7:03 pm

That was the moment I was born. That moment. There was a moment present, and in that moment I came into this world. And that specific moment would never have occurred had there not been the many, many moments in the life of each of my parents that led them to meet each other. And each of those moments after and the decisions they made and paths they took. And the many more moments of their parents before them. And those before them. And so on…This thought has been with me for years. I find it wonderfully overwhelming. And it is true for each of us. Wow! That’s the expression that fits best for me. It has shaped me over the years and helped me practice mindfulness and being fully awake and present in the moment. It gives opportunity to make me conscious of every soul I encounter. Of the moments of a day. Of intentions and decisions. It may seem my mind is always buzzing with thoughts of what I should do in each moment. But more often it is calm and still when I get it right. When I am fully present, all the clutter and distractions aren’t there. And I find I’m more focused in that moment because I’m fully engaged. And I’ve learned a lot can happen in those moments that shape the path of moments beyond. 

I have many “altars” around my living space – places that hold meaning and give a sacred energy to me. On my nightstand by my bed is a small wooden box in which I keep two small bottles. They are the bottles for each of the pregnancy tests used to find out we were expecting my son and my daughter. Yes, I’ve kept those. They represent the overwhelming love and excitement I felt at the news of each of those moments. My children know I’ve kept this box all these years because they’ve heard the story many times of how excited I was to know they would be entering my life. I realize now I shaped the way they thought of themselves as they grew up because they knew they were loved. That reality is the same reason I find it important to be near my granddaughter. I want her to know love from me and let that love shape who she is and becomes. 

Sometimes it must seem my life is so blessed and things are always wonderful. That would be wonderful, but it is not my reality. Yes, I am the positive and smiling person many know me to be, but that is the result of how I have let my life be shaped by the circumstances I’ve encountered. I’ve known love and I’ve known loss. I’ve known suffering and want. I’ve had a couple moments when I was near letting go of this life, some by choice and some by chance. Somehow, because of how my life has been shaped, I’ve been fortunate to come back to a place of love. And now I’ve committed my life to love and connection, to share that message, and be that message – that we, each of us, is loved. 

I’ve met and continue to meet so many of the wonderful people with whom I share this dance of life. One was a woman who crossed over a few years ago in her nineties. When she was born in a hospital in Poland in the winter, her mother, a young girl, put her outside on the window sill of the hospital room because she thought she could not raise her. The nurses found her and rescued her, and she grew up, moved to America, and became the matriarch of a large extended family raised in love. Another is a new friend, a young man who was born in a prison because his mother was incarcerated for her drug use. And he’s grateful he was born in prison because he realizes he may not have been born if his mother would have been on the streets using drugs again. These two. Their mothers shaped their lives in a moment. And by some grace they carried on and began to let their lives be shaped for good in how they dealt with the moments of their own journeys. 

Today as I turn sixty-one, I carry this intention of love and connection forward. And I pray I may be present in each moment, with each soul, being love. 

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Bust. Now on to Austin.

On my way to relocating to Austin, I stopped at a halfway point in Joplin, MO to spend the night. On the morning of November 8th – Election Day – I was about an hour into my trip, excited that I had less than eight hours left on my journey, when I stopped at a small quick stop in a small town called Big Cabin, OK to use the bathroom. It had been lightly raining and when I opened the door of the U Haul truck to get out, there was a large, muddy puddle right below me. I attempted to get out of the truck and jump across the puddle and when I did my foot slipped under me and I took a hard fall into the puddle. I went to get up and realized my left ankle was hurting. When I looked at the ankle, it didn’t look normal and I realized I had either sprained it severely or broken it. Within seconds, a small group of people came out of the quick stop lead by an older gentleman who introduced himself as Milo and told me he was a retired firefighter. He began to check my ankle and my vitals to make sure I was okay. Upon doing so, it seemed pretty clear my ankle was most likely broken. He called for the local sheriff named DJ, and DJ let me know an ambulance was on the way and that they were going to make sure I was cared for. Upon learning I was in the midst of moving and also had my dog Baxter with me, one of the men in the small group named Les offered to take Baxter with him to his home and take care of him until I was taken care of at the hospital. He also offered to take the key to the truck that pretty much contained everything I owned, and told me he would take care of it for me. When the ambulance arrived, they told me the closest place they could take me was to Tulsa – an hour away. Les exchanged phone numbers with me and said he would check in on me to work out getting Baxter and the truck back to me. As I lay on a stretcher in the midst of a small group of complete strangers in a small town in Oklahoma, I told them that their kindness was overwhelming and that the reason I maintained hope on this particular Election Day was because I was aware that I was capable of making a difference in the world with each interaction I had with the person in front of me, and they were demonstrating that before my eyes. I said that when we woke the next morning to find who was President, I would continue to hold hope in a time of conflict and division because I would be reminded that no matter who we are we are capable of caring for one another regardless of our differences. And then the ambulance took me off to Tulsa.

At the ER in Tulsa, it was confirmed that I had a severe fracture in the bones of the ankle that meet the tibia in the leg – it just so happened to be the same leg I broke a little over two years ago. It was going to require surgery, but the surgery couldn’t happen for a few days when the swelling went down. And it just happened to be the case that my daughter-in-law Jamie in Austin has a sister and her family in Tulsa – Joy, her husband Matt, and their three children. As I write this, I have just spent three days with this wonderful family who took care of me while a stranger took care of my dog and all my worldly possessions until Joy and Matt retrieved them last night. On the night of this accident itself, I watched the results of the election with this family who were supporting Donald Trump while I was supporting Hillary Clinton. And Joy and I switched back-and-forth between CNN and Fox news as we gave each other respect for one another’s interests. And I interacted with their young children as we did this and engaged is so much conversation about the issues at concern. As we said good night to each other, I told Joy I was not afraid of what I would wake to the next morning because I would hold the experience of the day with me – that we are capable of caring and respecting one another among family and even total strangers. I woke in peace, even with many concerns and the realization that much healing and trust is needed in our country, because I know that of which we are all capable.

This has been my journey from Chicago to Austin. I’ll be arriving there on Friday with the help of Jamie’s parents with her father driving the truck and her mother driving me so I can keep my foot elevated. I’ll be having surgery sometime in the next week and after some time off work to recover, I’ll begin the new phase of my journey.

Many of us are going through change and issues right now as we deal with this change in leadership in our country. I’m reading many people’s thoughts, concerns, fears, etc. I share many of those, but I do so with hope because I believe each of us are capable of taking a lead in our country and making a difference. It’s my experience and my opinion, but it’s what carries me through my days. This afternoon I noticed a wall plaque called Family Rules in Joy and Matt’s home and it moved me greatly because I witnessed it being lived. I shared this with their oldest daughter who told me it was a challenge to live what is written, and I responded that it certainly was a challenge, and that we are going to fail and succeed each day in attempting to live our lives in love, but it was possible it we kept the hope that it was possible.

I will never surrender my hope in love.

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A Life Awakened to Love and Connection

Quote from a Ram Dass:
“These bodies we live in, and the ego that identifies with it, are just like the old family car. They are functional entities in which our Soul travels through our incarnation. But when they are used up, they die. The most graceful thing to do is to just allow them to die peacefully and naturally – to “let go lightly.” Through it all, who we are is Soul … and when the body and the ego are gone, the Soul will live on, because the Soul is eternal. Eventually, in some incarnation, when we’ve finished our work, our Soul can merge back into the One … back into God … back into the Infinite. In the meantime, our Soul is using bodies, egos, and personalities to work through the karma of each incarnation.”

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This month the body in which I dwell turned sixty years old. It’s experienced a variety of things in that time. And in it all I seem to continue to live in the same manner in which I have for years – I am at peace with what has become my life. I have no regrets. Anything and everything that has occurred in my life over these years has served to allow me to become the person I am. I am me. I have come to love me, to be kind and compassionate to me, to be self aware of me and at peace in being with me. I am aware of my frailties and insecurities, that I am imperfect, and these have allowed me to find perfection in accepting these realities as part of who I am. I have experienced love and connection in many, many ways. I have given myself to love and connection and made it part of the fabric of my life.

Since I was a child, there’s been a voice in my heart that has told me I was not here for myself, but for others. I have learned and continue to learn how I can live my life in a way that allows me to live in love, to show compassion and loving kindness to those around me, to serve others in a way that may help to relieve their suffering by reminding them they are loved and special. To be present to each person I encounter in a way that allows them to be comfortable with who they are in my presence. To remind each person I encounter that we are connected in love as one. I have given my life to this and renew that commitment again as I turn another year older.

When I was in third grade, the teacher went around the classroom asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I still remember where I was sitting in the classroom when it came for me to respond. I said as a matter of fact that I was going to be a priest because I was here to help others. In my mind at the time, that was the manner in which I saw I was supposed to go. During my childhood and elementary school years I had lived with a plan to go to the preparatory seminary for high school. In eighth grade when a priest from the diocese came to our house to have me sign papers to enter the seminary, I thought long and hard for a moment, and then said that I couldn’t do it because I needed to experience life in the world around me so I knew what I may be giving up. I was very peaceful with my decision in that moment. I went through the regular high school and college route, and near the end of college and after, I lived in a manner where I did not seek to be in a relationship so that I would be single and focus on those in the world around me. I was planning to formally choose this path in life when circumstances over years led to me marrying and having a family. And after accepting myself and coming out as a gay man after those years which led to a change in my path and divorce, I eventually went back to what always seemed rooted in my heart…a path of living single for the sake of the world around me. My spirituality evolved and developed over these years where this path became more and more a part of my life. I began shaving my head each day as a daily reminder and intention that I was not here in this world for myself, but for others. I committed myself to a spiritual practice where I would live a life given in love to those in the world around me. And today, as I turn sixty, I renew that commitment.

I have reflected much over the years that one day this body in which I dwell will die. These reflections have been tempered with much joy and also with struggles in my life that could have led to an earlier end, but for some reason this bag of flesh and bones continues to go on for now. Reflecting on my death has given me great reason to be present to each moment of the life I have as much as I am able. Not every moment is glorious, but each moment is precious and filled with grace if I allow myself to be awake and see it. And the power of that realization has given me the opportunity to make a difference in the world around me one person at a time. I believe we are all connected in love in this life. Our lives have great meaning by this love and connection. It’s easy to have this truth obscured by our own stories and perspectives, by our beliefs and systems of thought. But in the end, we are of one origin, sharing this planet as part of one universe. I have tried to live in a way that shows this belief. Because of it I have held for a long time now the belief that this commitment to love and connection is the very means by which we can heal ourselves and our world.

Celebrate with me the commitment to love and connection. As I re-commit my way of life to this reality, join me and commit your way of life to love and connection.

New Year’s Prayer

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I have never made New Year’s resolutions in all of my almost sixty years of living in this body of mine. My journey has continually led me to focus on the present moment…what is happening now. It is this journey that has brought me to a place where I have grown comfortable with myself in my own skin. I have known success and failure. I have shed tears of joy and pain. I have been with life and death. I have let go of the judgement of myself and others toward me because of the love I have learned to have for myself. It continually teaches me to have love for the person next to me right where they are in the moment. I know I will always be on a path where I continue to learn, grow, and develop. Being present, awake, and mindful of who I am is what has helped me go forward and connect this moment to the next. Because I have become comfortable with myself, I have been able to benefit from the wisdom others have shared with me and learned how to take that into my life going forward. I am grateful this dance of life has brought me to this place.

 

Those who know me well are aware of the value I place on love and connection. I made a conscious decision a few years ago to let go of identifying myself by status and career and what the culture around us tells us is important, and committed myself to focus on love and connection. I left the security those things seemingly brought at the time and found security in my heart. This became my career, my focus. I value work and career as I have grown and developed through it and continue to work alongside others through which lives are made better from it. Yet I have chosen a path where it does not define me. I define me, and I do it within a mindfulness of love and connection. People often ask me why I’m always smiling, why I always seem so happy. I struggle with my own challenges and there are times I’m not smiling and happy, but I have learned to find my way back to the love I have for myself and to find love for others. It will always be an ongoing journey. 

 

My New Year’s prayer is for love and connection. As I challenge myself with each breath to follow this journey, I hope I continue to represent that each soul I encounter along its own path is of extraordinary value and worth, each soul worthy of my love. We share life on this small blue dot in the universe together. Our survival will only come through love and connection. I try to live in a way that each person I encounter feels comfortable with who they are in my presence and gives me that same experience in theirs. I alone am not capable or wise enough to solve the problems of the world in which we live, but I am capable of making a difference one life at a time through love and connection. I know my imperfections and I encounter those of others, but I know it is the reality of our imperfections that make us so perfect. 

 

One of my favorites quotes is that of Achilles in the movie Troy where he says, “The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.” This reminds me always to live my life in a way where I am conscious of making a difference in the moment…through love and connection.

 

Jeff Buckley is one of my favorite artists, and his song New Year’s Prayer one of my favorites. I share the lyrics of this song as a prayer that we may continue to fall in light no matter where we are, and do so through love and connection.

 

Ooh, fall in light, fall in light, fall in light, fall in light

Feel no shame for what you are

Feel no shame for what you are

Feel no shame for what you are

Feel no shame for what you are

Feel no shame for what you are

As you now are in your blood, fall in light

 

Feel no shame for what you are

Feel no shame for what you are

Feel it as a water fall, fall in light

Ooh, fall in light, fall in light, fall in light

Ooh, fall in light, fall in light, fall in light

Grow in light

Stand absolved

Behind your electric chair, dancing

Stand absolved

Behind your electric chair, dancing

Past the sound within the sound

Past the voice within the voice

Leave your office, run past your funeral

Leave your home, car, leave your pulpit

Join us in the streets where we

Join us in the streets where we

Don’t belong, don’t belong

You and the stars, throwing light

Ooh, fall, fall

Ooh, fall in light, fall in light, fall in light

Ooh, fall in light, fall in light, fall in light

Grow in light

 

(Jeff Buckley – New Year’s Prayer)

A Timeless Journey In This Dance Called Life

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Today, the shell in which I dwell, by some fascinating mystery beyond me, turns fifty-nine years old. Yet all these years that have passed have taught me I am so, so much more than simply the form of this earthly tent. I am timeless. I am not simply body, but soul, mind, and spirit, and more. One day this aging body will finally fail, even after its few brushes with its end over the last few years. And yet I am timeless. I am awake and aware that I am part, so much a part, of an endless web of love. You know me in part by this form, this body. But you know me also by all it houses. I am so much more than simply my earthly form. And this reality gives me much gratitude. I am grateful I have learned to see who I am, and in embracing that, know who I can become. And see the same in you.

The wisdom of learning to live this life has taught me to see love and connection. It has taught me we are all connected. We are all worthy of love and capable of giving love. It has taught me to accept my imperfections and the imperfections I think I see in others or the world around me, and in that I have found perfection. I am exactly where I should be in each moment and every soul around me is also. And it has taught me as a result, to practice the presence of the moment. The moment now. I will always be learning how to do this, but it’s practice has taught me to be at peace with that. And in that, to be at peace with every soul around me. And it is a daily practice. 
 
A birthday is part of a life cycle, one that even crosses cultures. We celebrate the anniversary of our entering this life. Do you realize that each of us enter this life as a result of the choice of others. Realizing this, each of us have a wonderful ability to make choices that will bring life to the very world around us. Life in all forms, even the simplest of smiles. And this is a journey that can take many forms and paths. So today, I am blessed on my journey because I am alive, awake, and aware, and grateful for the love of so many. Love and Connection.
 
I am beginning my birthday listening to an album my children have come to know as, “The Music I Want To Die To.” When I first heard it, that was exactly what went through my mind. It was a profound experience of the path of life. I have listened to it so much over twenty years that is has also become the music I want to live to. And so I continue this dance we call life!

10 Things I Learned from My Heartbeat…

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This morning as I sat in my chair in my room…my favorite spot to sit and be, I closed my eyes and listened to the beat of my heart. As I sat with that moment, hearing only my heartbeat and not conscious of other things around me, I began to feel a deep sense of gratitude and I began meditating on what it was that filled me with gratitude. And so I decided to see if I could come up with 10 things that moment taught me…

1. I am alive. The beat of my heart tells me I’m alive. Life is coursing through my body. I’ve awakened to a new day. I’m living, breathing, experiencing the moment. And I’m grateful I am alive.

2. I have not succumbed to my failings and struggles, the challenges I thought at times were too great to bear. They didn’t defeat me, even if they’ve left me weak and bruised. I gained strength back and healed. And I’m grateful I have survived my failings, struggles, and challenges.

3. I have a steady heartbeat at this moment. There’s a calm and peaceful rhythm in its beat that brings calm and peace to me as I listen to it. And I’m grateful for the rhythm of my heart.

4. I have a new day to embrace. I ended my previous day which was its own day and let it pass into the night, and now I have a new day to greet and step into. I can choose how I greet it and how I step into it. I can decide how I will let all the encounters and experiences I have, expected and unexpected, affect how I embrace this day. And I’m grateful for this new day.

5. I am at peace with myself. I love myself. I love sitting with myself. I am comfortable in my own presence, with who I am, with how I look, with all I know and don’t know, with all I think I can control and all I know I cannot control, with the decisions I have made in my life both good and bad. And I’m grateful for being able to be at peace with myself.

6. I am at home within my heart. I am at home in my surroundings. I have found a way to accept the place in which I am, not simply the physical surroundings, the geographical location, but the place in which I rest my heart. I can see the thread that connects all the places I have been and which have brought me to this place. I have had many things around me at times, and now have fewer things around me, and in this I feel at home. I remember when I made my journey to Peru and left all that was familiar to me and routine, and learned to listen to the voice in my heart say, “Find your home in your heart and you will always be at home.” And I’m grateful I am at home within my heart.

7. I have given and received much love. I have learned to give of my heart and to receive what others have given me from their own hearts. I have known the love of family and friends. I have experienced compassion borne out of that love for even a stranger I have never met. I have been reminded of this love at moments when I did not see it. And I’m grateful for love.

8. I am not afraid. Somehow with all my heart has taught me over the years, I find I am not afraid of what lies ahead of me. I have learned to listen to the voice of my heart for now and accept what may lie ahead when it comes just as I learn to accept what has been in the past that cannot change. I may have stress and anxiety about it in a given moment, but when I listen to my heart I realize I am not afraid. And I’m grateful I am not afraid.

9. I am secure in my heart. I feel confident in my heart. I may not have any seeming external security around me, but in my heart I feel secure. I feel “with” myself, able to deal with what lies around me and beyond me. I may not feel confident I have the answers to the questions or the solutions to the problems, but I am confident I am present for the moment. And I’m grateful I am secure in my heart.

10. I am grateful I hear my heart. I am grateful I have learned to listen to my heart. I am grateful I have learned to stop and take in the moment of my heart. I am grateful I hear the voice of my heart, my own voice speaking to me to encourage me, to love me, to calm me, to teach me. And I’m grateful for this moment of gratitude in my heart.

I want to keep being with my heart. I want for you to keep being with your heart. To listen to our hearts. To find calm and love and gratitude within our hearts. And in doing so to move others to be with their hearts. I admit it’s not always easy and it doesn’t always come naturally, but it can come out of learning to listen to our hearts…and that’s what I keep working on that leads me to a moment like this.

Namaste’

I Am Here Now in the Hand of God

Hand of GodA year ago today, right about this very moment that I'm typing, I was being prepared for surgery. I was having a small mass of cancer that was malignant removed from one of my kidneys. The surgery was not life-threatening. The only major risk was the possibility of removing the entire kidney because of potential bleeding with that type of surgery, but that didn't happen. As I was taken into the room and given the medication that put me to sleep, I was at peace. I was at peace because I had accepted my circumstances. Earlier that morning as I sat with my daughter in the waiting room, I reminded her I was at peace and that there was no reason for her to be in fear. It was the same I had told my son over the phone the night before. I was aware that I was in the hand of God. I believed in that moment that no matter what the circumstances were, in my heart and in my spirt I was at peace in the hand of God.

If I go back to December twenty-six years ago, I was in a similar situation with my mother who had just been diagnosed with cancer and had just come home from a hospital stay. She had contracted pneumonia and we really thought we were going to lose her. One day when she was strong enough to leave the house, I brought her to my home so she could see our decorated tree. I was married at the time and we were expecting our first child, and as my mother and I stood in front of the tree, she broke into tears and expressed her fear as to what was going to happen to her. And she expressed her fear she would not live to see my first child born. And in that moment, I was at peace. I looked into her eyes and held her hands and told her that at that moment she was in the hand of God, and that when the time came for my first child to be born, whether she was present there in body or not, she would still be in the hand of God. I remember the moment so well as I watched her whole complexion change as she drew a deep breath and surrendered to that thought and was in peace. She lived another ten years, and a few days before she died she woke up one morning as I was sitting at the foot of her bed, and I reminded her that she was still in the hand of God.

What does that mean – being in the hand of God? I can only share what it means for me. It means being connected to what it is I hold dearly as my experience of God, Spirit, a Higher Power. It's an experience that somehow I have had since my earliest memories even as a child – a sense of being connected to something beyond myself and much greater than myself and by which I am connected to all that is around me. That connection has become in recent years the core of my expression of my faith. I'm one of “those” people who have no tie to an organized religion and would say I'm spiritual and not religious, if religion means a system of beliefs someone is telling I must abide by and practice. But I am nonetheless deeply connected to Spirit in a way that I live my life in keeping with that connection. And I have come to understand the responsibility of recognizing that connection and its power in using it to help others connect to their experience of being in the hand of God. I believe if we can find that place in our lives, we can find peace. And sometimes finding that place means letting go of other places, letting go of the past, the future, and focusing on the moment now. Because if we cannot find that place in this present moment, I think we struggle finding it at any other moment.

I have been reminded by two doctors that the cancer I had was the type that would have never been discovered normally until it had spread to different parts of my body and then become a more serious problem with which to deal. It was discovered because of a fluke – I encountered a bacterial infection in my last few days in Peru probably from something I ate, and I wouldn't have even been there had I not made a decision to leave the comfort of my surroundings in a desire to go more deeply into my connection with Spirit. I am grateful I had the courage to make that decision, and I am grateful for that infection I may not have encountered had I not made that trip. And during that whole time I was conscious that I was in the hand of God.

So today, I am grateful that I am aware I am in the hand of God. I don't know where this body in which I dwell will be tomorrow, but I hold deeply to the belief that I, my spirit, the essence of who I am, will be in the hand of God. That shapes my days and my moments and I hope that my words allow you pause to think about your connection and your place in the hand of God.

Namaste!