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inspiration life Making Changes motivation personal growth

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.

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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.

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Essays inspiration musings reflections

I Am Who I Am*


divine humanI’m growing out of this idea of “becoming a better person.”

Now, it’s more like honing my skills or adding another tool to the toolbox to move forward in this process of becoming.

It seems to me that self-improvement is just a concept with no substance, no foundation in the field of Reality.

My daughter emailed me a list of 30 “Earth Shaking” self-help books. I said, “Danielle, I’ve read more self-help books than you have miles on your five year-old car. None of them helped, but this practice of Waking Down is transforming my life.”

I wasn’t trying to convert my daughter. I was just speaking my truth.

*I may have stolen the title of this blog from Popeye.

Photo: http://www.soulmirror.net

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Essays humor inspiration life reflections short stories

American Airlines Odyssey


Grok in Fullness
Grok in Fullness

I arrived at Chicago O’Hare International Airport feeling relaxed and in good spirits after a weekend seminar held in the small town of Elburn, Illinois. In light, mid-morning traffic, I had negotiated the trip from Elburn to O’Hare without making one wrong turn, thanks to my able navigator, Siri.

I strode across the Avis parking lot reflecting on what I had learned at the Human Sun Institute seminar.  I looked forward to a few hours of reading, novel editing, and eating a leisurely lunch before my plane took off. All I had to do was walk up to the ticket counter to collect my boarding pass.

When purchasing my airline tickets online, I could not resist the option of upgrading my return flight to first class for only $149.00. In addition to the enjoyable routine I planned before boarding, I had the comfort and luxury of a non-stop, first class flight back to Fort Lauderdale to contemplate as well.

Upon entering the American Airlines terminal, I noticed immediately how tired the ticket counter attendant looked. I figured she had begun her workday at some obscene, early morning hour. I was determined to treat her nicely. I made a few cheerful comments, gave her my flight information, and presented my ID. Her fingers flew across the keyboard. I stood there smiling, radiating all sorts of peace and joy.

The attendant looked up from her keyboard and said calmly, “I’m sorry, Mr. Gittlin, your flight has been cancelled.”

NBA sportscaster Jeff Van Gundy uses a phrase that I love. He did not coin the phrase, but Jeff has a unique way of saying it that never fails to amuse me.

Standing at the American Airlines ticket counter, I suddenly became Jeff Van Gundy reacting to the bad foul call of a referee.

“Are you kidding me,” I said to the attendant.

With my reservation, I had given my email address and cell phone number to the American Airlines computer. The computer, in response, did not email, text, or call me about the flight cancellation. Instead, it booked me on a non-stop coach flight back to Fort Lauderdale scheduled for takeoff seven hours later.

When I asked the ticket attendant for a refund on the first class part of my ticket, she informed me there was no refund since I had upgraded the return flight from an economy fare on the first half of my trip.

“But I bought trip insurance,” I said.

“We have nothing to do with that,” she replied. “You’ll have to go to the web site of the trip insurance provider to see if they will give you a refund.”

Thanks mainly to the peace circulating in my body from the weekend seminar I did not hate the ticket attendant. I did not scream or berate the poor woman. She was only doing her job. She had no control over how badly her job was screwing me.

After a minute of researching alternative flights, we settled on a flight to Fort Lauderdale with a stop in Dallas. I would arrive in Fort Lauderdale two hours earlier but three hours later than the cancelled flight. Whoopee! The attendant upgraded the flight from Dallas to first class, although the airline was not required technically to do so. Thank heaven for small favors.

I felt relieved until I learned the flight to Dallas was boarding in ten minutes. I had all of ten minutes to go through TSA and find my gate in another terminal.

While going through the TSA ordeal, I began to wonder about the cosmic significance of this abrupt change in flight plans. Surely, I was meant to deliver or receive some important message from a fellow passenger.

Encouraged by this thought, I went to pick up my carry-on bag. A TSA officer grabbed it and informed me he had to search it. This had never happened to me in forty years of infrequent flying.

I feared the search had something to do with the raft of prescription drugs I was carrying. It turned out to be a problem with my shaving cream and hair gel. I have never been busted before for these items in my carry-on, but whatever, at least I wasn’t going to jail.

With bags re-packed, I set out in search of terminal “C.” Following the signs, I found the Sky Lift to the terminal. I noticed the steps on the escalator were frozen. The elevator wasn’t working too well either. I’m not making this up, people. All of this stuff happened. It all had to be part of a grand plan for my betterment and the betterment of Mankind. I believed in this deeply.

I struggled up the frozen escalator steps lugging my laptop and carry-on bag. The woman in front of me was breathing so hard I thought she was having a heart attack. Somehow, we both made it to the top without passing out.

After boarding the flight to Dallas, I settled into the very last seat in the bowels of the coach cabin. The guy next to me looked just like a Waking Down in Mutuality mentor I had met in February at a seminar in Atlanta. I made this comment to him. He politely confirmed he was not the person I had in mind. I used the opening to talk about doppelgängers and the seminar I had just attended. My fellow passenger showed zero interest, again politely, plugged his iPhone earplugs in, and settled back to listen to music for the rest of the trip.

Okay, so nothing momentous happened on the first leg of the trip. The cosmic implications of these highly unusual events would surely kick in on the second leg of the journey.

While waiting at the gate for the flight to Fort Lauderdale, I noticed someone who looked like Lexi Thompson. Lexi is 18 years old and one of the best women golfers in the world. She lives in Florida. The woman sitting nearby looked exactly like her mother. I had seen a close up of Lexi’s mother and father on TV. Then, a slim man in his early thirties sat next to the mother. I recognized him as Lexi’s older brother Nicholas, a PGA professional golfer. This confirmed the presence of the famous Thompson clan.

I had to figure out what having Lexi Thompson and family on my flight meant—in the cosmic sense, of course. Okay, I thought, they’ll be travelling in first class like me. I’ll more than likely be sitting next to one of them.  I will have an auspicious conversation with one of them.

Instead of the famous Thompsons, I sat next to a rotund Wal-Mart salesperson from Arkansas. She showed little interest in conversing with me, preferring instead to commune with her iPad and iPhone on the journey home.

Desperate for answers, I asked the steward if American cancelled flights regularly. I had not flown American in ages. This was the first time I had ever had a flight cancelled.

The steward informed me that flights can be cancelled if there is not enough freight in the cargo hold to make the flight profitable. He defined freight as bodies in caskets, mail, or any commercial product paid for by a vendor. He explained that American had lost its contract with the US Mail. This had put a large dent in American’s freight profit center.

The steward then revealed this startling fact: The amount of commercial freight on board a commercial jetliner determines the profitability of a flight. Passengers do not determine profitability. We exist to absorb the cost of overhead including fuel and payroll.

I thanked the steward for the wisdom he had generously imparted. I proceeded to contemplate the Parable of the Airline Freight for several minutes.

In a flash of enlightenment, the purpose of my American Airlines Odyssey struck me.

OMG!!!

The events of the trip suddenly made perfect sense. I groked in fullness the hidden meaning:

I am not as important as I think I am.

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Essays inspiration life Making Changes

A New Way of Going


Stone PathwayI have always liked the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

In my life, this phenomenon is occurring for the second time, and not a moment too soon. For the past few months, I’ve been investigating, in my own words, a new way of going. I won’t divulge the name of this “new way” because I’m still in the investigative stage. I can report, however, this new way has filled me with hope and a renewed sense of adventure.

This feeling is not merely the initial burst of inspiration that comes at the beginning of a new project or program of study. It seems to come from a much deeper place, as confirmed by my research.

For a while there, the only objects I could see on the horizon were old age and sickness. This bleak view originated from nagging feelings of emptiness and lack of purpose. I had lost what the robots in the movie “The Transformers” refer to as their “Prime Directive.”

For many years, I have been on a path that I assumed would eventually lead to “Self-Realization.” It became increasingly clear to me that the path I was on was never going to get me where I wanted to go. I had lost touch with my Prime Directive. I felt alone, abandoned, and a failure. During this time, I experimented with a number of groups and teachers. There are hundreds of  new age spiritual groups here in South Florida. Most of them seemed ridiculous to me. A few resonated with me. I made the effort to try the ones that spoke to my heart.

Self-Realization is a somewhat bulky term that many people might think of as an impossible goal set by foolish, pompous, self-deluded people who refuse to face life. Without doubt, the path to this goal is fraught with danger and pitfalls. The good news is that, according to what I’ve been reading, there is a distinct shift underway in the “achievability” of this goal. The goal is no longer reserved for saints, mystics, and yogis who go to extreme lengths to “awaken.” Today, the goal is available to ordinary people, like me, who lead ordinary, worldly lives.

What is truly remarkable is that dozens of people walking this “new way of going” have already awakened. I have met one such person. I recently read a book written by another person who is now a senior teacher of this way. I found her book both interesting and convincing.

“Self-Realization” or “Awakening,” if you are not familiar with the process, involves the discovery of the divine within, or infinite consciousness. Words cannot adequately describe the awakening experience. One way to approximate it is the uncovering of the essential YOU, not temporarily, but permanently, or at least as long as YOU are in the body.  This new teaching I am investigating does not require the practitioner to deny his or her human nature or personality traits. It is a path of self-acceptance. Ultimately, this method facilitates a harmonious coexistence and integration with the individual ego identity.

Certainly, no worthwhile goal is easy to achieve. This way requires work, sincerity and persistence, like anything else. The payoff, however, is a deep sense of happiness, peace, love, and well-being. I’m feeling the first faint rays of this inner sun already.

I’ll be going to Atlanta at the beginning of February for a two-day intensive. I guess you could call it the acid test. Hopefully, I’ll have positive news to bring back.

My father once said to me, “Son, don’t kid yourself. You’re going the way of all flesh.” Well Dad, my body may be going that way, but not me. I will not go quietly into that dark night.