Awakening into Love and Wisdom


divine human

You are deeper than you realize.

Wiser than you know.

More loving than perhaps you dare to live.

In the core of your being you are infinite, boundless, vast.

The depth of us all is a presence of indescribable beauty, majesty, intelligence and love. Yet commonly we live on the surface of ourselves, chasing after fulfillment in the external world. This keeps us seeking, but never really finding.

You may have tasted moments of freedom; a presence deeper than mind.

The question is: can you live daily life from this wisdom?

You can.

I invite you to a deeper surrender.

I offer a hand of spiritual friendship for this journey without distance.

Together, we will listen to the wisdom already alive within you.

Liberate the obstacles that block access to deeper dimensions of consciousness.

Let fears and historical defenses unwind in an atmosphere of unconditional love.

Cultivate the qualities that support you to be truly present.

Able to open into everything that arises, allowing

life itself to be your ultimate teacher.

This listening and surrendering frees you to walk an authentic life.

It connects you to the source of true fulfillment, peace and real love

independent of external circumstances.

It cuts through even the deepest personal and collective knots of suffering.

At home within, you can relish the gift of your life,

and turn your attention to be of benefit to our world in transition.

This website is a gateway into direct experience of the sacred.

Support to actualize who you really are.

Because your soul knows the way…

By:  Miranda Macpherson 

 

 

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Wasn’t That a Time?


Wasn’t that a time?  Wasn’t that a time to try the souls of men?  Wasn’t that a terrible time?”

The lyrics from a sixties folk song made popular by Peter Paul and Mary reverberate through the decades and remain relevant today.

Unfortunately.

The lyrics to the folk song harken back to the war for American independence and major conflagrations waged since including World Wars I and II.

I recently bought an album by Tom Paxton.  Listening to his music on YouTube brought me back to the turbulent sixties and my love for the folk artists who became popular then.  Listening to these songs of social conscience and satire, love ballads, Children’s songs and others that reflect beautifully, poignantly and heartfully on our human experience, I am struck by the purity of this music.  It moves me deeply.  It penetrates my soul.  It inspires me to pick up my guitar and sing.

Looking back, I realize that these artists, these wandering troubadours, were great men and women.  Some of them are still alive and singing.  What a time the sixties were.  What noble visions for a better world, given voice by these passionate musicians, arose from the struggle.

Some of these visions have been realized.  We live in a better world today in some respects.  Yet we haven’t yet learned our lessons.  We live in a world where human beings still murder other human beings in the name of God.  We live in a world where a Russian President is intent upon restoring Russia to its Cold War boundaries by invading autonomous neighbor states.  We live in a world where hatred and intolerance still threaten our very existence.

When will they ever learn,” Mary Travers sings plaintively.  When, indeed, will we ever learn?

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Sneak Preview


Here’s an interview that will appear on my new blog tour later this week.  I figured you guys couldn’t wait so I’m posting it here.  Sales of Scarlet Ambrosia are so strong that we are actually running out of digital copies.  If you’ve been thinking about buying the book, I’d do it now.  You don’t want to get trampled in the Christmas rush.  If you’d like a paperback copy, let me know and I’ll put you on the waiting list for the second printing.  (We never did a first printing.)

Interview

Blood Is The Nectar of LifeWhere are you from?

Good question. Sometimes I wonder.  I was born in North Carolina, grew up in New Jersey, and I’ve lived in Florida for most of my adult life.

Tell us your latest news?

I just finished an outline for a science fiction novel that I feel fits together well and is believable if I can execute it properly.  It’s a great feeling to finish a rough draft and have it come out better than expected. The bad news is I’ll have to do an ungodly amount of research.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing short stories in high school.  I thought I was a genius destined to have a world-wide audience.  That hasn’t worked out exactly the way I expected.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It happened about five years into my career when I started to work in marketing.  I noticed that writing was the only thing I liked about working.  I quit my day job about ten years ago and I still like to write, but not when it becomes a job.  I admire people who like to work.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I always dreamed of becoming a successful creative writer.  Going from short stories and copy writing to long fiction (novels) seemed like trying to jump the Grand Canyon on Schwinn racing bike.  Some daredevils can do it but I’ve never been one.  So I took an intermediate step and wrote a screenplay with two characters in mind that I thought would be fun to play with.  It was fun.  I wrote two more screenplays before summoning the guts to write a novel.  I turned the original screenplay into my first novel, “Three Days to Darkness.”

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try not to write with a style.  I just write the way I write and hope that someone else will find it interesting and entertaining.

How did you come up with the title?

It just came to me and it really works (I think). 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A year after writing Scarlet Ambrosia, I see the story through a different pair of eyes.  At the core of the novel is a young man’s struggle with the forces of good and evil within himself and the world around him.  The vampire archetype, I now realize, is a metaphor for my heart’s dream to realize its divine nature.  The supernatural powers and ramped up energy level Devon acquires as a vampire make him half-human and half-god, something like the mythological Greek gods.  He can choose to use his new powers for good or evil purposes.

I believe everyone has the potential to become a divinely human being.  I’ve been a spiritual seeker for most of my adult life.  Awakening isn’t easy, but I’ve found it’s worth the effort.  What happens for Devon is happening for me in a much subtler way without the super-human powers, but happily, minus the need to drink human blood.

How much of the book is realistic?

I think we have to be careful with the word “realistic” when we’re talking about a novel with paranormal romance thriller tendencies.  I always try to create fictional worlds that work logically if the reader accepts the genre conventions.  I build my characters with relatable motives, desires, and character traits.  Then the story has to evolve believably and the characters have to behave consistently with their basic traits as they grow and eventually make decisions and act in ways that surprise us, but at the same time, we can see where those actions and decisions came from.  I hope this is not too much information.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, had a powerful effect on me when I first read it in my late teens.  I’ve recently read a series of book on spiritual awakening by Saniel Bonder that have inspired me to open up to a higher purpose.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I’d say Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) although I don’t write in his style.  His remarkable imagination and sense of humor inspire me.

What book are you reading now?

 I’ve just discovered a fine new thriller writer by the name of Jeff Abbott. His books are hard to put down and very good for the long plane rides.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I’m going to read a new novel by Andy Weir titled “The Martian.”

What are your current projects?

I’m working on an outline for a sequel to Scarlet Ambrosia and I’m exploring a new idea for a science fiction novel as I mentioned above.

What would you like my readers to know?

The book trailer for Scarlet Ambrosia is fun and interesting.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Words From A Far Are Not Enough


Mentoring Relationships

I enjoy reading words of inspiration as much as you probably do. I believe in the power of positive thinking. I love practicing the art of creative visualization. (My man Jordan Spieth, last week’s winner of the US Open Golf Championship, is the ultimate practitioner of creative visualization.)

Having said this, I have to say something more. You probably guessed I’d go on for a bit in this week’s blog. It takes more than a stranger’s words to affect lasting, positive change and success in any endeavor. It takes loving support from caring mentors. The ideal personification of this support comes from a set of caring, loving parents. Let’s take Jordan Spieth again as an example. He seems to have an ideal relationship with his loving, caring, teaching parents plus a monumental talent that have helped him to win two major golf titles in his young and promising career.

Jason Day, a young professional golfer from Australia, battled bravely through dizziness and nausea caused by vertigo to finish high in the US Open final standings. Jason, unlike his contemporary Spieth, did not have a strong connection with his parents while growing up. He had a troubled youth before meeting Colin Swatton at Kooralbyn, a golf-centric boarding school in south-east Queensland. Jason’s mother had to borrow money to send her son to Kooralbyn in a desperate attempt to do something about his delinquent behavior after his father died of stomach cancer when Jason was 12.

Colin Swatton was a golf instructor at Kooralbyn when he first met the head-strong, rebellious Day. Swatton’s non-confrontational style won Jason over. When Swatton moved on to teach at Hills International College, Day followed him. From there, Swatton became Day’s golf coach, mentor, close friend and full-time professional caddie. Jason Day is now one of the top-ranked golfers in the world with a family of his own and the admiration and affection of his peers.

After I’ve read a self-help book the inspiration and advice usually fade within forty-eight hours. Formulaic self-help exercises quickly become dry practices that yield little or lasting benefits. I picked up a few Wayne Dyer books a year ago and two things became immediately clear: (1) Wayne has a lot of nice things to say and (2) I could not practice or live what Dyer says if I tried for a million years.

So what does it take to move forward, achieve, and grow? To amplify what I said earlier, it takes a special personal relationship. It is a relationship that always accepts and honors who you are and where you are.  It can be a parental, mentoring, teaching, romantic, or friend to friend relationship. In the case of the first three, the relationship begins with the child, mentee, or student receiving more at first.  I’ve learned that over time the best of these relationships blossom into mutuality where both parties reap significant rewards. There’s an energy and information exchange in these relationships; call it love, call it caring and concern, call it chemistry. Whatever it is, it’s a radiant, magic elixir. It produces extraordinary human beings; some famous and others who live and work quietly outside of the limelight.

 

, , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Blog Tours


Scarlet AmbrosiaWhat is a blog tour? I’m not entirely sure, really, but I’m learning. To the best of my knowledge, a blog tour is made up of several “stops” at book review sites, all arranged by an online publicity service. Why am I writing about blog tours? I’m deeply fascinated by them and, purely by coincidence, my first Scarlet Ambrosia blog tour starts today.

A blog tour “stop” is actually a  website created by someone who loves to read and review self-published and traditionally (legacy) published books. Often, these independent book reviewers are authors themselves. They promote their own books as well as other books of interest to them. Typically, these independent book reviewers (IBRs) do not get paid to review books. They do it because it’s their passion.

From what I gather, there are three ways to promote your book on an IBR site: (1) a live or written interview (2) a book review or (3) a book spotlight. I don’t know what a book spotlight is but I’ll find out soon because there’s a “spotlight” stop on my tour. Blog tours can last for a few days or a few weeks with optional bells and whistles added depending upon the amount of cash the “emerging” author is willing to pony up.

According to my service provider (Sage’s Blog Tours) “Virtual blog tours allow authors to professionally promote their work without leaving the comforts of their home. Each tour stop enables authors to gain new readers and social media fans, while reaching a worldwide audience.”

As a great Jewish sage once said, “It should only happen.”

I want to thank my good buddy, Joe Canzano, for introducing me to blog tours and to Sage’s Blog Tours in particular. Joe is a talented writer, musician and marketing guy. I’m sure he’s good at a few other things too. Joe has just published his new novel, Magno Girl. If you like humor, action and romance check it out.

 

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments

Cosmic Orange Juice


auraTransmission. Everybody has one. Not your car transmission. It’s more like an energy signature.

The transmission of an awakened human being can be life transforming and life enhancing.  It is like cosmic orange juice–a vitamin for the soul, water for the seed, nectar for a heart thirsty for joy, wholeness, well-being and fulfillment.

In his book, Healing the Spirit/Matter Split, spiritual awakener Saniel Bonder writes:

“As [students] lose more conceptual, belief-based faith in their old pursuits, the pilot light of their intrinsic being becomes more accessible to the catalytic heat of our transmission. With a sufficient exposure to that energy, Being itself is then able to initiate the awakening and transformational process within the individual. The results are no less profound than that of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.”

One of the major obstacles to personal and spiritual growth is an inability to admit that we need something outside of oneselves to truly activate and accelerate the  process of self-realization. That something is hard to define and harder still to find.  We can admit that we need family, friends, a spouse or boy/girlfriend. We can accept the help of a trained mental health counselor when our limited internal and external resources are not enough to meet the difficulties life hurls at us. Yet it usually takes a rare form of desperation to seek the help and wisdom of a spiritual teacher.

It is only when everything else fails to satisfy that we are ready to go beyond the boundaries of convention and delve into the realm of the Spirit.

This point of extreme desperation is the beginning.  It may require a change from one teacher to another. The deep need for spiritual nourishment may begin with curiosity and deepen with time, perhaps lifetimes, until the time is right to dive deeply. You may audition innumerable teachers and philosophies until you walk into the right room.  Once you walk through that door, however, it soon becomes clear that what you hear and feel are what you are looking for. The transmission and the words fit like a glove—perfect for your needs. In time, you won’t hear everything that you want to hear, but that is another stage of the process.

I am grateful to have found in bountiful measure the cosmic orange juice that my heart craves. May it be so for you.

Blessings on your journey.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

The Golden Rope


golden connectionIn my last blog, I promised to write more about my residential retreat with Saniel and Linda Groves-Bonder at their home in Sonoma, California.  I left you and me hanging on the question whether I would have enough to talk about during my two-day retreat.  It turns out my fear was almost groundless.  I did run out of “personal stuff” to bring forward, but it didn’t matter.  We filled the space by working on two projects I’m doing with Saniel and Linda, and by simply being together in simple, every-day terms.

For instance, I volunteered to drive Saniel into Sonoma to do some errands, including buying cat food and six rather large sacks of bird seed.  Linda likes to feed the birds—every one of them, it seems, living in Sonoma County and beyond.  I can imagine word of mouth traveling at warp speed within the aviary community about delicious, free food.

Have you ever been inside a hay/grain/birdseed store?  Not this city slicker.  I had only been to the main “drags” in town.  Saniel helped me to experience Sonoma from a resident’s point-of-view.  It’s a quaint country town with a population of only 10,400.  Let me add, I gave myself a few extra days to explore some of the surrounding cities.  I found Sausalito to be the most interesting of these.  It’s a beautiful town overlooking the San Francisco Bay with lovely homes terraced into the hills and populated by artists, musicians, New-Age thinkers, and other adventuresome souls.  The more conventional residents were probably working in nearby  San Francisco somewhere across the Golden Gate Bridge.  The weather in northern California at this time of year can only be described as “glorious and majestic.”

Pardon my digression.

I become really happy around Saniel and Linda thanks to their powerful transmissions.  During our time together, we laughed, worked hard, and had lots of fun. There was a bonus event (for me) on Sunday called “a sitting” where Saniel and Linda hosted nine local people for a two-hour session of meditation and sharing.

After these two and a half days, I’m cooked.  I can’t say if I’m rare, medium, or well-done.  I just know I’m cooked and it’s a good thing.

While meditating at the Sunday morning sitting an image came to me: hands knitting golden threads into a golden rope.  The image suggested to me a certain perfect harmony that surrounded everything Saniel, Linda and I said and did.  There was another entity at work with us, weaving together the strands of our collective efforts into a golden rope.  Everything that happened just sort of fell into place, as if by magic. (I know what my next book project will be about.  It fell into my lap as lightly as a feather.)  The golden rope brought us closer together; more comfortable in our Being and knowing of one another—linked heart-to-heart, now and into the future.

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments

Just Blurt Out Whatever Comes Up


Say What's On Your MindI’m on a Jet Blue flight to San Francisco.  The purpose of my journey is a two-day “personal retreat” in Sonoma with my teachers, Saniel and Linda-Groves Bonder.  The retreat is part of an intensive ten-month course entitled “The White-Hot Yoga of the Heart.”

I’m concerned about filling the two days with Saniel and Linda with enough meaningful material to discuss.  It will be just the three of us.  No other students will be present, which is usually the case with the other “in person” retreats and the tele-course seminars.  I won’t be able to snooze or go off into my own little world.  There will be no opportunities to take “time off” during our sessions.  Gulp.

We’ll spend some time working on marketing projects that I’ve initiated and we’ll take a trip to the beach or the mountains.  We’ll do some meditation.  This still leaves a lot of time to fill in two days, including lunch and dinner.

We’ll talk about “my stuff,” or in more dignified terms, “my process.”  As I’ve grown on this path, I’ve become less inclined to talk about myself, yet some self-talk is necessary.  It’s a challenge to decide what is worth talking about and what isn’t.  I suppose it’s hard to know in advance what to talk about, but it makes sense to come ready with a few notes.  When push comes to shove, I think the shotgun approach is the best way to go: just blurt out whatever comes up on the topics I’ve come prepared to discuss.  The golden nuggets will spew forth in the midst of the dross.

I’ve learned to try to listen to feedback and not sit there thinking about what to say next.  For me, that’s easier said than done.

Lately, I’ve developed the habit of saying succinctly what little I have to say.    This new habit only exacerbates the problem of how to fill the time.  My teachers are experts in filling the awkward gaps in conversation.  Still, I feel responsible for coming to the retreat with enough material to fill the space.  I’m not exactly brimming over with material.

I’ll just have to be cool and see what happens.  I’ll fill you in on the flight home.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

A License to Steal


LICENSE TO STEAL007 has a license to kill.  Insurance companies have a license to steal.  Here’s a typical example.

My mother suffers from back pain mostly due to her advanced age.  Her doctor prescribed lidocaine patches for the pain.  The patches are expensive, almost five hundred dollars per box.  My mother’s Blue Cross Blue Shield supplemental insurance declined to cover the patches.  Why?  According to BCBS, the FDA says the proper diagnosis for prescribing this patch is diabetes.  What?  Did BCBS make that up?  Sounds like it.

What’s the real reason for squirming out the responsibility to cover the patch?  Answer: it’s too damn expensive.  So let’s find a reason not to cover it.

According to AARP, 200 million insurance claims are rejected every year.  Insurance companies try to spread their risk and keep as much money in their organization for as long as possible as they “adjudicate a claim.”  They use auditing software to sift through millions of submitted claims.  These programs are often referred to as “denial engines” because their intent is to lower the amount of claims paid out.

Can we chalk this thievery up to rising medical costs?  No.  Insurance companies pay only a fraction of what doctors and hospitals charge.  I can hear the insurance company executives laughing in their Dayton, Ohio offices (which are located a long way from my little Starbucks table in Aventura, Florida.)

We need insurance reform badly.  I’m not talking about Obamacare. To facilitate their criminal activities, insurance companies hire supermen lobbyists with some of the money they should be paying out in claims.  They buy yachts, homes, Bentleys, commercial real estate, investment securities and commodities with the rest of their profits. They win. We lose.

It’s time for the public to start suing insurance companies en masse. My daughter is preparing to become a prosecutor. When she reaches the Federal level, watch out Aetna, Blue Cross, and all you other bums!

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

Something Different This Way Comes*


Visit The New Scarlet Ambrosia Site

A year after writing Scarlet Ambrosia, I see the story through a different pair of eyes.  At the core of the novel is a young man’s struggle with darkness and light.  The vampire archetype, I now realize, is a metaphor for my heart’s dream to realize its divine nature.  The supernatural powers and ramped up energy level Devon acquires as a vampire make him half-human and half-god, something like the mythological Greek gods.  He can choose to use his new powers for good or evil purposes.

*Blog title inspired by Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

A Thrilling Tale of Two Hearts’ Desires


Blood Is The Nectar Of LifeJust in, this review of my new novel, Scarlet Ambrosia, now available on Amazon.com and coming soon to Barnes and Noble and iTunes.

“There’s a relatively new but rapidly expanding genre on the market called “urban fantasy,” that has as its older sibling the vampire novel, born of Anne Rice’s first book decades ago and now a genre in its own right. And then, there’s the classic vampire struggle between darkness and light—a struggle that immerses unwitting victims, vampires, and survivors in a world dominated by blood-lust.

“With so many vampire novels on the market today, one could wonder at the need for yet another; but Scarlet Ambrosia is a vampire story of a different color, seasoned not so much by the drama of blood-letting as by the more universal themes of self-discovery, human nature, and redemption. Ultimately this is what makes or breaks any genre; especially one such as the urban fantasy or vampire story, which too often tends to eschew self-examination in favor of high drama. And this is just one of the reasons why Scarlet Ambrosia stands out from the urban fantasy genre crowd.

“Sure, protagonist Devon’s outward battle is against an ancient evil vampire, Egon Schiller, but it’s also against himself. Devon is no stranger to the dark forces within him after years of therapy, but the darkness he’s confronting now proves far beyond his wildest dreams.

“Scarlet Ambrosia‘s inner light shines forth: a light that starts with Devon’s inner world and expands to embrace the wider concern of disappearances on the city streets.

“This part is predictable as Devon confronts an undercurrent of blood-lust and vampires in Miami’s underworld. What is less predictable is his foray into the drug world in search of evidence that will support an international investigation into one of Egon’s illegal activities, fostered by his encounter with the sly, alluring Mathilde, who harbors her own secret agenda.

“There’s a suggestion of romance between Devon and Mathilde that’s evident from their first encounter but which is suppressed in their growing focus on greater goals, which are developed as the quest progresses, as evidenced in Mathilde’s statement:

Vanderling fears what Schiller will do every day he roams the earth more than he fears what might happen to us if we fail.” “It’s ironic how Schiller’s existence can matter more in the scheme of things than yours or mine,” he said. “When we first met, I told you I could handle Egon. That was another lie to help you feel more secure in your new situation.

“There is acknowledgement of the forces of light and darkness that occasionally rise up, unfettered, to try to take over people and the world. And as Devon becomes involved in kidnapping and worse, he finds all facets of his life are called into question with a series of decisions that reach out to affect even his relationship with his beloved parents.

“As lies, secrecy, and murders build, Devon finds himself paying for the bad decisions of others, and must come to admit his own inner nature before he can make a proper decision on honing his skills for either greater good or evil.

“The web of lies builds and threatens to immerse everything Devon holds dear, eventually spilling over into something greater than he’s ever known.

“Scarlet Ambrosia is not your usual vampire story. Its intrigue, romance, and thriller writing are all wrapped up in a bigger picture. It offers much food for thought in the course of following Devon’s evolutionary process and decisions, and it’s not a light-hearted romp through a vampire’s realm, as so many such novels offer.

“As such, it’s especially recommended for readers seeking more depth and undercurrents of philosophy in their literary choices. How does a protagonist not become the evil he fights in the process of battle? The classic vampire struggle between darkness and light just assumed a new cloak of complexity here—and wears it well.”

Source: Midwest Book Review, Diane Donovan, Senior e-Book reviewer.

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

The Ultimate Goal


The question is, how can I make the best use of my time?

I’ll bet you’ve asked yourself that question a few times. It used to come up for me once in a while. Now it pops up at least once a week. It’s because I have less time. I can hear my “consciousness clock” ticking louder and louder, like a woman who wants to bear children hears her biological clock ticking.

The child I want to bring into the world is my realization of consciousness. It’s time for me to awaken. I don’t even know what that means. I’ve read about it extensively, but it takes more than reading. It takes practice, focused intention, an activating, energetic transmission, and I don’t know what else. Maybe that last missing ingredient is “grace.” I don’t know what that is either.

Most of the people throughout history who have realized consciousness have done so with the help of a teacher or a series of teachers. Finding a teacher is usually a matter of sincere intention. When this intention reaches a “boiling point,” an appropriate teacher, or adept, enters the student’s life. It’s a phenomenon well documented by inspiring stories handed down through the ages.

And so it falls to me to take full advantage of the teachers and the community of fellow students who have recently come into my life.

Achieving any major goal is a tricky business. It helps enormously to have a carefully chosen team of mentors, teachers, and peer support to overcome the inevitable obstacles and downright perplexing passages along the way.

It is so easy for me to be distracted. For example, my mind constantly presents me with pressing issues that aren’t truly pressing, and concerns that have little importance in the big or the little scheme of things.

That’s where my team comes in. They help me to stay focused on what I consider to be the ultimate goal of human existence; awakening to the bliss of the infinite Self, and then learning how to integrate that consciousness with my individual self. It will take a small or large miracle, but when I get right down to it, there isn’t much else on my drawing board that really needs to get done.

AWAKEN CONSCIOUSNESS

 

, , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Highest and Best Use


There is a phrase I learned when I was a commercial real estate broker;  “the highest and best use of a property.”

As time passes, economic conditions and neighborhoods change. A commercial property originally built as a three-storey parking garage can have higher income potential and use if it is torn down and rebuilt as a high-rise office building.

I feel something analogous is happening to me as my awakening unfolds. The highest and best use of the property given to me, my body, is evolving into something that can be of more use to me in terms of enjoyment and of greater use to others.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m morphing into, but I’m positive it’s not a new X-Man character. I’m excited to find out who I become. In the meantime, I’m writing a few more blogs.

Photo: http://www.barnabyisright.com

realize consciousness

, , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

I Am Who I Am*


divine humanI’m growing out of this idea of “becoming a better person.”

Now, it’s more like honing my skills or adding another tool to the toolbox to move forward in this process of becoming.

It seems to me that self-improvement is just a concept with no substance, no foundation in the field of Reality.

My daughter emailed me a list of 30 “Earth Shaking” self-help books. I said, “Danielle, I’ve read more self-help books than you have miles on your five year-old car. None of them helped, but this practice of Waking Down is transforming my life.”

I wasn’t trying to convert my daughter. I was just speaking my truth.

*I may have stolen the title of this blog from Popeye.

Photo: http://www.soulmirror.net

, , , ,

5 Comments

To Publish or Not


Blood Is the Nectar of LifeTo publish or not to publish…That is the question.

Okay, I wrote the book. Then I re-wrote it five times. Now what? You’re probably thinking–You publish it, dummy. Well, it’s not that simple. It’s almost as big a commitment to self-publish a book as it is to write it. The hardest part is promotion. (See “Book Marketing 101“). To paraphrase, it’s a huge undertaking of time, energy and money. And the results almost never equal expectations, to put it mildly.

So I’m thinking, does the world really need another Vampire novel? Yes, it has a few unique elements, but will the world be a better place with my book in it.

I brought this burning question with me to a weekend retreat in Atlanta. On Sunday, late in the afternoon, an answer arrived. Actually, it was more of a solution than an answer. Write an author’s note and insert it on the last page of the book, a voice told me.

At the core of the novel is a young man’s struggle with darkness and light. The vampire archetype, it turns out, is a metaphor for the (my) heart’s dream to realize its Divine Nature. This is what gives the story “socially redeeming value,” I realized in perfect twenty-twenty hindsight.

So now, I feel more confident and motivated to publish the book. I expressed my thoughts differently in the author’s note to communicate them in more broadly digestible terms. Here’s what I wrote:

Since writing the first draft of “Scarlet Ambrosia,” I’ve gone through many changes.  Fortunately, most of them are for the better.  To put it succinctly, I’ve found a new process of self-discovery.  This new process has allowed me to see Devon Furst’s journey in the story from a new perspective.

Along with his battle against Egon Schiller, Devon’s other major conflict is the struggle between the forces of darkness and light within himself.  This conflict corresponded to my own struggle with these forces when I wrote the novel.  I’m not speaking of alcohol, drugs, or any other type of addiction here.  I’m speaking of my struggle to find peace, contentment, happiness, and a deeply felt purpose to my life.

As I write this, I’m happy to say my new “process” has taken me a long way towards experiencing what I’ve been longing to find for most of my adult life.  By the way, it has nothing to do with becoming a vampire.

 

 

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

As Being Comes Alive


 

As Being comes alive in me…               

…Fear and anxiety dissipate

…I feel more peace

…Every action I take has meaning

…Heaviness yields to lightness

…Clarity, simplicity, and focus become second nature

…The future is uncertain yet full of possibilities for creativity and enjoyment

…I can make every breath serve a higher purpose

BEING COMES ALIVE

, , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

It’s Everywhere


advertising proliferatiomAs my spiritual awakening deepens, I find my perception of the world around me is shifting. I am actually seeing, feeling, and hearing things differently and reacting to external stimuli differently. I am becoming more sensitive to whatever comes to me via these five senses.

This state-of-affairs is a double-edged sword. I can appreciate and enjoy with more gusto whatever strikes me as beautiful, interesting, noble, and inspiring. I am “feeling into” the simple pleasures of ordinary life and the warmth of close personal relationships.  In general, life is steaming forward in a more serene and graceful manner.

Then we have the other side of the sword.  Whatever irritates me, irritates me more. One of these irritants is advertising.

The fact that advertisements lie is not news to anyone.  Yet, as I experience more of what is real inside me, I can feel more deeply what is false or just plain stupid outside of me.

Advertising, like the human race, is multiplying at an alarming rate. I can’t pump gas anymore without TV ads talking to me. As we speak, ads are marching across the small television screen on the back of the airplane seat in front of me. Advertising is ubiquitous. (It means “everywhere”—a good word to learn if you haven’t already). Soon, I won’t be able to go to a public bathroom without ads talking to me.

And, as my awareness deepens, it becomes funny, even hilarious, and sad, to observe how advertising warps “what is” into “something else” in a calculated effort to plant a message in my subconscious that usually has little connection to what I want or truly need.

I am literally struck dumb by the brazenness and stupidity of most ads. In my humble opinion, the award for “Most Obnoxious and Irritating Ad of the Year” goes to Dos Equis beer for their “Most Interesting Man in the World” TV commercial. If you haven’t seen this ad, do yourself a favor and keep it that way. If you have seen it, then you know what I’m talking about. I’d also like to nominate this commercial to the award for “Most Demeaning Ad to Men and Women Ever Created.”

I’m not sure how we wound up on the subject of advertising, but while we’re at it, I’d like to leave you with a question: Would ads be more effective and less irritating if they told the truth and used birth control pills?

Photo: www.atomicplum.com

, , ,

7 Comments

Thumbs Up


Three Days to DarknessIt’s time to blast my own horn again.

The Midwest Book Review gave “Three Days to Darkness” a “Thumbs Up.” It’s encouraging when anyone other than my wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and best-friend Joe Canzano responds positively to my novel. (My mother read half the book. She liked the writing but not the story). 

Here’s the review by Diane Donovan, Mid-West Book Review eBook reviewer:

“The magic number is three. Three days to save the world. Three people to help Darius McPherson succeed. And three important life lessons to learn in the process.

The setting is a war being planned in Heaven itself by a reluctant warrior too young to be in Heaven in the first place, and the mission involves saving humanity from its own follies: no mean assignment for a young man killed in a drive-by shooting and suddenly tasked with saving the world.

Three Days to Darkness is about magic on many levels: the incongruity of Heaven and its purposes, the absurdities of Mankind, and the passionate concerns of a boy faced with apocalypse on a scale that moves beyond singular death and into the destruction of humanity itself.

As if this wasn’t enough, add demons and a road that literally leads to Hell (albeit paved with good intentions) and you have a fast-paced thriller novel that defies the usual genre definitions of fantasy, thriller or action piece and creeps into the realm of the impossible.

Three Days to Darkness darkens rapidly as Darius investigates company clinical trials, angel operatives, and deadly courses of action, spicing his approach with a cocky blend of offense and defense that presumes a degree of training he actually lacks: “Crooking his arm, Darius lifted his hand just below chin level with all five fingers splayed. He reminded himself of David Carradine as Caine in a “Kung Fu” TV episode. A more experienced angel operative would certainly prepare to attack with “way more” subtlety, he figured.”

Doses of humor are tossed in for effective comic relief as Darius questions why a Heaven governed by the concept of free will would intervene in the affairs of man – and why it would choose to do so for one event and not another: “Darius sat perfectly still for a while with his hands in his lap before speaking again. “I’m confused,” he said with a solemn expression. “On the one hand, you say everything that happens to a man is the result of free will, and on the other hand, you send me to Earth to stop a pill from going on the market. I don’t get it.” “Good observation, Darius. It sounds like a contradiction, but it’s more like a distinction. We have to pick our fights carefully. We try not to interfere with the operation of human free will. We sat by and watched in horror, for example, when Roman soldiers crucified Christ and terrorists flew commercial airliners into the Twin Towers. But there are times when we must take action, when a worldwide catastrophe could result from human failure, to put it in a shorthand manner. We intervened during the two world wars and the Cuban Missile crisis, to cite a few recent cases. We have also been involved when the psychological, moral or spiritual evolution of the species is at risk. A literal example of such a case was our influence on the outcome of the famous ‘Scopes Trial.’”

What lessons will Darius learn in his latest incarnation as a new angel? He has only three days to absorb them – or witness the end of all days.

Three Days to Darkness is a fast-paced, vivid read that incorporates all the elements of a superior mystery, thriller, and fantasy. It’s certainly not a portrait of a predictable afterlife, a conventional Heaven, or a banal post-life mission. All these facets merge to create a uniquely involving story

blending amusing moments with engrossing encounters between disparate forces; each with their own special interests and agendas.

And Darius? He’s in it for the ride, and takes readers along with him in an unexpected journey through Heaven, Hell, and beyond.”

 

 

 

 

 

, , , , , , , ,

7 Comments

The Problems of This World Including Coffee Machines


coffee machineMy coffee maker died yesterday. It was six months old. It died of the mechanical equivalent of a grand mal seizure or a massive heart attack, I’m not exactly sure which applies. One thing is certain; the death was premature.

For the past two years, I’ve been trying to find an upscale coffee maker to replace my old, reliable, cheap Mr. Coffee. I am in search of a more aesthetically pleasing machine that makes better coffee. I’m not talking about a ridiculously priced espresso machine. I’m talking about a good-looking machine in the neighborhood of seventy-five dollars including tax that makes yummy coffee. I don’t think that’s asking too much, especially considering the premium coffee I use. If there’s anything my daughter and I agree upon, it’s the importance of good coffee in large quantities to start the day. For the record, my wife does not drink coffee.

There are not many coffee maker brands available in retail stores.  Besides Mr. Coffee, there are only three or four other major brands on sale in major retail chains When my search began, I thought these brands represented the “best of the best” using the theory of Darwinian Economics. So far, I’ve chosen two of these brands to try with disappointing results.

I bought a sixty-nine dollar Cuisinart with high hopes. Unfortunately, I chose the color white, which turned out to be a bitch to clean. Within a few months, I grew weary of the futile struggle to keep the Cuisinart free of ugly coffee stains. Two months later, the clock broke. I was actually happy this happened. It gave me an excuse to buy another coffee maker.

I bought another Cuisinart, this time in black. It broke down nine months later. To add insult to injury, I did not notice any real difference in the quality of the coffee it made, except when I replaced the charcoal filter. The better taste lasted two or three weeks, then it went back to “ho-hum” quality. I will never again buy anything made by Cuisinart.

Due to my stubborn preference for cone-shaped filters, I was left with only one viable alternative in my price and shape range. I bought a sexy-looking Krups coffee maker. I expected the German reputation for precision and quality products to hold true for their coffee machines. As reported above, my Krups machine expired after six months. I’m sure the damn thing was made by a tragically underpaid worker half a world away from Germany. What is this world coming to?

It occurs to me that we are faced with much larger problems than poorly made coffee makers. I would gladly buy a coffee maker every six months if it helped to solve the problems in Ukraine and Iraq, for starters.

Photo: http://www.nextnature.net

, , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

Heart Seat Share


winding corridor to my heartThis past week I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives and their process of awakening with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I decided to write my heart share down and read it to the group.

Here I am.  It’s my time to share.  Please excuse me if I repeat some of the things I said in the small group.  Wait a minute.  I really don’t want to repeat myself.  Why don’t I just check in with myself to see what’s happening.  I can go deeper if I write this all down.

I imagine myself walking down a long flight of steps in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.*

Leaving the first floor stairwell, I encounter a winding corridor with abrupt ups and downs spaced randomly for no apparent reason, maybe just to keep things interesting.  Fortunately, I’m walking along a single corridor with no doorways or branches where I have to choose which way to go.  I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that these very same feet are taking me to a place I want to go.

Finally, I see a doorway in the distance.  The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination.  It’s a plain, wooden door, not a wrought iron gate, no carvings in the wood or lettering, not even a white coat of paint.  I wonder why the door isn’t more elaborate.  I’d certainly make it so if I were writing a story.  But this is sharing.  I don’t have to impress anyone with my incredible powers of imagination.  I simply have to say how it is.

I grab the plain brass handle on the plain wooden door, turn it, and nothing happens.  The door is firmly locked.  I knock a few times and wait.  Seconds go by and then a full minute.  No response.

“Anybody home?” I call out.

Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.

“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here.  The least you can do is answer the door.”

I’ve traveled this way many times before.  I’ve come to realize this place is the door to my heart.  No big discovery, no unique metaphor, just the plain old door to my heart.

I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of that heart.  I’ve always believed this to be true.  I never doubted it.  Yet here I am, standing here like an idiot, all by myself.  I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door.  I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a few burblings, but that’s about it.

“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the door.  “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent.  Can you please give me some material to work with?”

“Like what?” a voice says from the other side of the door in a slightly irritated tone.

I almost fall down in place.  These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years.  It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice.  I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest.  I must take advantage of this opportunity.  I have to get right to the point.  I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy.  I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape.  I can’t risk wasting its time.

“Okay,” I begin.  “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”

“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into now because it would exceed your share time.”

“Okay, okay.  Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”

“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily.  “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”

There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.

“You aren’t ready to meet me.  And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.

Another pause.

“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”

“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.

“Good.  Keep it up.  Let me give you one word of advice: Patience.  Everything is timing.  Have you heard that one?”

“Of course.”

“Then practice it.

I wait for more words of wisdom.  There are none forthcoming.

“Is that it?

“Yes, David. I must say you’re doing quite nicely.  THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART.  Hang in there.  You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”

*The first floor of my chest cavity is actually the highest floor in relation to my feet.  The floors numbers increase as you take each flight of stairs down, which is the opposite case in most buildings.

**The construction of an elevator is underway.  Please pardon our dust and debris while we make this a better living space for your comfort, convenience, and safety.

***Photo by http://www.thisarchitecture.com

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

Some Advice I Need to Follow


Enthusiasm I wrote this seven years ago.  I just updated it.

I have found one of the best ways to keep my life interesting is to make a regular practice of doing things I haven’t done before.

If I am bored, apathetic, uninspired, or generally in a rut, it is usually because I have allowed myself to become a creature of habit.   I have found the best ways to renew enthusiasm include exposure to new ideas, a new hobby, continued education, or even a new career.

We are all born with a natural curiosity to explore the world around us and the world within ourselves.  This innate curiosity is often most evident in children.  As we grow older, there is a tendency to lose touch with this curiosity as survival needs, responsibilities, and pressures to conform literally choke the life out of our thirst to know more.

Nature hates a vacuum.  If I am not moving forward, I am automatically moving backward, even though it may seem I am standing still.  Within us, there is an urge to expand.  I must make a conscious choice to move forward; to expand.  If I don’t, the default choice of moving backward and becoming smaller will automatically be engaged.

It takes an act of will to grow, to reach my highest potential.  It takes courage, determination, and perseverance to blaze my own path. I must constantly remind myself the rewards far outweigh the risks.

I must always remember Self-realization and the achievement of personal freedom require discretion, discernment, and self-examination.  I am endowed with the creativity to shape my life into the reality I carry in my heart.  The path stretches before me.  I only have to take one step at a time.

How do I begin?  I listen to my heart.  I summon the courage to follow my heart, even if it tells me things that may make no sense at first.  I live with my heart on fire as much as possible.

I am very clear about what I want now.  I am Love.  I am Peace.  I am Joyful.  I am creative in a way that benefits others.  I am Radiant.  I am having fun.

The most important thing to remember is that I am not alone.  I make an effort to connect with my Divine Self every day.  I seek the things my heart yearns for, and then prepare to receive them.

 

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments

Book Marketing 101*


Buy eBook on AmazonComparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process.  The second step, creating an attention-getting eBook cover (and optional print version cover) offers its own unique set of challenges.  The most intimidating undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—marketing.  The word strikes terror in their sensitive little hearts because many authors want as little to do as possible with the outside world.

The largest, most demoralizing marketing question is, “Where do I begin?” Guess what? I’m not going to tell you. There are about a billion articles and blogs on “How to Market Your Book.” Go read one.  In this blog, I plan to relate the first steps I’ve taken to escort my eBook into this over published world.

There are more than seven billion people alive, but how many of them read regularly?  Better yet, how many of them are looking for my book? Answer: None—Zero—Zilch—hence the need for marketing.  I carefully packed this thought away in a dark corner of my creative attic upon beginning the journey of writing a first novel.

As I neared the climactic scenes of my first draft, I noticed it became harder to write.  After a good deal of soul-searching and hand wringing, I diagnosed the problem.  My writer’s block stemmed from the subliminal understanding that it was almost time to say goodbye to my family of characters and their world.  That world had nearly ended, but it was far better than my ordinary life and the real world terrors of self-promotion.  Excuse me for this digression.  I couldn’t help it.

Flash forward 18 months.  I’ve uploaded the eBook to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and ibooks.  I’ve developed a Three Days to Darkness web site and a Facebook page.  After a year-long struggle, I’ve managed to place a hyperlinked image of my eBook in the right hand column of this blog (see “I Finally Did It”).

Now what? Gulp…

This is the seriously hard part—driving people to these outposts in cyberspace.

I started with an ad on Book Daily.  Your book is featured for one day per month on Book Daily’s E-Zine. Your first chapter is e-mailed to a combined audience of 25,000 readers (many of them authors).  They e-mail your chapter to a subset of readers by genre on three consecutive days during the month.  With each exposure, your book is piggy backed with five competitive books.  The ad costs $49.00 per month.  I sold two books the first month.  I cancelled the campaign.

I’m experimenting with ads on Facebook. You can create a campaign budget and target audience starting at $5 per ad.  So far, I’ve spent $35 on three ads. I’m having fun racking up tons of likes. I’m waiting for the book sales to come rolling in.

Next, I’m planning a press release on PR Web with a target audience of 30,000 journalists and bloggers. The idea is to drive traffic to my web sites and to generate publicity on major news sites and search engines. The campaign will cost $250. To do it right, I will need a book trailer video as part of the package. A simple video will cost another $250. I am using California Videowork to produce the video.

Wait a minute…This makes no sense.

I will have to sell at least a thousand digital copies of my book at $3.99 each to generate a profit (after deducting advertising and self-publishing expenses, plus a few hundred hours of my valuable time).

The odds of selling a thousand digital copies of my book are probably north of a zillion to one.

You know what?  Fuck the odds.

*I apologize for assaulting you with another image of “Three Days to Darkness.”  I posted it to get a hyperlinked image of the eBook on my Facebook page.  I can’t figure out another way to do it.  I think Facebook makes it impossible to hyperlink images on FB pages because they want you to spend money advertising.  I could be wrong about this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

, , , , , ,

5 Comments

I Finally Did It


 

my brain spoke to meI’m not ashamed to admit it took me nearly a year to figure out how to post the cover image of my e-book in the right hand column of this blog. I’m sure you will understand once I explain it.

First, though, please take a moment to shift your gaze slightly to the right. There it is—shining out into the world in all of its glory. Isn’t it beautiful?*

Technically, the cover image is a widget. Widgets are normally easy to use on WordPress.  As with every rule, there are exceptions. The image widget is one of them. Here’s why. Upon opening the image template, I found a box requesting a URL for my cover image. I immediately said to myself, oh no. I may have used harsher language, but it was so long ago I can’t remember.

I tried to imagine the JPG of my cover art floating on a URL somewhere out in cyberspace. How, I wondered, can I get my image up on a URL?

I tried creating a blog post featuring the cover art all by its lonesome. Didn’t work. I tried creating an interior blog page. Also didn’t work. I made many other attempts, each with the same result: total despair. Fate had sentenced my cover art to live in obscurity in the back pages of my blog. It would never be allowed to take up permanent residence in a prominent place on the front page.

It would have been so easy if the software engineers had designed the image widget with a box and a button to upload cover art. Let the software create the damn URL, not me. That job is way above my pay grade.

As I fumed about the situation for the hundredth time, an idea bulb went off in my head. (I know idea bulb is a cliché. My head hurts too much from trying to solve this mystery to come up with an original metaphor.)

Try using the media library in your dashboard to find the URL, my brain told me.

Okay, I replied.

In my media library, I found several URL’s for my cover art. I tried each of them. The widget template stubbornly refused to accept every one I entered. In a rage, I smashed my head several times on the wooden Starbucks bench and nearly strangled the person next to me. This is why my head hurts. No kidding.

Maybe the image you are using is too heavy, my brain suggested. Try using an image with less than 1.55 megabytes; dummy.

Right, good thinking.

I followed my brain’s advice. Finally, one of the URL’s worked. I can’t describe the ecstasy that came over me. I had finally done it. I had achieved one of the basic steps towards marketing a book online.

To put it mildly, writing a novel and self-publishing it is a long and interesting journey. The fun really starts, however, when it comes time to go out into the world to sell your book. Though I’ve just begun this process, I feel the urge coming on to write a blog about marketing. Stay tuned.

*By clicking on the cover image, you can go to my Amazon page. I’m not suggesting you try this. I just wanted to mention it in passing.

 

 

, , , , , ,

10 Comments

American Airlines Odyssey


Grok in Fullness

Grok in Fullness

I arrived at Chicago O’Hare International Airport feeling relaxed and in good spirits after a weekend seminar held in the small town of Elburn, Illinois. In light, mid-morning traffic, I had negotiated the trip from Elburn to O’Hare without making one wrong turn, thanks to my able navigator, Siri.

I strode across the Avis parking lot reflecting on what I had learned at the Human Sun Institute seminar.  I looked forward to a few hours of reading, novel editing, and eating a leisurely lunch before my plane took off. All I had to do was walk up to the ticket counter to collect my boarding pass.

When purchasing my airline tickets online, I could not resist the option of upgrading my return flight to first class for only $149.00. In addition to the enjoyable routine I planned before boarding, I had the comfort and luxury of a non-stop, first class flight back to Fort Lauderdale to contemplate as well.

Upon entering the American Airlines terminal, I noticed immediately how tired the ticket counter attendant looked. I figured she had begun her workday at some obscene, early morning hour. I was determined to treat her nicely. I made a few cheerful comments, gave her my flight information, and presented my ID. Her fingers flew across the keyboard. I stood there smiling, radiating all sorts of peace and joy.

The attendant looked up from her keyboard and said calmly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Gittlin, your flight has been cancelled.”

NBA sportscaster Jeff Van Gundy uses a phrase that I love. He did not coin the phrase, but Jeff has a unique way of saying it that never fails to amuse me.

Standing at the American Airlines ticket counter, I suddenly became Jeff Van Gundy reacting to the bad foul call of a referee.

“Are you kidding me,” I said to the attendant.

With my reservation, I had given my email address and cell phone number to the American Airlines computer. The computer, in response, did not email, text, or call me about the flight cancellation. Instead, it booked me on a non-stop coach flight back to Fort Lauderdale scheduled for takeoff seven hours later.

When I asked the ticket attendant for a refund on the first class part of my ticket, she informed me there was no refund since I had upgraded the return flight from an economy fare on the first half of my trip.

“But I bought trip insurance,” I said.

“We have nothing to do with that,” she replied. “You’ll have to go to the web site of the trip insurance provider to see if they will give you a refund.”

Thanks mainly to the peace circulating in my body from the weekend seminar I did not hate the ticket attendant. I did not scream or berate the poor woman. She was only doing her job. She had no control over how badly her job was screwing me.

After a minute of researching alternative flights, we settled on a flight to Fort Lauderdale with a stop in Dallas. I would arrive in Fort Lauderdale two hours earlier but three hours later than the cancelled flight. Whoopee! The attendant upgraded the flight from Dallas to first class, although the airline was not required technically to do so. Thank heaven for small favors.

I felt relieved until I learned the flight to Dallas was boarding in ten minutes. I had all of ten minutes to go through TSA and find my gate in another terminal.

While going through the TSA ordeal, I began to wonder about the cosmic significance of this abrupt change in flight plans. Surely, I was meant to deliver or receive some important message from a fellow passenger.

Encouraged by this thought, I went to pick up my carry-on bag. A TSA officer grabbed it and informed me he had to search it. This had never happened to me in forty years of infrequent flying.

I feared the search had something to do with the raft of prescription drugs I was carrying. It turned out to be a problem with my shaving cream and hair gel. I have never been busted before for these items in my carry-on, but whatever, at least I wasn’t going to jail.

With bags re-packed, I set out in search of terminal “C.” Following the signs, I found the Sky Lift to the terminal. I noticed the steps on the escalator were frozen. The elevator wasn’t working too well either. I’m not making this up, people. All of this stuff happened. It all had to be part of a grand plan for my betterment and the betterment of Mankind. I believed in this deeply.

I struggled up the frozen escalator steps lugging my laptop and carry-on bag. The woman in front of me was breathing so hard I thought she was having a heart attack. Somehow, we both made it to the top without passing out.

After boarding the flight to Dallas, I settled into the very last seat in the bowels of the coach cabin. The guy next to me looked just like a Waking Down in Mutuality mentor I had met in February at a seminar in Atlanta. I made this comment to him. He politely confirmed he was not the person I had in mind. I used the opening to talk about doppelgängers and the seminar I had just attended. My fellow passenger showed zero interest, again politely, plugged his iPhone earplugs in, and settled back to listen to music for the rest of the trip.

Okay, so nothing momentous happened on the first leg of the trip. The cosmic implications of these highly unusual events would surely kick in on the second leg of the journey.

While waiting at the gate for the flight to Fort Lauderdale, I noticed someone who looked like Lexi Thompson. Lexi is 18 years old and one of the best women golfers in the world. She lives in Florida. The woman sitting nearby looked exactly like her mother. I had seen a close up of Lexi’s mother and father on TV. Then, a slim man in his early thirties sat next to the mother. I recognized him as Lexi’s older brother Nicholas, a PGA professional golfer. This confirmed the presence of the famous Thompson clan.

I had to figure out what having Lexi Thompson and family on my flight meant—in the cosmic sense, of course. Okay, I thought, they’ll be travelling in first class like me. I’ll more than likely be sitting next to one of them.  I will have an auspicious conversation with one of them.

Instead of the famous Thompsons, I sat next to a rotund Wal-Mart salesperson from Arkansas. She showed little interest in conversing with me, preferring instead to commune with her iPad and iPhone on the journey home.

Desperate for answers, I asked the steward if American cancelled flights regularly. I had not flown American in ages. This was the first time I had ever had a flight cancelled.

The steward informed me that flights can be cancelled if there is not enough freight in the cargo hold to make the flight profitable. He defined freight as bodies in caskets, mail, or any commercial product paid for by a vendor. He explained that American had lost its contract with the US Mail. This had put a large dent in American’s freight profit center.

The steward then revealed this startling fact: The amount of commercial freight on board a commercial jetliner determines the profitability of a flight. Passengers do not determine profitability. We exist to absorb the cost of overhead including fuel and payroll.

I thanked the steward for the wisdom he had generously imparted. I proceeded to contemplate the Parable of the Airline Freight for several minutes.

In a flash of enlightenment, the purpose of my American Airlines Odyssey struck me.

OMG!!!

The events of the trip suddenly made perfect sense. I groked in fullness the hidden meaning:

I am not as important as I think I am.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Comments

The “N” Word


I cannot understand why African-Americans use the “N” word as a term of endearment. Let me re-phrase that—I understand but I don’t understand.

The convention says blacks can use the word with other blacks.  Black artists can use the word in their work—especially in the music industry. White people cannot use the word publicly or in the presence of blacks. I’m fine with the last part. I just don’t get the first part.

I am Jewish. According to the above logic, I’m permitted to use the word “Kike.” In case you were born yesterday, “Kike” is a hate word used against Jewish people in the same way the “N” word is used against black people. Now, here’s the interesting thing. Jewish people are not in the habit of affectionately calling each other a “Kike.” To Jews, the word conjures up bitter memories of centuries of persecution. Jews have been bloodied and beaten to death by angry mobs. Jews have been herded into ghettos. They have been burned in ovens. They have been treated as second class citizens.

Like African-Americans, Jews know too well the meaning of the word oppression. Jews, however, do not use a hate word to symbolize their freedom from oppression.

I do not mean to imply here that Jews are superior to blacks in any way. My point is, in my opinion, the common use of the “N” word by blacks, regardless of the context, causes collateral, involuntary, psychological damage on subtle, unconscious levels. The practice also keeps the burning embers of hatred and bigotry glowing simply by the mere repetition of the word. I strongly feel this holds true for any minority group that promotes a hate word into a term of endearment, or any other use.

I can’t imagine why a person would willingly associate himself or herself with a demeaning, destructive word. Is this an effective way to promote self-confidence and self-empowerment?

This is a free country. Anyone can do what they want within the law. I’m just saying, I feel African-Americans do themselves a disservice with their use of the “N” word.

, , , , ,

6 Comments

Hugging the Buddha


awakeningThe title of this blog is misleading. I wrote it to get your attention. If you feel manipulated, PLEASE DO NOT STOP reading. I promise to make this interesting.

The man who became the Buddha lived and died 2500 years ago. Since there was only one Buddha, it is entirely impossible for me to have ever hugged him. I also admit that I’ve never hugged the Buddha in a dream, so that pretty much takes care of Buddha-hugging in my case. I’m also under the impression that the Buddha did not make a practice of hugging his disciples, but who knows?*

I did have a chance recently to hug Saniel Bonder, the founder of Waking Down in Mutuality. Saniel makes absolutely no claim to being the next incarnation of the Buddha. He is not a Buddhist, nor is Waking Down a Buddhist teaching. Saniel does not refer to himself as a Guru. He calls himself an “adept,” someone who has achieved proficiency in a particular field or endeavor. I don’t want to say anything more about what Saniel is or isn’t. He speaks for himself eloquently, powerfully, and courageously in his books and in person.

I attended my first seminar with Saniel this past weekend. The first thing that struck me was the intimate setting. About twenty people sat in the cozy living room of a two-story house in the suburbs of Atlanta. I sat only a few feet away from Saniel and his wife, Linda Groves Bonder, a Senior Teacher in the Waking Down in Mutuality organization.

I mention the setting and my proximity to Saniel and Linda, the seminar leaders, because it all contrasted sharply to the decades I spent sitting in large auditoriums filled with hundreds or thousands of people, listening to a Guru on the stage. For many years, I felt these experiences were impersonal, but I could not find a suitable alternative.

It appears I have found that alternative. My Waking Down experience has been warm and highly personal, from the first moment I walked into a WDM meet up group in Miami, to the Human Sun seminar I attended in Atlanta.

In his book, Healing the Spirit/Matter Split, Saniel refers to the Waking Down work as “aspirant-centered.”  I came to the Atlanta seminar to put Saniel’s words to the test. I have to say that Saniel, Linda, and the three attending WDM mentors passed. They answered questions and commented on everyone’s sharing with compassion, love, deep insight, and a profound commitment.

I came to the seminar thirsty. My head buzzed with questions about the teaching. I left filled with precious feelings of relief, love, peace and joy. I made some new friends. The only question that remained in my head for the moment was, “Why did it take me so long to find this?”

*I do not intend, in any way, to disrespect or denigrate the Buddha, Buddhism, Buddhists, or Buddhist teachings. I’m just having a little fun here.

, , , , ,

6 Comments

A New Way of Going


Stone PathwayI have always liked the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

In my life, this phenomenon is occurring for the second time, and not a moment too soon. For the past few months, I’ve been investigating, in my own words, a new way of going. I won’t divulge the name of this “new way” because I’m still in the investigative stage. I can report, however, this new way has filled me with hope and a renewed sense of adventure.

This feeling is not merely the initial burst of inspiration that comes at the beginning of a new project or program of study. It seems to come from a much deeper place, as confirmed by my research.

For a while there, the only objects I could see on the horizon were old age and sickness. This bleak view originated from nagging feelings of emptiness and lack of purpose. I had lost what the robots in the movie “The Transformers” refer to as their “Prime Directive.”

For many years, I have been on a path that I assumed would eventually lead to “Self-Realization.” It became increasingly clear to me that the path I was on was never going to get me where I wanted to go. I had lost touch with my Prime Directive. I felt alone, abandoned, and a failure. During this time, I experimented with a number of groups and teachers. There are hundreds of  new age spiritual groups here in South Florida. Most of them seemed ridiculous to me. A few resonated with me. I made the effort to try the ones that spoke to my heart.

Self-Realization is a somewhat bulky term that many people might think of as an impossible goal set by foolish, pompous, self-deluded people who refuse to face life. Without doubt, the path to this goal is fraught with danger and pitfalls. The good news is that, according to what I’ve been reading, there is a distinct shift underway in the “achievability” of this goal. The goal is no longer reserved for saints, mystics, and yogis who go to extreme lengths to “awaken.” Today, the goal is available to ordinary people, like me, who lead ordinary, worldly lives.

What is truly remarkable is that dozens of people walking this “new way of going” have already awakened. I have met one such person. I recently read a book written by another person who is now a senior teacher of this way. I found her book both interesting and convincing.

“Self-Realization” or “Awakening,” if you are not familiar with the process, involves the discovery of the divine within, or infinite consciousness. Words cannot adequately describe the awakening experience. One way to approximate it is the uncovering of the essential YOU, not temporarily, but permanently, or at least as long as YOU are in the body.  This new teaching I am investigating does not require the practitioner to deny his or her human nature or personality traits. It is a path of self-acceptance. Ultimately, this method facilitates a harmonious coexistence and integration with the individual ego identity.

Certainly, no worthwhile goal is easy to achieve. This way requires work, sincerity and persistence, like anything else. The payoff, however, is a deep sense of happiness, peace, love, and well-being. I’m feeling the first faint rays of this inner sun already.

I’ll be going to Atlanta at the beginning of February for a two-day intensive. I guess you could call it the acid test. Hopefully, I’ll have positive news to bring back.

My father once said to me, “Son, don’t kid yourself. You’re going the way of all flesh.” Well Dad, my body may be going that way, but not me. I will not go quietly into that dark night.

, , , , , ,

4 Comments

Why Is Hazing Tolerated?


Think about what it takes to become an NFL draft pick. A young man must be a standout player in high school to make the team at a college or university with a nationally recognized football program. The same young man must play at a high level at his college or university, establish a reputation as a man of character, and avoid a career-ending injury. Talent, discipline, perseverance, hard work and luck are just a few of the necessary ingredients for success.

After college, the young man goes through the rigors of training for the scouting combine and an extensive vetting process by NFL teams. The next excruciating step is the NFL draft, where the dreams and expectations of deserving, hardworking young men are regularly shredded like paper documents by the blades of NFL football reality.

Finally, consider that only first and second round draft picks receive guaranteed contracts and a spot on the fifty-three man NFL team roster. The other draftees, taken in the third through seventh rounds, must compete with established players possessing competitive instincts and talent honed to such a high level that they are nothing less than freaks of nature.

All of the foregoing begs the question that has nagged me since the Ritchie Incognito and Jonathan Martin story broke in the news: Why must men who have endured so much be subjected to rookie hazing? What do these men, who have overcome staggering odds and every kind of adversity, have left to prove in terms of their talent and manhood?

The answer is nothing.

Why does rookie hazing exist? It seems to me, in this enlightened age, there is no place for this practice. To call rookie hazing a rite of passage is an unfortunate misnomer. Rookie NFL players pass through a demanding gauntlet so severe that only a tiny percentage of their peers pass the test.

Rookie hazing exists for the purpose of entertaining veteran players, pure and simple. It is a perk for older players who have survived, for however short or long, in the NFL. The problem with this is that it comes at the expense of young men who have already paid a very high price to ascend to the perilous and exalted status of NFL team player. It is grossly unfair to demean these men with the immature and sometimes cruel practices that come under the heading of rookie hazing.

NFL players justify the practice as “good fun” and even “therapy” that helps to defuse tension in training camp. I’m sure the players doing the hazing are having fun, but what about the rookies? They might be smiling, but it’s only because they have to. And, there is the ever lurking danger that this good fun and therapy will cross the line into harmful and damaging behavior.

Does hazing help the rookies and older players bond? I doubt it. I can’t see how hazing can effectively build team chemistry. It can certainly build counter-productive resentment in the rookie players.

I am reminded of the Miami Heat basketball team, where veteran players regularly mentor and encourage younger players to build their skills, work habits, and character. This is a product of team culture. It is something we should see much more of in the NFL.

I say rookie hazing should be banned by the NFL, or anywhere it exists. In professional sports, the penalties should be fines and suspensions.

, , , ,

5 Comments

Don’t Panic*


At 4:30 am last night, I began praying for the light of reason to switch on inside the heads of our congressional leaders. To be fair, my prayers applied specifically to a small, right wing segment of the Republican Party. I’m sure these individuals are acting out of what they consider their “social conscience.” I choose to call it something else: selfishness and irresponsibility.

EMERGENCY STOPJust in case you’ve been glued to re-runs of “Grey’s Anatomy” for the past month instead of the national news, the issue that has caused our congressional leaders to tear each other into little pieces and culminate in an unthinkable government shutdown is the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare.”

I do not “have it in” for Republicans because I happen to be one myself. In addition, I am not an advocate of “Obamacare.” In my situation, the only “benefits” I stand to reap from the law are higher insurance premiums and a longer wait to see my doctor. But there are a couple of things I realize and accept that the “Tea Party” Republicans choose to conveniently ignore. Obamacare is now the law of the land. It was passed by both houses of Congress and ratified by the Supreme Court. I’m not sure if the majority of citizens in this country favor the law, but certainly our elected leaders favor it. The last time I checked, the majority rules in a Democracy, and we are bound to follow the laws of the land.

In time, I hope amendments to the law will be passed that will allow everyone in this country to live with the Affordable Care Act in peace. Perhaps a future administration will dismantle the law if we find it does more harm than good. Whatever the case, we have no reason to panic. Life will go on. Affordable Care will live or die on its own merit or lack thereof.

Instead, we have a few people holding the government hostage and causing untold suffering to hundreds of thousands of people in addition to disrupting financial markets and an economy finally showing signs of life.

In 1995, a political party impasse caused a government shutdown. It cost taxpayers 1.4 billion dollars to stop and restart the engine. Here are a few examples of people affected by the shutdown, paraphrased from an article by Fred Grimm in the October 1, 2013 edition of the Miami Herald.

Somewhere between 800,000 and a million government employees cannot go to work. Nine million mothers-in-need will be denied supplemental food and nutritional education for their infants and children. The shutdown disrupts research by the National Institutes of Health and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Environmental Protection Agency will go dark. 1.1 million Head Start kids are affected adversely—and on and on.

The Tea Party faction of the Republican Party will no doubt view the plight of people directly affected by the government shutdown as collateral damage in their holy war against the “Affordable Care Act.” For these compassionate souls, I pray the law of Karma will kick in to apply swift and sure payback.

* Although “Don’t Panic” is a public domain phrase, I’d like to give the brilliant writer Douglas Adams credit for his use of the phrase as advice for space travelers in his novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

, , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments

Whispers From My Soul


The Way to Heaven

While opening a dialogue with my inner divine being, these words came to mind:

Peace

Power

Persistence

Presence

Poise

Purpose

Potential

Patience

Plenty

Positive

Perspective

My feet are firmly set on a path of divine realization.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

Winning the Battle of Self or “Movin’ On Up”


BLUE SPACE LIGHTHere’s a mind-blowing thought: We are born into this life with a predisposition towards happiness or unhappiness.

Call it a happiness quotient. It can also be described as a mindset, a unique calibration on the happiness scale embedded in the foundation of a human personality. This mindset is usually affected positively or negatively in early development by parenting, external circumstances, and life experiences.

Recently, I’ve discovered, or perhaps admitted to myself, that my internal atomic clock is set in an uncomfortable sector of the happiness scale. Let’s call it a bad neighborhood and be done with it. I don’t want to dwell on where I’m at or how I got there. Suffice it to say I won’t be spending precious time or disposable income on past-life regression therapy.The past, as a wise man said, is dead. I’m going to re-set my internal clock and, like George Jefferson, “move on up” to a better neighborhood on the happiness scale.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to achieve this minor miracle, but I have a reasonably good plan that I’ve been working on consciously and unconsciously for a while. This past weekend, the elements of the plan came together as if by magic, and not a moment too soon.

What I’ll be doing is sort of like breaking down a plaster statue and recasting it into a far more pleasing figure. I intend to transform my inner weather from dark and cloudy into radiant sunshine. It’s entirely possible with the right elements in place. Goodbye self-limiting thoughts and beliefs.  Hello person I always wanted to be.

I feel strongly that anything can be accomplished with a combination of will power, exposure to uplifting and self-empowering thoughts, and a loving source of spiritual energy.

This past weekend, I attended on full day seminar (led by Lee Ann Somers) designed to introduce participants to the Seven Healing Rays for the purpose of self-development. This will be a seven month program. I’m looking forward to every minute. Okay, I know that “the Seven Healing Rays” sounds like something straight out of “The New Age Nut Cracker Suite.” I ask that you bear with me for a few more paragraphs.

The Seven Rays represent seven unique aspects of divine energy. Each ray is a different color and embodies specific divine qualities. That’s all I want to say about the rays for now, mainly because I’ve just begun the course and don’t know much more, and additional information is beside the point. What I want to say is that the key component to the model for winning the battle of self is spiritual energy. The right energy at the right time facilitated by the right teacher unlocks human potential.  You can attract all of this “right stuff” by knowing what you want, asking for it, and keeping an open mind as to the package it arrives in.

I wrote in an earlier blog that I have grown tired of going in circles, chasing my tail. I believe this past weekend marks the beginning of an exciting journey that I want to share with you. Stay tuned.

PS—I’ve been listening to exceptional, empowering, guided meditations by Kelly Howell. You can listen to her stuff for free on YouTube.

FLOWER WITH SUN

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Comments

The Price of Printing or Planned Disappearance


Stairway to Printer Heaven

Stairway to Printer Heaven

My printer passed away last night. The print head had a massive heart attack. I performed several emergency medical procedures prescribed by my HP Solutions Center–all to no avail. Funeral services will be announced.

A helpful store clerk at Office Depot informed me that printheads often break within two to three years. “It costs nearly as much to repair them as it does to buy a new printer,” he added, smiling. I did not argue with the man. Some critcal part of every printer I have ever owned has broken down within this time-frame, and it never makes economic sense to replace the part.

Yet, I continue to buy HP printers, despite their limited life-span and the outrageous prices of the ink they voraciously consume. HP is a market leader, and I follow the herd because I shudder to think what catastrophes await the buyers of lesser brands.

Most printers displayed on major retail shelves are made in horrid factories by underpaid workers somewhere in China. I tell myself the HP factories are less horrid and produce better products than the others. At least I know what I’m getting when I buy an HP printer–a short but trouble free life span and high quality inks at unconscionable prices.

My new printer cost $149.00 (on sale) and the new ink cartridges cost $93.99.  At the risk of sounding unsympathetic and disrespectful to the dead, my old printer expired with about $50 worth of unused ink. My new printer is the updated version of the old printer. Naturally, the ink cartridges are not transferable. I had no choice except to buy new ink. This brings the total cost of my new printer to $292.99, not including sales tax.

As we all know, it’s not the cost of the printer that hurts. It’s the cost of the inks. I find that my color ink cartridges last about three months each, and the double size black cartridge lasts about six months. I am convinced the life span of HP ink is controlled by a secret technology kept ingeniously under wraps by the manufacturer.

My cartridges need frequent replacement regardless of the steps I take to economize on ink. If I avoid printing in color, my color cartridges still need to be replaced. The only explanation I have for this is that the secret HP technology enables the color cartridges to combine mysteriously to print in black.

My New Printer

My New Printer

If I cut down on using my printer, it makes no difference. In this case, the secret technology causes the ink in the cartridges to evaporate at a predetermined rate, thereby ensuring a three-month replacement cycle.

Adding to my consternation, it took me three hours to set up the new printer. This included a few breaks to watch my beloved New York Giants lose in the last two minutes to the Dallas Cowboys. This did not help to elevate my mood.

It used to be easy to set up a printer. There was basically one way to install the damned thing, and it was easy to follow the idiot-proof instructions. Now, there are several options at every step of the process requiring an advanced degree in engineering to decipher. On one of the setup screens, none of the options fit my setup criteria. I finally decided to go on to the next step without checking any of the boxes. I expected to see an error message pop up, but lo and behold, nothing happened. I had made the right choice, that is–no choice. I had guessed right, but I ask you, doesn’t that sound a bit counter-intuitive?

At some point, we will no longer need printers, paper, or ink.  Documents and images will fly through the air directly into our heads. Until that time comes, however, I could use a little advice on the subject.

“Stairway to Heaven” image by Sigurd Decroos / www.cobrasoft.be

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Comments

Giving Up to Get Ahead


Sunset Over MexicoEvery so often, it’s not such a bad idea to give up.

The word I really want to use is surrender, but I’m not really sure what that word means in the truest sense. I’m going to barge right ahead and use it anyway.

Once every ten years or so, I get to the point where I just want to surrender. I feel like I have done everything that can be done to accomplish my goals, and nothing seems to be happening. The feeling usually lasts for anywhere between three minutes and three days.

The funny thing is I find that I actually get somewhere when I reach this point. In one sense, it’s a scary place, a place of desperation, a feeling of being at the end of my rope. But I’ve found it can be an auspicious place. I wrote this yesterday on the subject (in less than three minutes).

I want to go higher, but don’t know how. It seems like I’ve tried everything, only to fall, crashing back to earth, unkindly.

I think, however, I’ve been this way before. When it seems like I have looked in every crevice and corner, turned over every stone, in search of the faintest glimmer of light—the light is usually not very far away.

There comes a time when Grace is met by human effort. I know that Grace will have to come sooner, rather than later, because I have been relentless in my pursuit of peace, joy, and love. Life becomes much easier when you know what you want.

One of the good things about advancing age is that it makes it easier to focus on priorities. I mean real priorities—the meaningful stuff, because the clock is ticking, louder and louder. There simply isn’t time to screw around with trivialities and false values. I’m tired of the tricks my mind plays on me. I’m tired of chasing my tail. I’m tired of being lost in the fun house of illusion.

I want the real thing—the beauty within my heart—and I know that it can’t be far away. I’ve been everywhere, done everything, made a fool of myself, and accomplished a few things. You can’t elude me much longer, dear Friend.

Photo Credits: “Sunset Over Mexico” by Bettina Schwehn / uniqraphy , Illusion Photo by Mateusz Stachowski

Lost in the Fun House of Illusion

Lost in the Fun House of Illusion

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Comments

Same Old Strategy In Syria


Credit: Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Credit: Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Why is President Obama determined to attack Syria when the rest of the world is reluctant to do so?

It is troubling that our President is hell-bent on making the same mistake that previous administrations have made by involving the United States in situations where we don’t belong. It is ironic that this President promised to do business differently than his predecessors when he first ran for office.

Our country no longer wields the economic might it once did in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. This unfortunate fact of life gives us less of a margin for error than we have enjoyed in the past. We can’t afford to squander precious resources on a limited strike against Syria. Many lawmakers in the Congress and Senate believe a unilateral missile attack by the U.S. will have little or no effect aside from killing more innocent people.

We have many social issues in America crying out for resources and constructive solutions. The last thing we need is an ill-conceived, destructive attempt to impose our will in Syria.

Referring to Asad’s attack against his own people, Obama recently said, “It makes a mockery of the global prohibition of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.”

This paranoia-laden statement echoes similar statements made by past administrations to justify military intervention abroad. As in the past, Obama’s statement conveniently ignores or twists the facts. Asad has his hands full fighting against his own people. The chances of Asad attacking his neighbors are practically nil. As far as our national security is concerned, what do you think a U.S. attack on an Arab country will do to further endear us to terrorist groups?  It will only serve to stoke the fires of their hatred towards this country, of course. An attack against Syria will only make the world a more dangerous place for U. S. Citizens.

It is easy to see that there is no real justification for the U.S. to take it upon itself to launch missiles into Syria. I view such an attack as an act of senseless violence. We the people are responsible for peace on earth, not the government. I intend to let my representatives in the Senate and Congress know how I feel. Let your voice be heard.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Comments

Peace on the Inside–Introducing Peace Education in a Pennsyvannia Jail


Guest-blogger Chip Presendofer provides us with a unique perspective on the steps he and a dedicated group of individuals have taken to launch a Peace Education Program in Berks County Jail, Pennsylvania. Volunteers like Chip and his team are introducing The Peace Education Program in prisons, colleges, universities, civic groups, hospices, and other institutions around the world. Peace Education (PEP) and Food for People (FFP) are two humanitarian aid programs developed by the Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF).

PEP Team (Not All Members Pictured)

PEP Team (Not All Members Pictured)

In January of 2013, I reviewed the latest Peace Education Program curriculum  with three other people at a friend’s house. Ever since I first heard about the Peace Education Program,  I’ve been motivated to contact local prisons, but all my early attempts met with rejection. The curriculum renewed my enthusiasm, and seeing a video about the Peace Education Program in prisons titled “Peace on the Inside” last summer made me feel we had a real story to tell. I think the idea of bringing a message of hope to people who have made some poor choices in their lives is worth the effort.

Feedback from Dominquez State Jail in San Antonio confirms my feeling. We began by hatching an action plan. Two team members wrote an introductory letter and compiled a list of potential recipients who we felt would be able to help us get the Peace Education Program information in the right hands. We sent about ten letters and got a nibble in neighboring Berks County.

On Thursday, February 21st, we met with an official who told us to follow-up with a specific commissioner on the prison board. We persistently followed up with the commissioner, and on February 28th, 2013 we received a letter from the warden expressing interest in implementing the Peace Education Program in Berks County Jail.

Now what? We had to wait until prison management allocated staffing and space resources at the jail. In the meantime, there was paper work to complete for background checks and volunteer training. In April, the prison scheduled training for July 17th, so we were in a holding pattern.

At this point, it seemed like a good idea to bring together everyone who had an interest in PEP under the premise of reviewing the curriculum materials. The thought was that a team of volunteers would identify themselves over successive meetings, and that’s exactly what happened. Every Sunday for about six weeks we met, reviewed the PEP curriculum, and discussed all the information we could glean from everyone involved with PEP. A number of people in the United States, South Africa, and Canada were extremely helpful and forthcoming with information and advice. We were hearing about what volunteers had done, what not to do, what they had learned, and how rewarding it was to actually bring a message of peace and hope into a prison environment.

Five people attended the Volunteer Training at the jail in July. It became very real for us at that meeting. The list of things that could go wrong and the picture painted of the inmates was an eye-opener. As it turned out, the staff instructors were making us aware of what could happen in a worst-case scenario, but when we asked both of them if they would allow their sisters to volunteer, without hesitation they both said yes. This made us feel a little more comfortable, but there were still a lot of unknowns. We discussed our fears and concerns in our meeting and we all decided the risk was worth the effort. It was a real moment-of-truth that we shared and the experience solidified our resolve to keep moving forward.

Peace Education Classroom

Peace Education Classroom

On August 2nd, two PEP team members met with the volunteer coördinator at the jail to look at the classroom and confirm a start date on August 9th. The classroom we chose was large enough for twenty students. On Friday, August 9th, we held our first class. Seventeen inmates attended. After all the students arrived and took their seats, I briefly told them we were going to play a video to give them a sense of what was going to take place and then I would take attendance. All eyes seemed fixed on the screen at the beginning of the class. It was easy for the students to relate to the prison scenes and the inmate interviews kept their attention.

I took attendance by calling out everyone’s name and tried to make sure I pronounced the names correctly. Prior to putting in the first video, I thanked the students for coming and said that the information they were about to see was directed to them as human beings. I asked them to try to listen without comparing it to anything they had heard before. Then I pushed the button on the remote and the class was underway. The class proceeded smoothly, although it seemed the longer videos challenged some students’ attention spans. Experienced PEP volunteers had advised me that it would take a few classes for the energy in the room to jell and for people to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and expose their thoughts.

The inmates came from different cell blocks. Some knew each other (fist bumps) while others were not acquainted. In general, the inmates had no trouble finding seats and being in relatively close quarters. They were orderly, quiet, attentive and helpful. Perhaps in our next class, I’ll invite them to share a little of what they heard and hopefully get them a little more involved.

Before we knew it, the class was over. After replacing the tables and chairs to their original positions, all the inmates wound up standing in a circle around the perimeter of the room. The atmosphere was instantly more relaxed and one man asked whether a person without a conscience could find the peace within. I said those are two different things. Consciousness is being aware of your existence and conscience helps us distinguish between right and wrong. I said I didn’t think a person without a conscience would seek the peace within, but I didn’t really know. He thanked me for being honest with him, and then he said he was just trying to sound smart and not to pay him any mind. I said I was just trying to sound smart also, and that got a laugh from a few people. It was the first time during the class that it felt like we might have connected a little more on the personal level.

Inmate Housing Unit

Inmate Housing Unit

I received another important piece of advice from my fellow volunteers: It’s important to connect personally with inmates without getting too involved. That advice makes a lot of sense to me. The students don’t have to like us individually, but they should know we relate to them as human beings, not as prisoners. This is a fine line, but one that holds significant promise for us as facilitators. If we respect the inmates, there’s a good chance they’ll respect the volunteer team and feel comfortable enough to reveal their thoughts in class. I don’t feel it’s my place to draw the students out, but I do feel like I need to create an environment that will allow them to open up if they wish.

The ability to walk out of the prison made me realize how fortunate I am and what a privilege it is to be able to make my own decisions about my day. Driving home, someone asked me how I felt, and I answered, “Relieved and curious.” Relieved we had broken the ice and now had an idea what we needed to do for next week and curious to see who will return.

With only one class behind us, we have many, many more to go. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and one lit candle can light hundreds of others. We’re on our way, and for that I’m thankful. Looking back, it took a lot of effort to get the program started, but the journey has just begun and the bulk of the effort is still in front of us.

Berks County Jail

Berks County Jail

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Can We Make Fewer Babies?


All this talk about overpopulation is finally beginning to hit home. Lately, it seems like almost everywhere I go, hordes of people come crawling out of the woodwork.

It’s really becoming annoying. Take, for example, a trip to the mall. You have to use a slide rule to calculate the ideal time to go, to avoid peak hour pedestrian traffic trampling you underfoot.

At the rate the world population is growing, many of us will have to consider living on another planet in some distant galaxy.  It won’t be long before scientists discover a suitable planet to colonize and they build a faster-than-light-speed spacecraft to take us there. I’m going to make sure my retirement account is healthy enough to buy a one-way ticket for me and my family to make the journey.

Starting over, however, is not going to be easy.  There won’t be any NFL or NBA games to watch, golf to play, books to read, or computer games to play—save the ones we take with us.  My wife and daughter will miss Lifetime, Housewives, nail salons, and shopping malls, to mention only a few life staples, before civilization reasserts itself.

How did we get ourselves into this situation? According to an actuarial study commissioned by the US Social Security Service, life expectancy has increased by 28 years for men and 26 years for women from 1900 to 2001. According to the same study, this is due to several factors:

• Access to primary medical care for the general population

• Improved healthcare provided to mothers and babies

• Availability of immunizations

• Improvements in motor vehicle safety

Clean water supply and waste removal

• Safer and more nutritious foods

• Rapid rate of growth in the general standard of living

I’d like to add one more item to this list: Thanks to medical science, people are living longer. In my humble opinion, some people are living longer than they should. Please allow me to explain.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a cancer center waiting for a vitamin B-12 shot and thanking God I don’t have cancer. I see people shuffle in, many in their eighties and nineties, supported by walkers and canes, wearing bandages, heads bent, half asleep. You have to feel sorry for these people while praying you don’t wind up like them.

Certainly, cancer has many causes, but one of them is simply the aging process. We reach a point where our immune system grows too feeble to protect us. At this point, the party is over. We become like AIDS patients before the curative cocktail, with nothing to look forward to but one disease after another.

Yet people hang on, thanks to the wonders of medical science, hoping life will one day be worth living again. Maybe that day will come when full-body transplants become available. If this doesn’t happen in the next ten or twenty years, I hope I will have the wisdom to know when it’s time to gracefully exit stage right (or left.) To put it another way, to have the courtesy to make room for someone else and stop contributing to escalating healthcare costs.

In the meantime, I’ll go on meditating, exercising and pursuing the interests that make me feel happy-from-the-heart. And for the sake of EVERYONE’S quality of life, can we PLEASE be a little more conscious by making fewer babies?

Planet Colonization

Planet Colonization

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments

Voir Dire and the Hydrogen Bomb


Nobody likes it. I am no exception. We’re talking about jury duty, of course. I kept trying to forget the impending date, but something kept reminding me, like, the Jury Summons itself sitting in a corner of the bedroom on my desk. Despite the negative anticipation and a six a.m. alarm, I wound up having a pretty good time on my day in court—believe it or not.

For starters, the clerk called out my number and name among the first panel of prospective jurors summoned that morning. I went directly upstairs to await the process of Jury selection instead of sitting in an over-crowded room of eight hundred people coughing, burping, farting, and talking on their cell phones.

Being selected randomly by the computer for the first panel of jurors equates to winning the lottery…well, maybe the scratch off lottery. I sat in a waiting room outside the courtroom on the fifth floor with seventeen other fortunate souls awaiting Voir Dire (to speak the truth) also known as jury selection. The bailiff ushered us into the courtroom where six attorneys (three for each side) and the judge awaited us.  Everyone except the judge stood during our entrance out of respect for the judicial system and our suffering…whoops, I mean our service.

I feel compelled to interject a few words about the judge here. She belied all of my preconceived notions about judges, the product mostly of television programs. She showed uncommon courtesy, sympathy and compassion for the jurors, and a kindness as well as fairness towards the attorneys.

The judge read a brief overview of the case to us. It involved a former police officer who was suing the girl who stabbed him while on duty and Wal-mart where the crime occurred.

Now the process of Voir Dire began in earnest with the lead attorney for the plaintiff asking us a series of questions. Here are some of the highlights. When asked if anyone on the panel had a problem with personal injury lawsuits, two gentlemen and one woman offered that they believed more than fifty percent of PI lawsuits were frivolous.  Another woman stated that she, as a Christian person, had a problem with all lawsuits, professing that people should not sue one another.

When asked about our opinions about lawyers in general, one gentleman said, “I hate lawyers. My ex-wife and her scheming attorney sentenced me to a lifetime of alimony payments.”

It seems to me the only explanation that people make statements and express views such as these is for the express purpose of being relieved of the burden of jury duty.

After a lunch break, the lead defense attorney approached us for questioning. He began by asking, “Does anyone on the panel bake.” Three women raised their hands. The Plaintiff’s attorney immediately objected. “We don’t have any cakes or baking in this case.”

The Judge allowed the defense some leeway when the defense attorney promised to, “tie in” the question. He made the point that baked goods must have a specific number of ingredients included for a successful result. Failure to include one or more ingredients will doom the baking project. In a similar fashion, the plaintiff’s attorneys were duty-bound to prove all the elements required by law for  the jury to award damages.

It dawned upon me that attorneys begin indoctrinating the jury even before the formal proceedings begin. You learn something new every day.

The defense attorney then asked us if anyone had a bad customer experience at Wal-mart. One gentleman raised his hand. Under repeated questioning, he admitted a manager resolved the matter to his satisfaction. ice-age-ahead-iaa.ca

Then the attorney dropped, what turned out for me, the hydrogen bomb. He asked if anyone on the panel “had a problem with Wal-mart in general.” In that moment, I realized I did—a big problem.

I flashed back six months to a PBS Frontline documentary titled, “Is Wal-mart Good for America.”  I found it enlightening and a bit shocking.

I proceeded to tell the attorney that I did have a problem with Wal-mart. He said he would question me in private about it. Obviously, he didn’t want my opinion to contaminate the other panelists.

After the defense attorney finished his questions, I expressed my views with the other jury members outside the room. I said I had learned from a PBS documentary that Wal-mart is a major contributing factor to the erosion of the manufacturing base in this country and our widening negative balance of trade, with more products imported than exported.

Wal-mart buys most of its products from China. Sam Walton, the founder of the company, had a firm policy of buying American. Unfortunately, Sam Walton, along with the rest of the world, has passed on.

I also learned that Wal-mart underpays its employees, despite making thirteen billion in profits in 2012. In addition, the company indirectly supports the policy of many foreign manufacturers paying their employees what amounts to slave wages to produce at prices low enough to satisfy Wal-mart.

Wal-mart also practices deceptive advertising. They promote low prices on loss leader items while many other items in the store match the prices of other major competitors. Wal-mart makes more profit on these items than their competitors due to their massive buying power, but the savings are not passed on to the consumer.

I concluded my remarks by saying in my opinion Wal-mart does not serve the public interest. The company does not contribute one iota to the standard of living of anyone in this country. Instead, Wal-mart detracts from our quality of life by making it harder to find a good-paying job or to own and operate an independent business, small or large. I embellished these remarks with one final stroke of the sword: “Wal-mart is a cancer growing steadily in developed and developing countries worldwide.”

The defense attorney just stood there behind his lectern in disbelief.

In trying to discern my motives for this outburst, I have yet to come up with a solid answer. Should I commend myself for telling the truth, or did I simply find a creative way to weasel out of jury duty? I honestly don’t know.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments

The Power of Joy


There was a wooded lot two houses down from my home in the neighborhood where I grew up. We called it “the woods.” At times, the lot became an enchanted forest.  This was especially true when I invited a friend to play in the woods with me.  One of my friends shared my enthusiasm for 1950’s horror films.  We transformed into monsters and created our own scripts using the enchanted forest as our stage.

One afternoon, I remember playing Frankenstein to my friend’s Wolf Man. The scene remains fixed in my memory in crystal clarity forty years later. When our time together had almost expired, an invisible alarm clock sounded inside me. We had to return to my house. My friend’s mother would be calling any minute to arrange a pickup. I stood at the border of the woods, one foot in the wilds and the other on the neatly mown grass of an adjacent estate home. This is the thought that ran through my head:

Next year we’ll be in seventh grade and we won’t be able to do this anymore.

Another alarm clock had sounded, only the chimes of this one struck an infinitely more somber note. It said the time had arrived to put this chapter of my life behind me. I was not in the least bit happy at the news.

Growing up is often associated with pain, and I am certainly no stranger to this experience. Growing up is scary. We have to separate from the umbilicus of parents, stand on our own two feet, compete for a niche in society, establish loving relationships, become parents, and face death at the end of our journey. I’ve never really wanted to grow up. To this day I am not a big fan of “putting away childish things.” But it seems growing up is something a human being cannot avoid if he or she desires to lead a constructive, creative life.

Here’s a trick I’ve learned that makes the medicine of growing up a lot easier to take—ladle in generous doses of joy every day.

I get stuck creatively and psychologically if I’m not experiencing joy on something that approaches a regular basis.

Obviously, joy is a precious and elusive commodity. It takes effort and a multi-faceted strategy to experience it. Joy is the elixir of life in my universe. It is the oil that allows this machine called me to run smoothly. When I’m feeling joy, I’m more creative. My work reaches a higher level. I am more motivated. I want to expand my heart and mind. I want to do what it takes to reach my goals. I am more equipped to help others. When I’m feeling joy work becomes play. I’m back in the enchanted forest with my sixth grade friend. Resistance evaporates in the presence of joy.

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I practice meditation and recommend it to my readers to feel peace and joy from within. The meditation I do feeds my heart. Thinking the right thoughts is another essential element in the pursuit of joy. We attract what we think about. Currently, I’m reading “Ask And It Is Given” by Esther and Jerry Hicks. This fascinating book offers a unique strategy for manifesting your heart’s desires.

I wish you joy.

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Comments

The Case of the Missing Box Office


Escaping from his empty life, traveling salesman Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti –L) discovers the joys of karaoke singing and a new friend in ex-con and soulful singer Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher –R) ©2000 “Duets” Hollywood Pictures

I like movies with heart. “Duets” is a movie with a big heart that nobody went to see.  Well, almost nobody.  Despite an intelligent, one-of-a-kind script and a star-studded cast, “Duets” tallied a mere 4.73 million dollars in domestic box office sales.* In terms of Hollywood studio economics this paltry sum is tantamount to a financial implosion.

“Duets” is (mostly) a feel-good road movie about people following their hearts and discovering who they are. I don’t see any harm in a story like that, particularly if you can add a few new twists and keep  folks smiling.  I thought “Duets” did both, but a lot of people disagreed.

I can find only two explanations why “Duets,” a movie I liked, was so universally overlooked by the movie-going public. Explanation 1: I have very bad taste. Explanation 2: An overwhelming number of negative reviews by movie critics cut off the hand that feeds the box office.

According to Metacritic® (www.metacritic.com) a sample of 29 professional movie critics gave “Duets” an average rating of 40 % out of 100. In contrast, a sample of twelve “Users” (people) gave the movie a rating of 8.8 points out of 10. (I realize this is a small sampling of “Users,” but let’s not forget that not many people saw this movie.)

According to this compact study then, “Duets” is a predominantly people friendly movie with an allergy to movie critics.

Here are a few typical movie critic reviews:

“Miserable as it crawls for two eternal hours towards being “life affirming.” Wesley Morris, San Francisco Examiner

“Simply creaks with contrivance—particularly in its overwrought finale.” Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald

“A leaden piece of whimsy that looks for profound life lessons among a group of karaoke bar aficionados.” Steve Daly, Entertainment Weekly

To be fair, some critics praised “Duets, as evidenced by these reviews:

“A highly likable movie.” M.V. Moorhead, Dallas Observer.

“Appealing, and ultimately moving.” Bob Graham, San Francisco Chronicle.

Gwyneth Paltrow (L) stars as Liv, an innocent Las Vegas showgirl in search of a connection to a lone wolf karaoke hustler (Huey Lewis–R) ©2000 “Duets” Hollywood Pictures

Now let’s hear from a few movie-goers:

“Her name was Lola. She was a show girl…dah de dah de dah. This movie was fun interesting and catchy. What is better?” James R.

“This movie is engaging, the story unfolds around the music, and Paul Giamatti is great. Apart some predictable things typical nowadays in American movies (family values, etc.), this movie is fun.” Pablo E.

“I loved it. Movie critics suck.” Stephanie R.

“The karaoke scenes were great…the film got me.” John O.

“Bette Davis Eyes…I like this song! Especially when Gwyneth Paltrow sang it.” Jiae K.  (I agree with you, Jiae. Paltrow sings the song like a sultry angel in her own voice–no dubbing.)

It’s interesting to note the difference between the critical reviews and the “User” reviews.  Critics, for the most part, write about the movie from a purely intellectual and artistic point of view. Believe it or not, I feel strongly this point of view does the movie-going public a disservice. For a more detailed explanation of what I mean by this, please read my earlier post, “Do Movie Critics Have a Heart?”

The people who commented on “Duets” experienced the movie in a completely different way than the critics. They connected with the movie emotionally.  They had a good time. People primarily go to the movies to be entertained. I believe this is a fact most movie critics tend to forget.

Here is my own somewhat extended review of the movie.

The script weaves the stories of three sets of people into a road movie unified by the common thread of karaoke. I give the screenwriter, John Byrum, credit for coming up with this unique concept. Before watching the movie, I never knew karaoke bars existed, and people competed in karaoke competitions for cash prizes. I discovered an entire karaoke subculture and its attendant technology. One of the things a good movie will do is open a door to a world you’ve never experienced before. For me, Duets succeeded admirably in this regard.

Down on his luck cabbie Billy Hannon(Scott Speedman–L) comes to the rescue of wannabe singing star Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello–R) ©2000 “Duets” Hollywood Pictures

Good music of any kind never fails to stir the human soul. This comes through in the “User review” excerpts. I found the music and the surprising singing talent of the “A” list actors showcased in “Duets” both refreshing and moving. I am astonished that movie critics, in large part, failed to respond to the musical dimension of “Duets.”

“Hard to take stone-cold sober,” writes critic Jack Matthews of the New York Daily Times.

Instead of asking, “Do movie critics have are heart,” I wonder if it might be more appropriate to ask, “Do movie critics have a heart beat?”

What about the acting? Well, Huey Lewis is definitely a better singer than actor. But I thought he basically got the job done in his role as a karaoke hustler and recalcitrant father. I have some questions about the choices Gwyneth Paltrow made in playing her role as Lewis’ long-lost daughter. I think she was going for innocent, but I didn’t feel it worked.  I’d say this was the one major flaw in the film. I thought the other stars, Giamatti, Braugher, andMaria Bello all brought “A list” luster and ingenuity to their roles.

I found the three stories in the movie appealing, and yes, even insightful, some more than others. I enjoy movies that have the unmitigated gall (according to critics) to explore questions like “What the hell am I doing here?” or “What does it take to be a good person?”

I believe the emotional center of the movie revolves around the disillusioned-with-the American-Dream character of Paul Giamatti playing opposite Andre Braugher, an ex-con. Braugher (Life on the Street) brings his customary moral compass and dignity to the role, plus a singing voice you would not believe he commands if you had not heard it yourself. This can also be said for Gwyneth Paltrow, and to a slightly lesser degree, Paul Giamatti and Maria Bello.

I connected with “Duets” emotionally. Like John O said, “…this movie got me.”

I’ll close by saying it’s very hard to make a compelling, engaging movie that switches back and forth between three different stories.Yet here I am, twelve years later, still thinking about “Duets.” Am I smart or senile to like this movie? Why did it fail at the box office?” Did “Duets” make a comeback in movie rental receipts?

If you have the answers to any of these questions, I’d love to hear from you.

*September 17th to October 29, 2000. Source: Wolfram Alpha Computational Knowledge engine (www.wolframalpha.com)

, , , , , , , , , , ,

6 Comments

Do Movie Critics Have a Heart?


black hole or heart?

At the risk of stating the obvious, I’m fed up with movie critics. Critics are supposed to help me find good movies, and they tend to fail miserably at this.

My purpose here is not to be unkind to movie critics. Instead, I’m trying to understand by thinking out loud on paper why movie critics are so unreliable.

Most movie scripts share a common shape.  By this I mean the stories are grouped into three acts designed to build dramatic tension, climax, and ultimately resolve the conflict. A number of precise rules for screenwriting success are drilled into the heads of screenwriting students. I have experienced this first-hand as a screenwriting student at UCLA. There are pros and cons to the three-act formula. The good news is that the structure works fairly well. The bad news is that it can impede creativity. Most writers and film makers need a structure or a shared convention to shape their work, no matter how badly they resent it. Genius writers and filmmakers break the rules at will and succeed handsomely. You just have to know where you fit in.

The point I’m trying to make is that there is a basic flow to most movie stories. I don’t think most movie-goers mind the similarity. Critics do. They complain bitterly about it. Unfortunately, not too many people can come up with a movie like Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” every time they pull the trigger.

Critics know this. They aren’t dumb, after all. They are just bored with watching so many stories that unfold in a similar manner. They also get tired of the same themes, over and over again. And the movie they are reviewing often reminds them of one of the many others they’ve seen. They conveniently forget there is nothing new under the sun and filmmakers tend to influence one another. So the pro critic is prone to bouts of grumpiness, a jaded outlook, and unreasonableness.

My intention is not to make excuses for bad movies.  We all know there are too many sub-par films hitting the streets every day. I do need to point out, however, that it’s hard to make a decent movie. Many elements have to come together gracefully and, in a way, miraculously.

A good film begins with a good script. After the filmmaker pens or acquires a good script, no easy feat in itself, he or she must assemble a cast of competent actors. In Hollywood, they have to be “A” list actors to get financing. Trying to get a few people from a small pool of famous actors interested in your script isn’t the easiest thing to do in the world.

Add cinematography, sound, makeup, costumes, editing, scenery and other artistic functions requiring a high degree of talent and expertise, and you have an accident waiting to happen unless everyone involved knows what they are doing. Add another intangible element like the chemistry that develops or fails to develop between cast members and crew, and you can see why filmmaking is a risky business.

Obviously, a great deal of blood sweat and tears, not to mention money, goes into making a “major motion picture.” There is no doubt that a lot of movies fall far short of the artistic vision that breathed life into them. But there are a lot of movies that deserve more credit than critics are willing to give them.

I understand that a critic’s job is to criticize. Go ahead and nitpick about whatever aspects of a movie that may not work.  But please, I beg, pay a little more attention to the overall effect the movie evokes. That’s what People care about.

In my next post, I’m going to talk about Duets, another movie I felt received short shrift from professional movie critics.

, , , , , ,

6 Comments

Iceberg Lettuce and the Door to the Infinite


Photo by Gabi Helfert

The moment arrived unannounced during a set of solitary yoga postures on my plush, living room rug.  A long stretch to relieve the tension of the day popped something open inside me.  It was not a ligament or a tendon.  It was my hardened heart.

In the Hollywood version of the story, the hero manages to crawl to the phone, call 911, and then wakes up in a hospital bed after a miraculous, life-saving operation by a brilliant, open-heart surgeon.  The experience impresses upon our hero a number of crucial life lessons.  After the crisis, the hero’s character and actions towards others change profoundly for the better.

Unfortunately, life does not resemble a Hollywood B movie.  My physical heart had not split open while in shoulder stand on the rug.  A more subtle heart had opened, and with it, a door to a new world and another destiny.

It all started with Jorge, the new employee I would never have gone to lunch with if my usual lunch-buddies had not run off somewhere without me.  Jorge was Mexican, the only Latin guy on the second floor executive suite of Wallco, a wallpaper distribution company that hired mostly white Anglos in 1981, when Miami’s transformation into a multi-cultural city began in earnest.

Jorge, like me, was in his early thirties, average looking, average height, dark hair, brown eyes, thin mustache — an easy to get lost in the crowd kind of guy.  I had no idea his unheralded arrival would trigger a seminal occurrence in my life.

Wallco hired Jorge for its fledgling export division.  Jorge’s mission was to open up markets in South America and the Caribbean–approximately one quarter of the world–all by himself.  He had the ability to speak Spanish and, I presumed, super-human sales skills coupled with a pioneering spirit.  I didn’t envy Jorge one bit.

I considered myself above Jorge.  I was the high and mighty Marketing Director—Jorge the lowly new sales recruit.  I had served my time in sales.  I was grateful beyond words not to have to spend my days selling wallpaper sample books to dealers who had no more room in their stores for them.  I figured, if nothing else, I could learn something about the export market by going to lunch with the new recruit.  Besides, Jorge was the only soul left on the second floor other than myself.

Jorge suggested we eat at a quiet, natural food restaurant in Miami Springs.  My lunch prospects had just been elevated from a singular, fatty, McDonald’s affair to a tasty, low cholesterol engagement.  I happily agreed.

Over salads and grain burgers, I discovered Jorge was a vegetarian and engaged in practicing meditation on a daily basis.  Here was a subject I had some interest in, having experimented with various forms and teachers of meditation over the years.  You might say I was a semi-serious spiritual seeker.  I had reached a curious crossroads, a sort of impasse in my life.

I had everything a thirty something American male could wish for: the perfect job in a field I enjoyed; a great boss; a townhouse bachelor pad; girlfriends, a few pals to hang out with; a sports car and club memberships.  I had scrupulously followed the prescribed formulas for success.  I had cobbled together many of the accoutrements of an ideal life.

Yet I felt restless and unfulfilled.

I was terrified there was something terribly wrong with me.  I felt the cold winds of middle age blowing in my direction.  I saw myself dating one girl after another well into my eighties, until I finally abandoned the search for true love when my body and spirit caved in from old age.

There I was, sitting across from this lowly new recruit munching on his iceberg lettuce.  He casually mentioned losing 80 pounds after becoming a vegetarian.  I commented that it must have taken a great deal of willpower.  He answered, “Not really.”

I began to pepper Jorge with questions.  The guy was unlike many of the salespeople in our company I regularly rubbed elbows with.  He had a depth and an intensity that I found intriguing.

I asked Jorge what kind of meditation he practiced.  He said it was not a “kind of meditation.”  He launched into a passionate discourse about a profound experience of peace the meditation opened up for him.  He invited me to a presentation scheduled at a hotel on Miami Beach that evening.  I told myself there was no way I was going to drive all the way from South Miami to the Beach to attend some dubious spiritual seminar.

That night, I found myself sitting in a lime green, orange accented meeting room at the Carlyle Hotel.

Curiosity—and some undefinable vibe emanating from between Jorge’s words at lunch had picked me up from the chocolate brown pit sofa in my living room and deposited me in an uncomfortable chair surrounded by a room full of strangers.

Indian music played from six-foot speakers flanking a makeshift stage.  The only thing that kept me in my seat was the absence of Hare-Krishna-like chanting.

I glanced to my left and caught a glimpse of Jorge, who smiled kindly at me.  Someone took the stage and began speaking into a microphone.

The Indian Music and the microphone are the only details I recall after the program began.  My perspective slowly shifted from an external focus to a pleasant inner experience.

A succession of three speakers addressed the gathering that evening.  I do not recall a single word any one of them said.  I just remember feeling relaxed.  I had an experience that can only be described as feeling at home with myself.

For the first time in a very long while, I had actually enjoyed myself without a great deal of effort or alcohol to help me along.  I felt like an invisible hand had knocked off a layer of caked mud from my body.

It is difficult for me to describe what happened after that evening.  I can only say that it marked the beginning of a long journey that lasts to this day, to this very moment.

In the days and weeks after the event at the Carlyle Hotel, I met Jorge’s teacher, who essentially introduced me to myself.  I thought I knew myself pretty well.  I began to see that the image I held of myself was only a faint glimmer of a deeper, broader Self, filled with possibilities. 

Many years later, my life remains full of challenges, but I face them with real joy and optimism.  I have discovered that life can be every bit as beautiful as you want it to be.  It takes some courage and effort, but the possibility is real for anyone willing to step up to the plate.

I look inward now for satisfaction, rather than chasing it on the outside.  I shake hands with myself on a daily basis through meditation.  I feel more grounded.  I feel more love from within, which reflects positively into my outer life.

It occurs to me that I should have picked up the tab for Jorge’s lunch.  Jorge, buddy, if you’re out there somewhere and can read this, please know that I owe you one.

Top photo from the Dutchville Exhibition at the Netherlands Architecture Institute

, , , , , , , ,

6 Comments

Nominated to the Under-Appreciated Hall of Fame


Nicolas Cage and Don Cheadle Copyright 2000 Universal Studios

If there is a hall of fame for under-appreciated or misunderstood movies, then “The Family Man” belongs in it.

For the record, I have studied screenwriting at UCLA, have written three screenplays, and watch at least two to three movies a week.  I mention this only to point out that my opinion is not entirely uninformed (off the wall—maybe—uninformed—no.)

Despite this informed opinion, “The Family Man,” starring Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni, met with lukewarm reviews by critics and movie fans when it came out in 2000.

The story opens with a day in the life of Jack Campbell, a thirty-something, wealthy investment banker who captains a boutique investment firm on Wall Street.  Jack is intelligent, ambition consumed, bold, self-centered, and charming. Even though his life revolves around the pursuit of money and the pleasures of the flesh, he is hard not to like.  His appreciation of classical music and opera displayed in the opening scenes hints at the presence of a soul.

When this movie was made, Nick Cage was still at the height of his acting career.  I believe Jack Campbell is one of his more memorable roles.  All of the characters in the movie, for that matter, are finely drawn and acted.

After becoming acquainted with Jack Campbell and the world he inhabits, the screenwriters (David Diamond and David Weissman) waste no time in spinning the tale. Jack drops into a fast-food mart after work on Christmas Eve to buy eggnog and stumbles into an armed altercation between a disgruntled customer and the store owner.  Jack intervenes to prevent a violent incident by offering to buy a lottery ticket the owner claims is a fake.

In the aftermath, outside of the store, Jack speaks with the disgruntled customer, played by Don Cheadle. Cheadle happens to be an angel on a routine mission designed to teach the Chinese convenience store owner a lesson in racial tolerance.  The owner doesn’t learn his lesson, which puts the angel in a foul mood.  Unwittingly, Jack contributes to the angel’s frustration with the human condition by making a condescending remark indicative of his superior attitude.  The angel decides to teach Jack a lesson by sending him into an alternate reality that “might have been” if he had not deserted his college sweetheart to launch his career as an intern at an investment firm in England. The angel gives Jack a chance to get a “glimpse” into a life based on a completely different set of values than the values he now holds dear.

Tea Leoni and Nicolas Cage Copyright 2000 Universal Studios

A big dog slurping Jack’s face wakes him up in bed next to the woman he left cold “in real life.”  He is shocked and horrified when two young children pile on top him.  The kids are under the ridiculous impression that Jack, a lone wolf of Wall Street, is their father.

In “The Family Man” Jack’s disdain for middle class values slowly turns into respect, caring, and finally a deep concern for the people who surround him.  This synopsis really doesn’t do the movie justice.  I found almost every scene in the movie poignant.  Many of the scenes are multi-layered with subtle observations about human nature and social issues.  The dialogue and situations are clever and insightful without a hint of cliché.

The movie moved me to the point of tears in three or four scenes. One example involves Jack’s relationship with the little girl who would have been his daughter in his alternate life.  The little girl, Annie, senses Jack is not her “real father.” She concludes Jack is an alien and asks him where the mother ship is so she can get her father back.

In a scene towards the end of the movie, Jack and Annie frolic in the snow on Christmas morning.  By now, Jack has formed a bond with the child.  Jack falls down and Annie crawls onto his chest.  With a precious smile, she says, “I knew you’d come back.”

I lost it right there.

Many critics commented that the movie over-sentimentalized middle class life.  I disagree.  I feel the movie artfully portrayed the bumps and warts of middle-class existence, as well as the pitfalls and emptiness of Jack’s investment-banker life.  Neither of the two Jacks had it all.  Regardless, I found the lifestyle issue secondary.  The element of the movie that spoke to me the loudest was Jack’s transformation.

Makenzie Vega and Nicolas Cage Copyright 2000 Universal Studios

“The Family Man” isn’t the only movie I liked that critics and movie fans, in disturbing numbers, deemed “overly sentimental.” Either my sensibilities are inverted, or I’m incredibly sane. Whatever the case, I’m sticking to my guns.  I just want to point out that as the world grows more cynical and hardened, it appears good movies are becoming an endangered species.  I believe there is a direct connection here.  Think about it.

Fictional movies reflect our world while creating their own realities.  They are, by definition, abstractions.  However, good movies have the power to inspire us to rise above fears and other roadblocks in the way of a better life and a better world.  They teach us, often, to listen to our hearts.  This isn’t always easy.  One has to develop a relationship with one’s heart to hear it.

Feeling, I find, is a first step in cultivating a relationship with the heart.  I believe that cultivating a relationship with the heart is essential to leading a full life.  There is no one way to do it, but I feel strongly that the human heart needs to be cultivated, just like abs, biceps, WordPress blogs, and Facebook pages.

I liked the “The Family Man” because it made me feel.  I practice meditation every day to cultivate a relationship with my heart.  You might say the practice helps to “tenderize” my heart center. This movie reminded me that I have one.

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

The Journal of Good News


Is good news boring?  Is there a severe shortage of hopeful, inspirational stories outside of the sports section? Would it violate journalistic standards if the media served up more stories that motivated us to be better people and brightened our days a little?

The answer is you can find stories of hope and inspiration if you look hard enough for them. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be a small part of some pretty amazing stories from around the world as editor of the TPRF blog for the past two years.  I’d like to pass my good fortune along to anyone in the mood for something out of the ordinary.

The TPRF blog began with a mandate to cover the developing story of the third Food for People facility planned for construction in the small village of Otinibi, outside of the metropolitan city of Accra in Ghana, West Africa.  Food for People  is a proprietary hunger relief program initiated by TPRF.  These facilities feed a nutritious daily meal to children and village elders in areas of extreme poverty.

Enjoying a Nutritious Lunch at FFP Ghana

Our first posts covered the Ghana Food for People project in detail beginning when the facility was an undeveloped piece of land awaiting governmental approval of the documents transferring title of ownership to the local charity set up to manage and run the FFP.  We literally watched the facility rise up out of the ground, culminating in a triumphant opening one year later.  The FFP in Otinibi has materialized thanks to the dedication of mostly local volunteers, an expert construction team, funding from TPRF, and donations from individuals following the story on the Internet.

Five hundred children and adults will eat every day in Otinibi. The same thing occurs at two other Food for People centers in Bantoli, India and Tsarapu, Nepal, opened in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

The logistics and effort required to establish and keep the FFP facilities operating boggles the mind. Food and hygiene standards must be established and maintained. A chef has to plan the menus. The meals have to be balanced nutritionally and tailored to the tastes of the people in the area.  Managers have to train and supervise staff and volunteers. The list goes on. Yet it is happening.

FFP Staff Prepare a Meal

Thanks to these Food for People centers, children go to school instead of doing manual labor (like crushing rocks to support their families.)  The nutritious daily meals allow the children to grow and develop normally. Plus, they learn proper sanitation habits and enjoy watching educational television programs while eating.

With healthy bodies and the opportunity to learn in school, these children have a vastly improved chance to realize their dreams later in life.  And something more.  I have seen through these stories that Food for People is an oasis for these children, a place where they can flourish and enjoy their precious childhood.

Six months after the first TPRF blog post, we decided to open up the scope of the blog to other feature stories while still reporting on the progress of the project in Ghana. We regularly cover stories about  TPRF’s Peace Education Program in prisons, independent fundraising efforts, disaster relief, clean drinking water initiatives, and other humanitarian efforts undertaken by TPRF’s partner organizations.

Here’s a thought.  Maybe you are what you “tune into” as much as you are what you eat.

Food for People photos by Francis Ahore.  Ethiopia photo courtesy of International Relief and Development Organization (IRD)

Drought Relief in Ethiopia

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Natural Foods Facts


I started eating natural foods at the age of 21.  Considering that was 42 years ago, I am somewhat of a pioneer or at the very least an early adopter.

The increasing popularity of natural foods is proof positive that human consciousness is continuing to expand.  However, I am at a loss to explain how the average natural food enthusiast can afford the cost of gas and natural foods.

Wait a minute.  Maybe if you eat one-and-a-half meals a day instead of three you can afford both.

Hold on.  I think I’ve finallyfigured it out.  Yes, this has to be the answer:

People who buy their groceries at natural food stores and continue to drive their cars no longer go to the movies.

This means that the decline in movie box office sales is NOT due to the quality of the movies coming out of Hollywood nowadays.  It is due to a redistribution of disposable income into the natural food sector.

Let’s move on to a few important facts of interest that will affect your life, whether you eat natural foods or not, and whether you like it or not (the facts, I mean.)

Tofu is the natural food equivalent of Hamburger Helper.

People who eat natural foods are 37% less likely to be involved in road rage incidents when compared to a statistically relevant sample of processed food consumers.

Children brought up on natural food are 26% more likely to realize GOD at some point beyond the age of 40.

In ten years, there will be 2,719 WHOLE FOODS stores in China.

If natural food consumption continues to grow at its present rate, financial analysts predict BURGER KING and McDONALDS corporations will merge within the next seven years and the new company will attempt to buy the WHOLE FOODS chain.

Editor’s Note: We hope this does not happen.

Antioxidant Foods
Source: http://www.dailyfitnessmagz.com

, , , , ,

1 Comment

Sunday Nights With Shep


Jean Shepherd in WOR studio

Jean Shepherd in WOR studio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his prime, Jean Shepherd hypnotized audiences for hours with stories about bumper stickers, TV commercials, Green Stamps, and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  Like most great discoveries, I found Jean Shepherd purely by accident.  Sunday nights presented a precarious dilemma until Jean came along.  I didn’t want to close my eyes because the next thing you knew, the sun would be pinching my cheek.  It would be Monday morning, the beginning of another week of Junior High School.

My primary goal, therefore, centered upon pushing Monday morning as far into Sunday night as my sleep-deprived brain permitted.  My pre-Jean Shepherd solution to the Sunday night dilemma involved listening to Rock and Roll music on a radio underneath the covers.  One night, while switching from one Rock and Roll station to another, I found “Shep.”

The experts at the time might have called it “experimental radio.”  Whatever it was, I had never heard anything like the smooth jazz overlaid by that voice, the one that put an arm around my shoulder and whispered, “c’mon pal, I got some cool places to take you to.”

When I first tripped over the threshold of this new world, the silky voice in the night was talking about cigarette coupons.  It told a story about two friends who “made the same dough,” yet one of them had a new TV, and a boat, and a Ford Mustang, and a vacation home in the country—all purchased with cigarette coupons.  It soon became clear to the other sad sack that he was an idiot not to smoke “Wonkies,” the brand with the coupons, the kind his buddy smoked.  Of course the poor slob who smoked the Wonkies was dying of cancer, but it didn’t matter, because he had been smart enough to get the boat, and the car and the vacation home for free.  He had enjoyed a lifetime of smoking Wonkies, and now his family could use the boat and the other goodies after he died.

The music swelled a bit louder.  Now the voice talked about life on other planets.  Did the inhabitants have better bathrooms than ours?  Did the people have jobs, or could they just go to the bank and ask the teller for as much money as they needed to feed and clothe their families, with enough left over to go to an amusement park or take a quick vacation on another planet.  Everyone had to be on the honor system, or there wouldn’t be enough money to go around.  But these were aliens, after all, not human beings, so there would probably be no problem.

The voice kept talking.  It swept me away.  I lay there listening to my radio.  I felt like a five-year-old kid attending the circus for the first time with his Dad.  The world outside was crazy as hell, but I had it made in the shade, hypnotized by another one of Jean Shepherd’s stories.  Monday morning had disappeared over the horizon—miles, and miles, and miles down the road.

1950’s Radio. Image Source: http://www.radiomuseum.org

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

The Fragile Self


Photo Credit: http://www.48days.com

Where does self-confidence come from?  Where does it go when we need it most?

How does an energetic child with a mountainous capacity for curiosity grow up to be a narrow-minded, emotionally constricted person full of hopelessness and suffering?

The answer is simple.  We lose the key to the door that opens to a satisfying existence; belief in ourselves and the faith that every day can be sculpted into a masterpiece of joy.

Self-confidence is an elusive commodity that fluctuates with life’s events including, but not limited to; our mood, brain chemistry, the weather, and acceptance or rejection by parents and peers.   It is a fragile, unpredictable elixir; here today, gone tomorrow.  Yet for a fortunate few, it is a constant, a second nature, a faithful servant and friend, an impenetrable fortress against the most vicious attacks the outside world can muster.

With self-confidence, we can create the next, great wonder of the world.  Without it, we are forced to walk bent over through life, a mere shadow on the wall, a faint reflection of our glorious and noble human potential.

When my self-confidence ebbs, I do something loving towards my Self.  I try to do something enjoyable.  I focus on what I want out of life.  I focus on an inner experience of joy and peace.  Thinking “peace, love, joy and contentment” actually helps to elevate my mood.  If I am standing in line with nothing to do, I’ll think, “I am happy.”

This advice might sound stupid or obvious, but if you find yourself being self-critical for anything more than a few minutes per day, then it’s ALWAYS better to shift to thoughts that are happy and self-enhancing.

My “thought practice,” in combination with the meditation I do daily, has contributed to higher levels of self-confidence and contentment.  What I’m doing is filling my mind with uplifting thoughts and my heart with an experience of peace and joy.  I’ve found that you need to nourish both the mind and the heart with the right food to live optimally.

Your goals may be (and probably will) be different than mine.  Whatever the goal, whatever you want most, thinking of your positive goal is always preferable to self-criticism.  Just make sure what you give to yourself is a gift worth having.

As far as finding a way to fill your heart with peace and joy, I leave that up to you.  It’s a personal quest.  I can tell you how I do it, if you want to know.  But as the Nike commercial says, “Just Do It.”  Life is short.  Live it to the fullest.

 Photo courtesy of http://www.howtobuildselfconfidences.com

, , , , ,

1 Comment

Living With No Downside


Image Source: http://www.grist.org

Open your mental windows.  Let your attitude bathe in the sunshine of optimism.  Don’t worry about the possibility of sunburn.

That’s a pretty corny metaphor.  Just imagine, however, what would happen if every chronic pessimist on the planet took this advice.

The cost of healthcare would plummet. There would be fewer traffic accidents. The unemployment rate would nose dive. The average human life span would increase by five or ten years.  These are just a few of the likely outcomes of a few billion upgraded attitudes.

My optimistic attitude is based on the belief that at the very center of the universe in which we live there dwells a loving kindness that cares about our happiness and well-being.

When I choose to believe and to feel this way, life becomes easier.

Through the eyes of optimism, I see the world as a place full of endless possibilities to express myself positively.

There is a voice in my head that tries to convince me otherwise.  I suspect I am not the only person who hears this derisive, discouraging voice.  The only difference between most of us in this regard, it seems to me, is how we deal with this voice.

I used to believe the discouraging voice in my head was a friendly voice.  I believed it was there to warn me not to try things I couldn’t or shouldn’t do.  It has taken a lot of growing through painful experience to learn the critical voice was not my friend most of the time.

On the surface, it would seem an easy task to learn the difference between healthy self-restraint and the paralyzing fear engendered by an over-abundance of self-criticism.  Perhaps the messages a person hears as a child from parents and teachers makes a difference in the way he or she responds to their inner critic.  A strong self-image provides a safe haven from the twin sirens of doubt and fear.

I have found it helps to express your fears to a friend or to a mental health professional to get an objective view of your thoughts as they relate to accomplishing goals.  Most fears, when expressed out in the open, prove to be phantoms made of irrational thinking.

The dream in your heart needs to be nurtured with positive, reinforcing thoughts in order for it to manifest into a concrete reality.  It takes a persistent, consistent effort to escape the prison of the jailing voice of discouragement.

Being optimistic is an act of loving yourself and your possibilities.  It is an act of flying above the clouds of doubt.

Personal fulfillment and the joy of helping others flow from the fountainhead of optimism.

An attitude of optimism leads to an active life of freedom.

Opportunities for growth and prosperity surround us constantly.  Smile. Open your heart and embrace these gifts as they come your way.  The loving force at the center of life beckons you to become your highest, happiest, and best self.

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Take My Right Knee


Nature persistently taps me on the back with subtle hints on how to live a happier, more fulfilled life.

As my sixty-fourth birthday approaches, the hints are becoming less subtle.

Take my right knee, for example. It’s falling apart. The cartilage in the joint has moved out. Arthritis has moved in. The good news is that I’ve found a skilled surgeon who can repair my knee with an artificial joint. Still, I must not allow this newfound hope to obscure the lesson available to me from this latest brush with nature.

As I watch my body deteriorate, I must constantly remind myself that no matter how much I exercise, eat right, think positively, love my wife and daughter, and take care of my 90 year-old mother, I am not getting any younger.

The time to be happy is right now.

The thing is, I don’t want to settle for just a little happiness. I want to be really happy. I want to, believe it or not, live in joy. It’s something I’ve put it off for long enough.

About twenty-five years ago, a friend introduced me to a teacher who helped me to find joy within myself.

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t taken full advantage of the opportunity. You might say I’ve been playing a game of hide and seek with my capacity to feel joy for most of my life.

In a sense, I’ve made of habit of putting my happiness on hold by making other things in my life more important—like my desire to write ten best-selling novels, or to sell my latest screenplay to Miramax Studios, or to make a quarter-of-a-million dollars in real estate commissions in a single year. It’s not that these pursuits are unworthy goals. The problem is, I made them the number one priority in my life, rather than making peace and joy the number one priority.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve experienced more than my share of joy, peace, and love in my life, thanks especially to the unique inner experience my teacher revealed to me. It just could have been more consistent. My teacher has taught me that happiness is an art. I want to become an accomplished artist in the field of happiness.

I only hope this moment of clarity lasts. From now on, I’m determined to harvest every last droplet of joy that comes my way…before my left knee gives out.

 

Leave a comment

Quality of Connectivity


Playing Words with Friends

Playing Words with Friends

I don’t understand the popularity of Words with Friends. I’m at a loss to explain the obsessive compulsive urge to connect on Facebook. I am computer literate, yet I feel no desire to own an I Phone. In fact, I am constantly amazed that people wander around all day staring into their smart phones, as if these devices somehow magically fulfill all of their needs except possibly eating and reproducing.

Excessive External Focus Creates Inner Chaos

Before we continue, let me assure you of a few things, gentle reader. I am fairly certain that I am not an alien.  I do not live in an ashram.  I have not recently arrived here from the year 1910 by means of a time machine. I live a conventional life blessed with wonderful people around me including an extraordinary wife and daughter.  I even like my mother-in-law, which may be the one thing about me that is weird.

Like most people, I want to connect. As far as I can tell, I seem to be content with fewer connections than the average person makes.  I am fond of solitude, yet I am not an island. I admire people who connect extensively with others while managing to live constructive lives centered on a positive purpose.

I suspect, however, a great deal of “over-connecting” is going on these days in a frantic effort to fill a space in the makeup of a human being that was designed to be filled from within.

Studies have shown that the generations born after the Internet boom have difficulty concentrating on a single task for extended time-periods. For example, today’s student typically has trouble writing papers and reading course materials with a high degree of comprehension. The studies attribute the difficulty young people have concentrating to the habit of constant multi-tasking encouraged by the endless flow of entertainment and information available on the Internet and social media interaction.

Where does all of this “outer-connecting” and constant external focus leave us?  Unfortunately, it seems to me, a little empty inside.

That’s why I’m so glad to have the option of going within to experience a feeling of fulfillment and contentment. Prem Rawat often talks about “feeling complete.” Thanks to the method of going within that I’ve learned from him, I’m able to balance my active outer life with a serene, fulfilling inner life. This balance has helped me to be a happier, more productive, and positive person. You might say what I do on the outside has garnered more meaning and is more effective because of the richness I have found within.

I am more focused in my daily life. No Zen Master has to stand over me with a stick to keep my mind from wandering. The concentration is spontaneous and natural courtesy of the river of contentment I have discovered inside.

“We are biased towards happiness,” Prem Rawat says.The big question for most people is where to find it. Prem Rawat says “look within.” He offers to help people connect with an experience of  joy and satisfaction that dwells inside the heart of every human being.I have been connecting with that experience for almost thirty years.  I can testify that the quality of that connection leads to an exquisite experience that surpasses anything coming from the outside—a bold statement, yet surprisingly true.

Zen master photo by loathing 69

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Droplets of Joy


What if you didn’t have to complain?

What would you choose to do if you were free to do anything you wanted to?

What if the word “boundary” was not in your vocabulary?

What if you dared to dream?

What if your dreams came true?

What if you listened to the symphony of your soul rather than the chatter of your mind?

What is peace?

What is love?

What is contentment?

What is harmony?

What if reality was sweet rather than harsh?

What if droplets of joy rained down every day and you learned how to collect them in the bucket of your heart?

What if happiness became your constant companion instead of a distant relative?

What would happen if you took the time to get to know your deepest, truest self?

, , , , , ,

2 Comments

A Fang-Tastic Author Interview


Blood Is The Nectar of Life

 

This interview and a spicy  excerpt from an early chapter appear at Fang-Tastic Books; a well-known book review site.

Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to write in this particular genre?

I believe it started with my struggle with the forces of darkness and light within myself. A year after writing Scarlet Ambrosia, I see the story through a different pair of eyes.  At the core of the novel is a young man’s struggle with the forces of good and evil within himself and the world around him.  The vampire archetype, I now realize, is a metaphor for my heart’s dream to realize its divine nature.  The supernatural powers and ramped-up energy level Devon acquires as a vampire make him half-human and half-god, something like the mythological Greek gods.  He can choose to use his new powers for good or evil purposes. 

I believe everyone has the potential to become a divinely human being.  I’ve been a ‘spiritual seeker’ for most of my adult life.  Awakening isn’t easy, but I’ve found it’s worth the effort.  What happens for Devon is happening for me in a much subtler way without the super-human powers, but happily, minus the need to drink human blood.

What is it about the paranormal, in particular vampires, that fascinates you so much?

I’m fascinated by the supernatural powers of my vampire characters.  They are very powerful beings with the capacity to dramatically impact the world around them positively or negatively.

Please tell us about your most recent release.

My latest release is Scarlet Ambrosia.  I’m working on a sequel because I love the characters.  Scarlet Ambrosia is the second novel I’ve published.  The first one is a humorous Science Fantasy thriller titled “Three Days to Darkness.”

Do you have a special formula for creating characters’ names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?

In most cases, I try to make a character’s name show something about the character’s personality and traits.  I try not to make it too obvious.  At other times, a character’s name just comes to me and I trust that the name is the right one.  It’s interesting that the name often corresponds to a character’s traits by coincidence.

Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?

The antagonist of the story, Egon Schiller, was the hardest for me to write.  This is often the case in the stories I write.  There is always a tendency to make the villain two-dimensional rather than a three-dimensional person with some good traits and intentions.  I feel that the most believable villains are people who have, for one reason or another, given in to their dark side.  A good example of this is Darth Vader.

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?

Of all the characters in the story, I most enjoyed writing the female love interest, Mathilde de Roche.  Her strength, heroism, and magnetism came naturally as I created her and as I wrote her throughout the story.  That came as a surprise.  I am, after all, a guy.  Like most men, I find women unfathomable in the real world.

Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?

I participated in several online screen writing and novel-writing courses offered through the writers program at UCLA.  Professional writers taught these courses.  The teachers stressed that the most successful stories have memorable characters in them.  I learned to create my characters before writing the story using a detailed character template.  I’ve found that knowing what makes my characters “tick” helps make them more interesting and believable.

What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes?

I spent a week in Sedona, Arizona exploring the town’s art galleries, architecture and the energy vortexes.

When did you consider yourself a writer?

When I stumbled into my career in marketing communications, I found writing was the most enjoyable part of the job.

Where can readers find you on the web?

The best places to find me are at my main website www.davidgittlin.com and my blog www.davidgittlin.wordpress.com

Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?

Here’s a spicy excerpt from Chapter Two:

This woman was beyond beautiful.  She was exquisite—no signs of breast implants or a nose job and no tattoos or piercings marred the natural beauty of her face and body.  Her creamy skin felt like the finest silk to Devon’s probing hands.  He unclasped her bra.  His loins tingled at the sight of her full breasts.  He caressed her erect nipples.  She moaned. 

The foreplay had started slowly with exploratory kisses and caresses.  Now he could barely wait to enter her.  Devon removed the last fragments of clothing from their bodies.  The smell of her perfume, the feel of her body, and the sensation of her soft hands on his buttocks almost made him explode prematurely.

Being inside this woman was like nothing he had experienced before.  Devon lost all sense of physical boundaries.  The sensual pleasure of joining with Mathilde seemed to fill every cell in his body.  He was only vaguely aware of moving inside her.  Their rising passion consumed him.  She kept repeating something in French.  His back arched.  He climaxed.  The pleasure was too intense for his senses to bear.  He lost consciousness.

He woke up next to her on the bed.  She stroked his hair with one hand, propping up her head on one elbow.

Feeling embarrassed, Devon shook his head, unable to comprehend the reason for his lapse of consciousness. 

“I’m sorry if I scared you.  It’s the first time I’ve ever passed out during sex.”

“You didn’t scare me, ma chère.  It only confirms what I was afraid of.”

“Which is?”

“If we go on having sex, it will kill you.”

He laughed nervously.  Had the sex been good enough to cause a blackout?

“I can think of worse ways to die,” he said, covering up for his discomfort.

She kept looking at him studiously.

“You kept whispering something to me in French.  It sounded like: ‘Vous êtez celui que j’ai choisi.’  I think that means: ‘You are the one I chose’”

A whisper of red colored her cheeks. 

“Your French is better than you admit.”

“I don’t understand.   We’ve just met, Mathilde.”

“Don’t worry.  It’s just a game I play with myself.  You remind me of someone I once knew: a handsome, high-minded young man with a sensitive heart.”

“I’m flattered, but it sounds a little more like a fixation than an innocent game to me.”

“Please don’t play the amateur psychologist.”

She pushed him off the bed with a movement almost too fast to see.  One second he lay facing her.  The next thing he knew, he lay on his back on the floor.  Her sudden display of uncanny strength and speed frightened him.  Clambering to a sitting position, he began to collect his clothes from the bed.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I wasn’t thinking.  I didn’t mean to alarm you.  Are you injured?”

“I’m still in one piece.”

“I actually do study martial arts, in answer to your earlier question.   Sometimes I forget my own strength.  Let me help you with your things.  Are you sure I haven’t hurt you?”

He had the impression she was lying. 

“I’m fine.  I just think it might be better to leave now.  Who knows what could happen if you toss and turn in your sleep?”

“I apologize for leading you on,” Mathilde said.  “I only intended to meet you in the bar and talk with you.  I thought of it as a minor indulgence, to take my mind off things for a while.  I let my curiosity about you cloud my judgment.  Then, meeting you face to face, you had much more of an effect on me than I anticipated.  I lost control of myself.”

“Is that something that happens often?”

“No,” she answered curtly.  “I’m not that shallow.”

Devon’s thoughts and emotions spun like pinwheels.  Part of him wanted to bolt out the door and finish dressing in the hallway.  Another part, the accountant, needed explanations; wanted to analyze and quantify Mathilde de Roche.  In the end, his own curiosity coupled with her charisma kept him rooted by the bedside.

“I’ve studied martial arts myself.  I’ve never seen anyone move as quickly as you just did.”

She continued to regard him with a serious expression for a full minute before responding. 

“You should leave now, Devon.  I won’t be offended.”

 

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

The Truth About Shaving


Expensive Razor Blades

Turbo Charged 4 bladed Razor

Do you really need four blades on your razor? I might be talking mostly to guys here, but maybe you gals have the same problem.

I’ve been shaving with a two-bladed Gillette Sensor Razor for about ten years. (I think it’s been ten years but time starts to warp after age sixty). I’m sure the Gillette Razor Blade Company hates me, and in fact, I think lately they’ve been doing something shady to move me up to a more expensive blade.

The Sensor blades I bought recently aren’t as good as the ones I used to buy. They don’t last more than a few days. I think blades that cost $1.80 each should last for a week. The “old” ones did. The new ones cut my face if I’m not careful. And they’re even a different color. I think Gillette has outsourced the Sensor blades to a manufacturer they very carefully researched to find the cheapest alternative with a reputation for making slightly inferior blades.

I say “slightly” because Gillette doesn’t want a consumer rebellion on their hands. They just want to irritate guys (and maybe gals) like me enough to move up to the four-blade turbo charged product that sells for about thirty-two bucks and change for a box of ten. That’s something like three bucks and change per blade. Are you getting my message?

I’m not going to be shamed or cajoled into buying more expensive blades. I’m going to fight this. My first response to this situation has been to buy a standard razor, the old-fashioned kind your Mom or Dad used. I get a closer shave, but I’ll admit it’s a little scary.  I have to be really careful. It’s a lot easier and safer to use a modern plastic razor. And I have to use my Sensor razor to get the spot right under my nose. So now I’m using two razors.

Shaving Perspectives

Mom and Dad’s Razor

The blades that come with my new old-fashioned razor cost seventy-seven cents each. That’s a big savings over the new improved technologically advanced models. But the problem is that now I have to use two razors. I clearly can’t go on using two razors.

Conclusions: I’ll have to go on using some version of the lower priced “modern” blade. I’m not going to fall for the lure of the four-blade model because I’m sure this “advanced” technology exists solely to satisfy the thirst for increased corporate profits.

I hope all of this helps.

 

, , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: