Does Women's Health Have Value? Published on HuffPost 4/13/2016

Imagine a society where the National Institute for Health devotes approximately 12.6 percent of its budget to study women’s health. Or, where the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations does not address the question of sex in clinical trials; there is no formal requirement that women make up a significant portion of a trial’s patient population or even participate at all. Imagine the audacity of a society discounting the importance of more than half its population’s health and wellbeing. I guess it’s not that hard to imagine... since it is just women.

Being a woman means being defined in a social construct as less than a man. We are valued less. We have fewer opportunities. We are expected to work harder to prove ourselves yet get paid less. We are sexualized and objectified as well as violated and assaulted with impunity. Systemically, we are raised to be deferential, desirable, and dependent while being expected to be the caretakers of familial systems. We are acculturated into a structure of dominance and suppression without knowing any differently, so we accept it, normalize it, and internalize it. Half of the human population is welcomed into the world suppressed and disempowered. In addition, the health care practices females receive have been predominantly shaped by the medical research based on men. Somehow, we have had the resiliency to survive.

As a social scientist, I have spent the past 30 years working with individuals, couples, families, and various corporations and organizations to facilitate paradigm shifts in consciousness and behavior. My intention is to support human flourishing with a multidimensional, whole systems approach. Consistently, I have witnessed that the major obstacle to embracing and integrating systemic change is the attachment to our conditioned gender norms and stereotypes. Bell Hooks, American author, feminist, and social activist, shares her experience, 

“Individual heterosexual women came to the movement from relationships where men were cruel, unkind, violent, unfaithful. Many of these men were radical thinkers who participated in movements for social justice, speaking out on behalf of the workers, the poor, speaking out on behalf of racial justice. However when it came to the issue of gender they were as sexist as their conservative cohorts.” 

This sexism, which has been disempowering women from birth, has been so tightly woven into to the fabric of society that fear and panic ensue at the mention of empowering women.

By definition, to empower is to make someone stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. Empowering women means shifting to an equality paradigm where women have the power and authority to make decisions of their own for their benefit as well as for society. We know that when a person has choice they can feel empowered. We also know that when a person has the right to live a life with a sense of self-worth, respect, and dignity as well as have complete control of their life, both within and outside of their home and workplace, they have the potential to flourish. We know this because men have had this opportunity for centuries and its been researched and documented. 

As health and wellbeing continue to be discussed in science, education, politics, and business, we must include the negative impact of sexism on a woman’s capacity to be healthy. Could we consider that women have different health issues, which need to be researched as vigorously as erectile dysfunction? Could we explore how empowering women transforms their health and wellbeing? Could we research how personal sovereignty, as a woman’s right, may not only improve women’s health but also the health of communities? What would science discover if it considered the inherent injustices in our social construct of gender and included it in medical research? Perhaps, we would discover that valuing women and their health benefits everyone and sustains humanity.

Cultivating Mindfulness

"Developing inner values is much like physical exercise. The more we train our abilities, the stronger they become. The difference is that, unlike the body, when it comes to training the mind, there is no limit to how far we can go." ~His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Having had the opportunity to be in several small gatherings with His Holiness and leading scientists discussing the theoretical evidence of contemplation, compassion, altruism and consciousness, I have been in awe of the impact of mindfulness on humanity. When each of us takes responsibility for being aware of our thoughts, feelings and motivations, we are empowered to change ourselves, which changes the world. Mindfulness creates the space for us to be in our bodies, in the present moment and aware of our consciousness. From this zone, we can choose not to project onto others, not to react to our triggers and to regulate our emotions. We can choose to live the life we want to live, the live we envision.

Mindfulness is easy to accomplish if you are willing to cultivate practices just as you would commit to the routines that keep you physically fit. Mindfulness practices are simple and fun. They are not religious and certainly not about Buddhism, as His Holiness frequently reminds us. They are about being aware of your awareness with neutrality, paying attention in the now without judgment. Meditation, which includes many forms, is one way of developing the muscle of mindfulness. There are many other simple practices that will shift you into mindfulness, which can become your automatic operating system, if you commit to the practice of developing that muscle or way of being.

What would you be like if you trained your brain to be mindful? What would life be like you were able to be aware and neutral as you engaged in the world?

Embracing Change

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." ~Leo Tolstoy

I appreciate how challenging and scary change is and how creative humans can be at resisting it. Understandably, change requires letting go into the unknown and not being in control. And yet, as hard as we try to stop or avoid change, it is constant and happening all around us. So much of human discomfort is caused by tenaciously holding on to the old and arguing against the new and unknown. We are masters at rationalizing, justifying, explaining and defending.

The first simple step in embracing change is to understand that we only have control over our attitude, choices and behavior. The only way we can change the world is by changing ourselves. Humans are designed and equipped to be adaptable and resilient. Unfortunately, as we develop, we are conditioned into a state of amnesia - forgetting our true nature. 

What if you lived this year with the intention of embracing change within and around you? What if you reclaimed your abilities to be adaptable and resilient by remaining true to yourself? What if you stopped rationalizing, justifying, explaining and defending yourself or others? What if you made space for the unknown? 

Being grounded, neutral and compassionate are key qualities in accepting and navigating change. They are the foundation of resiliency and adaptability. I am offering free guided imagery meditations to support you in grounding and strengthening your neutral observer. 

2012 - Transcending the Self

 

"For authentic transformation is not a matter of belief but of the death of the believer; not a matter of translating the world but of transforming the world; not a matter of finding solace but of finding infinity on the other side of death. The self is not made content; the self is made toast." ~Ken Wilbur

Happy New Year. The year ahead will offer opportunities for many to embrace authentic transformation. Being a year of deepening and expanding with a call for love and compassion to be leading forces within humanity, we will need to align our energy and consciousness with the wisdom of our hearts and release the beliefs that reinforce the separate self.

Remember, the electromagnetic field of the heart is at least seven times larger than the electromagnetic field of the brain. Therefore, we feel, intuit and know energy and information before we contaminate them with the conditioned belief systems used in our thinking. Thinking is important to sort, analyze and conceptualize data but please don't ever confuse it with wisdom. Wisdom comes from the mind of the heart, which is paradoxical (both/and), unlike the brain, which is dualistic (either/or).

Trusting the heart and the wisdom of the heart is challenging in a culture where the thoughts of the brain dominate us and others by justifying, defending, rationalizing and explaining. Our hearts, full of love and compassion, will lead us through the terror of authentic transformation to the infinite oneness contained within our souls, not found in our egos, identities and separateness. May you have the courage to question your legitimacy, your translations, and shatter the self.

"And therefore, all of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart--perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakeable public example--but authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you." ~Ken Wilbur

Please click on the link below to read more of Ken's inspiring words. As you contemplate your intentions for the new year, what are you willing to let die? What is your shout from the heart?

A Spirituality that Transforms by Ken Wilbur

Tuning Up with Your Song

November 11, 2011 is a day of opening and may be volcanic for some. November 10th is a full moon - fullness, expansion, completeness. Astrologically, the energy of our warrior will oppose our spiritual energies and our wounded healer. It is an exciting opportunity for us to expand and welcome nurturing energies to stretch us beyond our self-limiting ways. The cosmic energies will support us in healing our soul bruises by reclaiming our soul songs - our unique individual vibrations. Please take a moment today to connect with your soul's nature at your very core and sing your song, or make your sound.

As we embrace the emergence of interdependence and interconnectedness on the planet, we are called to bring the gift of our soul song through our bodies to impact the world. To fully embody your soul song, the heart center needs to expand. Please see below for a simple exercise.

For many, expanding the heart center means facing our loneliness. It takes courage, commitment and vulnerability. There is a well written article, which I linked in the upper left box, in today's Huffington Post.

Heart Expansion Exercise:
 Start by imaging your heart center, sternum, being gently pulled up toward the sky. Allow your chest to be lifted and your shoulders to open wider and drop. Naturally, your upper back will straighten and you may feel a pull across your chest. Notice any resistance in your body. Take a few deep, centering breaths and focus your attention on your heart center. Imagine gently breathing in and out of your heart center. Allow any feelings or sensations to come and just observe with neutrality. Now, allow yourself to remember a time of great joy or happiness. Using your mind's eye, see your self there, at that time. Experience it as if it is happening now and let all the joy into your heart. Revel in the memory and allow the joy to fill your body. Notice what happens to your heart center. Notice what happens in your body. Notice how you feel. Surrender to the joy and sing or make your sounds. Vibrate with your unique sound. Enjoy.

 

Trip to the Dalai Lamas' Residence in Dharamsala

The dialogue was entitled Ecology, Ethics and Interdependence. As a social scientist and mystic, I enjoy the opportunity to blend my worlds and discover scientific evidence that supports so much of what of I have been teaching and facilitating over the years. Consciousness has the potential to expand beyond what our brains can conceptualize. Perhaps with a better scientific understanding of the mind and conditioning, humans will overcome their resistance, rationalizations and attachments.
 
I am aware that since change is constant, truth changes and so does scientific evidence. So to thrive as humans, it is to our advantage to be adaptable and aware. Since our attention is limited, we need to be aware of our focus, of how we make decisions and of how we create change.  

During the Dialogue, we explored the overwhelming evidence of climate change and the human footprint. As humans, our attention is limited so what do we focus on? How do we make decisions? Do we use our heads, hearts or both? What is the conceptual framework for change? Can you start to consider your handprint or even your mindprint? If we are interested in alleviating suffering on the planet, where do we begin? 

Of course, we start with ourselves. We take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, actions and impact. We are capable of being aware of what we think, feel and do and what the outcomes of our choices are. As humans, we have the capacity to strengthen our neutral observer and compassionately pay attention to how we live our lives and to what we are manifesting. We have the ability to change our patterns, beliefs and behaviors once we know what they are. Since we don't know what we don't know, it is our responsibility to be willing to keep exploring and discovering new ways of being and doing. Remember, change is constant so we need to change too.

The Dalai Lama spoke of losing his freedom when he was 15 years old and his country when he was 24. For a moment, consider how he has adapted to those loses and the impact he has had on the world as a result. He is a great teacher of compassion, kindness and resilience. 

Awareness Exercise: Take a few deep, centering breaths and allow your awareness to pay attention to where you may be feeling frustrated, powerless or like a victim. With your neutral observer, detach and review the situation. What choices do you have? What is your part in giving up your power or allowing yourself to be a victim? Keep breathing and allow your higher self or consciousness to show you new possibilities or new ways of being in the situation. The only thing you can change is you and how you respond to the situation. If nothing comes, ask for the willingness to know and to change. Ask a trusted person for their suggestions on how to do it differently. It is OK to ask for help. If you decide there is another way for you to engage, be aware of your willingness and courage to try something new and see what happens. Be aware of your resistance to change, of your comfort in the old familiar pattern and of your attachment to drama. Find your self-compassion and breathe into it. You are capable of letting go of what no longer serves you and finding new ways of being. Humanity thanks you. 

First Noble Truth of Buddhism

Before I summarize my experience in Dharamsala, I want to repeat what His Holiness the Dalai Lama consistently articulates: "The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is to alleviate suffering." I am not a Buddhist, nor is my involvement with the Mind and Life Institute and His Holiness about Buddhism. I am passionate about alleviating suffering, our own and others, as well as raising human consciousness which requires a state of awareness achieved through mindfulness and our neutral observer. I have been blessed over the past couple years to participate in several dialogues between the Dalai Lama and a variety of scientists regarding brain activity, states of consciousness and a variety of human conditions. The scientists provide the theoretical evidence for discussion. People like myself (practitioners, change agents, activists, leaders) apply the science to our work in creating sustainable change within individuals, organizations, communities and humanity. We are taking the scientific experience out of the lab and into the world, discovering what actually works and what doesn't in reality.

 

Shifting Paradigms

Many have been asking about all the speculation regarding 2012. Of course, we won't know what, if anything, will change until we are in that moment. What we do know from our cosmology is that the Sun and Galactic Center will align for the first time in 26,000 years. The Galactic Center is in the center of the Milky Way. Also, there is speculation that the alignment will occur on October 28, 2011 not December 21, 2012. Regardless of the exact timing, we can hold the intention of shifting paradigms.

I sense that we have a period of time in this galactic alignment to welcome cosmic consciousness and the creation cycle through our hearts and transcend our limited beliefs. I am a committed Soul that continues to challenge social consciousness so that false and limited structures give place to the experience of service and love in the world. 

This transformative time may be described as follows:
Veils are dissolving.
New ways are being birthed.
Consciousness is expanding.
Divine Feminine is being embodied.
Presence needs to be grounded.
Heart frequencies of self, planet and cosmos are aligning.

We can choose to become self-responsible, intentional and aligned with our truth and use the cosmic energies to fulfill our divine purposes. If you are uncertain or unclear, now would be a good time to gain understanding and direction from the cosmos through a personal analysis of your Multidimensional Human Design 

 

Push Play

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  ~Mary Oliver 

So many people ask, why am I here? What is my purpose? I hear it asked over and over with such heartache. Having asked myself those questions many years ago, I understand. As a social scientist, I live and love in those questions. I am compelled to see the big picture, to notice the systems in which we navigate and to embrace the dance of life. As I've pondered these questions, personally and professionally, I realize I'm just curious and have learned to let go of any attachment to an answer or an outcome. 

I notice human beings' tenacious hunger to have answers to those two big questions (as well as others) yet I observe their relentless unwillingness to step outside their comfort zones to uncover the possibilities.  They ask the questions while thinking they can control the answers, avoiding the need to push the play button. The play button starts your one wild and precious life. Having the courage to push the play button means your small, conditioned self is no longer in control and the mysteries of who you are and why you're here can be revealed.

As most of us are born into the lives of our parents or caregivers, we quickly learn the rules of their game in order to survive. Through trial and error, we learn what is expected, what is acceptable, what has value and what beliefs are 'right'. If we venture outside of that framework, we are corrected one way or another. Resistance, dissent and disobedience are rarely tolerated. We become conditioned human beings, just as our parents were, finding ways to manipulate the system, losing more and more of our essential self.  

For many of us, there is no concept of a play button. We are just thrown into the pre-recorded movie reel. The projector is humming in the background with our conditioned life unfolding before us as if we are on autopilot, with someone or something else in charge. Do we really have any choice? If we attempt to exercise that choice outside of the conditioned framework, we are met with disapproval or even punishment. We wonder what if... and then pull ourselves back together. We must fit in, we must be liked, we must fall into line... No wonder we don't know there is a play button for us to push.

Of course, for some life becomes about resistance, defiance and revenge. They must rebel against the conditioning, frameworks and systems in order to have any sense of self. They completely lose their essential self to the game of making everything into which they were born wrong. Since there is no play button available to them, they must push the reject button. 

For some, like myself, curiosity has been my main lifeline. I have come to discover that very few people approach life with curiosity as I do. They are content with what is told to them, with falling into line and with making everyone else who sees differently, wrong. They want to know the rules and follow them. It allows for some sense of security or control. If they can strategize and maneuver in their conditioned world, it gives them some sense of accomplishment. They're saying, "This is my box, please let me stay in it, I know how to survive, it is comfortable and familiar and I'm too afraid to take risks." In fact, they believe they will be completely alone and die outside the box. Even when some venture out of the box, they take all their preconceived notions and apply them to the world outside, not allowing for the new and different to be revealed. I understand. It is a basic human need to feel safe, secure and stable, to belong. However, they pay a huge price for their fear and ignorance: loss of the essential self and an inability to discover the mysteries of the questions. They lose the essential human experience of transforming from surviving to thriving. 

In the search for answers, there are two important universal truths that cannot be ignored. First, change is constant -  there is no stasis. Second, we don't know what we don't know. 

What I have discovered with curiosity as my rudder is that change is easier when you accept it rather than resist it and refusing to know more keeps us small. How does not knowing serve anyone or anything, most of all yourself? I've also learned that knowing there is a play button and taking the risk to push it is the courageous action of the heart, not the head. It is risky pushing play and letting your heart be your guide - you take full responsibility for your life and there's no one to blame. In addition, the heart is not rational, you can't make sense of it or figure it out. Your head fights hard against your heart with doubt, self-loathing and fear of rejection. When you choose against the wisdom of your heart, your sacred play button, you discover an amazing human ability to rationalize, justify and explain away your authenticity. As author Sue Monk Kidd has described it, "It was easier and simpler to please the culture and the family that shaped me than to uncover and tell my own truth." 

For many, it is easiest to stay in the movie of the culture and family that conditioned you rather than push your own play button and discover your own truth. However, the world needs your truth, your gifts, your uniqueness. 

So go ahead, push the play button. You have nothing to lose and everything, including your essential self, to gain. You will have to leave some people, places and beliefs behind. As you let go, the abundance of the new will be more than your small self could ever imagine.  

You must learn one thing.

The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds

except the one to which you belong. ~David Whyte 

Copyright Maureen Pelton 2011