Monday, December 17, 2007
My parents were always concerned when we traveled that distance because I had a penchant for carsickness from riding in the back seat. Luckily, I did not throw-up on this trip because I was excited. We were on our way to see my father's parents, sisters and brother. We three children were the only grandchildren, nieces, and nephew on my father's side of the family. During these Great Depression years, even though the economy was bad, we knew we would each receive something special.
It was cold that Christmas Day when we arrived at 801 West Eighth Street in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. We three children scrambled out of the car and barely greeted our grandparents, aunts and uncles. Santa had left gifts for us under their tree and I knew the minute I saw it that it was mine.
Yes, the moment I spied the toy typewriter under the tree I had an affinity with it and at the time, I had no inkling of the importance a typewriter would be in my life journey. In fact, it seemed that every year from the third grade until I graduated from high school that I received boxed stationary and a five-year diary from my mother for Christmas. Did she know something I did not?
Although I played with and used my toy typewriter, I did not know the basics until I took a typing course in high school. Eventually my speed range became ninety words per minute. I used my typing skills in all of my jobs, including being a code clerk at the U.S. embassies in Paris and Tokyo.
In retrospect, I can understand the importance of the toy typewriter in my life. During my mothering years, I began belonging to clubs and often elected to be the corresponding secretary, which included creating and sending out newsletters. This carried on to my government job with the Social Security Administration in Orange County, California. I created the district newsletter.
In the 1980's I began writing for myself, but it was not until 2003 when I began writing my first draft of the now award-winning Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls.
My typewriter has turned into a computer and researching and writing is a passion with me. The sequel to Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls titled Mary Magdalene, Her Legacy, is due for release in January 2008. When I contemplate the effect of a toy typewriter on my life and the memories I cherish, I am truly grateful to the one who chose the gift whose effects are a precious present for me.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Cherry had a large following in his church, which met in a theater on Sundays and usually packed to the overflowing. Cherry enjoyed giving many unknown people an opportunity to speak and Mark Victor Hansen was one of his speakers.
I remember Mark bounding on the stage filled with enthusiasm and energy. He told us his story. As I recall, he had been a self-made millionaire at age 25 in New York City from investments in the stock market. He said that he walked into his office one morning a millionaire and when he walked out, he was penniless. The market he invested in crashed. He was devastated at the time and made a pledge to himself that he would become a millionaire again.
I really don't remember too many details, but when he came to the Costa Mesa/Newport Beach area he was on his way to becoming a motivational speaker. He self-published his first books and sold them out of the trunk of his car.
One evening I was having dinner at Cherry's house in Costa Mesa and Mark was a guest. I remember him telling Cherry that he wanted to buy Cherry's house. Cherry liked his house and said it was not for sale. Mark focused on buying the house and a few months later Cherry sold it to him. Mark would not take no for an answer. He had developed a tremendous powerful ability to focus on what he wanted.
Mark joined the Huntington Beach Church of Religious Science and met his wife Patty and after a courtship, they married and have two girls—now young women. Perhaps it was four or five years after his first talk at Cherry's church that Mark gave back to Cherry. Dr.Parker was establishing the Parker Holistic Center and needed to raise money. I was the program director and I asked Mark if he would help out. Mark came and gave a presentation--for free. Mark was always a giver and he had a dream that has manifested today. He knew what he wanted and went after it. It has been a pleasure to keep up with Mark's career and to see it become what it is today.
Some will say he has done it with positive thinking. I would not call it positive thinking because for every positive there is a negative. I would say he has developed affirmative thinking to a fine art. I remember speaking recently with someone who has known Mark and she said something I thought most interesting. The gist of the remark was that Mark never actually wrote a book himself—instead he accumulated the stories of common people and turned them into the best-sellers Chicken Soup series.
It has been so long ago that I do not remember if the books Mark self-published and sold from the trunk of his car were not actually written by him. I think that he did write them in the very early days.
What would be the key to his success? Perhaps it would be that he had a dream and he had the power of focus. He never gave up. I also think he had a plan or he mapped out his intentions. Doubt and fear along with lethargy were foreign to him it would seem. Since Mark and I crossed paths twenty-eight years ago, I have developed my own dream.
I placed my dream of writing on hold for many years and there are no regrets because I have gained wisdom. I do understand the power of affirmative thinking and I understand the necessity of letting go of regrets, guilt, doubt and fears. It takes will to pursue one's dream.
I have my list of steps to take to bring to me what I want. I do not try to figure out how it will come to me. I also in my list write as if I already have it. As an example, I write, "I have always been an international acclaimed author." I am a self-published author of Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls, an Independent Book Publisher Award Winner 2006. I entered the contest and then I forgot about it. When the notification came, I was ecstatic! One part of my dream had manifested.
With the second edition of my book released, the Macro Edizoni Publishers of Italy approached me and my book is translated into Italian. Next, a German publisher approached me and my book now translated into German and on sale in Europe.
This year I entered the Writers Digest 15th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards contest. No—I was not named a winner, however the Commentary Sheet I received from the Judge was greater than I could have expected. My book received a high five in all categories and the Judge's review of the book and the commentary on my writing ability is available to read on my blog, www.magdalenescrolls.blogspot.com.
I am experiencing great things because I have let go of doubt, fear and I have confidence in my abilities to write. Mark Victor Hansen has been an inspiration and I honor him for all that he gives to other people and organizations. He is on the world stage because he pursued his dream. I have learned that the more I give, the more I get back. What is my next step? The sequel, Mary Magdalene, Her Legacy release date is January 2008 and then onward into the future.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Have you ever completed a project and found that you were at ‘loose ends’ – or in other words, no road map and your destination unknown? It is a feeling of being freed up and not knowing what to do next. I have also realized that in my writing that I begin a story or a book with no road map and the destination is an unknown.
In writing classes, I was taught that one should have an outline before beginning a book. Really? I listened to my professors and at the time felt sure they knew what they were talking about. I soon realized that their advice was great if one is writing a book of non-fiction and especially a ‘how-to’ book. But fiction? All I can say is that it didn’t work out that way for me.
In 2004 I completed my first novel, Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls and all I knew when I first sat down to write was that I wanted to write a book about Mary Magdalene. I researched Mary Magdalene for a number of years to learn about her. What I learned is that no one really knows who Mary Magdalene was or what she stood for. Too many writers have kept her in the tiny slot given in the New Testament where she was placed in a subservient role and kept there. In the Book of Matthew her name is mentioned three times; in Mark another three times; in Luke two times; and in John three times. I realized there was very little information to go on.
Myths carry within them seeds of truth and I found one that has been perpetuated by the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church. The storyline is that Emperor Tiberius Caesar gave a banquet and Mary Magdalene attended. Tiberius asked her about Jesus and as the story goes; her reply was Christ is risen. Tiberius handed her an egg from the banquet table and told her that if this was true, then she was to turn the egg red. Reportedly she did and thus began the tradition of a red egg at Easter time for the Eastern Orthodox Church. If she had the ability to turn an egg to the color of red, what else was she able to do?
My research has taken me on an odyssey of unraveling history and learning that history as we have been led to believe is indeed a tapestry of facts intermixed with misinformation, lies and deceit perpetuated upon the human mind. James Cameron, who wrote the Introduction to The Family Tomb of Jesus, stated that history is a consensus of hallucination. I agree with him.
The morning I sat at my computer to begin the novel, I asked myself: how to I begin? I realized I couldn’t write a non-fiction book based on my research, so the alternative was to create a book of fiction interwoven with facts. The white screen stared back at me blankly. With my fingers on the keyboard, I began with the first idea that came into my mind of secret scrolls found in an unknown cave in the French Pyrenees Mountains. From that seed an idea came of two American women while hiking stumbled into the cave. Thus, Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls began to take form.
I had no road map of where the storyline would take me; nor did I really know the destination, or how the book would end. Each day as I wrote, I allowed the story to unfold with its many twists and turns. Sometimes I would startle myself as the characters took on their own personalities. There were also times when I would be surprised at a new twist or when a new character was introduced. The writing of the book became a wonderful adventure. There were also times when I would re-read what I had written and told myself, Damn! That’s good!
Even while writing, I continued to research and finally when the last sentence had been written, I knew the book was completed. In 2005 the 2nd Revised Edition came out followed by an Italian language edition and a German language edition. This was followed by winning the prestigious Independent Publishers Book Award in 2006. What does one do after that? Write a sequel.
I had a germ of an idea regarding Sarah and James, the two children of the Magdalene and Jesus. In the fall of 2006 I again sat down at my computer and asked myself how to begin. Again I had no road map but this time I felt I had a destination. At the end of May this year, I completed the manuscript of the sequel titled: Mary Magdalene: Her Legacy. My editors have told me that this one could be even more exciting than the first book. I would like to think so.
The book is now in the hands of my editor with the next stage creating the cover. Again, I have chosen to self-publish. Having researched the established publishing houses, I have noted a shift that is not favorable to authors or to literary agents. I also have decided that I don’t want my storyline changed and I want to retain control of my creation. When one signs a contract with a publishing house, the author has signed away her/his rights.
Will there be a third book? Perhaps. For the present moment, my focus is on promotion and marketing – an entire new adventure. I am open to any innovative ways to promote my books. If you have some valid suggestions, please share them with me.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
How many people do you know who meander through life complaining, harboring anger and resentments, jealousy, fear and doubt? Is it any wonder that they are sick? Most people hate their jobs, but stick it out in hopes they will be able retire. This isn't a life script that I would choose. It sounds boring and excludes the excitement of crafting one's life.
I have learned that we are each the creator--the craftsperson of our life. Our life will turn out just the way we thought. In other words, our beliefs, our words, our thoughts are the road map for our life. Being miserable and lamenting about our so-called victimizations create one's life script and the destination is illness, injuries and eventually death.
There is a way to change one's life script. It takes practice, practice, practice until we get our part correct. Changing one's habitual words and thoughts takes determination and doing it over and over until it happens. When an actress/actor is given a script, each must learn their part and they rehearse over and over. At any given moment, we can choose to change our life script if we are unsatisfied with it.
It is all about choice.
The url given below is beautifully stated and if one were to use it, then the new
life script will be a piece of cake. Enjoy!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The following is a replica of the Commentary Sheet from the Writer's Digest 15th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards.
Author: Bettye Johnson
Title: Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls
Category: Genre Fiction
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning "poor" and 5 meaning "excellent," please evaluate the following:
Character development: 5
Cover design: 5
What did you like best about this book?
Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls is a tantalizing story depicting the discovery of ancient scrolls about Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Though it covers some of the same ground as the Da Vinci Code, the writing is infinitely better and far more believable. The heroines in the story are more realistic and the adventures described in a truer voice along with a possible time-line--something very much lacking in Dan Brown's tale. Whether the reader chooses to believe what is revealed in story form or not, the book is entertaining from beginning to end.
How can the author improve this book?
No suggestions--the author knows how to write and tell a compelling and convincing story. Hopefully the promotion for this book will be enough to make those who read the Da Vinci Code want to read the Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls.
I thank and bless the judge.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I learned that when the lead goose became tired that it would drop back and allow another to takes its place.
Usually they began returning in September. Within the past 5 years, it seems their
arrival was later and not as many flocks as I recall. I wonder if the melting of glaciers in the Artic is a reason for fewer flocks each spring and fall. Some say that due to our milder winters that they have no need to return to their normal habitat in the far north. I wonder about this because I rarely see these geese on
ponds or small lakes in my area.
Regardless of the sparsity of their flocks, I knew this month that colder weather was on its way. Sure enough, I woke up this morning to 25 degree weather. I was warm and toasty in my small home with its wood stove. I have great insulation so it wasn't freezing inside and it didn't take long before the roaring fire was ablaze. I looked out as I watched the sun rise and noted the sparkling frost covering the land, trees and the driveway.
As the sun climbed higher in the blue sky and the temperature began rising to 28 and then up to 34 degrees, I noted the frost becoming vaporized and rising into the air to disappear. I wondered about the ascension of the frost and thought of humans. I understand that it is possible although most people do not think so. We humans really have no comprehension of our ability to accomplish many things. We become
mind-locked into beliefs, superstitution and accepting what we have been told and not attempting to experience other potentials. We think it is cool to read books such as the Harry Potter series, the Philip Pullman series such as The Golden Compass and even Charles Strosse's The Family Trade series.
Too often, the majority of humans believe that death is inevitable and that one must believe everything a doctor tells them. Isn't it time we begin to ponder the grand potentials that await us? Isn't it a possibility that we can open the lock of our mind? It is exciting to think about.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The young man's name is Dylan Kuehl. I attended a program at our local library where Marian and Dylan spoke and danced. Dylan's mother also shared a portion of his story. Dylan was born with Down's Syndrome and as a small boy he was severely abused. At age 9 his anger began surfacing and his behavior in the school he was attending was not the best. By the time he was 11, his mother, afraid for her life, was considering placing him in a residential institution. Fate stepped in and Dylan was assigned to Marian Lancaster. She recognized his anger and began teaching him improvisational dancing as well as art and this opened up a new world for Dylan. She
also taught him how to create a dream map and this young man is now manifestng his dreams and creating more.
Dylan is outgoing and loves to interact with people. He has become a motivational speaker, a dancer, artist, drummer and martial artist. Recently he has created his own dance company. His poem "Faces" received an International Society Poetry Award 2006 and his painting "Colored Hill" an Art Ability International Award 2006.
Thank you Marian for your wonderful work! You are indeed an inspiration. If you want to know more about her work, S.O.A.R. Special Opportunities in Arts and
Recreation you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, write her at P.O. Box 21, Rainier, WA 98576.
Dylan has his own website http://www.dylankarts.com. He offers commissioned art, prints, calendars, postcards, bookmarks and greeting cards plus more.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
previous segment of Author's Bloopers and Bonuses, I changed 'horses' in mid-stream--meaning I switched from Word 2000 to Word 2007. Actually, this was one of the best things I did.
Although I have had excellent editors and proof-reading, I had an experience that taught me a great deal. I 'thought' the manuscript was in great shape and ready to be sent to the printer when I noticed that some of the quotation marks were not all the same. In transferring the data from Word 2000 to Word 2007--even though I was using the same font, the quotation marks were different for each Word. I therefore began going through the 384 page manuscript and correcting the out-moded quotation marks. This led me to see that there were still items that escaped the eagle-eyes of my editors and proofreader and I was able to make the corrections. Yes, it was a long and tedious process, however it was well worth it.
In Mary Magdalene, Her Legacy, I have a quote as said by Jill and that is,
From adversity comes the jewel. I am experiencing this more and more. Another example is in connection with Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls. A few months ago I submitted it to the Writer's Digest 15th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards. A few days ago I received a large envelope with a Certificate of Participation along with a letter informing me that I was not a winner. Then I looked at the Judge's Commentary Sheet and I found the jewel.
Books are judged in the areas of plot, grammar, character development and cover design with a scale of 1 to 5 and 5 being 'excellent,' or the highest mark given. My book received a 5 in ALL of the areas of judging.
The Judge's commentary in reply to the question of What did you like best about this book? is as follows: "Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls is a tantalizing story depicting the discovery of ancient scrolls about Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Though it covers some of the same ground as The DaVinci Code, the writing is infinitely better and far more believable. The heroines in the story are more realistic and the adventures described in a truer voice along with a possible time-line--something very much lacking in Dan Brown's tale. Whether the reader chooses to believe what is revealed in story form or not, the book is entertaining from beginning to end."
The Judge's commentary in reply to How can the author improve this book? is as follows: "No suggestions--the author knows how to write and tell a compelling and convincing story. Hopefully the promotion for this book will be enough to make those who read The DaVinci Code want to read the Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls." What more can be said? I have a jewel of a review and since my book has already been acclaimed as an Independent Publisher Book Award Winner in 2006, I
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I grew up in West Texas out in the middle of nowhere. I never considered my life to be hard while growing up. Meaning, I never realized how poor we were until I was an adult. WW II brought changes. Women became the heroines on the home front while the men were sent off to the Pacific and the European wars.
In 1948 I secured a job full-time working in a small office. For six days a week earning $17.50. Yes, $17.50 for a 48 hour work week. In the space of eleven years I went from 35 cents a day to earning $1.60 a day. In this present age, this seems to be a small pittance for long hours.
In my family we never went hungry and the cost of living was much lower than it is today. I could go to a movie for ten cents and my mother made my clothes. The food costs were also very low in comparison with the prices of today. A loaf of bread was priced at ten cents a loaf and milk around twenty cents a quart. Milk could be delivered to the door.
Recently I was reminded of the low wages the people in Asia are receiving for their long hours of labor. Some receive only $1.00 a day and yes, there are children also working in the fields and factories. So-called third world countries have eyed the progress of the United States over the past hundred years and now the scales are tipping. Can I deprive them of their right to earn more? No, I do not choose to think of doing that.
China and India are the leaders of the growing outsourcing of product manufacturing and services. However, there are rumblings that these may also be in trouble. China is having a labor shortage and some reports indicate they may begin to outsource to other low wage countries. China's labor faction is demanding higher wages.
India is another country facing the same problem. And, as the line of dominos begin to topple, other third world countries will begin to rise up in the economic world.
I hear many people decry and bemoan the outsourcing and the loss of jobs. Yes, we have a high rate of homeless people and jobless people. It is a repeat of the aftermath of the Great Depression of 1929. For Americans to continue with their lifestyles there must be change. We can become too enamored with the myth that the U.S. is top dog. This is no longer the case.
The scales have tipped and now we need more innovative minds in this country to bring forth new products and new methods for producing and selling. There is an old saying, someone is always building a bigger mousetrap. Why does it have to be a mousetrap?
U.S. workers have a high standard of living and their fascination with sports, movies and television may become the method of their undoing. This can be changed by farsighted individuals who place their focus elsewhere and come up with new ideas--new inventions. It is something to think about because either we evolve, or we become sick and die. Somehow, I think evolution is the better choice.
Yes, times have changed and although I have no regrets pertaining to my childhood, I am very happy to have those days in my past. Life is an evolution and should be lived with no regrets.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Ten years ago, when I was writing a fantasy fiction novel, I purchased a block of ISBN numbers. I thought I would become a hotshot author. Half way through the manuscript, I was clicking off to do something else. I already had approximately 150 pages written. Then I did the unthinkable.
When the message came up asking if I wanted to save the changes, I clicked 'no'. Poof! No more manuscript! Somehow, I deleted the entire manuscript. No, I did not have it on a disk. No, I did not do any of things a wise author would have done. Yes, I was upset. Yes, I was discouraged. No, I did not attempt to reconstruct my great novel. I went into remission. Yes, there is life after deletion……to be continued.
I have learned that when I think I have a grasp on things or think I know it all—I don't.
I have had one of those grand learning experiences and will share it here. I thought I had completed the manuscript for the sequel to Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls. Wrongo in the Congo. In other words, I created a blooper—or so I thought.
For some reason, the page formatting for the new book wasn't clicking and the idea came to look into upgrading my Word 2000. I went on-line to Microsoft and noted I could download a Microsoft Word 2007 on a trial basis for 60 days. Yes, I downloaded it.
Again, the page formatting wasn't connecting and I spent a few weeks cursing Word and myself when I knew I shouldn't. Fortunately I didn't lose the manuscript! Have you ever had those moments when your brain isn't really functioning? I felt like that and finally an idea--duh!--came to me to go to Microsoft technical support because after reading their Help numerous times and watching their video, my eyes focused on one small sentence. Not all of the components of Microsoft Word 2007 interface with other Word versions. My Word 2000 page formatting was one of those components.
I found a phone number for technical support from Microsoft and I called it. After explaining my dilemma, I was transferred to a technician in India. Yes, India. The technician was very nice and asked me to download a temporary software called 'Peer to Peer.' Shortly I began to watch his cursor move on my screen and he created the correct page format. We are indeed becoming one world. A great display of there is no such thing as time, distance and space. It is only our own concept.
With the switching from one Word program to another, some of the manuscript became out of kilter—or slightly messed up. When I began making order from chaos, I noted a few bloopers and I have been correcting/changing those. Word 2007 is very good at letting me know when I am got using the correct grammar. Yes, I purchased the Word 2007 and we are getting to know each other. I think we are going to like each other eventually. Our marriage almost turned into a nasty fight.
What came with downloading the purchased Word 2007 was another challenge. I clicked on my Outlook Express and it had a new look. Zounds! Where did my folders disappear to? What happened to my e-list folders? What appeared to me was something from another reality and I almost went into shock when emails sent to me in 2004 and 2005 began surfacing. I closed down and sat stunned. I then decided to go back on-line and see what I could do and a box popped up asking if I wanted Outlook Express as my default user or Outlook. I realized there is a vast difference and Outlook is for the corporate world.
Happy am I to say that my dear Outlook Express popped up and all of my beloved files, folders and e-list folders were intact.
From this came the idea to begin a series of articles regarding my journey as a writer and post them on my blog: www.magdalenescrolls.blogspot.com….to be continued.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
In contemplating Ali’s biography, I can also see that there are degrees of mental cages. Almost everyone on this planet has some form of a mental cage. What is a mental cage? From teachings I have had, our brain is similar to a computer and the programs we run in our brain create our thoughts. Our thoughts create our mind and our experiences. One only has to mentally stand back and observe the lives of others around us and listen to the words that are spoken. Once we are aware of these mental cages, we can know what kind of program is being operated in the brain.
We can also observe our own words and thoughts to know what program we are running. The brain is filled with neurons, synapses and much more that make up the neuronet which is like a specific piece of learning software that runs a pattern. We build our own mental prisons by what we have been taught and accepted. The movie What the Bleep, gives a vivid picture of moving out of a mental cage. The movie has been extremely popular because it resonated deep within the recesses of the brain that it portrayed a truth.
There is a statement that when we change our mind, we change our life and I have found that to be true. There have been many books written about this with each one giving methods for changing the mind. However, there are embedded core beliefs that are a challenge to change and this keeps many in one form of a mental cage.
I have asked myself where these core beliefs begin because everything has a beginning. It is much like Ariadne’s Thread and following the threads in order to understand why people are so addicted to their beliefs and habits. This includes me also. Somewhere along the evolution of humanity, there became a belief that women were less than men and knowing this, my thread took me to religion.
I have done extensive research on the Bible that Christians use. There are many variations or translations of this ancient text with each one having a slightly different interpretation and some have added books that were omitted in others. What I have learned is that the Old Testament is not a holy book at all. I know that statement will be considered blasphemous by some who hold on to the bars of their mental cage. However, it is an ancient text of history that in was handed down by word of mouth until someone wrote it down. If you have ever played the telephone game, then you can understand how the original meaning became changed.
I have seen a proliferation of new churches popping up in communities and each an offshoot of the primary denominations of the Christian religion. I began wondering why and realized that people become dissatisfied with the established churches and some man thinks he has the answer and draws to him people who like what he has to say. Thus, they leave the established denomination and begin a new one. In my research, I have learned there are approximately 34,000 separate Christian groups in the world. One report states there are approximately 1,000 Christian faith groups that think they are the only true Christian denomination. In my small community there are 22 Christian groups. Over half do not have a denomination included in their name. In looking at this list, I have wondered why such a small community needed so many different churches. Multiply this across the U.S. and the number is staggering.
Having been an ordained minister, I can say that from my observations and experiences that many people want someone to tell them how to live and what to do. Thus, the minister, priest, pastor or preacher becomes empowered and the people become enslaved to that set of beliefs until something within them is triggered and they begin to question.
It isn’t only the Christian religions that enslave people’s minds. Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes in her book Infidel: I found myself thinking that the Quran is not a holy document. It is a historical record, written by humans. It is one version of events, as perceived by the men who wrote it 150 years after the Prophet Muhammad died. And it is very tribal and an Arab version of events. It spreads a culture that is brutal, bigoted, fixated on controlling women, and harsh in war. Ali has summed it up very succinctly. The history of Christianity is the same. Islam and Christianity are the two sides of the same coin.
I grew up in the era of segregation in Texas and the south. I grew up in the midst of bigotry and prejudice and I didn’t understand as a child why blacks were segregated. I didn’t understand why my church professed that God is love, yet women were also kept in an inferior place. Where was the love for the blacks? When I began working for the Foreign Service branch of the U.S. State Department, I had a sudden shift in my beliefs when my first post was to the embassy in Paris. I broke out of some of the bars of my mental cage. In retrospect it was one of the most freeing times of my life.
I have learned that if a religion suppresses the rights of women to be treated as equals, then it is a religion of man and not of God. Because of this programming, men equally have their own mental cages. Perhaps it is up to the individual to look within and find the mental cages that keeps one in a state of lack, anger, guilt, fear, victim, and other modalities of thinking. The only change can come from within.
What are the attitudes that keep us limited? If it is prejudice, then it is time to change the attitude. If it is one of lack, then it is time to change one’s perspective. There are many books and programs available to help one to move out of the cage. Usually change comes from adversity. I like Richard Bach’s statement: Every problem comes with a gift in its hands. Another way of saying it is that when the shit hits the fan, look for the gold. To move forward, we cannot stay in self-pity. I am finding that for myself I must look at all of my beliefs and begin to discard the ones that are not self-serving. End of Part I. To be continued.
The most used words or phrases in the vocabulary of the cage are: I can’t, I need, it isn’t possible, I don’t believe it, it isn’t my fault, I didn’t do it, it’s against my religion, they are full of the devil, he/she deserve to be punished, he/she is sinful, it’s a sin to do this or that, and we can on and on. All of these words and phrases bring on the emotions of guilt, shame, blame, fear and lack. How often have parents told their children that there isn’t enough money. Or, we can’t do this or that because it is too expensive. It costs too much. It is beyond my budget. This is the programming of lack.
To move out of our cages, I have learned we much each take responsibility for what is happening in our lives. No longer can we blame our parents, our bosses, the government, the system and so on. Most people do not understand what being responsible means. One of the primary definitions of the word responsible is to be accountable for one’s actions, speech, and welfare. Society has forgotten as a whole, about being responsible and has given away their power to the government, the church, the medical profession and also to other segments of society. I remember the old Geraldine TV show where Flip Wilson playing the part of Geraldine said repeatedly, “The Devil made me do it.” It seems someone always wants to put the blame on someone else and this could be the reason for lawsuits. It is something to think about.
An attitude of defeat is a killer of dreams and keeps one in the cage of unworthiness. There is no such thing as failure. Failure is only an opportunity to do better and it is only an experience. All of my past failures have led me to where I am today. I would not be doing what I am doing today if I had not had failures to move me from one point to another point.
I can look back on the few injuries I have had and I can recognize the attitudes that brought the injuries to me. Attitudes and thoughts act as magnets and bring back to us the frequency that matches. When we really begin to listen to our words and our thoughts, we can recognize the patterns of the cage. We also can empower ourselves to move out of the cage by re-educating the brain’s natural pattern and create a new neuronet. This is why attention is important. Being attentive to the way we think is to use the learning tools of affirmations and declarations.
Keys to Change: Awareness – Becoming aware of one’s vocabulary and attitudes. Choices – Choose to change the wording and thoughts. Action – Be open to change and taking charge of choices.
It is up to each of us to be cognizant of our choice of words. From my experience it is a do it over and over until it becomes my common thought. When I have caught myself using a cage word, I stop and re-phrase it and I don’t beat myself up. I know I am changing and this is part of the journey. When thoughts of doubt come up, I tell myself that I do not accept doubt.
There is nothing wrong with any of us because it is only our programming that needs to be changed to allow the wonder of us to come out. Friends may drop by the wayside when we begin breaking out of our mental cages and families often do not understand. This is a price to pay for freedom from the mental cage. Is it worth it? It is if you are willing to step out into the unknown. Freedom of the mind is a heady elixir. The view of the world is expansive and unlimited.
When one begins breaking through the bars of the mental cage, it can be frightening. Perhaps in a way it similar to a child learning to walk and talk. Rarely does a child walk without a few falls and rarely does a child begin talking like an adult. The more we break through the bars, the more confidence we gain and our lives becomes more satisfying. Adversity only hones one’s skills. By approaching our breaking the bars of our mental cage with enthusiasm and a light heart, we move faster through the initial changes. At first it may appear that no progress is being made and one day a realization comes that a shift has happened. It may be the breaking though only one bar or it could be many. Freedom of the mind can only be opened from the inside. Enjoy the journey.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Parents are a baby’s first role model. Second are their siblings or other members of the family group followed by peers or playmates. Fourth would be religion followed by school. However, religion and family are intertwined with some having more influence than the other. I will begin with the parents. How was the mother treated by the father? How was the father treated by the mother? Was there fighting. Was there drinking? What were their attitudes towards each other?
Next, did they have prejudices against other people or ethnic groups? What were the words they used when discussing other people? Did they use profanity? What and who did they condemn? What kind of a role model were the parents putting forth? Most of us do not know what goes on in other people’s homes. If the abuse is blatant, then we might become aware of it. There is an insidious form of abuse that is psychological and it can be in the form of verbal abuse.
Religion fosters abuse because they take away a person’s freedom of choice. In Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, he writes of a Hell House created by Pastor Keenan Roberts in Arvada, Colorado. Reportedly plays are put on to show and let people experience what hell is like. The only thing is that there is no hell. It was created by man and perpetuated by religion. The only hell there is – is what is created in the mind. This is a form of abuse to the mind and to create fear. Fear is the emotion that drives people to be abusive not only to others, but to themselves as well. Fear keeps people enslaved.
The Catholic Church has a history of abuse from sexual abuse by priests and punishment by nuns such as the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland. A movie has been made about this situation where nuns virtually kidnapped women who became their slaves in the Magdalene laundries. There is also evidence that Jewish children were taken away from their parents to raise as Catholics in the 19th century. In addition there was the witch hunts conducted by not only Catholics but Protestants as well. The abuses throughout history are a matter of record with the majority of the abused being women and children. This is not to say that women haven’t also been abusers and there is no excuse for them to be.
One only has to read the Old Testament and learn that it is full of violence such as in Deuteronomy 13:6, 8-15 where one is told to …”but you shall kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death…” followed by…”You shall stone him to death with stones…” In the New Testament, Matthew 5:18-20 it tells that “… unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” In Thessalonians 1:6-9, “God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you…” and there are many more verses similar to the above quoted that indicate that the God of the Bible is neither just nor fair. Imagine the load of guilt placed on the believers.
Even the Koran tells the men that if they died for Allah that they will be rewarded with virgins in heaven. Virgins? There was a protest march by Muslims in London last year and the signs were filled with hatred towards the West. Is it no wonder we have wars, rape and atrocities against women and children? Is it no wonder we have a world filled with guilt-ridden people?
It is also an abuse to change a culture by forcing a foreign religion upon them. Here in the U.S. this has happened to the American Indians. Through religious influence, children were taken away from their parents and homes and sent off to boarding schools in order to bring them in alignment with the established white culture. In Africa, young boys were taken away from their tribes and forced into a Catholic boarding school. In Hawaii Protestant missionaries attempted to change the native Hawaiian spiritual beliefs into alignment with Christianity as practiced by the missionaries. This is also a form of abuse. This is all in addition to war, rape, and other atrocities committed primarily on women and children.
Self-condemnation and self-abuse are the same. Based on fear, some people turn to drugs, alcohol, and among young girls and boys there is an epidemic of ‘cutting.’ This is taking a sharp instrument and cutting oneself in order to bleed. The cutting is usually not deep and the purpose of cutting is to let out the pain held inside. This is self-mutilation. In some African countries girls undergo genital mutilation from ages 3 to 10. Abuse is rampant whether it is perpetuated by the individual on self or by others.
Isn’t it about time for each of us to fess up to our own contributions to abuse? Once we recognize that we are contributors, we then can make choices not to participate. Abuse is now a choice. Isn’t it about time that we each realized that we are one piece of the Quilt of God? We were each created at the same time and I am not talking about the body. I am writing about the spiritual essence that inhabits our brain/body and that supersedes any religious dogmas. It is time for us to forgive ourselves and begin to live according to the true nature of God that lives within us.
God is not something outside the individual. It is time to look around and observe the suppression of humanity and the dogmas to keep God outside of the individual.
It is time for each of us to deprogram our selves and to be aware of how we treat others. It is important to allow others to be different and not to put our beliefs on them. It is time to take action. We are a rainbow of God's Quilt and together we all make a gorgeous portrait. Each of us can make a difference by saying 'no more!' to abuse in any form.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
It is a challenge to attempt to share what I learned at the Third Women’s Peace Conference held in Dallas, Texas from July 10-15. The bridging of cultures, religions and politics flowed beautifully through the conference. Unfortunately the media missed this.
A number of times I heard “Where attention goes, energy flows.” In various workshops women were urged to contact their newspapers and ask for more attention given to efforts for non-violent peace efforts. Peace should be a sustainability initiative. We should be made visible to each other. In 1948 the United Nations created and passed the Universal Rights. (http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html) It will have its 60th anniversary in 2008. Perhaps it is time to call forth the implementation of these universal rights!
Each of us can contribute and make a difference in our own way.
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Consultant for the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, South Africa is a beautiful example. She wrote “A Human Being Died That Night” and in 2007 was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award. She told us that we live in difficult times and we must work for peace, justice, compassion and community with others.
She spoke of non-violence and we “…must avoid falling into the pit of hatred.” Her organization is about truth and reconciliation in South Africa. Forgiveness is a healthy response to those horrors that occur…Truth will out…People become traumatized by abuse, horrors and are unable to often verbalize. She said the story of forgiveness begins with a trauma. Forgiveness is a possibility that we can dialogue with our enemies.
When loved ones are tortured, maimed and killed, they lose their sense of self. When people are tortured, it becomes their identity. Trauma is the unmaking of self. Vengeance makes them suffer and injures their emotions. She spoke of her work into assisting others to dialogue by testimony and witnessing about the past. It is a beginning of forgiveness.
When looking at perpetuators, one sees the pain of guilt and denial. She spoke of having each side look into the other’s eyes and it becomes power and this leads to compassion. Power lies in our center and it takes the risk to dialogue with others. Guilt locks people in denial and justification. Forgiveness evolves into remorse and then apology, thereby alleviating the guilt. She gave an example of a perpetuator standing before one of the victims who had his family killed. It took awhile before each could look the other in the eye. When they finally accomplished this, the perpetuator apologized and a healing began to take place because the apology was accepted. When there is the act of truth and reconciliation, then the deep pain in the soul is resolved.
Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams said she is now age 56. She is a dynamic woman. She has been active in getting most countries to sign the Ottawa agreement to ban land mines. The U.S., China and Russia have not signed the treaty. She has led a mission to Dafur and said they are using rape as a tool of war. It is the Genocide Olympics.
Jody Williams said she is a spiritual vagabond. She champions human security and peace. She is sick of the wimpization of peace. Peace is not a rainbow or a dove. That is serenity. It is not Kumbawa. Peace is people security and not state security. Human security means threats are minimized. It means the needs of the people are met. The basic needs of the majority should be met. She sees the important issues to be water, rape or killing. She is tired of hearing that state security is taking care of needs. State security is about preserving.
Re Dafur: It is about cleansing. Rape is about destroying families. Peace is not about the absence of war. This is about men who send other men’s children to die…Violence is a choice.
Isms are intellectualized. Violence, bigotry, prejudice is a choice. We have to learn to make other choices or we die. She was asked about 9/ll and replied that at that time to ask why was treason. Know your history. She gave her email address and said I don’t want to hear any whining. Don’t email to whine. She suggested researching http://www.hwr.org/ - the Human Rights Watch.org. She spoke of cluster bombs. Cluster bombs maim children and women. There is disinvestment in Sudan.
If every person gave one hour a month and agreed to do something, then we would hit critical mass and a major change would occur. It does no good to just talk. Take action.
This was stated in another way the following day when former Ambassador Swanee Hunt spoke. “Pacifists have to put their bodies where their mouths are. There are no women on negotiation teams and this is why warlords say women compromise.
Hunt was Ambassador to Austria during the Bosnia War. She told several stories because being so near the war zone, she was well informed. A Muslim family was captured and the father killed outright. His liver was cut out and his son was forced to eat it and then watch his mother being raped.
Hunt told another story. Even though the UN was bringing in flour, it had not reached some of the people. In Sarajevo, a Bosnian young woman had no food and she met a 70 year-old man. He took her to his home where she met his wife and they fed her even though they had very little food. They lived in the basement of a burned-out building. When she left, she was given a small packet of beets, cabbage and sauerkraut. She shared her story that the man and his wife had managed to have a small garden where they grew beets and cabbage. They gardened by flashlight after dark because of the snipers. The man and his wife were Muslim and she was Christian. They remained friends.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 1991 was given to Aung San Suu Kvi of Burma. Her party won 80% of the seats in a democratic election in 1990, but the military government refused to recognize the results. She was not allowed to accept her award and was incarcerated. She is still under house arrest today despite the efforts of many to have her released.
I experienced a wonderful encounter with a delegation of nine women and one man from Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia. Larisa Cherepanova is the Director for the Center “Women Together.” She was the interpreter for the rest of the delegation and yet we all communicated. One of the women is a designer for clothes and her designs are beautiful and outrageous. Another teaches school. Larisa is a poet and a songwriter and singer with a beautiful voice. I have been invited to visit them in Novosibirsk – and doors can open for me to take them up on their offer.
I attended the circle gathering led by women of Gather the Women, of which I belong and it was a beautiful experience of coming together and sharing. This organization has a great on-line forum where we can communicate with each other. Women may also create a circle in their own community. http://www.gatherthewomen.org/.
A woman vendor was selling bracelets of silver beads. In the center of each bracelet was one black bead representing that it only takes one to make a difference. Each of us can be that one.
The conference ended Saturday night and I left with my mind filled with so much information along with stories that were happy and stories that were extremely sad. What I am taking with me is the message to expand awareness. Take an action. You don’t know where it will lead you.
Find a cause and commit even if it is only one hour a month.
Peace is security. Peace is using non-violent methods to settle conflicts.
The greatest thing we can do for our self is to give up prejudices, bigotry, and hatred. Only by doing this can we find our own inner peace.
It is awesome to contemplate a meeting of over one thousand minds from all over the world and each one of us points of light and each one making a different in her/his (yes there were men attending) way.
Why do I call this the Quiet Revolution? It is because there is change and women will not be put back into a toothpaste tube of being considered no better than a breeding animal for men’s pleasure. Women all over the world are gradually realizing that they have worth and want to end the discrimination against them. Women are now gaining education and now want an equal voice. Women do not want to dominate. They are asking for balance in an unbalanced world. Their voices are now being heard and will become louder in a non-violent way. This is the way of the Quiet Revolution.
I want to say that I would have never attended this conference if I had not been a student of Ramtha for twenty years. The Ramtha School of Enlightenment is an academy of the mind and by applying what I have learned, doors opened for me to do what I have done. Now, I know more doors are opening and where they are taking me – well who knows because I am making known an unknown.
Bettye Johnson, July 19, 2007
The Peacemakers, Inc. hosted the Third International Women’s Peace Conference held in Dallas, Texas from July 10-15, 2007 and was first incorporated in 1987 with the first conference being held in 1988. Founder of the Peacemakers, Inc. was Vivian Castleberry, an editor and reporter for the now defunct Dallas Times Herald newspaper for 28 years. The current president of Peacemakers, Inc. is Carol Crabtree Donovan; a practicing attorney in Dallas and this is why the International Women’s Peace Conferences is held in Dallas, Texas. I found the women of Dallas open-minded, warm and dedicated to making a difference in spite of the fact that there was no media coverage and this was commented on. I find it hard to think this was an oversight. Discrimination?
The broad spectrum of topics covered in the workshops and presentations was more than addressing the atrocities of the world. Education was a focal point and the women in the third world countries want education, technology and communication skills. The conference was also about women reaching out and helping women. It was also about using non-violent methods to settle conflicts.
Before the opening session, we gathered in the great open area of the conference center where each of us was given large flags representing every country, island, and protectorate in the world. I was handed the flag of Georgia (Russia). We began moving in a circle towards a microphone and when we reached it, we gave the name of our flag’s country and everyone said three times: “May peace prevail in ____.” We then moved on and handed our flag to a woman who placed it in a holder. By the end, we had a tight circle of flags. It was very profound and moving.
I learned about the United Nations from Gillian Sorenson, former UN Secretary-General and now Senior Advisor at the UN Foundation, a national advocate on matters relating to the UN. I realized after listening to Sorenson, how ignorant I have been about the United Nations.
During her session, she said: “This is a critical time in the world. Goodwill is not enough. Prayer is not enough. It requires action.” War and conflict have reached new depths and spawned cultures of violence in Africa.
Bigotry and hate are all learned. In the past 13 years 3-1/2 million people that include children, women and men have died in Africa. Women need to find their voices. Women must be an agent for change. Women must raise awareness and funds. Women must hold governments accountable. We can counter-balance. We must find work for the men and women. We cannot wish. We must look for kindred spirits…
Optimism and confidence is contagious. Pessimism is contagious. We must begin in our own communities. We must speak up to the media and our governments. Do not be intimidated. Research and then name and shame the manufacturers of weapons and oil. In the U.S. there have been and are manufacturers of land mines. Find out who the war profiteers are. In other word, ‘knowledge is power.’
Organize, teach, speak, and dramatize. There are 20 million refugees. A mature nation earns its reputation. Sorenson spoke of the United Nations. (http://www.un.org/) There are non-governmental organizations involved. There are 193 countries that belong to the UN. Around the world there is a leadership deficit. We need vision. Sorenson then spoke of Nelson Mandela. She quoted him: “Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world.”
Sorenson spoke of the UN Association of the U.S. (www.unausa.org/) - a non-profit organization that promotes education because it creates confidence, freedom and opportunity. An example is a woman from a tribe in Africa. She now has a cell phone and when she has a goat she wants to sell, she calls other villages and finds out the price goats are selling for. Now she has information and knows what to ask for her goat when she takes it to market.
Peace begins at home. See what needs to be done in your own community. Educate yourself about what is happening in the world. Pick an issue and commit.
There are 13 global environmental treaties that have gone into force in the last three decades – but the U.S. is party to only part of them. Why? The Senate refuses to ratify them and this means the U.S. has no role in their implementation. The treaties that have yet to be ratified are:
· Bonn Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species since 1983.
· Convention on Biological Diversity in force since 1993.
· The Kyoto Protocol
· Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
· Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Sorenson recommends voting. Go to your local offices of your U.S. senators and representatives. Call and find out when they will be home and take a delegation.
Sorenson spoke at a second session. She has been in senior positions pertaining to the United Nations for over 20 years. There are civil societies – non-governmental organizations that are called NGO’s. These organizations are designed, organized and led by citizens, i.e. citizens groups. Civil societies have influence and power. Example: The Rotary Club has worked with the UN for ten years to eradicate polio and it is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Their next issue is Clean Water. What is happening is that NGO’s are doing what governments won’t do. The UN global meetings for women have connected women globally.
What are the assets of NGO’s? Their assets are the media, lobbying and know how to build support in Congress. They can push, prod and shame governments. The UN is not perfect, but it is the best we have and we can make it better.
We can give an issue a face, i.e. land mines. Go after the manufacturers. Under the Human Rights division of the UN there are 150 NGO’s. The UN cannot respond to 150 groups who have differences of opinions. Unfortunately between NGO’s there is competition, wasted energy. Do your homework. The most recent issue is the Child Soldier issue.
There has been bad press regarding Family Planning. There is propaganda that the UN is for abortion. This is not so. Once the UN funds one of 100 countries asking for help, it is up to that country to determine to be pro or anti-abortion. The UN is neutral.
The U.S. hasn’t given a dime in six years. Regarding the International Criminal Court – the U.S. is absent, but has asked the Court to prosecute the Sudan. Soft power versus Hard power. Hard power is might and guns. Soft power is persuasion and as an example, it is values and moral issues. And then there is Smart Power, which is leadership. NGO’s for the most part fall under this umbrella. It has the elements of compassion and intellect.
People have power if they become organized and focused. There must be accountability. There needs to be more women in political office. In the U.S. Senate only 16% are women and in the House of Representatives there are only 16% women.
The UN Family Population Fund – the U.S. had $30 million in 2002 earmarked and Pres. Bush has withheld this.
The speaker from the League of Women Voters told us that politics affect all aspects of our life. The most effective ways to contact your representatives are 1) Personal visit; 2) Faxing; 3) Telephone. Letters may take up to 3 months to reach national representatives due to the anthrax scare. On-line petitions have very little impact. E-mailing – your email may get lost in the shuffle of the thousands they receive.
Do your homework. Know the issue. Have talking points of who, what, etc. Be ready to listen. Know the financial implications of what you are asking for. Be courteous. Be brief. Shake hands. Write a think-you note. Do a follow-up and build up a relationship. Thank of creating a coalition of groups in your community. Talk to unelected people of authority also.
The above model is suitable to use on any level of local, county, state and national representatives. Most of the people in prison fall into 3 categories: 1) childhood abuse, 2) substance abuse, 3) illiteracy. Do they have a positive role model in their life?
I overheard two women talking and one asked, “Where are the people from the Sixties? The reply was, “They went to the corporate world for comfort and now they are afraid of being poor.” I did not interrupt, but I thought those answers were only part of it. They had their leaders, i.e. John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinated and the fear struck home as it was intended to do.
I heard mention of Open Source Technology – free technology and found this site: http://www.oftc.net/oftc/ I attended a workshop titled: Leveraging for Technology. This was put on by WorldPulse Media http://www.worldpulsemedia.com/. Within this organization is another tool for women called Pulse Wire. Utilizing the Internet enables women to be a great force in the media. We need voices for women and children of ethnic cleansing.
Women in Afghanistan are making baby bouncers out of rubber tires. We have to move from giving advice to listening to what women need and want to build their own websites. Jensine Larson, the founder and CEO of WorldPulse, is building her website to enable women to be powerful in their own right. She is using Craig’s List as a model. Women everywhere are clamoring to be heard – to connect. They are risking and daring to be bold.
Larson has been to Burma where she has seen first-hand the results of ethnic cleansing. The Burmese Army of 4000 members is known as the “School of Rape.” Betty Williams told the story of a little girl she interviewed at a relocation center. The girl was under the age of 12 and in her village had to watch her mother and father dig their own graves. The soldiers then raped her mother and then had the parents stand facing the open graves and shot them in the back of the head. The little girl and her brother had to cover the graves with dirt and the girl was then raped. The soldiers led them on a forced march through the jungles and she was given 1 small bowl of rice a day. When she stumbled and fell, she was raped, beaten and forced to march. This lasted for days. Williams said that the girl has since died.
An outstanding presenter was Sharon McCord of the Peace X Peace non-profit organization. She gave a list of Internet resources to enable women and men to become web savvy. You can find out more by going to http://www.peacexpeace.org/
I attended a workshop regarding genital mutilation. I personally heard the story from a 29-year-old woman from southern Kenya. Lucy came to the U.S. ten months ago and her mission is to make people aware of the horribleness of genital mutilation and perhaps something will be done. She said it is a cultural thing and not religious. It is prevalent in Africa. In her tribe they took 29 young girls when Lucy was age 3 and performed the ceremony of genital circumcision. She was tied town and a rope put in her mouth while the surgery was performed with an unclean instrument. She screamed from the pain and so did the others. Today only 4 of the original 29 are alive. At this age she was betrothed to a man who gave her father some goats.
Her tribe also had another custom. It wasn’t proper for a girl to have flat breasts so they took her down to the river and attached an animal to her nipples and they were stretched until her breasts became enlarged and over the years grew quite large. In another tribe it was the opposite. The girls had heavy iron weights put on their breasts so they wouldn’t grow. She is now in constant pain.
At age 9 she moved out of her parents house and lived with her grandmother until she was age 12 and married to the 54 year-old man who gave her father 50 cows for her. She was wife number five. After her so-called wedding night, his other wives cut her vagina and while she screamed from pain and bled, he entered her and laughed because he thought she was enjoying it. Between ages 12 to 15 she had two forced abortions and she finally found the courage to run away. She became an activist and became known in Tanzania where she encouraged women to declare their freedom. She was caught and taken to a forest where she was raped and a coke bottle shoved up into her vagina. Lucy is beautiful and laughs. When asked why she laughs so much, she said that if she didn’t that she would die.
And then there is Odette from Rwanda. I met her the first day of the conference. She has beautiful mahogany skin and arrived at the conference from Costa Rica where she received her Masters degree from the university there. She originally was from Uganda and came from an extremely poor family. Somehow her father managed to send her to the mission school for 3 years and she excelled. One day he told her she could not go back to school. When she asked why, he told her that she was a girl. He had to save the money for her brother to go to school. She screamed and cried so much that he took a cane to her and beat her.
When the head of the mission school met her in the village, he asked her why she hadn’t returned to school. She lied and told him she was a refugee and had no money. A Catholic priest overheard the conversation and he left money for her education. She managed to complete high school and continued to seek knowledge. I’m not sure at what age she met her husband, but he was in the government service of Tanzania and became ambassador to Japan. Odette shook her head in amazement while telling me her story. “Can you imagine? I became an ambassador’s wife!” She also was amazed that she had attended a dinner for the senior Bush when he was President.
Then there was Linda from Dallas – a schoolteacher. When she began teaching, she told them to give her all the problems. They did and she taught them love – self-love. Some of them went on to become engineers, lawyers, and other professions. She is making a difference.
Rita Johnson went to Costa Rica 15 years ago and in that time has worked with the Costa Rican government to establish a Peace Army. The President of Costa Rica is Óscar Arias Sánchez who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his negotiations in Central America. Costa Rica is the only country in the world that has no military army. Instead they have a Peace Army. Costa Rica is a model for non-violent negotiations and a model for peace.
Each of can make a difference in our own way. It only takes one to make a difference.
Bettye Johnson – Part 3 to come.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
When I first learned of the Third International Women’s Peace Conference in Dallas, Texas, I felt a strong pull to attend and I did. It was a journey of discovery and learning. It was an auspicious period for me because this conference was sandwiched in between Al Gore’s 7/07/07 Live Earth and 7/17/07 Fire the Grid. It was also meaningful for me because Dallas is the city of my birth in the 7th month – July.
I had no expectations, however I soon learned that this was a gathering of female warriors – peaceful warriors. Some had been militant and won Nobel Peace Prizes. Others came from a background of repression; bigotry, hate, torture, rape and almost every vile thing a man can do to a woman. I have named this A Quiet Revolution because it was non-political and crossed all religious boundaries. The time is now for women to exert their power in a non-violent way. There was no ‘bashing’ of men. It was a meeting of great minds who want change. In fact, men are welcome to join the women to make this a world where women and children are safe and conflicts can be settled by non-violent methods.
At the airport while waiting for the shuttle to take me into Dallas, I met a beautiful woman from Kenya who had just flown in from Boston. I thought it was interesting that we were two points of light coming from the opposite sides of the U.S. and meeting in Dallas to form a ‘V.’ Over one thousand women from 43 different countries and 32 U.S. states convened to discuss peace and to discuss peaceful solutions to the torture, abuse, killing and maiming of millions of women and children as well as men. We were women from various ethnic, religious and political backgrounds. Missing from this landmark event was the media. Time and Newsweek along with CNN, NBC and CBS should have covered this event.
Joining me on Wednesday was Louise Oliverio and together we attended workshops together and separately with each of us learning. There was no mention of forming protest groups, carrying signs and banners. No. This was a meeting of planning strategic plans of action using non-violence avenues.
Keynote speakers and Presentation leaders included such notables as Betty Williams, co-winner of the 1976 Noble Peace Prize for her work in uniting Northern Ireland to become what it is today. Her thrust today is helping the children of the world.
Gillian Sorenson, former UN Under-Secretary General, UN Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations and currently Senior Adviser of the UN Foundation – a non-profit organization shared with us her knowledge of the United Nations. I learned that I really knew very little about the United Nations other than the Security Council. There is much, much more occurring in the area of human rights. She said that it is not a perfect organization but it can be improved.
The opening ceremony featured the Honorable Leticia Shahani, Ph.D., former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and later a Senator from the Philippines. In addition to her inspiring speech, the entertainment was spectacular and I was particularly taken with an acrobatic group of women who title is “The Fools” from New Mexico. They do acrobats on stilts and are awesome.
Betty Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate gave an emotional speech to the entire gathering. Betty was a co-recipient of her Nobel Peace award for contributing to the ending of the strife in Northern Ireland. She is a powerful woman whose thrust now is to champion the rights of children. Betty has traveled all over the world and she has had to deal with politics, economics and culture. Referring to Ireland, she said that she and her friend, both Catholics contacted Protestant women. They were all tired of the killing and maiming of children, husbands, brothers, sons and began day by day with a ‘cups of tea’ campaign. They would go into homes and over cups of tea began to find out what the others needed and wanted. She also said that on 9/11 35,615 women and children all over the world died from torture, rape and atrocities and no one noticed.
Williams is now building the first City of Peace for children in Italy. She has formed the World Centers of Compassion for Children International and is asking for contributions. The land, which was earmarked for disposal of nuclear waste, has been given to her non-profit group. To learn more of this please go to www.wccci.org. Betty shared that after she received the Nobel Peace Prize that she was asked to come to the Vatican by the Pope. As she walked through the palace, she noted the many paintings and sculptors by Michelangelo. Just as she was leaving the Pope said something needed to be done about world hunger. Betty replied, “Why don’t you sell some of these Michelangelo’s”. It was a long time before she was asked back.
We were a colorful array of women from around the world dressed in native garments and each with smiles and hope. There were folded paper cranes done by children of China. In China the crane is a symbol for longevity. We also had representatives from the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. There were women from many countries who head important organizations and all want to end violence towards women and children and to educate them. The service organizations of Dallas were well represented and there is an active organization representing refugees and attempting to find them homes. I learned of a ‘concentration’ facility in Taylor, Texas where illegal immigrants are incarcerated with most of the fathers being separated from their wives and children. The children are threatened with removal from their mothers if they don’t behave.
I understand there is a great deal of resentment against illegal immigrants. I can understand this, but if one were to reason it, instead of protesting wouldn’t it be better to become active and attempt to resolve this issue through non-violent methods? Instead of targeting the illegals, perhaps it would be better to go to the source of why they are coming into this country. Corporate America brings them in to work in their sweatshops. Immigration periodically rounds them up and sends them home. They are then recruited by Corporate America and it is a non-ending ugly game. I suggest targeting the ones hiring them. I urge each of you to research and find out who is behind the influx of illegal immigrants. Instead of complaining – take action.
Among the many women I met, there was camaraderie of compassion and enthusiasm to make a difference that by-passed cultures, religions and politics. There were Muslim women from the U.S. and other countries wearing their scarves. They interacted with women of Christian faiths. I spoke to one woman from Israel and her organization works with Palestinian women wanting to end the war. It is – as I understand it – illegal, however these two groups get together and ‘break bread’ by cooking meals for each other. My understanding is that these women as a whole want to end bigotry, injustice and prejudice.
I heard another term used for women who have been abused as ‘wreckage women.’ Dr. Sharon Welch, Chair of Religious Studies, U. of Missouri asked, “Is the U.S. a fool of force and a fool of history?” She quoted from a N.Y. Times article October 5, 2006 where the US Army and Marines have prepared new countersurgency doctrine that draws on lessons learned of Iraq and “makes protection of civilians bedrock element of strategy; doctrine warns against overly aggressive raids and mistreatment of detainees and stresses rapid development of local security forces.” It is something to think about this almost turn-about-face. There are nine points in the new manual. She went on to say that conservatives have a lack of compassion. We need to look at our trickster awareness and ask are we “artisans of hope, artisans of molding, artisans of design?”
There was a spectacular workshop on Leveraging for Technology. This will have to be another email. However, I will say that women can become changemakers and the greatest force for women in the media. We need voices for women and children of ethnic backgrounds. In Burma, the army of 4,000 is known as the School of Rape. Women all over the world do not trust mainstream media. There are three crucial areas that need to be addressed: women trafficking, HIV/AIDS and water sustainability.
A woman from the Navajo tribe in Arizona asked for help because the newspapers are giving us a diet of murder, robbery, sports and war. The Navajo Indians are sick from the effects of mining of oil, coal, uranium and power plants on their land. Large corporations are stripping their land and the air is polluted and the ground water poisoned.
The second Nobel Peace Prize Laureate was Rigoberta Menchu Tum, an indigenous Guatemalan of the Quiche-Maya ethnic group. She was the recipient in 1992 for her contributions for the ending of the Civil War that lasted from 1960-1996. This beautiful woman who said she was Mayan, shared her way of becoming peaceful within herself. She had seen many members of her family killed and this adversity fired her to do something and make a difference. This is what Rigoberta Menchu Tum said:
“We can make a light. We can make a difference in the lives of people…” She spoke of the Mayan calendar, as being an important date – a time and the time is very large. “This date is a beginning again…It is cosmology – a dark time and it is when we can begin anew…It means humans are good. We can begin again….My theme is how to develop creativity. Creativity is born out of our experiences…Many of us have suffered to take on leadership roles…Everyone who has suffered must work their way out and can be well again.”
She went on to say, “I have had many successes and this is to say I have lived fully…those of us who have suffered must find our spiritual fortune within us…Our spiritual fortune gives us a different perspective…” She has done a lot of meditation with a candle and she looks into it and feels the light. She takes a bath with flower petals and feels the negative energies coming out of the body. “What happens is we women don’t want to do it for us…We want to have someone to love us and for us to love ourselves.”
“We can be a leader who will be lights to others…It is important for leadership to be balanced…We have to cry. We have to laugh and that is when you will be well…Times are dark now…Values are lost…There is no connection between young people and adults…What is my success today is that we are a small energy in eternity…We are a small part of the total wisdom…That’s when we live with humility…We live in two clocks. One is the money clock and the counter-clockwise is the spiritual clock. The two clocks need to get to a time when they can coincide…
“We need to recover our values and our beginnings of family, society and schools…When we start an initiative we gather others to us…Some will say you’re nuts and others will say you are taking a step forward…Don’t ever lose your self-esteem…The majority is waiting for someone to do it for them. Ask them ‘what are you doing for women, children, poverty?’ and if they say ‘I can’t. You do it.’ Then say ‘Yes you can do it. Try…’ Peace is harmony and there is a misunderstanding of peace. Peace is harmony. We need to rescue the sentiments of peace.
“We need to have goals…I love life…Contribute to resolution of conflicts…There are many ways to support social transformation. By sending energy you can heal others and ease their pain and give hope…The key is to be well within me (you). We can build technology, hospitals, and scholarships for poor girls. Don’t do it for power…It’s a process and we have to change our mentality…To take leadership, women must have values. If not, we have nothing…Never give up the struggle.
“Try to make your dreams come true…Don’t say some day. Say ‘today I can do it. In my life I do those things today.’ Do not stay in the suffering…Take baths with flower petals.” Rigoberta Menchu has written 30 children’s stories. She said, “Be happy. Make parties. Plant trees…Life is what you want to make out of it.” She is now running for President of Guatemala this year.
This was the ‘up’ part of the conference. I have not included the stories of some of the women and that will be covered in Part 2 along with opportunities for making a change. On Friday night I heard Jody Williams from Vermont, a Nobel Peace Laureate speak and I will share that in part 2.
I attended a small reception for Betty Williams. There were only 25 of us there and I wondered how I managed to get an invitation. I learned more about her foundation and I urge those reading this to go to her website. At the suggestion of some women I met and spoke with, I facilitated a discussion forum on Saturday with the topic being Mary Magdalene. On Wednesday evening the Dallas Tourist Bureau hosted a reception for those of us attending. I learned also that Dallas County officials are now all Democrats having ousted the entrenched Republicans.
More to come…Bettye Johnson, July 17, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
The following was first written by Christian D. Larson in 1912 and was adopted in a slightly altered form by the Optimist International organization as the “Optimist Creed.”
Larson was an influential New Thought leader and teacher. He was a prolific writer and an influence over the Religious Science leader and founder, Ernest Holmes. In honor of a great mind, here is the original version of “Promise Yourself.”
PROMISE YOURSELF by Christian D. Larson
- To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
- To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
- To make all your friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.
- To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
- To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.
- To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
- To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
- To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature you meet.
- To give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
- To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
- To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud work, but in great deeds.
- To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
Some of the greatest prosperity teachers and writers came from the era of the late 1800’s and the first half of the 1900’s. They all knew the Secret of the ages, which is what you think, you get. Florence Scovel Shinn’s books are some of my favorites and can be purchased on Amazon.com.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
What do prejudice, bias and discrimination have to do with selective vision? What is it that many people do not see although something has always been there that has not become part of awareness? It’s an unexplored world of the mind.
Our brain is the ultimate in computers and it is we who program it with our thoughts, our words and our emotions, which often create blocks in our mind that, limit us. One of the most prevalent deterrents to moving away from prejudice, bias and discrimination is religion. Religion has done almost nothing to move their followers to a state of having an open mind. In fact, the religions encourage separateness, better than, competition, and war.
I was born in Texas during the time of segregation. I experienced the Afro-Americans having to sit in the back of the bus and if it became crowded with white people, then the blacks had to stand up. I never dined in a restaurant where Afro-Americans ate. We lived in separate sections of town, went to separate schools and churches. It was a world of acceptance for me because I had been taught that it was natural even though something inside of me wondered why we couldn’t attend the same church if God loved everyone.
My awakening has a number of threads, which became an unraveling. When I was 23, I began working for the Foreign Service branch of the U.S. State Department. I first had a 3-month training course in Washington D.C. and experienced my first interaction with Afro-Americans. It was a new experience to see them in a different environment and I do not remember having any particular adverse reaction. My first tour of duty was with the embassy in Paris where I saw blue-black Africans married to French women and when I visited London, I heard them speaking the King’s English. I was changing my mind by what I observed and experienced. Later when I transferred to the embassy in Tokyo, I worked with a lovely Afro-American man. I knew that these people had brilliant intelligence and the capacity to do great things.
However, there can be subtle prejudices that we may not be aware of for years until an opportunity comes. I married a career military man while in Tokyo and we were stationed in southern California. One Christmas season when my children were quite small, my husband and I decided to take a train to Texas. We changed trains in Los Angeles and the car we were assigned to was filled to the brim with Afro-Americans on their way south to spend the holidays with their relatives.
I caught myself holding my breath every time one would walk pass me and I wondered why because they were neatly dressed, clean and didn’t smell. Then I remembered an experience I had when I was living and working in Houston. Each morning I would catch the bus, which traveled, through the black (even though segregation was no more) part of the city. The aroma was overwhelming to me and I began holding my breath. It was that experience that had become entrenched in my brain and when I experienced being in a crowded train car, it was triggered. Once I came to that realization I was able to put that prejudice to rest. However, my great learning did not stop there.
A few years later my husband was transferred to Hawaii and we moved there. One of my friends was a Japanese woman who had met and married her American military husband while he was stationed there. One day Peggy and I had an interesting conversation about her experiences of growing up during WWII in Osaka and the occupation by American troops. She made one statement that surprised me. “We could smell the Americans before we could see them.” When I pressed her for an explanation, she replied that the odors of different foods, the leather, tents and clothing were alien to the odors the Japanese were use to.
The final segment to my emergence from prejudice and a greater understanding came when my husband and I were traveling from Massachusetts to Texas one late November. We were driving through Birmingham, Alabama and came to one part of the city that was predominantly Afro-American when the same odor hit me that I had experience years back in Houston, Texas. I had a grand ah-ha when the realization came that these people cooked on wood stoves and their diet was different from many people because it included their ethnic foods! It really had nothing to do with color or cleanliness. It was all due to their ethnic preference for certain foods and their mode of cooking.
It was a great unraveling to finally come to this awareness that taught me to look beyond the outer appearances. The world today is filled with prejudices and discrimination built upon what has been taught from birth and the full awareness was never allowed to blossom. One religion discriminates against another and belief systems become entrenched. Like a snake, it is time to shed the old skin of prejudice and bigotry for a new skin of awareness and acceptance.