When Kissing Cousins Aren’t So Cute

In an article first published by the London Sunday Times this week, Britain’s Environment Minister Phil Woolas again cited the dangers of inbreeding in the Pakistani immigrant community in Britain. Appropriately calling it “the elephant in the room”, Woolas was careful to point out it was the “Pakistani community” – who just happen to be largely Muslim. Despite choosing his words carefully, Woolas, who served previously as Race Relations minister, has sparked a controversy amongst British Muslims.

Woolas, who represents the ethnically mixed region of Oldham East and Saddleworth, said, “If you talk to any primary care worker they will tell you that levels of disability among the… Pakistani population are higher than the general population. And everybody knows it’s caused by first-cousin marriage. That’s a cultural thing rather than a religious thing. It is not illegal in this country.”

“The problem is that many of the parents themselves and many of the public spokespeople are themselves products of first-cousin marriages. It’s very difficult for people to say ‘you can’t do that’ because it’s a very sensitive, human thing,” Times Online reported.

The online blogosphere and other newspapers quickly followed the story, often irresponsibly. Spero published a similar story titled, “UK minister warns of ‘Muslim inbreeding”, even though Woolas said no such thing. That does not seem to matter any longer though as the “elephant in the room” has been uncaged.

Bloggers and readers commenting on the story quickly took sides and argued about “anti-Muslim politicians” or how all Muslim men want to marry their sister and then give her a beating for good measure. Sadly, these vicious, knee -jerk and oft ill-informed debates shift attention from the real problem.

Interfamily marriages and the resulting inbreeding are found in many societies and cultures all over the world. Several states in the US have passed laws banning inter-family relations or marriage as time and science began to show the resulting genetic problems that it causes. It is not a matter of religion, but a matter of culture and being uninformed of the hazards.

British Pakistanis’ inter-family marriages are a concern of public health, due to disproportional representations of birth defects in their population. For British society it puts an added strain on the National Health Service, but short of introducing a law to forbid these marriages, there seems little can be done. The continued attempts to educate people about this seem to have been fruitless thus far.

Woolas is supported by Labour member of Parliament Ann Cryer, who first spoke out on the issue two years ago after research showed British Pakistanis were 13 times more likely to have children with birth defects than the general population. Cryer told the Sunday Times, “This is to do with a Medieval culture where you keep wealth within the family.”

“I have encountered cases of blindness and deafness. There was one poor girl who had to have an oxygen tank on her back and breathe from a hole in the front of her neck,” she added. “The parents were warned they should not have any more children. But when the husband returned from Pakistan, within months they had another child with exactly the same condition.”

A possible answer might lie in going to the source of the cultural problem, to Pakistan. A study more than a decade ago found, “The prevalence of inter-family marriages was studied in 940 families belonging to four different socio -economic groups in and around Lahore, Pakistan. The overall prevalence of interfamily marriages was 46%. The first-cousin marriages were most common at 67%, followed by marriages between second cousins, 19%.”

Marriages between families are often meant to strengthen the bond of kinsmanship. Indeed, women are often more warmly welcomed into the households, less likely to face abuse and retain some status because they are well, family.

The Koran does not have any passages that forbid marrying within the family and inter-family marriages are documented back to the times of the Prophet Mohammad. Herein lays a possibly more effective solution that actually makes Islam a positive force in this debate.

If Islamic scholars and influential mullahs could be presented with the evidence of why this practice is bad for their culture, then maybe sharia law could be amended. Or at the very least have some of Islam’s most influential mullahs in Pakistan offer guidance to Muslims.

Meanwhile, media and bloggers that make this a divisive topic based solely on religion ignore the real victims that this problem creates. But perhaps misinformation and religious banter simply make it easier for people to avoid having to take a good hard look at themselves and their culture.

Elephant Plains Game Lodge – Game Viewing

Elephant Plains Game Lodge is located in Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a part of the Greater Kruger National Park, with 2.2 million hectares of unfenced open forest. Accompanied by the Manyeleti Honeymoon suites, Rondavels with in-built bars, open-sky buffet, African cuisine and spa, Safaris, Ranging and tracking, star gazing and the amazing Big 5, Elephant Plains naturally becomes a part of anyone’s African-tour wish list. With accommodation capacities for a maximum of 24 people, the luxury, adventure and the raw nature is served to enjoy with complete privacy. Gaming, Photo-shoot, Marriage, Honeymoon or a family trip – Elephant Plains could make it unforgettable.

What makes Elephant Plains Game reserve Lodge special?

The Sabi sand game reserve was named after the two rivers running across the place, Sabi and the Sand Rivers. In the middle of the 20th century, the farmers of the reserve dropped fences to make the roaming area of the animals residing there into a bigger place. In 1993, the Kruger national Park also dropped fences, making the traverse area of the animals there, over a whopping 2.2 million hectares.

The rooms of Elephant Plains were some of the first to be built in this reserve and have been opened to the public only before a decade ago. Being surrounded by a dry riverbed, the place is habituated by the famous BIG 5, and added to them, by leopards, hyenas and over 300 colorful and rare species of birds. As one can expect from any game lodge in South Africa, the guests of Elephant Plains can enjoy game drives and bush walks. But being there from the beginning, more than any others do, makes their game rangers and Shangaan trackers the most efficient among everyone you can have there. They were well-educated and well-aware of the regulations imposed by the ecologist of the Kruger national Park and the Sabi Sand game reserve; hence they know where they can take you on track and also, off-track.

The animals around this place have got used to the ranging vehicles, which in turn makes your trip inside the deep forests, a peaceful one without disturbing their everyday life. As Elephant Plains is situated right by the side of the two rivers that runs across the reserve, having a sight of animals quenching their thirst and taking a nap in the afternoons amidst the bushes is so common here. A complete South Africa game lodge should have all the wonders that the country has to offer its visitors, and this is a place where pure South African spirit can be seen, felt and experienced. The Sundowner drink offered during the Safaris, the drumbeat announcement of dinner, a delicate South African breakfast, the homemade coffee and rusks, and obviously, the stunning views of the wildlife, guarantees you more than what you can expect from the woods of Africa.

Not a mere game reserve lodge

Being special will need more than common features and specialties. Elephant Plains stands special with not only the perfect trips and foods, but also with its rooms and luxury suites. The main lodge itself stands magnificent with ambient dining area, an elegant bar, a perfect lounge and wine cellar, a spa, a swimming pool, a games room, a gym, a conference room, a library and a curio shop. Added to it, there are six luxury suites for double or triple stays, five Rondavels for double, triple or family stays and an exquisite Manyeleti honeymoon suite.

Everything a person can expect from a luxury game lodge is here – the air conditioned double bedrooms, en-suite bathroom, glass fronted open-plan, fireplaces, electronic safes, tea and coffee making machines and added to these, an elegant bar and an excellent private viewing deck. Luxury is common, but the sightings of wild animals roaming so close to you, is unbeatable.

When the luxury rooms are overlooking the riverbed, the Rondavels are overlooking the landscaped garden, with amenities like the same as in the luxury suites. There are Rondavels for two, three and four, that gives you the unmatched experience of staying here at an affordable price.

The diamond in this crown called Elephant Plains is the Manyeleti honeymoon suite. With in-built swimming pool, a private viewing deck, a day-bed and a stunning view of the reserve, this suite can be one of the best places any honeymooning couple can go for.

Big 5 – The best part of a safari game lodge

The African Elephant, the mighty Rhinoceros, the lightning fast leopard, the all muscular Buffalo and the king of the jungle, the lion are called the Big 5, by the locals as well as the usual visitors of this reserve. The major part of people visiting this place come here just to have a look at the Big 5, while on a safari trip. But with Elephant Plains, sit and watch the riverbed from your private viewing deck, you can easily spot the Big 5, all around the this wonderful safari game lodge. Located in the middle of a vast riverbed and bushy landscape, not only the Big 5, even the nocturnal habitats of this reserve and a lot of birds and animals, which are rare to be seen, can be easily spotted roaming around the lodge.

Elephant Plains – The four starred private game lodge

No wonder that the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa has awarded Elephant Plains with four stars and an AA accreditation, certifying superior accommodation and amenities. Not only the food, not only weddings, not only the suites and not only the Big 5 are what making this place a must-go; there are separate safari trips for photographic sessions, wedding, evening time star gazing and also a program called mini-tuskers for the children based on the number of the children present at the time.

As one can see, it is located in the remotest parts of the Sabi Sand reserve and can be reached only if you take the Gowrie gate, which is adjacent to the northern part of the Kruger National Park. Due to river crossing, accessing the place through other gates is impossible and also, over the last 20 Kms is a dirt road, which may take around 45 minutes of travelling after you take off from the tar road.

Though finding the place is little tricky and hard for new visitors, it is worth the time and money spent on it. If you are going to South Africa, don’t forget to include Elephant Plains in your checklist.

The Elephant Wearing a Silver Necklace

It’s no secret that demand for the U.S. Mint silver eagles coin has been unprecedented. It is a walk back through memory lane following the 1986 confirmation of the growing (exponential) popularity of the legal tender coin program.

Many are left these days scratching their heads about who is buying all these coins. Retail demand seems soft at best, with stable coin premiums relative to times of relative shortage.

Speculation has ranged from steady domestic demand to JPM Morgan or some other large entity quietly or surreptitiously stockpiling silver eagles.

However, the real  elephant   in   the   room  for silver demand may be the oldest form of silver – the demand for silver jewelry.

Various reports confirm that silver jewelry demand has experienced its fifth year of growth. Indeed, one survey published earlier this year published that 73% of silver jewelry wholesaler report increase sales.

At just over 40 million ounces in 2013 (and a record pace this year) the silver eagle program as a percentage of overall physical silver demand is actually quite small.

Compared to the approximately 40 million ounces sold by the silver eagle program, the 200 million ounces used for fabrication demand is a massive footprint that should not be overlooked.

Is (increasing) jewelry demand more important than coin demand? Perhaps.

 In  the aftermath of two conflicting silver market reports, both sponsored directly by those  in  the best position to profit from the paper market (thus, by definition, making them politically influenced to the point of uselessness), we can look back to the Jewelry Association’s report earlier this year.

 In  an interview with me earlier this year, silver analyst, David Morgan, pointed out the potential impact of silver jewelry demand versus the well publicized demand for the U.S. silver eagles product.

That interview can be accessed here.

 In  essence, jewelry demand is the proverbial  elephant   in   the   room .

It’s easy to blame higher silver jewelry sales as a reflection of the underlying economy.

What should immediately stand out for observers is that physical demand across all categories rose considerably in the past year, despite considerable lower prices. Maybe artificially induced deflation in the silver market will save the world economy?

The silver users have pulled one over on us again. Cheaper silver costs go straight to the bottom line, much like cheaper energy prices.

Why the shift to silver jewelry?

Mainstream industry spokespersons are quick to point out improving economic conditions as the primary reason for this. That would be fine – if it were true. But a cursory review of any all real economic indicators shows that the world organic economy is barely alive under the refuge of massive finance.

Partially, the switch could be an effect of a declining economy and, therefore, a cheaper alternative to gold. Fashion is nearly a necessity in perhaps a similar way as that of food and energy.

The resurgence of the victory garden is a welcome breath of fresh air in a culture that takes so much for granted, but especially where food comes from. When economically strapped, combined with a desire to change dietary standards, a return to the earth is fueled, regardless of the difficulty for many. This is especially true for those who live in urban centers to produce enough of a percentage to make major differences.

The small car (and to a certain degree) the hybrid/electric car movement has been motivated by saving on energy costs. In turn, and for better or worse, these vehicles become a social statement for the drivers, regardless of the actual savings or contribution.

Regardless of the truth behind these movements or whether they spring from natural phenomenon, they create a social wake – or an awakening of sorts.

No one denies the beauty of the white metal, so it should come as no surprise that it would be re-adopted so quickly.

What is interesting is how it becomes incorporated into the wholesale to retail marketing matrix. If silver wasn’t so far below normal price based on real supply and demand, it would almost seem natural.

As Ted Butler has pointed out over the last few years, inventory movements in and out of COMEX warehouses have been furious.

This is most likely the off-take from just in time inventory practices stretched to the point of snapping.

These unsuspecting recipients of silver charm bracelets will some day surely find that the gift grows in value as well as sentiment.

And for the long term bullion investor, jewelry has always been another way to diversify the monetary emergency kit. Old gold or silver jewelry could be used for smaller, incremental barter, so long as sentimental value is neutral.

But it’s bigger than that. Fashion follows necessity, where form follows function. The switch to silver jewelry may actually reflect an unconscious aspect of physical demand. Jewelry consumers could become the original stackers.

Transforming Conversations

How much time and money does your organization lose because people are not able to have the tough conversations?

The important conversations that can have the most impact are the ones that people avoid. They may know the conversation needs to happen but hope that somebody else will initiate it or feel it’s not my job, or want to wait until the time is right. They make an attempt to have the conversation but sidestep the important issues. The question is; how much talking is happening   in  your organization? The talking that creates synergy builds relationships and inspires results. These conversations that never happen become the  elephant   in   the   room  that everyone is trying to avoid. That  elephant  gets more powerful with every communication that doesn’t happen or with every failed conversation. With every open and honest conversation the  elephant  gets smaller, putting the power not  in  the middle of  the   room  but in the people. Personal power is built one conversation at a time.

What blocks the real conversations from occurring?

What people often are not aware of is that all conversations occur within themselves first. Another words, you may think you are seeing people as they are but in truth you are seeing people as you are. It means that powerful conversations cannot occur until we challenge the perceptions we hold about ourselves and other people. Perceptions are the lens or filters that we see the world through and every person has a different set of lens that they operate out of. Real powerful conversations cannot occur until a person has some degree of awareness of who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, values and beliefs because that is what shapes their perceptions. We often assume that people think the same way we do or see things the same way but that is never the case, every person is different and until we challenge our assumptions important conversations cannot fully occur.

When people are afraid to tell the truth because of a potential negative reaction or not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings they are stopping the important conversation from occurring. When we don’t tell the truth people often know it. They feel the incompleteness and they see the same  elephant   in   the   room  but don’t know how to confront it. Important conversations require preparation, they should not be done on the fly or without self-reflection, only then can we look the  elephant  square  in  the eye and know how to approach it. Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for your next important conversation:

· Why does the conversation need to happen?

· What would happen if we didn’t have the conversation?

· What’s the cost of not having the conversation?

· What do I want for the other person?

· What do I want for me?

· What are my feelings, opinions, and concerns about this particular issue?

· What are my feelings about this conversation?

Answering these questions gives us perspective and allows us to view the issue and the  elephant  from a different vantage point and have a conversation from the heart.

What Creates Powerful Conversations?

A powerful conversation involves a give and take not a one-way dialogue or lecture. The word conveys flow and equal exchange. Powerful conversations can only occur when people are exchanging equally. Real listening is what can create a powerful conversation, listening not just for the words that are being used but what’s not being said, awareness of body language and expressions. When we are able to fully listen we are able to understand and see things through a different set of lenses. Listening to understand builds bridges and values the other person.

Powerful conversations can occur in all situations. A supervisor giving a subordinate feedback on their behavior is a wonderful opportunity for a powerful conversation. Providing an opportunity to share their perception with no blame or faultfinding. Powerful conversations involve speaking the truth from the heart; they are direct and caring. When we are indirect  in  our communication we are not having a powerful conversation we are finding ways to skirt the issues and giving the  elephant   in   the   room  more power. The only way around an issue is to face it directly with compassion and understanding.

The Elements of a Powerful Conversation

· Speak the truth with understanding.

· Challenge your perceptions and the perceptions of those around you.

· Demonstrate personal responsibility and create openness for mutual responsibility.

· Speak with feeling, be vulnerable, and maintain your personal power and center.

. Know what you want from the conversation and from the relationship.

· Ask questions

· Change buts to ands

What’s Important?

Real conversations are a process they are not an event, Issues are not left hanging they are completed. That completion will often mean several conversations with mutual commitment from each person. Real communication cannot fully occur with only one dialogue, Powerful conversations require commitment, commitment to the relationship as well as oneself. Building the skills necessary for a powerful conversation don’t happen over-night and must continually be nurtured.

It can be easy to ignore the important issues or find reasons to procrastinate on having the important conversations but the big issues will never go away by themselves. When we decide to give power to the  elephant   in   the   room  things don’t get better, it is only when we claim our own power and have the conversations that change happens. Change sometimes isn’t easy and human nature will pull us back to the easy and safe way. The safe way involves staying where we are and avoiding the real important issues. We must be guardians of that and take charge, reclaim our power from the  elephant   in   the   room  and have those important conversations. Whether they be with a boss, subordinate, co-worker, spouse or child let us all step up to the plate and make a difference.

The Golden Elephant

There is a “golden elephant in the room,” according to Robert Zoellick, the American who heads the World Bank.

As world leaders headed to Seoul for the G-20 summit last week, gold hit a record-high price of $1,400 an ounce, and Zoellick made a surprising proposal. In an opinion piece in the Financial Times, he wrote that “The system should…consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values.”

The media were quick to interpret Zoellick’s statement as a call for the return of the gold standard, a system in which the value of paper currency is directly pegged to the supply of gold. However, in an interview with CNBC, Zoellick explained that he did not mean to propose tying currency values directly to any hard asset.

Zoellick said he had simply intended to suggest that governments pay more attention to what gold says about the financial community’s confidence in national currencies. Right now, that confidence looks very shaky.

In his Financial Times column, Zoellick noted that markets are already “using gold as an alternative monetary asset.” The peak in gold prices before the G-20 summit demonstrated investors’ worries over fluctuating currency values and their desire for more stable assets. What “the price of gold has been telling people is that there is a lack of confidence in some of the fundamental growth policies,” Zoellick said.(1) He called for a new package of international reforms aimed at spurring growth.

But while Zoellick may never have intended to raise the possibility of a gold standard, the fact that people instantly interpreted his comments that way demonstrates the persistent support in some quarters for that idea – a very misguided one – and the mounting concern that the world’s major trading currencies are all being manipulated or debased.

I doubt any central banker today would support the idea of tying the money supply directly to gold. The reason is that there is essentially a fixed supply of gold in the world. Annual mining output does not have much impact, since the gold that can be mined in any one year represents a small fraction of all the gold which has been mined previously. Unlike, say, oil, gold that is produced is almost never consumed. It just ends up in someone’s jewelry box or coin collection or, most likely, in a bullion vault, where it sits until it is sold to someone who will put it in a similar place.

Thus, if the supply of money is set as some fraction of the supply of gold, the money supply becomes fixed. The need for money, however, is not fixed; it expands as commerce expands. The need for money also increases when the money’s “velocity,” the rate at which people spend it, slows down. If the money supply is not increased in response to decreases in velocity, the economy contracts sharply.

Back in the days of the gold standard, recessions were sharp and frequent, and bouts of deflation were common. There were literally shortages of money. The greatest money shortage of all became known as the Great Depression. In 1933, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first acts in office was to break the tight link between gold and the U.S. money supply.

But those who wanted Zoellick to advocate a gold standard are not entirely misguided in their thinking. The public is becoming increasingly aware that the supply of money needs to be related to something. The Federal Reserve’s “liquidity injections” have left many worried that paper currency, or at least green paper currency with the word “dollar” on it, will soon become meaningless.(2)

A country’s money supply needs to be related to something, but that something is not gold; it is the county’s output of goods and services. Ideally that output should also be closely related to the country’s consumption. In the United States we have a chronic problem balancing the two. We consume more than we produce, and we borrow the money, or accept foreign investment, to make up the difference. By effectively printing up as much money as we need to finance the stuff we want to buy, the Federal Reserve is matching the money supply to consumption (or the consumption it wants to promote), rather than to output.

This policy is only supposed to last long enough to stimulate the economy over the next eight months, but if the economy remains sluggish, it’s possible that the Fed will dump in even more money. And, as the value of the dollar declines, foreigners may be reluctant to buy the newly issued Treasury debt, demanding interest rates higher than the Treasury can afford to pay. In that case, the Fed will have to choose between allowing the Treasury to default and printing up more money. Given the choice, the Fed will immediately kick the printing presses back into high gear, further eroding the value of the dollar.

Imposing a gold standard would be similar to erecting a brick wall to stop a runaway train. It might halt the collapse of the dollar, but it would do a lot of damage in the process. Rather than throwing up a wall, we need to get the train back under control. That will require us to restore balance between what we produce and what we spend.


(1) CNBC: Zoellick Sees ‘Elephant,’ Not Endorsing Gold Standard

(2) Merco Press: Germany Blasts Latest US Fed Reserve Plan To Pump More Money

Performance Anxiety: Overcoming the Bedroom Blues

How does one overcome sexual anxiety?

Sexual anxiety can be the 1,000-pound pink elephant in the room. It is something most men don’t want to talk about, nearly all men will deny ever having experienced, and yet will affect virtually everyone at some point in their lifetime. Anybody who claims they have never been nervous about having sex is either lying or lives with a healthy dose of narcissism. While sexual anxiety can range from having a few butterflies in the stomach to a crippling emotional condition warranting assistance by a professional sex therapist, there are ways to ease the anxiety and make sex more enjoyable. Taking charge of one’s sexual life in terms of emotional health, penis health and physical health can help lead to a more satisfying love life all around.

What is sexual anxiety?

Also known as performance anxiety, the crux of the problem begins with overanalyzing and putting too much pressure on one performance, which can ultimately lead to a poor performance come show time. Many men seem to equate bringing about female orgasm with masculinity and worry that if they do not measure up to a woman’s standards, they will be seen as less of a man. Society’s ideals of male sexuality are constantly bombarding the typical man, often creating unrealistic expectations of what a man should look like and how he should perform in bed. Magazines are splashed with 6-pack abs and mind-blowing sex tips every man should know. Often, turning on the TV will find a steamy between-the-sheets session between two impossibly good-looking people — who seem to have endless stamina and passion for one another — as their sweaty bodies cascade in orgasm after orgasm. And that is happening in the PG world, never mind the way that the adult film industry portrays male sexuality.

For some men, all this media input skews their perception of their own bodies, leading them to believe that they cannot live up to their partner’s expectations. Thus, when it comes time to knock boots, some men become self-conscious and hyper-focused on what they are doing rather than what they are feeling, which is a recipe for an unsatisfying experience. In some cases, this performance anxiety can even lead to prolonged dysfunction.

How to overcome sexual anxiety

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Part of solving the problem is getting to the root of the problem, so often self-exploration is needed to determine the underlying cause. Men can ask themselves, “What am I afraid of?” or “What is making me feel nervous?” to help determine what may be the cause of the anxiety leading up to a sexual encounter. Below are a few quick tips to help curb sexual anxiety; however, men suffering from long-term, severe cases should consider professional help.

  • Relax: It is pretty hard to enjoy oneself during sex when simultaneously analyzing one’s body fat content and trying to recall the last 20 moves in the Kama Sutra. Remember, nobody’s perfect, so try to put insecurities aside and have fun.
  • De-stress: Anxiety begets anxiety. Work, family and money stressors can be carried over into the bedroom without even trying. Make a conscious effort to leave anxiety at the door and mentally “check-out” during intimate moments.
  • Exercise: It may sound simplistic, but exercise releases feel-good endorphins into the brain, which help to combat anxiety. Additionally, working out may provide a jolt of self-confidence in the bedroom, making it easier to be naked and vulnerable with a partner.
  • Breathe: Obviously people are always breathing, but purposeful deep breaths slows down the nervous system and fights anxiety. Breathing in for the count of 4, holding it for the count of 4, and breathing out for the count of 4 can actually help boost relaxation. Really, try it.
  • Talk about it: Sexual anxieties may be the last thing a man wants to talk to his partner about, but chances are she has already noticed something is going on. It is best to get it out in the open, as she may just have a response to help solve the whole problem. It is also important to communicate, because ones’ partner may misread anxiety cues — such as avoidance of intercourse — as a sign of infidelity or rejection of her body, leading to additional issues down the road.
  • Penis care: Keeping a healthy penis can increase body confidence and may even help with stimulation and sensitivity, making sex more enjoyable. Using a daily penis vitamin formula (most professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil) can keep the penis skin smooth and attractive while fighting odor and increasing circulation to the area. A healthy penis can go a long way towards feeling good about one’s prowess, and that may just translate into decreased anxiety in the bedroom.

What Being Honest With Yourself Can Do!

Courage for self honesty

‘I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination’ Jimmy Dean

My daughter encouraged me to join FarmVille on Facebook. If you aren’t following this, I have my own virtual farm. I can buy crops and animals, but friends can send me gifts. Last week I was sent four   elephants . It started me thinking about how silly my  elephants  looked on my tiny farm.

Now I have these big  elephants  which I can’t ignore. By the way you might be wondering why I am wasting my time playing FarmVille. When I am not feeling well it is an easy occupation distracts me.

We all talk about it but do you know where the expression the  elephant   in   the   room  comes from? I didn’t know the origin of the saying.

“An  elephant   in   the   room ” is based on the idea that an  elephant   in  a  room  would be impossible to overlook; obvious I know.

What helps me to move on? What helps me to adjust my sails?

I have certainly needed to have some very tough and honest conversations with myself. It is not that I have lied to myself ever it is just that sometimes I would prefer if my life had taken a different direction. This delay has been a good protection mechanism for me. I dealt with the implications of my illness when I was ready to move on.

The truth for me is there is no one way to handle a chronic illness; no quick fixes and no easy answers. It’s my life and ultimately the buck stops with me. My doctors can guide me  in  making medical decisions but I am still left with choices.

What obvious truth are you ignoring  in  your life? What  elephants   in  your life do you need to face? You don’t need to tell anyone else you will know your own answer to this question. You don’t need to feel bad either most people I have coached over the years have had at least one  elephant   in   the   room .

I haven’t asked myself why I got sick. For that would be pointless and would be looking back. Instead I have been focusing on what i can do today to look at the choices I have now not what might have been or what I could or should have done. Honesty with myself has opened new doors.

Maybe you are not facing chronic illness. Perhaps you are in a job or relationship that you feel has come to an end.

What’s the hardest conversation you can imagine having?

Who would it be with?

What is stopping you having this conversation?

It was uncomfortable to face my own truth. The biggest clue for me now as i look back it was the conversation I didn’t want to have with myself.

The Elephant in America’s Political Living Room – The Time For Spiritual Maturity

America, there is a giant  elephant   in  our living  room . It is fear. It takes the form of racism, sexism, lying, cheating, name-calling, rumor and innuendo mongering. It’s ugly and it does not become us. As the presidential elections draw nearer, I find my inbox bombarded with sleazy attacks on the presidential candidates by those who identify themselves as the “opposite”.

Labels of left, right, conservative, liberal, democrat, republican, middle of the road are for those who can’t think independently. Labels are for lemmings; and everyone has the capacity to think and feel the correctness, truth and quality of a person and his/her message.

But once someone identifies themselves as “liberal” or “Republican”, someone stops listening altogether. Nary another word they have to say is given any listen by the closed mind and locked heart caused by fear. This is what I see happening in my inbox. Friends and family send these political missives; the latest one today was from a friend in Virginia. The e-mail was a compilation of the best bumper stickers – all of which were defaming Obama and the Democrats. As I read them, I realized that people who create this kind of “information” are afraid. Only fear can make people attack others.

The presidential race ought to be all about the issues; rather fear reduces it to slurs, rumor and innuendo. Another friend forwarded to me an e-mail that was reportedly written by a soldier in Afghanistan recounting that Obama had snubbed the troops on his recent world trip. This e-mail is not verifiable: it cannot be traced back to the author’s original e-mail address but just gets forwarded on, like it’s Gospel truth…out of fear.

I trust that Americans can figure out for themselves what is Truth and not; but the key to this is that you have to come to the table with an open mind and an open heart. You have to come to the debate with the attitude, “Tell me who you are.” You can’t come to the table with fear that obscure you from ever hearing what they have to say, let alone giving yourself the opportunity to FEEL the truth or experience their beauty.

Fear is irrational. It has no reason; it simply lurks within a heart and obliterates the Light. Fear is why we are at war. Fear is why we fight with each other. Fear is why we are sick. Fear is why people pass on information that is without verifiable truth, because it supports your fear, which is basically lack. You believe that your good will be at the expense of “their” good. This is categorically a lie. My good is not at the expense of yours. There is enough, plenty, for everyone.

If you want a safer, better, and happier America, then each of us needs to take a good hard and honest look at who we are as individuals, first.

No one need know what goes on in this conversation between you and YOU. But we each had better have that private and intimate conversation with our self. Because it is we, the people, that make up this country. You, me, and all the John and Jane Doe’s across these 50 states. However much fear and hatred that we harbor in our hearts, that is what we are going to experience as a country in this world.

It’s time for some individual house keeping. I challenge you to have that conversation with yourself. Come to terms with the fact that you are afraid of those of different colors, different creeds, and different ideas. Now, I challenge you to love them. I challenge you to listen with an open mind and open heart.

This is no airy fairy exercise, my friends. This country is only as good as the people who comprise it. If you love America, but clearly hate certain Americans, how can this Nation stand? It won’t. It will crumble from within; and it won’t take any foreign enemy to bury us.

This country is advanced citizenship. It takes clear hearts and clear minds to deal with serious problems. To be a citizen of America means you must defend the right of someone to voice their opinion about something you would spend your life trying to defeat. It means you will disagree with that person vehemently on the issue; but you will respect that person as an equal citizen and a worthy being. This is not an oxymoron. You can disagree with someone and still respect them and their right to their opinion. If you respect their right to their opinion, you will not defame, slur or disrespect someone by making a policy opinion into a personal slur. That is spiritual immaturity. We are called to become spiritual adults, now.

It’s time to grow up America. We can conduct healthy, spirited debates and actually learn from each other. Only fear closes our ears to what someone has to say. It costs us nothing to listen, not just with our minds, but also with our hearts. Times are changing, as they always do. It just feels so much better when you listen with your heart open, even to something you don’t like. It’s the idea you disagree with; the person is just like you: God having a physical adventure.

We have a duty as Americans to be very good stewards of democracy. Democracy is a place where everything, every idea, every people get to be here, much like the books in a library. The books in the library sit side by side offering their unique and individual thoughts for those who wish to read them. Those books don’t hop off the shelf at night and duke it out. So it is in this wonderful and promising place, America. It all gets to be here. It takes advanced citizenship and spiritual maturity to fully grasp what this really means and how great a challenge this is to each of us every day of our lives.

We have nothing to fear, except fear; because fear will undermine us and crumble us from the inside out.

Next time you see someone whose political views you think you hate, try this: take a deep breath. Acknowledge that he/she is a unique individual with unique things to say, just like you. Acknowledge that you might be afraid of some of the things they might offer. Now, listen to them with your full attention and respect. Breathe in again, and now breathe out. Can you realize that you are in no way diminished because they have that idea? You can thank them for sharing. You can chew over what they had to say. You can discard all of it; some of it; or, surprise, none of it. Nothing bad is going to happen just because you listened with an open mind and an open heart. The only time something bad can happen is when you fear it; then, my friend, you will attract it.

This Universe can supply every one’s needs at the same time. There’s enough for everyone. America is the place on Earth where we are either going to learn to do that in the physical as a Nation; or we will go the way of all the other civilizations that came before us.

We can trust in the Good in each of us. Speak to that. Listen to that.

Everyone is God at center. America is the great experiment. Can we learn to live with all those different Gods in the same place and know that each of our Good is always at play?

I say we can. That is applied spirituality in action; that is spiritual maturity.

The Elephant in Your Dining Room

How do you eat an elephant? It’s easy . . . one bite at a time. Take a look at the Grand Canyon. It’s really quite awesome. Yet, all that rock was whittled away one drop of water at a time, one grain of sand at a time, multiplied by untold billions of such infinitesimal events. Although most of the time, I write about so-called ‘second level’ or quantum change as the response to cultural stagnation (and social stalemate), there is an alternative kind of change: erosion. Erosion doesn’t just happen in elephants and canyons, it happens in emotions, as well. Here’s an example.

Where I come from in New England, there’s a chain of discount furniture stores that runs frequent TV commercials featuring the owner, Bob. The advertisements can be silly at best and loud and annoying, at their worst. It’s the sort of commercial that, whenever it comes on, you want to grab the remote and jump on the ‘mute’ button. These ads have been going on since the early 1990’s, and there’s a reason why they’ve stood the test of time: they work. Psychologists note that you have to see a message at least six times before it ‘registers’. If the message is annoying or distasteful, there’s yet another factor at work.

Every time you’re exposed to something that stimulates a strong emotional reaction, that reaction is lessened. You can’t sustain a powerful emotion for very long. Like a constant noise, it fades into the background and, behold! the message comes through. Emotions can be eroded much more quickly and effectively than stone (or digested more readily than the elephant). That’s one reason why the ‘straw man’ and the ‘red herring’ arguments work so well: on the one hand, we don’t pay a lot of attention to the ‘message behind the message’ and, on the other hand, even a strong negative reaction to these things are slowly neutralized over time and repetition. If you say it long enough and loud enough, it’s sure to be true.

What’s a ‘straw man’ argument? That’s when, instead of focusing on the pertinent points of a discussion, you drag in all the ‘what if’ and ‘imagine what would happen’ speculations. John Kennedy’s opponents used the straw man argument to suggest that, if he were elected, his presidency would be controlled by the Vatican. It’s the ‘soft on terrorism’ argument that’s been used so effectively to scare the American public into supporting the erosion of their civil rights under the guise of protecting them. The argument that any official running for national office could possibly be soft on terrorism boggles the imagination, but it doesn’t stop people from repeating it endlessly and, in the repetition, the elephant disappears, one bite at a time.

And, what’s a ‘red herring’ argument? That’s a logical fallacy that drags in extraneous facts (or pseudo-facts) that have no real relevance to the debate, but they’re screamed so loud that they appear important. Consider the famous ‘swift boating’ of John Kerry. Rumor, innuendo and skillful manipulation of facts served to undermine the battle service record of a man whose opponent didn’t even serve. Now, the red herring mill is at it again, so much more effectively because the Internet has (and needs) no censors and anonymity hides perpetrators from libel accountability. The religious background of one’s family and friends has no relevance in a presidential campaign, yet this true red herring is absorbing a lot of popular energy. People may start out saying, ‘This doesn’t make any sense,” but, after the hundredth repetition, the elephant is mainly gone, and only ‘there must be some truth to this’ remains.

Democracy seldom dies from outside attack or inner collapse. It gets picked apart gradually as if by one of those scalers that the dental hygienist uses to remove plaque from your teeth. Strong feelings like anger and outrage grow numb under the gnawing influence of illogic and emotionalism. We don’t buy what we think we need, we buy what we feel we need. So long as we go along our merry ways, nearly oblivious to the not-so-subtle emotional manipulation we’re being subjected to continually, we’re at risk. When the elephant has been devoured, who do you think will be next on the menu?

Is There An Elephant In Your Living Room?

I was having a conversation with an old friend. The conversation was lackluster and so were we. For different reasons both of us were struggling with a profound sense of loss.

Any sense of loss, as we all know, feeds into every sense of loss we have ever known.

My friend, who is more of a True Brit Stiff-Upper-Lip person than I am, said: “Well, you just have to get on with it, don’t you?”

My answer to my friend was that ‘getting on with it’ stinks. It’s what we’ve all been taught to do. Yet we know it doesn’t work particularly well. You know, I know, pretty well everyone who isn’t eyeball deep in denial knows, that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because what you resist, persists.

‘Getting on with it’ means tiptoeing around the elephant in the middle of your living room. The elephant doesn’t go away, your living space does.

How long have you co-existed with the elephant of abused feelings crowding out the space at the center of your life?

How possible is it to expect to spend the rest of your life breathing in to squeeze round the ever growing elephant in your living-room?

Rules For Disposing Of Metaphorical Elephants

The rules for disposing of a metaphorical elephant are quite unlike those regarding real elephants. First of, there is no preservation order on metaphorical elephants. Nor should there be. You can’t shoot them, or poison them (in point of fact, they poison you). But you can dispose of them with kindness – kindness to yourself.

Now you and I know that that is the hardest thing. You don’t have to be a caregiver to be an abused woman (nor are all caregivers abused) but it certainly helps. It goes with the territory. Most of us would be quicker to lavish care on a stranger’s pet rat than we would on ourselves. That’s possibly a slight exaggeration but I trust you get my drift.

So how do you dispose of the elephant of sad, hurt and angry feelings?

You, we, have to find a way to own and honour those feelings. That is the cleanest and most elegant way of emptying out your living room.

Why do you need to empty out your living room? Because you cannot hope to fill it with the feelings – and the reality – you desire and deserve if it is already crowded out with old clutter.

So, is there any magic trick to owning those feelings? I think not. Yes, it helps if you can share them with another person, but only if you can share them with another person who will listen respectfully. You are not looking for any response other than acceptance. Another person’s acceptance may well help you reach your own.

If necessary, you can start this work on your own either speaking those feelings out loud or, better, writing them down.

What has happened to you is what it is. There may be huge sadness attached. You can call it tragic if you will, but doing so will increase its hold on you, when what you want is to loosen its hold.

It happened, that is the fact. To some degree it hones you. But never forget that you still own the tools to sculpt yourself into the shape you desire. Only own your feelings.

Yes, you feel that way. Yes, it takes courage to own those feelings.

Actually, it takes enormous courage to be you. You do it with as much grace and dignity as you possibly can. (And sometimes that may not look too much like grace or dignity. Well, that’s just you being human.)

There is a saying that I love. “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Suppose we were here to own and honour our very human experiences and feelings? I certainly believe we are. It matters not to me whether I am right or wrong. That belief adds value and meaning to my life.

So how did my lackluster evening end? It ended remarkably well, with a lot of warmth, connection and shift. It ended with the two of us shifting our focus from things inexorably gone to present joys.

Those present joys completely displaced the elephants (we started with two) in our shared living space. In fact, it happened so fast that we didn’t notice. At the sound of our genuine, spontaneous laughter those elephants vanished.

Will they come back? Quite possibly. They may well squeeze their huge, grey bulk back into the living room. And the same system for ‘disappearing’ them will work just as well next time, and the time after that, and the time after that…

An abusive relationship leaves you feeling utterly powerless. (It’s funny, isn’t it how an abusive partner does his level best to exclude all laughter from your life?)

The tools for starting to reclaim your power are so small, so seemingly insignificant that you may have overlooked them for years. But they still work.

When will you start to use them so you can create the beautiful, serene, spacious living room you want for yourself?

© 2008 Annie Kaszina