Monday, July 30, 2007

The Importance of Keeping a "Soft" Heart

On a road trip with my sister, we talked about our lifelong perception of another family member that recently turned out to be questionable. We realized this when we attended the person’s memorial service and heard how other people saw her. We concluded that we had allowed a couple of isolated perceptions to become judgments, which justified avoiding and never really getting to know this relative.

When I thought about this later, I realized that for me this pattern of coping with difficult relationships started early in life with my mother. My perception of her was of a cold, unfeeling and sometimes harsh woman because I never felt loved or cherished by her.

Since this is one of life’s primary relationships, I experienced the full spectrum of textbook emotions—anger, fear, shame and unworthiness. My response was also typical. In order to ease the pain, I hardened my heart toward her. So that no one else would know of my private heartache and the shame of not being someone that a mother could love, I became the attentive and dutiful daughter.

I learned years later that when something goes wrong in our lives our tendency is to blame others, and we feel justified in doing so. However, by following this path we never find the love we are seeking, which is within us.

After years of doing daily forgiveness work for my mother and myself, I opened to this natural wellspring of love within me. I grew past the need for my mother, or anyone else, to love me. This changed my life.

As I began thinking of my mother and the traumas she endured as a child, it was possible to understand the woman she had become. My heart softened toward her. The love just naturally flowed from me to her and it didn’t matter that she could not return it.

Near the end of her life, she had senile dementia and was unaware of me or anyone else. With an open and tender heart, I was able to be there for her at a time when it was most needed. I was also able to give her the love and nurturing she wasn’t capable of giving me as a child.

I realize that there will always be opportunities to allow perceptions to become judgments that tempt us to shut people out of our hearts and our lives. I believe this is contradictory to the overflowing love that is within us that is yearning to flow and connect with others. I also believe it takes a lot of precious life energy to keep others out of our hearts, and this process robs us of inner peace.

It is a fact that our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects are linked together and the decision to harden our heart toward another can affect our physical bodies. During an annual physical some years ago, I learned that several areas of my heart had started to harden, which would make it more difficult for my heart to beat healthfully. I instinctively knew the cause and the cure.

It is important to remember that our own physical and emotional well-being depends on maintaining an inner peace which comes from a healthy relationship with our self and others. I believe the only way to ensure that is by keeping a soft and open heart.
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s book THE HEART KNOWS THE WAY—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within is available from, other online booksellers, and through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Why Not Elect the Speechwriters Instead of the Candidates?

Because I am a writer, I often get requests from close friends to review something they have written or to write a short blurb to further a cause we both believe in and support. Yesterday I received an e-mail from a friend who is helping a candidate for political office. She sent a short article she had written for an upcoming event on behalf of her candidate and asked for my help.

I had met the candidate once when she was visiting my friend, and while I wasn’t aware of her platform, I was impressed with her personally and respectful of her courageous decision to run for office. I also trust and respect my friend, so I agreed.

Yesterday I spent several hours going over the piece, and could hardly wait to get to the computer this morning to add some new thoughts. After polishing the piece until I totally resonated with the content, I opened an e-mail and began writing a note to my friend to accompany the attached article. It wasn’t long before I realized that I had doubts about sending it and decided finally that I wouldn’t. Here’s why.

I began thinking about the challenging times that face us locally, regionally, nationally and globally. I thought about how important it is to elect consciously aware human beings who have the moral, ethical, intellectual and spiritual maturity to break free of old patterns—and are open to new paths of opportunity to heal our planet and ensure our future on Earth.

In order to do that, we must be consciously aware ourselves and through due diligence seek out the brightest and best individuals for the job. I knew I couldn’t present a written piece that might not reflect the essence of the individual for whom it was written.

I also vividly remembered the times I had voted for someone only to realize later that we should have elected the person who drafted the now-incumbent’s speeches.

Recently, along with my fellow citizens, I watched the presidential debates and realized how difficult [nearly impossible] it is to try to figure out the true character of any current candidates as they have been packaged, prepped and sanitized in order to get elected.

The only ones who have the “freedom” to speak candidly are those not in the upper tier of presidential candidates, as they know they won’t be their party’s choice and have nothing to lose.

I e-mailed the suggestion to my friend that the candidate courageously publish a list of her personal core beliefs and intentions right off the bat; throw her hat in the ring and go for it. It would be refreshingly honest, and a nice change from the usual put-the-platform-together-as-you-go process.

Since I already did the work, I would like to share some of the qualities that I believe we should require and expect from our national leaders: We need elected officials who are secure enough to connect and communicate candidly at a time in our world when we are becoming more and more alienated from each other—and who seek to connect and negotiate rather than influence and impress; who lead from a place of integrity, intelligence and with a compassionate heart; who are ethically, morally and spiritually mature enough to break free of old ways and be open to new opportunities to better our lives and secure the future, and who work to ensure there is a future and one worthy of our stewardship.
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s book THE HEART KNOWS THE WAY—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within is available from, other online booksellers, and through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, July 16, 2007

If Communications Are at a Pinnacle in History, Why Are We Living in a Disconnected World?

In a recent conversation, a friend asked me about an incident that caused a breach between me and a mutual friend. I had to admit that neither of us had ever made any attempt to resolve the situation. Even though we have maintained a relationship during the ensuing years, there is no longer trust, intimacy or any real connection between us.

I realize that my experience is typical of the increasing inability of individuals to communicate with each other. Ask anyone you know. Friends can’t reveal themselves to friends. Relatives can’t relate with relatives. Siblings can’t communicate with siblings, mothers with daughters, fathers with sons or the parents with each other. And it goes right on from there through every aspect of society, and all levels of government, at home and abroad.

A wide breach in communication exists between Israelis and Palestinians, between Sunnis and Shiites, and on and on and on, and this is one of the, if not the major reason we have such violence in the Middle East and throughout the world. It is also the major reason that we continue to use wars as a misguided and primitive attempt at conflict resolution.

I watched a documentary the other night on Tony Blair and his decade as prime minister of the United Kingdom. His courageous commitment to personal involvement in peace talks in Ireland was a key to its historic success. He left a meeting of world leaders to be sure this process had his undivided attention and literally worked around the clock for days to see it through. His ability to communicate clearly on a human level, his negotiation skills, as well as his unflagging dedication, literally saved the day. He did this even though he knew if his efforts failed he was at great political risk.

I remember a few other instances in my lifetime when other leaders with integrity and awareness realized the vital importance of the human dimension in communication and opened opportunities for resolutions when absolutely nothing else could.

Relationships between individuals are not simple. Security in relationships does not and never will come from having power over someone. Security in relationships comes from building connections, which builds trust. True intimacy is based on the willingness to be vulnerable, and to risk, which is the opposite of control.

On the international level, it is extremely important that communication be approached with the intention of negotiation instead of impressing, threatening or having power over. It requires personal integrity, intelligence and ethical, moral and spiritual maturity to lead a nation and to interact globally.

While the current situation in Washington is chaotic and distressing, I believe that this and the reality of the global problems may help bring us out of our national apathy. This could present a unique opportunity to learn what we can do that will change our lives and help alter the course of our nation and the world.

I believe that the challenges in our world serve as a mirror and simply reflect the basic fears and problems we face in our own lives. We can’t connect with each other and resolve the simplest conflicts, and our national leaders are having the same problem. We also don’t rise up as one voice and demand better solutions in national and international situations.

I believe the only hope for peace in this world is to restore basic human to human communication. And this must begin with each one of us. When we are able to communicate clearly and negotiate solutions, we will naturally expect it of everyone else, and demand it of our leaders.
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s book THE HEART KNOWS THE WAY—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within is available from, other online booksellers, and through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, July 9, 2007

"De-Nial" Is Not Just a River in Egypt ...

Life is a terminal condition, and I am at that stage, along with about thirty-five million other Americans, when this holds particular interest for me. Like many parents, I have wondered if my offspring have thought about the fact that this time of life is also on the horizon for them, and whether or not they will be prepared to respond healthfully in either instance. Two recent experiences dramatically point up how some offspring of aging American are choosing to cope with this situation.

Last Sunday I visited a family friend who has been in an assisted living facility for several years. When she had been healthy and active, she was the hub and heart of her family. Then the years sapped her health and strength, her husband died and more responsibility was placed on her adult children. After her 80th birthday, she fell several times, and is now confined to a wheelchair.

We talked candidly about the typical reasons her children and grandchildren do not come to visit her very often—too busy with their own families, living far away, and fearing she will place further demands on them for additional assistance. She also knows that the reality of facing death, even someone else’s, is more than some people can stand, so they avoid contact with the aging person.

Later that same week I attended a memorial service for the mother of a dear friend. The woman was ninety years old and had lived with my friend and her husband for the past sixteen years.

In her son-in-law’s tribute, he lovingly shared the fact that since he and his wife could not have children, they had decided to take in and care for their aging parents. This was their last “child.” While he admitted there were challenges in the beginning, his face registered the truth in this statement: “The gift in what we both gained in the day-to-day living with Mom transcends my ability to describe it.”

My companion turned to me and whispered, “Everyone should be so lucky.” I nodded agreement. I had been a volunteer for Hospice of the Valley, and have accompanied a number of loved ones on their last life journey. Yet I had never witnessed such an extraordinary memorial service where tears and laughter flowed as one in a magical expression of love.

I realize fully that these two scenarios obviously reflect the culture, character and conscious awareness of the individual families. Each situation is appropriate for the people involved.

Truthfully I don’t see either scenario being in my future—either being ignored or cared for in such a selfless, charitable way. While I know that death is meant to be a sacred, loving, life-affirming and spiritually enlightening experience, many people still believe it is the most feared of all natural life events. Until society as a whole can move out of that mind-set and accept death as the natural result of being born, many end-of-life scenarios for elderly citizens will resemble the first example.

As for me, I have made practical plans that hopefully will assist me and my loved ones through this future time. My heart desire is to be at peace within and to be so focused on the sacredness of the event—of becoming one with my true essence, going home—that this and this alone will determine the quality of my experience.

I believe the answer for every human being is to accept that death is as natural as being born. As we can release the fear of death and move out of denial, we will be free to live more fully and ultimately to die a much better death no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch
The author’s book THE HEART KNOWS THE WAY—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within is available from, other online booksellers, and through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, July 2, 2007

An S.O.S. for the American Dream

We have always had a proud history of welcoming legal immigrants into our country from around the world. The difference was that in the past, the laws of our land determined who, how many and when.

The day after the recent failure of the immigration bill in Congress, a government official was quoted on National Public Radio as saying that somewhere between 12 and 15 million illegal immigrants are residing in the United States. No one really knows the actual number, who they are or where they are.

How does a historically caring and generous nation respond to the challenge of illegal immigration without destroying the rule of law on which the United States is based, and without eroding the quality of life of its citizens? These are the reasons illegal and legal immigrants want to come here in the first place.

Everyone knows that it is a crime to enter the United States illegally. Obviously our national leaders have ignored the fact that we have existing legislation, regulations, quotas, rules, waiting periods and bureaucratic processes that must be followed and respected. This is a system accepted by most countries around the world.

While our two political parties quick-stepped around this serious issue, the legislative process was paralyzed. Perhaps the future resolution of this issue will be aided by the fact that now everyone will know what no political leader wanted to bring up or talk about. The Republicans wanted to appease their big business contributors by providing cheap labor and the Democrats wanted to retain their existing Hispanic constituencies and gain new voters when the illegal immigrants become legal. This is why neither side would make a definitive move in any direction to resolve the issue.

Even without the continuing large numbers of illegal immigrants, there are already real concerns about this country’s ability to provide the infrastructure and the financial and human resources to respond to national or international emergencies. Consider Katrina and Iraq.

Americans are already highly concerned about international terrorists breaching our borders, and the outsourcing of jobs abroad, which coupled with the hiring of illegal immigrants, lowers the pay scale of many American workers. Also, U.S. citizens who live in states that border Mexico, a major source of illegal immigrants, are feeling the economic pressure of the demand for more clinics, schools and necessary public services. These are paid for by American taxpayers, not illegal Mexican immigrants.

Yet the fact is that most Americans still feel passionate about humanely aiding illegal immigrants. The truth is, however, that we would better serve current and future citizens [legal and illegal] by demanding that the government protect our borders, stop the illegal crossings and develop enforceable solutions.

Our political leaders only need to study history or just take a look around the globe today and see the destabilizing effect that such unchecked migrations have on the host country. While it is a fact that many illegal immigrants assimilate into the fabric of the host country, in countries where large numbers have no interest in doing so, the result is often tension, disorder and violence.

This is a critical situation that will require a high level of integrity, moral, ethical and spiritual maturity as well as a compassionate heart to resolve. I believe there are creative solutions that can be developed to help long-term illegal immigrants from all countries who have actively assimilated into and enriched this country by their presence. This is positive and greatly desired.

I believe there is only one wise long-term solution, however, and that is for our leaders on both sides of the aisle to stand up for the United States, secure its borders and enforce the existing immigration laws. History records that no nation can survive without enforceable and enforced laws. Our government must assert its legal right and responsibility to decide the character and quality of legal immigrants, and when and how many enter the U.S., just as other countries do.

Calmly and without emotionally-charged rhetoric the focus must be on the true problem, which simply stated is that who is or who isn’t allowed into the U.S. is a legal issue. Our president and Congress must put party politics aside and act now to: 1) protect our borders, 2) guarantee that our nation’s laws are upheld, and 3) assure that the solutions serve the primary interests of the U.S. and its citizens, and secure our future.

I believe it would be a tragedy for the United States and for the world if our nation is weakened further or irreparably damaged by the continuing lack of decisive action on this important legal issue. The response by our leaders to this situation must be: Not On My Watch!
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch
The author’s book THE HEART KNOWS THE WAY—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within is available from, other online booksellers, and through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.