Tag Archives: existence

Daring to Live with Risk

10 May

Truth Views

Daring to Live with Risk

By Kathy Custren


This Mother’s Day 2020 brings a special look at what this gift of life means to each of us. The role of mother as life-giver and nurturer means so much more in difficult times, pandemic or not. From the time of inception, life itself is a risky proposition. The act of living is an act of daring, where conscious and unconscious influences alike affect the choices we make.

Our Many Risks in These Viral Times

Among us live any number of ‘foreign invaders.’ These inhabit sizes of various orders of magnitude. Some are more welcome than others, but all pose some measure of risk to our lives. So, our underlying question is, “How much are we willing to be brave, bold, and resume existence?” What will this look like as time moves us ever onward in this new dimension of awareness?

Not being foremost experts on life, to be sure, we do find ourselves at a unique place in space and time. We can look back in history and see how human leaders have dealt with existential threats before and since. They have shunned, built walls, and killed off others they perceived were a danger to society. Lepers were cast out of villages, witches and invalids drowned, refugees committed to cages, while ones addicted and homeless drifted to less visible encampments.

A large risk factor to consider is how many people around the world live without access to healthcare. I could probably rephrase that to say without ability to pay for healthcare. Here in the U.S., there is a growth industry in providing specialized health to people, but it comes at a significant cost. Where larger hospitals find it burdensome to operate, smaller specialty centers spring up to take up the burden.

The Burden of the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule to which most people in various societies adhere says essentially, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If we want something for ourselves, we ought to allow the same for others—except that paying for the privilege of good health does come at a cost. Once tapped into the expensive medical system few seem to ask where the money will originate, or how sustainable ever-rising premiums are. Many individuals and families are unable to carry the hefty payments of ‘affordable’ healthcare insurance.

Few of us are readers let alone epidemiologists. Medical personnel are like gods in whom we trust with our very lives and we pay highly for that service—as long as it benefits us directly. When we consider ‘giving’ the simplest level of humane care to others using more socialized methods of delivery, we balk at the expense, golden rule be damned.

Yet our most recent disruptor causing the most personal fear is a minute virus most of us cannot see. Unable to restrain it, we ourselves are housebound in an effort to mitigate its spread and impact. There are those who experienced COVID-19 and lived to tell the tale. However, the number of deaths continues to climb, and our ever-present fear of death keeps us distant.

Tolerance and Intolerance Abound

The pandemic that sweeps the planet is teaching us so much about what is and is not important. COVID-19, for all its dangers to life both physically and economically it definitely shows us there are benefits to change. What will we do with this knowledge as we move forward?

After two months of dealing with isolation and other impositions, we hear rumblings of resuming the old ways. There are tolerances or boundaries we feel are reaching their limits. Politics and economics are the driving force behind much of the noise, with health concerns moving to the back seat. People feel they are suffering more from the social distancing than they are from the disease.

Those who have lost loved ones and workers on the front lines who deal with health and basic services offer added insight into what those tolerance ought to be. Inherent inequalities cause some to back up their beliefs with firepower, apparently–life or death, care or ignorance, mask or not, money or starvation. As we move forward, will we listen, recognize the truth, act on it, and come to a greater understanding of what we can withstand, individually and as whole?

Trustworthy Data Would Be Nice

Scientists with data tell us there is still much we do not know. SARS-type viruses like COVID-19 can operate in waves, and we understand with certainty how this is possible thanks to data. Those who do not know they are carriers can infect those who are vulnerable. Data can show us better ways to manage risks in our daily lives. Like a teenager whose parents have reached their limits, the days of ignoring our lack of cleanliness and hygiene are over. We may need to raise the bar; higher expectations help us strive to do better.

Even with a wealth of information at our fingertips, we are less likely to take the time to seek truth. We rely more on what we see storied belief and innuendo than on hard facts. Thinking less critically means we are less mindful and do not question. We follow more than we lead and remain silent in our acquiescence.

By staying indoors primarily these past few months, our planet shows significant signs of recovery from some of our human imposition. Air quality improves, animals venture out, and we start to see what nature intends to drive home—that our home can play a greater role than our workplace. Will we trust that kind of data when the struggle for life at the workplace resumes center stage.

Conspirators: Bullies Versus The Aware

Those who seek to resume ‘business as before’ are sure to use strong-arm tactics. Will we be willing to sign away our physical or health rights and hold employers harmless if we contract COVID on the job? Those of us with compromised systems might have less risk working from home. This may not be an option for all in this position. Will individuals be permitted the sovereignty of choosing how they wish to interact with others in our COVID-induced paradigm?

As with any massive control group, conspiracy theories exist based on who might be manipulating the story. This lack of trust says there are always multiple sides to consider along with various experiences. Being aware of this manipulation level—what some people will do to others to get what they want—has also been a sore spot for many of us. We do not want to endure the shame of being fooled on top of other economic hardships we or our families face.

This will surely give rise to the rights of the individual, perhaps more than ever before. While one may be willing to participate with ‘the system,’ there are limits to life and limb we must consider as heavier burdens today. The impact on the healthcare system alone dictates our need to tread wisely.

Human rights in many respects are being questioned. Idiocy abounds, as we see the return of crowds who protest with guns, amass without safe distance, and encounter without basic masks or covering. There are always those who will say, “Damn the risks; you can’t tell me how to live my life.” And there are those of us who are quite fine with letting them express that sentiment.

The Meaning and Guise of Safety

It may be safe to say that many of us feel comfortable living with some elements of risk. We understand life can never be risk free. We might even count the may things we have or do that add to our overall feeling of comfort and safety. Locking our doors, operating a video camera, alarms, or smoke detectors, having a weapon, having health insurance all stem from ‘just in case,’ the unexpected need arises.

The pandemic causes us to stay indoors and isolated ‘for our safety.’ We understand that while the virus may not be a large bother to people in good health, we see the growing number who die due to the disease. Being at risk for contracting an unseen virus has us all questioning what it means to be safe and what our individual comfort level might be. Will ‘the great unclean’ become an even larger risk than it has in generations and societies of the past?

Picking through the weeds of chaos that surround us will mean making the kinds of choices that best benefit us directly. This mindfulness is especially true where the wrong choice can kill you. Something as simple as washing our hands is a choice. Choosing to avoid others wherever possible and not passing along contaminants is another.

Risking Truth and Consequences

For those of us who may be unable to reach a personal safety conclusion, we can be sure that there will be some level of imposition. Whether it is peer pressure or law enforcement, at some point we will be charged with proving how much of a risk we are in and of ourselves. Testing is the key to determining this safety risk, but a good defense lawyer might advise, we can always question the veracity of those tests. The underlying doubt still exists: Who will we believe?

When there are ways we can stay safe while conducting business, let us do that. When it comes to telling others what they can and cannot do, those boundaries must be drawn clearly while not infringing on our inalienable rights. Provided, of course, those of us living this great life can agree on what those human rights are, truly.

For all who seek truth in this gift of life, it would be wise to remember that our words and actions both have consequences. Let us be mindful to act and speak loudly and clearly. As we awaken to this new pandemic-fueled reality let us be open to the possibilities and make the best decisions we can, as we dare to live.

To Listen, Perchance to Act

24 May

To Listen, Perchance to Act

By Kathy Custren


As I sit here in the early morning, reading an article from early 2019 by Dahr Jamail on TomDispatch.com, the title becomes painfully clear: “We Can’t Undo This.”

The article on our climate crisis hits all too close to home; to the many truths felt by life around the planet; that I purposely avoid looking at the supporting articles and documentation to which Dahr links. There is no question that there really is no ‘going back,’ or little being done to reverse the train on which we ride.

I liked it much better when comedic philosopher Bill Hicks called life a ride, like a roller coaster, rather than consider this voyage through time and space as little more than a runaway train reaching the perilous end of the line.

As Dahr wraps up the article, he gently encourages readers to ‘listen to the Earth.’ To wit:

Listening While Saying Goodbye

It’s been estimated that between 150 and 200 plant, insect, bird, and mammal species are already going extinct every day. In other words, during the two and a half years I worked on my book 136,800 species may have gone extinct.

We have a finite amount of time left to coexist with significant parts of the biosphere, including glaciers, coral, and thousands of species of plants, animals, and insects. We’re going to have to learn how to say goodbye to them, part of which should involve doing everything we humanly can to save whatever is left, even knowing that the odds are stacked against us. [Emphasis added]

For me, my goodbyes will involve spending as much time as I can on the glaciers in Washington State’s Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park near where I live, or far more modestly taking in the trees around my home on a daily basis. It’s unclear, after all, how much longer such forest areas are likely to remain fully intact. I often visit a small natural altar I’ve created amid a circle of cedar trees growing around a decomposing mother tree. In this magical spot, I grieve and express my gratitude for the life that is still here. I also go to listen.

Where do you go to listen? And what are you hearing?

For me, these days, it all begins and ends with doing my best to listen to the Earth, with trying my hardest to understand how best to serve, how to devote myself to doing everything possible for the planet, no matter the increasingly bleak prognosis for this time in human history. [Emphasis added]

Perhaps if we listen deeply enough and regularly enough, we ourselves will become the song this planet needs to hear.

Read the full version:

It is in this mode of hospice that I turn on my small desk fan, while noting the irony of reading such a powerful piece on climate disaster. Personal comfort being what it is, these gentle times of listening to our planetary home is encouraging; hopeful, even—ever hopeful.

Leaving a bit of hope for posterity is no small feat in the midst of such huge and vastly changing numbers. We can see it already, the human toll that is rising along with the rest as part of this natural culling. It is ludicrous to think that it might avoid us personally, but here we are. I have little doubt that this very situation happened before—where great change wiped away large numbers of “advanced and civilized societies”—leaving smaller, disparate numbers with which to start anew.

This brings Dahr Jamail’s plea to listen more into focus. Listening to our mother planet, seeking to ease burdens rather than adding to them, being part of the regrowth and sustainability, are all going to be very important as we move forward. And we are moving forward, there is no doubt about that.

Cosmically, we do have our protectors on the spiritual side of things; the energies of ancestors who lived and died before us. This is one less worry if anyone truly cares to look beyond the physical. Of course, we tend to ignore that whole side of our existence, except when it is most expedient to beg and plead for mercy, help, and strength. So many of us would rather gather in multitudes to hear musicians or watch cinematic manipulation than consciously address planetary change.

Few among us carry the label of leader when it comes to climate change and regenerative action. Even fewer worry about the ills of our planetary home and what might be done to save it. Perhaps the message of the conspiracy theorists has hit home…the aliens are waiting to rescue us. That must be it.


Beyond bemoaning the reality, the overwhelming discord that echoes back from the walls of our undeniable doom carries the general message of, “but the problem is so large, what can one person do?” Rather than getting one’s hands dirty, so many are very eager to simply wash their hands of the whole mess.

It is a lofty position in which to be, to be sure.

There is healing to be found in the very Earth itself; and as Dahr’s words encourage, each of us, Each. Of. Us., bears responsibility for handling our very own part of this endeavor.

The looming question beyond the climate is this:

What have “I” done today to help heal the planet?

There is much cleaning to do. ~ Blessings!

The Forest for the Trees: Doing What We Do Best

16 Jun
silhouette of a man during sunset

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

The Forest for the Trees: Doing What We Do Best

By Kathy Custren


The Forest for the Trees

Part of what intrigues me so about The Conundrum these days is that there are people, very good people, who have such a difficult time with discernment. Oh, vision clarity is not the issue. Unlike yours truly, many can see perfectly well without the aid of corrective lenses. But somewhere along the way, one’s visual acuity or ability to process what we see is called into question. We can describe it as not being able to see the forest for the trees.

Take the issue of life—a large topic, to be sure; but there are those of us who are unable to see the fullness of life. We may have many salient points about the sanctity of life and how important it is to live a good and virtuous life. In our zeal, we hit all the important points about how miraculous and precious it all is, but at some point after that, we fall off from truly committing to the full picture. We see the tree just fine, but not the forest in which it sits. In fact, there is probably a logging project going on not that far away. Forest for the trees, forest for the trees…we struggle with borders and boundaries on a regular basis, and while we tussle over these ill-defined lines, the sand shifts under our collective feet. We are at a point in time where we cannot avoid dealing with our collective consciousness in the forest that surrounds us. –And make no mistake, the other animals in the forest are watching our every move.

Why is it that we are unlikely to equate the taking of, by way of example, a potential human life, with as much gravity as we could the life of an existing tree? Do our rose-colored glasses need that much correction? Try as many do to argue the point, “but it’s only a tree,” a life is still a life, right? We feel pressed to provide rights to one type of life over another. Perhaps this is our problem—the stigma or prejudice we assign to life itself. We hold one type of existence differently than we do another, and this is what permits any number of atrocities to take place. Welcome to our world today.


Playing God, and Other Sundry Pastimes

You see, the issue is not in condemning or annihilating the forest, but in playing god…in thinking we have the right to pave the way—whether it be for profit or some other ‘way of being.’ Ultimately, we are taking one life for another, which is the condensed version of selectivity. As imperfect as we human beings are, where do we get off (a) taking life, (b) telling others they cannot take away life, or (c) enjoying the ability to create life in the first place?

The gods of yore (read your mythology) were keen on the entertainment aspects we puny humans once provided them, and probably still do. They are just a lot quieter now with their storytelling, seeing what their folly has wrought. And while on the supernatural topic of dimension and timelessness, we must remember the concept of reincarnation/karma, which speaks to the transformation of energy and the ability we will undoubtedly get to perfect ourselves if we so choose. We are so wrapped up in the physical that we tend to forget the spiritual aspects associated with being here…the forest for the trees, yet again.

So quick are we to point, ridicule, and stigmatize others, that we cannot see the forest ourselves. The interconnectedness we share whoosh! goes over our heads. The one planetary home on which we exist has cycles and timelines much greater than our own, and rather than paying attention to that story, we would much rather inflict our own narrow view. Bottom line, when we disrespect life it has a way of coming back around to haunt us, ultimately.


Into the Mix We Go—Now What?

Our forebears tried to warn us; they have left clues if we care to take notice. But, our collective visual problems come into focus yet again. We have trouble seeing correspondences within our own age, in active and real time, let alone thinking about ‘the past.’ We tend to leave such analysis to the history books that end up being rewritten to mask the atrocity of our impact on the planet. So, we should worry about ‘the future;’ and rightfully so. There is a shifting role of ‘the bad guy’ in the story—the antagonist—that should keep all of us on our toes. No matter what name we call that character, be it the devil, monster, disease, death, or any number of labels, we fear its presence and fight to overcome it, whatever “it” may be.

This fearsome, fighting mentality leads us to assign ‘war’ to just about everything, and look at us today. We have wars against drugs, crime, terror, “the other” or “the stranger,” and the labels go on. Forest for the trees again; as we are busy fighting wars, there is much collateral damage; so much for the sanctity of life. We tell ourselves that we are fighting a war to at least provide an excuse, as we drill down even further into the personal lives of people who, for a variety of ‘personal’ reasons, would choose to not let another life be born into this existence. Data drives the human machine as much as profits when it comes to caring: health care, life care, what is the real cost of the medicine that keeps us alive or that keeps the lights on at night? Suicide numbers are actively on the rise, so the choice point becomes crystal clear to many—and can we really blame them? Can we? When it is their choice between ‘this life’ and whatever takes place on the other side?

Hypocrisy aside, can we just let these people sit with the pain and reach that conclusion for themselves? Might we at least make the idea of simple existence a little less painful; perhaps cause a little less suffering? We are talking much more than just feeling an occasional pang of anxiousness here. Our collective pain reaches the level of our collective soul and cries out for attention. When we are unable to sleep at night, all of that suffering must go somewhere. If we really wanted to make a difference on a larger scale, why not target the bomb and weapons makers that annihilate entire swathes of living things off the face of the planet? Why choose instead to make life even more miserable for one who is carrying an unborn without the means to provide for it; or who come to our shore seeking asylum from even greater terror and death? We say we want to change lives, but am I and so many others missing the forest here? What support are we giving people who are here up to the point where pregnancy and one new life becomes a larger problem for “everybody?” Where is our humanity when one more hungry mouth to feed becomes unbearable? Nature has its own way of finding balance on a variety of levels, and let’s just contemplate that one a moment, shall we?


Social Media: Processing the Horrible

There is an overarching reason why social media is so consumer-driven. When we consider that we digest more than just nourishment, we cannot ignore the use of virtual reality to process some horrible things. For all those who avoid the internet like the plague, there may be some comfort in that; if not denial. For those of us who are online throughout the day, every day, we worry about the effects of over-consumption and how it might play on us psychologically. Plato’s cave? What is real and what is an illusion?

  • Fake news (from those ‘in charge’) to distract us from horrible changes; many of us would knowingly be in the streets…911…’false flags’…missiles on the way to Hawaii – an oops with deadly results.
  • We ‘elect’ people into positions of governance but fail to direct (provide feedback to) them; instead we get on social media and share memes and thoughts, thoughts and prayers, while few of us attempt to advocate for change or—heaven forbid—actively do something.

Social media goes beyond advertisement…we are not just sharing ideas on the newest restaurant in town or our favorite recipes or sports teams…we use it to process news on all levels, local, state, national, and international. Recent storm damages, wartime skirmishes, human trafficking, and animal poaching and abuse, all find space between the photos we share of our latest meal, Suzie’s school concert, or Uncle Joe’s traveling dart team. I am grateful for the ability of social media to bring us together and share ideas, so let us use this technology wisely. We must bring about great change if we really, really want to make this world a better place.

The way we all process the most horrible parts of our existence means that, in the midst of “all” the things that assail our senses, greater numbers, greater attention, greater energies are spent in managing our time and attention. Can we spend time better by being off the virtual reality and back in the real world and work? We must deal with both the offline and online versions of ourselves—the real and the spiritual combined—and what we bring into this world. So, time and change must apply to both.


What Price, Love? The Real Cost of Our Humanity

Is it me? I grew up under the now liberal(?) Christian notion of people loving one another, being a helper, and doing what we can to make the world a better place. So, seeing overwhelming inequality and suffering mixed in a culture of war and death does not sit very well with my psyche—how about yours? We know we can do better. I come from a time, not that far from this present moment, when people were taught to be kind to each other—where bullying, graft, and greed were seen as evils and faults to eschew rather than inspirational parts of our personality. It is not an ‘ego thing’ to care about others; in fact, we might say this lack of empathy is another human failing that we must address.

It goes beyond ‘to each his own,’ and if it means taking a hard look at what we call our borders and boundaries then let’s do that—maybe it is the right time? Here in the United States, I still like to think the founding fathers had it right—we either unite as one or we die alone. We are stronger together. The natural order does have us looking at the real cost of what it means to be a human alive today, and the price is as incalculable as the unspeakable name of God. Both were once revered and sacrosanct; today, both God and life are trivialized—both subjugated to the realm of control, and quite uncomfortable to wear.

When we lose sight of the forest, we also lose sight of its value. When we lose the knowledge that unites us, we separate like a rogue cancer cell might, enveloping and annihilating the health of the surrounding area and all within it. ‘As above, so below’ comes to mind. We have a collective body of pain and trauma to address and heal, and now is as good a time as any, timeless beings that we are.

Join with me in my fervent and daily prayer: Heaven help us, until we can help ourselves and each other.


Mother, Sister, Writer, Editor, Advocate, Optimizer, Cosmic Interpreter, and Devotee of Positivity, Kathy Custren writes about The Conundrum since 2007. Connect with “Consciousness Live” on WordPress and Facebook. With united hearts, let us move humanity forward.

Clarity of Singularity

3 Aug


“To understand one thing well is better than understanding many things by halves.” 
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“A jack-of-all-trades and a master at none.” — Unknown
The Conundrum tells us, in its own, unique way, that there is more to being one person. As confusing as that may sound, we can examine it to find that, even though we may be seen as one person with one set of features and senses, our experience is such that our “one” human package contains many gifts. Even if we have the ability to multi-task, there comes a time when we care and become mindful enough to focus on one activity at a time.
This sense of focused sight, this ability to see one site in the midst of chaos, is something that is a very strong, inherent trait. The facility of concentration is such that it not only causes us to sort out one tiny detail from many. It also causes us to concentrate our energies on that one task or search in order to experience all that there is to see…and be.
All that is contained may be considered to be an individualization; not unlike our own existence and experience. Being able to sense that there is an order to things that happens naturally can lead us to greater joy and freedom in life, as a matter of choice. When we take the time to do one thing and do it right, we learn that, despite duality and chaos, the ups and downs and other fluctuations, we can focus on doing one thing well–no matter what it is.
Many of us are called upon to do more than one thing at a time. Having two hands may be considered both a blessing and a curse. Wearing multiple hats at once, or taking on multiple responsibilities is a difficult skill to manage or sustain indefinitely. This kind of juggling can cause mistakes and imbalances to occur.
We soon learn that experience, maybe even being bold enough to call it positive experience, is best obtained through concentration. It is what the mystics of old tell us to do–to focus our energies. It is what safety experts tell us now when they warn us of the dangers of distracted driving.
Sure, we can do more things at once; however, it is a good thing to ask ourselves why we are doing that. Is it because we can, or because we need to? Are we too greedy to share the workload? Think about that a moment. Would we rather take on the stress of too much responsibility, leave something either partially or completely undone, than to focus simply on doing just one thing at a time?
Time always seems to be a factor to us here in this realm of existence, but what if it was not? What if we could flow with the idea of being timeless beings, who end up having all the time in the world that we might need to accomplish a task? Could we be comfortable with the role of playing ‘one small part’ in some greater design, understanding that we have opportunities to try again, or to do something over–and maybe better–in the process?
This is not to say we do not need a goal or deadline. The purpose of having a goal is to reach some eventual, desired outcome. We need not let go of a larger goal, such as having a peaceful world in our lifetime, or righting the wrongs we have inflicted upon the Earth. Deadlines are wonderful for reflecting on our accomplishments or making revisions.
Might we have a connection to a job, campaign, or some other effort–a shift change, perhaps–where we can appreciate its development and growth, facilitate that process, and achieve a sense of completion? Completion, without as much of the time-driven stress associated with a project’s steps along the way. Knowing a job is well done can be a rewarding feeling.
Understanding that we will get to a particular completion point provides a chance to breathe new life into the same project, or start another phase of existence. We learn that experience is concentrated energy. We have many opportunities at hand to unite and really make a difference to either change something or create something (a)new.
We can make aspects of our ‘one life’ better, without as much of the destruction that accompanies creation. Utilizing sustainable energy, whether it is our own human resource or some other part of our elemental experience, will help ensure continuation. We discover that using a finite resource only leads to a [dead] end.
The concept of manifestation and use of energies is more than pie-in-the-sky thinking or some woo-woo, magical mumbo-jumbo. It is no “secret,” since it is observable. Cosmically, there is a continuous motion and experience underway of which we are but one small fractal. We learn to either maneuver within the sphere of energy or get out of its way.
E pluribus Unum after all.

For our consideration. ~ Namaste ~ Blessings!