What the world needs now is LOVE.... With so much fear spreading across communities in this country, we are so self centered. Consumed by our own issues of masks vs. no masks, how we are going to earn money, parent our kids, get them appropriate schooling, when will we be able to go back to the gym, or go out for dinner, and when will we get "our lives back". And nowhere in the conversation, is how is my neighbor right now? How are the people in developing nations handling this? What so many are missing, is that we are not here, on earth, for "our own lives". We are here to love and serve others. And as we are waking up as a planet, we are suffering. It's par for the course. I have found it to be somewhat true, through my own life journey's experience, what has been said that "pain is the touchstone to all spiritual growth." I say this is only somewhat true. In my actual experience, pain was not a very effective motivator at all. It turns out, while I'm an extremely sensitive man, that I have a tremendous tolerance for pain. What it took wasn't pain. It took agony. Being smashed down onto my knees in the shower, and praying on my hands and knees into the drain for G-d to help me get through whatever was happening to me, or around me. So, on the other side of many waves of agony, I have always found one thing. Relief. And after relief, I sensed the waves of love of my Creator carrying me. Over years, I have learned not to fight and struggle as much when I have an experience that produces fear and agony. I counsel others "don't swim in against a rip current." Do a back float. Tread water. And when the timing is right, ride the wave of Love. It's ironic, that I actually don't surf. I've gone out a few times, but fascinatingly, I've never caught the bug. I get cold easily and have an aversion to the cold Pacific water temperature, as well as the tactile sensation of a wetsuit against my skin sometimes. I prefer to duck under the waves when I'm out there, and/or be on a sailboat riding atop the water, instead of being in it. But surfing aside, what I'm getting at is that We need love. Right now. We all need love. Self love. Love, in the form of compassion and empathy for those who are suffering. Love, in the form of forgiveness, for those at whom we are angry. Love, in the form of tolerance, for those with whom we disagree politically. Those who are losing loved ones, and those who are just so scared and traumatized or isolated and along right now need our love in the form of quality time, acts of service, or charitable gifts... So, during the early days of the pandemic, I decided to launch a new passion project that is based on this realization and allows others to show love in a variety of ways. It's called Waves of Love International (WOLI) and it features, the most amazing photographic artwork that my son, Jared created when he was fifteen. What the full story is about, isn't actually even written on the website yet. But it's needed to come out in more detail, so I'm writing it here. Coming soon, (not tonight, because it's, well... about 2am... but soon... what's behind the waves. In the meantime, if inclined, you can see the project and purchase fine art for someone whom you love, at: www.wavesoflove.com
My dearest friend, Burt passed over to the other side of the mountain last winter. Burt was the man in my life who was the single biggest support for me in my earliest days of recovery, and I miss him so much. He wasn't my sponsor, but he was that guy who just was there for me... we spend hours on the phone and having coffee and tea and going to meetings together. We became the closest of friends, because, in our own unique ways, we had both shared a journey through hell and lived to tell about it. We met in 12 step rooms, but what we both shared in common was that we went further. We went deeper. It was just our calling, or our duty, or our karma, or, maybe just our spiritual disease that led us to "do more work". This isn't a eulogy so I won't tell you the details of his life and how amazing he was as a father and partner to his girlfriend, but this is just about him, as a kind, humble, fun, funny, and deeply spiritual man. Burt experienced the most profound conscious awakening of anyone I've ever met. He wasn't the most enlightened man I've encountered --I've had the distinct and rare experience to sit and receive blessings from several fully enlightened Souls-- but he was the one guy who I witnessed whose journey from "what it was like then" to "what it is like now" was the most dramatic and profound. Burt pursued a deep meditation practice through Mystery School, and the day we were having lunch, looking over the ocean, and when he told me of his stage four cancer diagnosis, was the same day he shared a secret with me. Now, having going through 12 step recovery, we were both intimately familiar with the practice of sharing our deepest and darkest secrets with another man whom we trusted. In recovery, the saying goes that "our secretes keep us sick". But those "secrets" are usually things that we were going to take to our grave in silence beacuse of guilt or fear or shame. But, on that day, Burt shared with me the story of how and when he had a profound conscious spiritual awakening experience during his meditation. The results of his awakening was so palpable to everyone, but he actually was explaining to me what it was like when it happened to/for him. And for some reason, he had never shared this amazing story with anyone. Until me. From all the work in recovery, and countless therapy sessions he attended, and then the deep studies he undertook and mediation practice he did... What it all resulted in, was it gave him that "BURTIFUL" smile, and glowing presence, and shiny eyes, and made him calm and compassionate. It resulted in him having hundreds of people attend 4 separate and distinct memorials that were held for him, as if he was a celebrity or sports figure, which he was certainly not. But what he was, was the most present and brutally transparent man I have known in my life. And now he is no longer here in the physical world, but I know he is present still in the invisible realm. The spirit world. The picture above was from one of his earliest chemo sessions. One of the things he taught me was to always ask for help. He encouraged me constantly to "just get out of my own way", and always ask for help. Well, one day, he asked me for help. And then I got to sit with him during his year-long healing journey involving extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The gift of service keeps on giving, because the time we shared and talks we had during all of those treatments, were so beautiful and meaningful. I wish we had recorded them, but they are in my heart. Burt was that man in my life who would always be there for me whenever I needed to vent, or share, or to ask for help. He modeled what sacred Divine Masculinity was. Before he passed, when we went to lunch at that spot that overlooks the Pacific Ocean in Cardiff California, he asked me to write about him, and I hadn't done it..... yet...... until now. I'm finally writing. Thank you, Burt. I love you, Brother...
Spirituality is not counted by how many yoga classes I attend. Spirituality is measured by how many moments during the day, I think about someone other than myself, and how many minutes of my day, I demonstrate- by action- love and service toward and for others... I came across the quote above years ago, and it seems more and more appropriate every day during this "pandemic", which I refer to as a modern plague. With the guidance of Creator, and the power of Google, I share the following excerpt with you. It comes from a book by Earnest Thompson, called "The Soul of the Redman." I'm Jewish, but I relate so much to Native American, aboriginal, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and other spiritual practices and ceremonies as well. I'm not interested in organized religion that tells anyone what they "must" do. I relate mostly to spiritual masters, who have shared what they have done, and invite others to do the same, if it resonates with them. I am inspired to always preface this when working with clients and talking about spiritual matters and recovery with people who are new to these principals and concepts. I have no right to determine what God is for anyone else except myself, and yet, today, if someone is interested, I'll stay up all night talking about how knowing, and serving God (the God I understand) has profoundly shaped my life.
THE SOUL OF THE REDMAN, by Earnest Thompson
The culture and civilization of the Whiteman are essentially material; his measure of success is, “How much property have I acquired for myself?” The culture of the Redman is fundamentally spiritual; his measure of success is, “How much service have I rendered to my people?”1 His mode of life, his thought, his every act are given spiritual significance, approached and colored with complete realization of the spirit world.
Garrick Mallery, the leading Smithsonian authority of his day, says: “The most surprising fact relating to the North American Indians, which until lately had not been realized, is that they habitually lived in and by religion to a degree comparable with that of the old Israelites under the theocracy. This was sometimes ignored, and sometimes denied in terms, by many of the early missionaries and explorers. The aboriginal religion was not their [the missionaries’] religion, and therefore was not recognized to have an existence or was pronounced to be satanic.”2
“Religion was the real life of the tribes, permeat ing all their activities and institutions.”
The Gospel of the Redman
“Religion was the real life of the tribes, permeating all their activities and institutions.”
John James, after living sixty years among the Choctaw Indians of Texas, writes: “I claim for the North American Indian the purest religion, and the loftiest conceptions of the Great Creator, of any non-Christian religion that has ever been known to this old world....
“The North American Indian has no priests, no idols, no sacrifices, but went direct to the Great Spirit and worshipped Him who was invisible, and seeing Him by faith, adored Him who seeketh such to worship Him in spirit and in truth, who is a Spirit and planted a simi lar spirit in His creatures, that there might be communion between the two.”4
Then if that is true,’ said our Chief, ‘we Indians are worshipping the same God that you are—only in a different way. When the Great Spirit, God, made the world, He gave the Indians one way to worship Him and He gave the Whitemen another way, because we are different people and our lives are different. The Indian should keep to his way and the Whiteman to his, and we should all work with one another for God and not against one another. The Indian does not try to tell you how you should worship God. We like to see you worship Him in your own way, because we know you understand that way.’
"Jewish Penicillin" is spiritual food for the soul. Really. It is. I actually made chicken matzoh ball soup from scratch for Passover this past year, all by myself, during the pandemic. Yep, I even made the matzoh balls. People often ask me, "When did you start being so spiritual, Stu"? While my first spiritual awakening happened 14 years ago when I got into 12 step recovery, it was when I was about 7 years old when I knew I was "different" and "saw," "felt" and "knew" things that others couldn't or didn't. But it wasn't in synagogue or around any of the beautiful Jewish customs and traditions I love, where I experienced an awareness of spirituality for the first time, it was in what I call "Nature Sanctuary". While I was born Jewish and raised in a Conservative Jewish upbringing, had a brit mila (circumcision) a Bar Mitzvah, traditional Jewish wedding (a not so "Jewish" divorce), and raised a son who, too, became a Bar Mitzvah at age 13, I felt my first 'pang' of spirituality on a random spring Saturday. It was one day when my family was outside on our backyard brick patio, that my next door neighbor "Uncle" Seymour walked over into our yard to say hello. (Oh, how I miss the Long Island home in which I grew up, and how "our property" was actually literally connected to our neighbors' property. Can you imagine? Their concrete actually touched our brick! No fences or stuck walls or divided lots like here in suburban So-Cal. Well anyway, Seymour, a short-statured, clog-wearing, bolo-necklace-clad surgeon who walked with a limp due to a horse riding accident, was wearing turquoise and silver jewelry. A lot of it. Bangles and necklaces and button covers on his denim shirt. I loved Uncle Seymour. He was a nice Jewish doctor during the week, and an avid limping, saddle-lugging cowboy-horseman on the weekends. Okay, back to the jewelry. I was mesmerized by the turquoise blue stones and gun-metal rustic silver. I don't know why. I just was. Little did I know that I would later become an avid aficionado and collector of all things turquoise and silver, but that day, I seemed to notice the plants in the garden differently. They all, each one of them, seemed to feel more alive, and like independent beings to me. Today, I believe that spirituality is present in each and every breath we take, and that all living things "breathe". Energy pulsates in and out and around all things. I know because I have seen it. I learned that the latin word "spiritus" literally means "breathe". Someone is not spiritual beacause they go on retreats, or do a lot of religious training or practices, or have an annual yoga pass and an overflowing drying rack of lululemon. Someone is spiritual, because they are aware of the sacredness of each and every breath in... and breath out.... and they are aware that we are all connected, and all made of the same energy as Our Creator. That's what COVID is all about. A modern plague to remind us all to wake up to the ways we have been living, and to adjust, and mostly to get so uncomfortable that we need to remember--or learn for the first time-- how to rely upon the ONE who gave (gives and takes away) breath. How ironic that COVID affects the lungs, which in metaphysical medicine relate to issues of "grief". The earth and all of us inhabiting her are certainly going through a period of intense grieving right now.. But alas, have faith. Do your work. Pray. Meditate. Cleanse. Detox. Consult your guides, healers and clergy... and when you have an hour or two, throw some onion, carrots, celery, salt, and a chicken in a pot, cover it with water and call your Mother to tell her you made yourself some Jewish Penicillin.
Sacred sage medicine. My dear Reiki Master Teacher, Frank, once took my son, Jared, and me to a sacred spot in the mountains about an hour away from where we live to harvest sage. He taught me how to do it "in a good way" and then we had a Native American planting ceremony where we "planted" our intention and visions for the new spring, and surrendered what no longer served or suited us. It has become a ritual for me to "go up the hill" to gather sage in a traditional sacred way, as I was taught a decade ago. Often, my son joins me, or friends from recovery and the lovely local conscious community we have here in Encinitas. It is wonderful that so many people now know about burning sage to help clear a space, but it is sad to me that many do not appreciate and respect the sacredness of this powerful plant. I love taking people "up the hill" to teach them and have ceremony, as I was taught. Thank you to the plant people, to the elders, teachers, mentors, and ancestors. Aho.
Tying sacred ceremonial Native American prayer ties has been a powerful practice for me. Many of my sessions include this centuries old practice. Abundant gratitude to my teachers, the elders and the ancestors who gave us these lessons and teachings. The prayers are infused into the tobacco and then held during ceremony. I am then often guided to advise a client on how and when to surrender them to the Mother Earth or Father Sky. This is never done as part of a formal paid healing session. As a spiritual practice, this is always kept "outside of the container."