Beyond the box – empowerment in an unquestioning world

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Questions and more questions

Why?  Why?  Why?  The endless questioning of my young son.  The endless questioning of children that drives many parents to distraction.  However, deep down, I believe that we often have more to learn from our children (and our animals) that they have from us.  Questioning just about everything is one of those habits we would do well to re-learn.

Empowerment is a key concept in community development.  We all like to think that we have at least some power over the shape and direction of our own lives and that increasing our levels of power is a worthwhile goal to have.  Do we ever stop to ask ourselves how much of our power we willingly give away every day of our lives?

We are generally in agreement that when push comes to shove, our health is our wealth and we often only appreciate it fully when we come into poor health.  Yet, in spite of this, it is probably one of the areas of our lives where we are least empowered.

My mother used to say that when she was young (1940s Ireland), doctors advised the public to smoke.  They considered it to be good for their health!  Today, even smokers would think this is ludicrous and we wonder how they could have gotten it so wrong.  Is it really any different today?

Re-thinking “expert” advice

 Mercola (www.mercola.com) is one of those websites that encourages us to completely re-think how we manage our health and shows us just how disempowered our health systems, which are massively controlled by the pharmaceutical industry and mass media, have left us.  In a recent article posted by Mercola about a book written by Dr. Malcom Kendrick, some of what is revealed is astonishing.  Kendrick, a trained family doctor whose journey led him to abandon much of what’s promoted in conventional medicine, says “there’s a huge study in Austria of 150,000 people, which showed that the higher your cholesterol level was, the longer you lived. And the lower your cholesterol level was, the shorter you lived. These [findings] don’t see the light of day. They are published, but silenced…”

Quoting directly here from the Mercola article, while it’s hard to comprehend, some health recommendations are completely fabricated and are not based on any science. Dr. Kendrick writes that “If you are a man, it has virtually become gospel that drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week is damaging to your health. However, according to Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal, the level for safe drinking was ‘plucked out of the air.’  He was on a Royal College of Physicians team that helped produce the guidelines in 1987.  According to Dr. Kendrick, “the linear model for blood pressure—which states the higher your blood pressure is, in a linear fashion, the greater your risk of dying—was also made up.  Ditto for recommended cholesterol levels, and healthy versus unhealthy obesity levels. Believe it or not, none of these are based on real data.”

In Laura Bond’s (an Australian journalist) excellent book “Mum’s Not having chemo,” Bond draws the same conclusions about many health issues, their causes and treatments as Kendrick.  Bond’s book is packed full of shocking revelations including surveys where 75-80% of doctors and oncologists in Canada and Los Angeles stated that chemotherapy and radiation were unacceptable as treatments for themselves and their families.  At the time of writing, Bond knew of two Australian oncologists with prostate cancer, both of whom were being treated exclusively by a holistic doctor.  Bond asks how can doctors recommend a therapy they themselves would refuse?  The answer is, that by suggesting patients try alternative cancer treatments to chemotherapy, oncologists risk losing their medical licences and livelihoods, being struck off and sent to jail for “harming their patient’s right to life.”

Mammography is another area where Mercola and Bond reach the same conclusions.  Cited in the Mercola article, Dr. Peter C. Gotzsche, a professor of Clinical Research Design and Analysis, and director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, wrote a book on this subject called Mammography Screening: Truth, Lies, and Controversy. After studying it for years, he came to the conclusion that mammography probably does more harm than good.  Among others, Bond draws on the opinions of Lee Euler, author of a newsletter, ‘Cancer Defeated’ who says that “ten years of screening (from mammograms) exposes you to about half the radiation you would have received had you been standing a mile away from the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.”  Eeek!

Distinguishing fact from fiction

So how do we know what to believe?  How can we tell the truth from the untruths and sometimes the pure fabrications?  Who do we rely on to lead us in directions that are independent of big business, in particular, the pharmaceutical industry (which extensively funds research), and whose primary interests are our health and wellbeing?

Dr. Kendrick’s book, referred to above, entitled ‘Doctoring Data: How to Sort out Medical Advice from Medical Nonsense’, according to Mercola “teaches you how to identify common research flaws and help you sift through misleading and meaningless data.  The book is an important tool that teaches you how to tear apart any study promoted in the media as a breakthrough. The reality is most of the time it isn’t, and the book will explain how you can make that determination yourself.”  Dr. Kendrick also has a blog (drmalcolmkendrick.org) where he discusses this and other health-related topics.  You can also sign up to other resources such as the Mercola website.  The Environmental Working Group’s database, (www.ewg.org/skindeep/) referred to in Laura Bond’s book, enables you to check out a vast range of cosmetics and personal care products and ingredients commonly found in such products, providing information on their safety and benefits or otherwise for your health.

Another invaluable and indeed the most important resource we have is our own internal wisdom and knowledge.  Deep down inside, we all know what is good for us and what is not.  However, it takes inner work at all levels to re-develop this source of wisdom.

Ultimately, whether it’s internal or external, we must follow our children’s lead and question, question, question.  Our lives may depend on it.  There is no such thing as an “expert”, only ordinary people who have “expertise” on particular subjects, which may or may not be validated by themselves or others, then or at a later date.

Developing the confidence to challenge the fiction

Information and knowledge is one thing.  Having the confidence to use it is another, especially in the world of conventional healthcare.  Medical professionals are probably some of the people least likely to welcome a questioning attitude.

However, as Laura Bond says in her book, it’s one thing to say that you won’t undergo treatments such as chemo, it’s another to follow through on that when you are sick, vulnerable and frightened with an authoritative consultant telling you what you should and shouldn’t do.  And that’s where the real questioning is needed, the type of questioning we rarely allow from our children.  How often have I heard myself say to my son “just do what I told you and don’t question me.  I’m in charge ..blah..blah.”  Yet we need to find a way in our families and in our schools to teach children about respect and boundaries and yet not force them into doing things that they either don’t understand or that their own internal source of wisdom is telling them not to do.  That is real empowerment.  When people can have the confidence to challenge what are often powerful and authoritative figures because they genuinely disagree with them, then we have empowerment at its very best.

As individuals and as community projects, we routinely accept what we are told is expert advice and we shun those who try to question it.  Lest anyone should suggest I am, I am not advocating that people throw away their sun creams, turn up their noses at mammograms and start or continue smoking.  What I am advocating is that it’s time we began to go beyond the surface of the jargon we love to use and look at what is real empowerment, starting in our own homes and places of work.  It’s time we began to think for ourselves, trust in our own intuition and, at the very least, have an open mind on everything we hear.

Posted in Empowerment, Family, Health | 2 Comments

Why Community Organisations Should Tell Their Story

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Everyone knows what great work community organisations do, but have you really sat down to think about what makes your organisation special? You’re so caught up in the day to day that it can be hard to see the whole story, yet it is the story of your group that helps it stand out from the crowd. It’s the story of human lives, lives that have been changed for the better because of your group. And that’s a story people will want to hear.

Figuring out what the story of your group is will be worth the time investment. It will help you achieve your goals, whether that’s raising funds, attracting new service users and staff or increasing your public profile. So how do you decide what your story will be?

There are four questions you need to answer, and answering them will help you identify the ingredients that make your story unique. Let’s use the example of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), an organisation I have experience of as a service user and service provider, to demonstrate how this works.

Why?

This is the most important question. It connects to the passion and vision that inspired you or your founders to set up the group in the first place. For example, NCBI was set up to provide services to visually impaired and blind people, to help them cope with sight loss and to participate more fully in society. Identifying the reason for your group’s existence will give you the drive to get you through difficult times. It will also motivate you to spread the word about the group, even if it appears that no-one is listening.

What?

This is a question that is best answered in terms of what you do for the people who benefit from your group’s activities. NCBI offers a range of practical and emotional supports to visually impaired and blind people, including mobility training, technology training and peer counselling. Being clear about what you do will help service users understand more about what you can do for them, and funders will see where their money is going.

Who?

No community group can be all things to all people, and there is a core group of people who are most likely to benefit from your services. It helps to know who they are, because you can then tell your story in a way that’s relevant to them. Draw up a profile of a typical person who uses your services or supports you financially. If you keep them in mind, it’ll give your story a focus. Typical NCBI service users are older people dealing with deteriorating sight, or children and young people who need extra educational supports.

How?

It’s not just what you do, but how you do it. This is what separates you from other organisations that are similar to yours. NCBI’s peer counselling service is delivered by people who have themselves experienced sight loss, so they understand exactly what a person who has just been diagnosed with slight loss is going through. Ultimately, the most important outcome of your services is the feelings you inspire in your service users. Tap into those feelings of wellbeing, relief and joy that your organisation brings to people.

How to Tell Your Story

Now you’ve identified the ingredients of your story, you’ll be able to give a consistent message to your target audience, but you’ll need to decide who’ll be interested in hearing your story and how best to reach them. The great thing about knowing your story is that it will be compelling enough for you to avail of free publicity tools like press releases and blogs, leaving your budget free to fund your services. Here are a few tips for spreading the word.

Choose Your Medium: Now you know who your target audience is, you need to figure out what’s the best way to communicate with them, and that will depend on where they get their information. This will depend on their age, educational background and interests. Younger people who are glued to their phones will absorb information through social media, while older people may still prefer their local newspaper. People with literacy issues may be reached through their local radio station.

Content to Write. Now you’ve figured out your chosen medium, you’ll be able to decide what form your story will take. You need to tailor the content you write to fit your medium: for example, blogs and email newsletters for an online audience, press releases for newspapers. Blogs and email newsletters work best for an online audience. If you want to reach an audience through newspapers, then a press release is the way to go. There are subtle differences in the structure of these types of content, so you need to tailor your story to each one. In a blog, you’re more chatty and more general in the information you give, as you’re trying to reach people who don’t know about your organisation.

In a newsletter, you can be more focused and can promote directly, because you’re sending it to people who are already aware of what you do. Meanwhile, a press release is more factual, and concentrates on what’s newsworthy about your organisation, whether it’s an award you won, a study you’ve been part of or a new service you’re introducing.

This is an image of Derbhile Dromey owner of write words business

This week’s guest blogpost comes from Derbhile Graham a writer and editor who believes in the power of story and is committed to helping people and organisations tell their story. She creates content for organisations and delivers workshops in creative writing and communications.
If you would like advice on how to tell the story of your community organisation, please contact WriteWords

Posted in Inspiration, Leadership, Possibilities | 6 Comments

A boy on a beach

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Working with Framework has brought about many changes in my work and in particular my own personal life over the past fifteen years. I’ve grown older, wiser and more astounded by how local communities, families and children have overcome diversity and challenges in their own lives. Working four days a week has allowed me to support my own daughter in a small way by looking after my grandson Ollie (who is now 20 months old) a part of the week that I cherish and am grateful for.

It helps this small family financially and emotionally as for one day a week of five, they can have Ollie minded at home reducing their childcare costs to some degree. For this one day, I watch how Ollie, Harry who is 8 and both parents are impacted by life.  Arriving early I watch how they rush, plan, eat breakfast, put on coats, each routine down to a fine art and the emotional pull of saying goodbye to Ollie.

Then I see the unfathomable; a photograph that shocked the world, a little boy lying face down having drowned whilst his family are trying to escape their home that is unsafe, so frightening and with no hope for their future at this time. What they wouldn’t give to be doing the mundane, getting ready for work, school and normal daily activities, to wave day- day and know that their children are safe and looked after!!

I am mindful of all the wider political arguments and the uncertain situation that we all find ourselves in. But most of all, I want for these normal families what I have and cherish, a normal day of looking after my grandchildren without fear of knowing what the day will bring!!!

That family could have been us. That boy could have been my beautiful grandson…………

 

Written by Molly Kirwan you can see her Staff Profile here

Posted in Equality, Family, Personal | 5 Comments

Shorlisted in the Blog Awards

 

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The Framework team is delighted to have been shortlisted in the 2015 Blog Awards! We are in the category of Best Education and Science Blog. We have made the suggestion that a category for non-profits and voluntary organisations would fit the bill so we hope to see that one next year.

We created our blog during a website re-vamp, so it is a new adventure.  Our aim is to bring to life some of the issues we in this sector face on a daily basis while also celebrating our many achievements.

Framework has been committed to this work for over 20 years now and hopefully will continue for another 20!! If you like our blog and the work we are aiming to highlight then we would really appreciate your vote in the Awards Competition.

 

You can vote here   Thank you!!!!

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Pride

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Maybe some day, some one will be able to articulate what it meant to be part of a YES Equality canvass team in the Marriage Equality referendum? Some have said it was the best experience of their lives, that it lifted them out of hopelessness about political change, that it gave them back a sense of pride in their true identity. Others who voted NO are saying they had no idea how much a YES vote would mean, and now wish in retrospect that they had voted differently….

Some day we might figure out how it happened that the people of Ireland in 2015, mobilised and voted to enshrine equal marriage in our constitution? Where young people from all over the world came home to vote, where Grandparents spoke in favour of something which for their generation had been unheard of. Where we all wept one minute and grinned our ears off the next and couldn’t believe in the goodness of some people or then in the downright meanness of others.

What swung it? How did the likes of us, end up here, marching in this Pride Parade in Dublin with 50-60,000 others? At those early meetings, I wondered how we could possibly pull this off and how devastating it would be if the country voted No?

Only a few weeks later…..it seemed as if the world had changed…..

For Framework it was always about creating safety, belonging, love. We were asking for something so positive, a YES. We were asking Ireland to grow up, to embrace diversity, and citizenship. And in keeping with our own work of 20 years it was also about progressing equality which would impact on everyone.

Looking back I now see that while it’s a step in the right direction it needs to be the beginning of lots more positive change. Having been involved in this work most of my life, I have no illusions that getting here took a long, long commitment by some absolute legends who dedicated their lives to it. There are still other areas of inequality which remain shamefully and blatantly off the agenda of the powers that be, in spite of similar commitment over years. Finding the key to the next steps will be a challenge for us all.

All of you played your own part; the activists from the LGBT community, those who walked side by side with them, and everyone who went out to vote YES, you were all a part of it. Today along with other campaign teams from across the country, we celebrated #Pride and the privilege of being part of an amazing community and a life changing event in our history.

We in Framework are committed to continuing to raise awareness and to supporting full equality for LGBT people even more than ever!

Pride

 

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Vote for us in the Blog Awards here

 

 

 

 

(First published by Catherine Drea on www.foxglovelane.com)

Posted in Activism, Equality, Inspiration, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Where does your activism come from?

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I (Glynis Currie)  have had the privilege of working for Framework for 20 years in various different roles. This work has brought me into contact with many unsung heroes; ordinary people who do extraordinary things to bring about positive change for their families and their community. In Framework we have been able to share in that journey with the volunteers and staff of community sector organisations who every day face the challenges and complexities of supporting their communities despite ongoing threats to funding and ever increasing challenges in accountability and change management requirements.

Is the community sector perfect ? No! Does it get things wrong? Of course it does, but what it has is passion and a determination to try and make a difference. Having watched volunteers in particularly struggle through all that is required of them and yet still turn up at the next meeting to hold the fort is absolutely inspiring and something that does not happen everywhere. Ireland should be singing from the rooftops with regard to the contribution of local people make to social change and building community spirit.

In the ten years prior to working with Framework I was also involved in both a voluntary and paid capacity in various developments, campaigns and local community work. Ever since I remember I always had a great draw and passion for working with people towards a common goal that brings about positive change or makes something better. Whilst I never really had a particular faith I believed that we did not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine and to create a better future and this power has been demonstrated to me time after time.

However, I had often wondered where my own interest in social change and community work came from ? There was never any history of it in my immediate family who all still struggle to grasp what I actually do. It was only in more recent years that I developed some understanding of what I think motivated me. For anyone else to understand it I would need to take you back to my roots.

I was born in Scotland in 1954 and for the first 6 – 7 years of my life I lived in a small mining town midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The town was blackened by the coal dust and soot, and we were surrounded by what you could only describe as large red flat top hills (much like Ayers Rock) which we called the Bings. These were the shingle waste products of the mines and were subsequently used for building motorways. In that part of the country people talked fast and worked very hard like they expected nothing else in life (Christmas day was not even a holiday back then). Where I lived was a place where you knew you were loved by the slagging you got, the door was always open and people had an opinion on everything. My grandmother on my father’s side was always an inspiration and took a great interest in her community, known by everyone and to be crossed at your peril !!! She and her sister had to be banned from the village sports days in their 60’s to give the younger women a chance. I remember many a conversation on visits back that revolved around either sports, religion or the evils of the Tory Government.

I often thought I might have inherited something from her, however on the death of my last aunty about 10 years ago I was at the funeral and met an older distant cousin who had known my grandmothers and also one of my great grandmothers. We talked for a while and she asked me what I did in Ireland. After making a great effort to try and explain it she eventually said that she had something to tell me. You should know that you are very like your “Wee Granny”. She was your grandfathers mother and was very involved in her local community, she was the wise woman the people went to in times of trouble, she tackled men who were involved in domestic violence and was on more committees than could be counted to work on behalf of the mining community.

This was the first time I had ever heard a story about her and I cannot pretend to have her wisdom or courage but I love to think that I have some of her passion and belief in people’s ability to make change happen. I have one memory of meeting her, by then a very elderly woman, and my grandfather had brought me for a visit. She sat me at the table and gave me a Scot’s Pie with brown sauce (sausage meat to those not from Scotland) and patted my head and touched my cheek.

I now get enormous pleasure out of thinking that with that pat in the head my Wee Granny passed on a gift to me and that everything I have gotten involved in has been because I have been carrying my “Wee Granny” with me.

Coming to live in Ireland then has always felt for me that I was in some way coming home because of the way people have a strong sense of identity and community. It brought me in touch with the power we have to change things. The volunteers that we in Framework have worked in partnership down through the years I believe, should be acknowledged as heroes, every one of them and thanked for their tenacity, creativity and courage. However, I suspect like my Wee Granny, their efforts and contribution will go largely un recognised, but that will not prevent future generations from benefiting from their contribution, and hopefully some of the magic and power to imagine a better way will be passed on.

Where does your activism come from?

 

 

Posted in Activism, Community Building, Leadership | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

International Women’s Day

On March 8th, 1986, myself (Catherine Drea) and Glynis Currie organised the first celebration of International Women’s Day in Waterford. My 8 week old baby, now 29, slept for most of it, but was there to be fed if necessary!

Over 150 women crammed into the upstairs room of the old Garter Lane Building and Liz McKay who had a Cafe in the basement, fed everyone with loaves and fishes. It was also the close of the United Nations Decade for Women and the beginning of designating March 8th to raise awareness of women’s struggle all over the world. It was probably this very event that led to the setting up of Framework in 1994; born out of idealism and a strong commitment to equality.

1986 began a special journey for many Waterford women who set up community projects, organised conferences, campaigned for Mary Robinson, came out, got divorced, got jobs, left jobs, went into business, emigrated, had children, got fit, lobbied and networked nationally and internationally. A personal highlight was attending the World Women’s Summit in Taiwan and speaking about Irish women’s lives and their progress in bringing about change.

In 2006 we celebrated 20 years of events, with the Waterford Women’s Centre, in City Hall. To document the part that the women of Waterford played in the movement, Framework produced a short film of the event and interviews with 3 women whose lives had been affected by the changes brought about by feminism during those years.

In those days everything needed to change. One by one Irish women began to tick off a list of successes and changes now benefitting future generations. Glynis and myself are part of the first generation of working “married” women who up until the 1970’s had to resign from their jobs on marriage. More and more of us are in leadership roles, we have more choices, more opportunities, but we should never forget that women still need support, encouragement and safety more than ever.

This week on International Women’s Day, we remember again our sisters here and around the world who still long for the kind of freedom some of us take for granted.

 

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Best practice in the middle of a storm

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Many of us in the voluntary sector have found ourselves in the middle of a storm for the last few years. For the first time since community projects began to develop and grow there has been a steady series of cutbacks and blocks to progress. For the first time our optimism for the future has been shattered to the extent that for many community groups the only option has been closure.

For those of us who survive in this work, one of our biggest challenges is keeping up morale. The burdensome core workload is now increased by the demands of compliance, good governance, best employment practice and making a sustainability plan for the future.  Finding the time and the resources to step outside the overwhelming needs of our day to day work can be very difficult.

Sometimes we can forget about the reason we began this work and that we ARE making a difference. Sometimes taking time out and celebrating what we have achieved gives us energy to continue. So today how can you plan to take time out and and look at where you have come from and where you are going? Just stop and pause for a while and take a peek at the bigger picture. Look around you and thank and appreciate your team and your volunteers for keeping the dream alive in spite of austerity.

The voluntary and community sector are doing an amazing job, maybe we don’t appreciate ourselves enough for that?

Here’s Margaret Wheatley talking about these challenging times and how they affect us.

Posted in Community Building, Inspiration, Leadership | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

From possibilities to realities and following the gypsy rover by Tina

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This is Gypsy, one of my (Tina Tully) many cats. Gypsy was so-named because, when he first began frequenting my home in early 2008 as a stray, he would announce his impending arrival from many fields away with his loud miaowing – advance warning that we should have his food ready! He reminded us of the Gypsy Rover in that well-known Irish song, coming whistling over the hills.

I like to think that I lead my life with a similar spirit to that of the lady in the Whistling Gypsy song, that when it comes to the really important decisions I allow my heart and my intuition to lead. For those of you not familiar with the song, the lady leaves her very wealthy father, her lover, her servants, castle and state to follow the Gypsy Rover whom she believes to have nothing. She discovers that, in fact, her Gypsy Rover is also very wealthy and all her needs can be met, including, most importantly the needs of her heart and her spirit.

I think I probably always had a strong social conscience but sometime during my final year of a Sociology and Irish Arts Degree in Trinity College, I began to research possible careers in community development. However, at that time, I did not even know the phrases “community development” or “rural development”, they were concepts that had not yet reached my world. I had no idea if a career even existed that matched what I felt I wanted to do with my life.

I was strongly motivated by a number of things that I saw happening around me in the early nineties. They included high levels of emigration of young people from the rural area where I had grown up, a sense among small farmers of whom my father was one, of being told “by someone coming down from Dublin” of how to run their affairs and some solid ideas on Inis Mór, where I had spent three summers, of ways in which strong communities can effect positive change from within. To my extreme delight and excitement, I discovered a Masters in Community Development in what was then University College Galway and succeeded in getting a place on it. And so, my career in community development began and has continued apace since. I did not stop to wonder then as an idealistic student if I could find work in what I wanted to do. Somewhere in my memory, I knew that the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

As a child growing up in a traditional Catholic family, I was quite religious and spiritual with a particular devotion to the Saint I had been named after, St. Martin. However, in my twenties, as happens with so many young Irish people, I lost all of that faith and belief and did not think much about life beyond the immediate and the physical. A series of events, incidents, encounters, courses and books in my thirties led me back on a quest to think about life at a deeper level and has proved to be a fascinating journey.

One of the books I picked up along that journey that has most inspired me is “The Divine Matrix – Bridging Time, Space, Miracles, and Belief”, which was written by Gregg Braden, published in 2007. Braden is a former senior computer systems designer, computer geologist and technical operations manager and he combines a high level of scientific understanding and knowledge with his spirituality to produce a book that is impossibly difficult to summarise in this short article. However, by outlining some of the key concepts that Braden puts forward, some of the astonishing scientific experiments that he describes and some of the conclusions emerging from this, I hope that it will create a desire for some to further explore for themselves this and other related material.

Many community development enthusiasts begin with a desire to somehow “change the world”. Braden’s book poses the question as to how much power we really have to change our world. In answer to that, he puts forward compelling arguments that “… all things are possible …through the reality makers of imagination, expectation, judgement, passion and prayer, we galvanize each possibility into existence. In our beliefs about who we are, what we have and don’t have, and what should and shouldn’t be, we breathe life into our greatest joys as well as our darkest moments”. Braden offers “a sense of hope, possibility and empowerment in a world that often makes us feel small, ineffective and powerless” (pg.s 3, xx).

Many others have written on this same theme and one such author, Catherine O’Driscoll, published a book in 2012, ‘The Animals’ Agenda’ (self-published), which is the most recent such book that I have read. Like Braden, O’Driscoll writes about the “Law of Attraction”, which “ensures that you will attract people and events to yourself to support your beliefs” (pg. 161). The Law of Manifestation, she states, “means, literally, that we create our own reality. If I believe I’m poor, then life will honour that belief. If I believe I live in abundance, then I will” (pg. 162).

O’Driscoll argues that we live in a world where far too much emphasis is placed on logic, left-brain reasoning and scientific knowledge. “The mind of logic has required that we conduct double blind trials and prove theories in laboratories. Concepts that cannot be proven, or are harder to pin down, such as love, awe, intuition, and mind-to-mind communication, have been dismissed and demoted – even ridiculed” (pg. 2). There is considerable merit in this, particularly if we consider the amazing levels of knowledge, in the absence of science, of our ancestors who built monuments such as those found at Newgrange, Stonehenge and the lesser known Lough Crew. However, for the sceptics among us, Braden offers detailed scientific evidence to support his theories.

Braden draws on a range of experiments that have been and are currently being carried out by scientists today. These include particles of light (photons) that have been observed to bilocate, that is, to be in two different places separated by many miles at precisely the same instant. Braden maintains that “from the DNA of our bodies to the atoms of everything else, things in nature appear to share information more rapidly than Einstein predicted anything could ever travel – faster than the speed of light. In some experiments, data has even arrived at its destination before it left its place of origin” (pg. 12). If things have this ability, Braden asks, what about us? Braden states that “these are the possibilities that excite today’s innovators and stir our own imaginations” (pg. 13).

How, then can imagination become reality? According to Braden, “it is in the coupling of the imagination – the idea of something that could be – with an emotion that gives life to a possibility that it becomes a reality” (pg. 13). Braden sets out that “for the imaginary ideas of one moment in time to become the reality of another, there must be something that links them together”. “The key to healing, peace, abundance and the creation of experiences, careers and relationships that bring us joy is to understand just how deeply we’re connected to everything in our reality” (pg.13). The energy connecting everything in the universe is what is often referred to as “the ether”. Braden reminds us that “while conventional physics states that such a medium does not exist, new studies show that the ether, or something like it, does exist and it is this universal field of energy that connects everything in our world and beyond, and affects us in ways we are only beginning to understand” (pg.s 19-20).

To understand where this connection originates from, Braden takes us back to what is commonly referred to as the Big Bang, which was estimated to have occurred between thirteen and twenty billion years ago. Before this burst of energy, all the matter in the universe was squeezed into a very small space, believed to have been no bigger than a pea. In that compressed space, everything was joined and as the energy of the Big Bang caused our universe to expand, the matter’s particles became separated by greater and greater amounts of space. The experiments suggest that regardless of how much space separates two things, once joined they are always connected. The energy that does the connecting is what the scientist, Max Planck, described as the “matrix of everything” (pg.s 32-33).

Braden quotes Planck as having stated that “the existence of the field suggests that intelligence is responsible for our physical world. ‘We must assume behind this force that we see as matter the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind.’ He concluded ‘This Mind is the matrix of all matter” (pg.27). Braden suggests that “it may be our reluctance to accept just what it means for space to be occupied by an intelligent force, and for us to be part of that space, that has been our biggest stumbling block in our understanding of who we are and how the universe really works (pg. 26)”.

Braden states that “while our precise role in creation is still not fully understood, experiments in the quantum realm clearly show that consciousness has a direct effect on the most elementary particles of creation. And we are the source of this consciousness” (pg.43). A fundamental principle of community development and an often used buzzword is that of “participation”. John Wheeler, a colleague of Einstein, argued that we might live in a world that’s created by consciousness itself, a process that he calls a “participatory universe” (Braden, pg. 39). This brings a whole new dimension for us to the concept of “participation”.

Braden draws on a number of scientific experiments that give proof to Wheeler’s theory (pg.s 43-53). In summary these experiments show that:
A type of energy exists that connects everything in the universe;
Cells / DNA influence matter through this form of energy1;
Emotion has an effect on and can change the shape of DNA. (Despite being conditioned to believe that the state of DNA in our bodies is a given, a fixed quantity when we are born, these experiments show that nothing could be further from the truth);
When DNA is separated from the donor the effect of emotion on the DNA is simultaneous, that is, the emotions do not have to travel;
It can be concluded, therefore, that the DNA in our bodies gives us access to the energy that connects our universe, and emotion is the key to tapping in to the field.

Braden asks then, “what problem can’t be solved, what illness can’t be healed, and what condition can’t be improved if we’re able to tap the force and change the quantum blueprint where all of these things come from? Our ability to do any of this comes down to what believe about ourselves and our role in the universe” (pg. 53).

O’Driscoll very aptly states that it can appear downright cruel to suggest to someone who is living through hardship, perhaps terminal illness or tragedy that they are the creators of their own reality “…because none of us would consciously create our own suffering…most of these thoughts are subconscious” (pg. 161). However, if the information is also provided on how that is and what they can do about it, it can, on the other hand, be the most empowering gift we can offer.

In summary, what Braden and O’Driscoll have shown is that we can invent our own futures and we can do this through our emotions and our beliefs. Our emotions affect our DNA, which in turn affects matter through the medium of the energy that connects our universe. The precise way in which we can do this is often complex and both Braden and O’Driscoll provide guidance clearly and meticulously in their books to help us to do this, a subject matter for another day!

1 In this experiment carried out in the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1995, all of the air was removed from a specially designed tube, leaving just photons. The location of the photons was measured in the tube and they were found to be completely unordered. Samples of human DNA were then placed in the tube. In the presence of the DNA, the particles of light arranged themselves differently in the presence of the living material. DNA had been found to have a direct effect on the quantum stuff that our world is made of. When the DNA was removed from the tube the photons remained ordered, just as if the DNA were still in the tube. The scientists were forced to accept that some “new” field of energy existed that connected the two.

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Welcome to the new Framework blog. Here you will get updates from the latest legislation and guidelines on accountability and governance; stories from our work on building ethical practice in Ireland and inspiration for developing your own organisation.

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