If in our daily life, we can smile; if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.
Thich Nhat Hanh
If in our daily life, we can smile; if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.
Thich Nhat Hanh
When you find more love within yourself, you will find more love for everyone and everything.
Cat Stevens rose to prominence as a folk and pop artist in the 1970’s. I’ve always enjoyed the thread of childlike innocence and spontaneity that runs through his music. After a near-death experience, Stevens began a serious search for a deeper meaning in life. In 1977, he left his rock and roll lifestyle and converted to Islam adopting the name Yusuf Islam.
Stevens wrote “The Wind” five years before his conversion. The song has always been one of my favorites. It’s a simple song that speaks volumes. In a 2022 Rolling Stone interview, Stevens (Yusuf) shared these thoughts about The Wind:
“I’m talking to somebody; I think it’s the divine, but I’m not quite sure, and because I’m not sure, it’s universal. My goal was to be able to detach myself from my physical surroundings and material things. I was very earnestly searching. I would visit esoteric bookshops whenever I could, and pick up whatever new pathway to the truth I could find.”
Here’s my cover of the song played in Yusuf Islam’s unique guitar style.
A telephone call changed the life of Julie Gold. Although she had solid management, steady gigs, and a powerful repertoire, she failed to progress as a singer/songwriter until becoming involved with the Greenwich Village singer/songwriter scene. Performing at open mikes, Gold was befriended by Christine Lavin, who became her mentor.
When Julie’s parents sent her a piano she played while growing up, the first song she wrote on it was titled “From a Distance.” Lavin sent a tape of the song to a rising star on the country/folk music scene.
While working as a secretary for HBO in New York, Gold received her life-changing phone call from Nanci Griffith. Nanci wanted permission to record “From a Distance” on her cross-over album, Lone Star State of Mind. The album and the song went on to become big hits.
“From a Distance” became even more popular and won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year when Bette Midler recorded it in 1990.
Here is my cover of the song accompanied by an original guitar composition.
This blog post is dedicated to Toby Aurora Bentley. Toby was taken from us too soon. May she rest in peace and love until we can welcome her back.
When Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, the band had been in a state of constant turnover. Originally a blues band, the group was as famous for its revolving door of guitarists and vocalists as it was for its handful of hits. Because of its changing lineup, the band had no signature sound. Fortunately, the addition of Buckingham and Nicks was just what Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and his then-wife Christine McVie needed to achieve the group’s long-overdue success. The duo gave the band new energy, a unique and recognizable vocal sound, and material that would become part of Fleetwood Mac’s identity, like the song“Landslide.”
A song about the changes and challenges of life, Stevie Nicks wrote “Landslide” in 1974 in Aspen’s snow country when her then-boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham, was on tour. Nicks has said in interviews that the song is about her romance with Buckingham and their career struggles, as well as her relationship with her business-executive father. Her months in the mountains helped to inspire the song’s title contained in the lines:
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills/‘Til the landslide brought me down.
Another verse contains questions that most of us ask ourselves at one time or another:
Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
While they may sound simple, the introspection of these words resonated with millions of record buyers and helped to make the debut album by this Fleetwood Mac cast one of the best-selling albums of the 1970s.
How great musicians like Lindsey Buckingham create original compositions like this one is beyond my understanding. His guitar accompaniment on this song is a testament to his extraordinary talent.
Here’s my cover of “Landslide.”
Love is the Truth of the Heart
This phrase came to me when I woke up this morning. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds interesting. So…let’s go exploring.
It could be someone telling me to recall the wrong turns I’ve made in life. To be honest, I haven’t made that many, but I’ve made enough. I’ve come perilously close to crashing and burning more than once.
I believe each one of us is walking a tightrope across a broad and deep chasm. Somehow, most of us are making it across. We are doing so by the hand of grace. Because we are loved. You might even say cherished. It’s easy to forget this love, but it is always there, like a gentle hand, guiding us on our way. I may often feel alone, but truly, I am not.
I hope these words help you on your journey. Have a wonderful day!
In these troubling times, it seems like the world could go off a cliff at any moment.
I remember what it was like in the nineteen-sixties when we lived under the threat of nuclear devastation. Today, we live under the veil of multiple threats: COVID, cyber attacks, totalitarian regimes, Jihad, the environmental crisis and a few others topping the list. Taken together, I believe these threats have made the world a more dangerous place to live in than ever before.
Can I/we do anything about these threats? Let’s try to answer the question with some self-inquiry.
I’ve noticed on WordPress that there is a lot of blogging about the pain of life: heartbreak, lost loves, loneliness, anxiety, and more. Sure, pain is part of life, and people can relate to it. My question is: Is there something else?
The news carries stories constantly about the daily tragedies that occur around the world. Last night, for example, I was listening to a CNN report about a horrible flash flood in Germany. It’s good to know about these things, but is there something else I can focus on?
If I am a compassionate person and I listen to the suffering of others, is there someplace I can go to find peace, strength, and even, God forbid, Joy?
How many people in the world interrupt their complaining to find this place? Does it exist? Have you found it?
And finally, if I find peace within myself, will the world be a better and more peaceful place to live in?
Think about it.
Before we close, I’d like to continue the inquiry with some questions surrounding the hot topic of vaccinations.
If you don’t want to get vaccinated because the short or long-term effects are unknown, do you stand a better chance of survival if you get the more virulent COVID Delta Variant?
Did you know if the rate of Delta infections keeps rising, there is a very good chance the virus will mutate into even more virulent strains? Quite possibly, these new variants could be immune to our current vaccines.
Do you realize that not getting vaccinated puts not only you, but everyone else in the world at high risk?
If you are in good health, what is your reason(s) for choosing not to be vaccinated?
It seems I can’t end without singing you a song. Talking about the sixties, here’s one that goes back there. It’s from Steve Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, every song on this album is outstanding, except maybe the first one. Steve Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented artist.
“Back On The Street Again” is one Gillette’s best known songs. The song is about a lost love (there I go contradicting myself). It’s also about getting back up and moving on. I find the song to be touching and stirring. Maybe you will too.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
This is the prologue to the new edition of “Three Days to Darkness.” I’ve extensively rewritten the original novel (first published in 2010) to bring it up to date. It’s amazing how the world has changed in eleven years, but some things never change, like the themes grounding the story. I’ve also added a paperback edition to the digital edition, along with a spiffy new interior design. Don’t miss this heartwarming, humorous, and action-packed saga available at major online retailers worldwide.
Darius McPherson never saw it coming. His thoughts were elsewhere. On the kids. The ones he could save. They weren’t kids, really. Some of them were older than him. They were all tough and uneven around the edges, but a few of them were diamonds in the rough. They were the ones he considered his kids. They had real potential. They just needed someone to care about them. They needed a role model and some inspiration. Darius was happy to provide both. Not a bad summer gig for a guy waiting for his first year of law school to begin.
He pressed the bell on the side of the barred wooden door. The royal blue paint under the ugly bars gleamed in the direct sunlight and looked completely out of place in the burned-out industrial neighborhood in midtown Detroit.
He waited patiently to be buzzed into the youth counseling center. “Be right with you, Darius,” his supervisor said through the intercom. He liked Allison Turner. In her late thirties and twice divorced, she had managed to stay kind-hearted despite rough circumstances. She was also extremely capable. Allison had taught him more about inner-city teenagers than he could have learned in a decade on his own.
The door opened and a group of youthful offenders burst into the street. Darius knew several of them. They were attending classes at the center as part of their plea bargains. Darius smiled at them, even though he knew most of them were as dangerous as plastic explosive wired to detonate at the slightest provocation.
“Hey La Vonn” Darius called to the tallest boy in the group. “I hope you learned something today.”
“Yeah. How to stay outta’ the crowbar hotel,” the slender boy replied.
“Do you mean learning how to game the system or how to stay out of jail?”
Darius noticed La Vonn’s eyes open wide. He turned around in time to see a gray Lincoln Navigator with shiny, twenty-inch wheels and dark tinted windows round a nearby corner. No rap music blared from inside the car, which made Darius suspicious. He heard the sound of footsteps running away from him. He thought it undignified to run. And why would anyone in the neighborhood want to harm him? When the windows came down in unison, a cold chill went through his body. Darius saw young men wearing ski masks inside the car. He had no time to react.
The first shots hit the cinderblock wall of the youth center. Not unlike fireworks on the Fourth of July, Darius remembered thinking before a bullet pierced his chest. At first, he felt like an ice pick had stabbed him in the heart. Then there was a burning sensation. He remembered seeing his body lying on the cracked sidewalk in a pool of blood. The last thoughts that went through his brain were of his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and of course, Rebecca. After that, he sensed his awareness swirling down a dark tunnel opening at the far away end into some kind of scintillating light.
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“The path forward may sometimes be unclear. And it may be messy. But the shared heart is calling, and we have an opportunity to make lasting shifts toward love and justice in our world.”
Kristi Nelson/Executive Director of Gratefulness.org
On a rainy day there is no place to go
To a safer place
To a better place
A place where I can spend days basking in meditation
Soaring close to the Heart Sun
Inevitably, I must arise and live in the world
Where the only way to move forward is to take a leap
Into the deep unknown
Into who knows what
I don’t want to jump
I’m not looking for trouble
Or more suffering
But walking in weary circles leads to “nowheresville”
As my Dad used to say
And holding on doesn’t work
So, a path cluttered with dried leaves is unveiled
Beckoning me towards a seemingly un-crossable crossroad
A paradox or a dilemma
The wise ones say, “Be who you are where you are”
Really? What if that place is constantly under water?
Unless I do something
Like making lemonade from demon lemons
I want to feel real love
I want to feel real peace
I want to feel real joy
If I take the leap
Will I find these delights?
Within reasonable bounds (if reason is necessary)
And so, I am pushed by unseen forces
To the edge of a cliff
Where I must decide
Are you stuck in the land of sadness? Do you always come back to this all-too-familiar place, no matter what you do to get out?
Surprisingly, I’ve found very little in the annals of Psychology relating to prolonged periods of sadness besides labeling these states as some variation of depression. It may be called Clinical Depression, Major Depression, Schizophrenia, Anhedonia, or some other name neatly categorized in the manual of psychological diagnosis.
What if the primary cause of, let’s call it, “sadness for no reason,” was emotional “stuckness.” It’s like being stuck in first gear, or being emotionally tone deaf. It’s like feeling only grays and blacks instead of experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion. I like to think of the full spectrum as the colors of a rainbow.
What if there was a way to change emotional mono-tonality into a state of emotional multi-tonality?
What causes emotional mono-tonality? The most likely answer is fear of being hurt. The little boy or girl inside us needs protection from some form of emotional criticism, non-acceptance, or abuse. The subconscious response is to dampen or completely shut off the emotions. It’s a good strategy for a defenseless little boy or girl. However, it becomes a problem later in life when a void of emotions and the program cutting off feelings continues to run causing depression, limited capacity, and self-destructive behavior.
I can vividly remember the moment when I shut down my emotions. I was a thirteen-year-old boy standing in an open field outside my Junior High School. As I recall the experience, I’m struck with feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, and something I can only describe as the raw pain of existence rushing in. These feeling were overwhelming.
I reacted by flipping a mental switch to turn off the uncomfortable feelings. Maybe I was a Yogi in my past life. Who knows? I just did the deed, oblivious of the effect it was destined to have on my future self.
After a morning meditation yesterday, the idea hit me that prolonged, “unreasonable” periods of sadness can be the result of “frozen emotions.” Emotions are supposed to circulate rather than remain fixed. Could my constant effort to control my thoughts and emotions be the cause of the lingering sadness on the sea bed of my emotional psychosphere?
“Of course it can”, I told myself. A frozen emotional state is like a river or a lake frozen solid. Nothing moves.
No movement leads to stagnation. Picture a pond where the source of fresh water has been blocked. What does it look like eventually?
Emotional stagnation leads to sadness and depression. Constantly struggling to “stay positive” can easily lead to the opposite result. Fixing thoughts and emotions on a single desired state of feeling/being is the definition of “freezing.” We can wind up trapped in a state of grays and blacks.
The big question is where is the fine line between over-control and adequate control of thoughts and emotions. There is an interesting theory presented by Doctor David Burns in his famous book, “Feeling Good.” He says, basically, that thoughts determine emotions. I believe there is a fair amount of truth to this idea. In his book, Burns goes on to identify a series of self-defeating thought patterns that lead to sadness, depression, and unproductive behavior. All of this makes sense, and Burns claims to have had a significant success rate with his methods for reversing self-defeating thought patterns.
I’ve tried Burns’ method. It can help, especially in the short run, but I find it incomplete. Talking back to misconceptions becomes too mechanical and laborious after a while. And, it really doesn’t get to the root of the problem: the feelings themselves.
My personal experience teaches me that over-controlling thoughts and emotions can lead, ironically, to sadness and depression. Why? Because emotions need room to breathe. They need time and space to unwind and, if necessary, to heal.
It would be lovely to constantly walk around in a relaxed and released state of being. I’ve been advised to let go of my emotions and allow them to just “arise.” Sounds wonderful. I wish it worked for me.
Here’s the paradox. The demands of everyday life don’t provide us with enough time to allow our emotions to unwind, express, and heal. If you don’t have to work; if you aren’t in relationships; if you have no goals, then, by all means, go ahead and feel however the hell you want to. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself alone and homeless.
So what’s the answer? It’s obviously an individual thing. We’ve all heard and read that it’s necessary to carve out alone time to rest and recharge. It can be a long walk in nature. It can be painting a picture. It can be anything that helps you relax and enjoy. For me, it doesn’t stop there.
I’m currently using a psycho-spiritual approach to get my stuck emotions moving. With no intention of sounding overly dramatic, it’s also something I do to approach my “existential dilemma.”
What I’m about to say is not an attempt to advocate or promote anything. If it resonates, then fine. If not, we can still be friends.
My approach begins with regular meditation periods of about thirty minutes in the morning and just before bedtime. During these periods, I let my emotions out of their corral. In open fields, they can romp and kick without doing any damage to myself or any collateral damage to those around me. I do this meditation in conjunction with a tangible energy field that I tap into through my connection to the Trillium Awakening community of teachers and practitioners. I’m able to reach levels of peace, love and joy within myself aided by the Trillium energy transmission. I know. It sounds crazy, but it works for me.
One of the benefits of this practice is an activation of my emotional core. What gets stirred up isn’t always pleasant, but it’s movement, and, I believe, steps in the right direction.
I’ve also discovered an underlying program that affects my thoughts and emotions. It feels more like it is embedded in my body rather than in my mind. So, it is coming from the bottom up rather than the top down. The program needs to be understood and accepted. I might say “befriended.” Then, hopefully, it will unwind and lose its effect. Or transform into something more conducive to good feelings.
My approach may sound totally bonkers to you. No problem. Find your own way. Whatever you do, let’s discover pathways to breathing in and breathing out the full spectrum of human emotions. Let’s experience the rainbow.
Feature photo by Pop and Zebra on UnSplash.com