Posted in grief

Education in Wisconsin – Budget Cuts, Grief and Anxiety

Today’s blog goes out to all those men and women who are educators in the state of Wisconsin, and specifically to all my friends who are on the faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and the Oshkosh Area School District. All of these talented and hard-working men and women are suffering under the effects of recent legislative decisions, including a $250 million cut to the UW system. (Read the details HERE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/07/13/gov-scott-walker-savages-wisconsin-public-education-in-new-budget/). Many will lose their jobs. Those who are chosen to remain will still have a job, but likely with a lower rate of pay, significantly reduced benefits and an ever-increasing workload. Schools will have to do more with a LOT less and everyone is afraid.

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I’m writing on this topic because I have been a part of several major institutions that have experienced similar traumas and I have seen the effects these kinds of losses have on an institution, most importantly, on its employees. While the administration may be skilled at making the difficult decisions about which programs need to go, where expenses can be reduced and where benefits can be shaved, they typically have no experience in addressing the “soft” issues of grief, anxiety and fear. This was recently confirmed for me when I offered my services as a grief and transitions expert to a local institution and was told (in so many words), “Thanks, we got this!” Based on the conversations I have had with various faculty and staff who related to me the deep grief they are feeling, the chaos that is unfolding, and the fear and anxiety that have now become part of the academic culture; No, you don’t “got this.”  The administration does not “got this” because, as is common in our culture, they have no knowledge of, or experience in dealing with grief or anxiety. Instead, they take the typical attitude of “get over it and move on.” This is NOT a helpful response to grief and anxiety especially when you desire productivity and effectiveness in your employees.

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The analogy I like to use when addressing budget cuts such as those currently facing Wisconsin schools is that these cuts are akin to receiving a cancer diagnosis. For those who will be impacted by these cuts (not likely to be the person in charge), the greatest and unspoken fear is that of death. In this case, that they will be without a job or that the salary for the job they retain will be greatly reduced forcing them into financial hardship. The second fear is that they will not be valued for the work they are doing. When professors have to fundraise for their own programs and research, or do the work of three professors, this greatly devalues their gifts, along with the experience and passion they once brought to the job. When these fears and their resulting grief are not acknowledged and tended to, the anxiety, fear and grief begin to come out sideways. Morale decreases. Apathy sets in. Productivity decreases and company loyalty is all-but eliminated. Soon the institution suffers a mass exodus of its greatest assets – its teaching staff.

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Perhaps this is what the academic institutions want – a mass exodus of their greatest assets so as to make their job easier. If people leave (in droves) of their own volition, the institution doesn’t have to make the difficult decisions of who or what to cut. I must believe, however, that this is not what our academic institutions want. I want to give educational institutions the benefit of the doubt in believing they do want to retain their quality staff and provide a supportive environment, in a difficult time, for those who choose to remain. If, this is true, then educational institutions need to be providing sound grief and transition support for their employees, faculty and staff; including training on how to manage the inherent anxiety of these kinds of transitions.

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Grief support provides effective tools for moving through the faces of grief including: denial, bargaining, depression/apathy, anger and sorrow and provides resources in helping the grieving manage their anxiety. Grief support gives individuals the tools for identifying grief when it shows up and effective means for dealing with that grief. Supporting the grieving process and giving people tools for managing anxiety clears the ground for the new life that is waiting to emerge on the other side of the loss. In the case of education the new life that will emerge will be more creative, efficient and cost-effective ways of providing a quality education for people of all ages. The question facing Wisconsin schools is, do they want to arrive at this new life the hard way by denying and ignoring the grief, anxiety and fear; or through the easier path by tending to their grief?  Only time will tell.

 

Posted in Inspiration

Religious Intolerance

On the morning of Sunday, August 5, 2012,  a gunman entered a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin ninety miles from my home in Oshkosh, and opened fire on congregants, killing six and wounding three.  Today’s blog explores the travesty of religious intolerance.

Ranting with a Friend

On Monday morning, while having coffee with a friend, the topic of the Sikh temple shooting came up.  In a fit of frustration over the fears and ignorance of humanity I expounded, “We suck!  As a species, we suck!  We are the most despicable species on this planet in all the ways that we destroy each other and are hard at work destroying our world. We suck!”  My friend nodded her head in agreement.  As a woman who has tried to live the love modeled and preached by my guru, Jesus of Nazareth, I just can’t get my head around the fear that drives another person “in the name of God” to gun down another human being because their beliefs SEEM to differ from their own.  (Notice I said, SEEM.)  I could use today’s blog to shake my finger of self-righteous indignation at our fearful and intolerant world and at those who make others the target of their own unhealed woundedness (and there might be a little of this anyway).  Instead, I want to share a few things I learned about Sikhism.  (borrowed from Wikipedia)

What is Sikhism?  (Source: Wikipedia)

Sikhi is a monotheistic and a revealed religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region or India by Guru Nanak Dev. In Sikhi, God—termed V?higur?—is shapeless, timeless, and sightless.  Sikhs believe that before creation, all that existed was God and God’s hukam (will or order). When God willed, the entire cosmos was created. From these beginnings, God nurtured “enticement and attachment” to m?y?, or the human perception of reality.  Sikh scripture proclaims the universality of God, stating that God is omnipresent and infinite with power over everything. Nanak described God as not wholly unknowable. God is omnipresent in all creation and visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened. Nanak stressed that God must be seen from “the inward eye”, or the “heart”, of a human being: devotees must meditate to progress towards enlightenment. Guru Nanak Dev emphasized the revelation through meditation, as its rigorous application permits the existence of communication between God and human beings.[ The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up in these words: “Realization of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living”.  Sikh teaching emphasizes the principle of equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and gender.

Sound Familiar?

Ok, here comes the self-righteous ranting.  As I read the above description of Sikhism, I see NOTHING that differs from the core beliefs of Christianity (the gunman’s professed religion), Judaism or Islam for that matter.  The only difference I see is that the name of the prophet differs and perhaps some of the cultural traditions and rituals related to Sikhism.  Ironically, we see the same kind of religious intolerance in this Sunday’s scripture.

Elijah kills in the name of God

If you were to attend Catholic mass or the service of many mainline Protestant churches this weekend, you will have the opportunity to read from 1 Kings 19.  It is a little story about how Elijah goes on a rampage and kills all the prophets of Baal and Asherah, the religions that “competed” with Judaism for the people’s attention.  Elijah massacres hundreds of people, then runs off into the wilderness with the queen, Jezebel  in hot pursuit, seeking her revenge of the man who killed the prophets of the feminine aspect of the Divine to which she had given her allegiance.  While this story will be told on Sunday to illustrate God’s tender mercy, I see it as just another example of humanity’s intolerance of those we perceive as different and our need to be right so that someone else can be wrong.  Again, we suck!  Not only that but we are HYPOCRITES!

HYPOCRITE!  (and more ranting)

Every single time we stand up as better than, more saved,  more right, regarding our religious beliefs…we are liars and hypocrites!  Why?  Because at the core of every religion (at least as best as I can see) is an invitation to LOVE GOD (by whatever name we call it) and to LOVE EACH OTHER.  PERIOD!  If we speak or act otherwise, then we don’t really believe the prophets (Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Nanak, Yogananda, Vivekananda, Swami Rama, St. Francis, Mother Theresa etc. etc. etc.) that God sends over and over and over to remind us of how we were made to live and be in the world.  LOVE….that is all we are asked to be and to do and most of the time we aren’t very good at doing this and Sunday’s massacre is just another in a sad and long line of examples where we fail to do the ONE THING that God made us to do.  SIGH!

So We Pray

I know that the insignificant blogging and ranting of Lauri Ann Lumby is not going to change the fact that over and over and over, human beings choose fear over love.  I am saddened by the events of this past Sunday and I know that as a species, we CAN do better than this.  I pray for the lives of those lost, for their families and for the Sikh adherents in the face of this tragedy.  My prayer for the rest of us is that we see the fear and intolerance that drives such acts of violence and that we do what we can in our own lives and within our circles of influence to CHOOSE LOVE instead of the fears that wish to divide.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in Inspiration

Creating Change

Today’s blog explores the question of how we are called to respond to things in the world we perceive as needing change.  This seems especially relevant as we observe the current political, religious and economic unrest.


The Question:

The following question was posed to a great spiritual teacher:

“How can we best encourage change on this planet?  Do you think we should fight or oppose old organizations which are resisting change?”

The Response:

“Be aware that whenever you fight something, you are focusing on it and giving it energy.  If you wish to remove something from manifestation, it is better to focus on its opposite:  give that good quality or organization energy, and watch it flourish and grow, knowing that the old will wither away in its on time.” (question and response from the book, Power of the Magdalene by Stuart Wilson and Joanna Prentis)

WOW!

This is a profound question with an even more profound answer.  As I have been witnessing the political events unfolding in Madison (Wisconsin), around the country and around the world, and watching both sides duke it out, I have been wondering what the most compassionate, loving and peaceful response would really be.  I had a sense of what felt right for me, but I could not give it words until I found the above dialogue.  When I read these words, it resonated on such a deep level, that I knew I had to share it.  So, there it is!  Reflect.  Ponder.  Discern.  Does this feel like truth for you?

What change do you want to see in the world?

How are you being called to hold the vision of positive change in your consciousness, prayer, meditation, etc?

Where are you tempted to “fight against”, how can you entertain, indulge in its opposite instead?

Where are you being called to put your energy toward compassion, peace, joy?

PS:  One of the practices I enjoy for creating change is sacred chant.  Chanting the names of the Divine works to alter our own vibration along with the vibrations of the universe and the vibration of the loving intentions we hold in our hearts and in our minds.  Here is an example of one chant that helps to raise our vibration to more closely reflect Divine compassion and love, try it on for size!

Sita Ram Chant/Kirtan with Ragani

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com