Category Archives: Books Films & TV

Book: This Changes Everything

This Changes EverythingI’ve always thought of myself as an environmentalist, but I guess I’ve gotten a little lax in my adult years. I got a big wake-up call with This Changes Everything. Naomi Klein lays it on the line about how bad it really is on this planet. I knew it was bad but I didn’t realize all that was going on behind the scenes. It’s not all gloom and doom; she does offer some hopeful inspirations and ways in which we’re getting it right, but she goes into detail about what is being completely ignored. Bottom line, in order to fix this problem, we’re going to have to get off oil and completely change our economy from a consumer, disposable, buy-buy-buy structure to one that’s not dependent on unlimited growth. Because there are limited natural resources on this planet.

One of the reasons the conservatives deny climate change so much is because if they admit that what big business is doing is destroying the earth, then in order to fix it, big business would have to give up trillion dollar profits. Oil and gas profits are enormous and no one, not CEOs nor shareholders, wants that to change, but profits would be zero if there’s no oil or gas extracted from the earth anymore, which is what is needed to keep us from cooking ourselves.

It’s easy to blame the oil and gas industry but Klein calls out all of us who complacently carry on with our lives. Is your retirement portfolio heavy with dirty companies that make you a lot of money? Are you constantly buying more, more, more? I have downsized a lot in recent years, but I’m guilty in the fashion department. I really don’t need a closet full of shoes.

I was rather shocked to learn that some of the big environmental companies like Environmental Defense Fund, Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund are in bed with the oil and gas companies. A majority of their donations come from dirty companies. Oil and gas people sit on their boards or act as advisors. These companies that are supposed to be saving the environment have partnered with the oil and gas industry on bills that have gone through Congress and killed the environment. The Nature Conservancy put an oil well on a preserve for an endangered species of birds so they could add to their coffers. Because the oil well was close to the birds’ breeding grounds, there are now no more of the birds on the preserve. Ironically, the land for the preserve was donated to the Nature Conservancy by an oil company looking to get good PR about saving the birds. I’ve given to these companies over the years because I wanted to support the environment, but I will not be giving another cent.

The bright spot that Klein points out is that because people feel helpless in the face of the big business, whether environmental organizations or oil and gas, there have been countless grassroots movements that have taken everyone by surprise. Communities saying no to mines, fracking, and new wells because they know the companies will come in, extract everything, pollute everything and the people will be left with dirty water and countless illnesses. “You can’t drink oil.” has become one slogan. Time and again Klein puts forth scientific data about what is really going on. It was eye-opening. Native American communities have started fighting back against extracting on tribal lands and it’s a way that might just work. They have lived much closer to the land, something that all of us need to get back to. One of the Native Americans Klein talked to said the goal should be “continuous rebirth”. That’s a good goal for the planet and from a personal well-being perspective.

We talk about destroying the earth, but frankly, the earth will be fine. It has survived dinosaurs, meteors, the ice age, you name it. The earth will recover; it’s been here for millions of years, it’s not going anywhere. Humans, on the other hand are another story. We may be the only species to voluntarily extinguish ourselves.

Looking at this from a metaphysical angle, I can see a slightly different perspective. We have the power to change anything, instantly. Whether you believe that or not will determine whether you see a change instantly. There are always enough resources. There is unlimited energy. Nothing is impossible. You just have to focus your energy. In doing that, the Earth will heal as well.

Book: The Untethered Soul

Untethered SoulI stopped reading self-help books ten years ago when I realized they were all saying the same thing.  I went on to pursue my spiritual life in other ways, but recently I decided to see what was new in the area that had been published in the last decade.  The bestsellers today are mostly what have been popular for the last 20-30 years–Louise Hay, Abraham Hicks, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra.  However, there were some that intrigued me or that I was finally ready to stop resisting, as was the case with Byron Katie, whom I’d heard about for years but could never get my energy to line up with until now.

The first book I picked up was The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer.  (FYI, Singer’s latest book is The Surrender Experiment.)  The cover caught my eye years ago.  I mean, really, it’s a horse running on the beach.  Who isn’t going to want to pick that up?    But I never felt called to read it until now.  Singer says the same thing as other metaphysics self-help books do, but in a different way.  He spends a lot of time talking about that voice in your head.  Everyone has it.  Everyone wishes it would just shut up.  But Singer was able to really step back and be the observer and realize that voice wasn’t him.  We all know this because our true self would never say the things to us that the inner voice does, but making peace with that voice is much more difficult.

Singer spent a lot of time just observing how this little voice would careen out of control into crazy land.  I have not been very successful of quieting that voice, though I keep at it every day.  Singer recommends just allowing all the emotions and thoughts and verbal diarrhea of that voice to come up and go through.  Resisting it doesn’t help.  I was so enjoying the book that I didn’t mark my favorite quotes until Chapter 14, but here are the best from the second half of the book:

This journey is one of passing through exactly where you have been struggling not to go…You will be aware that each moment of each day is unfolding and you have neither control, nor crave it.

If you really want to break through, you have to be willing to just watch the fear without protecting yourself from it.

You’ll define this [letting go] as good because you are no longer willing to put any energy into building and solidifying your façade.  Instead, you will actually permit the things that disturb your model to act as the dynamite to break it up and free you.

The only way to inner freedom is through the one who watches:  the Self.  The Self simply notices that the mind and emotions are unraveling, and that nothing is struggling to hold them together.

You will come to realize that the center from which you watch disturbance cannot get disturbed.

Any condition you create will limit your happiness.  You simply aren’t going to be able to control things and keep them the way you want them.

Things are going to happen.  The real question is whether you want to be happy regardless of what happens.  The purpose of your life is to enjoy and learn from your experiences.  You were not put on Earth to suffer.   You’re not helping anybody by being miserable.  Regardless of your philosophical beliefs, the fact remains that you were born and you are going to die.  During the in between, you get to choose whether or not you want to enjoy the experience.  Events don’t determine whether or not you’re going to be happy.  They’re just events.  You determine whether or not you’re going to be happy.

No matter what happens, you can choose to enjoy the experience…In the end, if you stay happy, you win.

Things are going to happen to you, and you’re going to feel the tendency to close.  But you have the choice to either go with it or let it go.  Your mind will tell you that it’s not reasonable to stay open when these things happen.  But you have limited time left in your life, and what’s really not reasonable is to not enjoy life.

Stress only happens when you resist life’s events.

What we’re really resisting is the experience of the event passing through us.

Learn to stop resisting reality, and what used to look like stressful problems will begin to look like stepping-stones of your spiritual journey.

What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it.  It isn’t any particular event; it’s the willingness to experience life’s events.

You can turn your eyes from the sun’s light and live in darkness for a hundred years.  If you then turn them toward the light, the light is still there.  It is there for you just the same as for the person who has enjoyed its brilliance for a hundred years.


Book: Ashley’s War

Ashley's War

I had seen this books on many recommended lists and always felt drawn to it, but military books aren’t my thing. I just don’t understand that pull to serve in that capacity. I don’t agree with a lot of the military decisions that have been made in the last thirty years, so the thought of volunteering to go where I’m told and put my life on the line under orders of people I don’t really respect isn’t something I’m ever going to do. I absolutely respect and admire people who feel that calling and are willing to face that fear to do what they’ve been asked to do, but I know I will never serve in that way.

That said, I could not ignore the pull I had to read Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon about women in combat attached to Special Ops teams. I’m so glad I did not let my aversion to the military keep me from reading this incredibly moving and inspiring book. While the through line of the book is Ashley White, as indicated by the title, the stories of the many other women who joined the Cultural Support Teams are woven throughout. CSTs were created because the Special Ops teams were having difficulties searching areas in the Muslim world where women are segregated and it’s extremely disrespectful for a man outside the family to see them, much less question them. Western women are considered a third gender. Not a woman who needs to be sequestered, but also not a threatening male, so female soldiers can talk to and search the women, gathering valuable intel for the men of the Special Ops teams.

What I really enjoyed about this book was how it illustrates that women can serve and be assets, not by trying to be aggressive and loud like the men, but by being women, by bringing their femininity and unique female viewpoint to work with the men. Men and women are different. That’s never going to change. For so long, women have tried to act like men in order to survive in a man’s world. That holds true for the military as well as civilian life. Each of us needs to be true to ourselves and use our own unique talents to contribute to the whole.

Stories like these need to be told. These women worked twice as hard as the men and had to put up with a lot of harassment and judgment from men thinking women couldn’t possibly do the job. I laughed when the women were in weapons training and the instructor was shocked that the women listened to him when he made corrections, and then they worked to make the adjustments permanent. The men always whined and told him they knew what they were doing, their daddies had taught them to shoot, etc. The women wanted to be there and learn as much as possible. The other story that to me showed the difference and the resilience of women was when during a long day of training, one of the women got her period. She was so tired and sweating so much, she didn’t realize that she was soaked in blood from her waist to her knees until she was about to be lifted onto another woman’s shoulders for a drill. The other women just joked about it. The male instructors were uncomfortable and a little freaked out, like what do we do with this? The woman in question just went off into the woods, took care of business and then continued with the training. That’s what women do, and it’s that aspect that needs to be recognized and utilized in every area of our society.

While I can’t identify with the desire to join the military, what I do understand is the calling these women felt to participate in this program. They wanted to push themselves and prove themselves, and they felt this was something they had to do.  I envy them that. To find that passion and drive and direction is something so few people find. I’m still searching for my calling.

I always enjoy reading about women who have pushed the boundaries set for women in our society. (On a side note, check out Lemmon’s other book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.) I deeply admire these women, who volunteered to be some of the first women in combat because they wanted the choice. That’s what being a feminist is about. Having the choice to do what you are called to do and what you are physically capable of doing, regardless of gender. There are some amazing women out there, but too often their stories get lost because they’re not as outspoken in their successes. We penalize women for celebrating themselves, but feel men in the same situation are completely justified in promoting their accomplishments. That needs to change. These women have every right to be recognized for their achievements, and more women and men need to support that. More girls need to see that. Little kids of both genders start out saying, “I’m awesome.” Somewhere along the way the girls learn that isn’t what good little girls do and they suppress that, while the boys are encouraged to continue saying it. In order for girls to maintain their knowledge of their own awesomeness, women have to step up and start owning their own awesomeness.

This post turned into a combination book review and life coaching session, but it all goes together. Celebrate yourself. Do what fills you with joy, whether that’s being an artist or being a soldier. I recently read that Ashley’s War has been optioned by Reese Witherspoon, and It’s What I Do is going to be made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. I guess that’s where the artist meets the soldier. A full circle of women being awesome.