• 85th International Peace Meditation “Freedom: the Empowering Foundation”

    “Freedom: the Empowering Foundation”

    January 4, 2004–Today we think about freedom: the price of freedom; the necessity for being free; what we need to do for freedom; and what freedom does for us. What freedom means to the individual. What it means to the human race. And why we must be free to be truly empowered.

    Empowerment can be described spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. We are physically empowered when we have the physical capacity to accomplish what we need to accomplish. This comes through practices of wellness in our daily lives, but it also means that there may be adaptations made to accommodate physical disabilities. In the United States we have worked to accommodate physical disabilities through our laws and policies. However, it is important for each individual to reflect on the idea that we are not our bodies. We are spiritual beings, of value and worth, who use our bodies to accomplish what we want to accomplish. We are not less human due to our disabilities, but we must address limitations in order to become physically empowered. What is necessary is the belief within the individual and within the culture, that even when the body has limitations, as all bodies do, the individual is worthy and capable of contribution to the society and to the world.

    Each New Year brings us another opportunity to reflect upon why we are here. Why we have come into the world. The purpose of our individual existence. Why empowerment is important. Why it is essential to be free.

    All religions attempt to understand and communicate the meaning of life. Underneath all of our activities, whether conscious or unconscious, is the question: “Why am I here?” Sometimes we try to quiet that voice within by constantly moving. We are afraid or unable to stop, to be quiet, and to let the questions arise. But when we do, the answers can be profound.

    We are each here for a purpose. That purpose will express itself in different ways for each of us during our lifetimes, but the purpose is still the same. We are here to learn. We are here to contribute our lives in service.

    Each person comes into this life with inherent goodness, and with unique talents. One does not need to be a basketball star, or sing in the opera, to have unique talents. Our talents may not, and usually will not, bring us social status or make us the envy of others. Our talents may seem small, but they are really huge. Such talents may be to care about and for others, to be a loving parent, to care for the sick, or to teach others. To provide a loving environment for the healthy development of children or adults. To respect others by being a good listener. To advocate for the weaker of society-the young, old, ill, poor. To write, dance, sing, or to play an instrument. These are important talents. It is not important that these talents take us to high elected offices, or positions of power, although some will. It is important that we value these talents, and not fail to develop and to share them.

    This philosophy, taken to another level, means that we must respect each person, regardless of social class or education, because each has inherent worth and talent. These talents need expression. In order to be able to express, we must be free. We must be free from hunger, poverty, fear, and pain, and we must believe in our own worth. We can see that one cannot be free to contribute and express under oppression. This is why we have to stop oppression and fear. Oppression and fear limit the ability of each spiritual person to give their own unique talents for the betterment of all.

    Taken to yet another level, we could say that the purpose of being here is to grow spiritually. This takes many paths and forms. The main influence in spiritual development is the experience of love. The experience of love can come from many places. The child may or may not be blessed with loving parents. But love can come from only one parent, another family member, or a friend. If we are to develop spiritually, and therefore socially, we need to have the experience of love. In the best of circumstances, a child is raised within a loving environment. But we all know that this is often not the case. However, that child can develop into a loving person if he/she experiences unconditional love. What is love? Love is by nature unconditional acceptance. In fact, to say unconditional love” is in a way a misnomer, because if it’s conditional, it’s not love. It may be manipulation. I will love you if. . . .you do what I want. . . you make me look good. . . etc.

    The child needs to feel that, regardless of behavior, she/he is loved. When a child feels this, you will probably see improvement in behavior. A younger person wants the approval of the important adult or adults in his/her life: parents, teachers, family members. When that child knows that no matter what mistake he/she makes, or how badly behaves, that there is unremitting love, that child will feel secure. And in that security the child can develop. However, if a child feels that the parent or teacher does not like or care for him/her, self-esteem can become damaged, and he/she can feel unworthy. This leads to behaviors of anger and revenge. If we look at school safety from this perspective, we can see that every student needs to feel cared about and nurtured. If that were true, we would not see what we have come to accept as school violence.

    What is our purpose? What does it mean for each of us as a spiritual being to learn? What are the lessons?

    This is probably the most difficult area of spirituality. It challenges each of us, and it challenges spiritual leaders because when we fail, those who look to us for guidance often suffer. We attempt to understand when terrible things happen, especially to those we consider good people. They weren’t doing anything wrong. Why did God punish them? Why does God punish good people, and let the horrible tyrants live with good health and great wealth?

    First, let’s eliminate totally the idea that God, or Allah, or Love, or Force, or by whatever name we each ascribe to a higher force or power, punishes us. Instead let’s look at the universe as we know it to be filled with viruses, bacteria, and freedom of choice. If the roads are slippery and this results in a car accident, we can look at that accident as events occurring due to weather conditions, faulty brakes or tires, falling asleep at the wheel, speed, or impairment. There can be many logical reasons for a car accident. It does not mean that God is punishing a person who happens to be hurt or killed as a result.

    In the same manner, there are many viruses and bacteria which our bodies find challenging. Sometimes, the body cannot heal. Or, it cannot heal in this life as we know it. When the body becomes so ill or damaged that it cannot return to health, it may need to find health in the next life. When we pray for healing, we are letting go of the outcome. We are saying that we want a person’s or animal’s body to heal-whether in this life or by moving on. However, these events did not occur because of punishment. There are many factors constantly at work and at times the outcome for humans or animals is pain and suffering.

    The question to be asked is not, “Why is God punishing the person?” The question for the spiritual sojourner to ask is, “What am I to learn from this experience?” Then, do not presume to know the answers. The answers will come and will probably be surprising. Sometimes it means that we must let go of control, and trust. Sometimes it means that we have the opportunity to receive great love and caring from others. Sometimes it also means that those affected have an opportunity to contribute-love, healthcare, patience, support, financial means, helping with family responsibilities. Therefore, within this event, though painful, is the opportunity to learn and to contribute. We can think of it this way: ‘God doesn’t change the world for us. He changes us to meet the world.’

    It is important that we understand the role of the International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc. as it relates to freedom and to empowerment. The Institute provides leadership in the areas of empowerment and freedom through written materials, and through advocacy. Today we begin our eighth year of celebrating the International Peace Meditation on the first Sunday of every month. As you know, a tax-exempt organization cannot be involved in politics, and in doing so may lose its tax-exempt status. However, a tax-exempt organization can teach about issues, philosophies, beliefs, and can encourage responsible action. The Institute, especially through written materials made available in hard copy and on its web site, focuses on issues such as inequities in education and also in healthcare. You will find examples of this under the International Peace Meditation and also under News Releases at our web site www.humanempowerment.org.

    The Institute focuses on freedom, freedom in our minds and freedom in our policies, especially for those who are oppressed whether through domestic relationships or by governments. The purpose of the web site is to broadcast messages of empowerment internationally. In other words, we do not advocate overthrow or political activities. We do, however, encourage people to reflect on the meaning of freedom. All people are moving toward freedom. It is our nature to do so. The infant begins almost immediately to separate himself/herself from the parents. By the age of five or six, the parents are still a vital influence, but certainly not the only influence. And the media has probably caused that movement toward independence to occur even sooner.

    The international scene is rampant with the issue of freedom and the issue of oppression. When this cannot or is not resolved by peaceful means, it often erupts into violence. Our human nature is to want freedom, but there are greedy people, filled with hatred and lacking in empathy, who will use any means available to oppress others, whether for the purpose of obtaining resources, or simply for power. They abuse power, and continue to accumulate power through terrorizing others who must defer to save their lives. However, this begins to change when people learn about freedom, and begin to believe they deserve. They, as in other democracies, will want the power to select their leadership, and to raise their families and educate them without fear. So, even though we see horrendous examples of what goes wrong when abusive people are allowed to come into power, we can also see the broader and longer-term view, that eventually the people, with perhaps a sense of nothing to lose, rise up and claim their right to be free.

    If we look at the world in spiritual terms, seeing that there are only two forces, love and fear, and that everything is a result of the power struggles between these forces, we can perhaps look more objectively at what is occurring. When we choose to follow fear, we exemplify behaviors of greed, cruelty, need to control others, and other behaviors most of us would consider negative. When we choose to follow love, we emanate love, caring, trustworthiness, responsibility, respect for our fellow human beings, and desire for peace, unity, and equality. When these forces, love and fear, are in conflict, there are disagreements, even wars. Within a home there can be abuse. But, when love prevails, the country, the home, can be filled with people living peacefully, contributing within supportive environments, and living out spiritual purpose. It is a matter of choice. We needn’t blame God for the outcome. The outcomes are a result of choices. We need to do all that we are able to live by love, teach love, contribute our talents, and care about ourselves and others. This is how we can build peace in the world. We cannot destroy violence; we can only create peace.’

    We know that freedom has a price. Freedom is not free. Many have given their lives to allow us to be free. While we should never advocate war, we do advocate stopping oppression. Freedom and oppression cannot co-exist. We cannot have peace at any price. We have to confront those who oppress. We need to insist on freedom. And we need to spend time in prayer/meditation and reflection to allow our own minds to be free.

    We understand that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience. This is a paradigm shift. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, not physical beings having a spiritual experience. Conscious spirituality influences our behavior toward one another, and determines whether we learn lessons from life events, and whether we contribute our talents to the betterment of our world.

    We need freedom because without it we are not free to live our lives in service to our world. Lack of our individual contributions depletes our environment; the contribution of our talents enriches our home, society, and the world. When people are oppressed, they cannot contribute freely. Thus, in societies where people are oppressed, education, healthcare, religion, and the arts are lacking the contributions of many.

    Freedom gives us the opportunity to live out our spiritual purpose. It does not matter what social class we belong to, or how much status we possess. These are artificial constructs and have nothing to do with our true nature. We came into this world to learn and to contribute. We will have to become empowered to make that contribution. For example, many of our corporations and government agencies have lost their true purpose and are led by people whose main concern is to stay in power and to attain even more power. When the people within, the employees, are not allowed to truly serve their clients or customers because of oppressive cultures and policies, they cannot fully contribute. Look at your organization against principles of organizational empowerment, and decide if positive change cannot only make the organization more productive, but also lead to the fulfillment of those within who serve. If education and healthcare organizations and corporations have other motives than to provide good service as defined by their mission, not only are they cheating the customer and client of optimum services, but they are not allowing those within to fulfill their purposes. These organizations will require internal change for that to occur.

    Freedom gives us the opportunity to choose freely between fear and love. It gives us the freedom to decide if we want to learn from our life experiences, and if we want to contribute our talents. In spiritual terms, we might say that the choice for freedom in order to accomplish spiritual purpose is the way of spiritual evolution individually, organizationally, and as a world. Anything less is oppression. Anything less is lack of choice. Anything less is in need of revision.

    ‘We cannot destroy violence, we can only create peace’. Peace begins in our hearts and moves to our actions. All behavior begins in our minds. So the first step in becoming empowered is to free our minds of self-limiting thoughts.

    The following poem describes empowerment with simplicity. It’s called: “Butterflies are Free”. (copyright Sue Shipe,1993). (You can also hear it on the audiotape, “Love Rekindled.”)

    Butterflies are free, young man
    You can’t buy them anywhere
    They’re just as you and I would be
    Free floating in the air.

    One day a man went walking
    A young man with a dream
    He’d buy the perfect butterfly
    In his eye there was a gleam
    For owning such a beauty
    Would make him free, they say
    For freedom is a state of mind
    And there is no other way.
    Butterflies are free, young man
    You can’t buy them anywhere
    They’re just as you and I would be
    Free floating in the air.

    Into a pet store wandered
    The young man with a dream
    To buy the perfect butterfly
    A dream come true, ‘twould seem
    But owning such a beauty
    Won’t make him free, they say
    For freedom is a state of mind
    And there is no other way.

    Butterflies are free, young man
    You can’t buy them anywhere
    They’re just as you and I would be
    Free floating in the air.
    Please join the New Year’s 85th International Peace Meditation by reflecting, praying/meditating on Freedom. Ask to know what you must do to be free. And ask for the strength, patience, understanding, opportunity, and persistence to make it so. Please join us from wherever you are during the 24 hours of Sunday, January 4, 2004, and the first Sunday of every month in the International Peace Meditation.

    We hope you will visit our web site at www.humanempowerment.org and participate in this important mission to bring empowering messages and beliefs to everyone.

    And, only if you are able, please consider contributing to the mission of the International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc. Please give so that others might more fully live.

    Sue Kidd Shipe
    Executive Director

    Please send contributions to:

    International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc.
    P.O. Box 3920
    Albany, New York 12203 USA

    Please make checks or money orders out to:
    International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc.

    The International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc. is a 501 ( C )( 3 ) tax-exempt organization recognized by the United States Government. Your contribution within the USA is tax-exempt.
    Sue Kidd Shipe, Executive Director
    International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc.
    P. O. Box 3920
    Albany, New York  12203   USA
    (518) 393-9491

    Please write and let us know how we can better serve you.

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