you daughter suffering. And I am sorry for exposing her to the truth and destroying your play.

She is now going to nursing school and following her dreams – not the ones you built for her. But, I the villain, am sorry for allowing her to be herself.

And to my family, I am sorry that the dysfunction led to us developing unhealthy roles and that I was chosen as the scapegoat. This allowed for you to focus on someone, rather than looking in the mirror, which prevented you from ever experiencing growth for yourselves. It gave you relief when I made mistakes, as it allows for these roles to fulfill. I am sorry that by acting out in dysfunction that it eased your stress and enabled you to point fingers and blame. I am also sorry that because of all the finger-pointing, it forced me to seek help and treatment and better myself while you continue to stay stuck without ever being able to look in the mirror after all these years. I am sorry that because of taking the role of scapegoat, it has prevented you from addressing your own issues.

While you are living the “American Dream,” you are depressed on the inside.  As Kanye West once said in his lyrics, “We’re told we’re living the American Dream; but the people highest up have the lowest self-esteems; the prettiest people do the ugliest things.”

I apologize that I am  no longer living that dream, but that is what happens when you wake up. You stop dreaming. In which, I am happy to understand it was all an illusion. But, I am sorry for being the villain in your play.

I am sorry that we live in a society that as soon as we are born, we are told about the
“American Dream.” That we grow up, go to school, learn what the teachers ask us to remember, get a job, pay bills, get married, and have children. I am sorry that those that tell us this are making money off of the tuition, weddings, mortgages, vacations, and even the toys for the kids. The American Dream is a marketing scheme and it always has been.

I am sorry that we are taught we can only love one person, even when it goes against everything that is in our hearts. Then we are told if we break that vow, we are set to spend eternity in a fire pit. We get pressured into getting married at a young age and having children, then told we are evil if we realize that the marriage was not meant to be. So, in my first thirty years, I am supposed to find my soul mate that just happens to live in the same geographic area that I was born?

I am sorry that people still think in black and white, that if someone leaves, that they are a bad person. I am sorry people cannot look beyond that, and see the whole picture. It is acting out of dysfunction. Life is not about who is right and wrong. It is about love. When love is missing, things go terribly wrong.

I am sorry that love is not ever really missing, but people are afraid to show it, from shame, pain, and hurt. It all forces us to put masks on and when that happens, love gets withheld. I am sorry that people do not see that love is all that matters, it is all we have. We are here for only a short time, and most of us are living a fake life.

I am sorry people think there is only one way to raise happy, healthy kids, and that is by living this lie.

The current divorce rate is 50-percent, and those still married, but unhappy, is about 35-percent. If you have that deep emotional connection, marriage can work and can be good. But we are all so busy just trying to be “normal” that we end up depressed. Then we wonder what happened.

I am sorry that I ever believed in the “American Dream.” I am sorry for you if you still do not realize that it is a lie. I am sorry to everyone that cannot see the truth.

I am the villain, the bad guy, and I am

Sorry.

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“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

I walk into the jail. It is my first day as the new supervisor of the medical unit. What a great opportunity to change things with this job. I did not know why they hired me to do this job. I had at the time 10-12 years working in psychiatry and this was a jail, which is mostly medical I thought.

I was there for a few minutes, and met the staff members. Right away there is a behavior code called and we are to rush to the cell to see what it is. I follow along and watch. We get to the cell and there is where I would first meet Anastasia. She was a 21 year old Russian female. She was cutting herself with an object she had stolen.

“Anastasia, give us the scissors NOW!” screamed the guard.

“No, you guys don’t care. No one does, I want to die anyways.”

She continues to cut and the guards with the riot gear on jump on her all at once and put her down. She is screaming and screaming and crying, “get off of me, get off of me, I will give it to you.”

“Too late for that!” Scream the guards and the nurses.

They bring her into the medical unit and she is checked out by one of the nurses. The nurse, as she goes over to check Anastasia’s blood pressure and her wound is furious. It is obvious. She came into work, and she was just getting her coffee started, listening to her music, and catching up on the gossip of the day. She rolls her eyes as she walks shaking her head towards Anastasia.

Anastasia is sad and crying and asks the nurse, “Are you mad at me now.”

The nurse replies, “Well why do you keep doing this?”

This would be typical of what I would see in my time at the jail. I heard many of the staff say things like, “They get free care and I do not.” Or “They are taking our tax dollars every time we have to call the ambulance.”

I watched my boss come in and yell at an inmate who was going through withdrawal. “Shut up!! You are annoying! Just shut up and leave us alone.” He had paperwork to do and she was interrupting him.

What would happen when an inmate made a self-harm gesture as Anastasia did is that we would place them on intense observations. Meaning they had to come in to talk to someone at least once per day and we would have a series of questions to ask them to gauge how they are doing. Then we would decide if it was to continue. Great idea I thought, this will be fun.

However, I soon realized that no one really wanted to do this, and no one really made any effort when doing it. However, you are less likely to help someone if you have it in your head that they are just a bad person instead of taking the time to get to know them.

“She just wants attention.” “She is a manipulator, a baby and playing games. Now we have to do all this paperwork.” These were things some of the staff would say.

I began to see why they hired me. By diagnosis, about 75% of the jail inmates had mental illness. But I can tell you from my lifetime of experience, it was 100%. That is not an exaggeration. This is now where we are housing our Mentally Ill. In jails. Across the country and this was my first taste of it personally. It costs 1,000 dollars to send a patient to CD treatment or to Mental Health treatment per day, whereas the jail only costs about 100 dollars.

Every single inmate that I encountered would have benefited from mental health or CD treatment. The charts are all similar. Abuse and neglect as a child. Then drugs, alcohol, cutting, gambling, some sort of escape. Then fights, crimes, and then jail. Then back in jail, again and again and again.

We have this high recidivism rate and we wonder why? The reason is the system. We don’t treat the underlying conditions, and we punish the result of the condition. That would be like punishing someone for having a heart attack, but not telling them about the heart disease or helping them with diet modifications and lifestyle changes. Then when they have another heart attack, we punish them again and say “they just do not get it.”

We are the most incarcerating society in the history of mankind. We have private prisons that make money of people being jailed. We have people who lobby congress to make tougher laws so we can lock up more people and everyone makes more money. Most of these people that are locked up are mentally ill.

So we are taking those that were abused and traumatized, and we are not treating them. We are locking them back up, and making money off of it.

So how did Anastasia get here, and how do we solve this issue of locking up the mentally ill?

You see the picture at the top. That is a Russian orphanage. That is where Anastasia spent the first 4 years of her life. In a crib, with no human touch or affection. Fighting for food. Forming no bonds with anyone.

“Child maltreatment has been called the tobacco industry of mental health. Much like smoking directly causes or triggers predispositions for physical disease, early abuse may contribute to virtually all types of mental illness.”

There was also a study done using monkeys regarding early bonding and its significance and how it affects our future development. It showed that lack of early maternal interaction, and early adversity in life, as well as lack of bonding significantly increases your chances of developing addictions and mental health issues, and behavioral issues later in life. Here is the full study if you want to read it.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3161556/

So, in Anastasia’s case, she was in an orphanage the first 4 years of her life. Which altered her brain development significantly. Russian orphanages are well known for their lack of resources, neglect, and abuse of the children. Some have been shut down. There are many awful images that can be seen online and article about it.

She then was adopted by her American adopted parents. They were excited to bring home this child, to be helping out the less fortunate. However, as in many cases with these adoptions from Russia or other countries, they did not get what they thought they were getting. They were not equipped to handle this young girl.

She was 4. 4 years old. Imagine a 4 year old. They are exploring life, starting to gain independence, asserting themselves. Many studies state that the personality is almost fully developed by age 3, some say by age 6. No one argues that it is fully developed very early on.

So now imagine a 4 year old sitting in a crib most of the day with no one to bond with or hold, no one to love her, or care for her. No one to ask questions to. No one to smile at or to play with. How is that fair that when she gets older we expect her to just have somehow magically “figured it out.”

She gets home and she is not a typical 4 year old. She screams, she throws fits, and she yells, hits, and kicks. She has no idea where she is or what is going on and she is scared and does not trust the world, nor should she.

Her adoptive parents were sold on the idea of bringing this kid to America and giving her a better life. They were not ready for this.

So, by around age 5 or 6, Anastasia’s new mom is holding her down, locking her in her room, and making her stay outside. Almost hiding her from the world. She is once again punished when she has emotions, or feeling. If you scream and feel, you are hit, held down, or locked outside. That was the message that was being sent to Anastasia. What this teaches the developing brain is that when you are feeling something, you deal with it by inflicting pain. It is how her young brain was molded over and over again.

When a child is abused like this over time, the hippocampus sometimes shuts down, that is the part of the brain that involves memory of events. However, there is also proof that the chemical reactions in a child’s brain at this time are similar to that of heroin withdrawal. So what I am trying to say is imagine a child going through this much pain over and over, and getting this sick over it. No one is explaining any of this to her. She doesn’t understand why she is dying inside. Then the memory part of the brain shuts down almost so she doesn’t have to remember all of the events. I would ask her all the time about the orphanage, she didn’t remember. But I read the chart. So I knew, but she didn’t. It is probably best that she didn’t.

So we see these children as adults and we say, “Well only half of them were traumatized.” I am certain that is false, you still see the behavior, because the body remembers. The brain does not always remember the things that happened. But the body does.

Just like an alcoholic or drug addict learns to use the substance when emotions come up. Someone who self-harms usually has learned at an early age that when emotions come up, you inflict pain and punishment. Then it goes away and the surge of dopamine happens much like it does in an addict. However, the feelings stay inside. They are never released. So now, this temporary relief has actually made things worse. Now there is shame over the self-harm, and the original emotions stay. Now you have someone with all these emotions bottled up. Eventually it’s going to explode.
Anastasia began cutting herself at age 7. I asked her how this started. She said “It just made the pain go away, when my mom would hit me, I would not be sad about whatever I was sad about anymore.”

She was eventually sent to groups homes. Her first one was at age 11. She would cut and self-harm. She has scars all up and down her arms.

She has tried to walk into traffic, and she had tried to overdose. She has tried to stab herself with a knife.

Her life has been this. Placement after placement, event after event.

Now in the jail, the staff when she is not around state that she is “attention seeking” and “manipulating” and “playing games.”

They are not motivated to help heal her because they believe in their head that it is made up. I think she does want attention, because she has never gotten it. What you think of someone in your head affects the way you treat them.

Some of the oppressors of the mentally ill and addicted walk around like they are superior, like they did something to have this privilege. Like it was earned. They were born on 3rd base and act like they hit a triple.

I learned all of this about her life as I talked to her, and confirmed it by reading her chart. I would get my eyes rolled at by the staff and guards, and told “You spend too much time with the inmates.” and “You are causing issues because now they expect everyone to spend time with them.”

However, some agreed with me. That’s another thing I learned, there is usually a silent majority that agrees with being kind to people. Everyone has this at their core. They are more willing to do this if they have a partner in doing this. So by acting out of love, you usually bring out the others that have been fearful to do things different.

The oppressors of the mentally ill and addicted take someone abused, who never had near what they had, and lock them up. Then they punish them and do not treat them. However, they continue to make laws and laws to punish and punish. Prison is a big business here. We have people making 100,000 a year. In their minds, they need to keep making that money, and more if they can. They do this at the expense of the mentally ill and traumatized and addicted.

The oppressors say, “They do not want to get better, they keep coming back.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

When Anastasia was 18. She was in an adult foster care program. She had a staff member that was very strict and had this attitude like the staff at the jail. She felt Anastasia’s behavior was purposeful and deliberate. She ordered Anastasia around. She bossed her around, she had power and abused it, much like the jail staff.

How did this staff member grow up? She was told she was a princess and got everything she wanted. She was told she was special. She was told she deserved all that she had. She was a victim of all of us also. She was also told lies as a child. She ran her house since she was little. She was abused in another way. We create this, our society creates this. We are all co responsible for the staff, and for Anastasia.

How is it all of our faults, some say to me. Silence is consent, if we say nothing and do nothing, we are consenting to it. Some live in excess, and as a whole, we have a lot that we do not need. We spend billions per year on Christmas, and the super bowl alone costs billions of dollars. We as a country and society have all this money. We see the suffering in the other parts of the world and we do nothing. We say we can’t change things. We are only one person. So we sit on our couches, and we watch TV and we over consume. We pay entertainers billions of dollars. We are using up all the resources.

We are acting like a virus. Viruses attach on to the host. Viruses eat, multiply, and use up the hosts resources, then move on.

There are people suffering all over the world. They are the future Anastasias. Or worse. We can prevent the next school shooting, or the next serial killer. We are capable of this.

We also see the spoiled little girl and think it is “cute.” We watch the shows that encourage this, we show children by our actions. We consume and teach young girls what beauty is, by how you look. You have to be skinny, you have to look a certain way. You have to act a certain way. Very rarely do I see someone just accepting their young daughter for who they are.

The young spoiled staff members are victims of the lies as well. We all see it, but do we do anything? NO.

It’s hard, I do it. I try my hardest not to and I am getting better at it. But it is all over and it is hard not to become a part of it. You have to be aware. I am not always, it is a process.

We sit and wait for people to come along and change all of this.

But, what if we are the ones we have been waiting for? What if you do something each day, and someone sees it and it continues. The effect of one kind act or word is much larger than you can ever imagine.

So yes, you are only one person, but you can change the world if you want to.

Anastasia was hurting one day, and having intense emotions. So she left to the store. She came back late and was yelled at by this staff member. She told Anastasia she cannot eat supper. The staff was mad that Anastasia was not following “the rules” which really were “her rules.” She did not like Anastasia doing her own thing and going off. This was not the first time Anastasia has disobeyed her. No one had ever challenged her. These 2 people and their generations of pain collided on this day.

Anastasia was doing poorly on this day. She had bought a knife. She pulled it out. She was going to hurt herself. The staff member was scared, this was not how it was supposed to go.

The staff called the cops and they surrounded the house. They broke in and arrested Anastasia because they had to evacuate the house. The staff was angry, and said she felt threatened. That was enough for felony terroristic threats.

What happened was they then officially charged Anastasia for felony terroristic threats. She did not know what to do, Anastasia had a public defender that was overwhelmed with cases so he got her to plead guilty. No one really advocated for her. You have this young, law abiding staff member that was scared and this brutal criminal that tried to hurt her. Lock her up. That was the perception.

So now Anastasia is at jail. A felony terroristic threat. She was getting punished more in jail. She was not getting any treatment. She was continually shamed by staff. She never had visitors. She was now a mentally ill person in a jail. This is how it happens. This is just one story, but there are many like it that result with mentally ill being in prisons all over.

What will they think 100 years from now about us? I hear people of this generation always say, “I can’t believe they had slaves,” and “I can’t believe they didn’t let women vote and men just did what they wanted to their wives.”

What do you think this says about us? We take people who were abused, and traumatized. We charge them with crimes and lock them up. For money. We do not treat them either. We make money off of it. We are taking sick people and locking them up, we are the most incarcerating society in the history of mankind. Most of which are mentally ill and have been traumatized and we do not treat them. We can fix it, we choose not to.

Anastasia and I talked daily. I read her chart, got her records, and got to know her. She was a kind, loving caring young lady that never had a chance. Now she was not perfect, as none of us are. I still heard the talk from staff and guards, “She just wants attention, game player, and attention seeker.”

So, at times she was afraid to report symptoms because she was convinced that she “made things up for attention.” That’s what she was told her whole life.

One day, during clinic, she passed out in the hallway. A medical code was called. They all rolled eyes and said “Anastasia again.” She would say she was ill at times to get an opportunity to talk was the perception of many.

We went down to the code, but this time she wouldn’t wake up. If she was faking it, it sure was a good job. We called 911. She went in.

She was in the hospital for a few days. She would have to go back and get tests done.

It turns out she had developed cancer that had spread all over her body.

She was not going to make it. She was going to die.

She was placed in the hospital ward for end of life care. At age 22.

Everyone was surprised by how she handled the news that she was going to die in 6 months. She said to me, “I hope my dad visits me now.”

I lost it. I lose it again now writing this. I cry every time I think about this moment.

That’s all she wanted was a visitor.

She came into the hospital ward as we had to monitor her hourly now.

What I saw from everyone was their humanity. Everyone was truly sad over this. They started to see her every single hour on the hour as they had to, due to her illness. Since she was now in the ward right next to us. So the staff were almost “forced” to interact with her and get to know her.

They got to know the true Anastasia. They treated her so gently and kindly. Everyone was laughing with her.

Everyone got to know her quirks. They got to know who she was. Because of this, they all knew when there was a change in her behavior, so they knew when she needed attention. They knew her so well they could see when she needed extra when she needed time alone.

They knew her favorite foods. Some would sneak her in treats and pop and everyone was breaking the rules for this kid. Some of those that were the roughest on her were truly the ones with the softest hearts.

I saw so much beauty in this such painful moment. Everyone had their masks off.

Why does it take this for it to happen? Why did this kid have to die for people to see her for who she was?

They were forced to get to know her. It was amazing.

At one point during all of this, I sat down at the desk next to the oldest meanest nurse in the building (my false perception.)

Her name was Dorothy. I just started small talk. Her head was down, she was shaking. I said “what is it?”

I looked in her eyes, now this was probably the toughest woman I’ve ever met. Smart and rough and tough. You know, old school. She was crying.

She said “you know it just hurts. I lost my daughter at age 21 to a drug overdose and I see a lot of her in Anastasia. I was mad Anastasia was wasting her life and going to kill herself like my daughter.”

I never would have guessed that is where all her anger towards Anastasia came from. Everyone has things that lead them to be who they are, give them their beliefs, and things that dictate their behaviors.

Which is why we all are co responsible for each other.

When Anastasia died, she died with all the nurses and guards around her crying. Everyone came in on their days off to say goodbye. She finally had her family. It was us.

I sat next to her as she passed away. She had this huge smile on her face.

I said “What the heck are you smiling for?” That was our relationship. We teased a lot and goofed off. Even as she was going away.

She put her hand out, she held my hand gently, which was very unlike her. She looked at me dead in the eyes and said. “This was the best 6 months of my life.”

She finally got treated the way she should have been her whole life.

She finally got what she always wanted, and what she never had gotten.

Love.

Anastasia means resurrection.

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“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Hopeless. Given up, throwing in the towel. This is pointless and I cannot do this anymore. This is a feeling we all have at times. I remember a time when I was working at a rehabilitation facility. I was sitting in a staff meeting and it all boiled over. I screamed at all the staff, “What is the point of this, what are we even doing for these patients! We just take their money, give them 80 dollars a month, and do not help anyone! This is a complete fraud. We write notes so we get paid, not because we care!” “Someone tell me what we have done for Bill!” No one answered. “See we do not help anyone, this is a complete joke and it is wrong.”

The looks on everyone’s faces said it all. It was a small room packed with many people as we had the projector on as we were required to go through all the patients. Some had agreement on their faces. Others disappointment, but mostly shock. People had their heads down. It looked like shame. No one said a thing and after this went on for 10 minutes I walked out in disgust. I went to my office upstairs and closed the door in complete defeat. It was over. I am done.

After years of working in the field of psychiatry and addiction. I had quit internally. I watched over and over as patients would come in and leave. They would come back. No one seemed to be getting any better. We made money either way. We were told to write notes, because that way we could get paid money for that day. It was all about money and filling beds. We had to fill the beds.

At times, it did not seem like the patients cared at all. They had a place to stay for a few months while they attempted to get into new places. The social workers in the community did not care, because they just wanted a place for their patients to be so they did not have to worry about them. The hospitals did not care, they discharged people to us because they needed placement. Hospitals did not care about how a patient was doing, they only cared if the patient had a place to go.

I watched the other staff. They came in and sat in their offices, basically the walking dead. They sit in the offices and stare at the computer, and in the 5 minutes that the patient wanted to talk, they would blow the patients off. They would come to work, goof-off at times, but basically dead on the inside. It was like zombies walking all over the place in a dark dreary place. They would talk about how this whole system is a fraud, how we are making money, patients do not want to be here, the staff themselves do not want to be there. I would listen to this, and then as it got in my head, I would look and that is what I would see.

I gave up. My whole life was a fraud. It was a scheme and what I had lived for, my passion, was now exposed as a complete fraud. It was painful, and defeating.

We had a patient at this time and his name was “Bill.” Well, “Bill” came to us, he would not even talk. He would not eat because he thought food was poisoned. The man was about 90 pounds. Can you imagine thinking your food was poisoned? How scary that must be. He would go into the bathroom and spit until he had no saliva because he thought we were trying to kill him. He would hold his bladder because he feared going to the bathroom. He had a look of fear in his eyes, he was scared of everyone and everything. Then we had to force him to take medications. In his mind, he was at a place that was trying to kill him, poison his food and kill him. He then is told he has to take medication that makes him sick, tired, and shaky. Then he is told he has to take it and is locked up if he refuses. Imagine that as your reality for a moment. He would not even sleep. It was torture I am sure. It was heartbreaking. He had no family to come visit, he would never come to groups, and he would never participate. No one really cared. We got his money every month, we wrote a note on him every day and got paid. He had a place to stay. His social worker figured he was ok and would work on a new placement for him. But treatment? How was he getting any treatment? Staff did not care, they got through their shift. I did not care anymore, this was the blow that was ending it all for me. It is official, this is a fraud and I cannot help anyone or anything. I give up.

Then the staff meeting I described above in which I let loose on everyone. I blew up and it all came out in an angry speech in front of all staff at the meeting.

As I sat in my office with my heart pounding and my heart racing and emotions all over the place. I hear a knock on the door. I say “come in.”

It was Lonny. Lonny was the business manager of the place. He was the one that collected the money and paid the bills. He was a kind and direct man. I always wondered how he could take money from these people who had nothing. He did it every day, which was his job. He was not a bad man, he was a good man. He had a difficult job. He did not speak often, but when he did, it was important and meaningful.

So my thought as he walks in is “Oh my god he is going to give me a lecture about this, but I do not care I am quitting anyways.”

He said, “Can I sit down.”

I said “sure.”

He said to me, “I was thinking about what you said. What have we done for Bill? What are we even doing? And I think I have an answer for you.”

I said, “Ok.” I was thinking, “I cannot wait to hear this one.”

He said, “Well maybe if we do well, Bill will have a place that he can go back to some time in his life and say, you know the world is a scary place, but there is a place that I was at for 90 days that was not so scary. People were nice to me, they took care of me and listened to me. So maybe the whole world is not so bad. Maybe we can plant seeds in his mind that he will use later.”

I said “How do we get to that, he will not even talk. He is scared and no one cares.”

He responded. “Start by saying hi every day. Smile at him. Regardless of his response. Let’s just start with hello.”

This conversation changed my life. I am rarely speechless, but this was one of those times. My mind went blank. It was all still. All the emotions were gone and my mind was blank. It was like once again in my life when I could not take anymore. I was delivered a message to continue and to go on. I was given a spark of hope and a different way of thinking from a most unlikely source.

Every moment in life can teach us lessons, and every person is a possible teacher. If we are not fully present in each moment, we miss out on the lesson. IF we have preconceived notions about others, we miss the lesson. If we are elsewhere in our mind, we miss the moment. If we miss the moment, we mess with the future. Every moment builds on the next, which is how the future is built. Moment after moment.

I never thought this man had this life changing lesson for me. When I was broke, defeated, and had given up on my life’s passion. The man who pulled me up was Lonny.

I started to listen to this advice. I said hi. Nothing at first. For a couple weeks. Hi how are you doing? Then one day, it happened. “Bill” looked up at me, and said hi. Then he smiled. Then he would say he is “doing fine.”

I watched him start to talk to other people as well. Others would talk to him and be good to him. Now the same staff that were zombies were still being zombies. But my mind was not focused on them anymore. It was focused on the 2 or 3 staff that were trying every day to make a difference in each moment that they had. These were the people that I was not noticing before, because my inner turmoil did not want to see it. Now I saw it.

One staff. Her name was “Rochelle,” would give everything she had to each patient and in each moment. If they wanted to walk, she would go for a walk, they were the most important people to her in that moment. She also heard all the negativity, however it did not disturb her. I was in awe of how she did this. Maybe it did bother her, but it did not seem like it. For each patient, the moment they were with her, they were the most important person in the world. How had I not noticed this before?

“Bill” eventually got better. I mean not completely. He shaved his head, he was smiling and talking to us about his life. He actually was eating. He would still eat as fast as possible and cover it up, but he would eat. He was no longer afraid of the bathroom. It was amazing.

I go back to Lonny’s words often. Planting seeds. Sometimes we just need to do the best we can do and let go of the results. Sometimes we won’t see the results. Sometimes the results we see for other people will not be what we want for the other person, but it is not about us. It is about them. It may be that they got the result that they wanted. We cannot define another person’s success by our expectations and standards. What is their goal, and how can we help them. Do they even want help? We are like the passenger with a road map that points out things. They are the driver, it is their journey. Sometimes all we can do is make someone feel safe, or plant seeds. Or make them feel like the most important person in the world for that moment.

I thought for a long time that I planted seeds in “Bill.” Maybe I did. I let go of the results because I did the best I could.

What I know happened is that “Bill” planted seeds in me. So did Lonny. Thank you Lonny.

I thought I was the gardener, however I was the flower.

Or maybe, I was both. Maybe we all are both at all time.

The end.

dickens

 

” .. Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent forever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”-    Charles Dickens

Every interaction we have matters. We may not see it, but it does

Here is a story of how one patient saw 2 different doctors. With the exact same problem. The reaction was completely different, and so was the result. You do not have to be a doctor or social worker or health care worker to have this impact. It is just this example. Every day we encounter people that as simple as it may seem, just a hello or a smile can make the difference. Sometimes, just knowing someone notices you are not doing well is a big deal.

Patient walks into Dr. D’s office. Patient is a 29 year old. He has depression, has a history of suicide, drug use, and addiction. He is in good physical health. He has not asked for help for a long time. He was in the psychiatric hospital as a teenager multiple times.

Dr. D comes into the office right at 8 am as the day starts. He gets his coffee, and asks for his first patient. He walks into the room and looks at the patient. He says “what can I do for you today?”

The patient says, “I am very sad, I have low energy, and I do not feel normal.” The patient is shaking and is embarrassed to be at this point in his life.

The patient says, “I have struggled with drinking and drugs and do not feel good about myself. I am scared to talk to anyone about anything, but especially this. I am at an end, I have to get help or I am going to die.”

Dr. D says, “Ok, well let’s draw some blood. Have you ever been checked for diabetes, low blood sugar, or thyroid problems?”

Patient says, in a trembling voice. “No. I don’t seem to have any of the other problems that would go with diabetes though. I work in the health care field.”

Dr. D says, “Well I am going to run some blood tests. I also see you once had a positive PPD test, so we will give you some INH.”

A ppd test is when you are tested for exposure to tuberculosis. If you are positive it usually means it is in your system but not active.

So Dr. D has the patients’ blood drawn and has given him the INH. The blood tests come back normal. No problems.

The clinic nurses call the patient and state everything is ok. Dr. D said to follow up if you have any concerns. They as a clinic have so many patients, they forgot why the patient came in the first place. They get a list of lab results, so when they see them come through, they never think of the patient. They see the results and make the call that they are ok. This is not their fault. They are completely overwhelmed with a huge volume of lab reports of patient’s to call.

This patient was anxious and depressed and afraid to ask for help to begin with. Now with this call and this response,  the patient is basically pushed aside, IF the patient wants help, he will have to make the call again and go through the embarrassment and shame of asking for help again.

Now, the patient does not go for the INH. He is now feeling hopeless. He never even went for medical problems, then when the results came in, the clinic never even thought that it was to rule out anything. The patient got lost in the pile of papers. Basically became a number, not a person. This is normal these days. They want the Doctors to see as much patients as possible, as fast as possible. So give them a pill and get them out of here. It is our medical system, and it has become a business.

In this case, the patient now goes on another binge, and gets more depressed. If anyone has been through this they know any binge can result in death to self or someone else. Thinking again about suicide month later, the patient calls up the clinic. The patient has lost hope in Dr. D. However the patient is afraid to ask for another provider. Because he will be considered “difficult.”

The patient, using all the courage that they have, gets another appointment. This  is months later. So at this next appointment, Dr. D walks in, and he does not recognize the patient.  He treats him as if he is a new patient. He asks again if he has any medical problems.

This time. Dr. D says “Let me draw blood for some things” once again. Checks his heart. He does not know the patients name, or occupation, or any of what had happened before.

The patient is a number, he now feels worse and is upset that he even came back. He gets his blood drawn.

The patient gets a phone call back. He is to come see Dr D again, he must come in to go over the results. They cannot tell him over the phone the results. However, there is also some hope. He feels that maybe they found a reason he has felt like this his whole life.

The patient is scared, he knows if you have to come in to go over results it is not good. Saturday morning Dr. D walks in as he is the on call MD this weekend. His eyes are bloodshot and red, Dr. D did not sleep last night you can tell. He does not recognize the patient, his name, or anything. He feels he is just seeing all emergency patients as they are the Saturday clinic this month and he is on call. Dr. D has no idea he is talking to his own patient.

He then asks the patient, why he is here.

Then Dr. D still not knowing the patients name says “oh yeah, well, looks like you have chronic fatigue syndrome and there is really nothing we can do. Maybe go to groups, or exercise.”

Just what the patient wants to hear right? You are chronically tired and out of luck. You are not depressed or any of that. Sorry, go to groups.

The patient puts his head down, that’s it. You can see him, the thoughts are something like, “I guess I never was depressed, I’m just tired,” that is what he is feeling.

Any of us can tell these things in watching people if we just watch and are truly present with them. If we take time for one another it is easy.

Then Dr. D says well I can give you Provigil to keep you awake during the day and trazodone to help you sleep. SO let’s do that and check back in a few months. We are now giving a patient with severe anxiety a pill that they used to give to pilots to keep them awake during long flights.

The patient gets the pill to stay awake. His depression and anxiety have still not been addressed. He has learned that this is what happens when you ask for help. The patient now feels hopeless, sad, anxious, and like a fool for asking for help. There is nothing they can do for him.

First they tell him he has tuberculosis, then its chronic fatigue. They spend 15 minutes with him each time because management wants doctors to see 4 patient per hour so they can bill for that. Then they make more money. Dr. D is considered more productive if he sees more patients in a day because he makes the clinic money then.

The patient then with this depression history, drug abuse history, has made his last ditch efforts to get help. It took everything he had to even ask for help. He was pushed aside, they didn’t know his name. He got lost as a number. Then he was told different things by the same doctor each time he went in.

Why would someone go seek help after this? Dr. D never even asked him about his depression or anxiety or his history. He was a number, and he pushed it off like it was not depression. Just give him a pill and get him out. I don’t blame Dr. D, this is our system. I have seen Doctors get scolded for taking too much time with their patients.

This patient would then go into severe depression and his drinking and self-destructive behaviors would intensify over the next few years. He had many near death experiences, he got a DUI and spent more time in jail. He got to a point in which he almost died and his family had given up on him completely. He was basically going to fade away to the world. You could tell, he had given up on himself and everyone else had given up on him.

About 3 years later after Dr. D. This patient called the clinic. They said “So you see Dr. D, would you like to see him again.”

The patient has an opening and says, “No anyone is fine.” Simple stroke of luck.

The patient is set up with Dr Broeker. This is his real name he still practices for Allina. It is at the end of May. The patient has made up an excuse to go in he says he is having urinary problems.

He is in the clinic office in the room waiting. Dr. Broeker knocks on the door, he says, “hey XXX, I just want you to know I am running a little bit late but I will be in as soon as I can.”

The patient is shocked, Dr Broeker knew his name and just knocked on the door to tell him that he was running late.

Then during their meeting, the patient is comfortable, and feels at ease. Dr Broeker comes in and says his name, what his experience is and does not have a clipboard. IS not looking at the computer. He asks “what are you here] for?”

Dr Broeker then says “what else can I do for you?”

The patient starts to cry and says “I am anxious, nervous and afraid to ask anyone for anything. I hate myself, I cannot stop drinking and I want to get help for feeling depressed.”

Dr Broeker spent the next hour talking with this patient. It was amazing. He talked to the patient about life. Dr Broeker talked about his time as an MD and how he wants to get this right. He explains the depression scale, the anxiety scale and fills it out with the patient.

It was like this patient had been waiting years for someone to say, “It’s ok to be sad, let’s talk about it.” Finally after, years and years of internal torture. Dr. Broeker had released this man from his own internal prison. It was amazing. Words will never do it justice what Dr Broeker was doing for this patient.

It was supposed to be a 15 minute appointment. Dr Broeker knows the patient has been seen by Dr D because he read the chart, he says “why were you tested for all of this?”

The patient says,” I don’t know that’s what he thought.”

Dr. Broeker says “well, ok, let’s start you on celexa and come back in 2 weeks to make sure you are not having any side effects.” Dr. Broeker did not judge the other physician and was respectful and kind about what the other MD had done. When someone is truly great like this, they do not need to question anyone else. He is pure, there is no competition for people like Dr. Broker, he practices out of love, and he is a doctor for the right reasons.

The patient was so much at ease with Dr. Broeker that he was able to tell him everything and open up about the drinking, drug use and all other issues that he was facing.

Dr Broeker wanted him back in 2 weeks just to check on side effects. The patient felt he had a new lease on life.

Then in 2 weeks Dr Broeker pops in and knows the patients name. He talks to him for a while like they are old buddies and shakes his hand and is friendly with him.

This patient has had a history of no shows throughout his life, but never with Dr Broeker. Usually if we have a patient with no shows, we label the as non-compliant or as not really wanting to get help. But, could it be that the problem is in the provider and how we treat patients? Or at least say it is 50/50? In a few months the patient was in rehab, and able to look at people. Dr Broeker then eventually recommended therapy to this patient.

This patient was willing to listen because he trusted Dr Broeker. He believed in him. The same recommendation could have come from another Doctor and it would have gotten a different reaction. The difference is in the relationship, not in the knowledge. Dr Broeker took time, he did not care about the 4 patients an hour.

Dr. Broker is special, he is in it for the right reasons. He takes time. That is true productivity.

He saves lives, He saved this patients life.

 

I know this, I watched it. The patient was me.

The Doctor is Dr Michael Broeker.

He saved my life. He is one of the “fab 5” that I refer to that changed my life. That is number 1. The magical Michael Broeker.

 

If it was not for him, I would not be alive today. The patients that tell me I saved their lives and changed them forever, my friends and family and everyone that I have touched, it is all not possible without him.

 

I almost died and did not want to ask for help ever again. He sat down and listened. And talked. He didn’t follow the 15 minute rule. In my moment, lost in the woods, he gave me the light and pointed me in the right direction. All because he took time to get to know me and did not judge me.

 

I am alive today because of him.

 

Thank you Dr Broeker.

 

The End