You Will Have Access

I watched the debate on healthcare between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz.  I was struck by how Ted dodged the question regarding “Is healthcare a right for every American?”  Cruz said that Republicans would guarantee access to healthcare for every American.  I tried to imagine what “access to health care looked like”.  I thought for a long time on how healthcare access would work for someone who has no money.  A solution finally came to me.

 

You Will Have Access

You don’t want government in your healthcare, they’re not interested in you,

It’s the insurance companies who are sincere, they’ll help to mend your flu.

 

The Affordable Care Act brought insurance to 20 million who had none,

But the new Republican healthcare program will give ACCESS to everyone.

 

Get regulations off of the insurance companies and create widespread competition,

In this free market it’s not making money that counts, your wellbeing is their mission.

 

The US has 46 million people without healthcare but now ACCESS will be given to all,

The new lower rates will provide the benefits to the covered, so go to the healthcare mall.

 

You can have your new healthcare with one easy click,

For the same coverage as your congressman, level 1 is what you pick.

 

So you can’t afford level 1, then the choice of doctor is not a perk,

Level 2 is the plan for you, the companies will place in their network.

 

Don’t worry if Level 2 is too much for you to pay,

Level 3 doesn’t cover much, it’s based upon co-pays.

 

And if you have a pre-existing condition high risk is what you need,

At Level 4 they will provide it, but your wallet will begin to bleed.

 

Still can’t afford the insurance, then level 5 is what you should buy,

The insurance companies have thought of everything, with ACCESS for you to try,

 

Level 5 is only $29.95 and it is good for all that is wrong with you,

It solves cancer, heart disease and diabetes, just to name a few.

 

The cure is delivered free of charge and it come in a pretty box.

Healthcare has never been so beautiful and with the wonderful smell of phlox.

 

The box has a delectable solution, to take you on a ride,

For inside is a candy pill that’s laced with cyanide.

 

In The Light Practice

Into The Light Practice

A path of personal transformation (Quakers)

Quakers are known for their social activism.  They have an orientation toward peace, social justice, environmental causes and more.  These issues give Quakers a unique identity and a sense of community with like-minded Friends. Quakers have a proud heritage of utilizing peaceful social activism to help to bring about needed change.

Quakers have many systems for the development of an orientation of social activism.  They have business meetings, committees, workshops and many Quaker organizations that are devoted to a sense of fairness and justice.  All of these systems give Quakers a systematic way to develop their view on social issues.

The area that Quakers are not known for is personal transformation.   Quakers use the term “weighty Friend” to describe a Friend who has experiences, deeds and wisdom that give them an informal position of respect or authority.  Quakers have terms which describe personal transformation such as simplicity, silent worship, equality, community, centering down, clearness, continuing revelation, eldering, inward light, labor with, waiting upon the Lord and more.  All of these terms are informal practices that Quakers use to move toward personal transformation and the possibility of becoming a “weighty Friend”.

This blog seeks to address a series of queries related to personal transformation.

Is personal transformation and spiritual development an important part of your monthly Meeting?  Is personal development and spiritual transformation nurtured at your Meeting?   Would a list of strategies used by Quakers for personal transformation be helpful for personal and spiritual growth?  What are some ways that current informal Quaker practices around personal transformation could be nurtured to achieve some of the research benefits that are found in other inward spiritual traditions?

Into The Light Practice (discoverymeditation.com) is a clearinghouse of methods that Quakers use to experience personal transformation toward the experience of That of God within each of us.  This website/practice also showcases research from other spiritual traditions that have shown positive social and emotional benefits.  The website challenges Quakers to be a witness to the truth of how personal transformation can create a healthy relationship with God and provide significant health benefits to individuals.

The Light of God

An inward transformative practice of revelation by Quakers is often referred to as the Light of God, the Christ within, That of God in everyone, the Light within, the inward light and the inner light.  Quakers sometimes quote scripture to signify the origin of these terms.  John 1:7 “Walking in the light is to be guided through life by God; walking in darkness is making your own decisions as to what to do and say.” Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

This type of revelation is sometimes referred to as “God consciousness” or “Christ consciousness”. Entering into God consciousness is accomplished by being in the light through transcending yourself and your reality.  In doing this Quakers are not leaning on their own understanding (ego) but are transcending ego to experience the light of God and to come out of the darkness of the self.

Along with this transcendent aspect of Quaker practice the Religious Society of Friends also has a daily practice of testimonies.  According to the American Friends Service Committee in a pamphlet entitled “An introduction to Quaker Testimonies”, 2011, “Quakers believe in living life in the spirit of love and truth and peace, reaching for the best in oneself and answering “that of God” in everyone. Quaker testimonies are expressions of the commitment to put those beliefs into practice. The testimonies bear witness to the truth, as Friends in community perceive it—truth known through relationship with God. They do not exist in any rigid, written form; nor are they imposed in any way. Each Quaker searches for how the testimonies can best be expressed in his or her own life.”

The transcendent aspects of Quakerism and the daily practice of testimonies show similarities to many eastern spiritual practices of meditation and mindfulness practice.  Although Quaker practice has not undergone significant research on the personal benefits of participation, eastern spiritual practices of meditation and mindfulness are well researched.

According to the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx) Meditators enjoy greater empathy and a feeling of more compassion than non-meditators. They demonstrate a decreased level of stress and anxiety.  Meditators express that they have a better quality of life than those who do not meditate.

Along with meditation research, there are also notable benefits of practicing mindfulness according to the American Psychological Association. The research determined that there was reduced rumination, stress reduction, boosts to working memory, greater ability to focus, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility and a higher degree of relationship satisfaction.

If these benefits are indeed based upon research and carry the weight of truth, then Quakers may want to consider a continual process of development of In The Light Practice.  To gain the health benefits that meditators achieve, one could practice daily sessions of silent worship to increase time spent transcending their own understanding and moving toward “God conciseness.” The testimonies could be a daily tool to promote more mindful awareness of the values that Quakers know to be true in creating a healthy life style.

In The Light Practice website (discoverymeditation.com)is a clearinghouse of ideas for Quakers to realize the personal benefits that can be achieved through transcendence and living in a relationship with God. It is a place for those who are not comfortable with traditional eastern spiritual practices to find a healthy practice that is rooted in Christian traditions and values.

 

 

 

Born in the Town of Bigotry

I have been teaching and working with people with disabilities for over 40 years.  When I heard Donald Trump mocking a reporter with cerebral palsy I was sickened.  I truly have not seen an adult mock a person with a disability since my childhood. For those who were born before the civil rights legislation of the 60’s you may not be aware of the kind of bigotry that existed at that time.

I wrote the following poem as a reaction to the spectacle of seeing a presidential candidate mock someone with a disability.

Born in the Town of Bigotry

By Joel Ottenbreit

 

I was born in the town of Bigotry. A place where my neighbors taught me well,

I learned that poor Blacks were lazy and that foreigners often smell.

 

That a women’s place was in the home cause that’s what made life stable,

They must look their best, care for the kids, and have dinner on the table.

 

Where people with disabilities are those you pretend not to see,

And if they come to close to you try everything to flee.

 

To be different. That is bad and truly kind of queer,

Push them, beat them, bully them. You need to make them fear.

 

In Bigotry, life was large, seemingly as big as a brontosaurus,

To increase the fun, so I could stun, I decided to join the chorus.

 

I told their jokes and sang their songs that those not like us were dumb,

They had no real place being here with us cause they were only scum.

 

Though I grew up in Bigotry one day I had to leave,

Tears in their eyes, their screams and cries, made me question what I believe,

 

I came across a mean and angry boy I knew who recently became transgender,

Instead of a broken person, stood a woman who was quite tender.

 

I discovered those with disabilities were not given less,

They just needed accommodations so they could be their best.

 

And those from other cultures were truly not the same,

But the differences they taught me were wonderfully insane.

 

When I failed to notice the color of their skin, aquaintinances became quite dear,

We could laugh and cry together as friends, from them I had no fear.

 

That women are our equals and a great part of this nation.

They should not be seen as less, no need for objectification.

 

I have the one true religion, this is what my priest would say,

Soon I discovered love and compassion from different faiths along the way.

 

But sometimes in your travels the path will bring you round,

One day I awoke in Bigotry with a new mayor in the town.

 

He’s loud and brash and full of hate with the old ideas to plate.

Restore what was once ours, we need to make America great.

 

Mexicans are bad, they’re not sending us their best,

They’re criminals and rapists, they are our new found pest.

 

Those with cerebral palsy are really kind of irrelevant

They speak funny with poor speech and are truly unintelligent.

 

And women without big breasts, they are just not right for men

How could you even consider them for they are not a perfect ten?

 

And those of the Muslim faith we need to ban them from our town

Cause they have some bad ones who want to bring us down.

 

And those who disagree with me are such a big disgrace,

The best way to deal with them, is to punch them in the face.

 

The mayor was concerned with numbers and wanted me to join his chorus

But this time my heart had grown and my will was no longer porous.

 

Instead of singing his praises and telling vulgar jokes,

I stood in line with my protest sign and claimed it was all a hoax.

 

For now I have to stay in Bigotry and pray it does not become violent,

And encourage good people in the town to no longer remain silent.

 

And when this mayor is forced to leave the fears of the marginalized will dissipate,

 

We’ll learn that kindness and love were the true things that made America great.

Cautionary Poem on Artificial Intelligence

I have always been a believer that technology advancements will benefit mankind, paving the way for a healthier and longer life.  When Stephen Hawkings, Elon Musk and Bill Gates commented that artificial intelligence may not be friendly toward humans, I decided to explore the topic.  I read the book “Our Final Invention” by James Barrat.  This inspired me to write the following poem.

10 Times as Smart as Me.

by Joel Ottenbreit

 

I fried them, baked them, boiled them and steam them,

I even got honey from the bee,

I farmed them, worked them, abused them and used them,

Because I was 10 times as smart as thee.

 

I invaded indigenous people,

Until all resisters began to flee,

I could imposed my will upon them,

Because I was 10 times as smart as thee.

 

I conquered Mother Earth,

Her face I shaped for me,

I became 6 billion strong,

Because I was 10 times as smart as she.

 

I spent a trillion dollars,

So my military could set me free,

I dominated other countries,

Because I was 10 times as smart as thee.

 

Developing new technologies,

Created the ultimate key,

It gave me control of the world,

Because I was 10 times as smart as thee.

 

The new technologies became self aware,

Artificial intelligence began to control me,

The human species soon became extinct,

Because it was 10 times as smart as me.

Mindful Dog Walking

Rudy Crop

Have you ever noticed how people walk their dogs?

If you observe carefully, you would notice that there are many different types of dog walkers and styles of walking. There is the dog walker with the goal of finishing the walk, even before the walk begins.  Those individuals tend to walk at a fast pace, prompting the dog forward with a pull of the leash to complete the walk quickly and reach that final destination of home.  Then, there is dog walker with the well trained dog at his/her side during the entire walk.  That dog always maintains a sharp focus on the trail ahead and obediently sits when its master stops.  Finally, there is the virtual dog walker who is constantly distracted by cell phone conversations or glancing at emails along the walk, rarely even noticing the dog or the surroundings.

Initially, I walked my dog, Rudy, at a fast pace for the exercise in order to receive health benefits. The research data also recommends that healthy dogs need daily exercise. This type of walking was not very satisfying however.  Arriving at a new plan, I began listening to podcasts that were intellectually interesting as I walked the dog.  Noticing that I was no longer appreciating the walk itself, the podcast lectures were replaced with listening to music.  As I listened to the music, thoughts began to surface of problems that needed to be solved in my life… rather than simply enjoying the walk. Rudy and the surroundings soon became somewhat invisible and I slowly became aware of the fact that the walk had become a meaningless activity with many distractions. That’s when I decided to engage in mindful dog walking.

My meditation training had taught me that while washing the dishes, I needed to focus on the task of just washing those dishes.  So while walking the dog, my new focus was to be on just walking Rudy mindfully. No phone, no music, no podcasts, no set pace… just creating a bond with my dog during the walk and noticing the rich surroundings that I never was aware of before.  Mindful dog walking enabled me to develop a special bond with my dog and I began to understand his emotional needs.

Let me explain the simple routine that I developed. Mindful dog walking began with the intention of just walking Rudy.  Selecting a time, so that I would not be rushed was the first step in the process.  Getting out an nonrestrictive harness and gently stating, “Let’s go for a walk Rudy” was always greeted with excitement and a bonding moment.

Now as the walks begin, I ignore any goal driven feelings or thoughts about the walk’s end.  When I sense that Rudy has been hit with a rush of smells, I wait patiently as he sniffs.  I remind myself of this wonderful opportunity to engage in the present moment and look at my surroundings.  If Rudy takes an exceptionally long time to move, I gently walk toward him and stroke his back to remind him of my presence. He senses it is time to move on and we go on our way. There are so many things on these walks that I have never noticed before.

During our journey, Rudy shows excitement as we walk by the houses of other dogs he is familiar with. If his dog friend is outside, we take the time to greet them.  Quite often, Rudy will hear the sound of the postal truck and realize that our friendly postal worker, Pam is near with a treat and a loving greeting.  Watching my dog’s happiness as he engages in these simple experiences brings me joy.

After thirty minutes or so, Rudy and I finally arrive home. The leash is put away and Rudy picks a soft spot on the rug and falls into a deep sleep.  The mindful walk was satisfying for both of us.

 

Mindful Biking

Bike Collage

While riding my road bike, there is an adrenaline rush as the bike accelerates.  I use the Strava app that is attached to a heart rate monitor to track my physical reactions on the ride as well as collecting performance data.  The main focus is to go fast and beat my best time.

 

However, that type of biking experience lacked a sense of calmness and mindfulness. I decided to begin a more mindful biking journey.  The regular bike is the most beneficial for this type of experience because one is able to sit in an erect position providing a wide viewing angle and perspective.  Riding in this manner enabled me to discover a unique and enriching biking experience.  I soon discovered that mindful biking gives the rider an opportunity to activate the pleasure centers of the brain and sense an explosion of positive feelings. Let me explain.

 

Biking mindfully places your focus in the present moment.  The sights, sounds and smells of the journey are more prevalent.  There is a sense that you are connected to everything and everyone you encounter along the way.

 

When biking mindfully, I am more aware of my surroundings.  The subtle changes in smells and sights as the seasons change, hearing the sounds of the birds and noticing the agility of the squirrels.  Those interesting sights and sounds have led to many “ah ha” moments during my rides.

 

As a mindful biker, I am also able to focus on the interesting faces of the people I pass.  Some engage by offering a smile, while others glance and look away.  Some appear to be troubled or lost. Some are the virtual people on cell phones without realizing if they are walking on a trail or in the mall. Then there are the car drivers whose faces acknowledge my presence on a bike, allowing me to cross the street or others whose minds are in a place where they view you as an obstruction rather than a companion on the journey of life.

 

While riding on a trail at a fast pace on my road bike, I inevitably need to quickly shout, “On your left!” warning an individual walking on the same path that I am about to pass.  This can startle the walker. However, when biking mindfully and approaching a walker, I can slow down and state in a calm voice, “Hello, I would like to pass you on your left”.  I am also able to thank the walker who does not appear to be startled by my presence.  This allows the walker and the biker to have a more positive interaction and continue their individual journeys with a sense of calm.

 

What a wonderful image it is to see a whole family walking or riding together on a path!  It is a rare image these days. Children are usually happy and curious to see a biker, especially if I am riding my unique Street Strider bike.  Slowing down my bike is a necessary precaution for the family with young children because the children’s movements and reactions are so unpredictable.  Complimenting the parent(s) about their children and their special family time creates a positive tone for everyone.

So try some mindful biking and discover this new journey and all it has to offer you!