Fever Dream

“I feel like I just woke up from a fever dream” my friend said last night at dinner with Dani. We had Stone Crabs and Challah bread to celebrate Shabbat. A fever dream. I felt the same way.

I had my two hour driving session with Jose the instructor yesterday afternoon. He picked me up at my house. I pulled off my street onto Main Highway in Coconut Grove and went down Douglas Road to Ingram Highway to Riviera Drive. Then we went around all of the traffic circles on Riviera, Granada, Maynada and Hardee. Then I took US1 to the I95 and exited 8th Street to Brickell Ave. I followed Brickell back through the Grove and returned home. The whole trip took almost two full hours, and we had encountered every whacky driving situation Miami could throw at me. “You have NO PROBLEM”. Jose was adamant that it had been a serious injustice to suggest I not drive. “Trust me,” he said, “You have no problem driving. You are fine.”

I thought that might not be a bad thing to have a record of, and so I asked him to confirm that in a text, and that’s the explanation for the photo at the top of this post.

I figure that Jose knows a lot about Miami driving. He does, after all, spend all day in a car with student drivers. I think this like taking a slow path to PTSD. Jose was a talker but also a very nice guy. He came over a year and a half ago from Cuba and had a green card ready upon his arrival here. He was a tour guide in Cuba with a green 1952 Ford.

He was so adamant. “Trust me” he exclaimed repeatedly. I think the the previous occupants of Jose’s driver seat have set a low bar. And now Stephanie is on the plane on her way home from Brazil, and I am here at home, making pinto beans for her and feeling as though I have just woken up from a fever dream.

It was 24 days ago that I woke up with a headache. On the 7th we celebrated the Day of Kings and I played half of the hinario of Mestre Irineu (search “Mestre Irineu” if you want to go down a rabbit hole) with my eyes closed. Then I went to the doctor, had an MRI, discovered I’d had an infarction, then I had all of those tests including 5 MRI/MRA scans and an echo cardiogram, and about five doctors appointments. I went from thinking I’d had a stroke caused by a blood clot that had passed through a hole in my heart and the regrettable, and now proven completely false, prediction that I’d not improve or drive again. And then that I would need heart surgery. Then Stephanie left for two weeks and I was home along without being able to drive. I was in a fever dream. Charlie, Simone, Noah and Wylie left half way through.

I was home alone almost every evening by 5:00 or so. This may have been self isolation, but it was eerie feeling being alone at home like this. I really had to do a lot of work, and am continuing to do so right now, to stay in the right frame of mind and to let this condition run its course.

I can drive again. I am stable. I do not need heart surgery. I have a medication that will prevent this from happening again. I am getting better.

I realized yesterday that there are many gifts of this gift, and once I embrace them all, the gift itself will no longer be required, and it will simply disappear. And so it is happening.

And now I am here typing on the dining room table. Stephanie is due to land in Ft. Lauderdale in about fifteen minutes. I have pinto beans in the pressure cooker. Everything is fine. But life has this new shine on it. I’m different. Life is different. Both are better. I am so grateful.

Peace

Schmarya Space Shalom

“Why” do we do this?

I read this post from Renard’s World which reminds us to remember the “Why” behind the choice to start blogging. It struck me, because I have the desire to write this blog, and I feel disconnected from it when I do not write for a while. But I have never really thought about the specific question about “Why” I would want to do this at all in the first place.

I am not much of a journal writer. Somehow writing in a journal with the idea that nobody, not even myself, will ever read it, does not inspire me enough to stick to it. I have so many little notebooks and journals scattered about, each with a few pages written determinedly in them before they were abandoned to the pile of partially used journals. Does anyone have that tendency to like buying new journals more than actually writing them? I have tried morning pages, I have tried prompts, I have tried all kinds of methods to get me to keep journaling, believing that there is some virtue to be found in the practice. But to no avail. I’m simply not one who journals.

But this is different somehow right? I feel in my heart a little bit of desire to have this blog of mine be well read. I do not have any social media like Twitter or Facebook or TikTok or any of that. I have no instagram feed. I think that this blog makes me feel like I am connected to the world at large, that there is some sort of “good human peer review” process that naturally occurs when we make our statements public.

Sometimes when I am dealing with a difficult situation involving multiple people, I like to write a single email addressed to everyone involved. This way I am certain that I am saying the same exact thing to everyone involved. Otherwise, in one on one conversation, I feel a tendency to avoid the discomfort of saying things that will disappoint the other person. So in talking to one party at a time, I might soften my words, or avoid conflict, or tell them not to worry about something that maybe is actually worrisome. And then in talking to another party, I might soft sell other issues that are important to that other party. So everyone gets a little bit of a different message because of the natural tendency to avoid conflict. This is a subconscious process right?

So by writing one message, then I have to stand by the same words to everyone. Blogging is like that. I can get called out if I say inconsistent things. Blogging requires a certain degree of integrity.

I have been thinking of this in relationship to my driving lesson this afternoon. When I first saw the Ophthalmologist a couple weeks ago, and he mapped out my visual field, he said that it’s up to me if I want to drive, but that I might have some liability due to my limited vision. So this kind of left me in a Catch 22 situation. I could not determine whether I am safe to drive without driving, and the cost of an error could be an accident. How could I figure this out?

Well I wrote about this in the blog. I could not drive to figure out whether I can drive. Catch-22 right? But then I was in traffic behind a car that had a sign mounted on the roof that said “Caution Student Driver.” The car had dual controls so the instructor could take over at any moment. I realized that I could sign up to drive around for a couple of hours with a professional whose job it is to sign off on people that are safe to drive. And for the last several days, I have been sitting in the passenger seat whenever I am in a car, and I have been careful to observe how I would look and see and drive.

So my lesson in driving is this afternoon. I will write about the result, and I am confident that driving will not be difficult with my condition. The simple reason for this is that I can see everything I need to see with the visual field that I now have. I simply need to cast my gaze a little farther to the left to make sure no one is approaching from the area that I do not see.

This area is actually smaller now that it was two weeks ago. Now if I hold up my hand in the middle of my blind spot with my fingers all splayed out so that my thumb is pointing as far away from my pinky finger as possible, I can see the end of my thumb on the right side of the blind spot, and I can see the tip of my pinky finger on the left side. Also, I see pretty well below the horizon. I have learned and practiced to dart my eyes a little up and left, and then back again, to check to make sure my blind spot is clear.

The visual test they did required me to look with only one eye at a time, and to lock my gaze at a fixed point in the middle of a bright white half sphere, and then click a button whenever I detected a very brief flash of a very small and dim point of light. This measurement is good for a frame of reference, but it really has nothing to do with the real world. If the machine had lights that moved and persisted, and if i could use both eyes and move my gaze, I’m sure I would have no trouble finding all of the lights. It’s about function in the real world.

My wife Stephanie is functionally blind in her right eye. This is not exactly the same as my condition, but it is very similar. It effectively limits her peripheral vision on the right, which is the same as me. It is perfectly legal to drive with one eye, and my ability to see on the road is not any worse than that. So the question is how can I adapt?

So what does this have to do with Why I am blogging? By writing things out as I go along, I have to keep my stories straight. I have to be accountable for what I said then, and what I am saying now. Back then, I was faced with the diagnosis that I had had a stroke caused by a blockage of an artery that came about when a blood clot passed through the Patent Foramen Ovale between my atriums and plugged an artery in my brain. From this event little recovery is possible.

But it turns out that I had a cerebral vasospasm, and this condition is different from a stroke caused by a blocked artery. And this means that the blood flow to part of my brain may have simply impaired the function of some of my neurons. It may have permanently damaged some part of my brain, but it’s not as permanent a condition as a blood clot.

And also, I am taking driving lessons in a dual control car, so that I can have an expert observe my driving and give me the green light that I am safe. In fact, I may actually be a safer driver now than before because I intend to be super fastidious about obeying every traffic rule. Also, I’m going to be the annoying driver who does not pull out into the middle of the intersection on yellow lights, and who does not make right turns on red into busy traffic. I’m going to stop completely at all four way stops, and also stop completely at yield signs before entering traffic circles. I am going to be very careful before crossing pedestrian walkways on the sides of roads and also cross walks.

With these safe practices and with a little extra scanning to the left, I am confident that I will be fine. But if I am not safe, the instructor will be able to see that.

And so by blogging about all of this, I make a record of my recovery.

But it’s more than that. I also have this urge inside me to share about my life and the lessons that I am learning. I want to be able to express these things freely and to share them authentically, but at the same time, I do not want to ask or expect anybody to read them. Instead, those who are interested may read, and those who are not are free not to.

This blog is my song to the universe and it is shared by those who are free to read it, and also free not to read it. But by putting it all down in writing, there is some element of integrity that must run through everything.

Peace.

Schmarya Space Shalom

Mountains are only difficult to climb if we ourselves are heavy

I started my day today (after coffee and walking the doggies) with 15 minutes of focused attention. I chose to focus on The Freedom Transmissions, which is the book of the teachings of Yeshua channelled by my dear friend Carissa Schumacher. I opened to a random chapter and started reading a lesson she channelled about how love can move mountains. A bit of wisdom that stuck with me was the statement that Mountains are only hard to climb if we ourselves are heavy.

This situation with my vision is just such a mountain. It just is what it is, and it is my perception that makes it difficult or simply interesting. We are both the dreamer and the dream, Yeshua teaches us, and thus we are both the creator of the Mountain and the one who must climb it. The unavoidable conclusion that this presents me with is that I brought this into my life. I asked for this and I received it. And now for me to complain about getting what I asked for simply acts to separate myself from the Divine Love and Power that resides in all of us.

The teachings channelled by Carissa in her book open a channel within my own being for me to receive my own teachings, and this is a very important one. I dreamed my condition into being, and I can dream it right out of being as well. Or I can work with it here in my waking life. I can rail against the injustice of having been struck by an exceedingly rare and stubbornly permanent brain damage that has distorted my vision, or I can drop that victim mentality and really look at how this is serving me.

How is this serving me? Well for one thing it has given me the perfect justification for doing a lot of necessary housekeeping in my life. It has also given me a very good reason for stepping away from things that I simply wanted, but lacked the courage, to step away from before. It has given me the opportunity to slow down and take care of myself. It has given me permission to make my own well being a priority.

Is this selfish? No. It is not selfish to take care of myself, because if I neglect to take care of myself, then I will not be able to take care of anyone else either. This event has brought my attention to what is actually most important to me, and so thus it serves me as well. There are so many examples of the gifts of this gift. Sure I can complain that I did not get to go down to Brazil with Stephanie and the family, and yeah, that one does hurt. Sure I can complain that I’ve been home alone and unable to drive a car. I was complaining to myself last night that I was home by myself with nothing to do and no one to hang out with. But I have to be careful before I complain about that too much, because my Mom actually invited me to dinner and I declined. I wanted the time at home alone. Can I then complain about it too?

And this, I realize is the key to healing. The key to healing is to embrace all the gifts that this condition has delivered to me. Then I will no longer need the condition. That’s really the key. Once I embrace the gifts of this situation, I will not need it anymore, and then I can change the dream, and it will simply disappear.

Or maybe it won’t change a bit. But something else will, and that is my perception of the situation. The “Mountain” in my case is the infarction that caused brain damage that limits my field of vision. The weight is my attachment to being able to do things as I had always done them. The weight is my attachment to being “capable” and deriving self worth from my capabilities. I valued myself according to my ability to please other people. I was the one who could get the job done. I was the one who would take ideas and weave them into material reality. My role, through my capabilities, was to manifest into material reality the dreams we shared in our spiritual journey.

But now my “capability set” has been dramatically reduced. Now I need help. Now I need the capabilities of others. Where is my self worth in this situation?

It is inside. My spirit is light and air. My spirit, like the Warrior Spirit of the Rainbow Wind, is as light as a cloud of mist blowing in the wind from a mountain waterfall. The most gentle breeze can lift me up and over the highest mountains. And so it is that the Mountain becomes a mole hill. It just is.

And that is the key for me. Embrace the gifts of the condition that I created for myself. Let myself be light. I am the dreamer and the dream, as are you. My consciousness encompasses everything, and content in the present moment, I am free.

Lightning Strike, Ride my bike, Driving test on Friday

This has been a big week for me with tests and doctors. I had three magnetic resonance images taken on Monday, MRA’s they are called, to examine the blood vessels in my head and neck. And then I had back to back appointments with the Neurologist and the Cardiologist. I called my primary physician in the morning to see if they had received any results from the MRA’s, but they had not. I had to hear it from the Neurologist.

Dr. Bruce Kohrman is the Neurologist. What a pro. It turns out that he saw me in 2006 when I suffered a very intense migraine, which I remember, because I lost my ability to speak with that one. I could not access my vocabulary. It was like all the words I knew were in a book that I could not open. Dr. Kohrman had uncovered a record of his notes of my previous visit.

He reported that the MRA images showed no signs of any arterial disease at all, and no sign of any blockage of any blood vessels in my brain. He said based on these findings, it looks like the “infarction’ or “starvation of oxygen” was actually most likely the result of a very intense spasm in a blood vessel that was severe enough to crimp off the blood supply for long enough to cause the brain damage that the first MRI revealed.

So, yes, I had a “stroke” which is “brain ischemia,” which means part of my brain was starved of oxygen for a long enough period to cause cell death. Most ischemic events in the brain are the result of a blood clot in one of the arteries of the brain, which I do not have. Instead, the reduction in blood flow in my brain was caused by the spasm of a blood vessel, which is the root cause of the migraine.

It turns out that strokes without brain bleeds are not painful. My first symptom was the intense pain of a migraine. Dr. Kohrman posited that it might be possible that I had a stroke at the same time I had a migraine, but there is no evidence of any blockage of any blood vessel.

So basically, I am perfectly healthy, except that I got struck by lightning, and that caused brain damage.

“Let me give you my cell phone number, and have the Cardiologist call me.” He handed me his business card with his cell phone number written on it. I was stunned! When was the last time a high level doctor just handed you his cell phone number?

I went up to the Fourth floor of the medical building by South Miami Hospital after the Neurologist appointment, and checked in early with the cardiologist. The card was missing from my pocket! How could I lose it? I checked through every pocket and every paper in my backpack and my wallet. The nurse practitioner called my name while I had all of my stuff strewn around (brain damage), no card.

“If you could get the neurologist’s number, that would help a lot” she said. I went back downstairs and found the card on the floor upside down by the check out station in Dr. Kohrman’s office. I retrieved it and hurried back upstairs. They asked me to wait for a few minutes while the cardiologist phoned Dr. Kohrman, and then he saw me.

He was really surprised. Here I was, perfectly healthy but with permanent brain damage caused by a really bad headache. It is exceedingly rare for a migraine to cause permanent brain damage, but wow, here’s a case! Everyone talks about how this can happen, but he’s never seen a case of it. Nor had Dr. Kohrman.

“The standard for a PFO Closure is when a person under 60 has a stroke and is found to have a PFO with no other explanation for the cause of the stroke, but in your case, it was coupled with a Migraine, so there is no reason to believe that your PFO had anything to do with your condition.”

In fact, he said, he was not even sure that I have a PFO at all. Usually the air bubbles go right through the hole, but in my case, they appear in the other atrium after a few beats of the heart, which indicates that the bubbles might be returning from the pulmonary vein into the arterial side of the heart.

My entire condition is disappearing. No vascular disease, no blood clot, no blockage. Just brain damage from a headache.

Before all my appointments, I went and picked up my bike. I realized that it’s been two and a half years since we moved into this house, and my bike has never been here. It’s here now, and it sure makes it easier to get around the neighborhood! I’m going to ride to my workout at noon.

And on Friday, I signed up for a driving lesson in a car that has dual controls. I will spend a couple hours driving around with an instructor in the passenger seat who can take over if I make an error. This will give me the chance to practice my driving without putting anyone in danger.

I think with a little practice, I will be able to drive safely. I just don’t want to put anyone else at risk while I figure it out. So after driving for 39 years (my first car was a stick shift), and having my pilot’s license and plenty of expertise with boats, from small sailboats, to high powered multi engine boats, to our 50 foot sailboat, I’m going to be in “Caution–Student Driver” car. I have always been a nut for driving. Having to sit in the passenger seat for the rest of my life might be my reality, but I’m not going to just accept that without trying to do better.

So no blood clot, no heart procedure, no blood thinners, no passenger seat.

My first inclination may just be right. Dr. Kohrman’s role in this is to witness the miracle.

Love to all who read this. thank you.

Schmarya Space Shalom

the momentary end of busy

I read a thought provoking blog the other day about whether anybody cares about what bloggers write about, and whether that should matter. The author pointed out that he often receives several likes within the span of a minute or two, or receives likes without having the page actually opened. He pointed out that these people are just clicking like and that the article could be about planning a wedding for a cat and people who like without reading would happily click away.

But he also pointed out that if one writes enough, eventually there will be some people who actually do look forward to reading the content. And it is for these people that we should write. And think about.

So here I am, writing about my experience after having a stroke, and that’s pretty much just therapy for myself. So to this I can add the dimension of thinking that there are a few friends out their in the world who give the gift of their time and attention, and so it is in appreciation of that energy that I must write.

And so what can I share that was of benefit, that someone can read quickly, and enjoy?

I had two cool experiences over the weekend. The first was Sunday morning when my friend who is also my executive assistant picked me up to go to the beach. She regularly meets a friend out by the lighthouse on Key Biscayne on Sunday mornings if the weather is good. She invited me into this little window of her personal life just to brighten my day. And it was really fun.

Reflecting on friendships is such a door to gratitude. If we have a few people in our lives who show up for us we are so lucky. I’ve had a couple go arounds with loneliness over the last ten days with Stephanie being still down in Brazil. One loneliness episode struck right after Dani dropped me off around noon on Sunday. I went out to the patio with the dogs to let them run around, and my friend the parrot that you see pictured above was hanging in the tree.

I started to feel that sort of anxious energy of “what do i do now” coming up in me. Who should I call, where should I go, what should I do? How can I fill these minutes and hours remaining on this Sunday afternoon. My parrot friend’s intractable gaze reminded me. This time where no one and nothing depends on me is a gift of the gift. Here I am, in my home, which is beautiful and peaceful and comfortable, on a balmy Sunday, with nothing to account for.

My parrot friend reminded me that it is in these times that I can write, or paint, or work with photographs, or play guitar, or just sit an be. Just sit and be. Sit and be. sit and be. sb.

So today, if anyone actually reads this far, please comment! If you liked this page and never opened it, please go singing on your happy journey. And for everyone, whether you read this or not, I invite you to breathe in and breathe out, with no extra achievement or goal except to nurture yourself lovingly with oxygen. And sit. And be. And sit and be happy to be here.

Love to all and everything

Schmarya Space Shalom

Be Here NOW – Ram Dass and The Gift of Being Stroked

My dear friend Lynn met Ram Dass after he was very powerfully stroked. Ram Dass lost a lot of his mobility on the right side, he lost the ability to spell, and he lost some ability to find words when speaking. Lynn suggested that I should listen to some of the talks he gave after he was stroked, and so I did. I watched a couple videos on YouTube. In one in particular Oprah Winfrey interviewed him.

She asked him if he had ever felt sorry for himself after the event. Ram Dass laughed and said no. He also said that he embraced his faith and felt gratitude for being here. He said that people in the hospital treated it like a sad event, “oh that’s terrible that you suffered a stroke,” but he was not resonate with that feeling. He was really just grateful to be here at all.

As I listened to him speaking and laughing about his condition, I really connected with him. The spirit came to me immediately after the event and presented me with the question of Faith or Fear. I immediately chose Faith and have continued to do so, and this has really kept my spirits up. Sure I have some challenges that I have to deal with now that I dealt with easily before, but everything from moment to moment is actually just fine.

Ram Dass said the same thing. He said being stroked was a gift because it has forced him to slow down, and by slowing down, he remains more connected to the present moment, and it is in the present moment that we find GOD. This is so true. Like he says, the past and the future are just thoughts. God exists here in the present. An event like this that brings me more to the present, brings me more in touch with God.

One of my dearest teacher, Alex Polari, once said the purpose of meditation and concentration is to fully incorporate our divine self here in this material existence. It is not, as many people think, a means of escaping our present reality. Quite the opposite. The purpose is to truly arrive here and be present here in this material experience. When we do this, we manifest the divine within its creation.

Think of this. Imagine that you created this reality with its infinite and perfectly balanced possibilities, like a virtual reality from a super powerful quantum computer. Would you not want to then experience your creation first hand? How would you do this? Well you would have to manifest your consciousness into the experience, and to make this feel real, you would have to set it up so you did not know how you got there. Then you could go and materialize in every possible situation. Sometimes the prisoner, sometimes the guard. Sometimes the powerful, sometimes the oppressed. You cannot have one without the other.

When I had this disruption, I never felt sorry for myself either. I really went straight to gratitude that I am fully here in my body. After seeing how much more challenging Ram Dass’s experience is, I am left grateful that my inconveniences are so minor.

But that really is the gift I am seeing. This is the chance to know God in the present moment. This is a chance to be fully present in my now slightly wonky material being.

I read Be Here Now back in 2005 when a friend introduced me to it. I was not much of a spiritual seeker back then. But it struck me, and continues to do so. I was so happy to find that this happened to such a gifted communicator because through his experience, I can come to more fully appreciate my own experience.

Miracles happening every day.

Love Shmarya

Open Letter to Carissa Schumacher

Thank you so much for your loving reply to my email.  I am having the most amazing experience and am seeing how this is truly an amazing gift.  I did have my MRI, and it showed that there was something happening in my visual cortex that affects my left visual field.  It was funny, while I was in the MRI machine the Radiologist asked me if I had ever had a stroke.  Not the best question to ask someone in the middle of a brain scan right?

I know this is all western and horizontal, but they found something called a Patent Foramen Ovale in my heart, which is basically a hole between the two atriums, which are the upper chambers of the heart.  Their theory is a small clot or some arterial plaque went through the hole and up into my carotid artery.

This is amazing, because when I woke up Wedesday at 2:00 in the morning, I had rolled over from my back to my side, and I had a vision of like five shooting stars going up into my brain, and each left a trail of pain that became my head ache.  It seems like this was the event taking place.

But like you pointed out, this is only the horizontal explanation.  The result is an amazingly powerful channel that plugs right into my visual cortex.  I was imagining something yesterday, and saw it so powerfully and felt the feelings so strongly it was like my vision actually happened.  I literally had to sit back on the sofa.  Also, when I pray, I feel this channel activate, and it feels like there is a 20 amp circuit running right through my brain.  Sometimes colors and visions intrude upon my awake consciousness.  I used to have to close my eyes to see colors or visions, or to start a dream sequence, but now with this part of my optic nerve not informing this part of my visual cortex, this channel is now open for spirit.

I have had such powerful conversations with the Warrior Spirit of the Rainbow Wind.  Showing me how this is the answer to my prayer.  He told me that I have the opportunity to choose my response to these events and the choice is clear… FAITH or FEAR.  He told me that this condition could be a progression of strokes as my arteries continue to release plaques and small clots until my eventual demise, or I could have my PFO closed by the cardiologist, and never suffer another episode with almost a full recovery.  But that does not matter. 

What matters is that some time in my life I will face my own mortality, and this is just a chance to practice.  Then, as now, the question will be FAITH OR FEAR.  

Carissa, Fear is such a scary abyss that I see down and to my right by the side of my right foot.  If I go down there, it is a bottomless pit.  I am being shown how the knowledge and faith that I am a spirit having a material experience, and one day I will separate from this body, and this body will return to the earth, and I will be free like the Warrior Spirit of the Rainbow Wind to dance with the wind and the sun and the mist of waterfalls.  I am seeing there is nothing to fear.

What is coming instead is this powerful love.  I am so so grateful that I get to remain incorporated here!  And this body is still very good!  Sure I can’t see a little to the left. I walked straight into a tree after crossing the street with the puppies today.  I was looking down at them, and they were on my right, so that left the left side of my visual field facing the direction I was walking, and so the oak tree in front of me was not visible, and I walked right into it.  It would have to be very comic for anyone looking on at me!  I had to laugh at myself.

But Carissa, I am here!! My intelligence is here, my love is here, my personality is here, my memory is here, my guitar is here! I am so grateful that I had such a minor episode!  Sure its a little hassle to not be able to drive the car, and I’m going to have to get some help skiing in Telluride, but I will take that deal!  I can still enjoy so much of my life.

And now I am a 55 year old stroke survivor.  I no longer have to worry about jealosy or unnecessary boundaries or anything.  I can freely give and receive love because the over sexualization of relationships just does not apply to me anymore.  I am so grateful to have Stephanie as my partner.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m off the market for the sweet young girls who were never actually attracted to me except in Stephanie’s imagination.  But I don’t have to worry about that anymore.  Now I’m free to be myself and I just don’t have to worry about any of that anymore.

And Carissa, I am SO grateful for little things.  Like the fact that I can see the cursor on my computer screen.  I can see the cursor and to the right, and it turns out that this is all I need to be able to write.  What a joy!  What a miracle of the brain that the visual cortex has some sort of redundancy for the part of the vision where we focus our gaze.  My visual field loss is just a little left and just a little above center.  If I could not see the focal point of my gaze, it would be so much harder to write or read.  But as it is, I can write just fine.  Thank God!

And I am also realizing the LOVE that is so huge.  The love of Yeshua, the Love of Mestre Irineu, the Love of the Virgin of Conception and Padrinho Sebastião.  The LOVE you have for me, and the LOVE I have for you are so strong.  And now I can feel it directly.  

I don’t know if that is common in your experience, but I feel like I am talking to your higher self in the Astral exactly at this moment as I write this, and I feel like I am responding to you.  I hear you saying YES THAT’s it! and Yes this is a channel, and yes I can see you there, and I hear you telling me that yes I am seeing you too.  I don’t ordinarily write this much in an email, but it does not even seem like you need to read it. It seems like I need to write it to bring this communication into being, but the actual communication is happening in the psychic mediumship realm.  The actual reading of the email is just horizontal confirmation.

So anyway, they did find just what you said they would find… maybe a little more.  They found that there is some physical evidence on the MRI that exactly explains the symptoms I am describing.  But really all they know is there is an area of lighter looking brain tissue.  But I have to say, it looks too perfect and intentional to be a random thing.  You could not have used a laser pointer to more perfectly describe the affected area.  For this to be a random event just does not explain it at all.  

I can’t really ask my neurologist if it’s possible that a divine spirit of an ancient Ute Warrior is building a structure in my brain to more directly channel divine intelligence.  That’s not really in their play book.

I am so grateful that you are my friend and that I can share this experience with you.  I can’t wait to see what opens up.

I love you so much.

Oh my new name is Schmarya Space Shalom.  More on that later.

“the expansion of the consciousness will be able to save the earth”

–Pd. Paulo Roberto, Nova Aliança

Christmas Letter from the Warrior Spirt

I remember checking the mailbox everyday at boarding school. We did not have easy access to a telephone, and there were no cell phones or emails or social media, and so we treasured letters when they would arrive. I remember receiving a letter from a girl, Susan, from my home town that she sent me in a box of cookies. The paper had absorbed the oil from the cookies, and the oil made the paper translucent. She had written on both sides, and so the writing on one side completely obscured the writing on the other side. I tried everything I could think of to make the words legible, but to no avail. The words were forever lost, and I felt acutely the pain of their absence.

I also remember writing letters with strong emotion, and then walking down to the mailbox to retrieve them. Ricky don’t lose that number, send it off in a letter to yourself. I am reminded of those times when it took a week or more to send a letter and receive a reply. Now communications are instant, and irretrievable, and part of a permanent record. It seems that we communicate our reactions instead of our responses.

I remember also how we used to share the news of our lives in letters. News did not travel so fast, and so in a letter, from Camp or school between home or a loved one, communicated the salient details of our lives. Sometimes the treasure of a photograph would come inside the envelope, and I would pin it on my cork board in my room. I remember taking pictures on film, 24 exposures per roll, and winding the roll onto a wire wheel in the dark and then working in anticipation to develop the negatives and then make prints. The faces of my friends and family, the events of the day revealed one shot at a time.

Today is Christmas, cold and dreary in Miami. We spent the morning at my Mom’s with lots of family and a couple of friends. We exchanged gifts, all wrapped in bags with tissue, and enjoyed company and coffee and food. Then back to the house for a lazy Christmas afternoon. And so now is the time, the week, to start thinking of the New Year. I like to make a prayer for the New Year, and so now is the time to start thinking of it.

Last night, we got together with our Church friends and sang the hinario of Mestre Irineu. At one point during the night I felt a strong prayer come to me. I felt the spirit say to me, “I am here, what do you want” And the answer came to me. “I want my love for my wife to be more resilient.” And in meditation I received a beautiful understanding.

I saw how when someone I love is upset with me, there is a part of me that gets wounded, like a child, and as a result, I behave childishly. I can feel inside of me where this wounded part is, and from this part bubble up stories about the “others” motivations and intentions. These are the stories of a wounded child. When I speak or act from that energy, it is transmitted to the other person, and a cycle of painful communications starts, and this takes me out of the love vibration that is always available to all of us.

In my meditation, with everything perfect, I was able to see a better, more mature way to respond. I was shown a small example of something that had disappointed me, and how I had gone on to create stories about why that had happened. The stories were far more upsetting than the event itself. My first thought was that these stories I tell myself are “all bullshit,” but then I saw that I can tell myself true stories or at least better stories instead, and instead of reacting with defensiveness or bitterness, I can act with compassion toward myself and toward the other person.

I realize that this is the same lesson that I am learning over and over, but this time it seemed to penetrate a little more deeply. There is a hymn that says “smooth out my heart, so that I can love, and the offenses of my brothers, I may know how to pardon”. (“Aplanai meu coração, para eu poder amar, e as ofensas dos irmaos, eu saber perdoar”). I was able to see how spiritual mastery, the buddha, the Christ, the Warrior Spirit, has a heart smooth like the stones of a river. I saw how my heart is full of old wounds and jagged edges that catch and stick and cut.

So as I create my prayer for the new year, it starts with this. My prayer is to smooth out my heart so that I can love. So that love can be more resilient, and I can be happier.

Merry Christmas.

Warrior Spirit – Knowing What I Want Shields Me From Manipulation

I was recently involved in a conversation with someone who was coming at me with an extremely narcissistic attitude. I felt tension rising in my chest and in my voice and I found myself in an argument with this person and my internal tension was rising fast. I was feeling angry and defensive, and I could feel my heart rate increasing and felt my face a little flush. In the past weeks, I have really focused on being aware of what is going on inside of me when I have emotional reactions, and so I noticed as this was happening. I began to ask myself what I was getting upset about. How did this other person get under my skin when I needed nothing from them in the moment, and when I owed them nothing as well.

I could feel how the narcissistic person was pulling on chords of guilt. “You don’t even want to be around me” is what they were saying. They were accusing me of treating them unfairly and differently from other people. The attack was like that of a woodpecker looking for a rotted bug infested section of a tree. They just kept ticking away at me looking for a weak spot. A place where some part of me agreed with what they were saying. Once they found these little spots, they went at work chipping away at me, with the idea that eventually I would capitulate and give them what they wanted.

Most of the people I meet are actually really good people, and I have been quite fortunate to be able to help a lot of very good people accomplish and achieve very good things. This is something I really enjoy and want to do. It’s the same sense of satisfaction one receives in the garden when we water and fertilize good plants and watch them grow and bear fruit. It gives me great pleasure to give a small amount or help in some way, and then watch the seed thus planted grow. But I feel a tightness in my solar plexus when I am manipulated into supporting something that I do not feel called to support.

This study I have been doing about myself over the last few months really has focused on coming to really know myself and that means knowing and accepting the truth about what I want, and letting this be a part of my guidance that I follow. And so here this person was accusing me of not being supportive and not wanting to spend time with them. Some part of me felt obligated to support this person, and the additional layer of accusation around not wanting to spend time was causing a sense of guilt to rise up in me.

My Padrinho teaches me that I should always listen to my enemies and “follow my guilties,” which is one of his funny English phrases from his native Portuguese. Listen to your enemies he says because they will tell you things that even your best friends will not tell you. Listen to what they say he advises me, and search within your conscience to see if there is some truth there. Sometimes there are nuggets of truth that I can learn from my enemies, and through the examination of the conscience, I can correct and improve myself. The same holds true with the “Guilties.” I follow them through my psyche like a string through a cave. Where does this guilty feeling attach to me? How is this guilty feeling being used as a lever on me. Is there something true about the accusation that produces this guilt? Or is it just activating some old wound?

In this recent case, I was feeling guilty because some part of me agreed with the accusation that I was not wanting to spend time with this person, but in denying the truth of that statement, I was actually not telling the truth, and this made me feel guilty. I saw this as I followed the trail into my emotional body. And that’s where the sense of knowing who I am and what I want was available to help me. Actually I realized, the person was quite right. I really do not enjoy spending time with them, because they never respect my boundaries and they are always trying to manipulate me into giving them things I don’t want to give them. They were accusing me of stinginess and lack of generosity, but I know this is not true, because I know what it feels like when I want to help or support something. I am plenty generous with causes and people that I want to support, and I don’t need to support people or causes that I do not feel aligned with.

By knowing what I want, who I am, and where I stand, I was able to shield myself from these attacks.

The attachment point for most of the attacks that come at me is the basic need that I, and I think most people share, is this need to believe that I am a basically good person. I have an image inside my head of what a good person is, and when someone accuses me of acting in a bad way, this makes me uneasy, because it challenges my core belief that I am a good person. If I believe that good people do not say mean things, then I would feel guilty if I told someone that I don’t want to spend time with them or support their projects. Something inside me does not like telling someone that I don’t enjoy their company. But when I embraced the truth of this and accepted that this did not make me a bad person, I felt suddenly free from manipulation. This confidence put a smooth shield inside where the grappling hooks of guilt could not find any purchase.

Sometimes it scares me a little to acknowledge what I want, because I am afraid that if I go after the things I want I might lose some of the things I have. I subconsciously fear that the people around me might react negatively if they were to know what I really want, and so to protect myself from this, there is a tendency to deny it even to myself. This hiding of the truth of our own nature causes a break in integrity, and this provides an access point for spiritual attack. The antidote is faith that I was created by God as a creature in this material world, and there is nothing inherently bad about my true nature. I do not have to pursue every temptation. I do not have to eat foods that tempt me, but I do have to recognize that I am in fact tempted by that chocolate almond croissant. If I put up a wall and claim “of course I do not want that tasty croissant, only heathens and scum and degenerates would eat that!” Well I might be erecting a barrier to help me avoid the temptation, but I am also creating tremendous force to give in. This is why we so often see people falling from behind white washed personas.

If instead I know and recognize the temptation, I can see what I really want, in general, is to stay as healthy as possible so that I can enjoy my third revolution of Saturn through the Zodiac, which will start in a few short years when I turn 58. If I eat added sugar regularly, I put on weight. If I avoid added sugar, wheat, and diary, I effortlessly maintain my ideal weight. I am not a bad person for wanting the chocolate almond croissant. Of course I have the desire to experience that. But if I eat them all the time, I will not be healthy, and so I do not want to eat them over the long term, even though I want to eat them in the immediate moment that I am buying my morning coffee. With conscious examination of the conscience, I can learn to see all the nuances of desires and temptations that I have, and I can align them with the things I want over the long term of my life, and then I can make choices in the present moment accordingly.

But if I hide the truth from myself, well then I am doomed.

Sweeten Your Inner Voice — Adlerian Psychology and the Four Agreements

I’ve been reading from two books over the last couple of weeks. The first one is a Japanese philosophy book called “The Courage to Be Disliked” and the second is the very well know “The Four Agreements”. These books have both inspired me to listen to my inner voice and hear some of the abuse that it metes out to my psyche. The Four Agreements tells us of the powerful magic we can access when we are impeccable with our word, and The Courage to Be Disliked shows us how we perpetuate our own pathological psychology because we believe it serves us to do so. In my personal case, these two concepts intersect around messages I repeat to myself and that dim my light and reduce my joyful experience of the world. One example is the self admonishment I give myself that “I am too old.” But before I get into my own personal illumination of these negative tendencies, I want to write a little bit about the concepts in the book. Please dear reader remember, that when I write like this, the primary audience is myself. I am not intending to lecture anyone, but instead I am learning as I write for myself.

I read The Four Agreements a long time ago, maybe more than ten years ago, maybe even before I started my spiritual journey in the Santo Daime tradition. The first agreement is to always be impeccable with your word. I had over the years forgotten what the author said about this, and instead remembered it as an admonishment to be strictly and completely truthful in everything we utter. It would, of course, be impossible and disastrous if we tried to implement this in our daily lives. You can start with the obvious example that if the Gestapo knocks on your door and asks if you are hiding any refugees, you say “no refugees here sir.” Other times people pry into our personal lives and a refusal to answer a question about some intimate truth that we do not want to reveal would in itself be an admission.

For example, if I ask you if you ever murdered anyone, you would easily say no. If I then asked if you had every burglarized a house, you would say no. If they then asked if you had ever sold heroine to a minor, another easy no. Then they ask have you ever smoked marijuana? Well if you then say “I don’t want to answer that question” then you’ve just admitted it haven’t you? In that case you have to say “no” even if the truth is yes.

We all have the right to keep safe and protect our intimate selves from the harsh judgments and resulting punishments that wait for us in the world. Throughout Human history–from the inquisition, to police states, to overbearing employers, to prying family members– abusive powers demand the the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Then they manipulate us with guilt for withholding our most intimate selves from those who would use the information only to abuse us.

I was resistant to reading the Four Agreements when my friend recommended me to it, because I remembered the admonition of impeccability as requiring this naive veracity. But when I read the book again I saw that impeccability requires a much more powerful discipline for the voice. What it really requires is that we not use our voice to cause harm to ourselves. The first instance of this is when we say negative things directly about ourselves, such as “oh you are so stupid!” These words form agreements in our psyche that then play out in our lives.

A lot of these negative beliefs we have about ourselves come from experiences we have had in our past. I was told at a young age that I was not good at singing or drawing, and so I believed this, and would stand by mute when happy birthday was sung, and I never attempted to draw. At that young age, I was not aware that both singing and drawing are skills that one develops through practice and love. I thought they were skills one was born with, and as I was told I did not have these skills, I agreed with this, and then never developed them.

It was not until I started in the Santo Daime tradition that I learned that everyone can sing or draw or dance just as well as they can, and if we practice we improve. I learned to accept my abilities as they are, and then give my best to develop them through practice. This is how we grow. Michelangelo did not start out by painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Rembrandt’s early drawings were awkward and lacking in perspective. Even the masters had to start somewhere and improve over time with great effort. Sure some people are born with a very sensitive ear, and that makes it easy to learn to sing. Some people are seven feet tall and that gives them an advantage in basketball. But that does not mean we cannot develop our own abilities. How cool is it when we see a relatively short person with amazing skills hit three pointers one after another?

The next case of impeccability of the word involves gossip and saying negative things about others. The book warns us strongly against this spreading of poison. The Santo Daime tradition teaches the same thing–that gossip and speaking badly about one’s brothers and sisters is a grave sin. There is one teaching that says the death of the body is on the tip of the tongue. Another says that if we speak badly about our brothers and sisters we are inviting our own demise. If I say something negative about someone else, then I will inevitably believe that person does not like me. I will create a negative opinion in the person I’m talking too, and thus poison spreads.

The second book, The Courage to Be Disliked, talks about how we hold onto our pathological psychology because it serves us to do so. This is Adlerian psychology and it is contrasted to the psychology of Freud. In Freudian psychology, the basic premise is that our present personality and our neurotic behaviors come from traumas that we have experienced in our past. In this view traumas we have suffered in the past make an indelible imprint upon us, that cause us, for example, to be unable to form lasting relationships in adulthood. Under this understanding, the only way to heal is to delve into past traumas and reconcile them.

Adlerian psychology, on the other hand, says we hold onto traumas and negative behaviors because it serves us to do so. Someone close to me used to always say they were terrified to fly on airplanes, and would have panic attacks every time they got on a plane. They blamed this on the trauma they experienced when they were on a flight that ran off the end of the runway. But it turned out that the truth was that this person really did not like to visit their family which was full of drama after an ugly divorce and some other issues. One day when an opportunity to take a fabulous trip arrived, suddenly this person was no longer afraid of airplanes. Another example we have all seen is people who constantly complain about being sick when they are not really sick so they can get the attention of their parents.

There are extreme cases of post traumatic stress disorder which can really interfere someone’s ability to enjoy a happy life. It is not for me to discount the reality of their situation or their suffering. In those cases a panic attack might prevent the person from going into a crowded street where before they were subjected to grave danger. In Adlerian psychology the remedy would be more to focus on learning that the behavior is no longer necessary, that the streets are safe, while in Freudian psychology, the remedy would be to delve into the trauma. Recognizing the difference between the two modes of psychology does not discount the suffering of people with intense mental illnesses. For them we should only have compassion and offer help.

In my own case I have formed an agreement in my own mind that I am “too old.” This started for me when I first went through my divorce and found myself single. I was about 43 years old when my divorce was final, and the first thing that came up on the radar as I started to form new relationships was that I did not want to make a fool of myself by being attracted to people who were significantly younger than me. This was kind of awkward for me, because at the time, many of the women who were “age appropriate” for me were at the stage of their life where their primary interest in relationships was to have children. I already had four sons, and a vasectomy that I had not intention of reversing. Women who were a little younger than my judgment about “age appropriate” on the other hand, were more likely to not to be focused on having kids.

I was visiting friends in another city one weekend, and there was a woman that I found very attractive. It turns out that at the time she was about 33 years old. A sister of mine noticed that I had taken interest and she smacked me on the arm and said “no way! you are way to old for her”. I internalized this. Sometime later someone in their early twenties called me a geezer, and so I started to believe that I was too old.

But now I am going to break that agreement. I’m not too old for anything. I just am what I am. In actual fact, I’m in better physical shape than I have ever been in. I am at my best weight, I have my lowest resting heart rate, and after a couple years of intense physical training, my body is strong and balanced. I do not drink or smoke and I eat a healthy diet. I’m in the best shape I have ever been in, and my mind is as sharp as it has ever been. What exactly am I too old for? Nothing.

I used to carry forward this belief because it would prevent me from making a fool out of myself through attraction to younger women. But now I am happily married and have good relationships in my life, and I no longer need this protection. There is nothing good that comes from the self perception of being old and so I do hereby reject that notion, and resolve to change my self speak to be impeccable with my word in this respect.

Over the next weeks we have several spiritual works in our tradition of the Santo Daime. In this tradition our first instruction is to examine our conscience and then to correct ourselves. I am going to dedicate my spiritual work for the next phase to examining my conscience for negative thoughts I have about myself that form these pernicious agreements that limit my joy and happiness in life. One by one I am going to identify and reverse them. I am definitely not too old to start this process. I hope you can help yourself with this practice too.

Peace.