Categories
fiction humor short stories

What’s At The Bottom Of The Staircase ?


Architecture, Art, Spiral, Curve, Design, Interior, Stairs, Stairway, Staircase, Tower

Six years ago, I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I’ve decided to revisit this post, polish it up, and hope it brings you some inspiration.

Here I am. It’s my time to share. I imagine myself walking down a circular staircase in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.

Leaving the staircase on the bottom floor, I encounter a winding corridor with no doors or branches. At least I don’t have to decide which way to go, because I basically have no idea.  I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that my feet are taking me where I want to go.

winding corridor to my heart

Finally, I see a doorway in the distance.  The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination.  It’s a wooden door painted gold with an intricate star pattern splashed on the surface. What does it mean? Maybe it’s just a goddamned ornament put there to look mysterious. Who knows? I decide it looks inviting.

Elaborate Wood Door With Intricate Star Shape Pattern

I grab the brass handle, turn it, and nothing happens. The door is firmly locked. I knock a few times and wait. Seconds go by and then a full minute.  No response.

“Anybody home?” I call out.

Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.

“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here.  The least you can do is answer your fancy door.”

I’ve traveled this way many times before, but I always get lost. Not this time. I’m convinced this is the real deal.

Futuristic Corridor, Heavenly Corridor, Journey's End, Seeking Light, Seeking Truth, Seeking Wisdom, Truth, Wisdom,

I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of the heart.  I’ve always believed this to be true.  I never doubted it.  Yet here I am, standing around like an idiot.  I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door.  I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a faint burbling sound, but that’s about it.

“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the elaborate, mysterious door.  “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent.  Can you please give me some material to work with?”

“Like what?” a voice says from the other side in a slightly irritated tone.

I almost fall down.  These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years.  It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice.  I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest.  I must take advantage of this opportunity.  I have to get right to the point.  I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy.  I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape.  I can’t risk wasting its time.

The Infinite, Integration, Divine, Divine Human, Nexus of the Divine and the Human, Reality, Peace, Love, Joy

“Okay,” I begin.  “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”

“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into right now because it would exceed your share time.”

“Okay, okay.  Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”

“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily.  “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”

There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.

“You aren’t ready to meet me.  And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.

Another pause.

“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”

“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.

“Good.  Keep it up. Let me give you one word of advice: Patience.  Everything is timing. Have you heard that one?”

“Of course.”

“Then practice it.

I wait for more words of wisdom.  There are none forthcoming.

I’m suddenly impelled to ask, “Is that it?”

I wait anxiously for a response. When none comes, I turn to leave. Then, from behind me, I hear:

“If it makes you feel any better, you’re right on schedule. THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART. As a matter of fact, it’s rising in everyone’s heart, some faster than others. Pray that you are one of the faster ones. Remember these words, David:

“WISDOM IS EASIER TO ATTAIN IF YOU TRY VERY HARD NOT TO BE OBTUSE.”

“Now, If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in less than a few hundred years.”

Categories
music

Simple–Honest–Transparent–Beautiful


Young Woman Playing Acoustic Guitar

In a ten-year career tragically cut short by Leukemia, Kate Wolf wrote and performed over 200 songs. Her music is poignant, simple, honest, and transparently beautiful. She performed at venues throughout her native state of California. Since her passing in 1986 at the age of 44, Kate’s audience has grown steadily as people like me discover her music. “September Song” (recorded on Kate’s 1979 album “Safe at Anchor”) is one of my favorites.

Here’s my cover of the song.

Categories
issues Politics Uncategorized

We Turned The Lights Back On


We Turned The Lights Back On When We Elected Biden

Ever felt like you were in a pitch-black closet fumbling for a light switch you couldn’t find?

I’ve felt that way many times. More than ever in the last four years.

I was afraid four more years of The Trump Administration would drive this nation into chaos, uncontrollable violence, and eventual destruction. I’ve never been this concerned about an election before. I thought our country was teetering on the edge of the cone of an active volcano. Below us, bubbling lava and acrid, poisonous smoke billowing upwards. If we had taken a wrong step, we would have fallen to our collective deaths in the seething lava a mile below.

Fortunately, there are enough sane and prescient people left in this country to look beyond their limited perspectives and see the big picture. An image of a large, rudderless sailing vessel comes to mind, headed in a zig-zag direction towards a swirling whirlpool in the ocean. We just missed sailing straight into that black hole. Instead, we corrected our course. We turned the lights back on.

Whew! That was a close one.

I’m particularly encouraged by the stance the Biden Administration will take concerning the environment. I’m encouraged that General Motors recently dropped out of the lawsuit Trump initiated against California regarding motor vehicle emission standards. This is an early example that we are regaining our sanity. We are already playing catch up with the programs needed to foster and enforce clean energy development and greenhouse gas emissions. As it stands, we are losing the battle to save the environment. Radical action and a new level of commitment are required to reverse the trends.

Now, at least, we have hope, not only concerning the environment. We have hope that caring attention and fresh ideas will be applied in many areas plaguing life in these United States, starting with an intelligent, cohesive, and coordinated governmental response to the Corona crisis.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

If you didn’t like the way the election turned out, then fine. You are entitled to your vote and your opinion. If you wanted more lunacy, then I’m sorry. We’re not going there. If you don’t want to get with the new program, no problem. It’s a free country. JUST PLEASE: DON’T GET IN THE WAY.

And, if you liked the election results, let’s get back to civility. Let’s put aside our differences. (There’s nothing wrong with healthy, respectful debate). Let’s work together towards a brighter future. Congratulations on pulling off this nail-biter. Good work and…

…Shine on.

We Turned The Lights Back On. There Is Hope For The Future.
Categories
inspiration Making Changes motivation musings poetry

If I Dare To Leap


Clouds Interacting With Light. Lightness. Darkness. Hope. Despair.

“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

Except inside

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

Or where

I don’t want to jump

I’m not looking for trouble

Or confusion

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

Without knowing

Man At The Crossroads. Decision Time. Jump. Cliff Edge. Dilemma.
Photo By Pagie Paige On Unsplash

Categories
inspiration psychology

Are You Stuck In Shades of Gray (And Black)?


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

Categories
Essays humor inspiration motivation

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.

Categories
inspiration poetry

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

Categories
current events inspiration life motivation Politics

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?

Categories
current events Essays humor inspiration issues life motivation personal growth

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?

 

Categories
Essays inspiration issues life motivation personal growth

Towards an Unshakable Foundation of Peace


Waiting for a connecting flight from San Francisco on my way home to Fort Lauderdale, I look around me at the faces of my fellow early morning passengers. The feeling of happiness within me contrasts sharply with the reflections of dulled spirits I see sitting row after row at the departure gate.

In defense of my fellow passengers, it can be argued that even the hardiest soul has a difficult time smiling at the ripe hour of six in the morning with nothing to look forward to besides a long, cramped flight in cattle-car-coach. Yet here I am, feeling a sense of contentment so overpowering it compels me to share it with a young lady sitting two seats away. We enjoy a pleasant, meandering conversation before going our separate ways.

By all rights, I should appear as glum and bored to the other waiting passengers as they appear to me.  I’ve logged barely a few hours of sleep thanks to a five AM wakeup call. Yet I feel so alive and awake it seems like a miracle. My spirits soar like a nimble 757 jumbo jet taking flight from a short runway.

Let me assure you: I’m no stranger to boredom and depression. And I most certainly don’t feel this happy all of the time. What I’m feeling this morning is the direct result of attending a weekend retreat with Saniel and Linda Bonder.

Before I discovered Waking Down in Mutuality, now co-named Trillium Awakening, happiness had become an increasingly elusive commodity. I had my own ideas about where to find happiness, all of them external, and I pursued each and every one of them with zeal. And then the zeal began to ooze out of me like a rubber raft with a big hole in it. Fortunately, before all of the air in my psychic tires escaped into the ether, I had my first introduction to finding happiness and peace within me.

Thirty years later, my path took me in another direction. I discovered a local group on MeetUp. The group description that captured my attention went something like this: “You don’t have to be a saint to awaken to consciousness. You can awaken as yourself, right where you are. Now.”

Eventually, I discovered to my surprise that people in this group had actually experienced an awakening. Hundreds of them. It was’t just talk.

That was eight years ago. Since then, I’ve been nurturing an inner experience that is  alive and real. I haven’t had an awakening yet, but I’ve experienced more peace, joy and, love in my life than ever before.

And, most recently, I’ve had an opportunity to bathe in this experience almost on a daily basis. Thanks to the Trillium organizers and volunteers, daily online gazing and meditation sessions are being offered, free of charge, to support people through the coronavirus crisis.

The major life goal that remains for me now is to realize in greater depth an unshakable foundation of joy, peace, and love waiting to be uncovered inside me. You may be thinking, “give me a break.” People have told me your goal isn’t a goal. It’s nonsense.

I disagree.

I believe it is possible to experience peace, love and joy on a consistent basis, and radiate it out to others. Not every moment, of course, but certainly more consistently than every once in a while.

It is said that what you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. As Saniel and Linda Bonder often say, “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising.”

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.