Here's a powerful poem by Rob Brezny that is so appropriate to the times we are in right now.
My commentary on this poem is below the video. Click on the video to hear it.
Why I Relate So Much to "Painful Blessings"
When one first hears the term “painful blessings” one may be confused, thinking, “how is this possible that blessings can come from pain?” Is not a blessing something positive?” This is true, but upon examining my life and the lives of some others, I see it is often the case that something considered negative can produce something positive.
I knew a woman who was in two physically abusive relationships. She had the courage to leave these relationships and through counselling and coaching, regained her strength and self-esteem. She now helps other women exit from similar relationships.
I knew a man who after a failed marriage and business ended up on the street addicted to opioids and just about died. With a lot help through municipal social programs and counselling, he was able to recover and go back to college and is now working as an addiction’s counsellor.
These are examples of how a terrible suffering, when overcome, can become a mission in a person’s life. Not only is the suffering a blessing to oneself, but it is also a blessing to others who are experiencing a similar pain. It can turn into a deep calling, which gives meaning and purpose to life that previously lacked these.
The poem also refers to the concept of “waking up” which he suggests is a turnaround in a person’s life, when the person painfully sees the “illusion” of their path and actions in life. They see the stark destructive reality of the way their life actually is and decide to turn things around and move in a positive direction.
He applies this individual phenomenon of “waking-up” to us collectively, suggesting that we are waking up to the painful reality of “the masters of illusion and destruction…and their wars and tortures, their devils and borders, extinctions of species and brand-new diseases…”
When we look to the world it is not very hard to see what he is addressing. We have decades of examples:
- The tobacco industry denying cancer and heart disease caused by cigarette smoking
- The Catholic Church hiding the sexual abuse of young children by celibate priests
- The oil Industry knowing for 20 years its contribution to climate change of the burning of fossil fuels and actively denying it
- The financial industry selling sub-prime mortgages knowing full well they were unsound
- The pharmaceutical companies promoting the use of opiate drugs like oxycontin completely cognizant of their high addictiveness
- The agriculture industry (GMO) promoting the use of glyphosate on GMO plants and hiding their research of its cancer causing effects
- Mining companies burying toxic mercury on or close to indigenous reserves and not disclosing this.
I am sure you can find many other examples of this. It is very clear that we have been lied to for many years by these big organizations and corporations. The poet refers to them as “well-dressed monsters”, in other words individuals or corporations that look respectable but in fact are predatory.
The New Corporations
This aspect of these corporations is being starkly revealed in the New York Times best seller book “Winners Take All” by Anand Giridharadas and the recent documentary called “The New Corporation” that exposes the new strategy of the super-rich to rebrand themselves as good Samaritans, solving the world problems (which they in their business practices have created) all the while secretly accumulating more and more wealth and power.
The bad news is the painful recognition that the rich continue to get richer and the poor get poorer. The reality is the main purpose is of a corporation is to make a profit, even if it means harming others, killing species and harming the planet.
Some may say that we should not be blaming these individuals. Partly the problem may be that we may not understand what blame really is. The dictionary defines blame as: “to assign responsibility for a fault or wrong”. So, using this definition, in the case of sexual abuse by a priest, who is to blame if a priest convinces parents that their daughter should be sent to him for religious education and then he sexually abuses her. Blame in this case, is fully on the priest.
However, if the daughter told her parents what was happening, and they kept sending her to the priest they would be colluding in this deception and they would be partly responsible. So, the difference here is one of awareness.
If a person is told by a pharmaceutical company that an opiate is non-addictive and the company knows it is addictive and the person gets addicted and commits suicide, I would suggest the pharmaceutical company is to be held responsible or blameworthy.
And this is an example of a “Painful Blessing” that has actually occurred, where “key players in the nations opioid industry contributed over 65 million dollars since 1997” to non-profits to advocate the use of opioids even as the toll of addictions to the drug, grew. (Kitchener/Waterloo Record Dec 16, B3)
So, as we venture forth into the new year, there may be more and more painful recognitions that may be hard to see, acknowledging with unbelievable surprise the secretive tactics that certain “philanthro-capitalists” have been engaged in and the extent to which they have inflicted pain on others to accumulate more wealth and power.
The Power to Change the World
The good news according to the poet is that we are waking up to this, seeing beyond the “veil” of illusion and acknowledging that we have the power to change the world.
He suggests that this power, is more than physical, it could be a spiritual power, that is, a universal power of life and love, not based on self-interest like the “well-dressed monsters” but based on freedom, compassion, and justice. This power is even more profound when we embrace the perspective of “Pronoia” which to him means that “life is a conspiracy to liberate you from ignorance”.
In spite of the fact that there has been great suffering, we can use the suffering to wake up to what has caused our pain, gain wisdom and from that wisdom work towards creating the kind of world we want. It is a positive approach, akin to what an elderly friend once told me. “There’s nothing so bad it ain’t good for something”
We are seeing this now in the world with the death of George Floyd stimulating the Black Lives Matter movement, the election of politicians in the US promoting a fair minimum wage and the Green New Deal.
I love this poem because I see some of the pain I have personally experienced is now the source of great wisdom and I now see the concept of “Painful Blessings” occurring in the world.
This may not be the time of Revelations as described in the bible, but it may be the time of the great “Revealing”. Gloria Steinem once said “Know ye the truth and the truth will set you free, but first of all it will really piss you off”.
I see this as the challenge right now.
It is the challenge of being open to investigating and seeing what is really going on in the world, sorting truth from fiction, taking positive optimistic action, and avoiding being too consumed with anger while staying in touch with the love that life has for us and we have for it.
We can turn around and create a brand-new world.
Years ago, in my late 30’s, I worked in commission sales.
It was not in my temperament to be a salesman and consequently I hated my job. I did it only to make money to support my family. After 7 years in the business, I got to the point where every time I tried to make a cold call, the phone felt like a heavy brick. I could hardly pick it up.
For months, in the morning, I could barely get out of bed, feeling trapped. One particularly difficult morning I decided to stay in bed. But instead of wallowing in despair, I decided to investigate the state I was in. I got curious
What was really going on here?
I let myself feel all the emotions of sadness, defeat, and hopelessness, but also tried to isolate what really was going on underneath the state I was in. After about two hours of just sitting in the morass of feeling and asking “What is the truth of this state?”, it suddenly dawned on me that underneath this condition was the thought “I will never get what I want”.
I felt a slight lift in the heaviness when I hit that insight. I got even more curious and asked, “How do I know this thought is always true?”
Then I noticed the obvious.
There I was at the beginning of the day deciding I will never get what I want, and the day was not over yet. This did not make any logical sense.
I noticed two outstanding words “never” and “always”.
These were ultimate words describing a condition that was forever. So, I asked myself, “Is it always true that I will never get what I want?” It immediately became clear that this belief was not forever.
As I looked at my life, I recalled that many times I had worked hard and achieved what I wanted and there were times I did not. The reality was that sometimes I got what I wanted, and sometimes I did not.
With that understanding suddenly I felt a lifting of the heavy state I was in, eclipsed by a new glimpse of optimism. I began to feel I could get what I wanted even though it could take time and I did not know how.
My life changed in that instant.
I decided to take a few clients in my coaching/clearing practice in my spare time, and six months later out of the blue, I was invited to work at a treatment centre and train as an addictions counsellor. It was work that I my soul yearned for.
An Exploration to Try
I tell this story l to inspire folks who feel stuck in a dark place in life. If this is the case for you, here’s a summary of an exploration to try.
- Let yourself feel the state of hopelessness you are in Ask yourself: “What must I believe to experience this?”
- Inquire: “Is this thought always true?” or “Will I never achieve this goal?”
- Look at exceptions to the inevitability of the belief. “Were there times when this belief was not true?” Find some examples.
- Ask yourself “What is actually true?” and replace “never” and “always” in the statement of the belief, with “sometimes” and see how this feels.
- Find a few beliefs that are more realistic. E.g. “Sometimes I fail to get what I want, but when I fail I will learn what didn’t work, and use this awareness to refocus my direction to get what I want”
- When you feel a shift into a more optimistic state, it is a positive indicator that you are moving in the right direction.
Be patient and observe the change occurring in your circumstances. Opportunities you never planned, may come your way. Take advantage of them. In many ways, outer circumstances reflect inner beliefs.
Be You To Fullness
Decades ago, Louise L Hay wrote a best-selling book called, You Can Heal Your Life, on using affirmations to improve your life. She had specific positive statements to relieve almost every mental. emotional and physical condition. Admittedly the book has helped lots of people to take a more positive approach to personal challenges. It has assisted millions of people but its promise for a cure-all panacea has fallen short.
For some these affirmations have worked remarkably well and for others they have not. Why is this?
Conceive - Believe - Achieve
Well here is my take on why sometimes affirmations do not work. Let me refer to one of the first bibles of success psychology Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. He proposes a simple mantra for attainment: “What you can conceive and can believe you can achieve”. In other words, if you have a well-defined goal and are confident you can attain it then you can reach it.
Examining this statement is the key to where our use of affirmations can breakdown. If a person has a clear goal and articulates it in the form of an affirmation, for example “I have a new job in a small wonderful advertising firm where I am fulfilled and financially prosperous by January 2021” and they repeat this over and over again, they have taken the right first step. But then for some reason the opposite happens. They get fired from their old job, must give up their apartment and live with their parents.
The good luck they were hoping for turns to bad. They take the defeat personally and berate themselves concluding there is something wrong with themselves because they could not get the affirmations to work when they read about so many success stories in the book.
What has happened here?
There is a breakdown in the second step. In their hopeless situation of a terrible job, they were affirming a goal they did not consciously believe they could achieve. Their subconscious mind, which responds more to feeling, felt the opposite (I cannot get what I want). As a result, the negative belief is what got enhanced and the situation that was attracted was consistent with the negative subconscious belief.
Lack of belief was the problem.
If that is the case, what is the solution?
There are two solutions to this:
Create an affirmation you can believe in by thinking of an intermediate goal that you know you can accomplish, that moves you towards the larger goal. Then affirm that, for example: “By the end of this week, I have made an appointment with a career counsellor.”
When you have reached that goal, then create another goal for your next step. As you experience success achieving the smaller goals you will develop a belief that you can reach the larger goal. Then you can start affirming the larger goal.
On a file card write this affirmation and fill in the blanks: “I am finding my way to _____________ (insert larger goal) by ____________(date). Say this over and over to yourself several times a day.
This a great affirmation because almost anyone can believe they are finding their way and it can be applied to any goal. It is universal.
Then when situations or people in your life appear to help you or give direction, explore the possibilities. You will find that the path to your goal starts to open up and as a result you will develop more confidence that you can achieve your desires.
I have used this statement many times for many years and it has helped get me through the darkest times of my life. It is an amazingly simple technique and magical in its effectiveness. (The good thing is you don’t need to buy a whole book of affirmations.)
Try these out and see how they work.
This is a basic understanding of how to get affirmations to work.
If you are interested in learning to more effectively apply these techniques come to the ClearMind - PureHeart meditation retreat at the Ecology Retreat Centre.
In addition you will learn powerful meditation skills that will supercharge your ability to create what you want in your life. Sound like a good thing?
Check out the information at: CLEAR/MIND - PURE/HEART
Be you to fullness
In May of 2020, I celebrated my 70th birthday.
It was a puzzling experience. I never knew what I was supposed to be like when I turned 70. When I was in my 20’s I considered a 70-year-old, as an “old foggie” not with it, decrepit and behind the times.
Yet now that I am 70, I probably feel much more aware, worldly, and astute then I was at 20. Oddly, I still feel young inside, in fact not much older than 40 except when I gaze in the mirror and gasp “who the hell is that” thinking that aliens have replaced my body with a wrinkly one with chicken neck, when I had my “beauty sleep”.
But the reality is that turning 70 was a milestone. I am grateful to have arrived here and still be alive, maybe with less hair on my head, but with a lot more sober wisdom.
However, for some my age, I have observed that the milestone is more like a millstone. It is as if the heavy weight of life experience is hanging around their necks, dragging behind as they walk. I see some stooped over weighted-down, with a deep chiseled facial scowl exuding an attitude of cold hard criticalness, angrily holding onto that milestone unable to let it go.
To be honest I even see younger folks in this same state – the state of persistent bitterness about life.
And you know what, I completely understand how this can happen. Life is certainly not easy. It is a darn hard struggle, often full of suffering, pain, disappointment, and trauma. I must confess I too have spent my time in this prison, cursing god for inventing this ridiculous thing called life. It is the biggest who wants it energy drain product around.
So, it is understandable some of us get so bitter.
Why We Become Bitter
I was pondering this condition, the other day in a self-inquiry process (that is part of my Circle of True Friends support group for people that have done my workshops) and an important insight suddenly dawned on me:
“People become bitter when they don’t realize what they have gained from difficult experiences”.
This really hit me as being true but I wasn’t sure, so I thought I’d test this out.
I began to examine some of my tribulations in life, asking myself what I possibly gained from them. I saw that:
- I got involved with a certain individual because I did not follow my intuition and now, I have learned to listen to that still small voice within.
- When I went through that dark night of the soul, I gained the ability to find the strength and resilience in myself. Now that inner strength helps me more easily get through any difficulty in the future.
- I came to hate a sales job so that I could get really clear on what I did not want to do so that when my true calling appeared, I could recognize it.
- When a person hurt me, instead of collapsing, I learned to get up off the ground and say, “no more”. Now I can speak my truth with a solid voice with less fear.
- When I said a hurtful comment to someone and they were hurt, I understood how important it is not to respond in reactivity but to consider my words carefully and compassionately before I speak. I now treat people better (and consequently they treat me better).
Remarkably, when I viewed my suffering asking “what did I gain from this” I noticed a shift.
The bitterness related to those experiences and people dissipated and magically morphed into gratefulness.
As this happened, I was reminded of an insight someone shared on one of my workshops. “Life is like school only we get the test first and then the lesson”. Such a great piece of wisdom.
I do not know about you, but I think when we experience pain and do not see the lesson that is when we get bitter. The pain lingers in experience and the experience is not complete until we recognize the gain from the pain.
When we do, an integration occurs: that which we feel has brought us down paradoxically, lifts us up. We become wiser and improve our ability to live in life. We find meaning in our hardships.
Neat stuff eh? Who was it again that invented this thing called life?
So, I guess the next time I look in the mirror, feeling a bit bitter about whoever/whatever, I am going to thank every one of those wrinkles that have come from my suffering, for the gifts they have given me. I will take off that millstone to grind up the sharp stones on my path into some nice smooth sand.
Be you to fullness
I had a dream where I pretended to be
Mr Potato Head with all his accessories.
I was given in happiness to a family
But joy soon turned to tragedy.
Their mischievous children just played with my face
Leaving my features all over the place.
I just wanted to look pleasant but that didn’t work
Cause they were only laughing when I looked like a jerk.
I kept changing myself so I could be accepted
But no matter what I did, I wasn’t respected.
So it got to the point where there was nothing else
But to try to get back to being myself.
And it occurred to me that the self that I sought
Could only be found by letting go of what I’m not.
So I took off my feet and I couldn’t walk
Took off my mouth and I couldn't talk
Took off my ears and I couldn't hear
Took off my eyebrows and I couldn’t lear
Took off my nose and I couldn’t breathe
Took off my moustache and I couldn’t sneeze
Took off my eyes and I couldn’t view
Took off my arms and I couldn’t do
Took off my legs and I couldn’t kneel
And when I let go of my torso, suddenly... I felt more real.
I was surprised at myself that I was still there
With all of my parts strewn everywhere.
So I asked myself. “Now who am I?”
And out of the blue came a simple reply:
“The one I’m asking for, is the askee.
That one that is left, is just me being me!
And I jumped up and down full of glee,
Free of being anyone particularly
With the great mystery
Years ago I had a friend who used to say to me, whenever I complained about a difficulty in my life, “There’s nothing so bad it ain’t good for somethin”.
Apparently his grandfather used to say this to him. Whenever my friend would say this to me I could almost hear and visualize his grandfather with an old scraggly beard and a wrinkled face saying this with a crusty, cracking voice. Perhaps this is why the saying has been memorable.
So here we are in March 2020, in a global pandemic crisis. We don’t want to be in it and it’s bad. But is there anything in this, that is good for something? Is there something positive in this? Could this crisis be an opportunity... a tipping-point or a new growth that can happen in our lives or even globally?
I think this is a good question and there are a lot of good answers, that many people are coming up with. I’d like to suggest one.
I think it’s an opportunity for each one of us personally, to take control of our health.
If we look at our health care system, it’s easy to observe that it is a health system based on health crisis. Many people have a heart attack and go to the hospital for an operation, to replace an artery and then go back to leading the same life as before. Some people get depressed and are given an anti-depressant drug with very little examination of the situation in life that is causing the sadness. It is a system of providing relief rather than resolution. We are trained to look outside ourselves for the solution.
I sick…you fix.
Look what is happening even now. There is a global epidemic and who are we focusing on to solve it: the pharmaceutical companies.
We are quite rightly asked to isolate ourselves from others to reduce the spread of the virus. This may be a solution. Until when…maybe, until the drug companies come up with a vaccine? And of course they don’t mind this…they will make billions on this.
But it’s the same old paradigm. I sick… you fix. There is one thing that is missing in this whole crisis.
We have heard very little about what each one of us can do personally, to improve our immunity so that we can not only resist this virus but as a consequence, avoid passing it on to others.
Perhaps this crisis is an opportunity, to start taking more responsibility to get healthier and improve our immune system? We don’t have live in the old paradigm.
Here’s something to consider to get free from that trap. For decades the efficiency of Vitamin C as an anti-viral, through research by Linus Pauling has been widely known. If you want some verification of this check out:
If your are wanting to do more research on the subject of enhancing your immunity go to:
Here’s some recommendations they suggest, backed-up by research, from their website:
“The physicians of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service and the International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine urge a nutrient-based method to prevent or minimize symptoms for future viral infection. The following inexpensive supplemental levels are recommended for adults; for children reduce these in proportion to body weight:
- Vitamin C: 3,000 milligrams (or more) daily, in divided doses.
- Vitamin D3: 2,000 International Units daily. (Start with 5,000 IU/day for two weeks, then reduce to 2,000)
- Magnesium: 400 mg daily (in citrate, malate, chelate, or chloride form)
- Zinc: 20 mg daily Selenium: 100 mcg (micrograms) daily
(Vitamin C , Vitamin D , magnesium , zinc, and selenium have been shown to strengthen the immune system against viruses.)
The basis for using high doses of vitamin C to prevent and combat virus-caused illness may be traced back to vitamin C's early success against polio, first reported in the late 1940s. Many people are unaware, even surprised, to learn this. Further clinical evidence built up over the decades, leading to an anti-virus protocol published in 1980.
It is important to remember that preventing and treating respiratory infections with large amounts of vitamin C is well established. Those who believe that vitamin C generally has merit, but massive doses are ineffective or somehow harmful, will do well to read the original papers for themselves.
To dismiss the work of these doctors simply because they had success so long ago sidesteps a more important question: Why has the benefit of their clinical experience not been presented to the public by responsible governmental authorities, especially in the face of a viral pandemic?”
You also might want to check out this blog by Toronto physician: Dr Clifford-Jones MD: on the effectiveness of Vitamin C:
Now I am not a medical doctor giving you a recommendation. What I am suggesting is that here’s an opportunity in this crisis, once again, to become our own gurus and discover what is true for ourselves.
Check this out and decide for yourself.
There’s nothing so bad it ain’t good for somethin’.
Blessings to you
A belief is a point of view, a perspective and way of seeing things.
When we believe something we tend to only see the things that support our belief and ignore those things that don't. In other words, believing is seeing or when we believe it, we see it.
When belief is erroneous it can cause great suffering.
There are so many decisions to make in life.
We think that freedom is having lots of choices, but when we have too many options, we then feel confined by our indecision. Too much choice is a blessing and a curse.
Sometimes, when I have difficulty choosing between different options, I resort to what I call the “Ultimate Context”. A context is a point of view or a framework in which to consider a problem.
I've always thought that we live in a "Have-Do-Be" world, a culture in which many people are stuck in thinking that the more they have the happier they will be.
But there is a catch; to have more, we "have-do" do more, to get what we want, to hopefully 'be" in that happiness.
The having and the doing often take a long time. Some get stuck in the “do-do” and do not enjoy the journey along the way, continually stuck in the unhappiness of not-having.
Happiness seems only to be enjoyed
when the goal of all the doing is achieved.
Even worse is the trap of equating the sense of self worth with what
they have (net worth equals self-worth) Those in this prison cannot even rest and enjoy their accomplishments because they are not doing something to have more.
They cannot be grateful for having what they have. They need more, or something better or different than others. And since the having is not enough, the doing to have more, is endless.
I don't know about you but there are many times during the day I notice my mind acting like an errant tourist on vacation wandering up and down the streets of fantasy gazing into the shop windows of the future and the past, pulling me out of the focus of what I need to do in the present moment.
Sometimes the tourist becomes a terrorist torturing me with old thoughts of uncompleted conversations, ancient regrets or future worries that keep re-cycling over and over in my head.
They can seriously impact my peace of mind. Sometimes it feels like I am spinning my wheels and getting stuck in a rut that gets deeper and deeper making it even more impossible to escape.
“I have met the Real me and he is an amazing person, strong and powerful yet delicate and vulnerable.”
—Ralph Granz, Mechanical Engineer, Toronto, Ontario
- Painful Blessings by Rob Brezny read by Russell Scott with a commentary
- Two Words that Can Create Havoc in Your Life (maybe for a long, long time?)
- Why Do Affirmations Sometimes Fail?
- Transforming Bitterness
- Mr Potato Head's Awakening Experience
- Besides Stocking Up on Bathroom Tissue - Is There Another Opportunity in this Crisis?
- Let's Stop Believing - Just for One Day
- The Ultimate Context Tool for Making Decisions.
- Getting Unstuck from the Have-Do-Be World
- Getting Out of a Mind Rut - A Hilarious Approach