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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.

 

 

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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.

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Silver Sunsets


“The last shall be first.”

When the horses reached the quarter pole, just before turning for home, Silver Sunsets galloped contentedly, exactly where he wanted to be — in last place, thirty lengths out of the lead.

Casual bettors, who picked Silver Sunsets by his number or the way he looked in the post parade, are tearing up their tickets in disgust.  In thirty seconds, they will regret this act.   They will watch, in utter amazement, as Silver Sunsets begins a furious stretch run, weaving in and out of traffic, passing horses as if they were standing still, crossing the finish line in first place.

Silver Sunsets was a top-ranked thoroughbred during his two-year old and three-year old racing seasons.  I remember him now, twenty years later, because of the lessons he taught me.  Be yourself and; it is never too late to do your thing.

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Impressions of Sedona


Majestic and Magical Sedona

I turn left on the two-lane road leading to the town of Sedona.  The world outside transforms into something much different than the one I am accustomed to. 

Towering red-rock Mountains appear unexpectedly.  The striped hills are radically different from the ordinary-looking mesas overlooking the surrounding terrain.  For the first time, the advertisements promoting this area ring true.  I get the distinct impression there is something special here.  There is suddenly hope the three thousand mile plane ride and the hotel suite awaiting my wife and I will prove to be a wise investment after all.

Sedona is a spiritual spa for die-hard vacationers as well as world-weary travelers searching for a way to resurrect their lives from an assortment of disappointments and failures.  I am not here to seek advice from healers, psychic or life counselors.  I am here to discover the heart and soul of this city out of time without the help of a tour guide.

Sedona is amazingly clean.  There are no signs of litter in the streets or sidewalks, no unsightly garbage dumps to mar the town’s bright aura.  The buildings, homes and streets all look brand new.  Most of the architecture is a sort of southwest modern with earth tone colors alternating with pastels.  It seems as though a beautiful, uniquely designed church abides on every street corner.  No two homes look alike, yet no building seems out of place.  There is an underlying unity of design but not at the expense of individuality. 

The single-story adobe-style homes at street level and the larger mansions in the mountains have no bars on their yawning windows.  They all look expensive, probably worth hundreds of thousand dollars each upwards into the millions.  Incredibly, you don’t see gates in front of the winding driveways.  There are no traffic lights clogging the two-lane road running throughout the town.  Instead, they have what the locals call “round-a-bouts.”  Here, the visitor finds an honor system where vehicles yield to the one reaching the four-way intersection first.  Anyone who doesn’t obey the code is sure to be a tourist.

I spend most of my time here in art galleries and walking around slack jawed, agape at the rock formations, multi-colored mountains, and fiery sunsets.  I feel “buzzed” every waking moment.  Even shopping, which I normally hate, feels like an acid trip.  The town itself, I think, is one huge energy vortex.

Young people flock here as if drawn to the area by the magnetic power of the town’s famous energy vortexes.  Many of the transplants have fled small towns where they grew up throughout the west to taste big city life.  After living in places like Houston, Phoenix, and Santa Fe, they search for something else.  They find it in Sedona, where small city values couple with new vistas of financial and cultural opportunity. 

Everyone you meet here seems to be from somewhere else.  Heaven is likely to be quite similar, come to think of it.

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Mission Accomplished on World Water Day


The Adventure Project set an ambitious goal.  Blog writers and their readers worldwide responded with enthusiasm, compassion and generosity.

The idea came to Becky Straw and Jody Landers, Co-Founders of the Adventure Project, from members of their organization, known affectionately as “The Tribe.”  One week before World Water Day (March 22nd) blog writers proposed a challenge to raise $10,000 in one day by promoting The Adventure Project’s latest initiative: repairing broken water pump handles in northern India.  The anticipated results of the initiative are twofold.  By bringing wells that have fallen into disrepair back into use, 300 more people per month (3,600 per year) will have access to clean water.  In addition, the initiative will provide training and jobs to enable unemployed people to lift themselves out of poverty.

A Pump Mechanic Rides to Her Next Job

Becky thought the tribe members might be able to recruit 50 bloggers to promote the fundraising effort.  Jody, an eternal optimist, suggested 100 bloggers.  One week later, 137 bloggers had signed up to participate.  As the final seconds of World Water Day elapsed, the amount raised reached $11,390.  Donations are still rolling in, by the way.  All funds collected go to WaterAid, a charity that takes a unique approach to providing the poorest communities with potable water.

“It all came together like magic,” Becky reports.  She asked her friend and colleague, Nicole Skibola, to find a company that might be willing to provide matching funds to the promotion.  In her role as a “Social Innovation Strategist” with Apricot Consulting in New York City, Nicole works with corporations to create and execute effective programs for social change.  A former attorney, Nicole also serves as a “Social Enterprise Advisor,” for the Adventure Project.

Nicole e-mailed a list of her friends and business contacts in an effort to locate a matching funds sponsor.  Kathya Bustamante’s name happened to be on the list from a position she previously held with UBS.  Kathya, among other interests, now volunteers for TPRF as Manager of the Fundraising Team.  Kathya  recognized a common thread between both organizations:  “Clean Water” and “Dignity.”  She forwarded Nicole’s request to decision makers at TPRF.  Within twenty-four hours, TPRF committed to providing up to $10,000 in matching funds.  “Awesome,” Nicole commented in an e-mail to Becky and Kathya, “the fastest foundation response in history.”

Northern Indian Woman

One final footnote—Although TPRF agreed to provide up to $10,000 in matching funds, we surprised the girls by cutting a check for the full amount of the funds raised on World Water Day: $11,390.

“Your response was so amazing and so responsible,” Becky said about TPRF’s participation.

*Photos courtesy of Esther Havens for The Adventure Project

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The Not-So-Hidden-Truth About Starbucks


I am trying to write my second novel.  It is not easy, to say the least.  I am confident, however, that this is a universal truth among authors attempting to write their first or seventy-first long piece of fiction or non-fiction.  The reasons for this difficulty may vary from author to author.  My main roadblock seems to be the increasing disenchantment of sitting in a room all by myself for long periods of time.  Again, I suspect I am not alone in this predicament.  The problem apparently extends far beyond the relatively small segment of the population on planet earth attempting to write novels.  I know this because I have recently taken my laptop to a local Starbucks to resolve my isolation problem.

The Starbucks I now regularly inhabit is not your everyday Starbucks. Management recently retrofitted the place with long tables, benches actually, with stools and a strip of electrical outlets underneath to plug in battery cables.  Droves of people come here, not just to chat and caffeinate, but to do WORK! This includes college-students doing real, actual homework, not wasting time on Facebook.  Freelance, self- employed, and independent contractor types also hang out here.  These people, like myself, are hard at work, despite the distractions of noisy conversation and often-times idiotic, piped-in music.  I find this phenomenal and wonder,”Why do we come here?”  Many, if not all of us, are surely not homeless.

I can only speak for myself.  I come here to overcome loneliness—to make some sort of connection.  And I’m happy to report that my new strategy is paying off.  I’m writing my novel on a regular basis, slowly but surely.

Now that we may have some insight into the reason for the overwhelming success of the Starbucks chain, I would like to come to the point of this piece.  Many years ago, I began listening to Prem Rawat speak about an inner experience of peace and contentment.  At the time, I did not have to go to Starbucks to be around people.  I had a full time, good-paying job, a girlfriend, my parents and cousins to surround me.  Yet, something was missing.

Mr. Rawat’s message of peace captivated me in a way nothing had previously.  I followed up on his promise to reveal a source of peace and contentment within myself.  I practiced the techniques of what he calls Knowledge, and, to make a long story short, I have not been in the least bit disappointed.  Well, perhaps that statement is not entirely true.  I had the idea shortly after receiving the techniques of Knowledge that I would not need anything else, including people.  To make another long story short, that idea turned out to be foolish and a bit funny, now that I look back on it.

But there is a point here, somewhere.  Oh yes, here it is:  I need outer connections—with colleagues in my chosen profession, with friends and family, even Facebook connections. Thanks to the experience of Knowledge, I’ve learned that I need something else.  I need a connection with myself for my life to be complete.  I’m not going to put a name to what I’ll call “myself,” because I’ve learned that names are insufficient to describe it.  I will just say this:  I was looking for a missing piece of the puzzle of my life.  Prem Rawat helped me to find it.  Now, I feel my life is complete.  It is full, not stuffed with things on the outside, but from within.  And my connections on the outside are more fulfilling, because I am a more full and complete person, with more to offer to others.

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The Road Ahead


I have always wanted floodlights to illuminate the road ahead.  What I get, if I am lucky, is a little candle.  I must take care  to protect  the candle’s flame from the roaring winds that surround me.

To know what I am doing in life, I must first know myself.           

To cultivate wisdom, I must read the book of life in my heart.

By cultivating harmony within, harmony will permeate every aspect of my life.

If I sincerely seek joy, peace, and love, these qualities will take root in my soul as surely as the sun rises every day.

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