The Next Step


The next step isn’t always clear.

What an understatement.

Motivated people always know where they are going, the voice in my head tells me.

Nope. Wrong. Turns out we all must live with uncertainty. Talking to others more than I have in the past has served to underline this truth of daily existence.

Uncertainty is a driver. The question is: How do I keep it from driving me nuts?

Best way to beat it, I’ve found, is to stay connected to my family (thank God it’s functional) and to surround myself with people striving for the same goals. A community of like-minded people. I’m being deliberately vague here. Everyone has his or her unique tribe.

Most days I have a certain set of goals to accomplish. Some small. Some not so small. I always leave at least a little time to make it up as I go along. Some days are broad canvases waiting to be painted with…whatever. Other days are jam packed with things to do. Most of my days are consumed with a combination of survival needs and creative projects crying for attention.

Twenty years ago, I made the transition from the binding ties of a corporate job to the freedom of planning my days according to what I wanted to do.

Most people dream of this freedom, but I’ve learned that it comes with a price. Freedom is worthless without a purpose.

Without purpose, my mind wanders into bad neighborhoods. Worry. Anxiety. Depression. You know what I’m talking about.

I’ve discovered that my purpose changes as I change. I am like a sea captain adjusting my course as my inner landscape changes. My course also changes depending upon the feedback I get in response to my actions.

If I can’t get over an obstacle, I get around it. If I can’t do either, I find something else to do. When it becomes painfully obvious that I’ve hit a dead end, it’s time to move on.

There is a fine line between quitting and wisdom.

Recently, I had to admit to myself that, after spending twenty years writing screenplays and novels, it was no longer in my wheel house to do it. It hurt deeply to come to this conclusion. Once I got over myself, I realized that I’m much happier writing blogs to people who can appreciate them. I hope that’s you. I’m doing this for both of us.

Life is full of challenges. At this point, I believe the central point of human existence is to set up positive challenges as much as humanly possible. I don’t look for trouble. I try not to create unnecessary problems. Life is already hard enough, thank you very much.

Creating positive challenges helps to relieve my anxiety. They also take my mind off of the uncertainty.

I listen to my heart. I accept my needs and limitations. I move forward from where I am.

Still, the future remains stubbornly uncertain. All I am given is today. Let me make the most of it. I wish the same for you.

The Time Traveler


Time Portal

In troubling times, it helps to get out of our heads. Try this flight into fantasy on for size.

Rush hour traffic

Reading bumper stickers

Bumper to bumper

What if

Suddenly

Time jogs out of joint

No traffic

Traffic-less

No highway

A tunnel

Swings into view

Sea shell music

A pulsing oval

Misty edges

The silver sedan rolls and rocks

Sideways

Front ways

Like a Disney ride

Nothing solid

Out of body

The sedan morphs

Into something else

Sleek

A magnificent steed

The tunnel pulsing faster

Strobe lighting

Compressed

Into atoms

Super nova

Lost in a sea of light

Memories stir like fall leaves in the wind

The broken bridges from here to there

Streaming through the eye of a needle

In multi-colored rainbows

Standing on an orange crate

Selling apples, pears, almonds and honey

To strangers who do not even know they are hungry

Bright sunlight becomes

The dead of night a millisecond later

The traveler astride the platinum saddle of the time machine

Racing through the vortex of centuries

Time Travel Vortex

 

I’m Alive


Highway Carved Through Mountains

Here’s the jumpy title song from Jackson Brown’s album “I’m Alive” (1993). The song is about Brown’s breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Daryl Hannah.

Photo by Adityah Vyas on Unsplash.com

What Lies Deep Within?


Exploring an Underwater Cave

Go beyond the mundane mutterings of mind

I tell myself

Into a broader perspective

Into a deeper reservoir of peace and love within

Dive

Explore

I tell myself

It’s there

It is really there

Deep within

I’m told there is no end to the depths

Yet, here I am

Standing on the shore

Barely scratching the surface

Despite all of my sanctimonious efforts

I’m okay with it

I tell myself

Better to taste the drop

Than to taste nothing at all

Exploring an Underwater Cave

Tips for Staying Sane Now and Forever


Gravel splashing from stock car drifting on dirt track.

Is the car running away from something? Is it running towards something? Or is it just some dumb kid with a lead foot accelerating off of a dirt shoulder? If you picked option three, you get an all expenses paid free night at a Comfort Inn in Sawdust, Idaho. Here’s a more detailed description of what happened.

The cop who gave the kid a speeding ticket has left the scene. The kid is angry. He’s also trying to impress his sixteen-year-old girlfriend sitting next to him in the bucket seat of a restored 1971 Pontiac GTO.

The kid is basically a nobody, despite his ability to restore vintage cars, who is trying to prove he’s a somebody. It doesn’t help that he’s preternaturally short and stubby for a seventeen-year-old. It does help that he’s been blessed with freakish good looks. And, he’s never had a bad case of acne. His girlfriend, Luisa, is an average-looking teenager who started wearing braces later in life than most of her peers. Fortunately for Luisa, a company called Invisalign has invented a unique clear plastic brace that doesn’t look as bad as metal braces. These braces aren’t even called braces. They are called “clear aligners.” Isn’t that clever?

(Please note: I had never heard of Invisalign before I wrote this post. I was vaguely aware that something like clear braces exist, so I Googled “Clear Braces.” Invisalign came up. For all I know, the claims the company makes are pure poppy cock).

To be perfectly honest, Luisa’s good fortune regarding her braces is completely beside the point. The big question is, as I’m sure you are wondering by now, why does Luisa hang around with the kid? There is no cut and dried answer, as is the case with many things in life. It may be that she is a good listener. The kid does most of the talking in the relationship, and, as far as Louisa can determine, she is the only person around who takes an interest in what the kid has to say. Another factor is that nobody besides the kid is beating a path to Luisa’s door. So, a bird in the hand applies.

There are other subtler reasons to account for the kid’s presence in Luisa’s life. We don’t have time to get into all of them. Mainly, and to her surprise, Louisa has admitted to herself that she likes the kid. A little. Upon further examination, she has realized it’s impossible not to form a connection with someone you spend regular time with, unless that person turns out to be a serial killer.

I’ve been remiss in mentioning the kid’s name. It is Elmore. The name is another cross the kid has to bear. His father was an avid fan of the writer, Elmore Leonard. Hence the  first name. Shit happens.

Elmore likes to impress anyone who will listen with his knowledge of fast cars. He likes to put adults on the spot by asking them questions like, “Do you know what the letters GTO stand for?” Occasionally, an elder will know the answer, but most of them say, Grand Touring…Uhh.

Elmore stands there smugly and says,  “It stands for Gran Turismo Olomongato.”

A pregnant pause normally follows. Elmore proceeds to explain that Gran Turismo Olomongato is an Italian phrase denoting a race car that is officially sanctioned for grand tour racing competition. Upon hearing this, Elmore’s audiences generally find an excuse to peel off in another direction, leaving Elmore to ponder why such a phenomenon happens with maddening regularity. He then consoles himself with the thought that most people beyond the age of twenty-one have become passionless souls obsessed with boring careers.

I’ll have to end here, because I know that people don’t like to read long blogs. I started writing this by randomly downloading the picture at the top. I recommend it as a fun exercise if you have no clue what to write about. If I had something socially redeemable to write about, I would. If you are looking for a theme to this blog, try this: To Stay Sane in the Midst of a Worldwide Pandemic, Sometimes It Helps to Write About Nonsense. This is probably a good practice any old time.

Questions abound as to what will happen to Elmore and Luisa. How will they grow as characters? Will they fall in love? Who besides these two will enter the story? What is the central conflict. And who is the antagonist? If you have any interest, let me know and I’ll continue the saga. And, if you have any story ideas, don’t be shy to suggest them. Your thoughts are welcome.

 

 

 

 

What Would Happen If We Made Life Simpler and Less Difficult?


Simplicity and serenity in Japanese zen garden concept for balance and concentration.

To say there is a lot going on these days is an understatement. To say most of it is very troubling will not shock anyone. To ask, “What can I do about it?” is a worthwhile question.

Can I trust politicians in this country, Republican or Democrat, to protect me? No.

Can I change the world through the political process? I don’t think so.

What can I do, then?

Here are a few ideas.

I can become a better person.

I can take precautions to keep myself coronavirus free and not infect others.

I can reduce the time I listen to the constant drumbeat of bad news.

I can use the extra time to pause and reflect upon something sublime for a change. I can look at life from a different perspective. I can ask myself these questions:

What if consciousness became curious and created this world, including you and me, simply to have the pleasure of experiencing itself?

What if consciousness had already created millions of worlds and dimensions before it created this one for the same simple purpose?

In other words, what if we owed our existence to the natural tendency of consciousness to expand and play?

If this is true, then why do I take myself so seriously?

If consciousness wants to have pleasure and play through me, then why is there so much destruction and suffering in the world?

Do we bring most of the suffering and destruction upon ourselves?

What if we found a way to make life less of a struggle?

What if we opened ourselves to the love and joy that must exist somewhere within us?

What do you think would happen?

Jet Propelled


Stylized Boeing Jet Engine

I downloaded this image randomly because I had no idea what to write about. Let’s see if we can have some fun with wordplay.

Airplanes have always interested me. They still do, as long as I don’t have to ride in coach. I used to make model planes as a kid. I only made the plastic variety, because the technique for making paper and balsa wood models always eluded me. They made it look so easy. And the finished product looked beautiful. Expert model plane makers painted them in custom colors. I never met anyone who could make one. You must possess a god-given talent to do it. You have be an artist, in the model plane sense. Chalk it up to an early encounter with limitations.

Talking about limitations, they didn’t bother me as a kid. Like most kids, I just went on to the next thing. No big deal.

Later in life, limitations became a big deal. It hurt to bump up against them. It hurt to see my dreams go down in flames. I had to learn to accept my limitations. Accepting limitations is a wise thing to do, but it’s definitely not fun. That’s why god gave us imaginations.

Q: Without imagination, where would I be?

A: I’d be Stuck in a cramped, bad news, and boring world. (There is only one event that can make the news worse these days: Nuclear War).

If I imagine ten things and can only make one of them happen, I’m better off.

If I imagine a better world for me, automatically the world around me changes for the better.

Okay, back to jet propulsion….My mind won’t let go of this imagination thing. No one, except myself, can stop me from having a jet-propelled imagination. People can laugh at me, including my wife, but I don’t care. I’ve pretty much lived in an imaginary world up to this advanced stage of life. I’m still here. I will not try to fix it if it ain’t broke. As you can imagine, living eighty percent of your life in an imaginary world has it’s advantages. It also has it’s disadvantages. And so on. 

If I don’t do a better job of sticking to the topic, I’ll have to change the title of this post to “The Benefits of Using Your Imagination,” or something self-helpy like that.

Jet propelled. Hmmm….Who am I? Well, certainly not jet propelled. That narrows it down a bit. I can list all of the things I do and who I am in relationship to others, but I don’t want to bore you.

So, Who am I? Really?

I’ve learned that I’m essentially consciousness experiencing itself. I understand the concept, but the experience, the reality of it on a consistent basis, stubbornly refuses to ground itself in me. Another one of those limitations? Not really. I’m infinite and limited simultaneously. I believe it, even though it isn’t my everyday experience. I know people who experience it daily. It’s amazing that I even know them. There aren’t many people walking around who can honestly make this claim. Not that I’m special or anything. I’m just crazy enough to hang around with this tribe.

Okay, so I’ve successfully (for the most part) avoided the subject of “jet propelled.” I’m still going to leave the title as such, because most people will not be interested in the other stuff I’ve talked about.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading.  May all (or most) of your dreams come true.

Jet Plane Taking Off at Sunset

Money is Good (Happiness Too)


Spirituality and Money

I’m taking a ten-week online course about awakening to consciousness. One of the teachers in the course made some statements in a video about money and happiness that irritated me to the bone.

The teacher said, in effect, that the pursuit of happiness and money in our culture is the cause of many of the problems we are experiencing today. He also said our pursuit of happiness and money doesn’t work, and that we are undergoing a “paradigm shift in consciousness,” presumably to something better. He went on to indicate that the pursuit of happiness is not one of our primary drives. He said it is something that our culture has conditioned us to do. I thought my earbuds had malfunctioned when I heard this.

Because these statements are broad, they open the door to misinterpretation. I may have misunderstood what this fellow was saying, but the statements moved me to bring up a few points.

This teacher may be talking about the way we seek money and happiness, and there is a certain truth to this. But I also picked up from the discourse a bias against the acquisition of wealth and our traditional pursuits of pleasure.

It’s easy to get lost in the wilderness when we are breaking new ground.

While we can always do better, we have to use discretion in the ways that we effect change in ourselves and the world around us. Positive change is gradual. We don’t want to drive off a cliff and explode in a ball of flames. We want to be careful not to “throw the baby away with the bath water.”

We all need pleasure. We all need love. We all need happiness and, dare I say it, joy. We need them as much as food, shelter and clothing. And there is nothing wrong with having all of these things, not just marginally, but amply, in any pursuit, including awakening to consciousness.

I’m sure, at least in myself, that the search for happiness is my primary drive. The big “shift” came when my experiences as a young man taught me to look for happiness within myself first.

If I am happy and fulfilled within myself, then I will have something worthwhile to share with others. It may be that I can’t grasp and hold onto happiness, but I can surely point myself in the direction of experiencing more feelings of joy, peace, and love which, in my book, are foundational to well-being.

This teacher also makes a point that money does not provide security, peace of mind, or happiness. While it is true that money alone cannot provide these things, I am certain that a solid financial base contributes substantially to our individual and collective health and well-being. Not having enough money is a distraction. If I have to constantly worry about where my next meal is coming from, or the roof over my head, or having enough clothing to wear, there will be little or no time left for achieving anything besides survival goals.

And the sad truth is that most people in this world today are financially vulnerable to the point of distraction. With the added burdens of the pandemic, our survival needs are more than a distraction. We are faced with the threat of severe illness and death every day. Life was hard enough before the pandemic hit. It’s nearly impossible for many of us now.

However, if we take the pandemic out of the picture, and, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, our economic problems don’t stem from our democratic government, our culture, or any other external factors. As Shakespeare’s Cassius said, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

We have the freedom to choose what we do with our lives. If our opportunities for economic advancement are limited, we have the power to change those conditions.

We all have resistances in our bodies and minds to the realization of personal happiness. With the application of intelligent free will, we can overcome these barriers.

Having enough money is a blessing. It is a resource that enables us to feed and protect our families, to have a semblance of peace of mind, to achieve higher goals, and to help others.

I’ve managed my life so that I am free to pursue higher evolutionary goals. I am not a slave to anybody or anything. I am relatively free. I’m certainly not free in the sense that the Buddha was free. But I’m free enough to operate in the way that I want to operate. If I screw up, it’s on me.

I’ve seen too many broke and unhappy “spiritual seekers.” They use their quest as a haven from their failures in life. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s a cop-out.

Whether or not we are actively pursuing an awakening to consciousness, there is nothing wrong with striving for happiness. Happiness is a choice and an attitude. It doesn’t fall down from the sky into our lap. It’s a constant learning process. It can be extremely tricky. It can be very simple. It requires discretion. It can be a struggle. There is only one obstacle that can prevent you from realizing our vision of happiness. That obstacle is us.

If we are on any consciously intentional path to awakening, there is nothing wrong with striving to attain financial security. We only have to know how to use money for our own betterment, and the betterment of mankind.

There is nothing to hold us back from achieving our goals besides the worn out saying that goes: “You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

You can.

Where Does Peace Begin?


Connecting to Inner Peace

I am constantly amazed that people wander around all day staring into their smart phones, as if these devices somehow magically fulfill all of their needs except possibly eating and procreating.

Before we continue, let me assure you of a few things, gentle reader. Despite a lack of addiction to my iPhone, I am fairly certain that I am not an alien.  I do not live in an ashram.  I have not recently arrived here from the year 1910 by time machine. I live a conventional life blessed with wonderful people around me including an extraordinary wife and daughter. I even liked my mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, which is the only thing that makes me unusual. Come to think of it, I also read paper back books regularly, which also makes me odd.

Like most people, I want to connect. Personally, I am content with fewer connections than most people I observe. At the same time, I admire people who can connect extensively with others while managing to live constructive lives focused on a positive purpose. (I’m not entirely sure people like this exist in large numbers these days, especially with respect to common sense coronavirus safety precautions).

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

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

Where does all of this “outer-connecting” and constant external focus leave us?  Unfortunately, IMO, a little empty inside. Perhaps lonely too.

I believe we have to spend more time connecting with ourselves. More specifically, we have to connect with a place inside that is an oasis of peace, harmony, and love.

I’m fortunate to have found that place inside. It is better described as an option to go within to experience a feeling of peace and completeness. It’s something I discovered more than thirty years ago. This feeling has stayed with me through changes, ups and downs, good and bad, and a shift into a new and different spiritual community. It’s not usually a strong feeling. It’s often subtle. But it’s there.

I balance my active outer life with a serene, fulfilling inner life. This balance has helped me to be happier, more productive, and more positive. You might say what I do on the outside has more meaning and is more effective because of the peace and harmony I have found within. It’s not an idea. It’s not a thought. It has nothing to do with my mind. It’s a real experience of peace and fulfillment emanating from my heart. (I’m speaking in ideal terms here to make a point. As my dear departed mother used to say; “Some days are diamonds and some days are gold.” Mom had a great attitude. I have to add: And other days are, well…fill in the blank). Moving on…

Peace begins in the heart, as does love, joy, compassion, and hope. We have the choice to make these feelings a bedrock of our lives. Or, we can continue to pollute the garden of our hearts by planting the weeds of hatred, cynicism, and despair. It takes a conscious effort to cultivate either one. Which choice will you make?

 

Is there a Silver Lining to Corona?


Can There Be a Silver Lining to Corona?

Can there be an upside to something as horrible as the Coronavirus?

Well, maybe.

While I (we) can’t ignore the tragedies and hardships CV has visited upon so many of us, I think it helps to realize there have also been benefits that will accrue to everyone who makes it through these troubling times.

We all have goals of one kind or another. Some are easy to accomplish, like a “to do” list of daily errands. The ones that are higher on the food chain of goals are more challenging. They require more effort, perseverance and imagination.

What if I told you the CV pandemic made my higher goals easier to accomplish?

Grant me a few more paragraphs to explain.

Since the pandemic began, I’ve taken the mental pressure off of myself. I’ve cut way back on what I expect from myself. As a result, I’ve been more creative, more productive, and I’m having more fun.

In other words, the stay-at-home Covid lifestyle gave me the perfect excuse to slow down and relax. I’m guessing many of you have had a similar experience?

Here are a few examples of what I mean.

First of all, I’m not pursuing happiness with a vengeance. I don’t feel the self-imposed pressure of making myself or someone else happy. I’m just dealing with the Coronavirus situation one day at a time. I’m keeping it simple. I’m not forcing myself to be active. I’m not running around all over the place trying to “do something meaningful with my life.”

As a result, I’ve been working out more than I usually do. And I’m doing most of it at home rather than trekking to a gym somewhere. I’m saving time and energy. I’m in better shape. And guess what; I’m a lot happier than I’ve been in a long time.

Secondly, I’ve had a creative renaissance. I’ve dropped the “shoulds,” the “ought to’s” and the guilt. I’m not thrashing around thinking; What are you going to write today?  What, no ideas? How can you be so empty and lazy?

Instead, I’m not worried about writing anything. And voila. The ideas are coming to me spontaneously. The idea for this post came to me unbidden. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But it wasn’t happening. Now, I’m enjoying writing this stuff. It’s not torture. Imagine that.

On to music. My music. Well, it’s not exactly my music. Plato said; ““Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” That’s a nice quote. I especially like the part about music giving life to everything. I feel the truth of it.

I enjoy singing and playing acoustic guitar songs by my favorite artists. When I get them down “just right,” I record and post them on my blog and on Facebook. I do it because I just plain like doing it. Since I’ve been happier lately, I’ve been doing it a lot more. And I’m downloading inexpensive tutorials to learn exactly how an artist like Cat Stevens plays a song I like. It’s fun and a good way to improve the old guitar technique.

I’m hoping some of this musical joy will rub off on my friends.

There are so many other silver lining stories like this one:

A personal trainer friend of mine told me she has increased her income and clientele by offering her coaching sessions online. She is no longer bound by geography. And she saves time, energy, and gas money with online sessions. Now that gyms have re-opened, she can do sessions online and in person.

I have to give some credit for my new-found happiness to the spiritual community I participate in. There are now nourishing online events I can attend almost every day of the week. It gives me the focus I want and it has helped me to be more grateful for what I have in my life. These community events, which started out as online support for the journey through CV, will now be extended beyond the Covid period.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” We are responding by developing creative solutions to the CV crisis, both individually and collectively. So hang in there, and find the silver lining shining through the clouds every day in your life.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

%d bloggers like this: