Sp3ncer Space

  • 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.

  • Fitting the Pieces in the Puzzle of Life

    I remembered some powerful relationship guidance from the Abraham Hicks Relationships Vortex Meditation that really helped me recently. This meditation is a series of divinely inspired statements to help align ourselves with the best vibration to attract good relationships into our lives. It has been 11 years since I first listened to them, and they keep coming up over the years with new layers of lessons and understandings. Two of them have came up for me in the time since writing my last post, and they have really helped me transform the little funk of isolation that has been nagging me.

    The first goes something like this: “Do not to try to change to people to please you. Accepting them where they are will bring you ease.” The second suggests: “if you can release all concern for how others feel about you and focus only upon how you feel about them, you will discover who you truly are and what freedom really means.” I’m going to get to those lessons pretty soon, but first I want to talk a little about the picture of the squirrel in my Mom’s bird feeder, which illustrates some of the things I am learning about relationships.

    My mom is 80 years old now, and she has been working in her garden for 50 years since she and my dad bought the place from my grandparents in 1972. She loves to watch the bird feeder and sits endlessly waiting for the return of a painted bunting, which I don’t think we’ve actually seen since about 1983. She is in relationship with the squirrels, who are big fans of her bird feeders. Every time they figure out how to get into them, my mom goes out and changes things around to defeat them. This is a kind of dance enjoyed by all sides. I went over to see her the other day, as I often do for iced tea, and we witnessed the most recent evolution of squirrel acrobatics and this fellow’s “first ascent” into the glory hole of the bird feeder.

    I don’t really think this is bad news for my mother, who I believe actually enjoys leaving some opportunity for them, just so she can watch them figure it out. We went outside and lowered the back of chaise lounge which squirrel had used for a launch pad. Now there will be more time to sit in the Florida room with a glass of tea watching as the squirrel tries leap from a thin branch or other support. It’s a cycle that repeats itself, each time a little higher. This is the relationship between my mother and the squirrels. The squirrels do not change to please my mom, and she accepts them more or less how they are. They just go about their bird feeder dance. And judging by the fat belly of this particular offender, the deal isn’t working out so bad for him either.

    These two lessons have helped me resolve a had kind of a funk that I was feeling around the time of Easter. As is so often the case, the funk we feel shows what is coming up for healing and growth as we make another cycle in the spiral of our lives. A teacher of mine once pointed out to me that we see the same situations in our life come around again and again, and if we pay attention and stay on the path of spiritual evolution, we will be a little higher on the spiral each time we go around. This is the gradual path of spiritual evolution that is the central purpose of our life here.

    This mechanism works when we apply our learning and experience to the situations that continually arise. Every time we go through a challenge, we can learn more tools and skills that help us the next time. We can develop vigilance so we see our reactions before they take us over, we can develop humility so our ego’s do not carry us away, we can develop acceptance so we do not fall into the trap of self pity, we can reach for gratitude so we can look for the good in things, and of course, we can learn love. When we learn to look upon people and situations with love, then we can stay in our own vibration and not be consumed by external events and the reactions of other people.

    I had been suffering from feelings of isolation, which had manifested in the sorrowful lament of “nobody wants to listen to me” which also means, “others do not value me.” This is an easy trap for me to fall into. I talked through it with a couple of my close relationships. Indeed, I was trained as a lawyer and as a negotiator in business. If I wrote a letter to an opposing attorney demanding the production of some evidence, they would never say, “you know the way you asked for those documents really made me feel dismissed, I’ll give them to you, but can you be a little nicer about it?” Nobody ever said “I understand that you are going with a competitor, but to tell me that in an email instead of in person felt cold.” I was deeply trained to focus on the matter at hand and to speak frankly about it. I was always trained to focus on the subject matter, not on the way it was delivered.

    But relationships are so much more complex that business transactions! In relationships, the subject at hand is actually the interpersonal dynamics and the topic is the context in which they are played out. For example, a topic might be “where to order take out for dinner with friends” and the dynamic might be a power struggle over who gets their way. If someone is feeling ignored or abused, they will fight about where to order dinner. This deeper way of understanding communication is difficult for my masculine brain. I always tend think it’s about the pros and cons of sushi versus Indian cuisine.

    It’s easy for me to tell myself a story that because I’m that way, that others just don’t like me very much, so I may as well not try. That’s the negative polarity. But that is a path that leads to nowhere. It is a path of self isolation and a joyless existence. It is far more interesting and fun to have a life of nuance and complex interpersonal relationships, and I am determined to continue learning. I think there are probably a lot of seven year old girls who are more advanced in this area than I am, and so for me, little bits of effort can produce big improvements. It’s kind of a converse way of thinking, but there is a certain joy in recognizing our weaknesses and working there, because it is there where we can find the greatest improvements.

    My wife, Stephanie, and I went to Austin over the last weekend to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend who we have not seen since early 2020. We stayed in a cool AirBnb out the Hill Country with four other couples and spent the weekend together. I had never met our friend’s new husband, nor had I ever met two other men who were in close relationships with two of the other women there. So of the eight other people in the group, I knew only one of the men.

    The trip was pretty short. We arrived Friday evening and left Sunday morning. Saturday we spent most of the day outside and then we had planned a festive wedding celebration Saturday night. By the time Saturday night arrived, I had met everyone, but not really made a connection. There had been too many outdoor activities, and not enough time yet. My wife was not feeling very well at the beginning of the evening, and so she had retired to our room to rest. Everyone else was down in the kitchen and on the porch, and I was feeling isolated and a little bit negative. I sat out on the porch by myself for a while and went into prayer and tried to connect to the force that was around me and inside me and look into it for lessons, and I got a good one.

    I saw that my isolation was self imposed. I had a difficult experience in prior relationships where I was often subjected to harsh attacks and criticisms for friendships I developed outside the relationship. This dovetailed with an easy habit to assume that people don’t like me very much. I had internalized these reaction and agreed with them, and put myself into isolation. I myself felt resentment that I was not allowed to have friends, when my wife has never placed any such restriction upon me.

    In fact, it’s quite the opposite. One of the secrets to the relationship I enjoy with my wife is that we live in a tiny box of sacred intimacy that we share only with each other. And since that tiny box is so strong and secure, we are both free to enjoy our lives and have friends. My wife was feeling a little under the weather, but this did not mean I had to sit by myself. I resented the feeling of having to sit by myself, but it was only myself who had imposed this limitation. I was in a prison I myself had built, and I held the key in my own hand.

    I saw another tendency that I have, which is to try to stretch my existing relationships to fill all the needs I have in the puzzle of my life. Some of these are rather personal, but I can give a broad overview. I love to go sailing, and this requires a few people. The boat is 50 feet long and in the best winds, it’s nice to have four people on board who know what they are doing. Stephanie, however, does not like to go on the boat unless it’s relatively calm and sunny. For her a good boat day is a five to ten knot wind, a short sail, a nice lunch and swim at anchor, and an easy sail downwind back home.

    If I try to stretch Stephanie into sailing in heavier weather, I’m not going to do anything good for either of us. Instead, I need to accept her where she is, and then let other relationships come into my life to fill the gaps. This is true of other relationships. If I accept people as they are and celebrate the good energy they bring into my life, I don’t need to stretch them to fill parts of myself that are empty. Instead, I can leave them empty and sit in gratitude, and they will naturally fill themselves.

    As I prayed for some understanding in the force that was surrounding me on that porch, I had a vision of a puzzle piece, on a blue sky background, with the image of a man sitting in meditation painted on it. The man had a serence smile. Around him in the blue sky were other pieces that were fitting together and also gaps where pieces were missing. I interpreted this as a metaphor for the relationships in our lives.

    When we work on a puzzle, we do not file down the knobs or open up the holes or file down the corners to get the pieces to fit together. We do not stretch them to force them to cover empty spaces. We do not change the pieces to please us. Instead, we accept all of the pieces as they are and trust the divine to give us all the pieces we need.

    The man at the center of the puzzle in this vision, was of course, myself. I could find peace by sitting in the middle, in a state of ease and appreciation of all that was going around me. I could focus on the divine love that we all have within us, and radiate this out through my eyes on the pieces that were around me. I did not have to worry about how they felt or reacted to me. Their lives would mesh with mine where there was harmony and that was fine. People who have strong negative reactions to me will be repelled from me. I do not have to get involved with those negative reactions, and I do not have to change them.

    All of the people in our group were happy and friendly and the whole purpose of our gathering was for us to meet and get to know each other. My own negative thoughts and resentments were serving no one, least of all myself! I was self isolating, and then feeling lonely, and then resenting that loneliness. So with a little bit of prayer and a little bit of divine guidance and a little bit of remembering the vortex, and a little bit of force, I was blessed with an insight that I was able to act on.

    So maybe the last time I was in that situation, I did not do quite as well. But this time around, I improved. Baby steps. This time I was able to find the gratitude and abundance in my heart, to look upon my friends from the lens of how I felt about them, which was good, because it is my nature to like people. But in order to like them, I had to let go of concern for how they might feel about me, which for many of us can be delivered in the form of fear that others will not like us. The second lesson has helped me to accept my relationships as they are, and not try to stretch them to fill what I perceive as gaps in my experience.

    Now I have these understandings in my tool kit. Writing about them here helps to solidify them. In summary, I was given two keys. The first is to accept people as they are, and not try to get them to change to please me. The second is to focus on how I feel (or want to feel) about them, and not on how they feel (or how I fear they might feel) about me. With these two mantras, I can sit in the middle of the puzzle of my life and let the other pieces do their sacred dance. I hope this is helpful for you too. I hope it helps my mom and the squirrels too.

    Peace.

  • Easter Letter to Myself

    Do you ever get stuck in a funk of feeling unappreciated or ignored? Does it sometimes happen to you that people want to tell you there problems, but not listen to your solutions? That should not come as a surprise, because most people who tell you their problems are not really looking for your opinion as to how they can make their situation better. Most are just looking for some level of understanding that they are dealing with a situation that they find frustrating or difficult. So instead of offering them some sort of practical solution, a better response would be to say something along the lines of “wow that is a challenge. I hope you work it out.”

    You are naturally a problem solving type of person, and it can be difficult for you when people do not want your advice. It may sound to you like people are complaining about situations without really wanting to improve them. A lot of the time, it might seem to you that they are dealing with the same basic pattern over and over again, and falling into the same traps of ineffective responses. Maybe it seems clear to you how they could improve their situation. But the hard to understand truth, is they really don’t want to hear about that. What they really want is to talk about their situation to someone who will listen, and if you are the one who is listening, the best you can do is lend a kind ear and hear them out. You are not going to fix anything for someone who does not want a solution.

    This is an important lesson for your new voice, the voice that was born again on Easter. In the past, you have always thought that the value of your knowledge was to share it and help people to move forward in their lives. This was especially true for you as a father, because you raised four sons, and it was in many circumstances, up to you to guide them. But your sons are not children anymore, so now it’s time to respect their independence and let them figure things out on their own.

    But sometimes something special might happen. Sometimes, if you let someone struggle with their situation long enough, they might grow tired and actually seek advice. This is a process that you need to let happen. It is the real life experience of trying over and over that will eventually either lead to a solution that they find on their own, which is best, or lead them to seeking advice.

    But the key for you is to not want to give the advice. There is some part of you, that is in your ego, that wants people to listen to you. That wants people to do as you suggest and that wants them to follow your advice and then be successful. You see that in yourself do you not? After all, if you give someone advice, and then they follow it, and become successful, then some measure of their success can be credited to your smart idea. You can see how you can become attached to people doing as you suggest and then become attached to the outcome of their venture. This is the source of a lot of entanglement on your part in the affairs of other people, and this is likely as not to end badly. And when it does, if you imposed your advice, it is not credit that you will receive, but blame.

    This can even be in very minor situations, like when you suggest a move to an opponent in a backgammon board. If they go on to win, then you have robbed them of some measure of their success, and if the move goes bad, then you are responsible for the bad outcome. They have a hymn for that. It says “You should not give advice to people who do not want to listen”. This is not a negative statement. The hymn goes on “to you we give this instruction, leave them be!”

    It is important in learning to use your new voice that you learn not to use it, and to not use it happily. Sometimes you say “fine I’ll just shut up if nobody wants to listen to me.” There is a little bit of a hurt tone underneath this, like you are going to go pout in a corner and say “nobody wants to listen to me.” Well you are just exaggerating when you say that, because it’s not “nobody” that wants to listen to YOU, it’s simply that most people want to figure out things for themselves, and that YOU are really no kind of master. So take your refuge in humility.

    Don’t you remember that clear instruction that you have received so many times over and over? Humility is a refuge not a personality trait. When you have hurt feelings because people do not recognize you as wise or smart or knowledgeable, and you take that personally, you are looking for affirmation from other people that you possess these characteristics, when you yourself should know perfectly well what you know and what you do not know. And you, being as you are, fully incorporated in this world, are no better than a fish in a fishbowl. Perhaps you are a very smart fish, but you are still in the fishbowl and have extremely limited perspective. You do not know what is going on in someone else’s head. You do not know what is going on in their lives or what challenges they are facing. So to you, a piece of advise might seem obvious or helpful, but really you might simply bet telling a fish how to go about climbing a tree.

    Remember A Course in Miracles. Remember The Manual for Teachers. Remember that it is up to God to bring teaching and learning together, and that all teachers learn exactly what they teach. So if you are blessed with a teaching situation, do not forget that it is you who are the student. You are never superior to anybody. Any lesson you have to offer to even the smallest child is a lesson you really should heed yourself.

    Do you remember that T-shirt that you were shown a long time ago that a man was wearing in Coconut Grove…. it said in big letters “Always Lead, Never Follow.” You laughed when you saw that and you thought “does that apply when you are with a group of people in a city that you have never been in before? Does that mean that you should lead and not follow even when you have no idea where you are or where you should be going?” Well that’s the case in most people’s personal problems.

    First off, they are only telling you what they want you to hear. They are likely only telling you the part that will provoke the response that they desire from you. One such response might be for you to think highly of them. Another might be that they want you to feel sorry for them. Another might be that they want you to tell them that they are perfectly justified. Another might be that they simply want to feel loved. But it does not matter, because you are only seeing a part of the picture, and then that small part is interpreted by you according to your reactions, experiences and desires. So you are seeing a small portion of the truth through distorted glasses and then you are going to offer advice on how to proceed? It is just like that patently ridiculous T-shirt telling you to always lead and never follow.

    You see, if ever there were a strange city that you do not know your way around in, it is someone else’s psyche. The inside of someone else’s experience is no place for you to be a leader. So what can you do? You can offer your experience perhaps. Like in backgammon, don’t ever tell somebody what they should do even if you think they would benefit from your advise. If they ask you for your advice, then you can tell them what you would do if you were in their position, and then let them decide what they want to do. Do you see the difference in the energy there? It’s not about what they “should do.” It’s up to them to decide that. All you can say is based on your understanding of the situation, this is what you would do.

    Backgammon is a light example, but sometimes you are talking about people’s finances, and you can get yourself into some trouble if you start telling people how they should invest their money. You have no idea what their true appetite for risk is. You have no idea what they will do when they have an emotional response to market turmoil. And you have no ability to direct their actions in the future. So, instead of telling them what they should do, be careful to offer what you would do based on your understanding of the situation. Let them be the one to take responsibility for their decisions, and then they will be responsible for the results.

    But the best advice for you is this. Do not be attached. It is not for you to seek to be large. It is not for you to seek a following. It is not for you to publish a book telling other people what they should do to have a happy life. The spotlight is not there for you. What is there for you is a path by which you may learn to lead a good and happy life for you and your family. The people who come into your life are there to teach you what you need to learn. It’s not the other way around.

    So that is a key lesson for you with your new voice. The power of your new voice is not to tell others what to do. The power of your new voice is to speak with humility and learn what it is for you to learn.

    Peace.

  • Why and How To Release Relationships that Are No Longer Serving You.

    My purpose in writing this post is to share a powerful prayer to release relationships that are no longer serving you, to express how to hold firm in the shaking and distress that comes as these relationships start to fall apart, and how to heal yourself after they have broken without needing to find agreement or resolution with the person with whom you have ended a relationship. To put this into context, I will start by sharing my personal story of how this came to pass for me.

    But first a few words about ending relationships. This prayer is not for small disagreements or simple miscommunications. It is about resolving situations where the relationship itself is no longer in your highest and best good, and you need to be free of it permanently. We don’t want to call an end to our relationships every time we have a disagreement. The first step is to discern when a relationship can be repaired, and when it’s time to release it.

    In my experience there are two principle types of disagreement. 80% of the time a disagreement arises, its because of a misunderstanding or miscommunication. 20% of the time, a disagreement arises because we want different things.

    Miscommunications can usually be resolved. How many times has it happened that you thought lunch was at 12:30 and someone else thought it was 12:00? One time recently, I forgot to “reply all” to an email, and as a result, one person felt really left out and excluded. The tense situation came not because we wanted different things, but because of a miscommunication. These can happen when people project bad intentions upon us because they are hurt or whatever. They can be resolved by communication. Some people, however, love this kind of drama, and you might always find yourself apologizing and trying to smooth things over. It might not be worth it if it happens all the time with a particular person.

    The other 20% is when we simply want different things. Imagine if you will two prisoners who are joined a the ankle by a chain. One is from Los Angeles and the other from New York. While they are incarcerated, they go from one place to the next as they are ushered throughout their day. They are very good friends, and they are very happy that they are not chained to someone difficult to deal with. But then one day, a tornado comes and cuts the power and knocks down the fence, and they escape. They agree as they run far from the prison. But then, one wants to go to LA, and the other wants to go to New York. If they cannot break the chain that binds them together (their relationship), they will not be friends anymore. Under their new circumstances, they want very different things.

    In real life wanting different things often comes up as we grow. You might get married when you are 24 and talk loosely about having kids. Then when you are 32, one of you might say, hey I want to have a baby, and the other might say are you kidding? I just got my license to practice medicine and I’m not about to have a baby now. Problems like this do not generally get better with time. Sometimes this can be heart wrenching, but sometimes we simply grow out of relationships as we age. This is particularly true if we enter a relationship at a time of rapid personal growth.

    In my case, I came to a prayer to end relationships that were no longer serving me after a very difficult meeting of our church community in October of 2018. One of the co-founders of our Church called a meeting of the Board of Stewards and prominent members of our group to raise concerns over my leadership of the Church. Needless to say, this was a very uncomfortable meeting for me.

    As the meeting progressed, people expressed their opinions about how the works in our community should be led, what kinds of works we should do, how we should have more democracy in making decisions, how everyone who wanted an opportunity should be given the chance to lead works. These kind of abstract concepts of democracy pretty quickly descended to personal criticisms of my leadership style. The problem expressed was that I was too rigid, that I was insecure and could not let go of control, that I was part of the Patriarchy that was responsible for the suppression of women, that I did not have the most experience in the group, that others knew better than I did, that I needed to humble myself because I was arrogant, that I need to share leadership of the church, and that I was too stubborn.

    This went on for literally two hours before I finally accepted the talking stick. By that time, pretty much everyone in the room had expressed their feelings about me and my leadership of the community. As I held the stick and looked out around the room, it became very clear to me. We were not suffering from a misunderstanding, we were suffering from being stuck in relationship where we all wanted different things.

    Let me give you an example that is free of emotional charge. Our doctrine calls for works to be held on the 15th and 30th of every month, regardless of what day of the week those dates fall on. Some people complain about this because they don’t want to be up late during the week. I understand this, because for many years, I had to get up at 6:30 in the morning after our sessions to drive my step daughter to school, and so I understand that it’s not always convenient. But for others, particularly in the hospitality industry here in MIami, they can’t take off work on Saturdays, so they are very grateful that some of our sessions fall mid week.

    It was suggested that we vote on this, and I was criticized for refusing to do so. But there is nothing to vote on. The calendar is the way Mestre left it, and works are the 15th and 30th. For some this is convenient for others it is not. But it is what it is. I refused to put that to a vote and instead reaffirmed that we would be holding works as the calendar dictates. This is just one example of people wanting different things. It was clear that there were many disagreements about many important things that could not be resolved, and so it was time to dissolve many of these relationships.

    I said a prayer at the dawning of the year of 2019. I wrote a prayer for the new year and asked to be released from relationships that were are longer serving me. And so I invite you to do that now. If you are open to this, I would call for the aid of Saint Michael to come and cut the cords of relationships that are not serving.

    Close your eyes in concentration, and imagine a bright blue light filling up your third eye. Call to mind any relationships that are not serving you. This should not be hard, because they tend to create a lot of “thought activity” and distress in your mental landscape. Now sit with each relationship as it arises. Imagine you had news that this person received an opportunity to have a great life in a far away place. If they accept, they will be happy and fulfilled and all of their needs will be met. Imagine they tell you that are considering whether or not to accept this invitation. If they do so, they will be leaving on a journey, and will not be returning. They will have to say goodbye to you potentially forever. As you imagine this, notice how you feel about each person that comes to mind, and be honest.

    If you would on balance be sad they are leaving, then it suggests you still have more work to do with that person. But if the thought of them leaving, and being perfectly ok without you, gives you a big sense of relief, that is a clear sign that the relationship is no longer serving you. Now as you continue your meditation, separate them into two groups, those who stay and those who are to go.

    Now as you consider the individual or group that is going, the next step is to offer them full forgiveness for anything they have done. This is not necessarily to communicate this forgiveness to them, but more to release any baggage you have. Take any negative feelings, memories, emotions or energetic sludge that you have inside you and put it into a imaginary container that you will put on the ship they sail away on. Forgiveness in this context is simply putting down your negative emotional baggage. Here you can say another prayer to Saint Michael archangel to use his sword of crystal light to gently cut away any negative emotions you have in connection with that person. Say to yourself “I wish for you that you realize your most intimate aspirations.”

    Now continuing your concentration, scan through your emotional body for feelings and thoughts about the person. Particularly in obsessive or addictive or highly toxic relationships, there can be a lot of energy flowing from you to this person. You may depend on them for financial support or maybe you fear being without the person. Maybe you will feel like you let your kids or your family down. Maybe you fear you will look foolish or be alone. Maybe they have drilled into your head that you can never be ok without them. Maybe they constantly activate some wound that you have from your childhood. These can be very serious things, but it’s time to let go. Imagine these feelings are an energetic cord that keeps you bound to this person like the chain in the analogy of the prisoners. It is no longer in your highest good to be bound to this person, and even though its going to hurt and be scary when you cut the bond, you have to cut it.

    So now invoke Saint Michael Archangel again, and ask that he use his sword of crystal light to sever the bonds between you and the person or people you are letting go of. It helps in this moment to make a physical gesture of gently sweeping the sword around you and imagining all the cords being cut. Finally, now that the cords are cut, wish the person well as they embark on their new journey without you. You can repeat this process as many times as you like.

    The next step is in the material world. You have set a powerful intention to be free of these relationships. The first thing likely to come is a disagreement with the person. Instead of dreading this, or feeling this is bad, welcome it. Recognize this as the energy you prayed for arriving to free you. This time, don’t try to fix it. For some relationships, the energy necessary to break free can be very very strong.

    Back to my personal story, after i said that prayer at the end of 2018, things started to kind of fall apart. An elder from Brazil was coming and there was a debate about what works we should do. There was at the time another church in the Miami area, that had strong opinions about what we should do when the elder arrived. It happened that I was going to see the elder in another city on the tour, and so I said that I wanted to have the opportunity to talk to him and ask him what he thought we should do. I expected that he would want to sing one of the official collections of hymns, because his visit to Miami coincided with one of the official dates of our calendar, which called for that collection of hymns to be sung on that date. So this became a big disagreement between me and the other leaders of our church that I had prayed to be released from.

    So I stuck to my guns. I said I understand that you want to respond right away saying that we want to do such and such works, and I am just letting you know that I am going to talk to the elder about it when I see him, and see what he says. This deteriorated into an all out fight, and as a result my wife and I split from the rest of the group, and started our own small Church for those who wanted to walk the path with us. I had to let the energy of the disagreement build and welcome it. You might have to do that too.

    Sometimes these relationships just fizzle out, and it’s a simple matter of not responding to a couple of texts and then they go away. If so, be grateful, and resist the urge to reach out to them. Let them go and let them seek their own path. Other times the break up of the relationship is more dramatic.

    So when the energy comes, you need to shift. Do not try to make it better. Let it build. It is the force you need to end the relationship. At some point, when it bursts, all the venom and anger and violence that has been festering in the relationship may explode. It might end with “Fuck you I never want to see you again.” Remember, the worse it is, the more you needed to get out of it.

    Sometimes, however, people cling on in desperation, and it might be you that has to take the terminal action. This is true of most parasitic relationships where the other person is feeding off of your energetic or material resources. Parasites don’t like to leave their hosts. You may have to order them to move out of your house, or you might have to tell them you are moving out of their house. Say very clearly that you no longer wish to be in relationship with them. Ask them not to contact you any more. Then get them out of your social media world, block their phone and send their emails right to trash if necessary. Be ready for this. Protect yourself by being ready to hear insults. Call again on Saint Michael Archangel for protection and say thank you for bringing the energy necessary to end the relationship.

    The final stage is healing. And here is the trick. You are healing yourself, not the other person. The other person needs to find his own path and his own healing. You are no longer that person’s resolution. There is no need to find “closure” with someone when you are terminating a relationship. For me the analogy of a flock of birds or a school of fish is very helpful. For a while, you had a special relationship with this one particular bird. But now, you have returned it to the flock. You love it like you love all birds, but not in particular.

    If this was a significant relationship, it might take a long time to heal. In a romantic relationship, a good rule of thumb is it takes AT LEAST three months plus another month for every year of the relationship existed to heal. So if you were in an intimate romantic relationship for five years, it will likely take you a full 8 months to heal. Take a break for this person during this time, and above all, resist the temptation to ask them to comfort you. Resist the temptation to explain yourself. Resist the temptation to check their social media. Again you can pray to Saint Michael Archangel to help you heal.

    It is helpful to release any idea of who is right and who is wrong. It’s simply that the relationship is no longer in your highest and best good.

    Good luck.

    Peace

  • The Planets of Generation X

    The rhythms of Astrology have always fascinated me. The “personal planets” like the Sun, the Moon, Venus, Mercury and Mars zip around the zodiac at a relatively rapid pace, and so the transits of these planets happen fast and tend to be short lived. On the other hand the outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Chiron, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto move very slowly, so their transits develop over years and affect entire generations. The energy we feel on any given day can be a combination of these short term personal transits and the longer term generational transits.

    For those of us who remember Billy Idol, that is, we members of Generation X, the defining transit of our birth was the conjunction of Pluto and Uranus that started in about 1965. Those born before this conjunction are baby boomers and those born after are Generation X.

    Have you ever noticed that there was no Generation W? Generation X was not so named because of who we followed, but because we were largely invisible. We are wedged in between the baby boom and the millennial generations who take up all the space in the press. We are hard working and honest. We were born before cable TV, before the home answering machine, before cellular phones. We remember Smoky and the Bandit and we were amazed by CB Radios, which were all the rage in the late 1970s. I remember when we got our first VHS machine. It was before you could even rent movies and there were only a few that you could buy. My Mom invested in Flashdance. I saw it once and then figured the VHS machine was largely useless if you had to pay $75 for a movie. At the $2.00 per hour that I earned baby sitting, it was better for me and my friends to just ride our bikes to the theater, which we did about nine times to watch Star Wars.

    Do you remember the phrase “ok boomer” which was a dismissive phrase hurled by Millennials at their Baby Boomer parents? Back before COVID, when the Millennials were taking their Lattes to offices with ping pong tables and basketball hoops in them, they would dismiss the views of members of their parents generation saying “ok Boomer.” Sometimes they would try to aim this phrase at me, but it would never stick, because I am generally not old enough to be their parents. But the Millennials could not seem to get that. Who was this person who is older than me, yet younger than my parents?

    Well we are Generation X and we are very quietly coming into our time right now. And there are some major astrological events that are heralding our generational awakening. Most of Generation X will feel two major transits of outer planets in the next several years. The first is likely to be the transiting Neptune in opposition to our Natal Pluto. The second is likely to be transiting Neptune in opposition to our Natal Uranus.

    Because we were born under and after the conjunction of Pluto and Uranus, these two planets are very close together in all of our birth charts, and the very slow moving Neptune is now coming into opposition with these planets. Neptune represents our deep spirituality. It is the subtle energy of music, it is our divine connection, and it is our soul contract with our life here on earth. Neptune is the farthest true planet from the Sun and represents our deepest waters. It is sandwiched between the major disruptors of Uranus and Pluto.

    Neptune transited in opposition to my Natal Pluto a few years ago, and it came into opposition to my natal Uranus the day before yesterday. This was exactly the day after I had surgery on my vocal cords, and so I have had several days of forced silence to sit with the energy.

    I admire those who have deep study of astrology, but I am not one of them. I like to ponder the planets and to see them in the sky, but my understanding of astrology is much more personal and intuitive. When I feel something strong in my life, I often go look at my Time Passages application on my phone to see what is occurring in the sky. And when I see something occurring in the sky, I like to sit with it and feel how the energy is affecting me.

    The energy of this one is very clear and obvious to me. If you look at my current chart, which I posted above, you see that it is full of red conflicting aspects. Most of the time we think of these conflicts as difficulties, but they are much more than that. They are also the energy that creates transformation. I personally am experiencing a literal transformation of my voice. My vocal cords are resting for four to five days after surgery, and the image that keeps coming to me is that of an insect in its chrysalis, while in pupates from larvae to adult.

    I also feel a new level of maturity and acceptance arising. This process started for me about ten days ago when a close friend of mine shared a hypnotic meditation about patience which brought to my awareness the energy I have of being driven. I have always had inside me an energy of pushing, that is often counterproductive to my happiness. An example of this would be a car ride. Say I’m in the car and I need to be somewhere in 30 minutes, but it’s only 20 minutes away. Why do I grip the steering wheel and take all the short cuts? So I can be there ten minutes early? Why do I not instead take the time to start something interesting on the audio and then take the easy route with few turns even if it’s a little slower? Where is this pushing energy coming from? Not from the outside…it’s coming from within me.

    This hypnotic meditation on patience really brought this into my consciousness. And while my surgery was only a few days ago, my ability to speak has been seriously impaired since early January. There have been many instances where I have just decided that it’s not worth arguing or debating with someone. Or not worth talking about some item of the news or some other scandal. Not speaking has been calming my mind.

    This has helped me to not take in personally when other people have emotional reactions or if they are disappointed in my reaction to them. I am letting go of the need to talk a lot to fix things. I no longer need to spend a lot of energy trying to explain myself or things to other people. Let them figure it out for themselves a little more. In our spiritual doctrine there is a beautiful hymn that says “you don’t need to give counsel to those who don’t want to listen to you”. And in Portuguese, when they say “you don’t need to” it has a little stronger sense of “you need to not.” Like really, don’t waste your breath on those who do not want to listen. Having this impairment in my voice has helped me a lot with this.

    And since these transits I am experiencing are generational, I feel they apply to my peers. We were the first generation coming to disrupt the old order of the industrial world. We were here to lay the ground work for Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z and to take the reigns from the baby boomers. But really, we can keep our counsel to ourselves when it is not appreciated, and we can share it with those who want to listen. We can walk through life with our divine connection and we can act in integrity. And we can continue to stay out of the news. And we can continue to listen to Billy Idol.

    Peace

  • My New Voice Is Coming

    I am scheduled for surgery on my vocal cords on Tuesday to remove a polyp that has disrupted my voice for most of this year. For quite some time prior to my current acute situation, my voice has felt a little raspy, like a smokers voice, and I just assumed it was damage done over the years. Then in early January I got a little virus that I felt in my neck. I wondered if it might have been a mild case of COVIDs latest variant, but I tested negative with a home test. But who knows, a lot of people have told me that the home tests did not reliably detect Omicron. But I suppose it should not really matter to me what the virus was. What matters to me is that I developed laryngitis.

    For the last couple of weeks in January of 2022, it was very difficult for me to speak. I had a really hoarse voice and it would give out on me if I used it very much. I’ve mentioned before that we lead a small spiritual community here, and our rituals include a few prayers and lots of singing. I found myself unable to complete the prayers and unable to sing. This was very frustrating to me. I did some reading about laryngitis and learned that acute laryngitis usually clears up in two weeks at the max, and that if it persists longer than three weeks or so, it’s considered chronic. I found that chronic laryngitis is caused by continued abuse of the vocal cords, and so I started to do everything I could to take care of them.

    I have lots of intelligent and helpful friends who recommended may remedies. My favorite was eating Manuka honey by the spoonful. My least favorite was using one of those small rubber spatulas to spread Andiroba oil on the back of my throat. Andiroba is an oil produced from a very bitter Amazonian nut. My daughter in law’s cousin recommended it to me. My daughter in law is from western Amazonas. In fact her family is from so far west in the Amazon that to get to her house, you have to go to the state of Acre, and from there, you head east on a motorized canoe for seven hours. Andiroba is a very useful remedy for all manner of cuts and bites. It is antiseptic, and it repels mosquitoes as well. The taste is super bitter (as are many medicines from Amazonas) and to gag yourself with a pastry spatula to spread it on the back of your throat, you really have to want to get better.

    I won’t say that I stopped using Cannabis, because that would imply that I did use it to begin with, but I can say that I have not exacerbated my condition by continuing to engage in any habits that might have a negative impact. Another dear friend also pointed out that anything that has the effect of drying the mucous membranes would exacerbate my condition, whether inhaled or eaten. Check, done and done.

    If you have been following my writing, which I will not assume, you may have seen that we spent the last half of February and the first half of March in Telluride. I promised myself that I would do everything possible to heal myself, and that if my voice was still a problem when I got home, I would go to the Doctor.

    My father was a surgeon, and he used to say “if you cannot cut on it, then it’s not worth fixing.” I was pretty skeptical that a doctor would be able to do much for me. What was he going to say? I figured he’d confirm that I have laryngitis and prescribe yet another remedy to plaster on my throat. Fortunately, I have a very loving wife who often provides a counterbalance to my stubbornness, and she agreed to let me try to heal myself until we got home, and in exchange I promised to go to the doctor if I did not get better.

    I really did everything I could do for those weeks, and nothing worked. I still sounded terrible. I could not sing, and my voice sounded ever worse. When I got home I made an appointment.

    We had a spiritual work on March 15th, as we do on the 15th and 30th of every month, and during this work, I prayed for some insight into what was the spiritual/energetic significance of this ailment that I have been suffering. I went deep into concentration and really tried to connect with my inner guides, and up from the depths bubbled a simple message.

    “IT’S A GIFT”

    That was not at all what I expected. My snarky self immediately wanted to know if I could return it, but I did not even allow the thought to formulate into words. How could this suffering be a gift? I spent the rest of our concentration pondering this, and I was left with more questions than answers.

    Two days later, I went to the ENT, a very groovy and chipper young doctor who I immediately liked very much. I had actually met him before when he looked after my wife. He sat me down in a chair under a big machine and sprayed my throat with a numbing agent, and stuck a camera down there. I looked up into his face and tried to interpret his expressions. Of course, the scary voice in my head wanted to say “throat cancer” but I suppressed this thought and replaced it with a prayer “my body is healthy and strong and this is good news.” I repeated that little mantra until the Doctor said “mystery solved! you have a polyp!”

    Turns out all I have to do is go back to the very same chair next Tuesday and he can zap the little polyp right off my vocal cord with a laser. It will literally just vaporize the polyp and cauterize the wound at the same time. Presto! He printed out the pictures for a souvenir, and I apologize if it was too much to share, but there you have it. I could hear my Dad’s voice affirming that “since you can cut on it, it’s worth fixing.”

    By the time Tuesday arrives, it will have been almost exactly two weeks since the polyp was discovered. I have had plenty of time to reflect on how this has been a gift. The first notion that came to me is that it was a gift because it’s benign and can be cured with a quick zap by a laser in the doctor’s office. It’s a gift because if I could not get better, then it would not be a gift.

    But why the experience? One thing I have learned in my spiritual path is that upgrades often come on the heels of suffering. We have to go through some kind of ordeal as part of the upgrade. One upgrade I hope to receive is literally a new voice. It is my hope and prayer that the mild raspy sounding smoker voice I have carried around will be fixed. I am hoping and praying that my new voice will be a beautiful musical instrument, and that I will have the gift of learning to use it. Another gift is that over the last several weeks that I have had difficulty speaking, I have learned to be much more careful with my words. I find myself keeping my thoughts to myself and not sharing my opinions unless I am asked. We have several hymns in our doctrine that advise us to “speak little and listen a lot,” and I have been doing a lot more listening and a lot less talking. Through this process, I have found that the fewer words I speak the more power they have, and I have also learned not to try to give advice to those who do not want to listen to me. What a relief. What a gift!

    And here is a special gift I will share with anyone who actually reads this far. Early on in my spiritual path I received a visionary experience related to my voice. I was in a clearing in the forest and I was sitting on the ground facing an old indigenous man. In between us was a cloth laid out on the ground and in the middle of the cloth was a bundle wrapped in some kind of thin leather. He unfolded the bundle, and inside the bundle was an organ that looked like the larynx of a duck, which I recognized from cleaning birds that I had shot. A duck larynx looks like this:

    photo credit: https://countryfamilyhomestead.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Duck-Syrinx.jpg

    The old man took his finger and cut me open at the base of my throat, and inserted this organ, and then touched me again, and sealed me back up with the organ inside. He said it would give power to my voice, but not until I was ready for it. He said it would only work when I spoke with integrity and in service to the divine will. It would not work when I misused my voice, or if used it for personal gain at the expense of others. He put it inside me, and now I feel it may be activating.

    Stephanie took off for a women’s event in Austin for the weekend. She gets back on Monday evening, and my surgery is Tuesday morning. It’s Friday afternoon now. I have the next four days to sit in contemplation of what is coming for me. After that, I have four days of strict silence while my voice heals. All in all that’s a full eight days of contemplation. I truly believe that this is a gift and that I will be a new person with a new voice afterwards.

    Please pray for me. Please pray for peace too.

    Peace.

  • Lessons From My Dog

    PhoDOGgraphy

    I was reading through some of the great articles available here, and found one were the author had unapologetically posted several pictures of her dog. I commented that I love PhoDOGraphy, and often personalize shots of landscapes or points of interest with our beloved Frankie. Here he is in early March on a trip up to the frozen Bear Creek waterfall in Telluride Colorado. I wanted to feature one of these pictures of Frankie, and then to write a little bit about some of the great lessons he has taught me.

    I may as well disclose that I have undertaken a spiritual path which includes the commitment to make one’s spiritual evolution the most important value in one’s life. If this sounds extreme, it’s tempered by the view that spiritual evolution occurs through participation in the school that we all find ourselves in here in this world and in this life. Our path is not one of going into a cave and seeking to find union with a divine force, but rather to develop by fully incarnating our spirit in the here and now. This is not to cast any disrespect on those who follow a path of long and deep meditation, and of course meditation and prayer are very important in any spiritual practice.

    But for me, it’s 80/20, meaning that I try to spend 80% of my time fully engaged here in this material world, and maybe 20% in a broader vision. One of the first things we learn in any meditation based practice is that we can look on ourselves from a higher perspective, I have heard this described as realizing that the “I am” is the observer of our thoughts.

    Frankie, on the other hand, lives right behind his eyeballs, and this is my favorite lesson from him. I walk him frequently, and he’s always completely in the flow of his immediate adventure. When he finds a stick on the side of the path and pulls against the leash, his focus is complete. He is not wondering whether he should want that stick, or whether sticks make him happy or any of that. It’s just Frankie and the stick.

    I am not a practitioner of Zen, but I have studied it a little, and it is my impression that this is what they call present mindedness. It is the “Be Here Now” that Ram Das talks about. I love to witness this, and now in my own life, when sailing, or skiing, or running or sitting in the woods, I try to adopt this way of being absorbed in the present moment.

    There is a really great teacher that I have had the pleasure of learning from. His name is Alex Polari. Alex has an amazing history in that he was part of a group that kidnapped someone from a foreign consulate in Brazil in protest of the military dictatorship there, and then was captured by the fascist military police and spent 8 years in prison there. When he got out, he dedicated his life to the pursuit of spiritual study. Alex explained to a group I was participating in that the our purpose here on earth is to fully incorporate our higher self into this material existence.

    I’m not sure if I have this just right, but the feeling I get from this is that we are here as witnesses to creation. Elon Musk often talks about the simulation. If you created a world of an amazing simulation, would you not want then to immerse yourself in your creation so you could really experience it? The idea would be to fully incorporate your consciousness from the higher realm into the experience here. And so Frankie is a good teacher of this. He is definitely fully incorporated here.

    Another thing I really admire about Frankie is his capacity to accept (and ask for) praise and affection. I take him with me a lot as I go through my day, and so he has met many of the people I encounter on a regular basis, and he always shows his joy in encountering them and ends up getting his belly rubbed and lots of love and affection dumped on him. He has no reservation or doubt about this. I am not this way at all, and that’s probably a good thing. We offer to each other a tepid peck on the cheek and an A-frame hug, and exchange faint praise. This is not at all Frankie’s style. He’s all in for love and attention.

    I do recognize that my life is better because I can spend the other 20% of my time in reflection and see myself from a higher perspective. But I’m not sure we are really all that happier on account of all the thinking we do about everything all the time. Maybe if we just spent our lives in pursuit of a good belly rub we’d all be better off.

    Peace.

  • Bamboo Blooms Once and Dies after 50 Years

    I remember my fourth birthday party at the Navy Base in Corpus Christi, Texas. We lived in one of the top apartments of a quadruplex. There was a balcony between the top two apartments that overlooked a small yard with burnt grass, and on the other side of the yard was a large oval shaped stand of oleander. I learned to ride my bike when I was still to short to put my feet on the ground, so I would just crash into the oleander and trust its slender branches to hold me upright. My birthday is early February, and so for my party my mom bought two of the same books of punch out valentines day cards. (I remember this, because I punched them all out when I found them, and got in some trouble for it.). My Mom hung the cards from one book on the oleander bushes, and passed out the other set to the kids who came to my party. I remember there were quite a few of us. With card in hand, you had to walk around the bush until you found your match, and then you received your prize, which I remember being a balsa wood airplane with a rubber band powered propeller. I remember it flew surprisingly well from the balcony above the yard.

    And then my Dad went to Vietnam, which I really did not know or understand. I actually was not even really aware that we were in Corpus Christi because he was in Officer Training School. But I know now that he had been drafted as a surgeon and had been shipped off to Vietnam and assigned to a division of Republic of Korea Marines where he put bodies back together in a M.A.S.H. unit that was never more than a mile or two away from the front lines. He learned there to be a brilliant vascular surgeon. If my Dad could not save somebody on the table, then they were just going to die. Plain and simple. He had no restrictions on the need to try novel approaches, and he had to work fast. I think he was chief of surgery at every hospital he ever worked at after that.

    My Mom took me and my sister to my father’s parents house in Miami, which was the same house my father had been born into, and was about a mile and a half from Doctor’s Hospital where I was born in 1967. My fifth birthday party was at that house, and I remember this because we had a pony. So it was sometime between my fourth and fifth birthday that we moved back to our hometown of Miami.

    My Mom has always had an amazing green thumb, and to pass the time, she would volunteer at the Fairchild Tropical Garden. David Fairchild had been a close personal friend of my Grandmother. So had most of the old Miami families, because back in the 1920s there were not any people in Coconut Grove except those who could stand the heat and the mosquitos. My parents bought the house from my Grandparents, and they moved to a smaller house with more land near snapper creek. This sets the stage for my story, which revolves around a stand of bamboo.

    My Mom brought home one day a bucket from an exotic plant sale at Fairchild that had bamboo in it. We planted it in the jungle that was the front half of the acre where the house was. On this land, back in the 1940s, my Dad’s family had dug out the soil from a sink hole and used it for a victory garden, and so in the front yard, which was a beautiful lush tropical jungle, there was this excavation of what we called “The Big Hole”. It’s still there today, and it’s about 15 feet deep. It looks like it was some sort of spring from ancient times. Mom planted the bamboo at the back of the big hole, and I used to try to make blow guns out of it. I also used to sit on the edge of it with my BB gun to shoot toy soldiers that I would set up on the rocky coral ledges on the other side of the hole. I had green good guys who were the American soldiers and grey bad guys who were the Germans. World War II had left such an indelible print of good vs evil that we did not have with Vietnam. With Vietnam, war was the bad guy and the people who fought it were all victims.

    This stand of bamboo grew and grew. As the stalks got taller and thicker , they started to sprout horizontal sticks with sharp thorns, and created a completely impenetrable thicket. For many years cat birds would nest inside the thicket. I’m sure several generations of the same family lived in there. They would pop out and coo to me while I shot my BB Gun.

    It was there in the big hole that I sat on the day of my wedding to Stephanie and prayed and listened over and over to a hymn called “I Invoke My Master” which talks about being a son of the truth and living in integrity. It was just the right vibration for the start of a strong marriage. My kids grew up going down there too. My Mom put a concrete alligator statue in the bottom, and the kids all believed it came alive at night and wandered around the woods. Maybe it did.

    That was 50 years ago that my Mom brought the bamboo home in the bucket. Last month we were all delighted when it bloomed, as you can see in this picture. But then the towering stand of bamboo started to break and fall over. We did a little research and found that this is the end of the life cycle for the bamboo. It lives about 50 years, and grows to 70 feet high with thick rods of bamboo about six inches in diameter, and then it explodes into a giant geyser of bamboo rice and flowers, and then the whole stand dies.

    A couple days ago, I went and looked around the base for new shoots, and there simply were none. I remember years ago seeing new shoots protruding from the ground as the stand spread, but now there are none. I had thought that each shoot of bamboo was a separate organism, like a bunch of trees growing close together, like an aspen grove. But the entire stand is a single organism, that blooms and dies.

    This amazing creature was planted when I was a boy of five years old. I am now a grandfather of 55 years old, and it feels so poignant.

    I often write here about astrology, and for me a lot of astrology is like a clock that measures the progress of our life. We have our twelve year cycles of Jupiter returns, our 29 year cycles of Saturn returns, our 84 year Uranus return, and on the shorter scale we have our 29 day lunar months, our four times a year Mercury retrograde, our beautiful oscillating Venus clock as she moves from the evening star to the morning star and back again, and the faithful sun marching out one year at a time… never in retrograde, like the march of a maracá.

    This bamboo takes me from my early childhood almost right up to my second Saturn return, and its demise is a milestone in my life. I have been going through a personal process of letting go of being the one who does all the tasks, the Dad role, and of assuming the role of the Grandfather. In the Tarot, this is the fools journey from the Knight to the King, where the Knight is in the battle swinging the sword and the King exerts influence from wisdom and moral authority, but no longer is the one taking the actions.

    The other day, when I walked down to the big hole to take these pictures, I could still feel the presence of my little boy spirit with the BB gun. I could still feel the cat bird’s soft coo in the bamboo. I could feel the strength in my heart on my wedding day as I listened to that hymn, and I can feel the incredulous gaze of the children as they pondered the concrete alligator. All this happened under the shade of this big bamboo, and now it is casting those memories into the air in an explosion of flowers.

    My Mom, she was about 30 years old when she brought home that bucket from Fairchild Garden, is 80 now. A whole lifetime has passed, but so little has changed.

    It makes me feel peace in my spirit. I hope this story brings peace to yours too.

    Peace.

  • Spring brings all of the planets to the dawn sky

    As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of Astrology, and my favorite part of the study of Astrology is the connection it brings me to actually going outside to view the planets. They are the path of brilliant shining stones, the universal treasure, the light of the firmament, and they will all be there in all their glory for us to see this Spring. You may have felt the powerful energy of the recent conjunctions of Mars and Venus with Pluto, and for those of you who are waking up before sunrise with daylight savings time, Mars and Venus have been putting on a spectacular show with the dimmer Saturn just below them. All you have to do is look to the eastern sky before dawn and Venus will immediately catch your attention.

    But this is just the beginning of an amazing spectacle that continues throughout the year, as if we are being rewarded for the passages we have all gone through in the last couple of years. And so here I would like to outline some things you can easily observe in the sky to help you feel connected to the rhythms of the celestial clock.

    My favorite aspect of this is Jupiters path through the zodiac over its twelve year “synodic orbital period” (the time it takes for Jupiter to go all the way around the zodiac from our perspective on earth, as opposed to from the perspective of the Sun). I remember I was in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest in the spiritual community of Céu do Mapia with my son in late June and early July of 2019. During that year, Jupiter was at opposition to the sun during this exact period. I took the photograph that you see above simply by placing my camera on the ground facing straight up into the sky at midnight. Because Jupiter goes all the way around the zodiac almost exactly every 12 years, it reaches opposition one month later from one year to the next. So in 2020, Jupiter was opposite the Sun in late July and early August. In 2021, Jupiter was in opposition in early September, and in 2022, Jupiter will be there again in October.

    So if we watch Jupiter in the night sky, we can see the passage of years. I always remember my trip to Mapia was with Jupiter in this position in late June during the festivities surrounding the Summer Solstice.

    As I said up above, the planetary show for the spring of 2022 is already underway in the pre dawn sky, with Venus, Mars and Saturn being the main attractions. But Jupiter is right there in the glow of the rising Sun. The Sun goes through the zodiac 12 times faster than Jupiter from our perspective, so every day at dawn, Jupiter will be a little higher. Soon it will start to be visible through the glare of the morning Sun, and then every month it will rise about one hour earlier, and therefore be about 30 degrees higher in the sky each month. I love to watch the advance of Jupiter across the sky, so I will be out there in the morning when I walk the dog looking for it.

    Venus, on the other hand, travels through the Zodiac faster than the Sun. It happens to be at about the point where it is highest in the morning sky. One really interesting fact about Venus, is that it’s never visible at midnight. Think about it. Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, so it can never be on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. Instead, Venus oscillates in a beautiful pattern between being the morning star and the evening star. Right now, Venus is as high in the sky as it can get, and now it will start diving back into the sun, until it goes behind the Sun and reappears as the evening star.

    But first, it will pass both Jupiter and Saturn. So we have these conjunctions to look forward too. First Venus will pass Saturn, and then it will pass Jupiter. It already passed Mars and Pluto. All you have to do is go outside before dawn and you can see this for yourself!

    Something extraordinary is about to happen, and that is that in early June, all nine planets will be present in the morning sky. Of course, only five of them are visible to the naked eye, but they will all be there. You can try to find them with a telescope (I’m not sure if this is possible with Pluto and Neptune, but it is possible with Uranus), but for me, I am satisfied just using a Star Gazer app on my phone to locate them. Then I just ponder the sky and it’s not hard for me to imagine the presence of the planet there. I’m quite sure I can feel the energy of it. Even if you could see it with a telescope, these far outer planets would be simply dim points of light.

    But Jupiter and Venus have much more to offer with a telescope. Jupiter will offer up its Moons to a casual observer. I remember the first time I saw the four principle Moons of Jupiter through a telescope. It was on a field of icy snow in the dead of winter in Sun Valley, Idaho. I was astounded and humbled. What a beautiful and profound hidden treasure. I remember the four Moons were all lined up on one side of Jupiter, and I was surprised at how far their orbits took them from the planet. I remember a couple weeks later taking my sons outside to repeat the observation, and was so surprised to see two Moons on either side of the planet. It had never occurred to me that they would change their orientation like this, but they did sure enough. Again I was astounded.

    Most recently, I set up a telescope to observe the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in December of 2020. This was on our chocolate farm in Bahia Brazil, that offers and amazing view of the night sky. There again were the Moons of Jupiter, and within the arc of their orbit, was Saturn. Just by putting my eye on a simple telescope I was able to directly observe Saturn so close to Jupiter that it was encompassed by the orbit of Jupiter’s Moons. I will never again see that in this lifetime, unless I travel through the solar system on something other than Earth!

    Venus (and Mercury) also offer some grand spectacles to an observer with a telescope. These two planets, because they are closer to the Sun than the Earth, have phases like our Moon. So when you look at Venus, it can appear as a bright crescent. The same is true for Mercury, but be very careful not to let the morning Sun get into the view of your telescope our you can really fry your retina. Best only do this before dawn.

    So in early June, all nine planets will be in the sky before dawn at the same time. I don’t remember the last time this happened. But this is not the end of the show! Saturn and Jupiter will continue their path toward opposition. Saturn, with its slower orbit, will reach opposition sooner than Jupiter. Without looking, I was say this will happen in late July. Then, Jupiter will reach its opposition in late summer, which will be the best time to see its Moons with a telescope.

    And Mars, don’t forget Mars!, will be putting on a show too. Mars will reach its opposition in early December and it will be huge and bright and red and also fun to look at with your telescope.

    You can read all about the energies of all these events in a good blog. I recommend Astrobutterfly on this platform. But I find sometimes that I just need to sit in the quite while I gaze upon these shining stones, and the energy speaks to me directly. I think you will find you can feel in your heart the power of our celestial neighbors.

    Enjoy the brilliant spring. Pray for Peace. Show gratitude. Love your neighbor, and enjoy the celestial beauty, the universal gift of the firmament.

    Peace

  • Wealth Tip – How to pay dimes instead of dollars on your mortgage

    The answer is pretty simple. Stop making extra payments on long term fixed rate mortgages. If you have a 30 year fixed rate mortgage, chances are that your interest rate is well below 5%, and inflation today is running at 8%. Traditional wisdom has always been that we should pay a little extra principal on our mortgages so that we can pay them off faster. That wisdom holds true in an economic environment where your interest rate is lower than the rate of inflation. But that is not the case today.

    If you have a fixed rate mortgage with an interest rate lower than inflation, you should make your minimum monthly payments. Think of it this way. When you pay extra, you are paying the last payments first because you are directly reducing the principal balance. If you instead let that principal balance stay out there for as long as possible, inflation will eat it away. After 25 years of 8% inflation, you will literally be paying your mortgage with dollars that are only worth about 10% of what a dollar is worth today. You will pay those last payments with dimes instead of dollars.

    Banks are well aware of this. Current interest rates have not yet caught up with inflation, but they will. And an economic secret that nobody will tell you, is that interest rates have to be raised to a rate above inflation to cure inflation itself. That means you will likely be seeing variable rates above 8% within the next couple of years. If you bite on a low variable rate loan, you will surely pay the price in a few years. Once banks have the ability to loan money out at rates higher than you are paying on your fixed rate mortgage, they will start doing anything in their power to convince us to either refinance, pay early, or do anything they can to shorten the duration of your loan. You will start to see all kinds of articles talking about the amount of interest you can save by paying your loan off early. But it’s better to be patient.

    And also, if you did succeed in buying a house with a long term fixed rate mortgage, be very happy! Think long and hard before moving or trading your house. You are in one of the very few positions that lets the little guy win over the big guys. Those who sit in a 30 year mortgage until it is paid off are some of the very few winners in the finance shell game that exists out there.

    So enjoy the extra cash flow today, while dollars are worth more than they will ever be again. Let your mortgage sit out as long as possible, and those extra payments will be dimes instead of dollars.

    Of course, you do have to make your normal payments. If you default, all bets are off.

    Peace