Are You A Critical Thinker?

Are You A Critical Thinker?

Are You A Critical Thinker?

I posted a poll in my Facebook group a couple of weeks ago asking which topics people would be most interested in having me write about, and critical thinking within the context of spirituality came out on top by far. I think it’s an especially important topic in this day and age when there’s so much misinformation swirling about on the internet. Consider this your crash course in the foundations of critical thinking.

Critical thinking: the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

Critical thinking is our weapon of discernment against a lack of self-awareness and unconscious behavior both within ourselves and the world around us.

We can define unconscious behavior in the world around us as:

Herd mentality: the inclination for individuals within a group to follow along with what the group at large thinks or does. It is also known as mob behavior, group mind, group think, crowd psychology, and other similar terms.

Groupthink: the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.

Simply having the same beliefs as another group of people isn’t bad, and it doesn’t mean you’re a sheep. Holding those beliefs without having any self-awareness about why, where they came from, and having spent little or no time engaging in the exploration of opposing beliefs (from unbiased sources), is what makes people sheep.

We make the assumption that critical thinking is about evaluating and judging the world around us, but it’s just as much about, if not more, evaluating and judging the way we SEE the world around us – that’s where we develop objectivity. Critical thinking and self-awareness aren’t necessarily the same thing, but critical thinkers tend to have self-awareness as a prerequisite.

Example: If you still hold the same political beliefs as your parents did before you, as well as the majority of the people who live in the region where you grew up and/or currently reside, or if you still see yourself as the same person now that you were when you were 20, or if you still maintain the same religious ideologies that you were taught as a child – that might be a red flag that some self-examination is required.

Spirituality catalyzes evolution. If you haven’t evolved in the most deeply rooted, fundamental ways that you perceive the world around you, something’s not clicking.

Only when you’ve developed the ability to be self-critical can you truly think critically about the world around you.

That’s what real spirituality–specifically shadow work–teaches us to do.

Attempting to deconstruct the world around you before deconstructing the world within you will not bear any meaningful fruit, because everything will still be a projection of the unexamined internal self.

I’ve often touted the notion that humans are not logical beings, but rather, rational beings. We create rationales for what we believe, but those rationales are not always logical, nor will they ever be if we have yet to examine ourselves deeply.

If you trust everything you see around you–question yourself.

If you are suspicious of everything you see around you–question yourself.

No one should ever always be on one end of a spectrum. Ironically, conspiratorial thinking is a prime example of herd mentality and groupthink. It’s just one that’s dressed itself up in a facade of faux critical thinking (that doesn’t actually think critically). It values the perception of critical thinking, but embodies few, if any, of the actual practices involved. Why?

Critical thinking requires taking in a multitude of perspectives. It requires doing research AND trusting experts. It requires observing all possibilities and making a sound judgement based on factual evidence.

A fact is defined as: a thing that is known or proved to be true. In science, a fact is a repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experimentation or other means), also called empirical evidence. In the most basic sense, a scientific fact is an objective and verifiable observation, in contrast with a hypothesis or theory, which is intended to explain or interpret facts.

Critical thinking underpins the scientific process. The scientific process accepts nothing that can’t be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. It withholds judgement until there is enough evidence to support a conclusion, and it literally offers up its hypothesis to a community of experts to be picked apart, critiqued, and dismantled in every way possible, until the majority of experts agree that it stands up to scrutiny well enough.

That’s exactly how you think critically.

A critical thinker is not:

  • A  lone wolf (because critical thinkers value the perspectives of others, especially those of experts).
  • Simply someone who has different ideas than everyone else (because who think logically often arrive at the same conclusions).
  • Someone who thinks differently than what is popular (because sometimes what makes the most logical sense is also widely accepted among groups of critical thinkers).
  • Simply someone who does their own research (because critical thinkers recognize when other people know more than them about a given topic).
  • Someone who only accepts the ideas and opinions of a single group (because critical thinkers evaluate all perspectives within reason).
  • Someone who denies factual evidence (because factual evidence is how we measure the world objectively).
  • Someone who dismisses expert opinions (because critical thinkers know that experts know more about a subject than they do).
  • And most importantly, a critical thinker is not someone who refuses to accept new information once it’s been presented (because critical thinkers measure their opinions objectively, and objectivity requires the acceptance of factual evidence, especially new factual evidence).

Conspiratorial thinking has a tendency to dismiss factual evidence in favor of conjecture, and will constantly shift and change its theories and hypothesis to fit the narrative (i.e. coming up with excuses as to why something didn’t play out as predicted) or deny evidence altogether as being false. Unlike a real criminal investigation, which looks at factual evidence first and then pieces together a story based on the evidence, conspiracy theory begins with a narrative and finds circumstantial evidence to support the theory while ignoring anything that discredits it. It’s the exact opposite of a criminal investigation, and the exact opposite of critical thinking, because it’s attached to an internal belief rather than an objective observation.

But, you say, spirituality teaches us to question everything and believe nothing! It tells us to find our own truth! How can spirituality and critical thinking co-exist?

Like I said–spirituality tells us to first examine OURSELVES above all else. And until we think critically about ourselves, we will never be able to think critically (or objectively) about the world around us. It is only after questioning yourself first, and then the world around you, can you see things objectively enough to find your own truth.

The Most Important Work You Will Ever Do

The Most Important Work You Will Ever Do

The Most Important Work You Will Ever Do

I think the root of all of the worlds problems are pretty obvious. Sure, it’s layered and multi-faceted, but there’s always a root problem that enables another problem layered on top of that which enables another problem layered on top of that.

Our root problem is that we believe in the illusion that there is a lack of love (fear), and we then act from that belief.

The mechanism which enables that belief is patriarchy.

Patriarchy is the suppression of the divine feminine essence within each of us (and as a consequence, the feminine bodies around us).

The feminine is our emotions, our empathy, our intuition, and our connection to the divine. Without the feminine, we would not be able to know, feel, or recognize that we are all connected, and that we are all one with the greater force of the universe which is Love.

We have created a culture where the feminine essence is shunned and suppressed, especially within men. When the connection to the feminine essence is severed, it creates a deep core wound. And then those men (and many times women as well), cut off from their connection with universal Love and operating from that core wound, perpetrate acts of violence and oppression, whether overt and obvious or subtle and insidious, as a means to control and dominate others (toxic masculinity).

When we talk about the rise of the divine feminine, we aren’t talking about female bodies. We’re talking about the feminine essence in all of us – a reconnection to our emotions, our empathy, our intuition, and our divine selves.

Only with this counterbalance can the masculine essence be recalibrated to its true purpose, which is to protect the vulnerable, not control them, dismiss them, or otherwise disempower them.

Each of us can only reconnect with our feminine essence if and when we participate in the work of examining our shadow (our ego) and unlearn all of the negative cultural and ancestral programming that we have operated from, participated in, and enabled in our society at large and HEAL the core wound, which we would experience on a personal level as an ego death. The process of an ego death is what we call a dark night of the soul.

We have to look at how this plays out on an individual level as well as within group collectives (because one enables the other, thus creating a mirror effect).

“The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our own shadow onto others.” – Carl Jung

Shadow work is THE work.

The Most Important Work You Will Ever Do

The Great Awakening

The Great Awakening

If you’ve been into spirituality for any amount of time, you are aware of the terms “awakening” and “ascension.”

By and large, most people define awakening as becoming aware of what is happening in the world around you–the “real” reasons why governments do what they do, social injustices, the horrible state of the world. Being “woke,” as the younger generation would say.

A lot of people believe that a mass awakening means that the sheeple of the world will suddenly become aware of all of these things, unify, and demand change. Except what that change looks like differs starkly depending on which side of the political aisle you fall on, and for as long as we have a division of values, we will never have unity.

This is not what being awake means, and this is not what the great awakening is. Not by a long shot.

How we see the world–how likely we are to empathize with the plight of others, which side of the political spectrum we fall on, and our natural (or nurtured) personality inclinations—is very connected, and to some degree, how that plays out in our daily lives is what collectively creates the conflict in the world around us.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space there is a power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. – Viktor Frankl

Becoming self aware enough to recognize our own traumas, habits, and patterns, and how those triggers cause us to make certain decisions is what it means to awaken. Becoming aware of how those engrained patterns and beliefs created by outside influences shape the way we think and the choices we make and being able to separate ourselves from them is what it means to truly free thinker.

Our great awakening is when we awaken to ourselves, because the world around us is simply a reflection of that.

I Challenge You

I Challenge You

I Challenge You

The content you read and share on social media at this time will frame your understanding of what’s happening in the world around you, and every single thing can be framed in a fearful way, or in a non-fearful way.

I challenge you, before you click “share” on anything, to ask yourself these questions:

How does reading this headline make me feel?

How does the content of this article make me feel?

What emotion is driving me to want to share this?

What am I feeling in my heart when I read this?

What am I feeling in my stomach when I read this?

If the answer to any of those questions is fear, anxiety, panic, worry, concern, anger, outrage, or some other negative emotion that is rooted in fear, I challenge you to pause and re-think sharing that information.

I would bet that, if a headline incites any of those emotions from you, that’s exactly what it was meant to do, because the person who wrote it knew that you would be more likely to share it.

There are two sides to every story, even the stories playing out right now. People can and do latch onto the most fearful aspects of that story in order to push their own beliefs and agendas–whether or not it’s well meaning!

Some people want to sound an alarm because they are worried that something bad will happen, so they write an article, or record a YouTube video, and tell you all of the bad things that COULD happen because of X,Y, Z. And then people who read that article become worried that very thing could happen, and they share that article or video. The operative word there is “could.” Because it has not happened, and in many instances, there are measures being taken to ensure that it doesn’t, which were conveniently left out of the video or the post, because the purpose of the post wasn’t to actually inform you in a balanced, rational way, it was meant to incite you to action out of fear for the future, and presenting solutions does not help that cause.

We all have a choice in what kind of energy we lend to the situation at hand, and I challenge you to examine yours each and every time you make a Facebook post.

Look back at the things you’ve shared so far and ask yourself the same questions. Then look to see if there is a common theme in the answers. This will give you a very good idea of what type of energy you are living in and operating from right now.

I’ve written before about how the media uses your emotional triggers to further political agendas. This is exactly how people are being manipulated right now. And no, I’m not necessarily or only talking about the media making coronavirus sound scarier than it is, I’m also talking about wide-spread conspiracy theories that are telling you that we’re going to end up in a totalitarian society after this. This is also a fear-based message, it’s just on the other side of the coin. Fear is fear, no matter what color dress you choose to put on it. And reacting from fear is a choice.

This pandemic is real. This pandemic should be taken seriously and not dismissed. But instead of bickering about what we are afraid will happen next, we should see this as an opportunity to evaluate all of the broken systems that have been unveiled through it. We should also be working together and asking ourselves what we can do to help one another while we strive to weather this storm. Spreading fear–however well-intended–is not helpful when it’s all we are surrounded with.

I challenge you to be a light of hope in a time of uncertainty instead of a harbinger of doom.

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

For whatever reason, the Universe has seen fit to make me a magnet for for the highly traumatized and downtrodden. Astrology tells me it’s my 29th degree moon in Cancer. Other intuitives tell me it’s because I’m a healer. Broken people are attracted to my energy like moths to a flame – drug addicts, sex addicts, narcissists, schizophrenics, borderlines, depressives, stage five clingers, and anyone who just needs a fucking hug (and I don’t even like hugs. Don’t touch me unless you’ve known me for at least six months).

While many of these scenarios have played out on multiple occasions, the one that seems to recur most frequently is me having a one-on-one with someone contemplating ending it all. A couple of weekends ago, I once again found myself in the suicide boat, attempting to convince an acquaintance from college not to jump overboard. By now, I’ve got a pretty good handle on the situation, I think.

I have experienced depression, but not to the depth that those who have considered or attempted suicide have. Being an empath, however, I do understand, with cold clarity, the kind of soul sucking hopelessness that often accompanies it. I understand, from personal experience, how we become trapped in our own thoughts, unable to see the way out. I understand how, in the right moment, when those two elements occur at the same time, taking your own life seems like the best and only solution.

I am and have been deeply connected to people who have and still do battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. Some of them have lost that battle. Some of them have managed to hang on, if even by pure accident. And for the ones who have, I’m glad you’re still here, and I love you. Even if we don’t speak often, or at all anymore, due to circumstances beyond my control.

I did a mental inventory a couple of months ago of all the people in my life over the years who had been clinically depressed and/or suicidal. Thirteen. Four of them were people I was romantically involved with to some degree.

There was Tim, a guy I knew from high school and briefly dated in college. We stayed good friends afterward. He dropped out of school temporarily after being diagnosed with depression.

There was my first love, who would never admit it and I was too young to recognize it, but it was most likely a contributing factor to the train wreck of a four year fucked up off-and-on non-relationship we had, which, coupled with psychological abuse, completely obliterated my self-esteem, led to my first depressive episode and brought me to the edge of an eating disorder, but those are much longer stories for another day.

There was Sean, who I also dated briefly in college and through a bizarre twist of fate, ended up being roommates with my first boyfriend from high school. He killed himself a couple of years later. I went to his funeral. It was hard, not just because of him, but because of all of the different friends we had in common. Collective grieving is an interesting experience. (Funny side story- I actually met a girl after I moved here that knew him. All these years later and he still mysteriously somehow knows everyone I know, even halfway across the country.)

One of my close friends from back in St. Louis tried to kill herself five times. I practically had to kick down her front door to get her to engage with human contact again after the last one.

There was a kid from back home about seven years younger than me. He tried to overdose on prescription pills when he was in high school. We talked about it after the fact.

There was a guy I knew from a Facebook group I used to manage, who I was texting during his first two attempts.

This isn’t all of them, but you get the picture. The list is long. Too long.

When Sean died, I saw how devastated his family was at his funeral. That angered me. At the time, I thought it was a selfish act. Years have gone by and I’ve been more thoroughly exposed to the internal struggles of people close to me who suffer from depression, and I now have a better perspective. I don’t begrudge anyone for feeling so much pain that they simply want relief from it. It’s not my place to judge you. Your choices are your own. You have sovereignty over your own body, your own life, and I can understand how ending your life may feel like the only way you can gain any semblance of control.

For those considering jumping overboard…

I don’t believe that depression and anxiety are something that just happens for no reason, and I also don’t believe that it’s a life sentence. I don’t believe that people have to be medicated for the rest of their days to simply cope with it, and I don’t believe that “it’s just the way it is.”

There’s no shame in how you feel, but there is hope. I believe in hope. I believe that there IS hope. Even when you can’t see it. And it’s my hope that you’ll be able to find it, in your darkest moments and the depths of your suffering. We were not made for that.

It is my hope that when you can’t find hope for yourself, when you can’t see the light, that you’ll reach out to someone who can show it to you. Someone who can lead you out of your darkness. Always remember that it’s temporary. No matter how frequently it comes or how long it lasts, it’s still only temporary. And with hope and help, it can become fewer and further in between, and the moments of joy, more frequent.

I don’t like the word “cured.” I do like the word “healed.” To be cured from something suggests that it had power over you and you needed an external antidote to save you. To be healed suggests, to me, that you’ve had the power all along. And I do believe that depression stems from unhealed trauma. Sometimes that trauma is so great and so multi-faceted that it’s overwhelming to even think about healing. Where the fuck do you even begin?

Depression, along with many other mental illnesses, are less a disease of body, and more a dis-ease of the soul.

It takes time to heal. It takes courage to push through and commit to continuing to heal. And it takes even more courage to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t know how. Sometimes we test the waters with vague statements, just to get a sense of how it will be received, and when it doesn’t feel safe, we withdraw. Sometimes the people we want to approach for help aren’t equipped to do so – even some professionals.

One of the most difficult things for anyone suffering from this, in my experience, is how alone you feel, especially when the people around you can’t relate, and aren’t able to help you. You feel like a burden when you find someone you CAN lean on, because leaning on them makes you feel safe, but a single person can’t bear the weight for both of you. That’s why having a support network is so important. A group of people who are able to provide a safety net for you is so much stronger than a single individual, to give you connection during the times when you feel the most disconnected.

And the key IS to connect. Connect with someone who loves you and let them do that. Let them love you. Let yourself receive it. Let it lead you out of your darker moments. Let it help you hold on, just until tomorrow, because tomorrow can make all the difference.

For those of you holding the life preserver…

If I’ve learned anything from these situations, it’s that you cannot make yourself solely responsible for another person’s well being. And it isn’t fair to you for them to make you solely responsible, either.

Your name is not Jesus. You’re not a savior. They cannot and should not carry the weight of this alone, but neither should you. No matter how much you love them, their healing is, ultimately, their responsibility. You’re job is first, to simply hold space.

What does it mean to hold space?

It means to offer a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Validate emotions. Listen. Be receptive. Be supportive (being supportive does not equate to fixing things). Let them know that they don’t have to be alone, if they choose it.

Secondly, your job is to help them find more support, preferably from a professional, and perhaps other friends and family.

Most importantly: maintain boundaries. Know where your responsibility ends and theirs begins. This is a collaboration.

For those of you who find yourself being “the” person, if YOU need support (and believe me, sometimes you do), or guidance about what to do, I’m happy to lend an ear and some advice.

Everyone… take care of yourselves.

Grief, Interrupted

Grief, Interrupted

Grief, Interrupted

I‘ve mentioned a few times over the course of the last six months that all of the stress I went through did quite the number on my body and my health. The first sign of what was to come manifested itself in January of 2016 as a light, annoying cough that wouldn’t go away. About a month later, it was compounded by the respiratory flu. By March, I had coughed so hard and so frequently that I bruised a rib. It finally subsided in April.

In November of the same year, I caught a cold (in addition to the stomach flu), which then settled into yet another cough that didn’t dissipate until June of the following year.

Both times, I went to the doctor. They pumped me full of anti-biotics and steroids, and nothing changed. Eventually they diagnosed me with “asthma” because they needed to call it something in order to give me an inhaler, which also did nothing.

This year, as of April, said cough has returned. I’ve been kind to myself over the past six months. I’m under very little stress now, I’ve recovered from my adrenal fatigue, and I’m actively purging stagnant emotional energies.

Traditional energy healing ties coughing to the throat chakra, but I’ve felt this is more of a lung/heart-chakra issue, and yet no matter how many things I’ve purged from my heart center, it persists.

I finally decided to try acupuncture. I met an acupuncturist who lives in my neighborhood when I first moved here, so I pulled up her website to book an appointment, and at that moment, a coworker walked into my office and enquired about my cough. When I explained the circumstances, he immediately said, “Acupuncture. Everybody says it works.” There was my sign.

I had my appointment this past week, and while explaining to her the situational stress I was involved in over the course of the last three years as this cough has arisen, she mentioned to me that in Chinese medicine, the emotion tied to the lungs is grief. If you’ll recall my last post, I processed a past-life soul fragment that was heavy with grief. So heavy that I had to skip work the next day!

As I’ve reflected on my consultation and how grief and loss ties in as a trigger for the coughing, I had a realization.

I’ve talked a bit about my dad in previous posts and most of you know that we’re no longer on speaking terms, and I’ve talked a bit about the circumstances leading up to that, but I haven’t done so in great detail.

2016 was the year that everything fell apart. It had to, of course, because it was leading me somewhere, but it wasn’t pleasant. It was not easy. There was a moment in 2016 when I thought, “I would feel so much better if I could just die.” I experienced a prolific level of grief and loss that year in a very short period of time. I lost my closest friend. Two weeks later, my cat Jordan – my shadow, my fur baby – passed away. And then a month and a half after that, my grandmother passed away. The first loss brought me to my knees. The second had me on the ground. The third was like being beaten bloody with a baseball bat while I was down. With each new gut wrenching loss, I thought, “How much more can I take?”

And then came my grandmother’s funeral.

I have to be honest…my family could probably carry an entire season of Jerry Springer. After my parents divorced, my dad married my mom’s first cousin. Suffice to say, this caused some friction in the family, which came to a head at the funeral.

The grandmother that passed away was my dad’s mother. My grandparents from my mom’s side of the family attended the funeral and so did my mother. They’d known each other for 30 years, after all. My dad and his new wife (my mom’s first cousin whom I refer to as my step-monster) also attended said funeral. This would be my maternal grandmother’s niece. As entertaining as it would be to go into great detail, for brevity’s sake, let’s just say that crazy typically attracts crazy, so you can safely assume that as batshit and manipulative as my father is, it is also evident in his choice of partners.

After the funeral, everyone was invited to a luncheon at my grandparents’ former church, at which point, my new step-monster attacked her aunt (my grandmother) right in front of me — and our ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY. I literally had to step between her and my grandmother.

I was furious. I was already furious at her for a plethora of other reasons, the least of which involved her texting me from my dad’s phone, pretending to be him. I was furious at her for being the soul-sucking vortex of melodrama that she is. I was furious at her for being so self-centered and narcissistic that she had to make a spectacle of herself at my dead grandmother’s funeral. We were attempting to grieve the death of someone we loved and she made it about her in the most embarrassing way possible.

The fact that I was able to swallow my anger and keep my composure instead of grabbing her by the throat and choke slamming her in front of everyone (which is what I actually wanted to do) says a lot about my ability for self-control. It’s also why I’m REALLY FUCKING GOOD at repressing my emotions. And as I later told my father in the five page dissertation I wrote to him about the consequences of his inability to accept emotional responsibility for himself and his actions, “She’s lucky I didn’t do more than push her away. The last time someone put their hands on me like that, they went home with a black eye.”

My dad’s response to said letter? Three months of silence, followed by a text message denying half of it, dismissing the other half, and a staunch refusal to acknowledge my justifiable anger. Several months later in a conversation with my mother, he would deny having ever received a letter at all.

I remember, very vividly, laying in bed shortly after all of this went down and finally allowing myself to accept that my father was mentally ill. That acceptance triggered a series of realizations about various events throughout the past where I began to see that he had lied, manipulated, and used me as a means to an end. It was a shift in perspective that brought on an entirely new epiphany: the “dad” I thought I’d had all these years was a figment of my imagination. That, in and of itself, was yet another loss. A death, in it’s own way.

My realization after my acupuncture consultation was that the gravity of a single loss is hard enough. Having four losses of such magnitude within four months of each other is downright cataclysmic. My anger toward father and his wife’s behavior interrupted my grieving process.

The weight of all of the conflicting emotion was too much to handle, and I sought out a therapist. Said therapist was not a very good therapist and ended up doing more harm by attempting to push me into simply acceptance of who my father was without giving me the opportunity to process my anger, ultimately invalidating my emotions and refusing to acknowledge that he suffers from mental illness.

I get it…as a therapist, you don’t know the full story of where someone’s coming from and of course their perspective is just one perspective. But, as a therapist, you can’t really argue that a person who has out loud two-way conversations with “demons” in public places while speaking in tongues and is completely paranoid that armageddon is right around the corner isn’t somewhat touched. When David Koresh went down in flames, taking 75 other Branch Davidians with him, I’m certain that no therapist said, “Those are just his religious beliefs and you need to accept him for who he is.” Oh, and guess what? Daddy dearest has started his own church now…

I got a six month break before my next trauma hit, which was my divorce. I lived in a state of constant anxiety for six months leading up to my move, and the minute he told his family about it, I was completely cut out. Yet another devastating sense of loss that I could barely process for simply attempting to survive. I spent most of my energy my first five months in New York freaking out about how I was going to take care of myself, financially. I’d had my own business before but rebuilding it in a new state takes time and I only had enough money to last me through the end of November. Eventually I found a full time job and was able to breathe for a moment.

All of this grief, all of the loss… I haven’t had a chance to fully process any of it. My circuits had been overloaded with too much other shit until just now.  It’s been two and a half years, now, and I suppose that stagnant energy has settled into my body. Any time I experience a smaller scale loss, the cough returns.

I had a reading a couple of days later with Christian Bradley West, a new psychic friend I made on Instagram. He’s hilarious, by the way, and you should follow him if you’re on there, and me as well! Sure as shit, grief was a topic of discussion.

I don’t know, logically, how to move through this. I’m hoping that getting some of it moving within the physical body through acupuncture will trigger some releasing. What I do know is that I’m going on my third month of hacking and I’m seriously over it.

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