Daily Writing March 26,2023

I missed writing yesterday and broke a seven day streak. The Cura that we sang with Padrinho Paulo started early and finished late, and there just was not an opportunity to write. When I got home, I saw the above picture of my grandson Noah eating Açaí in Madrinha Rita’s kitchen with his Mom, Simone. I remember the last time I was in Mapia in the summer of 2019. An old friend, Severinho, was making the açaí in the kitchen. He brought the long stalks of berries from the açaí palms and blanched them in boiling water and then separated the pits from the thick purple meat of the berries. From there it went straight into a plastic pitcher and from there into our bowls. I always liked a little farinha and honey in mine. There in Mapia, the açai is thick and heavy–a completely different food from the watered down frozen packets that we buy in the grocery store here.

I also received a really cool video of Wylie doing a flip off the bridge into the stream in the middle of town with a bunch of other young people. He executed a perfect flip, but without rolling into a ball. He looks like a pencil flipping through the air. The bridge is about 15 feet over the surface of the river, so one has to commit or suffer a horrendous belly flop. I would be terrified to leap like that into that coffee brown and opaque water. I hit my face into a log without seeing it one time. I was lucky not to be seriously injured.

The work was very strong. We had about 35 people with visitors from all around the country. Several people came from the much larger Church near Austin Texas. We had several from upstate New York, Maryland, Hawaii, and Los Angeles Churches too. These are all places Padrinho stopped on his tour, and Miami is the final stop, so we had a lot of people who wanted to be there for our works.

The work was extremely challenging for me. Padrinho likes to arrange the salão so that he can see everyone during the work. This is different from the traditional Santo Daime set up where the table is in the center and everyone is in a hexagon or square shape around the center table. Here we set up what looked like a banquet table with the women going down the right side and the men on the left. As the “daime guardian” I was seated next to Padrinho’s left hand, and so when I looked down at the hymn book on the table in front on me, the line of men were in my upper left visual field, which of course is blind since my stroke. So this gave me the weird effect of not being able to see the entire line of fifteen or so men extending out to the left.

The force of the sacrament was very strong. It was enough to open the healing but not so much as to create a carnage. It’s a very fine balance to push the force strong enough to really open the doors for healing without over serving the sacrament. Fortunately the divine intelligence guides the serving process. We hit that edge perfectly.

The music was particularly beautiful as well. We had the guitar players at the opposite end of the room, so they did not interfere too much with connecting the voices of the singers. Sometimes with a guitar in the center, the voices cannot connect over the amplifier in the center. This set up was much better.

The leader of the Santo Daime worldwide is Padrinho Alfredo, the son of Padrinho Sebastião. He is a master of leading works without having to be the loudest voice in the room. No matter what is happening in the salão, and it can get pretty intense, Padrinho Alfredo is the picture of calm. He was giving me guidance in keeping myself calm and patient when I felt frustrated that other people were not following my guidance. Padrinho trust me to lead the work when he is up taking care of something, and I am willing and capable of doing so, but it’s hard when we have so many people, especially leaders from other churches. Everyone means well, and everyone wants to contribute what they have to offer. And so a lot of time when I’m wanting to influence the work, I don’t have the space or the attention I need to be effective.

One way to deal with this is to get loud and start bossing everyone around. This works not at all. In the force people are so sensitive that even a minor correction can make someone feel really bad. And they were all having fun and trying to share their gifts. Padrinho Alfredo handles this situation so well. He just stays calm and carries on, and forgives the offenses as soon as they happen.

We were singing the Cura II, which is a 17 hymn selection of healing hymns, in the force of strong sacrament. People were excited and we were blowing through it way to fast. At the rate it was going, we were going to run out of hymns in about 35 minutes with an hour and a half of strong force present. I wanted to sing all the hymns in English and Portuguese, and I had to overcome some resistance to this. I confirmed with Padrinho that was what he wanted. My challenge was to make this happen without making anyone feel that I was strong arming the work.

I had to go outside and sit for a minute, in the middle of this force, to see how to handle it, and Padrinho Alfredo was there for me. I saw how he sits at the table and controls everything with gentle indications from his maracá. I returned to the salão and the women leading the singing were finishing this one hymn in English and when they were done and the guitars were doing the playout, I started softly to sing in Portuguese, and it took a bit for people to catch on, but they did, and then from there we sang them all in both languages. It was such a subtle input in the middle of so much force with so many personalities in play. It was a very special moment.

But I was very tired. My ribs from the fracture were painful and the breathing while singing was hard for me. Also the visual distortions were disorienting, so I had to keep my eyes closed a lot. I felt rather alone, like I was in a capsule or something. I had to let go of some hurt feelings I had to when something I had proposed for the work today was rejected in a way that felt very unkind to me. I am learning this balance of self sufficiency with caring for others. It’s easy for me to isolate myself with the thought that I’m fine by myself, but this is a cold and lonely way to be. At the same time, I am learning that I cannot let my internal sense of well being and happiness be controlled by the reactions other people have to me. Sometimes they love me, sometimes they are angry at me, sometimes they understand me, sometimes they don’t. If my happiness depends on the reactions other people have to me, then what happiness can I possibly have?

So I was sitting with this a lot during the work, and Padrinho Alfredo was sitting there with me. He showed me how to meditate, in a buddhist sort of way, accepting everything that is going on around, and looking out upon it with love in my own eyes, while having my internal peace and happiness coming to me from my divine connection, instead of from my little approval seeking ego self. It was a way of being, impeccability Padrinho was calling it, that I could sustain for a minute or two at a time, before some negative thought or hurt feeling would bubble back up.

We have another work today. The last one of the tour this year. It’s a little hard to get up the energy to do another seven hours with the sacrament, but once we get started, it always takes on a life of its. Sometimes I hope for it to be easy. Usually it isn’t easy. But even if it is not easy, it certainly can be beautiful.

There are a lot of ways that people experience Ayahausca. The Daime is like none other, because we all share in creating the work. It’s not like the shamanic traditions where people come to have a shaman minister to them. Here we have no shaman, we have no guru, we just have the doctrine, and the Daime leads the work. That’s why for us, it is a sacrament, and for most others, it is a medicine.

Wish me luck today.


Daily Writing March 23, 2023

I opened the Astrology Application on my phone today and noted that in the current chart, our friend Pluto is presently at 0.00 degrees of Aquarius. The last time Pluto was in Aquarius was from 1778 to 1798, a time which encompassed both the American and the French Revolution. It was also the period of time that America started out with Articles of Confederation which evolved into the United States Constitution in 1789 and the Bill of Rights in 1791.

I was reading about this yesterday evening in my favorite Astrology blog called AstroButterfly . I’m going to quote from that article here:

Sometimes we resist change because “better the devil you know, right”? And while sticking to the familiar may make sense in many situations, when Pluto changes signs, the last thing we want to do is get stuck in the past. Pluto’s key function is CHANGE. As the higher octave of Mars, Pluto wants to keep the engine of the universe going.


I really liked how she described Pluto as the higher octave of Mars, the planet of action. Mars to me represents action and potential on the personal level, and so Pluto is the higher vibration of this, which would be action and potential on the larger scale.

As I walked the dogs to get my coffee this morning, I passed the old coral rock wall in Coconut Grove which has been enveloped by the banyon tree growing on the other side. I have been passing this Coral Wall since I was on my bicycle on the way to School in 1978 when the red brick sidewalks were laid down in Coconut Grove, and the wall was first constructed. Back then, of course, there were not roots entwined in the Coral. The banyon tree spreads its canopy over a huge area, and it does this by a remarkable feat of biological engineering. It drops roots down from the branches, which descend like vines of spaghetti. When they find purchase, they descend into the ground and then they fuse together and form new supportive trunks for the branches. And so with this miraculous engineering, a single banyon tree can cover an acre or more.

So over the years that I have been walking down this path, the roots have penetrated and integrated with the wall. I remember back in 2011 I was recovering from the break up of a year long relationship I had after my divorce. I saw the roots of this tree like the cords of attachment and the rock wall as the structure of my heart. The energetic roots of the relationship were so deeply imbedded in the wall, that to rip them out would destroy the wall itself. I saw my predicament. If I violently ripped the relationship out of my heart to get over the pain of the break up, it would destroy my heart too. I saw in a vision that the only solution was to dissolve the roots, and the solvent was love. By sending love and best wishes to my ex, I was able to dissolve the roots of the relationship, and continue on my happy way without the cords sucking out my energy.

And today, there are several projects that have been kind of in a frustrating holding pattern that are really starting to move now. We are developing the 60 acre property in Hawaii, and this is moving forward fast. We are building a house and a barn and an event pavilion, and we are developing an organic farm based on the principles of restorative agroforestry. IN addition to the commercial crops, we will grow sacred plants, leaves and vines, on the property and hold events there. At the top will be a private residence. The long term plan is to keep the top twenty acres with the house on it, and give away the two remaining 20 acre parcels–one to a farm, one to a spiritual retreat center. This is the same strategy we have with the Cacão farm in Brazil and, to a lesser extent, with the farm in upstate New York.

The project in Hawaii was kind of stuck in the mud since we purchased the land in 2017, but right now it is moving very fast. The foundations are being poured for the buildings and we are buying a front end loader to do the development of the roads and ponds and other major earth moving. The land includes a river which comes straight from the top of Mauna Kea to the bay of Onomea, and on the parcel that the house will sit on, there is a beautiful water fall with a pond at the bottom. It might be the best swimming hole I have ever seen. So to access it, we need to build an environmentally friendly road across the natural terrain that lends itself very well to accessing the water fall. This is rather unique, because most of the rivers carve such deep gorges in lava rock, that you would have to go down a steep cliff to get to the stream. Here there is a flat area of about five acres on the inside of a bend where another stream joins the river. There are ancient stones in the walls along the path down there. Clearly this has been a sacred spot for many centuries before Captain Cook met his demise on the other side of the island. We are being careful to develop the property with the assistance of some of our brothers from the local community. Similarly, things are taking off in Brazil. Charlie and Wylie arrived in Mapia in the middle of the Amazon yesterday, and Padrinho Paulo Roberto arrived in Miami yesterday as well.

And so the roots of this tree caught my attention again today. It felt to me like the roots represented the knots and blocks that have been holding things back while Pluto made its lugubrious trip through Capricorn, and the energy of Aquarius is the solvent that will break up the blocks and let things move again. And movement is already happening here on this first day of Pluto in Aquarius. This makes me a little anxious, because it is my job as Steward of all of these projects to make sure we have the “generator” capacity to support everything we are undertaking while saving enough reserves to anticipate supporting the larger structure we are creating.

This really is the key to managing wealth on any level. I spent about 15 years of my corporate career financing private jet aircraft. I remember the first large deal I did. It was the financing on a 1984 Gulfstream III, which had a purchase price of around $10,000,000. We were proposing to financing $7,000,000 of the purchase price, and I was getting ready to go make the sales presentation to the purchaser who was our customer. I was going over the deal with a more senior loan officer. The payment was something like $79,000 a month, which was an ungodly sum of money to me. I could not imagine paying $79,000 a month, and I was fixated on this as a block. My advisor said and “the best thing is, with the long term amortization schedule, you have a very low payment.” I was shocked, how could anyone say that $79,000 was a low payment?

He admonished me that I was projecting myself into the deal. He said forget about the zeros. The zeros don’t matter at all. they are buying the aircraft for 9.0, and financing 7.0, and the payments are .079. Wouldn’t you agree that .079 is a very low monthly amount to pay for a loan of 7? It clicked. It was much cheaper on a cash flow basis than a car payment! My fixation on the zeros made it seem like a lot of money.

And so it is with managing wealth. It does not matter if you are talking about a $10,000,000 development or a $100,000 vacation condo, or a $1,000 mortgage payment. We have to align our resources with our outflows. And so we have income from our work, and we have income from our investments, and we have outflows for projects. Hopefully, you have zero debt. This is the fundamental requirement of any financial security. You cannot have any savings if you have any debts. It really is as simple as that, because savings are offset by debt on your balance sheet.

So the cash we have in the bank is like a reservoir of water that is ready for immediate use, and we should have enough for the short term, say a year or two. All of the money that we need for our projects must come out of this reservoir. Other liquid assets must be invested for growth and dividends. This revenue plus the earnings from our daily work go into the reservoir. If we have too many loads, and not enough income, we end up with an empty reservoir, and that’s called a cash flow failure. In many cases, this is where debt starts to creep into the picture, and you can see that is like having a Zombie come to your house for Thanksgiving. If the reservoir overflows, then you move some cash into your investments, and that will eventually support more growth.

So as we undertake new projects, the demand increases, so not only do we have to fund the development from the reservoir, we also have to increase our investment returns to generate more revenue. We have to grow our generator capacity at the same rate that we grow the demands. Hopefully, we can invest in projects that become cash flow sustainable. For instance, we generate about $2,500 per month in rent from the little farm house in upstate New York, and this revenue pays for the development of the farming operations. Hopefully all projects have a long term path to self sustainability, or else they will all fall apart after we die.

As these projects are expanding, they are demanding resources, and at the same time, they are growing to demand more resources in the future. It is the management of these cash flows that makes everything possible, and it is up to me to make sure that everything flows right. If I screw up, the whole thing comes undone.

It has been such a journey coming through COVID and all the financial upheavals of the last couple or three years. In some ways, the solid root structure of Pluto in Capricorn kept everything still, and made it easier to manage through the difficult times. But now things are starting to move fast, and this makes me feel a little anxious. But I have to take that anxiety and treat it like excitement for what is coming. And I have to have faith that everything we are doing is to help spread light to all the good people we have in our relations. I have to remember that we want to leave like the last leaf on a tree, and so we need to employ the assets for good.

My core belief and my mission in life is summed up in my email signature, which comes from one of Padrinho Paulo’s hymns — “The expansion of the consciousness will be able to save the Earth”. So this is my mission, to support the expansion of human consciousness. So that we may live as part of nature and so that we may see ourselves in the eyes of the other. With this expansion we can have peace and a future where everyone has what they need and where we take care of each other. So all of our projects have this goal in mind.

But at the same time, we do need to take care of our personal lives so we do not become a burden on someone else, and so as things take off, I need to also create a garden for our own lives, for our CORE life, which is our home and making beans in the pressure cooker, and walking the dogs, and playing Acey Deucey, and taking care of physical health, and being with the people we love. This is where our happiness comes from every day, and this does not really take very much to support. I think I need to carve out a little nest egg that will carry us into the later stages of our lives so all the big moving parts do not upset the delicate balance of our CORE life.

And so now, as Pluto has entered Aquarius, and the roots that held everything fixed are dissolved, and as rapid growth and change comes, I pray for guidance to help me navigate. I received a hymn back when we first got involved down in Brazil which was for Stephanie. It says “Your life is a river that you must navigate. If you go with the force of it, with certainty you will arrive at the sea.” So we have to navigate around the rocks and the fallen trees and around all the things that appear in our daily life. But as to the “path to the sea?” The River will take care of that. We just have to have faith, go with the flow, and navigate around the rocks, and enjoy the company of the people we love along the way.

So Viva to the New Era. Viva to the growth. Viva to the big works we will hold in celebration this weekend. Viva to the visitors arriving from all around the country starting today. Viva to walking the dogs and getting coffee.

The simple part of life is where the happiness lies.


Daily Writing March 22, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Viva the miracle of the Santo Daime.


Daily Writing March 21, 2023

Here it is the second day of spring. I walked for coffee with the dogs today and enjoyed the cool temperature that might mark the last time I wear jeans and a hoodie in Miami until next November. Here in Coconut Grove along the shores of Biscayne Bay, we do enjoy beautiful weather from now until about mid May when the heat of summer really starts to set in.

I had so much fun shooting my scene in the movie yesterday. I played the part of a “White Male Host” of a News Show interviewing the girlfriend of a naked man who was shot 37 times by police while eating the face off of another person. This actually happened in Miami in 2012. The media picked up the story that the man was “high on bath salts,” but actually it was a psychotic break. The toxicology of the autopsy came back negative for drugs. And so I played the role of a television news magazine host that was trying to stick the the narrative that scary drugs caused the whole thing.

I was impressed with how professional the other actors were. They had all been in several movies, and so of course I felt like an imposter. But I think I actually did a pretty good job. Stephanie, who has a Masters of Fine Arts in Theater Directing from Columbia University, was my coach. She said “you don’t have to learn to be an actor, you just have to be a news anchor, and you can do that already. Just remember that its your show and its your desk.” It really worked, because I felt myself feeling frustration when the actress playing the former girlfriend refused to endorse the narrative that drugs were the cause of the event. It reminds me of the studies of athletes when they put a brain scanner on them and then have them imagine their event. All the same areas of the brain light up, right? The same thing happened to me playing my small roll.

They will wrap up the shooting in the next week or ten days, and then it’s on to post production. I am learning so much about the art of making films. It’s incredible how much has to be managed and organized. I was so impressed with the professionalism of everyone involved. What an honor to have the opportunity to participate in this. I am quite certain that I would like to do this again.

It was a little late when I got home yesterday. Stephanie was exhausted and she asked me to go and walk the dogs. Tata came with me, and they played with the neighbors pupply in the big yard by the marina. Cleo, the little baby girl puppy, is so tough. She weighs about 18 pounds soaking wet. Frankie is 30 pounds and pure muscle and he knocks her ass over tea cups running at full speed. Cleo does not seem to understand that Frankie is 66% larger than she is, so she keeps trying to come out on top. By the end of a half an hour, they are all exhausted.

When I got home Stephanie had potatoes in the oven and beans in the pressure cooker. I made my “famous” shrimp soup. It is “famous” because when Stephanie calls it so, it motivates me to cook it. It’s usually up to me to add the protein to a meal, and I thought the soup would go well over the potatoes. Here is the recipe:

  • Avocado oil
  • Colorão, ground ginger, coriander, cayenne pepper
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 8 oz coarsely chopped mushrooms
  • 8 oz organic chopped kale
  • 2 packages of Freak Flag Coconut Chicken Bone Broth,
  • 1 16oz can Thai Coconut Milk
  • 1 lb large (15 count) shrimp with shells on
  • 1/2 Lemon

Sauté the spices in the avocado oil on medium high heat until well combined, and then add the shallot, garlic, and mushrooms and cook until the mushooms are tender. Add the two packages of bone broth and the coconut milk and the kale and then simmer for about half an hour until the kale is tender. (You can leave it on the stove at low heat at this stage until ready to serve). Five minutes before serving, add the shrimp and turn heat to high until a strong boil, and then turn off the heat. Let stand, covered, for about two minutes, and then add the juice of the 1/2 lemon and serve immediately. Serve over rice or potatoes or just eat it as it is.

I made the soup while Stephanie did her writing, and then we ate dinner together with Tata. After dinner, Tata and I went to South Miami to Whip and Dip for Ice Cream. This is a neighborhood shop that I’ve been going to since the 1980s. Stephanie stayed home and Tata and I had a fun father daughter time.

Today I have some work to do in the morning and then I am taking Stephanie to the ear doctor to schedule her surgery. She has had a hole in her ear drum since she was about 26 years old. When she plugs her nose to clear her ears, you can hear the air whistle out through the hole in her ear drum. She hasn’t been able to submerge her head for the last 25 years. This is not an ideal condition for her, because between Miami, Brazil and Hawaii, we spend a lot of time in the water.

After the doctor, I have my workout. This time it is at 5:30 in the afternoon again, but this time, that’s good news, because it leaves my afternoon free to take Stephanie to her appointment. It really is nice having the middle of the day free and finishing with my workout.

I heard the most beautiful meditation yesterday–The Waterfall” Soul Dreaming With Christina Conti. I tried to share it or mark it somehow so it would not get lost in the scrolling feed of the reader. I’m afraid I was a little ham handed with the technology, but hopefully the above link works. I listen to a lot of guided meditations, and this one was particularly good. What resonated most for me was the idea of having the power to choose the emotional vibrational frequency that we carry with us as we go through our days.

I can think of all the activities of yesterday and today. From shooting a scene in a movie, to walking the dogs, to cooking dinner, and taking Tata for Ice Cream. Then again this morning taking a walk in the cool weather and sitting down with my coffee to write. These are the little scenes of the movie of life, and the way I experience them is largely a matter of my interior way of being. Christina points out in her meditation that we have a place of security deep inside of ourselves where we can select our vibrational way of being.

My favorite way of being is simply described as inner peace. This basic state allows curiosity, compassion, humor, and good will all to exist together. I am so enjoying taking the time to realign with this vibration as I start each day, and the above meditation is a great tool to help. Let me know if you have a listen. And Christina, if you read this, thanks for the meditation, and I apologize if I didn’t do the referencing of your site correctly.

Peace everyone

Daily Writing March 20, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Daily Writing for March 18, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am grateful.


Daily Writing March 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am enough

What stories have I bought into that something is wrong with me, and that my natural inclinations are somehow bad, and that I am not worthy of being loved or valued unless I conform myself to the expectations of others? I received those messages since I was very young. And I internalized them, and I believed them. I’m not sure if everyone else does this, but from the books I’ve read and meditations I’ve listened to, it sure seems that a lot of people are laboring through their lives with the basic underlying belief that they are somehow bad.

I’m sure this starts in school. I was placed in a room, usually near the back because my attention wandered and I was unruly. I did not know that I was not able to see as well as everyone else. How would I know? I assumed everyone else saw things the same way I did. I remember my one season of baseball with the coach admonishing me to watch the ball. I would swing in the air after seeing the pitcher swing his arm. I never did actually see the ball. I never knew that my vision was about 20/200 until I failed my drivers license exam at age 16. I simply did not know that others could see the ball better than I could.

I did manage to get on base one time that season. It was at that classic critical moment at the end of a game when the bases are loaded and there are two outs. I was the last in the batting order and it was my turn. The Coach was visibly frustrated that the game would depend on me. “WATCH THE BALL!” He yelled. I watched the pitcher wind up, I watched the motion of the pitch, and waited in anticipation of the ball, which hit me squarely under my left shoulder in the ribs. I never saw it coming, but the whole team cheered! I walked to first base, and I can still in this moment, remember stepping on home plate a couple plays later as we won the game. I was the unlikely hero!

I did not really understand the whole idea behind a chalk board, as nothing that was ever written on the chalk board was legible to me. I assumed nobody could read it any better than I could. As a result, my handwriting was atrocious. It was completely illegible. I was given remedial exercises so I could make rounder O’s and straighter L’s. It never occurred to anybody that I simply could not see what I was doing or see what was being written on the board. I was simply determined to be lazy.

So naturally, sitting in the back of a classroom, where someone spent the day writing completely illegible things on a board that I could not see, was kind of a drag for me. I was clearly the problem. But I could read books! I would read with the book about four inches from the end of my nose, where with my near sightedness, the words on the page were nicely magnified and quite clear. The printed letters bore no resemblance to my handwriting, but they were not supposed to look the same anyway. Books were my refuge. The worlds of Narnia and Lloyd Alexander, and Middle Earth, and Dune, and Ring World, were my dream worlds and my escape.

I remember when I picked up my first pair of glasses from the optician. It was back in the day when people smoked cigarettes, and there were ashes in the ash tray in the optician’s office. I could see the texture of the ashes for the first time, instead of just a grey shadow. I remember going outside and seeing the leaves on the trees for the first time, and trees were not green lollipops anymore. Patterns of tiles on the floor seemed to be three dimensional.

We went that night to see “The Year of Living Dangerously” and I could recognize the faces of the actors for the first time. I had, for my whole life, gone to the movies without being able to recognize the faces of the actors on the screen. I would ask, is this the same guy as in that other scene? People thought I was not paying attention, but I was just blind. I was bad at sports, bad at writing, bad at a lot of stuff, and the answer was always–MORE EFFORT. If only I would apply myself, I would achieve so MUCH MORE!

I was born with, and half always been blessed with, a liquid intelligence. Geometry and Science just made sense to me. I remember when, in 7th grade, Mr. Kasyan asked the class how to measure the height of a tree. I think I was the only kid who went home and grabbed a yard stick, and measured the shadow of the tree with the shadow of the yard stick. I thought it was fun. I did not, on my own, derive the equation of the relative length of the yard stick to its shadow, but I did get the right answer about the height of the tree. I simply moved the yard stick to the end of it’s shadow in steps, and counted the number of yards. Then I went to catch lizards.

I loved catching lizards and creatures of all kinds. I would generally treat them with great care and kindness, although there were a few specimens who would not agree I’m sure.

I had a deformity as a child too. My chest was sunken in. My sternum was about two and a half inches concave, so my nipples were at the top edge of a bowl that was my chest. Kids made fun of this relentlessly. I HATED playing shirts and skins, especially when I had to be a skin, because everyone would gather around me and make fun of me. They would say “hey look, Spencer eats his cereal in bed!” The fact that I could not see did not help. I could be relied on to drop the critical pass or miss the critical at bat.

And so around 5th and 6th grade, when boys and girls started to “like” each other, I accepted the basic reality of being ostracized. I naturally sat by myself and kept my own company. I was a strong swimmer, and I could see well enough to play waterpolo, with the big, slow moving, bright yellow ball. Water polo really is a lot more about swimming that it is about the ball. These were my sports.

I had a surgery to correct my chest in 9th grade. They cut out the ends of all of my ribs, and cracked, removed, reformed and reinstalled my sternum. My heart moved over into the new space, in the light of the room. Recovery took a year. The next year I got glasses. Suddenly, high school was over, and I was deposited into college with a drinking problem already firmly established. Nobody, and I mean nobody, at college knew me at all. Suddenly I was thrust into this environment where I was meeting all these new people. But deep down inside, I knew that I was not worthy of any loving relationship, and so I kept everyone at a distance. I had lots of friends to party with, but no real connections.

I remember eating magic mushrooms on my 20th birthday. It was my sophomore year of college. We all gathered in the winter at a friend’s apartment. I sat on the sofa breathing the air that poured in through a crack in the sliding glass doors that were left ajar. The room was full of smoke, and this little thin line of clear cold air was coming through the doors. The magic mushrooms made me want to avoid alcohol and cigarettes and cannabis. I drank water and breathed the fresh air, and had a review of my life. I saw how I was fucking off as my college years ticked by. The next year I was married and got straight As. A switch had flipped and I really applied myself to school and work. It was through achievement and my capabilities that I could earn love and respect. Law School was a natural environment for me. I was like a fish in the sea. I graduated 5th in my class of 197 people. My life took off from there.

And now, on the cusp of my third revolution of Saturn around the solar system, I am getting ready to enter the final stages of this life.

I was listening to a meditation from a book this morning about “I am enough.” The meditation dropped me into hypnosis and took me back in time to my childhood and encouraged me to imagine feeling that I am enough and have always been enough. This, of course, was not at all in alignment with my view of myself.

I, to this day, get so many messages that I am a bad person, and that my instincts cannot be trusted, and that I need to be careful to avoid dangerous situations where I might be tempted to doing something bad, and that these situations, since they inevitably lead to bad outcomes, are themselves bad. I need to watch out for who I am friends with, I need to be careful of where I go, I need to do all kinds of things to avoid falling into my natural tendencies, because I am inherently a bad person, and it is only through great effort that I can behave correctly. We have this notion of “Original Sin” that we are inherently bad if left to our own ways. This is an incredibly toxic and unhealthy view of ourselves!

Until I had a stroke. I literally blew a gasket in my brain. I had a brain cramp so severe that it caused me to suffer a cerebral infarction. This has been building in my system for many decades, and it is the little straws of recent events that caused the system to finally fail. But I am realizing that the stress comes not from the external events, but from my believing in them.

I am very fortunate that I have a rich life full of loving relationships. I have built beautiful structures in my life, and there are many people all around the world who count on me to continue behaving in a consistent and reliable manner. This is a great blessing to have such a rich and connected life.

But I have to own my own love of myself. I am a good person, and my natural inclinations will not lead me astray. I can follow the joy in my heart, and this is not a danger or threat to anyone. I naturally seek out and desire to do good in the world. I don’t have to be afraid to follow my instincts, or to enjoy things in my life. If people are upset with me or if people think I should behave differently, that’s really not my concern. People who want me to be different simply want to be with someone different and they are trying to fit me into their mold. All kinds of people do this to us. From bosses to spouses to friends to our mothers and families to the government and society at large. Everyone wants us to conform so that we can be reliable cogs in the machine.

How does one manage this? I don’t want to be cold or unfriendly or defensive or secretive. I just want to be myself. I don’t need to stand on a soap box, I don’t need to preach, I don’t need to change anybody’s mind. I just need to be at peace with myself, love myself, and be happy with myself and my life. It has taken me 56 years to get to this point, and I want to live right the last part of my life.

I love my wife, I love my church, I love my family, I love my friends, I love the work that I do, and I love my home, my dogs, the place that I live, the weather in Miami. I love skiing and Telluride, and I love going on the sailboat. I love my training regime. I love my life. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I release the stress of other people being disappointed in me, and I embrace joy of living as my guide. I am enough, I have always been enough, and I don’t have to change myself to please anyone. These are all gifts of the gift that I receive, and I must embrace them, so that I do not need the gift anymore.

If I do not fundamentally upgrade my internal stress and need to please people, if I do not let go of the belief that I won’t get invited to the party if I don’t bring the cake, if I continue to buy into the story that my natural tendencies and desires are bad, I will continue to live at such an intense stress level that my brain will simply stop working. I have already received a dramatic warning that cost me about 20% of my visual field. The next warning could cost me my ability to speak, or walk. I’m going to take that message to heart right away.

I am the Warrior Spirit of the Rainbow Wind. I live at the top of the Canyon. The Sun is my father, the Water is my Mother, the Wind is My Spirit, and I AM MY FRIEND. The Warrior Spirit is enough.


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.


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.


Schmarya Space Shalom