A paean to what connects us (materially) (another hint, it’s not at the quantum level)

I don’t know if it was the gunk or simply all the services I partook of on the road but I had a quasi-religious fever about commerce, specifically this:

Entrepreneurs are the zzzzzzzt and the ff of life! Commerce — the lubricant of humanity, bringing diverse peoples together for common purpose, sustenance. Commerce! Those who would otherwise have no cause to be joined together except perhaps opposed in war or opinion are made eager to meet, to barter, to trade labor and capital and ingenuity, to offer aspects of themselves in order to gain aspects of unknown others.

I’d had this same epiphany periodically from early adulthood onward, maybe even as far back as teendom. It’s an insight that circles around again and again, and it never fails to smite me powerfully in my third eye — that eye of the soul.

The way some people feel about God I feel about the bonds that tie us together as humans, and it always begins with human exchange. Exchange of goods, exchange of ideas, exchange of effort and good will, because nothing can be exchanged without the will to do good for another, even if grudgingly, even if out of the narrowest self interest.

This same insight would overwhelm me from time to time in New York City, where I’ve heard it said well over a hundred languages are spoken daily. The Arab driver brings the Orthodox Jew to work in the diamond district, where a black musician takes his Puerto Rican girlfriend for a bauble, buying a hot dog from the Lithuanian vendor. None might choose to associate otherwise if it weren’t for the kiss of commerce.

I say kiss here for the romance and the alliteration of it, but really commerce bestows kindnesses to all and all bestow kindnesses through commerce, even the most brashly self-absorbed. Every day I would witness people interacting and trading their life force — each spent life time for the dollars they were exchanging — people who might otherwise have shunned one another.

This came back to me here at this juncture of the trip, ensconced in a van — living in a van! — a vehicle I didn’t create, propelled by fuels I didn’t drill for or refine, on roads I didn’t build, eating foods I neither gathered nor prepared from restaurants I didn’t construct, writing on paper I didn’t mash and sift and press with a simple pen I have no fucking idea in the world how to engineer, enjoying the ten million things that make this era so providentially rewarding (and safe) for travel.

In the time of Lao Tzu one would refer to the ten thousand things to refer to the many things in the material world. Now you would exhaust that number before you’d turned down every aisle at a Walmart.

It’s moments like that one somewhere in the Western mountains that provoke me to this humbling realization: that my whole existence is built on the efforts of others. My every single thing I use comes from the broad shoulders of human braun employing the hive mind of humanity. Every single thing I enjoy other than relationships and the uses of my naked body come from you, commerce.

So yes, commerce, I blow a sweet kiss to you.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book: 
Bohemia in Suburbia and Beyond: Oh the creativity and originality outside of urban centers (one dude found traversing America) (in an old van).

And yes, yes it is; that title is rather longish, though it does succinctly speak to what you’ll find inside the book. 

Natural visualization

You often hear that you should visualize some big bold future for yourself.

When I was struggling to survive financially I found it impossible to visualize in the grand manner that is often suggested.  If you’re like me and you find this impossible when you’re stuck in the mire of survival, I suggest this:

Visualize incrementally. 

I’ll give you an example. When I was driving around America for a year and a half trying to save our business I couldn’t imagine squat. I was so stuck in survival mode that even when I meditated and prayed the highest I could raise my periscope was to wish for the next week’s bills to be paid. 

THAT seemed impossible and grand at the time. 

Yet after connection time I could feel  somehow  that it might could possibly maybe be so. 

I could cast myself forward those few days and feel the relief of every due bill paid off somehow, some magical how.

That is the way I tunneled through the most crushing financial avalanche of our lives, envisioning day by day, week by week.

Until I could begin to envision month by month.

Until I could begin to envision season by season. 

Until now and I’m driving cross-country in my campervan with my family joy unit, I’m chatting up Oprah and Michael Bernard Beckwith and other spiritual superheroes casually in my daydreams, I’m connecting with creators of every stripe across this incredible land of ours in my offhand dreams. 

Now that things are getting better and better my horizon is naturally expanding. 

Natural visualizations eased the way for me. Everything else felt forced and on the magnitude of fantasy. 

Ironically, what I feel is now possible would boggle my survival mind  though it was my survival mind that got me here by connecting with my Spirit Source daily, sometimes hourly, in some cases minutely, by believing there was a way through.

It’s not necessary to force yourself beyond the see-able horizon if it feels unnatural. 

Horizon to horizon will get you to where you want to go.

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A Balinese meditation: Confiscated from Eat Pray Love

by Elizabeth Gilbert

On highly auspicious days, when everyone wants a special blessing, he might have over one hundred visitors.

“Don’t you get tired?”

“But this is my profession,” he tells me. “This is my hobby — medicine man.”

A few more patients come throughout the afternoon, but Ketut and I get some time alone together on the porch, too. I’m so comfortable with this medicine man, as relaxed as with my own grandfather. He gives me my first lesson in Balinese meditation. 

He tells me that there are many ways to find God but most are too complicated for Westerners, so he will teach me an easy meditation. Which goes, essentially, like this: sit in silence and smile. I love it. He’s laughing even as he’s teaching it to me. Sit and smile. Perfect.

“You study Yoga in India, Liss? he asks.

“Yes, Ketut.”

“You can do Yoga,” he says, “but Yoga too hard.” Here, he contorts himself in a cramped lotus position and squinches up his face in a comical and constipated-looking effort. 

Then he breaks free and laughs, asking, “Why they always look so serious in Yoga? You make serious face like this, you scare away good energy. To meditate, only you must smile. Smile with face, smile with mind, and good energy will come to you and clean away dirty energy. Even smile in your liver. Practice tonight at hotel. Not to hurry, not to try too hard. Too serious, you make you sick. You can calling the good energy with a smile. All finish for today. See you later, alligator. Come back tomorrow. I am very happy to see you, Liss. Let your conscience be your guide. If you have Western friends come to visit Bali, bring them to me for palm reading. I am very empty in my bank . . . .” 

Drinking and drugging: The economics of energy

Drinking and drugging are an effort to get into the sweet flow of near oblivion. 

When I drank and drugged it was always with the intent to enter the Stream of All Happy Stuff. 

It didn’t work. It seemed to work for a minute or two, though it took several years to see how those minutes were paid for with hours of future life.

Fortunately for me my energy economics learning curve was measured in a few short years and not decades.

Every drug borrows from your future energy. 

It’s not an equal exchange, as you might hope for. For example, three hours of fun for three hours feeling mildly crappy. Nope. All borrowing has an interest penalty. 

And borrowing from your future energy exacts a fee similar to your least favorite credit card. It’s an exorbitant rate of interest for no seeming reason.

Now  after many a meditation  it’s easy to see that those truly in the Stream of Voluptuous Experience are connected (to the juice of life), creative (in the moment), open (to the totality of experience). 

They are not drinking and drugging, which is essentially a way of demonstrating to the world that you are none of the above.

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Two things to do when your loved one is hospitalized

Though it may sadden you to hear this, this will be the last of the hospital series.

A quick note for those who’ve followed the hospital posts . . . Ann has recovered (mostly) and just today went to work for half a day. Though it was a peculiar affliction, the body is resilient, Ann more so. 

For those of you who reached out, thank you! Love you! May your incredibleness rebound on you ten-thousand fold . . . .

And . . . 

Viva la era we live in! Not only for quick diagnoses of life-threatening oddities, but also for the unabashed soul energy poured into her healing, from medical staff to friends and family to people unknown.

Now for the information at hand, here you go.

Two things to do if someone close to you is in the hospital:

  1. Accept help. It will be generously offered. Take it. You know how much you want to help in some small way when others you care for are struck by some calamity. Let them.
  2. Ask for help. Wherever you can. Think of ways others can help you  they want to so badly even you in your numbness can taste it. And no matter what you think, you need it.

Sounds too simple, yet I can assure you from my recent experience of becoming Mr. Mom and Mr. Dad as well as Partner One and Partner Two in our business overnight  these are the two most important things you can do. 

Not only do you assume the responsibilities of the other immediately, you are tasked additionally with running errands for your hospitalized loved one and going back and forth to the hospital as much as you are humanly capable.

Undergirding these two dictums is this principle: You must take care of yourself in order to care for someone else. 

Caretakers of all stripes know this to be the prime directive.

These guidelines apply to any and all traumatic situations, of course, not only hospitalization.

Now . . . having said this, go forth and never ever need any of this advice, OK?

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How one creator turns on the flow

I find it easiest to think when I’m bored.

~ Stephen Hansen

Here’s how one artist gets the electricity crackling. He sits in the same chair every day  facing the same view. Though I didn’t ask he likely does it at nearly the same time or times each day too, as so many other habitual creators do. 

He finds creative thought is stirred by relaxing into a kind of receptive boredom.

Others might call this emptying the mind. Twyla Tharp calls it a ritual of preparation: What you do unfailingly to initiate the creative process.

Sitting down in one’s thinking chair is the same as settling into your meditation spot or your prayer pose. Your entire system is activated for one purpose. It’s a flip of the systemic switch. 

Like when I pick up a fork. My body knows driving or wooing or swimming — other common activities of mine, thank you very much  are not muscle memories to be called upon then. 

What is irrelevant to the purpose powers down out of sweet habit. Also out of habit, only what applies to the purpose at hand is powered up.

To add a space for thought then, in a favorite thinking chair, by not bringing anything else with you but your mind and pen and paper . . . yeah, you could call it boredom but really it’s foreplay.

Note: This is part of the What creators do series, where I look to people who are creating something meaningful in the world for inspiration and tips  and pass them along to you.

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Taking adventure back (going old style)

I say we take adventure back to its earlier meaning. Today it’s a lark in a water park.

I say it’s not an adventure unless you can get hurt. Physically, emotionally, financially. Hazard is involved. Fortune and misfortune come into play. Bones can be broken! Lives can be ruined! Hearts can be ripped asunder. 

Otherwise it’s just entertainment. Entertainment is grand and good, but adventure is where the current of life is. 

If you’ve been hurt  physically, emotionally, financially  then you’ve swum in the current. If you’ve known triumph, then you’ve swum in the current.

Adventure is asking her out, the one who palpitates your heart. She could deny you. Or she could augment you.

It is your start up, your practice, your commitment, your going at it again today  even when your yesterdays have not yet born fruit.

Adventure is setting off on a journey without known end. It is where every meaningful thing is.


Gentling myself

Gentling — you may have heard the term in reference to horses. It’s a humane method for training.

I realized today when I was reviewing my daily practices — specifically one related to creative time — that I’ve been gentling myself. And it’s been working wonders.

Though I haven’t quite attained certain daily targets relating to my creation time of late, I’m gentle with myself, acknowledging the ground gained, even if it’s small ground. With gentleness I’m better at picking up the next day and going further.

What’s surprising  when you gentle yourself  is how eager you are to overfulfill your own expectations for yourself.

Have you seen this in a child? When you gush trust that they’ll gain mastery — when they’ve faltered at something — they fairly fall over themselves to fulfill that trust.

It’s the same when I gentle myself. I am no different than children and horses.


The first rule of cooking

I was breakfasting with Dave Beck, an innovative chef who was talking about how he loves diving into his fridge and pantry and then dreaming up a meal based on what he finds.

Is this not also exactly the first rule of life?!

First rule of cooking: Work with what you’ve got. 

~ Dave Beck

Note: Part of the What creators do series.


How to help when someone is in the hospital (part two, in essence)

With Ann’s recent hospitalization we witnessed grace in action, through the many steps others took to be there for Ann and our family.

Since there’s a ‘naming and shaming’ aspect to this culture, it’s only appropriate that I do a little  ‘naming and faming’ here. 

Here’s how you can help when someone is in the hospital (as shown by example for us this past week):

Show up in the morning with trail mix and snacks, toothbrush and toothpaste, with your sassy self persona turned on. Then do it again later for good effect. (Laura Walter, you minx. Ann survived the hospital food because of you.) 

Rush to the hospital the moment you hear the news, whip your hair band off and tie her hair back while you do your best to hold her up through the vomiting. (Yes you, Sue Bee Doo  the heroic Sue Brown-Gordon.) Then make her laugh laugh laugh. That’s hard to do after a heave ho, but not for you, you delightful one, not for you. 

Host the affected family’s child for a 24-hour play date on the weekend so the husband [me] can run the business between shuttling back and forth for hospital visits. (You two, the ever there Marc and Roseann Cherenson.) 

Pick right up where the magnificent Cherenson’s left off, and get that boy out on another play date pronto! (You slice of thoughtfulness, Susan McCluskey.)  

Show up as quickly as you can with your toddler in tow, bringing the most essential item for a hospital stay EVER: Antibacterial cleansing wipes. And mouthwash too. (You, fab Kelly Luchini, you who know the drill because you’ve been to too many hospitals in your life.)  

Call from out of state and lead her through a rollicking over-the-phone healing session. (Carolyn Cohen, you master healer, you gush the life force.)  

Call from across the state and lead her through solid old-fashioned Bible verses proclaiming her victory over affliction! (MomJo! We love you!) 

Invite the exhausted and addled husband [again, me] over for a nourishing meal  with energetic son in tow straight from play-date heaven. (If I were gay and 19th-century Mormon at the same time, you would be my sister husband Russell Kopit.)  

(Read part one here about Heidi, Russell’s wife: How to visit someone in the hospital.) 

Stop by with the finest casserole a man and his boy could ever hope for  comfort food beyond comforting. (My favorite T-chele: Michele Trzuskowski.) ( . . . . Sound it out.) (If you dare.) 

Call and email and connect with well wishes and prayers and offers to do whatever you can whenever needed. (You, my sweet sis, who called Ann often and raised her spirits every time. And you, my brother and sister-in-law, who connected daily and who’s family was ready to put their lives on halt so they could come help out at a moment’s notice  you raised my spirits every time. And you and you and you and you and you . . . and so many other yous . . . . you amazing phalanx of people who thankfully I didn’t need to call on because she got better! This included some of you, compassionate readers.) 

(With affection and appreciation to each and every one of you.)