Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lack of Integrity

Where have you gone, integrity?

Lack of integrity is enveloping our world. From individuals and groups, to communities and corporations, there is a glaring absence of commitment to integrity – to adhering to values, to living without discord and with wholeness and completeness. Integrity is to be trustworthy, to uphold responsibility and commitment, to be your word on actions you have agreed to and, in so doing, to build trusting relationships and honor.

It seems that “what’s in it for me” and “I watch out for myself” are the catch phrases of far too many people. The sense of responsibility and connectedness to others, to honor and service, is not just leaking out of our collective conscience, it’s a tidal wave.

What is it about integrity that makes it so elusive? Is it that it takes too much courage or too much time to do what is right? As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wisely said “It takes less time to do a thing right, than it does to explain why you did it wrong.” Is it too overwhelming to resist the swell, to stand your ground and to act on what’s right? Integrity is not simply refusing or walking away, it’s about standing up for what you believe in and taking action. You do not simply step around the litter that the person walking in front of you dropped, you pick it up. And you confront it. You do the right thing and you heal the wrong. There are plenty of ways to justify why we do not act on our integrity. We’re too busy. It’s not our responsibility. It’s easier to go with the flow. We can even complain about or find fault with the person, group, or company whose integrity we are violating. Justifications and blame are simple. But transgressing our personal integrity and the integrity of our community will gnaw at our core. It will stew and steep. We can set it aside, but it will come back. When we have crossed the lines of integrity, when we have chosen a path that not righteous, we know it in our hearts.

Is a lack of integrity what we want to teach our children? Kids will certainly learn peer pressure at school. But they learn integrity at home. Do you tell your children that it’s okay to look the other way when someone is being bullied? That they should stand with their group rather than stand up for what is right? Living with integrity may not be easy, but it’s what matters. Whistle blowers are few and far between. But they are the true heroes. Individual and corporate greed are hard to overcome. Finding businesses, organizations, and groups operating with integrity is not as easy as we’d like to believe, but they’re out there. We make them – we ARE them. When we let our integrity slip, we are not only hurting ourselves. Living with integrity builds bonds and trust. It enables clear and honest communication and opens up the possibility for excellence and success.

How do we live with integrity? By tuning into what feels good and right – for ourselves, for our families, for our communities. Listening to our inner guides, walking our talks, and living our word build the foundation for a life of integrity. We may not be able to stop others from acting without ethics and integrity, but we have a responsibility to ourselves and our children to be sure that we don’t follow their route. Integrity begins with us. As Ann Patterson wisely wrote “Only when there is personal integrity within many individuals in a society of any size can there be positive and helpful relationships among individuals and groups of people and government entities.” Following leaders without integrity is a surefire path away from wellness and happiness in the long term.

And, of course, there’s always karma!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Campaign is On!

Lawn signs seem to be cropping up everywhere I go. No, not for upcoming political elections but for flu shots. It's that time of year and, interestingly, how we approach our choices may have some parallels.

For some people, voting is easy. Stick with the party line and you'll be fine. Whoever the candidate is, if they are with your party of choice, you vote for them. But politics is never quite that simple. Political parties embody a wide range of viewpoints and perspectives, and the lines are often blurred. Busy as we may be, though, having two (or maybe three) choices makes it easy to pick a lever to pull. However, if we want to be aware and involved we need a new strategy. So, we start with the candidates. Who are they? What do they stand for? How will their perspectives impact me? What are the benefits and risks of voting for one candidate over another? We might ask some trusted friends, neighbors, or read our favorite columnist for more information. We might seek out experts in the field, tune into different viewpoints, or even attend a debate. We educate ourselves, inform ourselves, and then make a choice. We vote consciously and with intention. Perhaps we're satisfied some time down the road, perhaps not. But we do our homework and weigh in on the options.

And how do you choose when making a decision about the flu shot? We can go the "party" line - it's safe, effective, and our doctor said we should protect ourselves. Or we can go deeper. We can review studies of efficacy and safety, on both sides, consult the opinions of our trusted friends, family members, or healthcare advisors, and read reports, studies, and books to make an informed choice. Making an educated decision is certainly more time consuming. But whether we are concerned with the future of our town, our country, or our health and well-being, it is time well-invested. Blanket decision making based upon one source, or even from one viewpoint, is not well informed. Our circumstances are unique, as are our life views and body chemistries.

Just because someone put up a lawn sign, doesn't mean they are the right candidate for you. The campaign is on, but how you vote is up to you.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Humane Education

As parents, we all want to raise children who are respectful, responsible, and who demonstrate integrity and commitment to the issues of our time. Perhaps as holistic-minded parents, this is even more compelling as we strive to live a conscious lifestyle that respects life and sustainability through everyday choices. This past week we hosted Zoe Weil and the Institute for Humane Education (IHE) at our weekly Twitter party at #holisticmoms and the conversation got all of us thinking about what it means to raise kind kids.

Zoe Weil, president of IHE and author of Above All, Be Kind and Most Good, Least Harm recognized that young children can be empowered to create positive change with simple tools and guidance. Her MOGO Club model helps children to build communities emphasizing personal actions that youth can embrace to cope with the overwhelming challenges facing our society and planet. We can engage our children in the same kind of community that we build through Holistic Moms by connecting them around the issues that demand action and positive change. Kids can organize to create an organic, community garden; start a local recycling program; or fundraise to help those in need in their neighborhoods.

IHE offers educators (and parents) a wonderful list of activities that "explore and connect issues of compassion, justice, and sustainability for a variety of ages." Children can discover the beauty of nature, begin to understand their ecological footprint, analyze waste streams, or develop critical thinking skills to decipher marketing strategies using IHE's free online tools. Even busy parents can incorporate humane education tools into their daily life. A special section offering exercises for "Human Education in Minutes" will get both you and your kids thinking about their purpose and the world around them.

Holistic parenting, like humane education, raises awareness about connectedness and how our choices impact others and the planet. We applaud Ms. Weil and IHE for their forward-thinking and passionate commitment to positive, humane education. We hope you will take time out to explore IHE and their many resources and share them with your kids!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Talking to Young Kids

"Because I said so."

"Good job!"

"You'd better stop that by the time I count to three."

"I can't believe you did that!"

Do you have a young child? Do these phrases sound all-too-familiar? Have you ever sat back and considered the language you use with your children and its impact? HMN Member and author of "What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children" Sarah MacLaughlin has done just that - and has written a handy, thoughtful little book that every parent should read!

Some of the expressions we use with children are obviously counter-productive, as MacLaughlin points out. But others send subtle messages to our children about their behavior, self-worth, and how to operate in the world. Messages that are not serving them well. "Good job" is so easy to say but can lead to a dependence on adult praise and, as MacLaughlin explains, "robs him of the opportunity to truly please himself, which is the foundation for gaining self-esteem and self-motivation."

Other catch phrases, drawn from our own childhood experiences or simply out of a moment of frustration, do not serve parents well either. "Because I said so" breaks the parent-child connection because it "dismisses the child's feelings" and may well lead to defiance and questioning as your child grows. "You're driving me crazy", "you scared me to death" and "I'm going to leave without you" reflect the stress and frustration of parents but also create anxiety for our children. Fortunately, MacLaughlin is full of ideas and suggestions for alternatives. Instead of warning your kids that you're at your breaking point, how about presenting a new activity, refocusing attention or suggesting that he/she finds "something calmer to do"? Rather than threatening to leave, try giving an option such as "let's hold hands and walk out together, or I can carry you."

Change is not always easy. But it starts with awareness and attention. Realizing what we are saying and how it impacts our children is a great starting point. Putting focus on our kids, understanding their unique temperament and developmental stage, as well as their environment and world view are all critical to improving communication and the narratives that we use for our children. We need to be patient not only with our kids, but with ourselves in the process. Reminding ourselves that parenting is no easy task is vital to success. As MacLaughlin writes:

"Little kids are messy and silly, frustrating and wise. Raising a child, or just spending the day with one, can be a real adventure. Bring your flexibility and patience - and don't forget a sense of humor. These qualities, and using the right words along the way, will promote understanding and a peaceful atmosphere. And you will enjoy your time with children more."

Get a copy of "What Not to Say" and see for yourself.
Because I told you so ;-).

Friday, September 3, 2010


Sometimes it's the simple everyday things that we do that have a big impact. Take, for example, brown bagging it. Many of us opt to bring our own lunches - to work, to school - to save money and to guarantee that we have fresh, healthy options. But school and workday lunches can be big contributors to local landfills, packed with disposable wrappings, paper napkins and polluting plastics. It is estimated that the average disposable school lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year. That adds up to about 18,000 pounds a year for the average elementary school child.

Not only can lunch be bad for the environment, but exposure to many types of plastics can be dangerous to your health. Bisphenol-A has been implicated in increasing aggression among girls, and contributing to rising rates of heart disease, obesity, and infertility. To make matters worse, recent findings by the Environmental Law Foundation indicate juice boxes may contain significant amounts of lead, leaving parents concerned.

But parents need not despair: greening your lunch (and making it healthier and safer) is not as difficult as you think! And now, thanks to The Soft Landing's Safe Munch Program, you can find great eco- and health-conscious products to pack a green lunch and 10% of sales will be donated to the Holistic Moms Network! Here are some simple changes you can make to make lunch more sustainable, safer, healthier and supportive of holistic parenting:

Ditch plastic sandwich bags. From lined fabric wraps that sponge-wash clean to BPA-free containers that won't squish your sandwich, it's easy to find a reusable container for whatever you like to pack! Full-sized sandwich wraps and little reusable snack containers are greener options for whatever you like to tote.

Drink safe. Skip the juice boxes and invest in safe, reusable bottles to pack your favorite beverages instead!

Try cloth. Switch from bleached, disposable paper napkins to easy to wash cloth in fun patterns and designs, for you and for your kids!

Use sustainable utensils. Plastic forks and spoons are winding up in our oceans, along with other plastics. Reusable BPA-free utensils will reduce your exposure and help protect wildlife.

Check out the great alternatives at The Soft Landing and use code HMN2010 in the Group Code section when setting up your account to find a better way to brown-bag it and to support HMN's mission!