Im sorry that this question did not arrive sooner.
I would like to ask Yeshua to explain the difference between my spirit and my soul.
I believe and feel that I AM a spirit, I inhabit (am stitched to) my body
but what is my soul?
Im sorry that this question did not arrive sooner.
I would like to ask Yeshua to explain the difference between my spirit and my soul.
I believe and feel that I AM a spirit, I inhabit (am stitched to) my body
but what is my soul?
It has been a few weeks since I have sat down to write, and a lot has happened in the meantime, and what follows is a direct instruction that I have received for my own benefit. It is addressed to “You” and in this case, “You” is “me.”
You have been on a journey toward the discovery of your authentic self this year, and you are just starting to see the larger picture of all the smaller lessons that you have been learning. This understanding is bringing you peace in your interpersonal relationships and satisfaction in your life. You are starting to see that you can live in a state of inner peace and participate in the world, without letting the affairs of other people interfere with your own internal way of being. For a long time in your life you have saught the approval of others, and felt happy or sad depending on the degree to which you are successful in eliciting positive responses from people.
This causes you to play different roles in different situations so that you can satisfy the expectations of others. You are one way for your family, another for your church, and yet another for your employer, and still another for the public. These different personas are the roles that you have played on the different stages of your life. Everyone does this to a certain extent.
And so you met the Warrior Spirit of the Rainbow Wind at the top of the Canyon, who dances with the Sun and the Mist at the Top of the Canyon and casts Rainbows all around. The Warrior Spirit plays no roles, he just dances and his dance is a prayer. The lesson of the Warrior Spirit is to present your authentic self before the divine. It has been a long journey from your childhood to where you are now, and you have a long journey yet to go before you fully embody your divine self. But for now, you can be satisfied that you have arrived where you are, that you are on your journey, and that you may take your rest from time to time as you walk your path.
In this journey the first lesson you have had to work on is to recognize and know your authentic self. This has caused a lot of upheaval in your personal relationships over the last several months, because you have upset the expectations of people who were counting on you to continue to fulfill the same roles you had always fulfilled in the past. And you must have patience and compassion for this process, because it is you who is changing the agreements you have made with others to live separate and apart from your authentic self.
The process of growing into your authentic self has had two separate aspects. The first has been the process of coming to know your shadow and who you really are. You have always wanted to take the right actions in the world, but you have been afraid of your own interior animal nature which sometimes can be attracted to things that you have judged to be “bad” in some way. You have not wanted to admit or recognize these aspects of yourself, and therefore you have denied your own true nature and created a “shadow” self which you do not even want to look at.
The first part of your journey was to recognize and embrace all aspects of yourself as you were created. You were created by God and you are fundamentally good, and there is nothing wrong with the way you were built and designed. You have made promises to people to comport yourself in particular ways so that you can build the structures of your life together, and it is honorable to live in accordance with these agreements that you have made. For an easy illustration that is free from your small minded moral judgments, we can look to an analogy of preservation of a natural resource, say a fishing ground.
Imagine that all of the fishermen in a village recognized that they had overfished the reef outside their village, and so they all agree to let the section of reef recover for a few years. And so the fisherman sail over their traditional fishing ground and put out their lines farther away. It is tempting to every fisherman to cheat the system and drop their lines into the recovering water, but they resist this temptation and continue sailing farther out so that the reef can recover. They can acknowledge and admit that they are tempted to fish on the reef.
But in your society, you do not accept your natural selves and desires. You live as if you were a fisherman who would deny that he would even like to cast his line in the near shore waters. You deny your essential nature because you are afraid of what you might do and the judgments you might receive from others as a consequence. And you therefore have denied that this aspect of yourself even exists. You white wash yourself so that you appear perfect in front of others. This is the birth place of hypocrisy.
And so the first part of your lesson is to embrace your shadow and evaluate your agreements. You honor your agreements in your daily life, because it is by honoring agreements that you can build the structures of your life like home and family. If you were to go running off after every temptation that came in front of you, you would accomplish nothing in the world. You would just run in circles seeking external gratification. This is not the path to a happy and fulfilled life.
However, you must embrace yourself as a child and creation of God. If left to your own devices free from the judgmental eyes of others, what would you really do? Really you would not do anything inherently bad, because you are inherently a good person. You can trust yourself to act according to your internal guidance because you are essentially good. You might face occasional temptations to indulge your material appetites, but you have developed sufficient discernment and self control to act according to your higher values.
So the first step of this journey for you has been to come to know and embrace your authentic self. You are a creature of God, God is in your heart, you are essentially good. and there is no aspect of yourself that you must reject, judge or hate. With that understanding you can make and honor the agreements in your life that enable you to build structures and meaning. That is an ongoing process of constant adjustment and re-evaluation. You are free to alter any agreements in your life that no longer serve your highest and best good.
The second aspect of this lesson is to recognize the roles that you have played in your life. You have seen these as separate personas that you inhabit as necessary to navigate different situations. You have your cocktail party persona, your work persona, family thanksgiving persona. And you have the roles you play.
You have seen that growing up, with your physical deformity in your chest and your situation at home, that you stepped into the role of the hyper independent capable problem solver. You did not trust that you were worthy of love simply because you are part of the human family, and it is human nature to love each other. You cut yourself off from others thinking that you were somehow not worthy of this basic interaction. And so you became a solitary person with a love of nature, animals, reading, and you learned to get by on your own. You found security in the role because it gave you a reason that you could hold on to and believe for why people needed you around. For your early adult life from the age of 21 to only recently, you have relied on your capabilities to justify your social relationships.
But you learned that it is not the same to be needed as it is to be loved, and so you attracted needy people into your life. These people did not give love back to you, instead, they put hooks in you to keep you close because they believed, with your encouragement, that they needed you and your capabilities to be ok themselves. You yourself have, until very recently, encouraged exactly this behavior. You felt insecure about your own worth as a human, and then believed that people would only accept you if you continued to supply exactly what it was that you supplied to get them to like you in the first place.
Do you remember the show you were putting on way back in 2006? Do you remember the juggling of plates and the Spencer Stewart Show? Do you remember struggling to keep your wife, your boss, your family happy by always being the competent one who got the job done? Do you remember when this entire facade collapsed under it’s own weight and you lost all of the structures that you had built? And then your turning point came in 2011, when you found your spiritual path, and you first found people who loved you even when you had nothing to offer in the material world?
This was the start of your journey to your authentic self, and it has taken you another 11 years to arrive at the point that you are now.
Your next lesson is to always inhabit your authentic self. This is what is meant by the lines in the hymns from the Santo Daime about “I live with my master on the small boat that sails in the sea”. You in your small boat with the master, is you in your heart with your divine connection. You can call this Yeshua, you can call it Jesus, you can call it the Buddha within, you can call it your divine light, or your soul, or whatever you want to call it. But it’s essence is this. You live in your sacred heart and you are the divine child of God that lives there in your sacred heart. You must know and love this authentic being that you are.
And then the next aspect of this is your multifaceted prism shield that extends out from your third eye in front of you and then wraps all the way around your back. You wear this shield out in the world, and it protects you in your interactions with others. This is very different from the different personas you used to employ. In your old way of being, you yourself would leave your authentic self and adopt a different persona according to the needs and expectations of every moment. This also served to protect your authentic self from the judgments of the world, but it also had the effect of hiding your authentic self even from you. The ego structures thus created were weak and defensive and required tremendous effort for you to maintain. This caused you exhaustion, concern, and suffering.
So you learned to use a shield to protect your authentic self as you go in the world, while always inhabiting your own heart. This caused some upset in your relationships, because you no longer invested so much effort into soliciting desirable reactions from other people. This multifaceted shield is a beautiful gift you have received from the Warrior Spirit.
And now you are in the next phase. Now that you inhabit your authentic self, and employ a magic shield to hide and protect your sacred interior self in the world, now it is time to start putting down the roles and fantasies that have been the center of your life.
Instead of playing roles to please others, your new way of being will be to always give the best of yourself in pursuit of your divine mission. Say that again. Your lesson is to always give the best of yourself in pursuit of your divine mission. Simple as that.
Many of us have often heard it said that it is very important to “know who you really are” as we make your way on our spiritual journey through this world, but have you really have ever had a true understanding of what this means? The essence of “who you really are” is buried under such a mountain of wounds and egotistical constructs that the little voice of your true nature is buried and so difficult to hear. We tend to identify with the ego clutter and lose touch with our true self.
One of my spiritual teachers was talking the other day about two aspects of ourselves that we have to integrate to understand who we really are. First, we have a Human Nature. We live in a material world incorporated here as Humans, and Humans have needs and desire, fears and doubts, and all kinds of needs and motivations. A large part of our life here involves tending to these demands of our Human Nature. Your Human nature also includes your shadow, and that is the part of yourself that you would rather not look at.
Your Higher Nature is your divine spirit that is incorporated here in the material world. This is the Higher Nature can be accessed when we raise our consciousness up above this material plane. We can connect to our higher nature in prayer and meditation, and we return to our higher nature when we leave this world. But most of us are stuck at the level of our human nature, and this is because we have rejected a part of us that is know as the Shadow.
You here a lot of talk about embracing your Shadow, or doing Shadow work. But what is this “shadow” that everyone talks about? Really it is simply that part of your true human nature that you do not like. You have feared that your shadow is some terrible set of urges that you really don’t want to know about. But this is not the case at all. At heart, you are a good person who wishes well for yourself and for all beings. Like the spiritist prayer says “May all beings realize their most intimate aspirations.”
But our society teaches us that many of our natural tendencies are bad, and so we bury them and pretend like they do not exist. We whitewash our exterior, and let our insides rot. Human sexuality is a perfect example. It has been so engrained in us that we are bad for having natural sexual desires, that we repress our true inclinations. We start to feel guilty about our natural inclinations, and we don’t want to look at them. This is how something becomes part of our shadow. It is simply that we do not wish anyone to know about our true nature.
And so the continued suppression of our natural tendencies stays in the dark, and there it starts to fester. Unexpressed sexuality creates a wound in our psyche that is subject to spiritual attacks by malevolent spirits. These natural urges, when they are suppressed and left to fester, are perfect entry points for malevolent spirits. And as they enter these wounds they start to do their work, and create truly deviant and unhealthy desires. The case of sexual abuse by Pastors in the American Baptist Church is a classic example. If these people had not so repressed themselves, if they had accepted themselves as they truly are, then they would not have this repressed sexual energy inside them festering. They suppressed these perfectly normal tendencies because they wanted to present a perfect clean image to the world, and thus their integrity was broken, and in this wound of the integrity, perversion festered, and this eventually led to crimes of abuse.
The addiction to pornography that is so prevalent in today’s world is another great example. I read somewhere that the pornography industry makes more money than all of professional sports combined, yet it is entirely underground. But why? Why do people secretly consume pornography? Because they are ashamed of their own sexuality. They have been taught to feel guilty about who they truly are, and so they hide their true nature behind white washed walls, and have a break in their integrity. And so when no one is looking, they sneak off and consume pornography, and this turns into an addiction.
This creates a lot of confusion about our shadows, because once something has festered into such a dysfunctional state, we really do not want to look at it. We then think our true nature is to be this horrible person that wants to do terrible things to people. But that is really only after years of festering. What we all really want is to be loved and to have meaningful loving relationships that are expressed in sexual relationships with people we are attracted to. That is our true human nature, not the diseased perversion of the abusive authority figure.
Look at animals for an example. Most animals are completely free from any concern that they have to hide their true nature. They just are as they are. And so then they really do behave in a pretty normal fashion. Of course, my dog might hump your leg in a display of excessive enthusiasm, and if were to do his shadow work he might need to acknowledge that he likes to hump the occasional leg. He could embrace this aspect of his true nature, and then he could also resist the temptation to hump the legs of people who don’t want their legs humped.
Anyone who has ever walked down the street has seen people to whom they think they might be attracted, and we are, for the most part, perfectly capable of acting appropriately. But we don’t have to be ashamed of our basic nature. It’s ok to feel attracted to people and to acknowledge to yourself that you feel that way. It’s also necessary to keep your actions in check to respect the boundaries of other people. That is the nature of Shadow Work.
So the take away, in people who have not suffered from serious breaks in their integrity left to fester for a long time, the Shadow is really not so bad. Most of us are basically good people who have received bad programming.
In less serious situations than outlined above, failure to acknowledge and embrace our shadows causes us to enter relationships based on our outward appearance and then cause us to suppress our true nature in order to keep harmony in the relationship. I remember when I was working at a bank while also following a medicine path. I had to put on a suit and act like a super conservative banker, when my true self was taking plant medicine and embarking on a spiritual journey. I felt like an imposter in my starched white shirt, and I was terrified that anyone would find out.
A few years into this, I left the bank, and applied to the Florida Bar. Someone decided it would be a good idea to write a little letter to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and let them know that I was “addicted to ayahuasca” and that I should therefore not be permitted to practice law in the state of Florida. I was very angry at the time, and very afraid. This forced me to appear before the Florida Board of Bar Examiners and explain to them what it was to be a member of the Santo Daime Church, and also to explain to them that my participation in the Church was in no way a danger to society or to my clients. I was very angry about this.
Why was I so angry? I was so angry because I feared I would be rejected if my true self were revealed. I expected to be despised. But I wrote a very good brief backed up by well settled cases, including a unanimous decision by the US Supreme Court involving a similar religion called the UDV, and I presented myself before the Board of Bar Examiners. They sent me a letter giving the the authorization to take the oath of office, and the letter was post marked the day after my hearing. What I had feared the most was rejection, but when the truth came out into the light, it turned out that it was not so bad as I feared.
I am now, in retrospect, very grateful for being pushed out of the closet in this way. Now I have nothing to fear, because the authorities are well aware of the truth about me, and so now I do not have to fear.
We enter all kinds of relationships in which we have hidden our true nature, and then we make promises to behave, either explicitly or implicitly, in alignment with the version of ourself we have presented. I know a lot of people who have to hide their behaviors from their principle relationship or family, because they do not want to get in trouble. Cheating on a spouse is a classic example. A more common one is, for example, someone might hide their alcohol use from a spouse or significant other.
You can see right away how this leads to alcoholism. A person who has an urge to drink and feels like they cannot do so openly, hides their behavior. Once their behavior is hidden in this way, it causes a break in integrity, and then it starts to fester. Such a person will inevitably start finding opportunities to engage in the forbidden behavior until it overwhelms their life.
If you want to know who you really are, you must first love yourself unconditionally. This is the biggest secret to self knowledge. If you do not love yourself, then you will judge yourself, and your natural impulses will be buried. There they will cause hypocrisy and start to fester, and before you know it, you will be dominated by them, and you will be really afraid to acknowledge them. That is how addictions come to hide in denial.
You are a child of God and inherently a good person. If you embrace yourself like this, then you can work on your shadow. Take the example of a person who is tempted to drink alcohol, but hides this from their spouse. If they examined their shadow with the light of love and forgiveness, they would see this in their nature. They might say to their spouse, “hey, I have noticed that I have an urge to drink alcohol when you are not around, and I feel afraid that if you find out about this, then you might reject me.” Then you can look at the urge. Is it bad for you to drink alcohol? Many people say that it’s not bad at all in moderation. You might say I think I’d like to have a beer when I come home from a run, or I’d like to have a glass of wine when I settle down for the evening.
If the person you are in relationship with is not able to handle this about you, you have to ask how you got into relationship with them in the first place. Most likely it’s because you were already hiding the behavior. Thus, when you start to find out and embrace who you really are, you may find that you cause some upset in your relationships. But also you have to be wary, because alcohol can easily lead to addiction. If your spouse is angry because you had seven drinks after work and forgot to pick up your child at a friend’s house on the way home, well maybe it’s time for you to consider your behavior and change. But you can’t do this if you don’t acknowledge it, and you cannot acknowledge your true behavior if you do not love yourself.
The first step to learning who you really are is to commit to loving yourself no matter what you find when you look deep inside. This is like looking through a dark and dusty basement with the flashlight of forgiveness. This is why forgiveness of our sins is so important. This notion of forgiveness is a spiritual truth that has been completely abused by institutional religions for many centuries.
Most people have the notion that forgiveness is something you can give to another person that makes their actions ok. A person sins, and then goes to a priest, and asks for forgiveness, and the priest makes them say some Hail Mary’s and then they are forgiven. But this is not at all how forgiveness works. It is not that Jesus will not let you into heaven unless you ask for forgiveness, it’s that you yourself will not go there unless you love yourself. And the only way to love yourself is to accept yourself as you truly are, and the only way to do this is to go looking in your dark corners and forgive everything you find there.
If you do not forgive yourself in this way, then there will be many aspects of yourself that you do not want to acknowledge or look at. You will turn away and deny these things, and then you will live in a hell of your own creation. You will suppress natural inclinations until they turn into deviant urges, and then you will hate yourself for what you have done. These tendencies will make you an easy target for addictions and obsessions, which once in control of your consciousness are very difficult to get away from.
Addictions are powerful patterns of behavior that hide in denial and control your behavior so that you do things that are not in your highest good. The most common addictions relate to substance abuse and food. Others relate to the high of gambling or risky behavior. People can also become addicted to deviant sexual behaviors. The truth that few people want to accept is that anyone can drop an addiction with a simple decision to do so. If you are addicted to cigarettes, for instance, you can right now go and soak your cigarettes in water and simply never take another puff of nicotine again in your life. This is not difficult at all. If you were stranded on a desert island without any cigarettes, but with everything else you needed, you would find it quite easy to quit smoking. This is true of almost any addiction.
Obsessions are similar to addictions, except that they relate to thought patterns. You can be obsessed with attachment or hatred toward another person, or towards an object that you desire. You can be obsessed with order, with perfection, or with anxiety. Obsessions are like addictions, but much trickier to deal with, because they come from inside your own head. There is no way to avoid them by going to a desert island, for instance, because your consciousness comes with you.
So the key to clearing yourself of an obsession is to learn to recognize it. Then as soon as the thought pattern arises in your head, you simply dismiss it. You have to exercise the discipline to not engage with it at all. As soon as the thought comes up, you must identify it, and dismiss it out of hand. You cannot indulge it even for a moment. This can be very difficult to do, but if you succeed, the strength of the obsessive thought pattern will be reduced every time, and your ability to recognize and dismiss it will be stronger every day. Soon you will be back safely in your clear conscience.
Once free from obsession and addiction, and once you have forgiven all that you do not like about yourself, and once you love yourself, then you can begin to act on your natural impulse, and this will become the new dominant voice in your consciousness. You will find yourself naturally inclined to eat foods that bring health and vitality to your body, you will find yourself naturally drawn to positive relationships and naturally avoidant of unhealthy relationships. You will find yourself acting with courtesy and compassion to your fellow beings, but you will not be overly concerned about whether or not they approve of you. You will find your true nature, and that is happy and free.
I am scheduled for surgery on my vocal cords on Tuesday to remove a polyp that has disrupted my voice for most of this year. For quite some time prior to my current acute situation, my voice has felt a little raspy, like a smokers voice, and I just assumed it was damage done over the years. Then in early January I got a little virus that I felt in my neck. I wondered if it might have been a mild case of COVIDs latest variant, but I tested negative with a home test. But who knows, a lot of people have told me that the home tests did not reliably detect Omicron. But I suppose it should not really matter to me what the virus was. What matters to me is that I developed laryngitis.
For the last couple of weeks in January of 2022, it was very difficult for me to speak. I had a really hoarse voice and it would give out on me if I used it very much. I’ve mentioned before that we lead a small spiritual community here, and our rituals include a few prayers and lots of singing. I found myself unable to complete the prayers and unable to sing. This was very frustrating to me. I did some reading about laryngitis and learned that acute laryngitis usually clears up in two weeks at the max, and that if it persists longer than three weeks or so, it’s considered chronic. I found that chronic laryngitis is caused by continued abuse of the vocal cords, and so I started to do everything I could to take care of them.
I have lots of intelligent and helpful friends who recommended may remedies. My favorite was eating Manuka honey by the spoonful. My least favorite was using one of those small rubber spatulas to spread Andiroba oil on the back of my throat. Andiroba is an oil produced from a very bitter Amazonian nut. My daughter in law’s cousin recommended it to me. My daughter in law is from western Amazonas. In fact her family is from so far west in the Amazon that to get to her house, you have to go to the state of Acre, and from there, you head east on a motorized canoe for seven hours. Andiroba is a very useful remedy for all manner of cuts and bites. It is antiseptic, and it repels mosquitoes as well. The taste is super bitter (as are many medicines from Amazonas) and to gag yourself with a pastry spatula to spread it on the back of your throat, you really have to want to get better.
I won’t say that I stopped using Cannabis, because that would imply that I did use it to begin with, but I can say that I have not exacerbated my condition by continuing to engage in any habits that might have a negative impact. Another dear friend also pointed out that anything that has the effect of drying the mucous membranes would exacerbate my condition, whether inhaled or eaten. Check, done and done.
If you have been following my writing, which I will not assume, you may have seen that we spent the last half of February and the first half of March in Telluride. I promised myself that I would do everything possible to heal myself, and that if my voice was still a problem when I got home, I would go to the Doctor.
My father was a surgeon, and he used to say “if you cannot cut on it, then it’s not worth fixing.” I was pretty skeptical that a doctor would be able to do much for me. What was he going to say? I figured he’d confirm that I have laryngitis and prescribe yet another remedy to plaster on my throat. Fortunately, I have a very loving wife who often provides a counterbalance to my stubbornness, and she agreed to let me try to heal myself until we got home, and in exchange I promised to go to the doctor if I did not get better.
I really did everything I could do for those weeks, and nothing worked. I still sounded terrible. I could not sing, and my voice sounded ever worse. When I got home I made an appointment.
We had a spiritual work on March 15th, as we do on the 15th and 30th of every month, and during this work, I prayed for some insight into what was the spiritual/energetic significance of this ailment that I have been suffering. I went deep into concentration and really tried to connect with my inner guides, and up from the depths bubbled a simple message.
“IT’S A GIFT”
That was not at all what I expected. My snarky self immediately wanted to know if I could return it, but I did not even allow the thought to formulate into words. How could this suffering be a gift? I spent the rest of our concentration pondering this, and I was left with more questions than answers.
Two days later, I went to the ENT, a very groovy and chipper young doctor who I immediately liked very much. I had actually met him before when he looked after my wife. He sat me down in a chair under a big machine and sprayed my throat with a numbing agent, and stuck a camera down there. I looked up into his face and tried to interpret his expressions. Of course, the scary voice in my head wanted to say “throat cancer” but I suppressed this thought and replaced it with a prayer “my body is healthy and strong and this is good news.” I repeated that little mantra until the Doctor said “mystery solved! you have a polyp!”
Turns out all I have to do is go back to the very same chair next Tuesday and he can zap the little polyp right off my vocal cord with a laser. It will literally just vaporize the polyp and cauterize the wound at the same time. Presto! He printed out the pictures for a souvenir, and I apologize if it was too much to share, but there you have it. I could hear my Dad’s voice affirming that “since you can cut on it, it’s worth fixing.”
By the time Tuesday arrives, it will have been almost exactly two weeks since the polyp was discovered. I have had plenty of time to reflect on how this has been a gift. The first notion that came to me is that it was a gift because it’s benign and can be cured with a quick zap by a laser in the doctor’s office. It’s a gift because if I could not get better, then it would not be a gift.
But why the experience? One thing I have learned in my spiritual path is that upgrades often come on the heels of suffering. We have to go through some kind of ordeal as part of the upgrade. One upgrade I hope to receive is literally a new voice. It is my hope and prayer that the mild raspy sounding smoker voice I have carried around will be fixed. I am hoping and praying that my new voice will be a beautiful musical instrument, and that I will have the gift of learning to use it. Another gift is that over the last several weeks that I have had difficulty speaking, I have learned to be much more careful with my words. I find myself keeping my thoughts to myself and not sharing my opinions unless I am asked. We have several hymns in our doctrine that advise us to “speak little and listen a lot,” and I have been doing a lot more listening and a lot less talking. Through this process, I have found that the fewer words I speak the more power they have, and I have also learned not to try to give advice to those who do not want to listen to me. What a relief. What a gift!
And here is a special gift I will share with anyone who actually reads this far. Early on in my spiritual path I received a visionary experience related to my voice. I was in a clearing in the forest and I was sitting on the ground facing an old indigenous man. In between us was a cloth laid out on the ground and in the middle of the cloth was a bundle wrapped in some kind of thin leather. He unfolded the bundle, and inside the bundle was an organ that looked like the larynx of a duck, which I recognized from cleaning birds that I had shot. A duck larynx looks like this:
The old man took his finger and cut me open at the base of my throat, and inserted this organ, and then touched me again, and sealed me back up with the organ inside. He said it would give power to my voice, but not until I was ready for it. He said it would only work when I spoke with integrity and in service to the divine will. It would not work when I misused my voice, or if used it for personal gain at the expense of others. He put it inside me, and now I feel it may be activating.
Stephanie took off for a women’s event in Austin for the weekend. She gets back on Monday evening, and my surgery is Tuesday morning. It’s Friday afternoon now. I have the next four days to sit in contemplation of what is coming for me. After that, I have four days of strict silence while my voice heals. All in all that’s a full eight days of contemplation. I truly believe that this is a gift and that I will be a new person with a new voice afterwards.
Please pray for me. Please pray for peace too.
It’s amazing to me as I see the news report of the crazy pointless war in Ukraine to see that we are imposing tough sanctions on Russia, but not cutting off the oil purchases. Have we not learned our lessons that we cannot buy oil from evil dictators and then expect them to behave peacefully? We always seem to want it both ways when it comes to oil. Think about Saudi Arabia, where women are basically prohibited from going outside without a male escort and their faces covered. This is another brutal dictatorship, one that cut a journalist for the Wall Street Journal apart with a bone saw inside their embassy, but that’s cool with the USA as long as they keep the oil flowing.
And the same with China. Here we buy cheap electronics from a communist dictatorship that is currently forcing religious minorities by the millions into internment camps for re-education, and which has subjugated Tibet to decades of harsh occupation. But that’s ok with us as long as they keep the cheap iPhones coming. What are we going to do when they invade Taiwan? Imagine if new New York City were an independant country, and China were to try to stop the USA from invading across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Militarily there really would be nothing they could do to stop us, and the situation in Taiwan is exactly like that. If China invaded Taiwan, we would whine and complain, but would we stop the flow of goods? Unlikely.
We are the nation that has the greatest influence in the world. We used to be a bastion for peace. Our Statue of Liberty welcomes the poor huddled masses, but in reality we separate children from their parents and incarcerate them on the border with Mexico. We rant about the atrocities in Ukraine, but did we not engineer the invasion of Iraq based on false evidence of weapons of mass destruction? Have you seen the reports of how many Americans died in that war? A quick search shows 4,486 from 2002 to 2012. Have you ever seen any reports of how many Iraqi Civilians died? According to Wikipedia, over 1,000,000 deaths through 2007.
And think of the influence we have with Guantanamo Bay. How can we stand for peace and justice in the world when we have held prisoners without charge since 2002 and subjected them to brutal torture? Here is an excerpt from the letter written by the USA Military Jury in recent proceedings concerning Majid Kahn, who appears to have been sucked into our system more or less by accident. This was written by USA Military officers in a letter signed by all jurors in that case:
“Mr. Khan was subjected to physical and psychological abuse well beyond approved enhanced interrogation techniques, instead being closer to torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history,” according to the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times.
The panel also responded to Mr. Khan’s claim that after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, he told interrogators everything, but “the more I cooperated, the more I was tortured,” and so he subsequently made up lies to try to mollify his captors.
“This abuse was of no practical value in terms of intelligence, or any other tangible benefit to U.S. interests,” the letter said. “Instead, it is a stain on the moral fiber of America; the treatment of Mr. Khan in the hands of U.S. personnel should be a source of shame for the U.S. government.”
— New York Times
Do you remember the Boston City Marathon Bombing? On April 15th, 2013, two terrorist brothers set off two bombs inside pressure cookers that killed 3 people. The news coverage was around the clock. Do you remember that? How about the Wech Baghtu Wedding Party? Have you ever heard of the Wech Baghtu Wedding Party? This was a wedding in Afghanistan on November 3, 2008, when the USA dropped a drone bomb on a wedding and killed 37 completely innocent people.
How about in 2021, when the USA was abandoning our operation in Afghanistan, and we dropped a drone bomb on Zemari Ahmadi? We thought he had bombs hidden in his trunk and that he was going to try to blow up people trying to flee the chaos we created at the Kabul airport. Turns out this was mistaken. He had water jugs for his family in his trunk and we killed ten of them. Was anyone ever held accountable for this murder? No.
So here we are, condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while still buying their oil. Here we are complaining about China’s treatment of dissidents and the people of Tibet, but please, don’t stop to flow of cheap consumer goods. Yes, they are torturing people and putting people into concentration camps, but hey… we need these inexpensive televisions!
We have to look to ourselves first before we can point our fingers at others.
Of course Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is wrong and should stop immediately. But we are ourselves guilty of exactly the same abuses. We ourselves torture people. We ourselves drop drone bombs on weddings and never even identify the people who did it. We ourselves trump up reasons to invade foreign countries and kill millions of people and only report our own casualties. We ourselves prop up brutal dictators so that we can extract the material resources of their countries.
If we want to make a change in the world, we need to stop buying Russian Oil. We need to close Guantanamo. We need to hold accountable our own people who give orders to drop drone bombs on weddings and innocent people. We need to stop supporting brutal dictatorships like Saudi Arabia just because we want the oil.
What should we write on the statue of liberty?
And what about social media? Sure Facebook is used to spread mistrust and misinformation, and that company takes zero responsibility for the content it publishes. They complain that they have not control over what others post on their platforms. This causes such division in our country. You can stop using these platforms today. But it’s just so convenient to use Facebook and Instagram and What’s App.
We are always told to look at the other for the source of our problems. We are told to fear Russia and China and Covid. But we have killed more people than any other nation in the last 20 years. Change must start at home.
I pray for peace. I pray for change. I pray to restore the integrity of the America I grew up to love. But we cannot condemn Putin while we buy his oil. We cannot condemn China while we buy their TVs. We cannot condemn Facebook while we scroll through pictures of cats in boxes.
Change starts at home. Let’s all start to read the other side of the story. Let us lead by example.
It has been a few days since I have written anything, and I am starting this without a very clear idea of where this is heading. We came out to Telluride, Colorado to enjoy a month of late winter and early spring here in this beautiful box canyon. The picture you see is from behind a frozen waterfall up at the top of a little box canyon near our house here. It amazes me that we can walk a quarter of a mile from our house and find such a miracle.
This valley holds a very sacred energy, and the spirits of the people who lived here over the last thousand years are very present. This was a summer hunting and camping ground for many centuries. The weather was too harsh to live here year round without electricity and material support trucked in here. The winters up at 9,000 feet of elevation in these mountains are unrelenting. But in the summer it’s a different story. The valley floor is full of elk in the summer, and the black bears roam through the alleys in town overturning trash cans.
I have walked through some of these special places and felt the spirits of people who lived here a long time ago. I felt the joy of returning to favorite summer camps. And there is another history laid on top of that ancient story which is just as palpable. A history of hardened settlers moving west from post civil war America to mine these mountains for gold. The first mining claim was made here in 1875, and it was a tough bunch who managed to survive here year round. There is a monument outside a building in town which notes that it was the first bank robbed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
We took a tour of the local graveyard last summer, and it tells many stories. There are the graves of two brothers side by side, both veterans of the civil war, one on the union side the other on the confederate side. There are graves from epidemics, graves of women who worked in the red light district, graves of many minors who lost their lives in these harsh conditions.
Mining was the only industry here until the ski resort opened in 1972. And this brought yet another historical overlay to the region. Now the famous Telluride Mushroom festival brings together dead heads, mycologists, cooks, foragers, scientists and artists. Music festivals, the Telluride Film Festival, and all kinds of nature lovers gather now in this magical place.
Telluride presents such a stark contrast between the natural beauty of this box canyon, and the very harsh conditions. I am very grateful to be welcome here now, but I often wonder what it must have been like for the Ute people who came here before their way of life was uprooted and destroyed. Telluride sits at the top of box canyon that can only be accessed from the west. If you head west out of the canyon it’s not very far to arrive in Moab Utah.
Ajax peak stands at the top of the canyon to the west with dramatic water falls flowing into the head waters of the San Miguel river. As you walk along the river heading east, you come across beautiful meadows and ponds with beavers and ducks in them even today. Now there is a beautiful park at the east end of town called Town Park, and when I walk along the river here, I can almost feel the presence of all the generations of people who camped here in the summer. I can imagine their teepees and fires, and the game that they hunted.
I walked up to the top of the canyon to the frozen waterfall with some friends of mine who are members of the Native American Church. We stood in the remarkable landscape and made an offering of tobacco to the spirits that inhabit there. We asked for their blessing for us to be on this land and for their protection. Such spiritual power exists here, and on top of it are all of these overlays of history.
It reminds me that I am here now, but only for a flash of time. Across the street right now I hear the sounds of demolition of one house so that another can be built. But it all depends on our supply chains and support from the outside. One winter with no electricity, and this valley will be empty once again. Our presence here feels so permanent, but the spirits who live in these mountains have seen changes over thousands of years. We are just visitors here, and I am grateful for this moment that allows me to be a small part of this.
February 2022 is not only one of the most intense months of the year. February 2022 is your opportunity to make peace with shadow – once and for all.…Venus, Mars, Mercury, Pluto in Capricorn – Shadow Work
This was such a compelling article about this month’s Astrology, I had to repost it.
I was recently referred to an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience where he had a very glib and sophisticated guest explaining how vaccines for COVID are part of a great conspiracy. He was so persuasive and appeared utterly convinced by his own story of how giant and insidious forces within our economy hide real treatments from the population, and then encourage them to get dangerous and unproven vaccines. I was shocked as I listened to hear the words of one of my sons coming straight out of this expert’s mouth. It had been over dinner and my son was explaining all these problems with the vaccine and all the remedies the government doesn’t want you to know about. When I listened to the podcast sometime later, I could see that my son had internalized the entire episode and now regurgitated the information as if it were sourced directly from the divine.
On the other hand, we have all heard official sources give us inaccurate and manipulative information to cause the population to do as they want. They do this by misrepresenting their degree of confidence when they present a new hypothesis as a proven fact, only to revise it later when more information comes up.
And from what I see in the world, the Joe Rogan guys are actually on top of the truth claims right now. Why? Well look where we are. The official line was that if everyone would just give up their objections and take the vaccine, then we could put a quick end to the pandemic with herd immunity. Of course, now we all know plenty of vaccinated people who caught COVID and passed it. And so the official line suddenly shifted. Instead of the old refrain “it’s a public responsibility to get vaccinated to avoid spreading the disease to those who cannot get vaccinated” the message changed to “stopping the spread of disease was never the point. The vaccine was always intended to simply reduce the severity of the disease.” These two statements are completely contradictory and yet they were both espoused as absolute truth. We are asked to forget what the government said before, and believe what they are saying now. Anybody remember George Orwell’s 1984?
The motive might actually be somewhat benign. The government officials who publish these messages might actually believe they are doing some good by convincing people to get vaccinated, and so they publish persuasive stories, leveraging theories as facts, and make the best arguments they can to push people into the vaccination queue. And of course, this leaves the other side completely free to publish whatever theories it has, similarly elevated to fact, and persuade people that the Government is dishonest and corrupt (which it clearly is).
There simply is no longer any truth in the news. It’s all just persuasion. Every article is measured by its ability to inspire clicks, and nothing inspires quicker clickers than controversy, anxiety, and righteous indignation. And that is what is happening to us. We are fed news and information on the basis of sophisticated algorithms which are designed to predict what we will like. And so when we like one thing, we are shown another, and so on.
It feels like we are trying on clothes in a Nordstrom changing room with a helpful sales representative that keeps bringing us more of what we like. Don’t like pink? well no more pink will be draped over the wall of the dressing room. Like tight jeans? Here are three more pairs for you to try on. Like a political candidates? Here are stories showing them as heroes. Think they are all villains…well here is more proof.
The news only confirms our predispositions.
I remember when I was practicing as an attorney in litigation. We would often have to use expert witnesses to prove a point in a trial. I remember one case that was as mundane as an asphalt application that was misapplied by a defunct contractor. Was it bad material or did the contractor mix it with too much water? Expert opinion was required. Of course, both sides had an expert, and each picked one who said what they liked.
I actually testified as an expert witness one time in a trial that depended in large part on the valuation of an aircraft at the time it was purchased. I was firmly of the opinion that the purchaser had been sold a real lemon of an aircraft that was actually worth much less than he paid. The buyer had been duped! The other side had another expert, a very official aircraft appraiser, who was of the opinion that the aircraft was purchased at fair value. Yes the aircraft was very old, but it had a big cabin and the ability to cross the country, and so it’s current performance justified the price despite the age.
I’m quite sure that the other expert believed what he was saying just as much as I believed what I was saying, even though we were saying opposite truths. What the lawyers do, is they interview experts with really good resumes until they find an expert who will testify to what they need to establish. One case early in my career was about the security of mortgages that were taken out by home buyers of a developer that had run afoul of his bankers. “These people would eat birdseed before they defaulted on their mortgages”. I remember him looking at us for approval. After all, at $500 per hour, he wanted to make sure he got the nuances just right.
Of course there was an expert on the other side of that case too, who explained how risky all the mortgages were.
And so here we are today in a much more sophisticated world. Now we have a world full of experts, and they are all looking for an audience. The more outrageous and outlandish their statements, the more clicks they get. People like Joe Rogan have a real nose for this. They know just who will stir the pot, and they get millions of listeners not by promoting truth, but by promoting controversy.
I remember growing up in Miami, Florida with the Miami Herald. Newspapers back in that day held their reputation as the most important thing. Have you ever watched the movie Absence of Malice? What a great movie about how the Newspaper business used to be. Back in that day, the newspaper came out every day, and pretty much everyone in Miami got their news in the morning from the Miami Herald, and in the evening from Channel 7. Every story that the Herald published was distributed to everybody. When the Miami Herald reported about the Miami River Cops who were involved in drug dealing, or about whatever other topic, they would be called to account by everyone on all sides of the issue. They had to make sure the paper could stand behind the facts they reported. People trusted the newspaper to tell the truth. People trusted their news anchors to tell the truth, because if they did not, they would lose their reputation.
But not anymore. Now we go to a news service like Google or Apple News or whatever source we have. If we like one article we see more like it. They come from all different sources, and there is no accountability. There is simply no longer any objective truth in the media at all. There are just click temptations.
So what can we actually do? Turn all of it off is my answer. It’s been a couple years since I signed off of Facebook, Instagram, What’s App, Gmail, Google News all of it. I have been on a vendetta to get rid of all these manipulators. And what can we do instead? We have to go to the source ourselves. We have to get back in touch with the real world and with people we actually know. I get my vaccine advise from my personal doctor now. It’s so much simpler.
Maybe the answer is to look at the stars and planets for guidance. Maybe the messages we receive from them won’t be any less clear, but at least we will have the peace and serenity that come with gazing at the heavens.
We often think integrity is synonymous with honesty. And certainly, we can say a dishonest person does lack integrity because honesty is a component of integrity. But it’s not all of it. There is much more. Integrity also refers to being complete or whole. It means all of the parts are well connected and form a single functioning whole. When we, or any object or system, lack integrity, it means that our parts are not functioning well together, and that we are therefore weak and prone to failure. In our persona, we can examine our personal integrity chakra by chakra, and by examining our conscience, we can see where our integrity is broken and then take steps to repair it.
What does this mean? Consider a person who lies frequently to gain advantage or avoid negative consequences. We would say that such a person lacks integrity because they say things that are not true, and more than this, they are not simply wrong or mistaken, such a person, if pressed, would at least at some level know that they are being dishonest.
Consider this in terms of the Chakra system. The mind is the 6th chakra and the throat is the 5th chakra. A person who lies for personal advantage says one thing, while the mind knows that something else is the truth. There is a break between the mind and the spoken word. There is a break between the mind and the mouth. What we say, we do not believe, and so we are broken at this point in our system.
What about a person who says that they love you when they do not? The heart, or the fourth chakra, is the source of our emotional lives, and it is where we form and care for our relationships. When someone says they love you, when they don’t, they have a break somewhere. But this could be either between the heart and the mind, or it could be again between the mind and the mouth. A person who is confused about their own feelings, who feels guilty because someone has been very generous to them, may feel pressure to say “I love you too” when what they actually feel awkward and flighty. They say “I love you too” to dissipate the uncomfortable energy. Or maybe they say it because they want to manipulate their partner into doing what they want.
In one case, the break is between the heart and the mind, or the heart and the voice, and in other cases, the break is again between the mind and the voice. Whenever we have a disconnect like that, we have lost our integrity and we really cannot be very effective or happy in the world.
There are other important examples. Think of people who talk a lot about their big plans and aspirations, but who never actually accomplish any of them. Their minds think the ideas are good, the heart is all on board and behind the ideas, and the voice articulates it accurately. But they never actually take any action to do anything. They just talk about it. Where is the break in integrity? It is above the third chakra where we bring the top three chakras into material reality.
Further down we get to issues of addiction and hypersexuality. These are disturbances with the second chakra, and theses are connected to the third chakra. Most people who suffer from addiction also suffer from denial. They fool themselves. They will talk all about a healthy lifestyle and good relationships, but they suffer because they act to satisfy the cravings of addiction. To sex, to drugs, to gambling, to thrills, to adrenaline, to anxiety, to spending money, to whatever it is binds us in addiction. In this case, our integrity is broken at the second chakra.
Continuing down you find people who abandon their relationships, their family, their job, their tribe. They may occupy a position of importance for a while. They may charm everyone around them and rise very fast, but at the critical moment, they abandon. They are broken at the root chakra. Everything they do and say is undermined, because as soon as the pressure builds up from creating something great, they flake out and disappear, leaving others to clean up the mess.
A person with integrity flows through all the chakras. The examination of the conscience is the key to achieving this in the first six chakras. A person with material integrity is all one piece in what they think, what they say, what they feel, how they act, how they take care of their bodies and habits, and how they fit in and relate to their community. When all of our chakras are in alignment like this, and our energy flows, then we can have strong relationships, we can create good things in the world, we can enjoy good health, and we can enjoy strong bonds in our family, tribe and nation.
All of the above relates to what I call material integrity, because all of these aspects of ourselves are manifest here in the material world.
But there is still one aspect of integrity that remains, and that is spiritual integrity, and a break here is the hardest to diagnose. Imagine a very intelligent person, who is aware of the truth (and if he does not share the whole truth, at least he is aware of this), who speaks the truth and whose feelings and actions are in alignment. Such a person might have a very nice house, a beautiful family, a great job, a healthy body, and good standing in the community, yet remain very unhappy. Why?
When a person seems to have everything a person could want but still is unhappy, the break in integrity is at the level of the seventh chakra, which is the divine connection. The mind is very clever. It is very good at solving puzzles and obtaining what it thinks it wants. The problem with the mind, however, is that it really does a lousy job of deciding what it should want. It really has no frame of reference. Imagine a super intelligent robot shopping in a Target store. It can weigh the pros and cons of many different items. Such a device can compare different items and make calculations about them, but it cannot want a red sweater more than a blue sweater.
The robot needs some input. A program. You might assign points to different items. Items that are blue may receive more points than items that are red. Maybe you could tell the robot to get the most weight per dollar, and perhaps you could end up with a car load of canned tomatoes on sale. The intelligent robot is very good at figuring out how to get what it wants. It just lacks ability to know what it should want.
As humans, we are very very complex. We receive programming about what we should want from a very young age. The mind is filled with ideas from teachers, parents, peers, advertising, and now social media. We are repeatedly told that if we have a nice car, a thin body, a prestigious job, and a physically attractive spouse, that we will be happy as a result, and so we set off in our lives to acquire these things.
And to be most effective in the long run, we have to act with material integrity to get the most of what we think we want. But still we end up unhappy. Because the things we have been taught to want serve a purpose other than to make us happy. They make us good little economic engines–the producitive consumers that we are. We are sucked into a system to produce as much as we can so that we can consume as much as we can, and with the highest levels of success, we have zillions of followers who admire us and like everything we say, and long to be just a little more like us. More like Kim Kardashian. Please. More.
But if we have prayer, and meditation, and spirituality, then we can attain true happiness. The first step is to truly realize that YOU, the I AM force that lives deep inside you, is a spirit, and that spirit is having a temporary material experience. That spirit knows at a very deep level that it will ultimately leave behind everything that it accumulates in the material world. The only thing it takes with it is it’s KARMA, which is the sum total of all the goods and bads done over the course of the lifetime here. You might have great success in the material world, but for what purpose?
So what does the spirit inside really want? Well that gets to the question of why you came here in the first place. This is a very good question to ask yourself. Why did you come into this life? What are you here to accomplish, to learn? Who are you here to help? What is your mission? What is your purpose?
None of these questions can be answered outside yourself. None of these answers exist in the material. They exist in the spirt. And therefore, to have true integrity, you must connect the material chakras to your higher self through the 7th chakra. You must tune into the divine within yourself.
Once you connect to the divine within you, this channel will inform you about what you should want. Instead of a car, you may want peace of spirit so you can concentrate. Instead of a body that looks like a magazine cover model, you might want a body that actually feels good to inhabit. Instead of a trophy relationship, you might want someone who helps you stay on the straight path and who supports you in fulfilling your highest and best purpose.
A break in integrity at this level is the hardest to diagnose, because such a person can seem to be very perfect in the material world. Yet if someone is perfect in the material and still deeply unhappy, it is a lack of integrity that causes their suffering, and the break is at the divine connection.
Do you know people or have stories that illustrate this? Have you yourself started on a spiritual path to remedy a hollow empty pointless feeling in your life? If so, please share your experience.
A spiritual practice is very helpful to develop this facility. Meditation and self examination can illuminate within us when we are acting out of alignment with our highest purpose. Plant medicines, like cannabis, ayahuasca, and psilocybin mushrooms can definitely help us to engage in the sort of self examination that will set us free from a life of pursuing objectives that do not make us happy. All of these things awaken the divine within us. They are therefore entheogenic medicines and entheogenic practices.
Pick whatever works for you. The key is to open the conscious connection with your higher self, so that you can receive and act on guidance that you receive. And then all of your material chakras can align behind the task of creating the life that your really want.
I made a commitment to be sweet to myself in the new year. I’ve done this in the past for the benefit of others…try to be nicer, try to be kinder, try to be more patient. And I chastised myself each time I failed. Do better! I’ve been sitting with this idea of self kindness for several weeks now. I’ve been a fan of ascetic practices for a few years that comes from my spiritual traditions, and so it’s easy to be strict with oneself when following a “dieta” or ascetic practice. Most people reading this I’m sure are familiar with what it is to be strict with oneself.
And so a few weeks ago, I was buying honey for Stephanie which she uses to sweeten her cocoa that she makes from scratch every night. She just dumps the honey right in there and it’s super delicious (milk of choice, three tablespoons organic cocoa powder, honey and cinnamon and I like cayenne pepper. simmer all together until just before boil stirring constantly). And, up until recently, I had been avoiding sugar (and all sweeteners) and wheat, but I really like honey. So I was at the store buying honey and right underneath was Manuka Honey, which looked expensive but maybe even all the more attractive. So I bought a little tub of this butter thick sticky brown Manuka Honey. I swear, it buzzes in my mouth and throat when I eat it. I could feel something happening, and so I did a little research, and low and behold, it turns out that there are a lot of really good health reasons to eat some Manuka Honey. (My favorite is Manukora Raw Manuka Honey)
And the best way to do that is from a spoon. And so a couple weeks ago, I started to have a spoon full of Manuka Honey every morning and every evening. At first I would justify this on account of a health benefit. I heard it myself. Standing in the kitchen with a spoon full of honey talking about how it kills bacteria that feeds on sugar and that’s why I’m eating the honey. The same with a massage. I don’t get a massage just because it feels good. I do it for the therapeutic benefit and I have to have a lot of pain to really deserve it!
As I continued my practice, I came across an article about self compassion, and how difficult it is for us to practice kindness to ourselves. I resonated with the concept that we can be to strict with ourselves. And so my relationship with the Manuka Honey started to shift, or maybe to become more honest. Another friend had suggested that maybe I didn’t need to be that afraid of my shadow. Its ok for me to eat a spoon full of Manuka Honey just because it feels good.
Now my practice has developed into a fun ritual. It’s a three minute Manuka Honey meditation. To do it, take a generous teaspoon of Manuka Honey. The way I like to do it is to put the spoon in my mouth and pull off a thin layer as I draw the spoon out. But the key is to breath slowly and consciously as you enjoy the experience of having the honey in your mouth and swallowing it. I believe that it is good for the microbial community in my mouth, so I try to spread it about in my mouth. However you like, make the experience last for three minutes, and enjoy slow relaxed breathing.
As you do this, “unmoor your consciousness” which is to just let go of your mind. Keep your attention on the experience of the honey in your mouth and let the warmth and energy of it radiate out through your head and down your spine and through your body. Imagine the warm energy of the sun on the millions of flowers, and the energy of the bees that made the honey, concentrated energy…bee food from magic flowers… feel that energy radiate throughout your body, and feel the sun in your heart. Now in this moment there is nothing but eating the honey, and for that moment, everything else is ok.
I do this now every morning and every evening. It’s my Manuka Minute (or three) and it’s the best New Years resolution I’ve ever had!