Weekly Roundup

Some good reads from the week:

  • An Idaho lawmaker asked a physician if a swallowed camera can be used for gynecological exams–the doctor advised him that swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina
  • Some sound advice for Millennials on how to deal with all the extra income they will get as soon as they can find a decent-paying job.  So maybe save this link for another 10 years when it is relevant to your life.
  • Why a flat tax rate is unfair for most Americans–unless you’re really rich, then it would be great!
  • According to a recent study marijuana is 114 times safer than alcohol, so it makes sense then that alcohol is legal and marijuana (in most states) isn’t
  • The top source of calories for Americans is grain-based desserts, followed by yeast breads, chicken and chicken mixed dishes, soda/energy/sports drinks, and pizza–it explains so much doesn’t it?
  • I really, really hope that this South Carolina 2nd grade science quiz isn’t real, but sadly I think it is
  • Here are 17 amazing benefits of meditation (have you started meditating yet?)
  • Antarctica’s ice is melting very quickly; scientists have been able to witness carbon dioxide trapping heat in the air (which causes global warming); and even though global warming has slowed the last few years, apparently that isn’t a good thing

 

Chakras and Their Connection to Our Overall Health

Hopefully you’ve read my previous post about mental health and meditation, and that you’ve started practicing meditation.  This post will delve into the world of chakras–what they are, where they are, what do they do and why they are important?  I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking that it is a bunch of hooey.  But chakras are real, and if you don’t pay attention to your chakras, and thus allow them to get out of balance, it will have adverse affects on you and your health.

Before I continue, I want to quickly explain why I am talking about things like mental health, meditation and chakras in the first place.  This blog/website is about inspiring and empowering members of the Millennial Generation to create a better world.  But in order for us to do that, we have to first be better individuals.  The more conscious we are individually, the more conscious the world will be.  I will talk about consciousness in another post, as there is a lot to say about it.  But meditation is the best way to become more mindful and conscious.  And so hopefully everyone reading these posts will start meditating.  If you do, you will increasingly become more aware of your true purpose in life, which is a life purpose we all share really.  If you want to know what that is, you’ll have to wait for a future post. Sorry–it’s just too much to cover at one time.

Moving on.  In the last post I briefly touched upon the fact that we are energy, as our bodies–like everything in the universe–are made up of atoms. Proof that we are energy is that we can create an electric shock (like when you touch a door handle and it creates a shock so intense you can actually see it–ouch!). So it makes sense that there are focal points of energy in our bodies.  That’s what chakras are–main energy focal points found throughout the body.  There are seven chakra points in the body, forming a line starting at the base of the spine and going all the way up through the crown of the head. Each chakra is represented by a color that corresponds with the colors of the rainbow (remember ROY G BIV?), and is it also associated with a specific organ(s) in the body.  The chart below lists the seven chakras, their colors, and what organs of the body they control.  You’ll also notice that each chakra has a corresponding physiological or psychological aspect.

I’d like to share a story with you about the importance of maintaining balanced chakras.  About five years ago, someone very close to me was going through a difficult time.  They had just broken up with their significant other, and it wasn’t a very amicable split.  At around the same time of their break-up, they started experiencing severe pains throughout their abdomen.  This individual went to see several doctors but none of them could figure out what was wrong.  They even admitted themselves to the emergency room on a few occasions.  Numerous x-rays, CAT scans, MRI’s, and different blood tests didn’t reveal anything to be wrong.  Eventually one doctor suggested that maybe it was related to the gall bladder, and so this person–desperate for an answer–agreed to have their gall bladder removed.  But that didn’t help.  The pain persisted; that is until this person had moved on from the break-up and had gotten their life in order again.

Sometimes “western” medicine can’t figure out what is ailing us because it isn’t actually due to a physical injury or ailment–it is because one or more of our chakras is blocked.  When you have a chakra that is blocked or partially blocked, that throws off your internal energy, and if the block(s) is severe enough it can manifest as a physical ailment. Most likely the individual described above had blockages in their second, third and fourth chakras, but probably most prominently in their third chakra.

As you can see, maintaining balanced chakras is important not just for your mental health, but your physical health as well.  Most people have unbalanced chakras, and in some their chakras are severely out of balance.  This is when there is usually some sort of physical problem that is either created or heightened. Even something as common as fatigue can easily be attributed to unbalanced chakras.

Think about it, if there is an engine of sorts that has multiple parts and it needs an equal amount of energy devoted to each part, if the energy isn’t distributed equally then the engine won’t work properly. It will start to break down, malfunction and fall apart.  That is exactly what happens to our bodies when our internal energy isn’t balanced.  Think of your body as an engine.  Just like the engine in your car, your body needs regular maintenance.  This is done through both physical exercise and mental exercise (meditation/mindfulness).

As I stated in the previous meditation post, our brain and our body are in constant communication with one another, so if we are stressed our body sends signals to our brain that it is stressed, and then our brain reacts by releasing certain chemicals (like cortisol) to combat the stress.  If this is happening at heightened levels and for long periods of time, it make sense that people would start to feel physical manifestations because of it.  It’s no wonder stress is so harmful to your health!

There is a wealth of information out there about chakras and how to balance your chakras through meditation. ChakraEnergy.com is an excellent resource for information on chakras.  They even have a quiz you can take to see if any of your chakras are out of balance and they give you tips on how to unblock and strengthen them.  And if you search YouTube for “guided chakra balancing meditations” you will get plenty of options.  I did one last night and it was very helpful.  I recommend doing a chakra balancing meditation at least once a week, if not more.  At first you will likely find that you need to do it every day until you start to feel that your chakras are cleared.  You’ll know when this happens because you will be able to sense or feel it.  And you can also find meditations that target one specific chakra.

I hope that this information is helpful to you, and that you will start making daily meditation and mindfulness a priority. I promise it will produce a powerful and positive change in your life.  In a future post I will get into the spiritual teachings of Eckhart Tolle.  I just finished reading his books The Power of Now and A New Earth and both have had a profound impact on me.  I will discuss how and why in the next post.  Until them, namaste my friends.

Why I Left Facebook

Over the past weekend, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account.  I didn’t delete my account, because that is eight years worth of accumulated activity, and a lot of happy moments in my life were documented on my Facebook page. I don’t want to loose that.  But lately I just felt like I needed a break from the consuming world of Facebook.  I asked myself if Facebook was really necessary–does it add any substantial value to my life, or does it maybe do the opposite and take away from my life.  I realized that it is more of the latter, and so I decided to take myself off Facebook indefinitely.

Honestly, I’ve been thinking about doing this for a few months now.  I just want to focus more of my time and energy on the present moment, and Facebook takes away from that.  Not that I am on Facebook all the time–I check it a few times a day usually.  And I might post something 2-3 times a month. But I realized that when you are scrolling through your Facebook feed, you aren’t really connected with the present moment.  Instead you are scrolling through life in a way.  You are watching other people’s lives instead of focusing on your own.

Studies have shown that Facebook can cause depression in some people.  They see their family and friends getting engaged or married, buying houses, starting new and exciting careers, having children, going on amazing trips around the world, etc.  And this causes people to feel bad about their own life, or to think that is isn’t fair that these wonderful things are happening to others and not to themselves.  I admit, I’m guilty of this to a certain extent (as I think most people are).  I have been envious of others who were traveling to exotic places in the world or starting their dream job, and I had no money to go anywhere and was stuck doing a job I didn’t really enjoy.

But it makes no sense for me to compare my life to anyone else’s.  In doing so, I am focusing on the lack in my life instead of being grateful for all that I have.  And when you focus on what you don’t have, the energy you are putting out into the universe is that of lack, nonexistence and nothingness, and thus you will fail to attract better opportunities for your life because you can’t attract something that you don’t have. If you are grateful for what you have, the energy you put out is positive and invites more abundance into your life.  In his best-selling book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle wrote, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”  Why? Because you view life as gratifying and welcoming and therefore you are welcoming more abundance to come into your life. So I may not like my job, but at least I have one.  And I truly am very grateful for my job.  I need to remember that and to focus on that.

It is futile to think that life isn’t fair because something wonderful is happening to someone else instead of you. If I want to take a trip to somewhere exotic, I can save up money to do so.  And if I want a more fulfilling career, I should focus on finding my passion (my soul’s purpose) and figure out how I can use my passion to make a living.  My life is my own to live.  But the big down-side of Facebook is that the focus is usually on seeing how others live and then comparing their lives to yours, which oftentimes causes envy and unhappiness.  Eckhart Tolle also wrote in A New Earth, “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” How absolutely true.  (Note:  I plan to write a blog post or two about the teachings of Eckhart Tolle. I recently read two of his books and they have made a major impact on my life, including helping me realize that right now I would be better off without Facebook.)

I may go back on Facebook at some point in the future, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Again, it wasn’t adding value to my life.  If anything, it was keeping me from fully recognizing how fortunate I am.  I want to focus on the Now.  I want to be more present and aware and grateful for the blessings in my life.  And honestly, it has only been three days since I left Facebook and I already feel liberated.  The hold that my ego has had on my true self is weakening, and I am waking up and enjoying the present much, much more.  I am finally beginning to consciously live.

Weekly Roundup

Some interesting reads from the last week:

This great cartoon below depicts what it would look like if we treated our homes like we treat our planet.

earthhome720Thanks to Jen Sorensen for the cartoon

A Powerful Day for Manifestation

Today, February 18, 2015, is a very  big day in numerology and astrology.  I know a lot of people think this stuff is just a bunch of nonsense, and if you are one of those people then you may not want to bother reading this post.  But in case anyone is interested, I thought I would share why this day is so important and powerful.

Astrologically speaking, today there is a new moon happening at zero degrees in the last seconds of Aquarius and the first seconds of Pisces.  This is the fifth consecutive new moon to occur at zero degrees in the current sign (going back to the end of October, there were new moons at zero degrees in Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and now Pisces), and it is the second new moon to occur in Aquarius. Although, as mentioned, it is in the final seconds of Aquarius before the moon and sun move into Pisces–so technically this new moon occurs at zero degrees in both Aquarius and Pisces.  Some pretty powerful stuff!

New moons are a great time to set your intentions for new beginnings.  During a new moon, the sun and the moon are in the same sign, thus magnifying that sign’s energy (during a full moon, they are in opposite signs–for example, when the sun is in Pisces, the full moon is in Virgo).  With Aquarius being a very forward-thinking and gregarious sign, and Pisces a very dreamy and empathetic sign, during this new moon there is a great opportunity to manifest positive changes regarding your friends, family, significant other, co-workers and even society as a whole.  Tell the universe your intentions–but focus on things that will benefit everyone, not just yourself.  Think of how you can help build a better world.   For example, maybe you desire to be more patient and understanding.  That would greatly benefit you, your relationships with others, and society (because lets face it, society would be much better off if we were all more patient and understanding).

In numerology, today is a powerful day because it is a 1 universal day.  By taking today’s date and adding up all the digits until you come to a single digit, the number is reduced to 1 (2+1+8+2+0+1+5=19; 1+9=10; 1+0=1).  In numerology, 1 is the number of new beginnings and it starts a new cycle (each cycle goes from 1 to 9), so it is a great time to begin a project or make a big change that you have wanted to make.  Similar to a new moon, a 1 universal day is a great time to plant the seeds for the future because the universe has your back.

Additionally, today is a 19/1 day.  The number 19 is (obviously) represented by the numbers 1 and 9.  I already explained that 1 represents new beginnings and the birth of a new cycle in numerology, but the number 9 represents the end of a cycle and the letting go of things that are no longer of use to you–or that may be sabotaging you in some way.  So today you want to think about anything that may be holding you back (it could be habits, people, your career) and that no longer serve you.  But you also want to think about how you can make positive changes in your life.  So it’s two-fold–recognize things that you need to change or let go of, and then be bold and make the necessary changes in your life.  Don’t be afraid, because again, the universe is supporting you.

Overall, today is an excellent day to manifest whatever it is your heart desires.  More than that, this is an excellent time to get in touch with your soul’s purpose.  So don’t waste this opportunity!  Tonight, as the new moon is approaching, go into a meditation, and in this meditation focus on your connection to the universe.  Don’t just think about it–feel it.  When I first feel that connection within me, I feel a sudden jolt drive through my body.  It’s quite intense.  But you may experience something different.  I only tell you what I feel so you know that it is possible to physically feel something when you deeply focus on your connection to the universe.  And during the meditation share your intentions with the universe.  It will listen to you and it will support you.  If you aren’t sure what your soul’s purpose is, ask the universe for guidance.  Again, it will support you.  I have asked the universe for guidance in helping me figure out and subsequently fulfill my destiny in life, and it has yielded incredible results.  Like almost instantly I received signs that provided guidance.  And I wasn’t even doing this meditation during a powerful manifestation day like today!

If you don’t believe in this stuff, I suggest you at least give this a try anyway.  If you’re right and this is all a bunch of hooey, then no harm no foul.  But if you just give it a shot, you may be surprised at what happens.  And at least you’ll get a good meditation session in, which is always beneficial.  So why not give it a shot?  What have you got to lose?

Weekly Roundup

This is something I am going to attempt to do every Friday (with strong emphasis on attempt).  Below are links to news stories that I believe are worth a read.

Thanks to attn: for the picture

Mental Health and Meditation

A little while back, at the beginning of the year, I published my annual health and fitness post.  I’ve been doing this for the past few years, as I know that many people mold their New Year’s resolution around becoming fitter and healthier.  But this year I am expanding this topic to include not just physical health, but mental health as well.

Far too many people only focus on their physical well-being, and completely ignore their mental well-being.  The fact is you can be the most physically fit person on earth who follows an extremely healthy and wholesome diet, but mentally you can be a total wreck.  Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly are very important to living a healthy lifestyle, but honestly nothing is more important to your overall health than having a calm, present mind.  And the best way to achieve that is through meditation. Don’t get me wrong—exercise is a great way to alleviate stress, but it doesn’t begin to compare to meditation.

When you are meditating you are completely in the present moment. That is why it is so beneficial, because it stops the endless stream of thoughts that clog up our minds and cause us so much unnecessary worry, stress and anxiety.  Unfortunately there are a lot of misconceptions about meditation, and as a result many people are afraid to even try it.  It’s not a scary thing, and it is nowhere near as complicated or time consuming as most people think.

Probably the biggest misconception about meditation is that it is extremely too hard to do.  People think that they will only succeed in meditating if they can instantly and completely quiet their minds.  It is true that when you first start meditating it is a bit of a challenge, but with practice it becomes much easier.  A good analogy is starting a new exercise regimen.  If you haven’t been exercising and decide that you want to start, your first workout will be tough.  You’ll easily get winded and you probably won’t last very long.  But if you keep doing it, it gets easier and easier.  And even for people who work out frequently, the first few minutes are the most unpleasant.  I’m an avid runner, and when I go out for a run the first five minutes or so are always the toughest because my body and my lungs are getting used to the new pace, but eventually I settle into that pace and it’s like I’m on cruise control.  The same applies to meditation (which is like exercise for the mind).  The first couple of minutes are the hardest as you are trying to quiet your mind.  But soon you will be able to focus on your internal energy and your mind will wander far less frequently—and eventually, not at all.

Another misconception that turns people off from meditation is the false belief that you need to spend hours a day meditating.  Really, just 10-15 minutes a day is sufficient.  Studies have shown that just this little bit of meditation every day will help to reduce stress and anxiety, alleviate depression and will also help you sleep better.  You don’t need to be like a Buddhist Monk and meditate for several hours every day—just block off 10 minutes of your day and you will see significant benefits in your life and to your health.

Lastly, you don’t need to find a spiritual counselor of some sort to teach you how to meditate.  It is actually a simple process.  The easiest and most basic way to meditate is to focus on your breathing.  Find a quiet place, sit up straight (if you want to lean against a wall for back support that is fine), and close your eyes.  I also like to sit with my arms out in front of me and my hands resting on my knees (the typical meditation position) because then my body is completely open.  And you don’t have to sit with your legs crossed—they can be straight out in front of you.  The important thing is that you are comfortable; otherwise you will only be focused on your discomfort.  As you inhale, feel your lungs filling with air and your chest expanding.  Breath very deeply and very slowly.  When you exhale, feel the air leaving your lungs and your chest contracting.  If your mind wanders, that is okay—once you catch this happening, re-focus your mind on your breathing. Again, it will take some practice before you are comfortable with this, so don’t get discouraged.  Keep at it!

Once this becomes a little easier, begin to visualize a radiant white light surrounding you.  When you breathe in, feel the white light entering your body and filling your lungs.  This white light is a positive energy force that represents peace and love.  As you exhale, visualize the breath that is leaving your body as a gray energy that is very negative and heavy.  Every time you inhale, you are filling your body with the peaceful and positive white light, and every time you exhale you are emptying your body of the gray negativity that represents anxiety, doubt and fear.  If you do this for even 10 minutes, you should come out of the meditation feeling much lighter, happier and peaceful.

The greatest benefit to deep breathing meditations is that it keeps stress and/or anxiety from having control of your mind.  Deep breathing is extremely calming, and there is scientific proof of this.  When you are stressed, your body is sending signals to your brain that there is some sort of a threat.  Your brain then releases certain chemicals in response to this perceived threat (like the hormone cortisol that causes you to hold onto fat, which causes you to gain weight).  But if you start breathing deeply you calm your mind, and you will slow down or halt the release of those chemicals.  If you don’t believe this, the next time you are stressed, worried or upset about something, become aware of how you are feeling, and then start breathing deeply.  Be very conscious and very present.  After even just a minute or two you will feel much better.

Another great meditation exercise is to focus on your body parts.  Meditation really helps you to anchor into your body so you can connect with your internal energy source.  This is how you become totally present and conscious in the moment.  Start with focusing on your breathing to help quiet your mind, and then draw your focus to your fingers and your hands.  Feel the energy in them.  Don’t just think about it—feel it.  Then move to your arms, your shoulders, your chest, your abdomen, your hips, thighs, knees, calves, feet and toes.  Feel your internal energy moving throughout your body all the way into your neck and your head.  Feel your internal energy’s connection to all other energy around you.  Visualize your energy as the radiant and peaceful white light, and feel it intensify with each breath you draw in.  Feel it expanding to touch everything around you.  Focus on the connection you have with all life on earth, and then with everything in the universe.

Even though we don’t usually think of ourselves in this way, the truth is we are all energy fields (your energy field is often referred to as your aura).  We are made up of atoms, like everything else in the universe.  Just as stars are made of atoms, so are we.  In fact, the atoms that make up each one of us (and everything else on this planet) once came from a star after it died in a massive supernova explosion.  That star’s death created a giant cloud of gas and dust (called a Nebula) from which our sun was born, and then the planets, moons, comets and asteroids that make up our solar system formed from the leftover gas and dust surrounding our sun.  In other words, we are literally made of stardust.  All energy in the universe can be traced back to the moment of the Big Bang.  Therefore, all energy in the unvierse is connected.  When you medidate, focus on that connection you have with the universe.  Feel it coursing throughout your body.  That energy source is your true being—your soul.  It is always there, but most of the time we are unaware of it.  In meditation, we reestablish the connection our soul has with the universe.

If you find that you need guided meditation, which for first-timers is probably a good way to go, you can go to YouTube and search “guided meditations”.  You can also go to websites (like this one) that offer free guided meditations.  Or, you can just Google “free guided meditations”.  There are numerous types of meditations that focus on different things like gratitude, empowerment, abundance, emotional release, etc.  Before you get into specific meditations, however, I recommend you start with a basic meditation that simply relaxes the mind and brings you into the present moment.

There is far too much to cover on this topic in just one post, so I will continue to write about this in subsequent posts.  But to start, I wanted to highlight the importance of your mental health, and how meditation is the best way to improve your overall mental health.  Hopefully you will try the meditation exercises I described above.  I guarantee that it will begin to change your life.

In the next post I will talk about the seven chakra points throughout our bodies and why it is so important to maintain balanced chakras.  Until then, namaste my friends :)

RE: Female Leadership, Science and Vaccinations

The Pew Research Center recently released two interesting polls.  The first is regarding Women and Leadership–specifically how the public views women in leadership roles in politics and in business. The second is about the public and the scientists’ views on science and society.  While these polls aren’t related at all, I found them to be interesting and relevant to recent news and I figured why not cover them both at the same time?  This is like a potpourri post.

Because gender equality has been such a hot topic lately, I thought this Pew poll about women in leadership roles was quite telling.  As women continue to rise in politics and business, there has been a lot of discussion over whether they are as capable as men of being effective leaders.  What is encouraging about the findings of this Pew poll is that the majority of the public feels that women are equally qualified for leadership roles; however, they acknowledge that barriers still exist for women.  When asked what is holding women back from attaining the top jobs in business and in politics, the top two answers were “Women are held to higher standards” and “Not ready to hire/elect” women leaders.

Even more interesting is that the majority of the public sees no difference between men and women regarding leadership characteristics.  But for those that do draw a distinction, most say that, in politics, women are better than men at “Working out compromises”, “Being ethical and honest”, “Working to improve U.S. quality of life” and “Standing up for beliefs”.  In business they feel that women excel in “Being ethical and honest”, “Proving fair pay and benefits”, and “Mentoring employees”.

Moreover, female respondents in this poll were twice as likely as the male respondents to say that more women in leadership roles would improve the quality of life for all women (38% of women vs. 19% of men), and they are also much more likely to say that women face at least some discrimination in today’s society (65% of women vs. 48% of men).  Overall, the public seems to have made progress in how it views women in leadership roles, even though women clearly still have a ways to go.

Moving on to the second poll.  If you regularly read my blog you know that I’m a big fan of science.  I like science because it uses facts.  And I like facts because they are true.  But sadly, the general public doesn’t seem to care much for facts, or they have a hard time accepting them (probably because facts oftentimes contradict their beliefs, whether religious or otherwise).  Lately, it seems like reason is being trumped by several conspiracy theories that have no factual backing.  And while this poll found that, in general, the public has very positive views of the scientific community, there is a large difference between the opinions of the public and those of scientists on various issues.

For example, genetically modified foods have become a huge area of concern for the public as of late; however, scientists don’t seem to agree that this is a problem.  According to the poll, just 37% of the general public feels that genetically modified foods are safe to eat.  In contrast, 88% of scientists connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) say that they are safe to eat.  This issue represented the biggest gap between public opinion and the beliefs of scientists. Climate change is another issue where there is a large discrepancy in opinion between the public and the science community, with 50% of the general public believing that climate change is mostly due to human activity, versus 87% of AAAS scientists.  Similarly, 68 percent of the general public says that humans evolved over time whereas 98% of scientists believe in human evolution.

One issue that has been a huge news story as of late is vaccinations.  Frankly, I’m surprised at the number of scientists who said that childhood vaccinations such as MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) should be required.  Only 86% of scientists agreed with this statement, compared to 68% of the general public.  I would have thought it would be higher in the scientific community, considering there is rock solid evidence of the effectiveness of vaccines, and that there is no definitive casual link of vaccines to conditions like autism.

Thanks to the Daily Kos for the above image

Up until recently there has been no debate over whether to have your child vaccinated or not.  This anti-vaccine nonsense all started over a paper published in a journal called Lancet in 1998, which suggested that there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.  However, immediately thereafter several papers were published that refuted this claim.  Furthermore, Lancet has since redacted that publication.  But some people still believe that there is a definitive link between vaccines and autism, when in fact, there is no link whatsoever.  I do admit that the large spike in the cases of autism over the last few decades is troubling, and research as to why this is happening should continue. But as of right now, no cause has been identified.

Thanks to IFLS for the infographic

I would hardly call the recent uptick in the number of measles cases a full-on “outbreak”, but it does highlight how crucial it is for people to have their children vaccinated.  The chart above (from the Daily Kos) shows how effective vaccines truly are. When five people in the United States had contracted the Ebola virus, the public went batshit crazy and acted as if the end was here.  But when a whole segment of the population decides not to have their children vaccinated against highly contagious and potentially deadly diseases because a shoddy paper published 17 years ago said that there may be a link between vaccines and autism (which has since been proven to be false), and now there are over a hundred new measles cases in the U.S. in just the last couple of weeks, it’s not that big a of a deal because vaccinations are a matter of personal choice.  No, this is a matter of public health.  And public health is everybody’s concern (which is why people were so upset about Ebola), and it is also everybody’s responsibility.

It’s no wonder that the vast majority of scientists in the Pew poll not only believe that the public has limited knowledge about science, but also that this is a major problem.  I wholeheartedly agree.

What Boko Haram Teaches Us About Humanity

If you watch the news closely and are up to date on current events, then you may have heard of a militant Islamist group that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Nigeria in just the last few months.  They call themselves Boko Haram, and they have been terrorizing Nigeria for almost thirteen years.  The day of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Boko Haram had just finished a days-long raid of several villages in which upwards of 2,000 people were massacred.  Twelve people died in Paris; hundreds, and possibly thousands, died in Nigeria.  Yet, hardly any media coverage was given to the massacre in Nigeria–our wonderful mass media proving once again how useless they truly are.

Boko Haram has been on a rampage for years, yet most of the world has only recently heard of them.  They made major international headlines last April when they kidnapped 200 schoolgirls whom they intended to keep as slaves and marry off to soldiers in their army (because they believe that women captured during conflict are part of the “war booty”).  An international grassroots campaign started in response to the kidnappings, but nothing substantial was ever done about this and only a few dozen of the girls escaped.  Since then Boko Haram’s campaign of terror has continued with little media coverage, including the early January 2015 attacks.

Here is the nitty gritty on Boko Haram from a BBC article about the Islamist group:

  • Founded in 2002

  • Official Arabic name, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”

  • Initially focused on opposing Western education

  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state

  • Designated a terrorist group by US in 2013

  • Declared a caliphate in areas it controls in 2014

Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions – is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.

Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors.”

 

Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.

 

This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.

 

Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president – and it has extended its military campaign by targeting neighbouring states.

 

Analysts say northern Nigeria has a history of spawning militant Islamist groups, but Boko Haram has outlived them and has proved to be far more lethal, with a global jihadi agenda.

 

It has a fighting force of thousands of men and cells that specialise in bombings. Through its raids on military bases and banks, it has gained control of vast amounts of weapons and money.

 

The threat Boko Haram poses will disappear only if Nigeria’s government manages to reduce the region’s chronic poverty and builds an education system which gains the support of local Muslims, the analysts say.

Boko Haram is an excellent example of the increasing level of religious extremism the world is combating.  This isn’t just a problem for the U.S. or the Western World, it is actually more of a problem in Muslim countries and in the Third World where these groups dwell, and thus where these groups inflict the most terror.

One thing that many non-Muslims (and Americans especially) don’t seem to understand is that Islam is not an inherently violent religion.  But it is much easier to blame the religion than the followers.  The vast, vast majority of Muslims are not violent, intolerant people, and they are just as offended and horrified by these brutal acts of violence [commited in the name of Islam] as everyone else.  Religious extremism is found in Christianity as well, but most of the people who blame Islam for violent extremism wouldn’t blame Christianity for the same thing.  The reason is because most Americans are Christian, and therefore do not think that their religion is violent (because they have an understanding of Christianity, whereas they are completely ignorant of the teachings of Islam).  To them, when a Christian commits acts of violence in the name of Christianity, it is the person that is to blame, not the religion.  And while I agree that Islamic extremists are far more violent and prevalent than Christian extremists, the fact is that extremism exists in both religions.

As much as I do not resonate with any modern mainstream religion (as I explained in this post), I do not blame religion for the evils of our world.  Yes, I believe the world would be better off without religion, but it is the warped beliefs of some individuals that create such extremist views, not the religion itself.  If it was the religion at fault then that would mean that all followers of that religion would be extremists, or at least most of them.  But in fact, the opposite is true.

We also need to recognize that these Islamic terrorist groups aren’t attacking Americans or the French, or Christians/non-believers.  They are attacking fellow human beings.  We need to strip ourselves of the labels and accept the reality that it is all of humanity that is under attack by our own inability to find a way to live in peace.  And that is a problem we all have.  We are our own worst enemy.  Humanity’s problem is that too many of us choose to harbor hate, greed, judgment, ignorance, intolerance, and violence, instead of the opposite.  Most people would never resort to violence just because they don’t agree with someone’s religious beliefs or lifestyle choices, but far too many of us still refuse to acknowledge those individuals as fellow human beings who should have the same rights as the rest of us. People like that may not be violent extremists, but they are intolerant bigots, and they are just as guilty of keeping our world from moving toward a more peaceful and loving future as the extremists.

There is hope, because human nature is much more loving and peaceful than it is violent.  That may be hard to believe when you look at how violent the world is today.  In the last century alone, 100 million people were killed due to war.  How is it that we can so easly justify killing each other?  Luckily that is changing.  As I’ve said many times before, most humans are genuinely good people.  And more and more of us are becoming conscious of the need to be more loving and accepting.  We understand that our species will not survive if we continue to be hateful and intolerant.  But we need to speak up more because as long as we remain silent, the biogts and the extremists of the world will win.  And when they win, we all loose.

So it seems logical to me that the best way to combat violent religious extremism is by being as loving and accepting to others as we can.  Many feel that we should use military force against terrorists, because they believe that it is the only way to eliminate terrorism.  And I admit that it may be necessary at times.  But it is important to recognize that military force would only ever be just a short-term solution at best.  We may eliminate the terrorists with military force, but we won’t eliminate the terrorists’ hateful thinking and beliefs.  In fact, we will likely strengthen it (and there is evidence to support this), which will create more terrorists.

As long as we, as a collective species, deny others of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and as long as we refuse to accept that it is okay for others to have different beliefs and lifestyles than our own; and as long as we believe that we are superior to others in any way and for any reason, humanity will never know peace.  Instead of being greedy we need to be generous and selfless.  Instead of being cruel to others we need to be kind and compassionate.  Instead of demaning others we need to be respectful and considerate.  Instead of being judgmental we need to be open-minded and unprejudiced.  Instead of being intolerant we need to be accepting and empathetic.  Instead of being ignorant we need to be conscious and informed (and in doing so we will become more open-minded and accepting).  If we can do all of these things then only peace, love and understanding will be able to manifest in our world.  Violence, hate and intolerance will cease to exist.  And then extreme religious groups like Boko Haram will simply be a reminder of the ills of humanity before we fully awakened to a harsh reality and did the only thing we could to save our species and our planet–we evolved.

mandela

Thanks to attn: for the picture.