Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

Inside Out

Posted June 23rd, 2015 by Tom

My oldest granddaughter (age 8) and I went to see Inside Out, the new Disney/Pixar flick, during its opening weekend. In connection with my writing, my study of Trauma Healing and Infinite Possibilities, and my work with Coming to the Table, this is one powerful movie. I will absolutely be utilizing clips from Inside Out in future workshops and presentations I offer.Pixar Post - Inside Out characters closeup

Riley is uprooted from her home in Minnesota (Note: I originally called it the Midwest in this post, but when my granddaughter read the draft, she said, “that makes no sense, Papa, she was from Minnesota” so Minnesota it is) when her father starts a new job in California. The transition at home and at school does not go well. We get to watch that transition from inside Riley’s mind… and those of her mother and father… as we watch the key emotions inside their brains advise and direct their choices in life. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear jockey for position in response to the events in Riley’s and her parents’ lives.

Understanding the impact that trauma has on us physically, spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally, and knowing how deeply rooted responses to trauma are in our bodies and brains, in our instincts and emotions; watching a IMG_7703fun, engaging, animated film explore issues of memory, emotions, and trauma in thoughtful and thought-provoking ways is refreshing and useful. I’ve been talking ever since with my granddaughter when she laughs or scowls — about who is at the control panel in her brain at the moment… joy or anger; disgust, or…

An interesting and critical aspect of the film for me is the moment I realized I had been rooting for Joy to be in control all the time and eventually understanding the important roles Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear play in the richness of our full lives.

The more I study trauma, how our brains work, racism, and Infinite Possibilities, I realize how clearly our thoughts become the things and events of our lives. How we direct our thoughts, particularly in reaction to what happens to us and others, goes a long way in determining who we become and how we create the rest of our lives.

You gotta see this movie (and respond in your own life accordingly).

Infinite Possibilities

Posted January 20th, 2015 by Tom

13My father died last Tuesday.

I flew to Orlando, Florida on Wednesday, and flew back home Sunday. I’m speaking across the state tomorrow and in Indiana next Wednesday.

Then I’ll fly to Southern California to join Mom, my sister, our family, and friends to celebrate Dad’s life on the 31st.

It feels a little like a pinball machine is going full tilt in my head with all the silver balls bouncing around at once and the bells and whistles and lights celebrating the highest score ever on “Vampire Stimuli Juggling.” WoooHOOO!

I spent much of yesterday quietly thinking.

I thought about all I experienced over the weekend at the conference; the people I met, the ideas that were shared, my daily telephone conversations with my mom, the eyes of the 10-month old baby whose eyes locked into my 60-year old eyes in the lobby of the hotel just before I caught the shuttle back to the airport to fly home.

Lindi and I watched Boyhood last night. As Mason’s life and the lives of his family unfolded before us I was filled with sadness and hope and I thought what a perfect film to watch at a perfect time.

I thought about Dad being diagnosed with cancer more than three years ago, shortly before he and Mom celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary; about the precious blessing of having him with us these past three years, which offered many opportunities to be together, to talk, to hug, to share “I love you” over and over.

I thought about how my second book, Gather at the Table, was published more than two years ago, offering my co-author, Sharon Morgan, and me the opportunity to crisscross the country since, speaking with people at universities, corporations, conferences, book fairs, churches and other gatherings about healing the wounds inflicted through racism and the legacy of slavery. Even more, our journey offered us the opportunity to build our solid friendship.

I thought about the past few months; how in July I became certified as a STAR Practitioner, authorized to integrate Strategies for Trauma Awareness & Resilience into my work. How in November I read the top ten things dead people want to tell you (ah, the timing), by Mike Dooley, the man from whom I’ve been receiving daily Notes from the Universe for the past dozen years.

I thought about driving to Southern California in December to spend four days with my parents, talking about life and death, Boy Scouts and baseball, laughing through reruns of Family Feud on the Game Show channel, setting up a new laptop to replace their ten-year old desktop that was on its last legs, going to church together the Sunday before Christmas; the church they were married in, that I attended almost every Sunday of my childhood, where we will remember Dad together at a service to celebrate his life, across the street from the hospital where I was born and where he died.

I thought about talking with Mom when we knew Dad wasn’t coming back this time, about changing my plans to immediately fly to Southern California, about her encouraging me to go ahead and attend the conference in Orlando, about my gratitude for my sister for staying with Mom throughout Dad’s passing and for several days after.

I thought about life and death and the intimate and infinite relationship between the two, about feeling as close to my father now as I ever have. About talking with my 6- and 7-year old granddaughters about what happens to Pampa after he died; about cremation and how our bodies and our spirits are both connected and separate.

IMG_3547bI thought about all I experienced during the conference, where I became certified as an Infinite Possibilities Trainer. Where I met, spoke deeply with, and held in my arms, Mike Dooley, who’s Notes from the Universe have greeted me each morning for so many years with a reminder of my power, of life’s magic, and how much I am loved. Where I learned more about our innate ability to shape our lives and live our dreams through understanding and working with our thoughts, words, attitudes, beliefs, and actions.

I thought of the intimate and infinite connections between this conference and my work with Coming to the Table, my writing, STAR, Gather at the Table, speaking appearances, and Mike Dooley’s 10-month old daughter, my children and grandchildren, my father, my mother, and how each moment offers the opportunity for me, and for you, to direct our future.

I thought about Deborah, Jeoffrey, Gretchen, Regena, Tracy, Craig, Roberto, Susan, Rebecca, Andy, Mike, and so many others I encountered this weekend; the words “I told you I would find you again” being whispered in my ear in the midst of a powerful embrace, and knowing they were true.

It’s a lot. Believe me, I know. And I’m paying attention; enjoying the game. I look forward to celebrating my father and continuing to create my future. How about you?

The Possibilities are Infinite.

“Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk?”

Posted April 24th, 2013 by Tom

In the midst of the insanity following the terror attack during the Boston Marathon I noticed a flurry of Tweets from many quarters calling for some pretty gruesome revenge on the surviving suspect. Among the notable, New York State Senator Greg Ball tweeted, “So, scum bag #2 in custody. Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk to save more lives?”

Associated Press

Associated Press

Understandable? Yes. A useful response? No.

Participating in the Strategies for Trauma Awareness & Resilience (STAR) program at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, I understand with certainty that the instinct – in the face of such trauma as was experienced by people in Boston last Monday – is to seek revenge. People may then become caught up in the unending Cycles of Violence; acting out against others or themselves.

True healing begins when we break out of those cycles onto a journey toward truth, justice, mercy, and peace.

Easy? No. A useful response? Yes.


Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia

Posted June 7th, 2012 by Tom

Attention doubters!

Anyone who wonders if there’s anything “out there” watching over us (guardian angels, God, the Universe, or yes, even Santa)… read on…

Three days ago I read my astrological forecast for June at Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone. Though I realize that such things are written in very broad strokes for all people in all signs, I still find them interesting, amusing, and sometimes inspiring and even enlightening. June’s was much the same. Mine began…

The month starts out with a lunar eclipse June 4 in Sagittarius, 14 degrees, a full moon, so things may be busier than you anticipated – keep your bags packed. It may be that you will be asked to get on a plane, rapidly.

Little did I know that this month’s forecast wasn’t written in such broad strokes…

Two days ago I received an email titled “A Last Minute Opportunity.” Someone was forced to cancel their participation in next week’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University and would I be able to take advantage of filling the spot, which came with a scholarship that would cover most of the expenses (without which there is no way I could participate).

Yesterday, after a flurry of emails with folks at EMU, and conversations with my wife Lindi, I accepted. So rather than utilize next week to catch up on all the “to do’s” that have piled up while I was away in May, I’m jetting off to Virginia on Saturday for a week of deep learning.

Today, I’m finishing up as much as I can on my “must do” list. Tomorrow I pack. Saturday I fly.

The class in which I’ll participate is called “Healing the Wounds of History: Peacebuilding through Transformative Theater.” From the class description:

How do cultures emotionally integrate a legacy of perpetration or victimization? How do we prevent the rage, guilt and shame of one generation from haunting a people for generations to come? In this course, participants will learn how to use techniques drawn from drama therapy, psychodrama, sociodrama, improvisation, expressive arts therapy, Theatre of the Oppressed, and Playback Theatre as methods to approach intercultural conflict transformation and collective trauma.

I’ve communicated with the professor, Armand Volkas, director of the Living Arts Playback Theater Ensemble, to obtain the advance reading material. He has “met” me several times through viewings of Traces of the Trade. We both look forward to meeting each other in person. I’m excited to learn his approach to working with historical trauma through theater.

What a surprise! What a gift. My deep gratitude to SPI and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (home of Coming to the Table and STAR) continues to grow. Y’all are wonderful! Okay, gotta run. Lots to do!

And, yes, Santa Claus, there IS a Virginia!

Nobel Peace Prize 2011 — blessed are the peacemakers!

Posted October 15th, 2011 by Tom

When the Nobel committee in Norway announced that this year’s Peace Prize was being awarded to three women, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, African peace activist Leymah Gbowee, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen, I was thrilled. Only twelve other women have won the Peace Prize in its 110-year history (what’s wrong with that picture?).

My personal interest is enhanced by the fact that two of the recipients are alumni of schools at which I’ve also had the privilege to study. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School, which also sponsors the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program.

Leymah Gbowee earned a master’s degree at Eastern Mennonite University in conflict transformation. She attended the Summer Peacebuilding Institute and has completed the STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) program.

Congratulations to the Nobel Prize committee for your wisdom. This year’s selection focuses unmistakably on peace.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry