Needed: New Games to Inspire and Uplift

Earlier in my career as a trainer and course designer, I co-created games and business simulations for artisans, entrepreneurs, farmers, women and young people. It taught me the power of gaming as a learning tool. Games for education have become a worldwide phenomenon. See, for example, Games for Change.

But games can reflect worldviews that are not in sync with healthful living. The old board games that are familiar to most of us and that are still being learned by young people today all too often reflect an old consciousness that does not serve us.  This was brought home to me recently when I was convinced to join with some family members to play a game of Risk ™. I was reluctant because it’s based on warfare, world domination, and completely wiping out all of your fellow players. Although the setting should have been relaxing because it was an evening with family at the dining room table, even I wasn’t prepared for how distressing it would be for me to play the game now that I’m in the holistic health realm.

It was also an eye-opening experience. Here are some observations I made while playing the game:

  • The game is absolutely devoid of love and compassion. No one is rewarded for showing kindness, mercy, patience or cooperation toward the “opponents.”
  • Overall conquest is not only the primary objective, but the only A player may choose to delay for a turn or two, but eventually must attack to gain territory. An attacker can choose to retreat, but only temporarily.  Meanwhile, a player who is attacked must fight as long as the attacker wants or until one of them is eliminated from that territory. There is no room for peaceful negotiation or other non-total-devastation options. Winner must take all.
  • The game starts with players being arbitrarily able to choose their initial territories in turn by the roll of the dice. The territories are taken with no consideration for historical or cultural context. The players are occupiers and have no affinity for the people and customs of a place nor for the overall environment of the world in which they maneuver.
  • There are no consequences for loss of life. If a player has to remove a game piece from the board because it was “killed,” that piece can be recycled right back into play during the next turn. No funerals, no burials, no dealing with wounded casualties. Troops are expendable and easily replaceable.
  • There are no consequences for devastation to the Earth, the people, and the property that are affected by the attacks and counterattacks.
  • Because it requires players to attack, it forces them to take foolish (and unnecessary) risks that not only may not be strategic, but that also encourage wasteful use of resources in the hope that Fate/ Luck (the dice) will be on their side.
  • There are no consequences for the draining of resources (natural, human, and financial) needed to keep the war machine going for each player in the game.
  • While a player can form temporary alliances, in Survivor-like form, that player eventually has to turn against close allies and destroy them to “win.”
  • A player is rewarded with extra troops for conquering territories and continents. There is no thought given to caring for those troops or for the citizens and the environment of conquered territories and continents. A player is encouraged to feel good about “owning” and “controlling” territory and amassing troops and military power.
  • The victor is encouraged to celebrate the notion of world domination and can boast about his strategy skills and ability to be ruthless. The game ends before the winner has to contend with the challenges of rebuilding and repairing the world he has just conquered.
  • Conquering and devastating a planet is presented as a form of relaxation, fun, and entertainment.
  • Since real strategists and risk analysts must take into account the human, environmental, budgetary, and other costs of war, this game does not offer young players any real skills. Rather, it desensitizes them to these very same costs and gives them a dark and distorted view of life on Planet Earth.

Needless to say, I found the game appalling. But it got me thinking about how to design games that would be more inspirational and uplifting while offering a fun and satisfying game experience. What would that look like? What would higher consciousness gaming include?  If anyone would like to join me in envisioning and designing board games, video games, mobile games, and online games that reward compassion, healing, and caring for the planet and other people (or if you’re aware of other groups doing the same), please contact me.

The Color of Oneness

I woke up early to sunlight streaming through the window. It’s a beautiful day.

My thoughts turn to a recent conversation I had with someone I love dearly. I admire her for many things. But she struggles with bitter feelings about the state of the world today and about how her life has turned out. She grew up in the segregated South and still feels resentment toward the flood of immigrants and outsiders who have taken up residence in “her world.” She wishes everyone would just stay inside their own borders and not “mix.” She’s very worried about the “mixing” of peoples and races.

“Look at it this way,” I pointed out. “Ultimately, we’re all just light particles vibrating in the ether. So it’s silly to worry about superficial things like color – it would be like blue light particles deciding to hate yellow light particles in the rainbow. We’re all equal and necessary parts of what gives the rainbow its beauty.”

“Yes, but that’s just it,” she shot back. “Yellow and blue light particles don’t mix together. They know to stay on their sides of the line!”

"Maybe," I replied. "Then again, when they do get together, they make green and it's really nice to have the color green in our world, isn't it? Can you imagine the world without any green?"

As I thought about it, I realized we needed to back up and look at this another way.

“Actually, when you think about it,” I said. “A rainbow is an aberration — a temporary disturbance of light diffused through clouds after a storm. A rainbow allows us to see the component parts of the visible light spectrum. But in reality, the natural state of light is that which comes from the sun – fully merged together, each color fused and integrated into a perfect whole.”

I’m not sure I persuaded her of anything, but at least it gave us both something to mull over while we sipped our tea.

Back home, I sit here and gaze out on a bright, cloud-free world. Sunlight sparkles and shines on everything it touches. And unlike the light from a distant and ephemeral rainbow, the sun’s rays are warm and immediate on my skin. It’s a beautiful day.

The Thought Chains that Bind Us

I was in a classroom in Bethesda, Maryland talking to high school students in a Peace Education class.

Their teacher, who is a remarkable human being, had invited me to speak about my work for the Peace Corps, but our discussions that day were wide-ranging. The class was a mixture of juniors and seniors from varying backgrounds. Some were born here in the US; a few had parents who were former Peace Corps volunteers. Others immigrated to the States with their families – many of them from war-torn regions of the world. As you can imagine, “war” and “peace” were not esoteric concepts or abstract notions to them, but rather a very real part of their personal histories.

One young man was from Peru. He spoke about the sadness and frustration he and his family felt about terrorist groups who were gaining strength and establishing footholds in his country of birth. He asked, “What can we do about it? What can I, as one person, do to make a difference and to help make peace happen in the world?”

Certainly, that’s a question many of us have asked. We see the conflicts in the world or in our communities and we feel helpless in the face of overwhelming death and destruction. When will it ever end? And what, if anything, can we do to stop it?

I told the young man that if you want to help improve the situation in (fill in the crime-ridden, violence-laden, or war-torn location of your choice), then begin by being nice to the person next to you. Peace starts at home on an individual and person-to-person level. It starts with our own choice whether or not to contribute to the chain of negativity that circles the planet. We can decide to be a part of it. Or we can decide to break the chain and refuse to propagate its force any further.

For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic and you respond with anger or hatred, you carry that with you. You go into the supermarket and say something nasty to the clerk. She goes home and yells at her son. He goes to bed miserable, and the next day, he gets into a fight at school. That’s a negative chain. Conversely, if you consciously decide not to react with anger in traffic, then you may end up complimenting the clerk, she goes home and hugs her son, he doesn’t get into a fight, and … well, you get the picture.

The young man from Peru thanked me for my answer, but I could tell he wanted more. And I understand that. It sounds simplistic. Telling someone to “be nice to people,” as a way to counteract terrorism and despicable acts of violence and war sounds hopelessly inadequate and naïve. Surely, his reaction was similar to that of the apostles (and to millions since then) when Jesus said, “Love your enemies” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The natural human response is, “That’s it? That’s all there is to it?” Although it may sound easy, we all know that it’s hard to be positive on a consistent and daily basis – to generate and sustain that positive energy force in the face of overwhelming negativity. It’s exceedingly hard. But with consistent effort and with enough momentum, propagating a positive energy chain gets easier and easier.

It all comes down to the laws of physics. A positive energy chain in motion tends to stay in motion — and the inertial factors help it build momentum and power. Of course, the same could be said for negative energy chains. But we know that thoughts are energy patterns that vibrate at certain frequencies. The more positive the thought, the higher the vibration. Higher vibrating waves can eventually overwhelm and cancel out lower ones — even the dense, dark negative energy chains that have become knotted together over war-torn areas of the planet.

Perhaps the Buddha was aware of this physical reality when he said, “The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.”

Every day, in everything we do, we have the power to create or participate in chains of thought that are projected outward and travel as energy patterns that become part of the electromagnetic grid around the planet. All those individual choices add up to create a powerful force – for good or ill – that can transform the world. I can happily report that positive chains are happening more and more all around us everyday — in supermarkets, in traffic, at work, and on the street in places all around the globe. These positive thought chains lead to acts of kindness; they can and do have a cumulative uplifting effect that is far-ranging.

So when the negative chain circles around to you and demands a response, try to resist the urge to join in and forge another link. Generate a chain of loving kindness instead. It couldn’t hurt to try.

Meanwhile, here’s a quote from someone else who was obviously pondering this question long before you and I were around:

First keep the peace within yourself, 
then you can also bring peace to others.

— Thomas a Kempis, 1420, German mystic & religious author (1380 – 1471)


The big news story on Christmas Day 2009 was about a man on a plane who was reported to have an explosive device in his undergarments, which he tried to detonate. Fortunately, he didn’t succeed in what seemed to be a deliberate attempt to kill and maim and terrorize. But his actions did cause mayhem and disruption on a grand scale as thousands were affected by the incident and its aftermath.

Another story, a few days later, that was almost as famous was about another man. This one inadvertently caused similar mayhem and disruption when he ducked under a securty rope at an airport in an apparent move to give his girlfriend a last goodbye kiss.  His actions were caught on security camera video tape for all the world to see  (Here’s the story.)

What struck me about the second story was how it clearly showed that one person’s actions can have far-reaching and even global impact without the person being aware of it. That one impulsive move resulted in shutting down Newark Airport for six hours. Thousands of passengers were stranded. The effect spread outward, reverberating around the world as international arrivals and departures on several continents were thrown into disarray. There were stories of a man in Norway missing his anniversary dinner with his wife in Virginia, a granddaughter in one part of the world unable to get to her 82-year-old grandmother’s birthday party in another, students missing classes, businessmen missing meetings, and on and on and on. All because of one goodbye kiss!

Clearly, those who intend to inflict widespread violence know the power of one person’s actions to affect the many. However, while terrorists actively seek to grab the world’s attention; this guy seemed to have no idea what he’d done. He went home and went to sleep; he didn’t have a clue until someone from the FBI knocked on his door.

It makes you wonder. If it could happen to him, then maybe it’s happening to the rest of us all the time. Maybe, in any given moment, we’re all impacting thousands of lives around the world with our actions (either positively or negatively), but we’re totally unaware of it. Maybe all those clichés are actually true: it’s a small world, we’re all connected, and so on.

Maybe angel-in-training Clarence from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life was right when he said, “Each man’s life touches so many other lives.” In the film, George Bailey learned he had unknowingly helped many people — some were halfway around the world. Maybe we are doing that, too, but there are no guardian angels in training and no airport security cameras around to inform us of the effect of our good deeds. And if, like George, we can be a force for good without even being aware of it, imagine what we could do if we consciously acted with good intentions toward others near and far.

It’s something to think about.

(Watch this excerpt from “Its a Wonderful Life.”)


Fear Factors

Did you see the news today? Chances are, it was bad. Somewhere amidst the gossip stories, sports scores, crossword puzzle, and weather report, there most likely was a lot of scary stuff.

People take this scary stuff to heart. I know some people in my hometown who are obsessed by what they see as an imminent nuclear attack from North Korea or Iran. Reading the news and listening to their leaders, they have become fixated on what they see as the inevitable electro-magnetic pulse that will accompany an attack and wipe out all our technology. So they’ve made preparations by installing windmill power, buying a horse and wagon, and building a security bunker. No, this is not a tale from 1962 (Cuban Missile Crisis) or 1999 (Y2K), this is happening right now.

Hey, none of us is immune. I can remember huddling in bed as a young girl with horrific images of mushroom clouds from dreaded Soviet nuclear attacks dancing in my head. Those debilitating fears ebbed and flowed over time, reaching a new height in the Reagan years, when the Cold War seemed to be approaching its doomsday climax.

It was only when I moved to Russia for a time – to the heart of the “Evil Empire” – and met, worked, and played with real Russians, that I started to see how skewed news coverage really is. (I look forward to a time when we can meet and interact with people in North Korea and Iran). Also, when I took that break from what had been a steady diet of news consumption, I realized how unhealthy it can be for our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.  I’ve come to see that the “bad news on the doorstep” is more than a cliché. It’s a marketing strategy.

Contrary to popular thinking, it is fear (not hate) that is the opposite of love. All negative emotions, including hatred, come from fear.  All forms of violence, including war, emanate from fear. The Buddha said that “the whole secret of existence is to have no fear.” The Bible says that where there is fear, there cannot be love. And, it stands to reason that, since God is love, we shut ourselves off from God – our Higher Source – when we are afraid. It sounds counter-intuitive because we all call out to God and seek his help when we’re “sorely afraid.” Yet, when our hearts are wrapped in the darkness of fear, it can be very difficult for the shining light of God to work its way through.

These days, fear-mongering is an industry. Increasingly, media programs and websites are deliberately stirring up hatred and fear under the guise of “informing” us about the world’s events. The airwaves are filled with messages designed to keep us anxious and afraid.  If you look, you’ll see them everywhere. One clue is that they usually tease you with a provocative and scary question.

  • “Is your children’s drinking water safe to drink? Details at eleven.”
  • “Are terrorists living in your neighborhood? Stay tuned for this special report.”
  • “Where will the next killer hurricane strike next? Click here to see what scientists predict for your hometown.”
  • “Global Financial Crisis Worsens: Will your bank be the next one to fail? See Page 14B for the full story.”

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate news stories behind each of these examples. And, of course, there are plenty of truly scary things in the world. The point is that messages crafted in this way aren’t simply about keeping you informed, they’re about manipulating your emotions – conjuring up your fears so you’ll be sure to watch or read or click or donate or buy. Marketers of news programming know only too well that fear sells, and they’ve made a science out of how to trigger your alarm system on a daily, hourly, or even minute-by-minute basis. Whether you realize it or not, you’re being bombarded! And the techniques are becoming much more subtle and sophisticated over time.

It’s not just the news. Politicians use fear to get themselves elected or to stay popular in the polls. Corporations use fear to sell us products or services. Religious leaders use fear to keep their flocks in line and to attract followers.

The problem is that when we’re afraid, we can’t think logically. Those strong emotions cloud our judgment and make us lose perspective. Thus, we can easily be taken in by half-truths, poor analysis, incomplete facts, opinions disguised as facts, and mere speculation – all of which have become a standard part of even the most well-respected political, news, and other such organizations these days (whether they consciously realize it or not).

Fear – especially a constant state of fear – is really bad for us. It drains our spirits and takes its toll on our bodies. Even worse, when we’re afraid, we can’t express love. We can’t let our lights shine in the world. As Aldous Huxley said, “Fear casts out our humanity.”

So what should we do? The best thing to do is to be aware that it’s happening, and to not allow ourselves to be drawn in. Change the channel, refuse to click, resist the tug on your lower emotions  – recognize when someone is trying to manipulate you into hating or becoming afraid … and tune them out. Be savvy, be aware. And be choosy about the people, messages, and programming that merit your time and attention.

Boycott the fear industry. It’s healthier for you and it’s healthier for the planet.

For a beautiful message from Archangel Michael about how to “Release Fear & Embrace Love,” visit this link:


The Law of Love

I sat in a room at a university campus, listening to a panel of peace activists talk to students about their work. The panelists each described their organizations, their missions, their accomplishments. A couple of them had been arrested in various peace marches or demonstrations. They wore their battle scars proudly.

They were there to encourage the university students to get involved and to make a difference by passionately engaging in a worthwhile cause.  In general, I understood what they were trying to do. But as they proudly recounted their efforts to rail against injustice, it occurred to me to wonder: Did you remember to love those “greedy” corporate leaders you were protesting against? Did you remember to love the officers who arrested you?

When I say “love,” I’m talking about love in its loftiest form. The unconditional, compassionate, love-for-all-creation kind of love.

Gandhi said that love was the key ingredient to how he trained his followers in the way of non-violence. He told them that it wasn’t enough to stand and resist as the British soldiers faced off  against you. You had to look upon them with genuine love and compassion in your heart. He said without this crucial aspect, the practice of non-violence couldn’t be truly effective. He often equated love and nonviolence (what he called “ahimsa”), saying they were part of the same force.

Martin Luther King urged his followers not to hate the white man, but rather to rise above the situation and see that everyone was trapped in a system of prejudice and injustice that needed to change.  Essentially, he said they were going to have to “love their way out” of the problem.’ In a 1957 radio broadcast entitled “Loving Your Enemies,” he talked about three kinds of love: romantic love, brotherly love, and the more transcendent love the Greeks called “agape,” which he defined in part as the love of God working in the lives of men.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t hear any of the peace activists on that panel talking about loving anyone. In fact, without seeming to be aware of it, they were girding their loins and gearing up to engage in battle. And while not exactly advocating it, they talked matter-of-factly of things like tearing down fences, destroying property, and doing other “in-your-face” things that seemed to stretch the very notion of what is meant by non-violent action. Essentially, they seemed to be saying that, at least in some cases, the ends justified the means and you had to be ready to “fight fire with fire.”

I don’t think that will work.  In fact, Albert Einstein said no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. So if we try to stand up nonviolently to injustice – yet our hearts are full of hate or anger or intolerance – then we’re just feeding into the problem.

To me, it boils down to an energy pattern. The vibrational frequency of pure love is the highest form of energy we can generate on this planet. When we imbue our own beings with that vibration, we lift ourselves up above the more negative energies. We elevate. We transcend. We see things more clearly. And when we change our vibration, there is a corresponding reaction (law of physics) in those around us. It’s not instant, and there may be – in fact, there usually is – resistance. But if enough of us can join together, and we can sustain that higher vibration over time, there will be an inevitable shift.

King was inspired by Jesus’s emphasis on love. But he learned some of the science of it from Gandhi’s teachings on the energetic force of love and nonviolence. All of the early civil rights marches started with prayer and singing so that the participants’ energy was high and their hearts were free from hate.

Throughout his life, Gandhi was trying to experiment with and understand this energy force, this “law of love,” that he compared to the law of gravity and other laws of nature. Near the end of his life, he said:

“The law of love will work, just as the law of gravitation will work, whether we accept it or not. Just as a scientist will work wonders out of various applications of the law of nature, even so a man who applies the law of love with scientific precision can work greater wonders. For the force of nonviolence is infinitely more wonderful and subtle than the material forces of nature, like, for instance, electricity. The men who dis­covered for us the law of love were greater scientists than any of our mod­ern scientists. Only our explorations have not gone far enough and so it is not possible for everyone to see all its workings. …  The more I work at this law the more I feel the delight in life, the delight in the scheme of this universe. It gives me a peace and a meaning of the mysteries of nature that I have no power to describe.”

Both Gandhi and King understood that we still have a lot to learn about using this energy force. They knew that people have to be trained. Projecting love as a way to deal with conflict isn’t something that comes naturally to us in this world we grew up in. Our conditioning and our very instincts have been programmed for thousands of years to think only in terms of “fight or flight.”

But there is a “third way” out there – a vital energy source we can tap. It’s tantalizingly within our reach, just waiting for us to discover and unlock its true and powerful nature.

A Ripple of Joy

The newspaper called it a “warm, summer-like evening.”  It was a nice night and a lot of folks felt like getting outside. So my then-husband and I decided to get in the car and go for a drive. On our way home, we stopped at a neighborhood coffee shop. It was busy with people inside and out. Not inclined to go in, I asked for an iced decaf latte and sat back in the car to wait while he went inside to place our order.

Just as he disappeared, I looked to the left and saw a little boy of about five years old.  There he was, in the middle of the sidewalk — his mom watching off to one side – and he was turning somersaults. With a big wide grin on his face, he kept going in an impressively straight line, turning one somersault after another after another. His laughter tumbled out of him, audible even through my closed car window.

What an awesome sight! Actually, it was more than just a sight, it was an experience. His unreserved joie de vivre was infectious – spreading outward to those of us around him and gifting all of us with pure vitality and lightness of being.

It’s a funny thing about joy. It spirals through us with so much energy that our bodies can’t contain it. It has to be expressed. So we jump, we twirl, we leap. We hop, skip, soar, and spin. We spike the ball in the end zone and do a little dance. Our chest swells, our breath catches, happy tears spill down our cheeks.

If we’re lucky, that joyful energy gets expressed as an artistic creation – a painting, a performance, a poem, a melody. And so the joy is shared and passed on. With playful abandon, it rolls across space and through time, gathering momentum and building up great reservoirs of goodwill. It washes over us and leaves us with child-like wonder.

How truly fortunate we are to be able to take a drive on a “summer-like” evening with the one we love, to taste the smoky sweetness of an iced latte, and to hear a little boy’s laughter wafting on the night air.  How fortunate we are to know there is such a thing as joy – to be able to feel it, express it, and share it.