Daily Writing March 22, 2023

Today my thoughts go south, way south, to the little town on the western edge of the Amazon, Rio Branco. Two of my sons, Wylie and Charlie arrived there yesterday with Simone and Aninha and baby Noah for their trip to Mapia, Amazonas, Brazil. Mapia is the community that is the center of the Santo Daime Church in Brazil. It was founded about 40 years ago by the man we lovingly refer to as Padrinho Sebastião together with his wife Madrinha Rita and his large family.

Mapia is the center of administration for 1,600,000 hectares of primary rain forest. It is so remote that to get there, one has to fly to Rio Branco, in the Brazilian state of Acre, and then drive six or eight hours back east into the state of Amazonas to the tiny town of Boca da Acre, which means mouth of the Acre River. There, you guessed it, one embarks on a large fast canoe for a two hour trip down the Purus river to a spec of a settlement simply known as Fazenda, which means farm. At Fazenda you eat lunch while all the luggage and transport items are swapped from the large canoe into one or two smaller canoes. After lunch, it’s a six to eight hour ride up the winding Igarapé Mapia, a narrow stream that winds through trees that reach the sky.

I went back to my last visit to Mapia in June of 2019 for the picture you see above. My daughter in law Simone is gesturing for us to follow her across the plank bridge and up the foot path through the forest to the clapboard home that her birth family lives in. She is the mother of my cherished grandson Noah, and Noah will turn two on April 6th. They will celebrate his second birthday in the forest with Madrinha Rita and the extended family. Simone was adopted by Madrinha Rita when she was 8 years old, and she was raised by the daughter of Madrinha Rita and Padrinho Sebastião, Marlene.

And at the same time that Charlie and Wylie and Simone and Aninha and Noah journey to Mapia, our Padrinho Paulo Roberto will be arriving here in Miami today. I have several kind of heavy Zoom calls today and a session with Katie before going with Stephanie to have dinner with Padrinho Paulo this evening at the little house in South Miami where our church resides. It is a little hidden oasis, and I do not even think the neighbors know that they live next to a Church of the Santo Daime. They just see that a lot of cars park out in front a couple times a month.

It actually always surprises me that we do not have more people. Everyone focuses so much on the sacrament that they miss seeing that it’s all about the community and singing together. It is widely known throughout our doctrine that the “wine” Jesus shared at the last supper was an entheogen brought back to Israel from his travels in India with his uncle. Communion was not the dry cracker and sip of grape wine. It was a mind expanding communion with a powerful sacrament that truly brings the presence of the divine to merge with our consciousness.

I served a stint in the Catholic Church at the insistence of my first wife starting in about 1991. I remember going to Mass on Sundays, and I remember how people would leave right after communion. They would eat their wafer of bread and skip out before the announcements and so forth. Think about it. If the sacrament of communion actually brought about a merger of one’s consciousness with the divine intelligence, would they would serve it as the last thing before everyone heads out for donuts? No, the establishment of the Roman Empire eradicated all knowledge of sacred plants through the persecution and murder of over 6,000,000 people branded as witches during the dark ages. Witches who stir cauldrons of evil potions right? But these were not evil potions, they were the sacraments of the Gods that gave every person the experience of God within their own hearts. This was very threatening to the established authorities, because if people could have their own divine experience, then what did they need priests and cathedrals and slavery for? Nope. It was necessary to the power structure to eliminate the divine within each person and put it up on the Altar where you have to go through a male priest and a book written in Latin to find God.

But we find God in the forest as do the last little communities of humans who remember how to live on earth as part of the environment. Noah’s roots are in that forest and I am so happy that he will spend his second birthday in the lap of Madrinha Rita, his Great Grandmother. Madrinha Rita is about 96 years old now, and her body is getting a little frail. But inside she is a jaguar, with sharp eyes that look upon everyone with LOVE.

It was Madrinha Rita who gave Stephanie and I our mission to hold a point of the Santo Daime and to receive those who arrive. Many come, few stay. The commitment of oneself to a spiritual life brings about a lot of changes that many are not comfortable to make. When I look back on my life and how it has changed, it really blows me away. I am so grateful that I found my path.

I used to try to encourage other people to experience it for themselves, but I learned this is not possible. Everyone has to come to it on their own desire or it simply cannot work for them. And it is equally important for me, as a dedicated leader within this doctrine, to have respect for everyone and the path that each chooses for their own evolution. It is not for me to judge that my path would be better for another person. Still, I see people struggle under misconceptions about the sacrament.

Padrinho Paulo, who arrives today, was the first person to bring the sacramental tea of the Santo Daime out of the rain forest to Rio de Janeiro in about 1981. Padrinho Sebastião gave it to him, much to the chagrin of others in the forest who believed the Daime should never leave the jungle. But Padrinho Sebastião was committed to the idea that the light should be shared with whoever seeks it. Since that time, Padrinho Paulo has introduced the Daime in 22 countries, including the first works in the United States back in about 1987. He was the one who brought the Colonel from the Brazilian Military dictatorship to meet with Padrinho Sebastião in 1983 to show that they were not narco traffickers. He was the one who returned Padrinho Sebastiãos body to Mapia in a wooden coffin in a military helicopter with the doors removed so the coffin would fit across the floor. He was there when the body was laid to rest in the tomb that still sits there in the middle of the Jungle.

I have entered that tomb, which is adjacent to the Church grounds, during works in the forest there. Can you imagine singing in the middle of the night in the middle of the forest with a couple of hundred brothers and sisters, all night long? It’s an experience like none other.

So today my sons are making their journey into the forest, and the forest is coming into my home.

Viva the miracle of the Santo Daime.


Daily Writing March 20, 2023

Here we are on the first day of spring. Winter had its last fit last night with cold front that dropped temperatures into the mid fifties. I took the featured image through a screen window and played with the light a little bit. There was a blog post that someone posted that invited others to post black and white pictures with a hash tag, but now I cannot find it again. Maybe if the author reads this, you can tell me the hash tag.

Today, apart from being the first day of spring of the new era, is the day that I will get my Bacon number. I auditioned for a part in a movie playing the role of a “White Male Host.” I have to say, I am perfectly cast, because not only are they seeking a white male, but one who is in their mid-fifties. So no need to hide that silver grey hair.

I’m not really sure how much I am supposed to say about the movie, but Stephanie and I are the lead producers of the film. It is actually a very subtle exploration of the Haitian community here in Miami. The writer and director is Edson Jean, who also directed a movie (which we also helped with financially) called Ludi, about a Haitian American woman working as a nurse in Miami and sending money back home.

The Little Haiti culture here in Miami is really rich. When Stephanie was the Artistic Director of the Miami Theater Center back several years ago, I rented a one-room office in a shared space called MADE at the Citadel which is on Northeast Second Avenue in Miami at about 83rd Street, which is right in the middle of the Little Haiti neighborhood. I used to walk around the corner to the B&M Market, which was famously reviewed by Anthony Bordain shortly before his demise. The couple that run the place are so sweet. I wish I remembered their names. I used to eat there once or twice a week. It is a convenience store in the front with some tables in the back.

The woman would cook a daily special and serve it on a plate. My favorite was the goat, which came with little bones that were like rib knuckles. She would serve this with beans and rice or some other side. She always gave me the feeling that she was taking care of family when she served lunch. It was inexpensive and so good. The main ingredient was LOVE of course.

I am actually going to be driving right by the market on the way to the film set. The filming will be done on the set of Deco Drive, which is a daily magazine produced by WSVN, the television station owned by Stephanie’s family since about 1964. I remember when I was a kid, they had a show on Sunday morning where the host would read the Sunday Funny Papers for kids. I remember running down the drive to get the paper, and after extracting the funnies, I would sit down and watch the show. The host was aided by a Robot named Toby the Robot. Toby is my mother in law, and she is my “pin” on the map of Jewish Geography. You see, I am the husband of Toby Lerner Ansin’s daughter, and with that information, I can be woven into the fold of an ancient family. So I can walk into polite Jewish Society pretty much anywhere, and give this credential, and before you know it, shabbat shalom pass me some of that challah bread.

Back in 2014 I was applying for the Florida Bar. I had passed the Bar Exam (for the third time in the third state), but my character evaluation was held up. It seems that someone had reported to the Bar Examiners that I was a “member of a drug cult” and “addicted to Ayahuasca” and so they treated my application like a tarantula had been tossed into their laps. I had to appear before them to explain what it means to be a member of the Santo Daime religion. The law is pretty clear that we are protected. There is a unanimous Supreme Court decision that upholds our right to use our sacrament in our religious services. But the fact that we are protected does not mean everyone knows we are protected.

I appeared before the Board of Bar Examiners one morning, in the same suit that I’m going to wear today for my movie role. They called me up first from the room full of people who were gathered for a hearing. They could not have been nicer, and the very next day I received a letter authorizing me to take the oath of office and thereby become a member of the Florida Bar.

I was pretty resentful that someone would send a complaint about me to jam up my application, but afterwards I realize they did me a big favor. If this had not happened, I would have had some fear that someone could “report” me or something. But after appearing before the Bar Examiners and fully briefing them on my practice within the Santo Daime, I have nothing to fear. I am walking in the light.

So today, on this rainy first day of spring of the New Era, I will put on the same suit I wore to my Bar Hearing, and I will drive down the 79th Street Causeway past Made at the Citadel and the B&M Market, on my way to the set at WSVN to present myself in service of the role of White Male Host in a movie about the Haitian community here in Miami.

Stephanie’s father, Edmund Ansin, was famous for many things. But the most famous for how he treated people. I met one employee before Ed passed away who had been working at the station in 1964 when Ed and his father purchased it. Ed was most famous for the way he treated everyone. He had no debt in any of his businesses, and so when there was a downturn, he never laid anybody off. He would say to his real estate guys during these down turns “Now aren’t you glad we don’t have any debt?” They would remember this in the boom times when easy financing would make new buildings pop up like mushrooms.

So when Stephanie asked Ed about this, he was non-plussed. He simply replied “they just want to make sure he does not have horns growing out of his head.” I used to enjoy sitting next to Ed during family dinners. I think he was happy that Stephanie picked me. His evaluation of my character was very simple “Spencer is a highly capable person”. And then he just left me to do my job as a Steward. He is still up there watching. And his accountants still see every transaction we make. I feel a duty to live up to his approval with every major financial undertaking, and this gives me such a good nights sleep.

Please wish me luck. And after today, I will have a Bacon Number.


Daily Writing for March 19,2023

Here I am back in my office on Sunday morning. The forecast was for rain overnight last night, but it looks like the little cold front that was bringing in the weather won’t be coming through Miami until late this afternoon.

I have not written much about financial matters in a long time. Warren Buffett is still my most favorite luminary in the investment world. He has been saying and doing the same thing for about forty years and it never fails as investment advice. Of course, it does not make any money for traders or professionals in an industry that is largely designed to strip wealth from clients in fancy shell games. The basic advice is to invest in stocks based on the intrinsic value and then hold the stock for a long time while the underlying company earns money on your investment and shares it through capital appreciation and dividends. The most basic question in this type of investing is how much do I have to pay for the underlying revenue stream that the investment will yield.

I wrote before, when Bitcoin was at about $60,000 and all the Meme’s and Covid darlings were enjoying huge price rallies as new traders swapped them like baseball cards. Of course, some reckoning has come as these assets have deflated. None of them ever had any real value as an investment, but that does not mean some trader won’t pay you a lot for them if they think they can sell them to a greater fool for more.

But on the intrinsic value side, I finally broke on Thursday and sold some Bonds with a two year term and invested the money in PNC Stock. The price of PNC has been creamed with the collapse of SVB and Signature Bank. PNC stock was trading at about 8 times earnings and a price of $121.9 when I purchased it last Thursday. The dividend yield at the time was 4.8% or so, which was higher than the short term bond fund, plus I think the upside is about 50%. I think the market is going to take a couple swings before everything shakes out, but let’s see what happens with this investment. PNC on March 16 at 10:00 or so in the morning for 121.9.

Lots of people talk about the stock market and what they would have or should have done, but it is important to look back and see what we actually do. Are you trading or investing? I invested in that PNC stock because it’s paying a sweet dividend yield and the price of the stock was too cheap to pass up. Let’s see where it goes.

I did not have many plans yesterday except to rest. I did manage to make it over to my Mom’s house with Stephanie and Tata and the puppies for tea and a visit. I was walking through her kitchen and I saw the little cross, pictured above, in her kitchen. This is the Santo Daime cross that I had placed in her hospital room while she was going through her passage in the Surgical ICU after her heart attack.

The Santo Daime is a difficult religion for American mothers to embrace. It is a doctrine that originated in the “poorest” communities on the earth, from the depths of the Brazilian rain forest were communities of escaped slaves joined with previously uncontacted Indigenous. The humble and loving “Caboclos” as they are called made their way in agriculture and as rubber tappers along the banks of the Amazon’s many water ways. They did not have alcohol, but they did know how to mix together plants, and two in particular make a powerful brew that is now known as Ayahuasca.

They would brew this tea and then sing together, and they would sing about the beauty of nature and healing and God and faith. Now this doctrine is growing like a vine, and a tendril of this vine has enwrapped me in its embrace. I am not the only one, for sure. But we American practitioners bring a new dimension to the doctrine. So anyway, we placed this “cruzeiro” at the end of my Mom’s bed when she was going through her passage, and she did receive a miraculous healing. Only 1% of the people that have the “widow maker” blockage of the primary Coronary Artery survive, and yet there she is watering her orchids. When I went to collect the cross as she was leaving the hospital, she asked if she could keep it. And there it is in the kitchen by the dog biscuits. A spot of honor in my Mom’s household. I was happy to see it there, and so I snapped this picture.

I went later with Stephanie over to the Church to organize some of the hymn books for the big event that is coming next weekend. We have a busy week this week, and so we wanted to take care of some of these last minute preparations yesterday. The first visitors will be arriving Wednesday or Thursday, and we want to have everything ready. We got home later than we expected, and I walked the dogs while Stephanie made dinner. Tata did not join us, but she was pleasantly present throughout the evening.

I was talking with Stephanie the other day about the process of writing and opening our channel so that the words can flow through us and onto the page. Self doubt is the largest impediment to this process. Sometimes when I write this way, it seems to me that the information is not really that new or original. It seems like kind of a patchwork of spiritual ideas that I have picked up over the years and then regurgitated onto the page. This often stops me from wanting to write at all.

But then I am reminded that the words that we channel are not lessons for other people, but lessons for ourselves. And that sometimes when we share these nuggets of wisdom that we receive to help ourselves, they help other people too. As I was pondering this, it occurred to me that we share a common human experience that makes this sharing possible. We all have the same sorts of struggles in relationships and in life, and we all have a pretty similar set of tools for dealing with these struggles, and we all have personality defects and challenges to our abilities. How we put all these pieces together is unique for each individual, but at the same time, they are made from common elements.

This is how we are so adept at experiencing understanding and empathy for others. Because we share a common human experience, we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of another. We can see ourselves in another person. And so sometimes, a little bit of wisdom that we receive for ourselves can be useful for someone else too.

I remember something one of my spiritual teachers said when asked about the messages he channeled during guided meditations. “It always sounds like you are talking directly to me personally. How is this possible.” “Oh not at all” he said “I am talking to myself!” The common human experience makes it seem like all of the shared wisdom is for us personally, and so it is. That’s why we love each other and that’s why we want to be together. We share a common experience.

It is therefore not really surprising that we hear the same themes from so many sources. Another teacher said one time that the lessons are very simple, it is the students who are complicated. This is very true. So many of the challenges of our lives have simple solutions. Love, Humility, Integrity, Meditation, Compassion. These are the answers to all the questions, but the questions themselves can seem very complicated.

Today is the last day of rest for a while. Tomorrow things start to happen. It’s going to be quite an adventure. But not today. Today is just about the gathering of energy for the upcoming journey. It will be fun to write as the story unfolds.


Daily Writing for March 18, 2023

I came to my office to do my writing this sunny Saturday morning. I was feeling a little cramped and frustrated, and then Stephanie went happily into her SheCave to do a recorded Yoga session, and I hopped on my bike and rode to my quiet little sanctuary here in the Little Bahamas neighborhood of Coconut Grove.

Yesterday I wrote in the morning of my plans for the day, and then noticed as they took an unexpected twist. Shortly after I finished my writing, I was making some hotel reservations for a trip that I plan to take in April, and I noticed that I was having a hard time reading the screen. I thought there was something wrong with the lighting, but then when I closed my eyes I saw the shards of glass visuals in my right visual field that are the precursor for a migraine for me.

This was the first migraine I have had since my stroke in January, and so needless to say I was a little freaked out. The doctor had given me a prescription to abort a migraine, and so I dissolved one of the tablets under my tongue. I also took an extra Verapamil, which is the calcium channel blocker that the neurologist prescribed to help prevent such a serious brain cramp. Fortunately, within about an hour, the migraine went away and my vision came back to “new normal.”

I was scared, but got through it. Next time will be easier. When I told Katie about it later in her gym, she admonished me that I should always keep the medicine with me. Such a parallel to my Mom after her heart attack. They want her to wear a defibrillator vest. She says if someone finds her on the floor they can put the vest on her, and it will wake her up. Stubbornness must run in the family.

I had a session with Alison Yanni, the Craniosacral therapist from Wisdom of the Body, that afternoon, and that helped me relax a lot. Afterwards, I went over to the investment property we own in unincorporated Miami-Dade county to pick up Stephanie. We are converting an old cinder block two bedroom house from the 1950s into a cute little short term rental unit. Stephanie was there with Dani and Gregg while the finishing touches are being completed. The unit is all ready for guests now, just in time.

I had a late workout session, which causes Stephanie a little bit of consternation because it interferes a little bit with our evening routine. But with the daylight savings time, I still get home well before dark, and she, I think, is appreciating that she has time to herself. She is writing a book now, and she needs an hour or so to write in the evenings. I made myself some rice to go with the delicious beans that she cooked, and then I put a couple bison patties on the grill. I ate my dinner happily in silence while she finished her writing, and then we watched some TV together before Bed. What a pleasant day, despite the unexpected turns.

Today I am really planning to rest as much as I can. I had hoped to see my son George today, but with my chest pain from the broken ribs, I really do not have the energy to be responsible for feeding other people. I was telling my Mom the other day that the visual impairment from my stroke makes everything 20% harder, and then the broken ribs make everything another 30% harder. I do need to take it easy. I think the migraine was a reminder of that.

So today started with a bang. We both woke up in a good mood, and walked the dogs into the Grove for Coffee at Le Pain Quotidien . Happily, today, I was able to put in my order on the phone application, and the coffees were ready in front of the busy Saturday morning crowd. We saw some familiar faces, with familiar dogs, on the way there and back. When we got home, we enjoyed a game of Acey-Deucey, our version of backgammon, which Stephanie won by the skin of her teeth.

She went afterwards to do Yoga. We had a bit of a disagreement over dinner plans, but nothing too disruptive. I think she felt I was trying to force sushi on her by suggesting she wanted it when she thought I was who wanted it. Not really. I just did not want to cook for guests, and I though sushi was her preference. Turns out neither she nor I want it, so it was easy to let go off.

I am planning also to go and visit my Mom for tea later today. It’s been a few days since I’ve seen her. Actually, I may not have seen her since the last little trip she took to the hospital when her hearth slowed down to 28 beats per minute. We have to keep that pumping for her. She’s 82 and I’m only 56, but with my little bitty bit of brain damage and my broken ribs, I think we run about the same speed.

It’s bucolic this existential life. I guess not literally pertaining to sheep in the pasture, but the simple enjoyment of weather and meals and family time and walking the dogs does feel simple and healthy. It’s really about the CORE life philosophy I have been working with recently.

We have so many projects and extended relationships that we are involved in, and it does sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. My role as a faithful Steward over many of these assets and projects can leave me feeling the weight of responsibility. After all, I need to manage everything so that projects can grow and flourish, but without outgrowing their roots and what we need to sustain them. It’s a constant management of growing the projects while at the same time growing the resources that are needed to support them. Little helps, like rentals from a small property, or the chocolate produced by the farm, or events we might hold at the agroforest in Hawaii all help these projects become self sustaining. It is our hope that they will continue after we leave.

So all of that can feel like a lot, and it can feel stressful to me. So I have been really looking at what is the CORE of happiness in this life. Basically, if we can be in our home and walk the dogs and play Acey Deucey and read and write and sing together, and be with family and take care of our health, that’s all we need to be happy and fulfilled. Everything else we do is external to our CORE life. While we love and care for all of our projects and all the people involved, it’s just a matter of humility to recognize they will all be just fine without us.

I asked Charlie about this down in Brazil. I had him prepare a financial report for the Cacao farm, and it was pretty clear how much support the farm requires from us every year. I asked him, Charlie, what happens after Stephanie and I pass away, and the farm belongs to you and Tata and your family, and there are no more wire transfers to keep things going down there? Well, he replied that would be a terrible tragedy and they would have to make all kinds of adjustments. I replied, that the day will come, and the idea is that when we pass, it will just be a little bump in the road. And so begins the journey to sustainability.

I want to leave this earth like the last leaf falling from a tree…essential to nothing. Just a leaf in the wind. Crinkled and brown with nothing left to give. A complete life lived well.

I am grateful.


Daily Writing March 17

Stephanie helped me with the title block. It’s funny because WordPress’s editor calls the different sections of a blog post “Blocks” and the first “Block” is the title. How many times do I want to write and then when I sit down to do it, how many times does the title BLOCK stop me from moving forward. Stephanie gave me the idea of simply giving these daily writings a sequential title so I can get on with the writing part.

The same with the picture. I like to take pictures, and so now I should take one picture, at least, per day, and use it for the post. The idea behind the picture is that it will capture some aspect of where I am. In this case, I am home, and someone has returned the broken birds to the hands of Saint Francis who is blessing the Jagube (Ayahuasca) vine that entangles him. What an alien transplant is that vine from the forest.

I have a couple of exciting weeks coming up, and I thought it would be fun to talk about the activities of each day, without leading on to what will come tomorrow. It will be fun to see the story unfold.

Today is a simple day. I am home enjoying my “core” life. This is my home, my wife, my daughter, the puppies, and the simple things we enjoy every day. Dani is here to take Tata shopping for her graduation. Stephanie is at the office working, which is a blessing, because it’s good for her to warm up to her office. She prefers her “SheCave” at home, but it is all torn up because the leaking windows were replaced, and that required the wall paper to be replaced, and that job is only part way done. Now her SheCave is an inhospitable environment of dust and wet plaster smell. So she’s at the office happily working in the silence of solitude.

I am in my ManCave, which also went through the same leaky window process. But it does not bother me so much. The dogs like it too. They are sleeping on the couch. Cleo has an elk antler bone (“elky bone”) and one of my shoes. Frankie is just sleeping with a foot curled under his chin. They both love Colorado and the snow, but they love home too. They just like to be around us.

Stephanie and I had a really pleasant conversation last night. We have been really enjoying each other’s company in the evening, and I think that’s in large part because the Television is in the ManCave and it was behind a wall of blue masking tape and plastic shielding while the walls were re-plastered and sanded. She was telling me about a television series she has been enjoying where people express their experience as spirit channels. Stephanie was explaining how we all channel divine brilliance. Some through words, some through painting, some through music, some through cooking. My mom does so through her love of raising orchids.

For me, my channel is my throat chakra, which is also connected to writing. Stephanie was talking about a book she is writing, and we have another friend who is writing a book, and then I am writing this blog. Stephanie is a big proponent of daily writing. I said to her that I get stumped because I am worried that what I have to write is not worth writing about.

She helps me through this by sharing that it’s not about the product, but the process. So here I am. I am in Miami. I have a very relaxed day planned with little on the schedule. I am home in Miami. My CORE life is here. I feel content. This is the first day of this exercise.

What is the CORE of your life that makes you happy? For me it’s pretty simple. Love.

Now Go Do That

Our winter return to Telluride draws to a close in two days on Wednesday. This has been quite the trip! We had two major storm systems blow through with lots of snow and wind and cold temperatures, and that was followed by several days of warmer almost spring like weather.

Today was my second to last day skiing with Bill Glasscock. It was still frozen solid when we took the first ride up, and we saw the fresh corduroy texture left by the grooming equipment on “Coon Skin,” now renamed “Cimarron.” This is a fairly steep slope that pretty much goes straight from top to bottom on the town side of the mountain. I got out on an incline above my uphill ski and I started to chatter across the corduroy unable to get my edge to bite into the hard snow. I slipped and fell and then slid down the face of the mountain for about 200 yards before I could stop myself. Moments like that make one remember that there is some aspect of danger in flying down a frozen mountain on waxed skis with razor edges. Fortunately the only thing I hurt was my pride.

“Let me show you the difference between inclination and angulation with this little drill” said Bill as we returned to the top of the mountain. He had me stand with my skis parallel to his about four feet away from him and he reached out his hands.

“Here, pull against me” he said, and we both came up on our edges a little while we pulled against each other. “Now go do that” he said. We took another two runs down the same slope, and by the end, my edges held firm. Bill has such a natural way of teaching the body instead of informing the brain. I felt my uphill-to-downhill ski naturally pulling back as I came around my turns and “angulated” to put the maximum pressure on the inside edge of my dominant ski at the bottom of each turn. That’s a lot to say about “Now go do that.”

Once the sun hit the slopes and the snow softened up a bit, Bill took me to work on skiing the bumps. I’ve always been more of a bump survivor than a bump skier. I have, until now, always had to stop every five or six turns to regroup on bump runs. I tend to accelerate in the icy channels between the bumps, and then as I pick up speed, I lose my ability to turn the ski fast enough, and then I go straight over the top of one. This technique almost always results in a painful fall. To avoid this, I skid to a stop, regroup, and start over.

But today Bill helped me bring everything he’s been teaching me together, and without going into the details, I was able to stand up and ski one turn per bump all the way down the run. The key was a little side slip at the bottom of each turn to bleed off some excess speed, and the rotation on the tops of the bumps to initiate the turns while the tips and tails of my skis were off the snow. This way I could stay on a narrow fall line and keep my speed in check. Bumps are now a completely different experience!

I had to resign the other day from a volunteer position that was really stressing me out. I was putting in a lot of work and felt like I was in a sort of struggle with other people involved all the time. Stephanie shared something about “ten signs that you have boundary issues” and as I listened, I realized they were describing exactly how I felt. For instance, I felt myself avoiding phone calls from other people involved, and I felt burned out. I talked to some friends about how I might resolve the situation, and they gave me good advice about how to talk to everyone and communicate so we can get along. But then I realized I did not even want to do that. I just wanted to be done with the whole thing. So I politely resigned. And crickets.

I wondered if my email had even left my outbox because I heard nothing for two days, until finally someone called me. Funny thing is, nobody was at all surprised. The basic response was “I don’t blame you.” And now I’m free.

Stephanie said it best back when I was first dealing with my vision loss. “Nothing Extra” was the mantra for a while. Well, now that I’m mostly better, I do enjoy putting out the extra effort every now and then. But the basic idea of being more discerning on how I spend my days and of the internal experience of living my life, I am making decisions that are making my life sing. It’s like the Warrior Spirit dancing through life. Hiwaaa to the energy vampires.


Schmarya Space Shalom

Saturn Return – Material, Relationships, Health and Spirit

I met with a new friend Shannon here in Telluride yesterday. Shannon practices Vedic Astrology and she gave me a reading of my stars. It was very interesting and so different from the Western Astrology that I have dabbled in for several years. As I have said, my favorite part about Astrology is the Astronomy. I love looking up in the sky and seeing the planets (you can see Jupiter and Venus in the twilight sky in the picture above).

I wanted the reading because I have been aware of my second Saturn return coming up, and much to my surprise, according to Vedic Astrology, my Saturn return phase lasted several years, and the last day of this was January 18th, 2023. This happens to be exactly the day that I received the last of my bad news from the cerebral infarction that stroked me on January 3rd. It was January 18th that I went to the Ophthalmologist who grimly offered the opinion that I was done with driving and certainly done with snow skiing.

Well yesterday I drove myself to the Car Henge Parking Lot here in Telluride and spent the day skiing in the trees with the super expert Bill Glasscock. It turns out that the trees are easier to ski in that the open slopes in some ways. There are no people zipping into my path from the left, just trees, and the trees do not move. Also, skiing in the trees requires me to pick my way through deep moguls and to find the best path through the forest. I can study the terrain and link together five or six turns, and then regroup.

I did have a bone crunching wipe out yesterday. I caught my downhill edge on the top of a big mogul and fell downhill and impacted the next mogul on the shoulder. I heard a loud series of crunchy sounding cracks as the entire range of my thoracic and cervical spine received a big chiropractic adjustment. I lay down in the snow for a few seconds waiting for pain, but none came, and I got up laughing. What fun to spend the day skiing through the trees.

I came out of a shoot called Log Pile with my orange vision impaired vest on my chest. Knowing that his was a safe end I had linked together a couple more turns than normal. There was a group of about six people who were pondering their next move from this point. Bill knew one of them and was waiting with them when I came out. He had been boasting about his Vision Impaired student, and everyone was kind of flabbergasted as I came out of the trees.

I have learned so much about neural diversity and disability from this experience. Vision Impaired is absolutely not the same thing as blindness. My vision impairment simply means that I cannot process visual information pertaining to the upper left. But I see everything else just fine. I have learned to tilt my head to the right as I pivot my neck to the left to look over my left shoulder. By tilting my head, I make the horizon of my field of vision parallel and slightly above the ski terrain, and thus, I can see just fine. I just have to adapt to the new situation.

I have learned that every challenge is unique, and that there is joy in overcoming them. I have also learned to stop looking at people in wheel chairs with a sort of assumption that their life is not joyful. Who am I to assume what their life is like?

And so here I am in the autumn of my life. Autumn, not winter. And actually, this is only the very beginning of the Autumn of my life. It’s basically September 22nd in my Life. And yes, while there is a melancholy to the fall, it is also a beautiful time. The final harvests are coming in, the leaves are turning color and the weather is cool but not cold. And so as I enter in this new season with my third lap of Saturn around the Sun just beginning, I want to focus on four foundational areas of a Glorious life.

Material, Relationships, Health and Spirit. The foundations of a life worth living are these four, and it’s amazing how interrelated they are, and how much balance is required. How often do we see relationships, health and spirit suffer if we focus too much on the material? How many spiritual enthusiasts do you know that have a disdain for wealth and material success, or who fail in their relationship while they seek solice in solitude and meditation?

One of the things I love about Telluride is that it brings all of these together. When we are here we cook and clean and do our laundry and walk the dogs and take care of our material. We have great times together and many friends, and the lifestyle and food choices here are great for the health. And for Spirit?

Spirit lives in every rock in every canyon in this magical place. Spirit is the balance of the snow upon the branches.


Schmarya Space Shalom

Telluride Skiing With Vision Impairment – Navigating a complex environment with limited vision

I started skiing with an instructor, Bill Glasscock, who has specialized in adaptive skiing, so I can learn to ski safely with my vision limitation. Bill started the adaptive ski program in Telluride, and has actually coached completely blind skiers to make it safely down slopes with just audio direction. He has 36 years of experience teaching skiing in the winters, and kayaking in the summers. What a life he has led. If you ever want an instructor in Telluride, ask for Bill, and make your reservation two months before you arrive.

When I first started I felt very insecure and tentative. Other skiers move very fast, and it’s hard for me to keep track of them while also staying aware of the trees and bumps and other hazards. This is the story of life, right?

It’s funny. When I’m going down a slope at 40 miles an hour, everything, even the trees look like they are moving fast. The snowy slopes provide a even field. I do not really perceive the relative motion between myself and the snow, because it is so evenly distributed. Objects that are stuck into the snow, however, appear to be moving relative to my perspective. Fixed objects, like trees, warning signs, lift poles, rocks, and so on, all appear to be moving at the same relative speed. Other skiers, in contrast, move independantly.

This creates an extremely complex environment for me to navigate. That’s kind of the metaphor for life right? How can we navigate an extremely complex environment with limited vision? If you have been reading along in my blog, you will remember that after my cerebral infarction, I have a persistent blind spot on the upper left of my visual field. So basically, if I fix my gaze at a point on the wall, and hold my left arm straight out from the shoulder, with my fingers pointed to the ceiling, I can see my watch, but not my fingers. If I move my hand to the left, at about 30 degrees, in the far periphery, my hand reappears. So from just left of the midline to thirty degrees left, above the horizon, I just see a gray cloud. No details are visible.

This requires me to make some major adjustments in my skiing. It starts with the imperative that I keep my gaze up, so that the slope I am skiing on remains in the bottom half of my visual field. This allows me to maintain awareness of big hazards. But it also means I cannot look down at my skis. I can no longer focus my attention on the little bumps and snow balls, and icy patches that I am skiing over. I have to keep my head up and maintain situational awareness.

This forces me to stay well balanced over my skis and allow my knees to flex like shock absorbers. I also have to constantly stay on one edge, turning either right or left, edge to edge, so my skis slice through the terrain. I have learned to put a little skid at the bottom of each turn before starting my weight shift to the other ski to bleed off excess speed. I picked this up really fast, with Bill’s guidance, and so my form is actually better now than it has ever been. Another gift of the gift.

I have also learned that I must really study the mountain. Bill knows every inch of the terrain here, and this knowledge has helped so much. I need to learn every place where a cat track enters the slope. I need to have a mental map of very spot where two slopes merge and every place where skiers exit the trees onto a slope. I’ll give an example.

One of my favorite runs in Telluride is called Cimarron. The access to this run is off the little used Lift Seven, a slow old school two seater chair that connects the free parking in the “Car Henge” lot to the ridge above Mountain Village. This is a lift mostly used by locals who park in the free parking. To get to Cimarron from the Gondola, which most tourists use, you would have to hike up a gentle slope for about 100 meters. Most people do not bother, and so they head down just a bit to Milk Run instead.

Cimarron is steep little skied. They groom it about every other day. On Tuesday, I reached my daily maximum speed of 49.4 MPH on Cimarron. The top is wide, steep and empty. But at the bottom, Cimarron merges with the Telluride Trail, which is basically a wide cat track that provides the easy way down from the top. It also merges with Milk Run, and some other chutes, which are also steep and busy. There is a point about halfway down the mountain where a narrow, very expert, trail merges from the left, and there is a jump on the downhill side of a cat track. Expert skiers entering from the left hit this jump and fly into the bottom part of Cimarron.

Above this point is a rope barrier on the left, which I like to ski next to, making tight slalom turns, but when I get to this intersection, I have to cross over to the right to avoid dangerous traffic. Too dangerous it turns out. So now I have learned to ski down on the right and stop above this jump. I can then crane my neck around to the left to make sure nobody is coming and then safely cross the cat track and enter the bottom part of the slope. After this crossing, there is a cliff wall on the right and a steep drop on the left. I can pick a side and ski safely all the way to “Kids Run” which will take me back to Chair 7.

Bill skied this route with me about six times. I learned every little nuance of this terrain, and so now I know where the danger points are. I can ski fast and free in the wide open and steep faces where nobody can enter from my left, and then I can carefully pick my way through the points of intersection.

This is why they call it adaptive. I do have a disability in the sense that I cannot see some pretty important information that most people expect me to perceive. But I can adapt by changing my form and by learning the terrain. The result, as it was with driving, is that I’m actually a much better and safer skier now that I was before.

This of course applies to life itself, as an analogy anyway. It’s about keeping the vision broad and maintaining situational awareness, and navigating the minor details with firmness and balance in my stance. Awareness and broad vision coupled with firmness and balance.

I am really grateful for this experience. I am so grateful that I can push through this limitation and turn it into a challenge. But most of all, I’m grateful that I can still enjoy the spectacular winter environment at 11,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains above Telluride Colorado.

After skiing, go the Petite Maison on Pacific, sit at the bar, and order the locals Steak Frites for $25.00. It’s not on the menu and you have to sit at the bar to get it. So much good in life comes from paying attention to the details.



Birthday Prayer for 2023

We cancelled sailing due to rain today, my birthday, and so it has been a very slow day at home–slow, but not sad. I enjoy the rest that comes after cancelled plans. Nothing is scheduled after the schedule has been thrown out! We did manage to take the dogs for a walk during a break in the clouds, and when we got home Stephanie went into her office and I was left in quiet solitude–which I normally resist.

Are you that way too? When I find myself alone and with nothing to do, my over active mind jumps in and tries to fill the void. Something to read, something to do, someone to call, something to fix, or eat, or someplace to go. But not today. Today with the rain and the solitude I was left with myself on this day of my 56th Birthday with nothing to do but relax in contemplation.

Many spiritual practices guide us to focus our attention to produce the outcomes we desire in our lives. This basic practice is available to everyone from the corporate productivity specialist, the the devoutly religious, to the woo woo new age manifestor of abundance, to the positive mindset sports coach. The basic concept is that our internal conscious process produces our external results in the material. This can be a prayer, a positive mindset, or a dominant thought pattern. Whatever you call the practice, our consciousness brings about the life we are experiencing. I call in prayer, because prayer for me is the most powerful tool for focusing the power of our consciousness.

My good friend Destiny once gave me advice about how to pray to achieve results I desire. She told me to pray for how I want my solutions to feel, not for a particular solution that I think will solve my challenges. I think that advice came to help me work out some personality issues in our church that broke apart in the summer of 2019. Don’t worry about the solution, she admonished me, just focus on how you want the solution to feel. I remember thinking that I wanted it to feel easy, simple, and fun. Two months later, it was exactly that, and I had no idea what we would have to go through to get there. But it worked.

And so today, on my Full Moon Birthday, I would like to put some prayers forward so that my results in the coming year can feel good to me. There are a few areas that I want to focus on now. They are my physical well being, my relationships with other people, my projects and investments, and my spiritual community and practice. For those who are reading along, you can try this too. Just sit down and write down how you want to feel about the areas of your life that are important to you right now.

Thank you God for my health and physical well being. My body feels strong, mobile, and resilient. I feel a sense of ease and comfort in my well functioning body. I feel happy that I heal easily, avoid sickness, and feel strong. I am able to enjoy all of the activities that I love and I feel young and vital. I have plenty of energy. My attention is sharp and I can focus while being comfortably aware of my surroundings and my interior state. My body is a miraculous and vibrant machine that constantly surprises me with its ability to adapt, grow, and heal.

My relationships are joyful, loving and stress free. I attract good people into my life and feel abundant joy and camaraderie. I make friends easily and feel part of a good community. I have trusting and secure loving relationships with the people who are important in my life. I am free of suffering from jealousy, envy, disrespect and resentment, both from myself to others, and from others to myself. I feel completely fulfilled and satisfied in my relationships with other people. Toxic people and people who would do me harm pass me by without even seeing me. I am invisible to evil.

Projects and investments that I am involved in move forward easily and successfully. Obstacles and blocks that have caused frustrations and delays are easily dissolved and disappear of their own accord. Projects that have been stalled and delayed in recent years move forward quickly and easily. Investments are profitable and safe and feel very rewarding. Our financial engine runs smoothly. We generate enough income to meet all of the requirements of our organization. We have plenty of battery power, plenty of generator capacity and well managed, non-wasteful, loads upon the system. We invest where we find joy and enter projects where we feel energized. We bring good people together and share abundance and opportunity. Everyone we associate with enjoys ease and abundance in participation in our ventures.

My spiritual community is thriving and growing. I myself feel uplifted and supported in my spiritual practice. I receive guidance when I need it, correction when I deserve it and miracles come around me every day. A golden light shines down and around me and protects me from forces that would throw me down. My angels and guides are alert to dangers and traps, and they keep me safe and on course. My faith gives me firmness and confidence and frees me from fear. Everything is easier when the Master walks in front, and so it is in my life. I walk behind my master, and so following everything is easier.

Today is my Full Moon birthday, which happens about once in every 29 years, just like a Saturn return. This means that the my Natal Sun, my inner child, is in alignment right now with the Sun and the Moon, which are presently in opposition to each other in the sky. With everything aligned like this, it is a good opportunity to call these prayers in to benefit me and those that I love.

I am so grateful, after such a heartbreaking January, to have this new start to the next year on my Birthday. It seems like everything was so derailed last month, and it feels so good to have everything back on track. I give thanks to God for my health, relationships, material abundance and my faith. These are the cornerstones of my happy life. I pray that these gifts I have received can be multiplied and shared with all who read this and all who do not read this.

Thanks everyone, and when your day comes around, may it be as happy as mine has been.


Sweetness and the Fifth Chamber of the Sacred Heart

Recently I have been thinking a lot about some of the teachings that I received recently on a spriitual journey in Sedona, Arizona with Carissa Shumacher. Carissa is a full body channel for the spirit of Yeshua, and she has published a book, The Freedom Transmissions, of the wisdom she has received in her channeling. One of the critical lessons she shares in the Freedom Transmissions talks about the four chambers of the Sacred Heart. They are Simplicity, Stillness, Stability and Surrender. These are the four conditions that we must cultivate in order to enjoy a sense of inner peace, or divine peace, which creates an inner environment for our experience of life. If we have these four aspects in our hearts, then we can more easily stay in a state of inner peace regardless of what is happening outside of us in the horizontal world.

I was thinking of these four different qualities, and it occurred to me that one builds upon the other. I do not remember if this is my own original thought, or whether it is a bit of wisdom that I remember from Carissa’s channeling, but I suppose that does not matter much, because wisdom stands on its own regardless of who received it first. In this concept of the four chambers, the first is simplicity. Simplicity is a state of being that we can actively manage in our activities in the world. We can cultivate simplicity like growing a garden. If our lives are overly noisy and complex, it becomes impossible to maintain the other aspects of the sacred heart. We cannot work very effectively on inner stillness and stability if our complicated lives are constantly throwing us off balance. So simplicity is where we can first engage in the path to inner peace. We can cultivate simplicity in our lives.

Once we start doing this work, we will see that stability is the benefit of cultivating simplicity. By reducing the impacts of external events, we create a stable interior platform. From this stable platform, we can enjoy stillness. If our internal world is constantly in the balance, shifting one way and then the other, without stability, then we cannot stay still. But if we have stability, we can rest in stillness. And from here, we can start to connect to the divine that is within all of us.

That concept of the divine existing within all of us is such a powerful concept, and it is also the concept that sent Yeshua to the cross. If we all have access to the divine within ourselves, then we do not need other people to access the divine presence. Institutions of religions have no purpose if a single individual can access the divine directly. To access this divine presence, we just need to sit in the stillness and silence that we are permitted when we enjoy stability in our interior world, and this stability is built upon a life of simplicity.

And when we start to connect with our interior divinity, we can start to receive impressions that can guide us in the conduct of our lives. And this is the next step–surrender. We still have to listen and follow what we find. We may not like these instructions very much if we have a lot of pet addictions and obsessions in our lives. This examination of the conscience that we can engage in the stillness sometimes brings up aspects of our shadows that we would rather not encounter. It is this discomfort itself that causes us to complicate our lives. The divine instructions are usually very simple and to avoid them, we make our lives very complicated.

So once we cultivate simplicity, we can create stability, and from stability comes stillness, and from stillness comes surrender to the voice of the divine within us.

These practices feel a bit ascetic to me. I imagine John the Baptist and the early Essenes meditating in their caves above the valley of the Dead Sea. So many of our spiritual practices are ascetic, and these practices definitely do help. They are common across so many cultures. The strongest ascetic practice I have ever witnessed is the practice of the Yawanawa people of the Amazon when they go on a sacred “dieta” in communion with the sacred plant “Muka” which is the manifestation of the divine eternal power on earth. To enter communion with this power, one must exist alone in the jungle for several months on a diet that maintains life just above the limits of starvation and dehydration. It is an intense practice to bring a person closer to God, but not one that has ever called to me personally.

We have less extreme versions. And that gets me to the revelation that I have been receiving. Sweetness is the fifth chamber of the sacred heart. It is the essence of the vibration of peace that is the ultimate goal of spiritual practice. Sweetness is kindness to the self, and from here, we can extend kindness in the world around us. Sweetness is what binds compassion to peace. This reminds me of the core teachings of Thich Naht Hanh, who recognizes that the purpose of a meditation practice is to experience happiness and joy in life. So the purpose of the ascetic life is not to cultivate harsh conditions and suffering, it is to create a beautiful interior platform that can support the growth of sweetness within.

I came to this revelation suddenly after several days of conflict. I had been suffering in miscommunication with the people closest to me. Lots of words were exchanged, but the words I said did not seem to penetrate, and the words I received felt harsh and lacking in understanding. It was not until the words stopped and the sweetness came out that the misunderstanding stopped.

I tend to get so trapped inside my head, with lists of reasons, and explanations and misunderstandings. But the body knows so much better. A gentle gesture, a soft touch, a gentle smile can communicate so much better sometimes. All of this work on the path of the Rainbow Warrior. All of this practice and all of this work, it can seem like a lot, and it can feel so harsh. But the remedy for this, the salve, is sweetness. First to ourselves, and then to others. Thus sweetness is the fifth chamber of the sacred heart.