Author Archives: kenny.vandenberg@gmail.com

On The Manuscript Found In My Soul or A Tale Of Owning My Story

Story

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy — the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
Brené Brown

I’m trying to figure out my own story – to own my story.  It’s not easy.  Sometimes, it’s even agonizing.  Our stories have this unique quality and ability to create connection and understanding of who we truly are. The better you are at owning your story, the more peaceful and meaningful your life is.

Why is this agonizing at times?  If you’re truly honest about self-exploration during your journey, you will come across many aspects and traits about yourself that you will find difficult to accept.  You must learn to embrace your shadow.  Your shadow is those aspects of self that are kept hidden in the dark and out of awareness.  Many of these aspects of self have great holds on your life and actually dictate your thoughts, feelings, beliefs and actions.  A metaphor would be a hidden cave in which you keep those parts of yourself that, on an unconscious level, you prefer to avoid or ignore. The shadow includes your deepest fears, shames, regrets, judgments, core beliefs, unconscious contracts/vows, “truths” about life, about others and yourself, as well as your greatest power, your beauty, your sacred and divine self.  In other words, the Shadow includes all these things about yourself that “you don’t know that you don’t know” or those things that sit in your subconscious.

The most powerful part of ‘owning’ our story is speaking about the those pieces that make us feel embarrassed or ashamed. Bringing our greatest weaknesses out of the dark and into the light.  If we are lucky, there is a certain catharsis in doing so, the sense of a burden being lifted.

Shadow

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster.
Carl Jung

What I’ve discovered is I’ve lost touch with who I’m meant to be, what is in my heart, and what I want.  I’ve conformed and I’m not living the life I desire. That wise sage Bette Midler once said, “My greatest fear is being trapped in a show not of my own design.”  I get it.  By owning my story, I put my name to it — I design it. I become the author and with that I take the role of protagonist; I own it.

If I’m not owning and authoring my story then who is?  That is the question …

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On New Beginnings or A Tale of Dancing Into 2016

Red onion skins and New Year’s Eve have much in common –-
they both peel away to reveal new vibrancy.”
Alex Morritt

2016 is here and I’m ready for bigger and better things.  “Wait,” you say.  Where have you been Kenny? There’ve been no blogs for many, many months.”  Well. I’ve made several career changes this year, directed an outstanding production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and fought tomato blight.  OK, we’re all caught up.

To begin again, 2016 is here and I’m ready for bigger and better things.  To do this, I’ll need to make some huge changes in who I AM — who I’ve become or as my guru, the Beatle, George Harrison puts it, I’m in need of “regrooving.”

George

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

At the opening of each New Year, we stand on the threshold to view the vista of a new beginning.  We see more clearly the possibilities that lie ahead of us – so many unexplored opportunities, so many paths.  Do we take the road less traveled, or trod the familiar path?  The choice is ours.  We are not shackled to the choices of the past.  We can, at any moment, let go of self-limiting thoughts, actions, and tendencies – the things that stifle the soul and hold us back from achieving our greatness.

“Awaken your habit-dulled spirit
to zestful new effort.
Rest not till th’ eternal freedom is won!”
Paramahansa Yoganada

Yogananda

Seize this opportunity – this new beginning — and feel renewed, refreshed, and start anew.  Begin by accepting the challenges each day, week and month bring.  Awaken your passion and grit to accomplish what you know is right and good and true.  Take up something you think cannot do and then do it.  Seeing the power of your tenacity will give you self-assurance and lend momentum to your will.  By doing this you will unleash the unlimited strength within you.

I intend to be more faithful in my blogging this year and share my journey with you.  Thank you for reading this and for sharing the trip with me.

I pray that you are blessed in this year and that you may bring to fruition your dreams and aspirations.

New year

On Hoarders & Pack Rats or A Tale Of Decluttering My Life

 

Clutter“Out of clutter, find simplicity.
From discord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies
OPPORTUNITY.”
Albert Einstein

I’m looking around my sitting room and the realization hits me — I’m a hoarder.  It is not a pleasant realization.  I have a couple of bookcases filled with unread books, stacks of unopened blu-rays waiting to be viewed, and three closets full of clothes, not to mention numerable boxes that remain unpacked from my move three years ago.

What’s ironic about this is in my art and writing I practice minimalism.  I truly believe less is more.  Minimalism has inspired me and taught me so much since I first discovered it. It has helped me to re-evaluate my approach to art, my theater productions, my writings and even my spiritual life.  All are better for this approach.  I think now it’s time to approach and live my life in this same manner — to live a simpler life on a much smaller scale.

“Brevity is the essence of style.”
Bill Nolte

To be honest, I’m resisting this notion. I worry giving up my stuff will make me seem less important; what will I have to show for my  work. Who will take me seriously without a job and a house full of things. I know these feelings keep one trapped.

What will I gain from this I wonder.  Hmmm …

Peace of mind —  The idea of letting my “things” go seems horrible at first, but I know I expel way too much energy worrying about my stuff.  Letting this stuff go will set me free.

Freedom from impulsive / compulsive shopping —  Amazon loves me.  THE COMPLETE FILMS OF ABBOTT AND COSTELLO today only $49.99.  OMG — I can’t pass that deal up.  It’s too good to be true.  I have 352 saved items in my Amazon shopping cart. On-line shopping was designed with people like me in mind.  I have started developing walk away power which is a good thing.  It is much harder than it sounds.  But I’m getting good at it.  Whenever I feel the urge to buy something i don’t need.  I think of that copy of Robert Goulet’s Christmas Classics that still is in it’s original wrapping.

Lifetime experiences — I often wonder why that trip to Paris never happened?  And how come I never made it to New Orleans?  Then, I realize those trips were traded for the 195 Criterion DVDs I own.  I know.  I want so many more outside the box experiences in my life, but I have limited myself.  So, as I sell off my possessions that money will go into a new savings account to earmarked for a long over due trip across the pond.

Health and happiness —  I suspect I will actually be healthier and happier with less stuff. Probably because I will sleep in a more harmonious home, work less, and feel less stress about letting go.

“The more I examine the issue of clutter,
the more effort I put into combating it,
because it really does act as a weight.”
Gretchen Rubin

What is responsibility — If I let my things go I won’t be responsible. Yes, this thought has run thru my mind and it still does.  But I realized that I have a really skewed view of what responsibility is. Owning things makes you responsible.

What I’m learning is that responsibility looks different for everyone, and that part of being responsible is knowing how to care for your spiritual and emotional self. What if part of being “responsible,” in other words, is listening to your spirit when it tells you, each morning as you drive to work, or as you look at the clutter in your house, that it is suffocating me?

Better relationships I can’t help but think with less distractions my relationships will be better.  With less anxiety, more freedom and greater discipline my relationships should improve I think. My friendships should be richer and more satisfying. I would fight with myself less. Getting rid of things really has helped to let some toxic friendships go — those friendships that steal all of my energy. I understand what matters now.

There are three approaches I can take toward my possessions: face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until … It is better to face them now. I’ve acknowledged my attachment to the past by honestly looking at my stuff.  By doing so, I’ve seen what is really important to me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to put my house in order.

On A Dance Of Clowns or A Tale Of Staging The Dream

Puck 1

“What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here,
So near the cradle of the fairy queen?”
Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare

I’ve been consumed by Shakespeare of late – reading the plays, watching productions, listening to classical composer’s interpretations, reading critical writings (Jan Kott you are sorely missed).  I eat breathe and live Shakespeare.  The Bard oozes from my pores.  All this is in preparation for my upcoming production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

I feel like it was in another lifetime that I worked on a piece of classical theater.  That’s not a bad thing for a couple of reasons.  In the interim, the theatrical art I was creating was based on modern and contemporary pieces and I learned so much.  Also, I feel that I understand Shakespeare so much better now than I did in that other lifetime.  I have lived thru many of the themes expressed in Shakespeare’s writing.  Kott was right – Shakespeare is our contemporary.  Is it any wonder then why Neil Gaiman centered an entire ark of “The Sandman” around “The Dream”?

When Samuel Pepys went to see “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 1662 he was not impressed. “We saw ‘Midsummer’s Night’s Dream,’ which I had never seen before nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life”.  Luckily, theater goers ignored Pepys.  Pepys is largely forgotten today while “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is still widely performed.

 Puck 2You are always insane when you are in love.
Sigmund Freud

Random thoughts on “The Dream” …

I have discovered so much about Shakespeare and I see “The Dream” in a whole new light. This is a joyous play; it is full of magic and illusion. It is a celebration! It’s a celebration of the arts, of performance, of love. There are no restrictions here. “The Dream” celebrates theater and so it should be theatrical. In my vision gone are the fairy wings and tutus; banished are the pretentious and declamatory styles of acting — sorry Maurice Evans. In other words, gone are the 19th century snobbish trappings and attitudes.

Why are we still so charmed by this play 419 years after it was first performed? I’ll tell you why; it’s the longest day of the year, a time when our ancestors believed the supernatural came particularly close to the human. It is here that Shakespeare sets his play, on Midsummer night where, the world as we know it gets turned upside down? And where does he set it — in a secretive and mysterious place, full of unexplained sounds and shadows. In a forest, of course!

“The Dream” is a beautifully constructed play containing some of Shakespeare’s most memorable poetry. There’s no direct source for the play but Shakespeare drew heavily on the stories and legends which he would have heard as a child and which many country people still believed in. He also created compelling characters and a story in which a fairy queen falls in love with an ass, a recipe for confusion and slapstick humor. The “Dream” can be set in virtually any time or place, and or in my case, no time. This is interesting because of the artistic freedom this allows the production.

Puck 3“What fools these mortals be.
Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare

More thoughts …
Puck … The Heart and Soul of The Dream …

Puck represents awareness, action and creation. He embodies the possibility of making an idea come true. Puck is the emotional and creative power of the soul; he realizes we must have a physical outlet to be of real use. Powers unused are powers non-existent, we have to set them free in order to make the most of them, and to gain and renew. Puck is the master alchemist.

Puck is aware of the power in life; he can be a symbol for all the creative skills and ideas inside. Most people don’t really act; they just react, being driven from one situation to the next. Puck shows us that power is ready to use as soon as it is recognized.

Puck’s function in the play is crucial; all the plots develop around him. Puck represents the difficulties of love, the power of magic, the nature of dreams and the relationships between fantasy and reality.

Puck is essential to the plot. Without his mistakes, the plot is lost and senseless. Without his mischief, the play would not be a comedy. It is Puck who ties and unties, deforms and creates. Although he has created all chaos, at the end he makes amends by restoring all among the players.

By setting in motion the events of chaos, Puck also ensures that the audience will have a good time. In this way, Puck is also a kind of “lord of misrule” figure; he’s appointed to reign over carnival festivities, which included drinking, eating, and raucous theatrical productions. It’s fitting, then, that Puck should close the play by delivering the Epilogue. He is also the only character with the credibility to tell the audience that he knows the play is like a “dream,” and he promises that, if we didn’t like the play, he’ll soon make it up to us with another.

So as I plunge even more deeply into the words of The Bard and into “The Dream” let us dance on tables and create art …

 Puck 4

On Out With The Old & In With the New or A Tale Of Embracing 2015

Blog 1

An old year ends, and takes with it people and sorrows and joys and memories, and a new one is on its way.

Neil Gaiman

Can I lose 60 pounds in nine minutes? This thought runs through my mind at the close of 2014.

It’s been awhile.  I know.  I’ve heard from several of you over the intervening months, “When are you going to write again?”  “What’s taking so long?”  Honestly, I’ve been busy.  “Doing what you ask?”  Well, I was dancing on tables and creating art — hard fought art — among other things.

2014 was a year of great change for me. I went back to work, my brother passed away, I directed a great production, my favorite Great Aunt passed way and I met some awesome people. But if I’m being honest here I have to admit I will be glad to see 2014 pass.

I realize new beginnings can happen any day at any time. A new beginning always involves leaving one thing behind and embracing something new and different. However, sometimes, new beginnings may not be of our own choosing or liking. New beginnings often are exciting, yet terrifying — no one knows what the future holds. Unlimited possibilities lie behind the door to your new beginning: successes and failures, ups and downs, and even some smiles and frowns.

Since I do not know what’s behind the next door or written in the next chapter of my life, I know it’s important to utilize tools at these pinnacle times in my life. These tools give me the strength and courage to aid me in adjusting to a new chapter in my life.

What’s in my tool box? Well … a positive attitude, and yes, sometimes I have to fake it, openness to new people and new experiences and an open mind, vulnerability so I can see into the shadowy parts of myself and grow in new ways, persistence because sometimes it just takes time and my wonderful support system of friends. But, the most important tools in my arsenal are magic, dreams and madness. In other words, you have to think outside the toolbox sometimes.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.”                                                                                                                                                                    Neil Gaiman

 I have great hopes for 2015. Yes, I feel the winds of change are blowin’ by. I don’t much have more to say on welcoming in 2015 other than this last bit of advice that was passed onto me: I hope that in this year you make mistakes. Yes, that’s my wish for you and for me to make new mistakes, wonderful, glorious, amazing mistakes.   Oh, and whatever it is you’re afraid of doing, do it.

 

On Growing Acres of Diamonds in Your Yard or A Tale of How Your Rituals Create Your Reality

rituals“We are what we repeatedly do.”

Aristotle

This past year, I found myself floundering — stuck within an alternating cycle of feeling either overwhelmed or paralyzed.  The combination of creative tasks, course work and deadlines typically drives me with a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment. However, though I had both homework to produce and blog posts to write, I struggled to find the words to express myself.  Instead of studying or filling pages with words and ideas, I consoled myself by eating cookies and watching lots of 24 hour news networks. Needless to say, none of this was any help in boosting my productivity or pulling me out of the mean reds.  So, I started working with a coach. It has been a good — if challenging experience. I have learned some great things from him, but I think the greatest lesson is on the power of ritual.

As I put these thoughts to paper, I realize that I wasn’t depressed. The real truth was that I had fallen into a series of bad habits: email before prayer and meditation, stagnating in front of the TV instead of walking, and lunches at buffets instead of healthy, homemade salads and juices.

I had totally forsaken one of the key doctrines of living a life that I love: if you want an extraordinary life, you must have equally extraordinary routines and rituals. My coach, Fred, reminded me of this and stressed (and still stresses) this with every call we had.

I was stuck because I was allowing life to happen around me. I was overwhelmed because I was trying to squeeze as much as possible into each day with no plan of any kind. I was stuck in habits that exacerbate our feelings of stagnation, and I allowed my feelings of being overwhelmed to paralyze me.

“There is a comfort in rituals, and rituals provide a framework for stability  when you are trying to find answers.”

Deborah Norville

So, what is it that I need – that we all need? The twin powers of routine and ritual. Nourishing and supportive routines help frame our lives. Rituals remind us of our own sacredness, our desire to connect with our core, and our relationship with our higher power.

The word “routine” can seem incredibly rigid and dull, but good routines are neither. Rather than stifling your creativity, routines are about managing your energy effectively in order to direct it toward your real desires and purpose. Our daily actions are what create our life, so by creating nourishing and supportive routines, we are choosing to fuel our days and nourish our spirits.

We all need daily time-outs, an excuse to stop and take a moment to celebrate, connect, honor and recognize the different aspects of our lives. This is where ritual comes in. Rituals offer us compassionate discipline where we focus our attention and energy on achieving a certain feeling. They will ground us regardless of what’s happening around us.

Extraordinary routines require minimum engagement in order to let us achieve productive results. Rituals are celebratory, meaningful, and require us to be completely engaged—even if it’s only for two minutes.

One of the first things I did after starting to work with my coach was to reestablish nourishing routines and rituals, thereby creating structure, support, and strong moments of being. I realized very quickly that solid morning and bedtime routines formed parenthesis around my day. This seemingly simple change in my day-to-day living has altered my world.

I’m more productive, more creative, and feeling incredibly grounded. My sense of drive and purpose has returned to me with an underlying feeling of peacefulness. Nearly every person I talk to says that the way they start their day sets a tone for the whole day. Our morning routines set the tone for productivity, and our morning rituals give us a daily check-in with how we want to feel, and who we want to be.

“I believe in rituals.”

Charles Simonyi

So, what should we include in our morning routine?

Choose actions that create an environment of order and support. Simple chores like unloading the dishwasher and clearing the kitchen counters don’t just minimize disorder; they also leave your energy available to help you create and strategize rather than merely reacting.

Similarly, nothing can disrupt your day like skipping a part of your morning routine. Even something as basic as making the bed every morning gives your brain an important message: the old day is over, and today is a fresh, clean slate.

Creating your morning ritual can be just as simple: just turn some of your regular morning tasks—showering, for example, or making coffee — into a time of reflection. Some of my greatest awakening thru prayer has been in the shower. Even transforming the most mundane activity can be a way to choose how you want to feel, to honor your soul, and to show respect for your spirit.

I spend time each morning in prayer and meditation, and writing in my journal —activities that never fail to connect me with my core and remind me of my sacred place in the world. And I give thanks for my blessings – thank you for the blessing of breathing; thank you for the feeling of my feet on the floor; thank you the sun streaming thru my windows; thank you, thank you, thank you.

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

Pat Conroy

More powerful than any morning habits, however, are our bedtime routines and rituals. Bedtime routines allow us to close out our current day as well as stage the coming one. The elements of your routine should be personal to you, but I recommend that they include both self-care (brushing your teeth, washing your face, moisturizing your skin) and preparation for the coming day (choosing your outfit, reviewing your appointments, and staging your bag and keys near the door).

Your bedtime ritual, on the other hand, is a time to focus on connection, reflection, and celebration. Regardless of how much you did (or didn’t) accomplish that day, each evening is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, your desires, and your spirit. Connecting with our spirit is a vital component of creating a life we’re in love with.

Later, after my own self-care, I write in my gratitude journal, both to remind myself what I’m thankful for, as well as to record the highlights of the day; often I share this gratitude writing on Facebook. Finally, I take a few moments to still my mind with prayer or meditation. Lastly, I proclaim aloud the best thing that happened that happened that day and turn off the light.

Even if I’ve had a bad day, these rituals help me fall asleep feeling peaceful, content, and loved.

Adding small rituals of opening and closure to my days gives tremendous value to my mind and soul. For me, good rituals are evident in how peaceful my heart feels.

I fully recognize that it’s possible to get stuck even in good routines. The routines that work now may not be as productive next week. Dreams and desires are ever-changing, so as I continue to grow and stretch myself, my routines and rituals will grow and stretch as well.

Empowering routines, along with loving rituals, are essential ingredients in the recipe for living a daily life that I love. By creating your own rituals and routines, you’ll be taking the first steps to creating your own recipe.

On Doing Battle With The Adversary or A Tale Of Learning To Love The Station Master

But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

Today I had the blessing of attending mass with Father Daniel Schuster.  I’ve only heard FR Schuster preach a handful of times, but each homily he’s preached has moved me; to me FR Schuster is the real deal, a rock star among priests.  Today’s homily was on becoming a sanctuary.  Today’s homily rocked me to my very foundations.

The foundation of this homily was a Gospel reading from Matthew, Chapter 5.  Matthew is my favorite New Testament work with chapters 5 – 7, The Sermon on The Mount being my favorite of all biblical writings.  “But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  WHOA.  This hit me hard and in a new light.  Love your enemies – and then it hit me — I’m my own worst enemy.  Pray for those who persecute you – no one has every persecuted as painfully as I persecute myself.   Who do you need to pray for Kenneth? You need to pray for you Kenneth. Not a prayer of vanity or a prayer of asking, but a prayer of forgiveness and love.  “Help me God to forgive myself for the way I have abused and treated myself.  Teach me to be more loving of myself so I may love others more fully.  Fill me with light and illuminate my mind.  Help me to be worthy to be a sanctuary.”

Of course this isn’t as easy as it sounds.   We all struggle with.  Yes, we’ve all heard the saying “I am my own worst enemy.”  But hearing this today was different.  I heard this with my inner hearing – my spiritual ears.

“Your actions are your only true belongings.”

Allan Lokos

Instead of loving myself, I obsess over whether or not someone could find me loveable and used superficial targets to validate my existence—possessions, grades, jobs, friends, cash, and degrees for fancy coursework.

I feel like a voracious black hole of yearning.  I consumed everything that was closest to me—food, love, validation — in an attempt to fill the void that I experience on a daily basis. That feeling of not being good enough, of seeking desperately for the last piece of the puzzle, the piece that would round me out and make me whole.

I micromanage those around me, offering help that has not been asked for, repairing others because I don’t have the courage to believe I’m repairable.

I require my own love and support. I need my actions to resonate with the deeply hidden spark thriving inside my spirit, that light that hopes someday I’ll come to retrieve it and be a worthy sanctuary.

Now, I often tell people that the spark inside of them, no matter how dim or deeply hidden, is like Tinker Bell as Tink’s light is being extinguished in Peter Pan. That, like Tinker Bell, that spark is enlivened and emboldened by the clapping and cheering and belief in its relevance – belief in yourself. 

That spark represents your inner wisdom, your inner light — the light that will guide you directly toward a life that is tailor-fit to your specifications, a life that is in harmony with all, a life that is worth of being a sanctuary.

And yet, there are times when I doubt its integrity, I doubt myself, favoring instead the words and programs and gospel of experts and gurus, wanting desperately to be fixed, to be whole.

There are those days where I’m certain that if I just read enough or I’m kind enough, that I will be transformed into a person deserving of a beautiful life, deserving to be a sanctuary.

I forget I am the one that I am waiting for.

Who looks outside, dreams;

who looks inside, awakes.

Carl Gustav Jung

So how do you shift this perception?  You do the work.

We can bury our magnificence, but it’s impossible to destroy.  Loving ourselves isn’t a onetime event. It’s an endless, moment by moment ongoing process.  It begins with you, enfolding yourself in your own affection and appreciation.  So despite all the things that you think may be terribly wrong with you, love yourself – LOVE YOURSELF.

The best way to create this is to begin your day with love, not technology – don’t start your day with email, voice mail or Good Morning America; turn the phone off. Remind yourself of your worthiness before getting out of bed. Breathe in love and breathe out love. Enfold yourself in light. Saturate your being in love.

Take time to pray, mediate and journal. Spend time focusing inward daily. Pray is talking to God and meditation is listening to God.  Begin with 5 minutes of pray and meditation and 5 minutes of journaling each morning. Gradually increase this time.

Journal to remember all the times you’ve been your best, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Break these moments down into distinct parts, like a chemist in a lab distilling the most significant components.  If there was a place that felt injured or broken or if you can’t think of a time, give yourself the permission to imagine what might feel really good there. Let yourself dream.

Take that list and boil it down to five needs.  My five daily needs are: adequate sleep, plenty of hydration, spiritual study, moving my body, and silence.  Those are the five ingredients that I could provide myself to concoct a truly supported and nourished day where my body felt whole, my mind felt alive and my spirit felt encouraged. Your list might look radically different than mine, but the importance is that it is something that works for you. Try to meet those needs in whatever way you see fit, however imperfect or intermittent.

Over time, you’ll begin to see yourself as a person worth loving. You’ll begin to believe you deserve a life that is deeply immersed in and led by your own inner wisdom and self-love.

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters

compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yes, I know; learning self-love isn’t easy. I look at it this way. Throughout the day, I’m confronted with many opportunities to disregard or attune to my feelings, to judge or to honor them, to keep commitments and be responsible to myself, and to act in accordance with my needs, values, and feelings. I have an opportunity to learn self-love all the time. Every time I talk myself down, doubt myself, exhaust myself, dismiss my feelings or needs, or act against my values, I undermine my self-esteem. The reverse is also true. I will make healthier choices, because you and I will both benefit from this.

On The Rings Of Contemplation or A Tale Of Give Us This Day Our Daily Silence

Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.
George MacDonald

Many years ago while living in San Francisco I found a dusty little book in Dog Eared Books, The Cloud of Unknowing. It is this wonderful, anonymous 14th century book that presented contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God to me.

This form of meditation, more commonly known as ‘Centering Prayer’ (from a text by the brilliant Thomas Merton) can be traced from and through the earliest centuries of Christianity. The Centering Prayer centers one on God.

Silence is God’s first language,” wrote the 16th-century mystic John of the Cross. And silence is the normal context in which contemplative prayer takes place. But there is silence and then there is silence. There is an outer silence, an outer stopping of the words and busyness, but there is also a much more challenging interior silence, where the inner talking stops as well.

The purpose of prayer is the noughting of oneself and the all-ing of God.
Anonymous

Most of us are familiar with this first kind of silence, although we don’t get enough of it in our spiritual life. It’s the kind of silence we normally practice in retreat times and quiet days. With a break from the usual hurly-burly of your life, you have time to draw inward and allow your mind to meander. You may pore over a scriptural verse and let your imagination and feelings carry you more deeply into it. Or you may simply put the books away and go for a walk in the woods, allowing the tranquility of the setting and the relative quieting of external pressures bring you more deeply in touch with yourself. You listen carefully to how you’re feeling, what you’re wishing. In this kind of work, the free association of your mind provides the key to the renewal, and silence furnishes the backdrop where this work can go on.

But there is another kind of silence as well, far less familiar to most students of spiritual growth. In this other kind of silence, the exercise is exactly the opposite. In silence, you encourage your mind to float where it will; in this other silence — or to use the generic description, meditation — a deliberate effort is made to restrain the wandering of the mind, either by slowing down the thought process itself or by developing a means of detaching oneself from it.

Intentional silence almost always feels like work. It doesn’t come naturally to most people, and there is in fact considerable resistance raised from the mind itself: “You mean I just sit there and make my mind a blank?” Then the inner talking begins in earnest, and you ask yourself, “How can this be prayer? How can God give me my imagination, reason, and feelings and then expect me not to use them?” “Will I go crazy?”

Perhaps the most powerful argument is the one from authority. Virtually every spiritual tradition that holds a vision of human transformation at its heart also claims that a practice of intentional silence is a non-negotiable. Period. You just have to do it. Whether it is the meditation of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, the zikr of the Sufis, the devkut of mystical Judaism, or the contemplative prayer of the Christians, there is a universal avowal that this form of spiritual practice is essential to spiritual awakening.  All major, worldwide religions, most urgently and irrevocably set upon the total transformation of the human being. And while it’s true that we don’t have pictures of Jesus teaching a meditation practice exactly — this can be read between the lines fairly easily on any number of occasions in the scriptures.

Like most of the great spiritual masters of our world, Jesus taught from the conviction that we human beings are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity. The person I normally take myself to be — that busy, anxious little “I” so preoccupied with its goals, fears, desires, and issues — is never even remotely the whole of who I AM, and to seek the fulfillment of my life at this level means to miss out on the bigger life. This is why, according to His teaching, the one who tries to keep his life will lose it, and the one who is willing to lose it will find the real thing. Beneath the surface there is a deeper and vastly more authentic Self, but its presence is usually veiled by the clamor of the ego with its insatiable needs and demands.

This confusion between ego self and I AM is the core illusion of the human condition, and penetrating this illusion is what awakening is all about.

God hidden within me.  I find Him by hiding in the silence in which He is concealed.
Thomas Merton

At the center of our being is a point of emptiness which is untouched by ego and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point of light which belongs entirely to God. This little point of emptiness is the light of God burning in us. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of an inner sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely and it is the gateway to heaven.  As we enter contemplative prayer, we draw near the wellspring from which our being flows.

On To Tango Upon Chiron or A Tale Of Dancing With God

planets_300_300“All motion begins in God and ends in God.  The universe is engaged in a whirling flow of change and activity. This is God’s dance. We are all dancing with God and God with us.

I’ve come under fire of late.  Yes, I’m experiencing my own Duck Dynasty moment. Friends of mine, deeply spiritual friends, who define themselves as wounded Christians, have been very critical of my speaking openly about attending mass. To them it is a slap in the face since they have a negative view of Christianity.  Not to be outdone, friends who identify as Christians have been very critical of my chanting and practicing kirtan.  I’ve been told it’s idol worship.  To both groups I roll my eyes.

My devotions and practices are mine.  While we are all created in God’s image, God is also created in our image.  I believe I have forged a distinctively personal path of spirituality that places the uniqueness of the individual, in this case me, at the center of his or her own spiritual universe with God — a spiritual partnership so to speak. Feisty and invigorating, yet deeply personal and self-revealing — this is my approach to my inner life and my relationship with God.

This is my dance with God.

dancing godThe scriptures are filled with stories of dancing. These dances are not planned, scripted ballets but improvised songs of freedom, hope and joy. They aren’t performed by trained and seasoned professionals but are initiated in the joyful celebrations of people to their God.

These raves of God are edgy and innovative – raw and spirit filled. They are the dances of the people, the seeds of raw potential, born not out of the exactness of ritual but in the spontaneity of the Spirit – filled with the rhythm of life.  The dance of God is the dance of the cosmos, the interrelationship of Creator, created (you and me), and life itself, the holy creativity of the All in All.

The dancing metaphor of all life is envisioned and embodied as a circle dance. The dance of the divine is moving, active, eternally both transcendent and immanent, and flowing together in a joyful and harmonious, rhythmic and resonant celebration of life. The great Artist of eternal life dances with the child and the Divine Mother. Each dwells in the other, outside of and within the created world.

The Christ, the Lord of the Dance, is the physical embodiment of the sacred dance of life, the incarnated vision and rhythm of the artistry of God. Whereas the Trinity is the music and the composer, the Christ is the one who calls to us to “come and dance” and promises that we need never lose the rhythm of the dance.

The Lord of the Dance takes the lead. Our role is that of the dancing partner who has the courage to get up from the safety of sitting and spread our wings into the unknown. In joining the dance, we break free of some kind of social sheath and give others the courage to follow their passion.

As we join the Lord of the Dance the Spirit becomes a whirling life force, becoming aligned with and at one with God and ourselves. The implication of this dance is that all persons dance a dance of mutual love, breathe together the breath of life, and pour out to one another in mutual giving.

Believe only in a God who would know how to dance.

We are all of us invited to the dance, though not all join.  But look what happens when we do. We fall into sync with the rhythm of life. The rhythms of the Universe echo within the music of the spheres until all are singing and dancing together in a beautiful and diverse harmony.

The time is now, and the dance is eternal. Don’t sit this dance out. Life is moves quickly. Buds burst in fragrant spring; fruits delight in fertile summer. Leaves change colors in autumn. Trees fall in whitened winter. Dance while you can. The world doesn’t need more conversations so much as it needs more dancing. When “heart speaks unto heart,” what comes next is less a conversation than a waltz or a tango, with all its unexpected twists, turns and dips.

The soul’s dance occurs both in the earthly here and now and in the heavenly beyond. The celebration of rebirth, beauty and hope surrounds and permeates our life. Harmony prevails in every step we take with God and with each other. We are lead in a new dance of human connection under divine direction.

The dance of God is a dance of love that moves and flows through the ins and outs, ups and downs of all of life’s joys and travails. The circle of our dancing is a powerful movement of shared compassion).

Too often in our spiritual life, we want to give dance lessons, to be the judges of dance competitions. I won’t be judged in my dance with God.  The Lord of the Dance can never be directed or contained. To join the dance of spirit, we need to break out of our square lines and ballroom boxes and let the spirit draw us in. The dance is a dance of unity of sound and sight, a unity of those who believe, and a unity of God and his creation.

And now, as Lawrence Welk used to say, “A-one, an-atwo.

 

On A Handful of Hope or A Tale Of The Gratitude Attitude

Piglet

“Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all and, my dear, I’m still here”
Stephen Sondheim

Those of you that know me or who read my blog know that the past couple of years have been pretty rough for me for numerous reasons.  Through it all I’ve survived and in some ways I’ve even thrived.  A big thanks for this goes to my Spiritual Tribe, Gina & Kathi, Debra & Mark, Ryan & Beth, Jeff & Sivaramakrishnan…

It’s so easy to get side swept by everything that’s going wrong; trust me, I know. Maybe you’re not feeling 100 percent, or work is inducing stress. Possibly you got into a fight with a significant other and wish that exchange never occurred. Now what happens if you exert a sense of gratitude? What if you focus on everything that is going right?

Thank goodness you’re in general good health, and at least you have work to do (however frustrating it can be). Fighting also never is enjoyable, but you know that the connection between the two of you certainly can override the rocky grounds. When realizing that there can always be gratefulness for what you do have, you will be one step closer to peace.

Gratitude, to me, is many things — it is appreciation; it’s looking on the bright side of a setback; it is thanking someone in your life (re: Spiritual Tribe peeps listed above); it is thanking God; it is ‘counting blessings.’ More than anything it is savoring life & not taking things for granted.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy;  they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Marcel Proust

Expressing gratitude has several benefits. People who are grateful are likely to be happier, hopeful and energetic, and they possess positive emotions more frequently. Individuals also tend to be more spiritual or religious, forgiving, empathetic and helpful, while being less depressed, envious or neurotic.  My friends Molly & Rose both publicly express their gratitude publicly daily via Facebook, and they are both two vibrant, happy and beautiful women

I recently watched an amazing Ted Talk — Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work.  The gist of his talk is that happiness inspires one to lead a more productive life.  Achor states that one of the most powerful tools we have to create or change our state is by expressing gratitude.  Shawn Achor demonstrates that by publicly sharing gratitude for three things over a 30 day period you will change your state to one of happiness and joy.

For me, gratitude fosters happiness, making it easier to cope with stress and upset. A positive perspective allows me to obtain a better grasp on life. The greatest benefit is it helps me adjust, move on, and strive to begin anew.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”                     Maya Angelou

There are so many ways to express gratitude, one of which is to compose a letter to someone who has had a great impact on your life. You can read it to the person face-to-face or over the phone.  Another is to keep a gratitude journal.  Write down the things you are grateful for each day. And when the going gets tough, you have something to remind you there is hope.   A fantastic way to show gratitude is thru service.  By serving someone you say thank you.  When I do the dishes, or fold the laundry, or set up for my Dad’s card club I’m showing them my gratitude; I’m thanking them.   And the best way of showing gratitude?  Telling someone Thank You to their face; it’s a great way to express gratitude.  Not only do your words say thank you, your body language will convey your sincerity as well.

I truly believe once you become oriented toward looking for things to be grateful for, you will find that you begin to appreciate simple pleasures and things that you previously took for granted. Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good even in unpleasant situations. Today, start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful; in this way, you’ll be on your way toward becoming a master of gratitude.

On The Spiraling Wheel Of Life or A Tale Of To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn

Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.
Stephen Chbosky

For the past few weeks I’ve been suffering from writer’s block; why, I don’t know.  It seems that every time I sat down and tried to write, nothing would gel.  I knew the block was from within and yet, I couldn’t dissolve it.  Today, I woke up brimming with ideas. It was like dozens of voices pulling at me to get their story out.  Whew.  Now the struggle is which to blog on first …

I’m still searching for a full time job, hanging in there daily for my family, and putting in hours of work every day into myself, my health, my blog, and working on creating real change, and yet I still feel like I have nothing to show for my efforts.

The hours I’ve been putting into my inner work, spiritual practices and creative work have taken time away from the time I spend with my friends, family, myself. My friends tell me our relationships have suffered as I work on myself.  Distant relatives have attacked me for writing a blog telling me I’m self-absorbed.  Others say I’ve put them on the back burner while I work in hopes of pushing through the barriers towards my dreams of making a life I love.  We all to some degree have a fear of change … that pounding in the heart that says: turn back …. but it’s too late for that and change I must.

I am on the brink of something big, yet I can’t help but feel stuck some days. Have I become used to the way I’m living my life that I’m subconsciously avoiding taking the next step? Often I feel I’m working at the speed of a snail while my mind is drawn to things requiring less thought.

Before I started this blog my brain was becoming stagnant and the desire to move forward was in limbo. How could I ever get to where I want to be if I’m just sitting around hoping things will change? It’s like a spell had been cast upon me to stall any movement towards progress in an already slow moving journey.

Then, I remembered that this wasn’t the first time I’d felt this way. I had been in a mind stalling funk in the past. I remembered the last time I felt this way was shortly before I moved from California. I also remembered that not a month after I moved, I began regretting it and the desire to get back to working on myself started to build.

I realized what I needed to do to move forward – I just needed to rest my mind. I needed to take a break from trying to figure things out. I was trying so hard to move forward that I was driving myself crazy. So, I decided to take a week off to completely unplug and think about nothing that had to do with my inner work.

I let all of my emotions out to a close friend of mine; we had a heart felt conversation in which I explained to her that my absence from her life was not her fault, but of my own. I’m not very good at these types of talks, but assured her I was getting back in touch with what mattered. I started paying attention to the small things and began making more time for my friends and family. I needed to find a way to make an adjustment to not only spend the quality time with those who mattered to me most, but work towards my vision of who I was trying to be as well.

Things changed, people changed, and the world went rolling along right outside the window.”
Nicholas Sparks

After this talk, I made two commitments 1) to stop being lazy and start being more productive with my time, and 2) I wanted to find a balance between working on my dreams and also working on building my relationships with the people I love. I began taking 15 minutes or so every night to write down the tasks I would work on the following day. I started making myself accountable to finish those tasks before I could move on to randomly perusing other interests. Without realizing it, I was bringing clarity to the chaos of not knowing. One of the biggest mistakes I had been making was not making a specific plan that led to the end result I was chasing.

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
Winston Churchill

So I find myself back in the same mindset I was in several years ago – I need to get unstuck and make new goals, have new visions and make some positive changes.  Yes, I need to make some major changes in my life.  One of the most complicated tasks any of us will face in life is the concept of making the right choice. I realize now every few seconds we have the opportunity to change our lives, our careers, our happiness. By making those changes the lives of many others, some of which we will never meet, will forever be changed as well.

I appreciate the process of self-improvement is far from easy. When you are aware of yourself, it is possible to enjoy this experience and be a better person. If there is one thing I have learned you must actively be engage in your life rather than sitting on the sidelines. If you just observe your life as it passes you by, you are just waiting for the end and not living.

What about you? Do you have a plan to move forward towards the changes you seek in your life? I’d love to hear them.

Thank you all for taking this journey with me and sharing your thoughts and feeling with me.  You have all been an inspiration to me on this journey of change.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On Kindnesses That Make The Heart Run Over or A Tale Of Why Personal Support Systems ROCK

Sacrificing all our individual needs doesn’t strengthen a relationship.
Mutually supporting each others personal growth does.
Ritu Ghatourey

Everyone has dreams, goals; things that drive them or help them to have a purpose in life. For some it’s children or careers, for others it’s making money or helping to create a better world. Regardless of our focus, the question I have is this; do we need a support system, someone who believes in us, to get there? It’s certainly important to have self-confidence and believe in your dreams, but is that enough? Or do we truly need an objective set of eyes or an external voice that supports and encourages us to move ahead?

Over the past 10+ years I have moved around quite a bit.  From Wisconsin to California to Illinois and back.  Over that time I have learned how important it is to have a personal support system to keep you sane.  I think the great blessing I have received this past decade is the gift of friendship.

Whether it’s a man married to a woman, a girlfriend who supports her boyfriend, a man who supports his partner or a parent who supports her children … it really comes down to who we are as people. Love does not know gender, age or race, well not unconditional love.

What it comes down to is the love of one another and the respect that comes with that, or in other words the need for us to support each other as humans, as people and as individuals with individual dreams, goals and desires. We all deserve a chance to be more than our inner workings — a chance to step outside of the box and have a moment in the light, a moment in flight.

It’s no small thing to feel accepted, valued, loved, in another person’s eyes.

And now this brief musical interlude of The Merm and me singing about personal support systems.

I know it’s hokey, but you get the gist of what I’m saying.

We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed.
As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over;
so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.
Ray Bradbury

If we’re fortunate, we have people in our lives that help us remember who we are and that we are not alone in our days here: friends, partners, co-workers, exercise buddies, book clubbers, yogis.  These are the people who support us — they hold us up, like strong beams against a howling wind. Having friends is natural and effortless when we are young, but for me, it takes much work in this latter part of my life.

What is it about relationships at this phase of our life that take so much more work? Busy? Yes. Excuses? Yes.  They don’t feel like excuses, but they are; we know it. We have important, pressing, urgent, time sensitive responsibilities to others and to ourselves. There are jobs to apply for, family to care for and lessons to be learned, but these never can fill the aching emptiness of not having the personal interaction with your personal support network – your friends.

Much too quickly, we find ourselves only doing, and not maintaining.  And this is when the emptiness hurts that much more.

It’s not easy, and it takes effort and planning, sometimes just acting on the impulse to reach out — to make time for friends and personal contacts — but it’s worth every bit of time and effort. Life is better with someone there to give a pat on the back or send a kind word. Knowing there are minds and hearts out there, caring about you, sending you love. The personal support system that friendships create is something that reminds us that we have a place to turn to.

I could go on, but I think I’ll end this by giving a few shout outs to people who over the past 10 years have enriched my live, shown support and offered me the gift of friendship:

California — Kristine D, Scott, Liz, Carole, Greg, Olivier and my beloved Rachel.

Illinois — Tami, Holly & your boys, Rich & John, Brandon & Betsy, Jesse, Eileen, Colleen & Chris

Wisconsin — Deb & Mark, Tommy TRC, Jamie RV, Penny, Jeff (the brilliant yoga teacher), Ryan and Beth (also brilliant yoga teachers), MBG, Sivaramakrishna, Gina and Noe

And to all of you reading this I say thank you too for supporting me.

The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal
and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime.
Mark Twain

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

 

 

On Them Who Lie A Little To Buy A Little … or A Tale Of Why Personal Accountability Is So Cool

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
Mark Twain

Honesty is the best policy. I remember this statement from Miss Green in first grade catechism and from years of being a Cub Scout and later a Boy Scout. Living a truthful life should be the goal for all people. Sadly, we live in a world where on a daily basis we experience crafty, cunning and untrustworthy advertising, business people, religious leaders and politicians. Underhanded, devious practices are revealed on the nightly news and cheating the system is encouraged as innocently as cutting in line at the school cafeteria.

Have we lost the trait of being accountable? What would someone say about your accountability? Has it become so commonplace to embellish everything we say?

Accountability says you are responsible for your actions. The willingness to be accountable for what you do, what you don’t do or refuse to do is a significant trait of your character.  One of the reasons I started this blog was to help make myself more accountable to me.

Unaccountable people have every excuse in the book. They tend to blame others, complain, put things off and do the least amount of work necessary. I should know, for I was unaccountable for quite some time.  It was the easy way out and I was more than willing find any way out.

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.  It is up to you to give life a meaning.
Jean-Paul Sartre

If you are going to be successful in life you must embrace what contributes to your life, repel what detracts from it, and to accept responsibility for everything in it. If you are personally accountable then you accept the consequences of your actions, words, and decisions, regardless if the outcome is important or significant.

So what are the steps we need to take to make ourselves accountable?

  • Stop shaming and blaming: We can learn to see shame or blame as excess baggage and just set them aside. We could acknowledge and even regret our mistakes and shortcomings while accepting ourselves completely. We can begin working with our list of weaknesses by celebrating them. The more successful people are, the more likely they are to be open to looking at their flaws. We can love and accept ourselves and still work really hard to change ourselves.
  • Tell the truth. Everybody messes up sometimes. Lying about it or trying to cover it up always makes it worse. Remember Richard Nixon? Bernie Madoff?  Pinocchio? Need I say more? Save yourself some time and tell the truth.
  • Forgive yourself — one powerful way to move from shame to acceptance is to forgive ourselves. Before practicing new skills and new ways of being, it’s wise to clean house. We don’t need to beat ourselves up before we re-invent ourselves. We can be totally honest with ourselves and, at the same time, be gentle. While admitting our mistakes, we can treat ourselves with care. After all, everyone makes mistakes.
  • Let go of the past, but learn from it — we can focus on what we have learned from our past, without getting caught up in repeating our mistakes. The past is over. There is nothing you can do to change the past. The past is useful in showing us things we do not want to repeat and in exploring lessons we have learned that can be helpful in creating change in the future.
  • See the connection between strengths and limitations: Most people place strengths and weaknesses in separate, unrelated categories. Another way to perceive them is as being closely related. Often the things about ourselves that we label as weaknesses are simply examples of taking our strengths too far. A person with a passion for organization can become obsessed with details and lose sight of overall goals. A person who listens well may forget to speak about his own thoughts and feelings. The point is to remember that our assets and liabilities may all be part of the same personal account.
  • Police yourself – you are accountable for your actions even if nobody holds you accountable — or nobody catches you.
  • Look to yourself first — if there is trouble, look in the mirror. Ask yourself, “What is the problem?” and “What am I doing — or not doing — and how can I help to solve it?”

Stop blaming and start aiming.
Rob Liano

Personal accountability is sorely lacking and urgently needed. Accountability is not just a mindset but a skill set that everyone can learn and should master. Choose accountability and own it. You will always come out on top.

Each moment of each day, you have the choice to be personally accountable and in control of your destiny. Can you push yourself more? Do you have the internal drive to go the extra mile? Do you exceed expectations because you have to or because you want to?

If you answered yes, then you will agree that personal accountability is marvelous.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On Spinning My Wheels & Grinding My Gears or A Tale Of Raising My Standards

Any time you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is to raise your standards. When people ask me what really changed my life eight years ago, I tell them that absolutely the most important thing was changing what I demanded of myself. I wrote down all the things I would no longer accept in my life, all the things I would no longer tolerate, and all the things that I aspired to becoming.
Anthony Robbins

Every single wildly successful transformational/motivational/spiritual speaker/author/minister has a story to tell about that awful time in their lives when they were homeless, sleeping in an alley/bus-stop/car/empty field, washing their clothes in a Denny’s bathroom or their hair with the 7-Eleven soda machine. They were either cracked out, drunk, disorderly, abused and rejected, or sober, but fat, sick and utterly despondent.  I can relate to this as I am working my way back from one of these, and no, I have never washed my hair at 7-Eleven.

They describe this moment as a time when their lives were so broken, there appeared no farther to fall; they, we, I, had bottomed out. The next stop on this journey into the dark abyss was surely death … in fact, in these stories, something always does seem to die in the car, on the doorsteps of the homes they’ve just been evicted from, in that Denny’s bathroom at 4:00 A.M., or on that fifth trip thru the buffet line: our former selves who’ve embraced extremely low standards — or no standards — for our lives. That low-standard self has to die in the fire of transformation so a new self can be born, one with the fierce determination to say, “No more! My life is bullshit! I now insist on entirely new standards for myself!”

Skip ahead a few years and they’re living in the home of their wildest dreams, married to their soul mate, acting as principal spiritual adviser to Oprah and serving as general champion for humanity across the globe. It’s a beautiful story, one I’m sure is often mostly true.

Sometimes you have to kind of die inside in order to rise from your own ashes and believe in yourself and love yourself to become a new person.
Gerard Way

Fortunately, none of us have to be homeless to experience authentic transformation. You don’t have to lose your family and sleep in the bus station to get that the life you’ve been living isn’t working and begin creating real change. You might have to experience being destitute in spirit; however, in the sense that you’ve finally and completely lost all hope that your current life strategies will ever work to make you authentically happy.  To put it simply, you know you’re ready for change when you just can’t fucking take it anymore.

Yes my friends, the choice is ours.

If something in your life genuinely isn’t working for you, and hasn’t been for a long time, and you tolerate it, then you clearly haven’t had your AHA moment. You’re trying to make your low-standards comfortable. Every minute you let it persist, you’re deciding you can take more, hurt more, fail more, fall farther, suffer deeper – ultimately, you’re OK with bottoming out.

I quoted Tony Robbins earlier; he says his AHA moment did not come when he slept in a car, which he did, but a few years later when he held an eviction notice in his sober but big, fat, junk-food grubbing hands in a tiny apartment.

You’ll know when you finally hit your ultimate AHA moment because your whole body will come alive and say, “No More!!” … but with much more colorful language and absolutely with a conviction that ensures life will never again look the same for you.

You have to remember one life, one death–this one! To enter fully the day, the hour, the moment whether it appears as life or death, whether we catch it on the in-breath or out-breath, requires only a moment, this moment. And along with it all the mindfulness we can muster, and each stage of our ongoing birth, and the confident joy of our inherent luminosity.
Stephen Levine

I believe too many of us have settled for low standards in life therefore we don’t achieve all we can. Many people don’t dream big because they think it’s unrealistic. So they only expect to have an average life and average life they get.  Also we’re spoon early on that being poor is noble, good — Godly even.  Look at The Waltons, Titanic & Little House on the Prairie – the well to do people are presented as unhappy, mean and godless so if you want to be happy be poor and have dreams, but just don’t dream too big.

Settling for second best should never be anyone’s goal. Everyone can and is entitled to get only the best, yet because most people don’t raise their standards, they keep experiencing average in their lives.

Raising standards means refusing to accept something that is not what you want. That should by no means be interpreted as pushing against that which you don’t want, because that will keep you stuck forever. It only means that you no longer agree to tolerate something that you’re not satisfied with and you focus on and demand better conditions. It means burning bridges to distance yourself from the average life and reaching for the better life.

  • Raising standards means distancing yourself from the people you no longer resonate with and being open to more enriching relationships.
  • Raising standards means quitting your job and focusing on that start-up you’ve always dreamed of.
  • Raising standards means moving out of the environment you never liked and having courage to move into much more pleasant surroundings.
  • Raising standards means refusing to live an average life.

Ask yourself where in your life you allow yourself to be limited by your standards:

  • Are you fearful when the next bill arrives?
  • Do you give up when some difficulty presents itself?
  • Are you letting other people decide how you live your life?
  • Are you accepting your situation and doing nothing to change it even if it’s not what you really want?
  • Are you in a relationship with a person who does not support and accept you?
  • Are you settling for less for fear of the unknown? 

I’m changing slowly day-by-day; I take new actions and raising the bar for myself daily. There are some great things happening in my life and it all started from making a new decision, setting a new standard and living that standard every day.

So – tell me, how can you set a new standard today?

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On The Place With No Name or A Tale Of the Lonely Blogger

I mean, a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere; it’s the life you’re living in the dress.

Diana Vreeland

I love Lucy.  I can watch Lucy reruns for hours.  One of my favorites is an episode from season 2, Lucy’s Last Birthday.  In this episode it seems that everyone has forgotten Lucy’s birthday, she becomes depressed and wanders around town. She meets the “Friends of the Friendless” in the park, and joins the ranks of the unhappy mob.  I understand Lucy’s emotions for more often than not, I feel friendless and alone. 

I make light of it often telling people I enjoy being alone, but the truth is it bothers me that I spend so much time alone, lonely.  I don’t let this loneliness keep me back.  I see movies, concerts and plays, I enjoy a cocktail or three at happy hour,  I visit museums, I dine on wonderful meals, and more often than not it is alone.  ALONE.  Honestly, I’m tired of doing all these great things alone.

Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway made this statement recently while being interviewed, but it isn’t a rare sentiment. I’ve heard this from many people.  It could be a sign of our digital age as we are connected to more people, but in reality are less connected to everyone. It could be a sign of the selfishness and self-centeredness of our culture. It could even be a sign of the “aimlessness” of our society. I am not sure what all the contributing factors are, but I do know that this is a reality in the lives of many people..

Recent US data studied by John Cacioppo, a social neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, found that almost a quarter of people today are plagued by frequent loneliness, regardless of gender, race, or education levels. A 2010 AARP survey found that of the people age 45 and up who participated in their study, 35% reported chronic loneliness compared with 20% ten years ago.

This trend reflects the fact that increasing numbers of people are living alone, added to the decrease in people joining groups and organizations that in the past fostered a sense of community. Robert Putnam, Ph.D. from Harvard (Bowling Alone, 2001), puts the blame on the long-term decline in Americans’ civic engagement. Boomers and those younger have been less likely to join churches or other groups that supported feelings of belonging to something meaningful. The fact that a person has hundreds if not thousands of “friends” on Facebook can actually make loneliness worse, because we seem to need to be in the presence of each others’ bodies.

I never thought at this point in my life I find myself to be part of this trend.  Part of another downward spiral.

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody”

Mother Theresa

Admitting to being lonely is not easy.  Loneliness is an issue that undoubtedly has a stigma attached to it. When you admit to being lonely people wonder what’s wrong with you.  Why can’t you make friends?  Well, I have friends; I have amazing friends.  But they seem to forget about me.  Others are scattered around the world, or married or homebodies.  So, there is nothing wrong with me thank you very much, well other than being lonely.  Yes, admitting to being lonely is not easy.

Admitting to loneliness is admitting to feeling vulnerable, which is a sign of weakness, and ‘real’ men are not weak and most certainly don’t whine and go on about it, even if they are lonely.

As I get older I find it harder to meet people. I just don’t know how to go about it anymore. My social skills are good; I work to engage people & I AM interested in what people have to say & who they are. I want to meet people, make new friends, and date, but at times I really feel inept.

At one point the loneliness just overwhelmed me. I was walking down the avenue one night. As I was passing by a busy restaurant, I looked in the window and saw so many people at quiet, intimate tables sharing smiles and conversations.

Suddenly I just couldn’t take it any longer. My mind became flooded with all of these thoughts like “Why is it never me in there with someone else?” “Why am I always alone? Is there something wrong with me?”  It all just seemed so futile. What was the point of living if I didn’t have anyone to share my life with?

It’s not my proudest moment, and when it happened I felt ashamed of my feelings. That was likely one of my lowest moments in my life, at least when it comes to loneliness.

What makes loneliness an anguish is not that I have no one to share my burden, but this: I have only my own burden to bear.

Dag Hammarskjold

Readers of this blog will know I’m an emotional eater.  Because we’re basically social animals, we require meaningful connections, and these are often sorely lacking in emotional eaters. As I remain socially isolated which is not a natural state of being, I turn to food when I feel lonely. When going thru intense periods of being lonely I’m inclined to use food to self-medicate. It is these times that I feel the powerlessness I have with food the most.  Perhaps loneliness is the body’s way of informing us to seek company.

Writing this blog — admitting to the loneliness I feel was not easy.  I hope by expressing my feelings of loneliness, I can contribute to others being willing to discuss their thoughts on loneliness and other issues and not feel trapped by stigmas, perceptions and stereotypes.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On In Chaos, There is Fertility or A Tale of Today Being the Day I Turn Things Around

“In chaos, there is fertility.”

Anais Nin

“How did I get to this point?”  This question pulses through my brain daily.

Some days I’m done. I have nothing left to give. How did I get here?

“Gradually, then suddenly.”

With eternal gratitude to Ernest Hemingway, three simple words so summarize how I ended up in a situation I didn’t want or expect.

“How did you go bankrupt?”

“Gradually, then suddenly.”

Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises)

It happened so gradually, almost imperceptibly. And then suddenly, unequivocally, shockingly, I had suffered my fall, my breakdown.

Looking back, I can see that I had willingly immersed myself in anxiety, perfectionism, comparisons, sleep-deprivation, a lack of mindfulness, poor health, and pride.  Gradually, these things took their toll — until suddenly I found myself in a dark and frightening place.

This gradual, then sudden decline is not reserved for dramatic breakdowns. It’s not reserved for high-achievers, or emotionally sensitive people. Trust me, this place I find myself in is open to us all.

We each face sudden declines. Moments where we realize what we’ve been neglecting, treating poorly, or taking for granted. It could be:

Weight/Health – the moment we step on the scales, try to walk three flights of stairs, or look at a recent photo.

Addictions – the moment we realize we cannot cut ties to a substance, an emotion, spending, sex, or a person.

Debt – the moment we are brave enough to look at our credit card statement, answer the debt collector’s phone call, or realize we’re living beyond our means.

Clutter – the moment we realize how materialistic we’ve become, how much money has been spent on stuff, or how entitled we’ve become.

Time – the moment we realize we’ve watched more than sixty days of television in a year, the months are passing with little to show for it, or the reflection in the mirror is ten years older than we remember.

Relationships – the moment we realize we haven’t spoken to our best friend in months, seen our grandmother since Christmas, played Candy Land with our kids, or told our loved ones we do love them.

Either we’ve stopped paying attention to what’s important, or we’ve decided that not knowing the truth of our situation is preferable to seeing the reality.

Fortunately for us, there will come a moment when things snap back into focus. And that moment will build gradually and arrive suddenly, leaving us reeling.  Believe it or not, this is a blessing.

I have discovered just like the decline, the ascent will be gradual, then sudden.

I’m working now to turn things around; it’s much harder than you would suspect. I am happier, healthier, more engaged, and more content than I have been in quite some time, but I have so far to go. As I realize more and more my life had been one big, precarious balancing act, I begin to see what is and is not important.

I’m taking the time to work out what truly matters. I try to remove the expectations, the comparisons and the “I deserve more from life” thoughts.  As I do it becomes simpler to see what my priorities need to be:  my family, love, creativity, health, spirituality, joy and beauty, and most importantly, making the time, space, and energy to experience each of these fully.

Initially, embracing the mindfulness I’d been reading and studying and paying lip service to for years and really engaging with my family, friends, and life was terrifying. What if I’m lacking? What if I don’t like what I see? What if you/them/they don’t like what you/they saw? (Does anyone really get to a place where are they free from caring about what others don’t like that they see in you? Yes, but it’s hard)

I’m discovering there is so much more to experience in life by practicing mindfulness — taking the time to engage in fierce and real conversations (these are best with Tim Jopek), to notice the exact shade of lavender in a sunset, to discern the subtleties in different varieties of basil, to be completely in the moment. There is depth and joy right there.

I long neglected my own health — both physical and mental. But as I start my ascent I begin to see huge benefits to time spent on myself.

Meditation, chanting, time spent alone, studying, eating clean foods, sleeping more, exercising regularly, rising early—these changes all are assisting my ascent.

When you are unwell or in poor health, you can’t fully engage with those people and things that matter. Too much of your energy will go towards simply getting through the day. So ask yourself, “What is one thing I can change today that will help improve my health?”  For me the answer is moving.  Moving more will improve my health and well-being.

Learning to be content with my circumstance is helping me live a far more meaningful life since my fall. Finding contentment has brought peace and gratitude and happiness, where for years there had been none.

I no longer feel like I deserve more from life without working for it. I know I can work towards goals and dreams—and I do, every day—but I no longer feel entitled to them. It’s incredibly liberating.

If you can find contentment in life where you are right now, the pressure, the anxiety, and the stress of needing to be more simply disappears, leaving you free to actually pursue your goals and dreams from a place of peace and acceptance and tranquility.

If you find yourself needing to turn things around make today the day you turn things around. Or will you wait for the sudden realization that you have arrived at a place you didn’t want or expect to be?  If there is one thing I can impart to you thru this blog it is don’t wait until it is too late to make those changes.

The beauty of it is, you don’t have to wait—you can choose to turn it around today.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On The End Being The Beginning or A Tale of Regaining My Confidence

My self-confidence is shot.  Why is that you ask?  I’ve been unemployed for well over a year now and it’s really shaken my belief in who and what I am.  I’ve lost faith in myself. This period of unemployment has even upset my spiritual beliefs.  There are days I really wonder who I am and what happened.  Where did I make that wrong turn? I know I AM intelligent, well spoken, talented and more and yet, my self-confidence is shot and I find that I have given up on myself.

I believe you can get to where you want to be if you believe it.  More importantly, your belief in yourself is the key to that success.  Our personal beliefs play a huge role in how we view our own life. Your estimation of your successes and failures will depend entirely on the framework of your personal beliefs.

You must believe in yourself before anyone else will take you seriously.  In other words, if you don’t believe in your product (yourself), service or your dream, why would anyone else?

Don’t give up on your dreams, goals, aspirations or yourself for you never know how right they truly are until you put them into action.

How Beliefs Work

In order to build a positive and empowering belief in yourself, it helps to understand how our beliefs are formed.  We behave and take actions based on what we believe to be the reality of what we can do, not in accordance of what we are actually capable of.  Everything we see, experience, think and feel is adjusted to fit in with our belief system.  So our version of reality is a creation of our beliefs.  Once we decide we believe something it is accepted by us as fact and rarely subject to scrutiny.  Change your thoughts and you change your reality.

Our assumptions of what is real become our “personal operating system.” Much like the operating system on your computer, our beliefs control how we sort and file data.  We develop our personal beliefs about reality based on how we interpret the world around us according to our observations and experiences.

Many of our beliefs were formed in childhood and aren’t valid for us anymore.  Others we got from situations or circumstances that have taken place in our life and are no longer relevant.  Imagine trying to run your current software on Windows 1.0, or some other obsolete operating system.  The same could be said of obsolete belief systems that are still influencing how we evaluate everything in our lives.  It is important to understand “your past is not your future.”  Many people are afraid to go for the life they truly desire because of their past results (or lack of results).  Remember, it was most likely circumstances beyond your control that created your limiting beliefs in the first place. But that was then and this is now.

It’s All About Confidence

Your self-confidence is tied to your personal beliefs about who you are, and what you are capable of.  These beliefs are influenced by your self-esteem, and reinforced by the results you have produced in previous experiences.

Having an empowering belief system gives us the energy to pursue our dreams, and the power to overcome obstacles. It gives us a sense of certainty in our ability to bring about a favorable outcome.  With an empowering belief system you take on new challenges anticipating a successful outcome therefore your level of commitment is also be greater.  These factors will combine to create another successful outcome, which will continue to fuel your level of confidence.  This will allow you to bolster your self-esteem, further increase your level of commitment, and produce your intended outcome. As a result, your self-confidence will grow.

When you carry yourself with confidence, people will naturally be attracted to that quality.  When you have confidence in yourself, others tend to feel that way also.  When you speak and act with conviction, it changes the way the world responds to you.

Developing An Empowering Belief System

The key to creating empowering beliefs is to have some measure of control over the outcome of your goal and in order to control the outcome you will want to start small.  Starting small allows us to generate some momentum.  Start by setting a reachable goal and then take action towards attaining that goal.

I have two main goals I’m working on right now.  One is to be fully employed by October 31.  The other is to lose 20 pounds by August 31.  When I hit these goals I will feel great.  When you hit your goals you will feel great!

When you experience success, set another reachable goal in that same direction and follow through with more action.  Continue this pattern until you become comfortable with your ability to produce your intended outcome. There is no straight line to success. You will zig-zag and hit obstacles. Just keep going and remember to celebrate your wins.

As your feelings of confidence grow, allow yourself to identify with your success. Learn to view yourself as a successful person and attach feelings of approval to your positive experiences.  Developing and displaying self-confidence will change your life on almost every level.

Confidence is like a powerful magnet that will attract into your life whatever opportunities, resources, or people are needed to facilitate your ability to create the life you desire.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On Growing Juicy Golden Apples In The Playground Of My Mind or A Tale of My Adventures With Goal Setting

Recently my friend Tommy posted an excellent video blog for his kids on setting goals. (By-the-way, if don’t know who Tommy is you should.  Tommy is an inspiration to everyone who knows him and has become a valued and trusted friend to me since I moved back to Wisconsin.)  Tommy’s blog reminded me of the importance of goals and that I needed to reevaluate and update my current goals.  I’m a different person now than when I first set those goals.  Goals need to be fluid and transform as the person who made them transforms.  I want to share with you my theory and techniques when practicing goal setting.

I have a list of 5 to 10 goals that range from Health to Relationships to Career to Life. I review and read over these goals every night before bed and every morning when I awaken. Once I complete the 20-minute process of reviewing my goals, I go to sleep and let my subconscious mind absorb my last thoughts (goals) so that it permeates through my brain. With luck, the goals will take over and I’ll visualize and dream of them as they turn into reality. (This of course this all goes for naught if I end up making an 11:00 PM Taco Bell run.) If all works out, I awaken, having had a great night’s sleep with dreams of where I want to see myself in the future. When I wake up, I read my goals all over again.

So what are goals? Goals are ideas I’m fascinated by and want to invite into my life. I find that a lot of the inspiration for my goals comes from reading books. I was first introduced to the concept of goals as an adult when I picked up “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.  “Think and Grow Rich” is credited to creating more of the world’s most successful people than any other book published in history.

Anthony Robbins, the great Motivational Speaker, likes to compare goals to an airplane traveling from New York to Los Angeles. When a pilot programs an airplane to a computer, the goal is to land at a specific location in Los Angeles; the aircraft will fly off course 95% of the way. The programmed destination in the computer corrects the aircraft every time to keep it on track.

Other books I find helpful in terms of setting goals are “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne and “Goals” by Brian Tracy. Byrne describes goals as your thoughts that float into The Universe and then becomes a part of a vibration or frequency that ultimately turns into reality. Tracy’s speaks to how to accomplish your goals faster than you thought possible. The first book that introduced goal setting to most of us is “The Little Engine That Could” by Waty Pipper with the famous line “I think I can, I think I can!” This classic book teaches how to achieve goals from the very basic, yet not an easy task, of setting your mentality to reach the top.

The significance of goal setting is valued more than people think; that’s why books about goal setting are written to target people of all ages. Goals need a great amount of preparation time to take root and much cultivation while they germinate. Once you understand and embrace the concept of goals, you will see, hear an feel it all around you and notice that goal setting is one of the most common exercises of all successful people.

Some Random Thoughts On Goals

  1. Are you conscious about your goals? Are you in control of them? Do you craft them to maximize the outcome?
  2. What is goal setting exactly? Goal setting is like a motto, a hook, or a phrase that’s always on your mind, just like a jingle you’d remember from a commercial. The things you do, say or hear in your everyday life will subconsciously trigger you to act out your goals and move closer to the desired target.
  3. A lot of mental work goes into goal setting, but once you get the hang of it, it will come to you naturally.
  4. Because goals follow you everywhere, and because they are infused in your mind, you need to remain alert about what kind of “goals” you’re feeding yourself. Unfortunately, if you are not aware of it, you can be setting goals that are detrimental to you. Yes, detrimental goals do exist; they just aren’t commonly identified as “goals.” 
  5. The subconscious mind has no filter and it cannot differentiate what is beneficial or detrimental to your life. So if you keep saying to yourself that you “will not succeed” or that you’ll “never find a good paying job“, you are indirectly setting a goal towards failure.
  6. By merely thinking this, a person will sooner or later turn the statement to reality. When it happens and everything seems to be going wrong in life, that person will not realize the reason for this is due to the negative mindset they created that made them receive exactly what they concentrated on; it was their GOAL!
  7. Needless to say, detrimental goals do not have to be set solely from you. You can be a parent setting them on your child, a mate setting them on your wife or husband, or an employer positioning detrimental values to your employees. If the recipients are young, naive, or weak enough, then all they will hear from you is disconcerting; they can also suffer the consequences.

And now back to positive goal setting.

Your goals need to be measurable. Tommy’s goal of taking his wife on a date twice a month is a measurable goal; my goal in regards to losing weight is a measurable goal. I need to know how I’m going to get there.  I need to acknowledge what my motivations are for my goal and why. I then set a date or dates so that I can see the end of the tunnel in order to keep going. Seemingly, this is a lot of information to remember, especially when life throws unexpected things at you here and there. So what do you do? You write it all down.

Write everything down to keep yourself on track:

  1. List 5-8 specific goals you want to accomplish.
  2. Write down the steps you will take to make the accomplishment; envision it; do it.
  3. Keep note of all the benefits that will result out of your goals.
  4. Set the date for when you’d like to accomplishment your goal by.
  5. Review your goals first thing in the morning upon awakening for 20 minutes.
  6. Review your goals again for 20 minutes before going to bed .
  7. When setting goals, set them in a way that everything is worded in a positive way; always look towards success.
  8. Visualize your goals as often as you can during the day.

And there you have it, my formula for goals. I told you at the onset of my starting this blog that wondrous things would be revealed here.  Goals are wondrous things.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

My Weekend With Heavenly Creatures or A Tale of Be-ing In The Bhav

The subtitle of my blog is Wondrous Things Will Be Revealed Here.  This will be a post where something wondrous will be revealed.

I often speak to my friends or post to twitter or Facebook about being in the BHAV.  They scratch their heads and ping me asking “What is this BHAV you are always going on about; what planet are you on now???” Well my friends, the BHAV comes from the Bhakti tradition of Yoga.  It is the fruit of devotion or in Christian terms the fruits of  the Spirit.  Being in the Bhav is a mood; it’s a devotional state of mind.  The Bhav is becoming.  For me it’s being in the rapture — becoming one with the rapture.  I’ve been in the Bhav for several straight days as I was at Bhakti Fest Midwest and have had a soul opening experience.

This picture of my friends Deb & Deann (sisters by-the-way who have their own Kirtan group, Brilliant Bliss Kirtan) best shows what it’s like to be in the Bhav.

In the Bhav

In the Bhav

I took this picture at a Kirtan at Inner Sun Yoga in Oshkosh.  It is during a Kirtan (chanting to God) that I most often enter the Bhav.  I also enter thru mediation, prayer and yoga.  Others enter thru exercise (runner’s high), or thru a hobby (my mom enters this state while knitting); some enter thru service projects and others thru their daily devotions.  The point I’m trying to make is there are many paths to entering the Bhav.  Or as the saying goes in Vedanta:  “Paths are many.  Truth is one.”

As I said, I enter this state mostly thru chanting, or Kirtan.  I chant (sing my prayers) daily.  This is the best part of my day.

I was introduced to Kirtan by my beloved teacher Janet Stone many years ago in San Francisco (if you ever find yourself with 100 miles of Janet seek her out.  She is an amazing yoga teacher).  Chanting with Janet and the hundreds of people in her classes was an amazing third eye opening experience for me.  Soon I found myself chanting a couple of times a week with David Lurey (another amazing yoga teacher who just released a great Kirtan CD, Global Bhakti), Jai Uttal and David Newman.  Once I started chanting I felt like I found the missing piece to my spiritual practice. I chanted so much at home my roommates said that when in my room it felt like being in a church.  I was a chanting fool.

So why do I chant?  I chant because it’s awesome.

I believe that the vibration of a Mantra can bring one closer to God. In the recitation of Mantras the sound is very important, for it can bring transformation in you while leading you to power and grace.

It’s well documented that different sounds have different effects on human psyche. If a soft sound of wind rustling through leaves soothes our nerves, the musical note of running stream enchants our heart, thunder may cause awe and fear.

The chanting of Mantras provide us with the power to attain our goals and lift ourselves from the ordinary to the divine. They give us the power to enter into an exalted state of communion and for attaining blissful state and attain liberation.

Good — I haven’t lost you.

I chant to keep in touch with that great big peace deep inside. I chant to keep the path between us clear. I chant to clear out the clutter that covers up my heart — you know the stuff that trips us all up. I chant to get unstuck and clear out all the old junk I’ve been working for years to get rid of and keeps sticking around for a variety of reasons. I chant to let it go bit by bit.  Yes, chanting makes my heart clear.

I chant to remember who I AM. When the dust of life settles over everything, and I start to believe I’m stuck and struggle with what I’m experiencing, I chant. As I do, it’s like a big wind blows by and carries away the dust and debris.  And then the light bulb comes on and I experience that A HA moment:  “That’s who I AM!”

I can spend a couple of hours going round and round, where absolutely nothing gets done. Then I chant for ten or fifteen minutes, and the gears shift and the road opens and whatever I’m doing flows like water. So now I’m trying to remember to turn to chant sooner to remove obstacles – JAI Ganesha.

I also chant to give thanks. Some days are amazing from start to finish. So I chant to celebrate, to give thanks to the Universe. So days are not so amazing.  So I chant to celebrate, to give thanks to the Universe.

I chant to be closer to God. When I chant I feel the presence of something bigger than me and yet I also know I AM part of that bigness. Being part of that bigness helps keep everything else in my life in perspective.

We all know a happy life requires good health. Proper diet, adequate exercise, and sufficient rest are necessary to keep our bodies strong and fit

More important, but less well known, is the inner self’s need for spiritual nourishment and attention. If we ignore our spiritual health requirements, we become overwhelmed by negative material tendencies like anxiety, hatred, loneliness, prejudice, greed, boredom, envy, and anger.

I chant in order to counteract and prevent these infections of the self.  Yes, this is why I chant.

Welcome to the Bhav …

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

 

 

 

 

On Forbidden Entrances & Angelic Messengers or A Tale of Relearning to Forgive

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Mark Twain

I AM a firm believer in forgiveness.  I believe that forgiveness is the key for each and everyone of us in working out our personal salvation and soul’s growth. It is one of the greatest gifts we have received from God.  For me the problem with forgiveness is not in forgiving a fellow traveler upon the path, but that I have to keep relearning this lesson over and over and over again.  Why is this such a hard lesson to master?  Why can’t I get it right?  Why do I struggle to forgive at times, when other times it is so easy?

Recently I watched DR. Maya Angelou on Super Soul Sunday.  I love DR. Angelou and consider her to be one of my greatest teachers.  During the interview Oprah asked DR. Angelou what is one of greatest  lessons she has learned and Dr. Angelou responded, her mother told her to forgive. To which Dr. Angelou further added “I forgive it. I don’t anoint it with anything. I just forgive it.” Oprah then asked Dr Angelou when you forgive someone,  does not mean you invite them into your house after that? To which Dr. Angelou responded, “No not at all. When I forgive you, it means I am done. I am finished with you. Go away. Not go away and harm someone else. I do so because I have to protect myself.” To which Oprah said, ” I have to be willing to take care of me first then I have enough to take care of myself first.”

This was an AHA moment for me.  “When I forgive you, it means I am done. I am finished with you. Go away.” There is so much more to this statement than meets the eyes.  This is not just a statement to be taken literally.  No, not literally, there is much to ponder here.  For me it meant I AM done with this lesson.  It is learned. I will not repeat this again.

I choose to write on forgiveness this evening due to two recent events that took place in my family during the past two weeks that left me deeply hurt, angered and depressed. Two weeks ago one of my cousins’ son graduated from high school.  They hosted a large party for him and the entire family was invited — well not quite the entire family.  I was not invited.  I was the only family member not to receive an invitation.  Upon seeing the pictures posted online and hearing others talk about the good time had by all I was deeply hurt by the exclusion.  To make matters worse, another cousin, the brother of the cousin I referred to previously, has a son who was married yesterday.  You guessed it; the entire family was invited except for me.  This exclusion was was like a knife being twisted in my guts.  I experienced two Cinderella moments and they hurt badly.  Again I saw the pictures and again I experienced a deep pain.

Earlier I referred to DR. Angelou and her approach to forgiveness.  She mentioned she does not “anoint” the situation.  My error this weekend was in anointing the situation.  I put too much time, energy and thought into the pain and hurt I was feeling.  My emotions spiraled out of control, leaving me feeling tired and drained and off kilter.  Thankfully through pray and silence I gained some insight and control.

So at this moment, I choose forgiveness.  I move past this hurt.  It doesn’t mean I approve of what’s happened. I’m not giving them a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD.  No, I’m giving myself that card.  Rather, I AM moving on with my life. This is the choice I make.

This isn’t to say the pain will miraculously disappear, The pain may never completely disappear, But I can let go of the anger.  I’m not going to invest in resentment anymore

I am a person who works to forgive. I try to see things from all sides. Often when we are being attacked, the attack is not about you or me but rather about the person who is attacking. This is easy to understand when the person attacking is not someone who was very special to us.

But when the hurt comes from someone that was very close to us, it is very hard to just turn our feelings off. It is very hard to just close the door without feeling some pain and hurt having to make that decision. It is on those occasions that we have to dig deep and go through the pain and hurt and separation in order to accept as DR Angelou says, “When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them.”

Again, this is where it all clicked for me. “When I forgive you, it means I am done. I am finished with you. Go away.” Like so many others I felt forgiveness means that I open the door again when in fact it does not. Forgiveness means I hold no spite to the person or people who have hurt me.  It does not mean I have to open my heart again to allow them in. I simply know it’s time to move on and let go. And that is exactly what I choose to do.

It is up to us to decide if we can invite those who have trespassed against us back in and if we can’t we forgive their transgression with love and let them go.

And so to my two cousins and your wives I say I forgive you.  I am done. I am finished with you. Go away.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

 

 

 

 

 

On Jupiter & Venus Hanging Like Grapes in the Evening Sky or Sowing the Seeds of …

I believe that within each and every one of us lie the seeds — the potential — to be great. All of us are born with the seeds of greatness within us.  Right about now one of you out there is thinking “What about Hitler???”  Yes, even Hitler.

So why do so few of us realize that potential?

I believe there are two things that are shared by those who realize their potential.  First, they have an eagerness to follow their dreams even when it becomes uncomfortable not only to themselves, but to those around them.  Secondly, those people have a singular vision – yes, they practice visualization.  Creative visualization is the practice of seeking to affect your outer world by changing one’s thoughts and expectations and visualizing the desired out come

Tesla, Bill Clinton, Michael Jordan, Walt Disney, Oprah and many more all had faced failure, fear and rejection on their journey to greatness. But they all stayed the course.  In religious terms they had their eye on the sparrow.  Notice that it is eye, singular –the spiritual eye — the all-knowing eye.  They kept to the path on their journey, they believed in themselves and eventually they arrived in the Promised Land – their Promised Land since they created their reality.

So despite the belief that successful people are born not made, the truth is we are responsible for nurturing those seeds of greatness within us to grow to their full potential.

All of us have special gifts and talents but without nurture and development, they will fade and go to waste much as an unkempt property will fall into disrepair. Recognizing those God given, born with qualities and attributes, and unique abilities that only we have and making a commitment to taking them all the way is actually the easy part. The hard part is sticking with it when the going gets tough. The hard past comes when we reach a standstill and we need to take the necessary measures to keep developing our abilities and continue growing towards our potential.  In hindsight, I can see so many times where I have fallen in the past.  I have fallen off my path many, many times; I have also found myself on paths not of my own making.  When this happens I remember a quote from the great Dr. Mayan Angelou grandmother:  “I looked up the road I was going, and since I wasn’t satisfied, I decided to step off the road and cut me a new path,”

Growing pains are real. Trust me, I know this all to well.  They are the most painful and challenging part of the path towards mastery and greatness. It is painful to have to recognize and scrutinize your weaknesses. It’s maddening to feel like you have to constantly start over whenever the time comes to learn something new so you can keep expanding your capacity to grow.

I’m going thru this maddening, painful part of the path currently.  I’ve been unemployed for over a year now.  I’ve had to reevaluate who I am and where I am in life as I go thru this period of my life.  I’m learning to travel new paths. I’ve been told I’m too fat or too old to be considered a serious candidate for jobs.  I’ve been told I have an extremely impressive resume and skill set and I’ll be hearing from them.  Sadly, I never do hear anything.  Not even a response to my follow up or thank you notes.  It drives me crazy, but still I press on.  I press on forging a new path – a path that is still shaded in darkness at times.  I press on, focusing on this new path and seeing what I must be — sowing, watering, weeding, nurturing.

I love the house I live in; I love the land I live on, land that has been in my family for nearly 100 years.  There have been times recently I wish I could immerse myself in an inspiring environment, to dive deep into my spiritual self and to take my art, my life to the next level. I can honestly say that I know I’m good at what I do but deep down in my heart and soul, I have never come close to the greatness that lies deep within me (I do know I’m great). Daily I work to nurture and express these gifts at the level of greatness and mastery that I know I’m capable of. I want to inspire others to do the same.

That’s the Utopian part of the story.  The fact is this work is grueling and painful.  Constantly I look at my weaknesses and commit to new physical, mental and spiritual practices that will address my faults and weaknesses. It means having to be honest with myself about where I’ve come from and where I’m at and gratefully accepting constructive criticism about things I’ve worked on tirelessly because I’m so make myself over. It means observing all my limiting beliefs about my worthiness, cleaning out all that old childhood programming from parents and teachers and my being good enough as they come up, and transforming them not once, not twice but as dozens and dozens of times as many times as it takes to have a real leap forward and exemplify the new belief. It means pushing through and showing up even on the days when I really don’t feel like it. And if the truth be told, I often feel like toast after having done the work.

We are meant to realize and express the greatness that is within each and every one of us. In order to do this, we must be willing to constantly shed layer after layer of assimilated knowledge, programming and experience to give way for the next lesson — the next level. And there’s no getting around the fact that growing hurts, — I hurt, and growing requires a great deal of humility.

The pain of regret and unrealized potential is even great. This applies to all aspects of life. It’s true in our spiritual quest, on the path of mastery in any creative endeavor, in our careers and in our relationships.

You have the potential for greatness. You are great.  You just don’t realize it yet.

On Slaying My Dragons or A Tale of the Overfed American

My dragon is food.  I have become the the typical, overfed, super-sized American.  It is hard to admit this but often I feel powerless when it comes to food.

I weighed 9 pound and 15 ounces at my birth.  I was a big baby.  My mom said I ate more than any baby she ever saw.  No matter what was put in front of me I ate it.  I think that is the story of my life.

As I write this I’m afraid to weigh myself; I don’t want to know my weight. My body hurts.  I worry that my knees will give out. Recently my Dad asked me what happened.  “You used to spend so much time in the gym and watching what you ate.  What happened?  Can’t you please start working out again?”  Writing this is painful for me.

Last year I started feeling tremendous pain on my right side.  I had an ultrasound done.  The results were that I had a “fatty liver and gallbladder.”  The doctor talked to me about having gastric bypass surgery.  I thought about and figured why bother.  If I didn’t learn to retrain my eating habits I knew I would gain the weight back and have a messed up stomach.

I continued to eat uncontrollably for another year.

I come from a line of good cooks on both sides of my family.  My Great-grandma Wright and my Grandma Wright both worked as cooks in diners for years.  Both my Mother and Father are amazingly cooks.  My Dad’s sisters are good cooks, and I am a good cook.  Food was always plentiful at my house.  My dad’s parents lived next-door and there was always food there too, not too mention that my dad’s sisters lived only a couple of houses away.  There were always fresh baked cookies or cakes or fruits around.  I remember eating to be connected to nearly all of our activities.  When we went to our cottage for vacations there was nearly as much time spent on planning menus and cooking meals as there was in our activities.  Our birthday parties as kids were big affairs with meals of our choices and extravagant cakes that my mother baked.  When we were in our teens we would get taken to Shakey’s Pizza Buffet with friends of our choosing.  You would think with all that food around I would be satisfied, but I wasn’t.  Everyday I would go to the store and buy a Hostess Fruit pie.  They were only $.25.  I loved them.  I remember doing this starting around the age of seven.  I only did it on weekends and in the summer though.  On school days I would get home and drink Kool-Aid and eat cookies at home while watching TV.   When I started First grade I ate hot lunch at school.  I remember loving all the food and the variety.  A friend of my Grandparents told them I ate more than any one child my age she had ever seen.  It was meant as a compliment that I had a healthy appetite.  By Second grade I was chubby.  I weighed more than anyone in my class.  I remember being weighed by Mrs. Hooyman and being told I weighted 82 pounds, I told her that I only weighed 80 pounds. She said that I ate too much at lunch and next time I should get weighed with my boots off.

When I was about 10 my Mom stopped buying Kool-Aid.  She was worried because I drank too much and she thought I would become diabetic.   It didn’t matter, by that time my Dad’s dad had passed away and I was spending almost every evening at my Grandma’s house watching TV with her.  She knew I liked 7-Up and Cheetos so she had them for me.  I would guess that I drank 3-4 16 ounce bottles of soda a night there and ate half a bag of Cheetos.  That went on for 5 years. Around this this time I was walking to school so I would stop at the store and buy a 2 pound bag of M&M’s every morning eat those for breakfast.  That lasted until I was a junior in high school.  By then I switched over to eating cherry pies again for breakfast since I could get them out of the commons vending machines.

I was popular in high school.  I never went through the teasing that many other chubby kids endured.  In third grade Nicky tried to nick-name me King Fats, but since he failed third grade it didn’t stick.  I was terrible at sports and disliked gym class but I was luckily blessed with gym teachers who understood that and were nice about it, never making a mockery of me like other heavy kids had to endure in their school days. And still,  I ate, and ate and ate.

At the start of my senior year of high school I decided I did not want to graduate as the fattest kid in my class.  I got our general practitioner to prescribe diet pills to me.  They were wonderful. I was never hungry and came up with the best diet in the world for losing weight.  Every other day I ate two hotdogs, two buns and two cans of diet root beer.  I lost 70 pounds in three months.  I finally lost weight and looked great. A year later I had gained 30 pounds.  I was drinking coke by the six pack and eating Snickers bars.  Fat, funny Kenny was back.

I am now in college.  I lived in the dorms and was required to take the food plan.  It was like eating a buffet of fatty, starchy foods three times a day and it was unlimited.  I ate like most of the guys in my dorm did.  The only difference was that they played sports, worked out and were active.  At nights we would drink wine or beer and eat pizza (you could buy 12” Tombstone Pizzas for $3.00 at my dorm).  Every Wednesday there was a Dynasty parties on my floor.  20 college aged guys watching Dynasty, drinking wine from cardboard boxes and eating pizzas. I drank coke like other people drink coffee.  I had two snickers bars around 10:00 AM as a snack to tide me over for lunch.

I did a lot of theater in college.  There were times I was working on six shows at a time.  This was true for many of my friends as well.  After rehearsals we would go out for pizza or subs, or deep fried cheese curds.  Our hang out was Laughin’ Lugis.  I still remember getting the foot long beef sub almost nightly.  Then around 11:30 PM, I would walk back to my dorm room and then usually have a pizza with my roommate.  I went directly into Graduate School at the same university.  The last house I lived in was next door to a McDonalds.  My last year of university I ate at McDonalds a couple of times a day.  I always had the Big Mac meal, super-sized with a 10 piece McNugget smother with hot mustard sauce.  By the time I quit grad school I had gained all 70 pounds back.  I weighed in at 240 once more.

I decided I needed to lose weight again.  This time I decided to do it differently.  No diet pills and no hotdogs.  I drank a lot of water everyday and I ate 3 grapefruit during the day.  Then at night I would eat half a sub from the K-Mart deli (I know what you are thinking and they were not that bad.)  Within three months I had lost all 70 pound and then some.  I weighed 165 pounds and I looked and felt great.  Friends from college said I looked too thin.  I thought they were crazy.  My life was dieting and exercising and work. I kept the weight off for over two years.

By this time I got hired to work at Classic Arts Dinner Theatre.  We got an employee discount to eat there and guess what; they had a lunch buffet there that only cost me $3.00 a day to eat at.  By this time I was tired of grapefruit.  I kidded myself by first only eating salads—smothered with blue cheese dressing and cheese and croutons.  Huge platters of salad, pretty soon I was adding the entrees to these and then the rice or potatoes dishes.  I remember a coworker there noticing how my appetite had been increasing.  I was embarrassed so I started eating at a buffet across the street where I would not be noticed.  Besides, they had a huge selection. On top of that, there was an A&W drive-in across the street that I would go to every night after the shows so I could get something to eat to “relieve the stress.”    With in a year I was 25 pounds heavier and I had stopped exercising.

Theatre doesn’t pay well, especially Midwestern dinner theatres.  I had to make more money.  I got a job as a waiter.  Kenny surrounded by food 8-10 hours a day equals danger Will Robinson.  The place I worked in had great food–all high in fat and carbs.  We specialized in burgers and subs and had the best chilli I have eaten to this day.  I would finish my shift and eat there.  We served these deep fried potatoes that were called potato planks.  We would smoother them with melted cheese, sour cream and onions.  I would eat a platter of them along with a sub or burger and unlimited refills of soda.  I ate this daily for lunch and dinner.  After work we would usually go out to eat and eat the same kind of food we ate all day at work.  By the end of 18 months of working at the Sandwich Factory I had regained all that weight and more.

After this I went to work as a Manager for Blockbuster Video.  My office was next door to Hardees.  I made a deal with the manager there.  She got free video rentals and I got free meals.  I was a vegetarian by then.  The problem was that I ate cheese and fries and load of fatty foods.  I needed the cheese to get my protein.  She watched a lot of movies and I ate lots of food.  We also stocked candy bars and soda in the store front and I would grab those several times a day and eat them for snacks — to keep my energy up.

After two years I got laid off.  I moved back to my parents and laid around in a funk.  By now I must have weighed 275 pounds.  I was grossly obese.  I worked around my parent’s house and ate, and ate more.  My parents have always had a well stocked refrigerator and kitchen.  I could eat all I wanted.  I would sneak downstairs at night make a huge plate of whatever was leftover and I learned to be so quiet, baking pizzas, making sandwiches and scooping ice cream.  I would gorge myself.

At the end of my two year funk I weighed 290 pounds.  I made stabs at working out but didn’t really commit to anything.  I would try aerobics, biking, Callenitics, and yoga; I even bought “Stop the Insanity with Susan Powter; I liked her and would do the workouts.  I even bought ankle weight and would walk with them on not realizing they were giving me shin splints.  And through this all I ate.

I went back to work at Ameritech, later merged with SBC.  It seemed that everyone there was fat; fat like me.  It was an office of overweight people who loved to eat.  Every other Friday we would have office “Pigouts.”  There were 250-300 people in my department and we would have a huge potluck meals and gorge ourselves on food; eating all day long.  It was around this time that gastric bypasses gained popularity.  A lot of the men and woman in my office started having them done.  It was the surgery du jour.  I was urged to get it done, but decided this time I would lose weight the right way and keep it off for good. I started Body for Life, experimented with supplementation and hired a trainer.  I took to working out like a duck to water.  I measured what I ate, drank protein shakes and ate nothing past 7:00 PM.  I became an encyclopedia of knowledge on weight loss and working out.  I started training other people.  For once I had lost weight in a healthy way, looked good and felt great.  I got down to 200 pounds but I was lean and healthy.  I was an example to people this time.  I worked hard to help others lose weight as well.  I was proud.

I knew it was time for a change in my life and I moved to San Francisco.  I shared a studio with a friend of mine.   He was very unhappy and his unhappiness spread to me.  Robert’s greatest joy was belittling me and I started to believe what he said.  I worked out diligently here but eventually I was worn down.  I started to overeat.  We would eat huge meals at night when he got home from work — 10:00 PM.  I would eat breakfast from the lunch wagon that drove past my first job here—2-3 corndogs a day and lunch was always from some fast food place.  I lost my interest in working out and would go sporadically.    People started noticing I was gaining weight.

I also started volunteering with a small, non-profit theatre company around this time.  I used that as an excuse to skip the gym.  I would work and then go to rehearsal.  We would eat a lot of crappy junk food and fast food there.  I resisted at first but soon gave in wanting to belong to something here and tired of being lonely.  People that work in theater tend to be messed up and old addictions and patterns started to reemerge.  There were always cookies around and soda, and I would eat them nonstop, all night.

Eventually I moved into a healthier living situation. A week after I moved, I go laid off.  To make ends meet I babysat that summer while looking for work.  I spent the summer eating macaroni and cheese, ice cream and hotdogs with the boys I babysat for.  At night I would eat at 7-11 since it was cheap or eating the $0.99 cent pizzas from Cala-foods.  I had to make it through the summer.  I got a workout buddy and started to train him hoping to reverse the fat, but I was still eating poorly; he made great strides with my advice and I got fatter.

I eventually got a job working for a dotcom.  I was pretty broke by then.  I was grateful that the office was located next to a McDonalds and a Taco Bell.  You get lots to eat at a cheap price.  My gym was also in the same building and I never once set foot in it during work.  It was around this time I discover the Asian Buffets of San Francisco.  I loved sushi and I loved to eat at these places.  I would gorge myself on sushi several times a week.

Before I realized it I weighed 300 pounds.  It was around this time, late 2005, that I became friends with Maggie.  She weighed as much if not more than me and loved buffets and knew where they were all over the city.  Our friendship ended over food (I told her I could not eat at buffets any longer—she took it personally). We would go to buffets at least three times a week and then go to Orphan Andy’s for cake and ice cream.  I think in all my life my unhealthiest period of eating came during my friendship with her.  The funny thing is she is a therapist who is in denial about her food issues and we supported each other in those denials.  When I started to be honest with myself about food issues it broke us up and she has resented it to this day.

A few years ago I was transferred to Illinois.  While there I ballooned even more to my highest weight of all time.   I discovered a whole new set of foods and restaurants.  I got tired of being so huge and soon lost 50 pounds eating lean pockets.  Since then I have moved to Wisconsin to help with some family issues.  My weight has stayed within 10 pounds of this 50 pound weight loss.  I feel like it’s now or never and I need to get healthy and release the weight once and for all.

I still over eat at times, but I am getting better.  It is hard for me to admit being powerless over food, but I deep down inside know it’s true.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!

On Nightmares & Adventures or A Tale of the Virgin Blogger

My blog, my very first blog post.  My nightmare and my adventure.

I never thought I would find myself at 51 fat, unemployed and single.  Honestly, I never thought I’d find myself to be 51.  51 — my  nightmare and my adventure.

Fear not.  While I never thought I’d find myself to be 51, I have found myself at 51.  More accurately, I have started to find myself at 51.

As part of this process I have decided to write and share my journey thru this year and beyond. My journey of inner and outer transformation, my journey of self-discovery and ultimately this amazing journey of getting to know myself again and finding my core.

I don’t know why I feel the need to share this journey publicly.  I’ve always been a private person.  Perhaps I want to feel relevant in a quickly changing world.  Maybe I want to be held accountable for my actions and what I accomplish going forward.  Or maybe I just want some encouragement and a pat on the back every once in awhile.  Whatever the reason, I want you to join me on this crazy, exciting trip.

So today, I start eating healthier.  Today I start exercising.  And, most importantly, today I start spending more time in silence, listening to God.

I want to thank Tommy C for his encouragement and guiding hand, Jamie V-R, for her support and positive attitude, Ben at Stellar Blue for the tutorial, Susan & Bala for their unwavering faith in me, and to  Scott H, Kristine A & my beloved Rachel K for the gift and blessing of your friendship.

Lastly, thanks to all of you for reading my blog.

Bhole Babaji ki Jai!