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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!

 

 

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 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!