The tree of life

As I stood beneath this massive tree, a beautiful download of information was received and it went something like this:

Humanity is like this tree. We all stem from the same root. We all grow and are nourished by and through this tree.

All of us start out in the lower branches– gaining mass and strength that assists the tree in becoming sturdy and viable. Smaller branches grow from the main ones and expand in new directions, gaining new perspectives and light that nourish and replenish the tree.

The branches on any side of the tree can only see what they see. However, the knowledge and insights from all other branches is readily available to them. All branches need the same air, light, water, and soil to survive. If one branch perishes, the entire tree is at risk.

Each leaf on this tree is like a human being. Some are green, some are brown, some are yellow. You are a leaf. Each person you know is a leaf. Clustered in branches, some new, some old, each leaf is part of the tree, but also individual and unique.

Although the leaves (humans) on the lower branches cannot see what the leaves on the higher branches are doing, they are enriched by the fresh light and air, nonetheless. The leaves (humans) on the higher branches are there due to the strength and nourishment from the lower branches and the tree itself.

Without new branches, new leaves, and new growth, the tree cannot remain viable or regenerate. Without light, the tree can actually perish. To fear light and growth is to fear life itself.”

Emergency Inquiry

Chaos, rage, confusion, and fear are important and what we do with these energies, even more so.

While our default-setting is generally to ignore or attack that which is bringing us pain or discomfort, the evolved response or ‘advanced-setting’, if you will, requires our curiosity.

When we replace our habitual responses with curious inner-work we find that many times, our anger or fear is stemming from an unmet need– something which we are often unaware of.

Here are 8 helpful questions to explore when we’re ‘hit’ with sudden instability of any kind:

o What is this person, event, or situation requiring of me?

o What is attempting to emerge from this?

o Can I see the bigger grace in this seeming crisis?

o Can I envision the “other side”, or resolution of this crisis?

o How can I serve this situation or crisis without judging, criticizing, over-helping, or manipulating an outcome?

o How can I lend my unique gifts in order to help alleviate this crisis?

o How must I adapt or think differently in order to stop the perpetuation of this “crisis”?

o What would LOVE do?

For further study, a brief 1-HR-Course on anger is available here. (Note: from personal and professional experience my sense is that anger is rooted in unprocessed grief, and often times, we don’t realize that grief ‘energy’ is even there.)

The call to ‘creative action’

In 2007, roughly about a year after my first-born daughter Serena was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, she and I co-wrote a book about a little girl with cystic fibrosis. We did so because at the time there were no books that approached a severe and life-shortening condition from a holistic perspective. We also wrote it to help us contend with the unimaginable grief of it all.

Our local newspaper did a story on us, and then a local television station produced a little piece about this work. Co-producer, videographer, and lovely human being Larry Baker posted our story here.

Years later, finding myself in the lecture halls of both Kent State and Case Western Reserve Universities, I spent a great deal of time talking about the ‘disconnection’ or perhaps the lack of emotional, spiritual, and energetic intelligence in our most important institutions. One of my last lectures came by way of colleague Chris Laszlo who invited me to be a guest-speaker in his class Quantum Leadership. The slide deck from that presentation is attached below.

Today, finding myself in a position of some degree of personal and professional insight, due to the devastation of losing a child, the economic abuse that is currently an inherent aspect of being a head-of-household and parent-caregiver, and the visible failures of our current policies and system of law, I have been called to creative action once again. Why? Because mothers and parent-caregivers need our support. Because leaders are hurting and need our support. And also, to help me, and us, contend with the grief of it all.

Writer and philosopher Charles Eisenstein, whose work and writing I love and follow, once said (I think it was an interview he did with Oprah Winfrey), that the reason we have so much injustice is because “our hearts have not been sufficiently broken-open.” Meaning, we have yet to realize our inter-connectedness to each other, but fundamentally, to our own selves.

Collectively, many are living ‘disembodied lives’, operating solely from their heads and reason that was reasoned well before ‘now’, and therefore cannot address the human needs of ‘now’, of today.

Leaders in our institutions and communities who operate from this narrow lens, are hurting and hurting others who see more because they are not only fully-feeling, but viewing life as it is— not through the veils of dogma, or fearful policy, but from the lens of the clear intelligence that occurs when our hearts have been ‘broken-open’ all the way.

So, to anyone reading this; to anyone who has been moved, shaken, or stirred by these simple words and observations, what can you do in your own life, right now, to help dissolve, evolve, or transmute an injustice of sorts? Whether it hit you personally, or it affected someone or a lot of ‘someones’ you love, what ‘creative action’ (not protest, nor hate-speech, nor violence of any kind) can you co-create and share with us that will help make your and our life better, more productive, and richer in every way? Our wholeness, your wholeness, is only a creative action away.

Quantum Leadership Presentation, Spring 2018,
Presented at: Case Western Reserve University, School of Design and Innovation,
Weatherhead School of Management (download below)

Your 5 intelligences

In 2013 or so, while developing content and curriculum around emotional intelligence, I co-wrote, along with dear friend and colleague Kristie Pretti-Frontczak, a body of work titled the Essence Glossary™. Its primary goal was to express the notion that, as human beings, all of us have innate, yet often dormant ‘superpowers‘, as well as to offer a common and simple language to talk about these qualities.

Later on, Kristie and I delineated a number of EQ/EI leadership competencies to help frame the larger conversation and to support leaders in nurturing and modeling these behaviors. These competencies included; self-awareness, self-regulation, social literacy, situational literacy and spiritual literacy.

Last week sometime I re-realized that so much of what I, and so many of us are attempting to illuminate in our external environment is all inner-work and that these competencies and ‘superpowers’ stem not from mere behaviors, but from fundamental intelligence(s). (e.g. it is not what we do, but who we are……and yes, this leads to better and effortless doing.)

So, extending on our work, I offer this* as a starting point for the ‘how’ of becoming ‘modern sages’, or wiser and whole humans and leaders.

More to come….

*this 🙂

Who is a ‘modern sage’?

(Gentle reminder: You are here. You are whole. There are no exceptions.)

To put it simply, a modern sage is anyone who operates in life and work from a holistic perspective. My friends in education call this wholeness. My friends in business call this authentic or integral leadership. It is also what many soulful teachers call the ‘universal human.’

From philosophy, the term holistic is defined thusly: “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

In the field of medicine, the term holistic is defined as “treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.”

Although differing in their mastery or developmental stage, there are many modern sages among us! There have always been. I’m reminded of that tender reference Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) often shared about his mother in times of turmoil or crisis: “look for the helpers”, she said.

The ‘helpers’ are everywhere– they are the modern-day heroes you never hear about; the mothers, the grandmothers, the caregivers, the recovered, and the spiritually-aware who look beyond the socially-prescribed sanctions and weave love into the fabric of life.

Think for a moment about a person you’ve known or currently know -whether in your family, a personal friend, someone in your neighborhood, or where you work that exudes optimism, understanding, and is moved to kindness or action in the face of human suffering. (This person may be you, by the way!!)

There are people among us who just feel like ‘old souls’, right? In my research and work, I’ve identified a number of qualities, including emotional intelligence, that can be observed in others and in ourselves– qualities that differentiate a “sage” or wise individual or leader, versus someone who is operating from a limited set of ideas and information.

Being or working towards becoming a ‘modern sage’, does not imply perfection or immunity from life– in fact, quite the opposite is true. As my friend Kristie says, “it’s about being and working in the messy middle” and our ability to ‘stomach’ (literally) all that life is. But it does imply a stance of equanimity, harmony, and mindful action– therefore increased vitality for the individual. Being a modern sage is about self-mastery, as well as the ‘letting go’ of the delusion that there is anything to master….(except your own mind, of course.)

The path of the modern sage, including the poets, the musicians, the empaths, the teachers, the healers, the mothers, the caregivers, the nurses, and millions of human beings from all walks of life is a noble one; one that makes the segregation and separation of anyone or anything, obsolete.

You are here. You are whole. There are no exceptions. Therefore, to be a modern sage is simply to know and to embody this truth; your truth.

To inspire this knowing (remembering) in you, there are a number of self-awareness and inquiry resources on my other website. Most of these resources are based upon lectures and courses I taught at Kent State University’s School of Health Sciences and are now freely offered (I will be adding more, too!)

However, as my own life and work have evolved since my days of teaching in higher-education, this website (Modern Sage) will focus on the notions of being an ‘universal human’ (or modern sage!), as well as sharing some old and new resources related to light and sound modalities for stress, reduction, increased coherence, and feeling good and groovy in our lives. Onward! 🙂

The QIT

Way back in my corporate days, when the notion of quality-improvement was all the rage, our company installed a project team tasked with a building-wide assessment.

Our quality-improvement team, or QIT, designed a two-fold survey whereby every single employee at every level of the organization would answer: ‘what should we stop doing?‘ and ‘what should we start doing?’— this is well before the days of Survey Monkey and Google, mind you. We called them ‘the stop doing surveys’.

The title alone was visionary and courageous. It implied that our leadership was well aware that there were a number of policy and processes that no longer served us (the employees), the customers, or the shareholders. The richness of the data informed decisions that were, from the start, well received and appreciated. Our leadership listened. We felt heard. We all worked harder and felt committed to our mutual cause.

Imagine if we could take a leap together, well across party-lines, religions, culture, language, and all that currently divides us and installed an ongoing state-wide and country-wide, quality-improvement and quality of life survey for:

  • our governments (local, state and federal)
  • our social service agencies
  • our educational institutions
  • our financial institutions
  • our medical facilities
  • our business community

Would you personally take the time to complete a simple survey to provide ideas to improve the health and well-being of people in your community? What do you sense we’ll learn and find out together? How might we be able to advance our common goals of health, wealth, and well-being across the entire spectrum of society without harming others?

We know from the sciences that our only limitation is our own imagination. How might we imagine a better world for our children and grandchildren?– For ourselves, right now? It’s possible, but only if you have the vision and courage to believe that it is.

The Humane Human

This post follows a recent one on Building Humane Organizations and the recognition that while this is a desirable vision for many, this dream begins within each of us.

Although there are billions of human beings on the planet, there are distinct differences in the level of awareness and maturity for each. With a few notable exceptions, most humans have a limited understanding of their own humanity, let alone that of others.

When my girls were little, I would tell them that there were “younger souls and older souls” among us and that this had nothing to do with age, race, gender, creed, etc. Some human beings wrestle with this or that, and some seem unbothered by anything, but fundamentally, we are all here for some ‘reason’…and I sense that until one locates ‘that reason’ they will act and behave in inhumane ways because that is all they know.

There are distinct conditions and even qualities between humane and inhumane beings. Many of these qualities have been defined throughout history from spiritual, religious, philosophical, or psychological view points. The graphic below offers a summation of the chief qualities of a humane person (or chatbot!)

Knowing that in order to create more humane organizations and institutions we need ‘better humans’ (humane humans), it’s important to not only question ‘who’ we wish to be, but who we want leading our most important organizations and institutions.

10 Economic Myths

Excerpted from Minding the Caregiver, A Memoir, ©Mayra Porrata, 2021

I grew up during a time when we trusted that going to college and working hard was a secure pathway to living a good and comfortable life. If you got in with a ‘good company’ your life was set.

I followed such a path and worked 2-3 jobs during college. I worked in banking, first in the branches, as a teller, and later in the trust division where big chunks of money and accounts were traded and invested with ease.

Then, in 1991 I landed an entry-level position in the financial services industry, at a then Fortune 50 company. Within 8 months, my role morphed into a number of consecutive million-dollar project-based assignments that not only resulted in generous increases in my salary, but life-long friends, along with powerful lessons that still inform me today. I would not trade a thing about these formative career years.

My decision to leave the ‘gravy train’, as a colleague once referred to it, was not only met with bewilderment, but with great resistance, in part, because I left my lovely corporate job when I was 4 months pregnant with my first daughter.

For some ‘crazy and unexplained’ reason (which I would come to understand 6 years later), I knew that I had to make motherhood my #1 job and priority but also do something ‘on the side’ to bring income into the household because ‘unless I was bringing in money, I was somehow ‘costing the household.’

Although I could not fully understand nor explain the reasons why this sentiment did not sit well with me, afterall, I was raised by a stay-at-home mom who was lovingly supported by my father until his death in 2014, I have since come full-circle to see the absolute lie of that statement, and 9 others I call ’10 economic myths’:

MYTH: Only people with ‘paying jobs’ contribute to the economy.

MYTH: The stock market is the economy.

MYTH: Our country’s health is best gauged by how well the stock-market is doing.

MYTH: Being a mother/parent is not a ‘real job.’

MYTH: Being a caregiver is a choice.

MYTH: If you have a Master’s degree you should be making $100K a year.

MYTH: Public banking is a newfangled idea by ‘liberals’.

MYTH: Our leaders and decision-makers are trained in economics.

MYTH: Your credit score determines your value and worthiness in the community and society.

MYTH: Having health insurance protects and ‘insures’ your health.

Admittedly, I once believed all these to be true, but one by one, each delusion was dissolved by my lived experience and the reality of life itself.

Now that I know better, I can do better.

What is essential for a caring economy?

Can a “caring economy” coexist alongside our debt economy?

This is not a commentary of “one thing is better than the other”, because we already have both and need both, but how each could actually be strengthened.

This is also a commentary about what supports human health and well-being and what is detrimental to people from an economic, legal, and community standpoint.

Disclaimer(s): I am a professionally-trained, master’s level health educator. I also have a business degree and studied economics. My grandfather was a judge. I was a parent-caregiver for 12 years, 8 of these as a single-parent. I’ve been personally harmed by unwise policy and laws that favor corporations over family caregivers and therefore in full support of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, and wrote about what we suggest here.

All human beings want to be free and lead meaningful and productive lives. When we sustain catastrophic hardships, (like COVID-19, for example) that force our adaptation, it is essential that we support individuals through these events so that they can get “back on their feet.” Obviously, for the most part, we do this already.

Most people are caring individuals. Most people are good people. Most people also know that the economic game is rigged in favor of banks and corporations.

We, all of us, play a role in this. From our own ignorance over laws, policies and the interdependence of things, to where we bank, and spend our money, consumers make choices every single day about what they value.

Do you ever feel like you’re enslaved or ensnared in an unfair and unjust system? Do you ever wonder if there could be a better way for more people to be self-sustaining and free to do work they actually love? Many people already are and do, actually. However, our laws have not caught up to protect these inalienable rights.

Every single day in America, the constitutional rights of crime-less individuals are violated all to bolster private banks and the financial industry conglomerate. Current laws, economic and otherwise, are actually designed to funnel wealth away from individuals and communities in order to enrich corporations.

If you haven’t personally experienced this type of economic abuse and violence, consider yourself lucky. However, chances are that someone in your family or a loved one will meet this tragic fate.

The dehumanization and degradation of individuals and our communities happens anytime our “leaders” and decision-makers chose to uphold these laws. To have unwise individuals making decisions that affect people’s lives and that force their economic enslavement is a crime against humanity. Literally.

What do you think would happen if there were actual jury trials for cases where a debt-collecting corporation is suing a vulnerable consumer? That we have allowed our own Courts to harm us is a profound deficiency that must be addressed. That is why we need to uncouple these two things. To pit corporations against people is insane and unwise policy.

What do you value? What do you wish to stand for? Real human needs and economic prosperity, or a distortion of capitalism? We are each called to make this choice.

We need benign corporations. We need strong local economies. We need laws and policies that support both, not pits one against the other. And when in doubt, all economic laws should favor the vulnerable— the least socially and economically powerful, otherwise, collectively, we will all meet the same fate– because that is how life operates.

Accordingly, seeing what I have seen and knowing that false dichotomies are designed to gaslight and confuse us, I offer the following view of what “our economy” could actually offer, and what needs to be made obsolete because it is detrimental to our collective prosperity and flourishing.

So, can a caring economy coexist alongside our current paradigm? It already does! However, we need to strengthen it and by doing so, we strengthen the value of benign corporations.

Consumer Health ‘2021 Edition’

My first teaching assignment at Kent State University was ‘Consumer Health’. As a new faculty member, I inherited the textbook, content, and flow of the class. Here’s my very first syllabus:

As I look back upon this course, as well as my own experience and understanding of all that encompasses and impacts health, I would teach a totally different course. It would look something like this:

Consumer Health Education (2021 Edition)
Mayra Porrata, M.Ed. 

Module 1
Introduction to the forces that impact your health - Part 1
Law/policy, education, economics, culture, ideologies, environment, physics  

Module 2
Introduction to the forces that impact your health - Part 2
Your mind/psychological health, emotional intelligence, your social circles, your genetics, your personal energy/biofield, what you consume/ingest.   

Module 3
Media Literacy  
Understanding the motives of the individuals, institutions, companies, and advertisers seeking your ‘buy-in’ 

Module 4
Types of Medicine (because we’re not ‘just’ biological beings)
Biological/chemical, physical, energetic, subtle energy, transcendence.

Module 5
Economic Literacy
The 'business' of healthcare & health insurance

Module 6
Dealing with Disease, Disability, and Death
Approaching these human conditions with love and wisdom instead of panic and fear. A wholeness (systems) perspective of illness, aging, and death.

Module 7
Consumer Health Protection
A review of current laws as well as the community, state and federal agencies that support and promote health freedom and well-being.   

Module 8
Becoming an empowered and wise ‘consumer’
Self-awareness, self-regulation, mindfulness practices, and creating, using, leveraging your energy (and money) purposefully and wisely. 

Learning is a never-ending process. What we once may have held as fact, can and does, when viewed through an enhanced lens, change and improve our own understanding.

Even the scientific method and evidence-based practices are subject to revision and enhancement. It is only when we know better, that we ever stand the chance to do better. (Maya Angelou)

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