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Charleston, SC, United States
"Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself." -ACIM

Friday, December 25, 2015

Why it's Christmas Day Sir!

2015. Wow. What a year. I could write for days about all that's happened this year and all that I've learned. But for today dear reader we'll just look at December 25th or as most of us call it... Friday. Hahaha. Ok, I'll say it, Christmas.

As part of my challenging everything I "know" this year one thing I challenged myself to do was to look at Christmas differently. In years past I've been known as a "Christmas guy" to just about everyone. In the past I'd start thinking about Christmas as soon as possible, planning as soon as Thanksgiving was over, and decorating as soon as it wouldn't be seen as absurd. This year however things had to be changed. I had to "break up with Christmas" as it was recently described in one of the podcasts I listen to. (The Nature of All Things podcast; if you enjoy this blog, there are certainly topics on there you'll find appealing.)

Part of "breaking up with Christmas" for me meant challenging traditional Christmas stuff. So this year not a tree was lit, not a stocking was hung, no Christmas movies, no Christmas Who-pudding, not even roast beast! (Dr. Seuss I am not). I only bought one gift and that was for some friends of mine who have just been awesome this year and I wanted to just give something to say thanks more than Merry Christmas. If you walked into my apartment today it would look just like any other day. Not a sign of Christmas. I didn't go see any lights, I didn't cook any special meals, I didn't sing a single carol. Now, this wasn't in any attempt to poo poo Christmas or be a Scrooge, it was just stripping away all the traditional 'stuff' that I usually apply to December 25th.

So... What happened? What did I do? Well I didn't spring out of bed with a rush to rip open packages that's for sure. I did wake up early and drive myself out to the beach for some quiet time. (pre-coffee even) I've done this before, but today was totally different. It was so foggy out at the beach that you couldn't see for more than 40-50 feet and there was nobody out there. So, when I sat down to watch the surf and just be by myself, it was like sitting in a bubble. It was like I was in my own little world. At first I was sure a pirate ship was going to show up out of the fog and take me off on some grand adventure, then I realized they'd probably still be asleep. Sigh. After I settled in, I had a good hour of time to put Christ back in Christmas. That's what I wanted to do despite how cheesy that phrase may sound to some of you. I wanted to get quiet and get present not get busy and get presents.

The sign of Christmas is a star a light in the darkness. See it not outside of yourself, but as shining in the Heaven within, and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come...
This Christmas, give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you. Let yourself be healed completely, that you may join with Him in healing. And let us celebrate our release together, by releasing everyone with us. Leave nothing behind for release is total...
For in the time of Christ, communication with him is restored, and He joins us in the celebration of His Son's Creation. God offers thanks to the holy host who would receive Him, and let Him enter, and abide where He would be. And by your welcome, does He welcome you into Himself.
(ACIM ch. 15)

I had read these words a few months ago and then again last night and this morning as well. It's what I went out to the beach this morning to meditate on. At Christmas, the time of Christ, communication with God is restored. That's not to say that this can't happen anytime, but, for me, I chose to make that my focus today. There was a lot of saying, "Here I am. I am here, now, with you; welcome!" In my little fog bubble there was no hiding, there was no holding back, there was only release and communication.

By the time I got back home, I was starving so I did make myself a nice breakfast and then took a nap. When I woke up however I found I was still hungry for some of my new Christmas so I went for a nice long walk and did some more communicating. And, that is pretty much how this day passed. Lots of being present. Just communicating and listening. Ok, and that long nap. This communication was the only gift I received today, and will last longer than any other I've ever received. What's better than a bike under your tree? Not having a tree and opening up rather than opening boxes. Again, I am not crapping on Christmas here. There are good things in traditional Christmas and everything is what you make of it, but for me today, that wasn't what I was looking for.

Why? Why "challenge" Christmas? Because Christmas was a big thing for me in the past. So were a lot of other things that have been challenged and looked at. Challenging Christmas today for me was a day that represents a life; my life. There is a lot of stripping away of tradition and roles and a lot of replacing that with honesty and presence. There was a lot of questioning what is important. There's guilt, fear and obligation being replaced by forgiveness and love. There is a lot of work to be done still, but the excitement and joy of actually looking forward to that work gives me hope and faith that 2016 is going to be a good one.

The week ahead gives us all a chance to look back and look forward as we approach the New Year. I'll probably pass on that this year just like I passed on the traditional Christmas. I think I'll just try to stay present, not plan, and just let life come to me. Everything will be as it should be...

As a bow on top of this Christmas post, let me wish you all a smile that warms your heart. If it's like mine today, it may last long enough to make your cheeks hurt. But you'll enjoy it none the less.

With Love, Merry Christmas Dear Reader!

Monday, December 21, 2015

An OBT Obituary

Oscar Bartholomew Templeton
Summer 2013 - December 21, 2015

Oscar Bartholomew Templeton or OBT as he was know to those closest to him, of West Ashley in Charleston, SC entered into eternal rest in the early hours of Monday morning. He was in his tank with his favorite plant and beside the two story temple that was his namesake. 

His funeral services will take place in the bathroom on Monday night and will be a private ceremony attended only by his caretaker in life. OBT had asked that any gifts in kind or remembrances be made in his name to the Charleston Animal Society. He is survived by his rocks, plants, small Buddha statue, and of course his temple and home.

Rescued one sunny day from a pet store shelf, OBT began his life in a meager plastic cup. He soon moved however to a plush tank with heat, a light, and filtered water where he lived a long life the best way he knew how. While he did enjoy swimming the most, he was also very fond of long naps near his temple. 

An Asian Beta fish, OBT's beautiful color and bright red fins were only eclipsed by his warming nature. Always willing to listen and never one to judge, OBT was a constant companion and a friend to all those who were lucky enough to know him. While he could have been described as ornery at feeding time, he was overall a gentle soul and one that will not soon be forgotten. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sitting Quietly

I decided last week to give something a try that I haven't ever really done before. Meditating. Now, I've meditated before, but not as a practice. Every now and then I'd sit quietly and try to... well, sit quietly. Try to turn that running dialogue off in my mind and just listen. However, I came to realize that doing that was a lot harder than you may think. I'd sit for a few minutes before I got comfortable and then... thoughts, lots of them. And, I'd find that after a few more minutes that I'd be thinking about what I normally think about: work, relationships, books, baseball trades I'd like to see made... wait what? What you are thinking about? I thought I was supposed to be thinking about nothing!?

I started a few weeks ago doing some guided meditations. Those are nice as long as the subject matter matches up with what you're looking for, but I found that sometimes the presenter would be saying things like, 'you're feeling really sad and you need to just relax and...' then, I would find myself facing sadness rather than the good mood I was in before I started. Well that's not cool! That's not what I came here for. But that led to the question of, what did you come here for? What's the point of meditating?

That's when I decided to get away from having a "goal" for my meditations. I wasn't going into it with an idea of what I wanted to "happen" or "feel" anymore. That's when I decided to take a week and meditate everyday rather then just every now and then when I 'found time' to do so.

Now there are probably a million blogs out there that will tell you 'how to meditate' and that's not what I'm here for dear reader. I'm just here to tell you about my experience over this one week of my life and what I learned. Last Sunday, as you may have seen in the post below this one, I went to the beach to sit quietly and kick off my week of practice. It was awesome but I realized that this practice was not going to be easy for me. I have over the past few months been trying to listen. Just listen. Listen for what's right in my life, listen for signs of where my fears reside, and listen for love. Just listen. In order to do that, I needed to be able to 'quiet' a mind that was very very busy a good deal of the time.

One thing that I had read about meditation was to think of yourself as sitting on the side of the road and watching traffic as it goes by. The cars are the thoughts that enter your mind when you're meditating. Trying not to judge them is the goal. Fast car, expensive car, big truck, ugly minivan, your high school car... all of them are just cars (thoughts) passing by. Don't judge those cars as good or bad or whatever, just notice that they are nothing more than cars. What you're (I'm) waiting for are the breaks in traffic when there aren't any cars on the road and it's just... quiet. Then, I can listen. What I've found is that as the week went on there were more and more breaks in the traffic and there were more and more times when I was able to just be sitting there on the side of the road.

For me, I imagine a stretch of interstate in the South. Two lanes of asphalt, a median with grass, two lanes of asphalt, then pine trees on the other side. My thoughts drive by, and there I am just sitting on the side of the interstate that is my mind. And, when there is a break in the traffic, it's just me sitting there with the sin on my face looking out across the hot road as heat waves kind of drift off the surface. That's when I find myself to be quiet.

Now, I'm not going to tell you that after just a week of this that I've lost five pounds, grown two inches taller, cured my amputated leg or anything like that. What I will say is that as the week went on I found that there were times when I wasn't meditating that I was able to 'stop traffic' as well. Standing in line at the grocery store, sitting at work, walking... whenever, I would find that I was able to actually catch myself and say, 'oh wow, I was present just then.' Of course that 'oh wow' snaps me out of that, but I still celebrate the success of it. And, I think that, if anything, was the goal of all of this week's exercise. Just be present. Just stop and listen.

I'm reading this book right now called, 'Unwind Your Mind Back to God' and in it this week I ran across a quote that really applies here: "We must go into the silence for the experience. Still your mind! That is where the experience is."
So true. If we're going to be an active observer of our own lives, as I hope to be, then we have to observe ourselves as having a human experience. With that comes fear, guilt, anger, joy, peace, relaxation, and the need to be right (uh oh).
I have found that in those moments of stillness and presence however that it is easier to find peace and reaffirm your trust. To say to yourself that yes, this is right, what I'm experiencing is not being clouded by egoic thoughts or fear. This is where miracles are allowed to happen.

"Miracles come from trust in God; as trust increases, fear disappears. Your willingness will seem to open into readiness and readiness will seem to open into mastery." - Unwind Your Mind.

Now, the astute among you may notice that this post has started to drift a bit, but hang in there... this is how my mind still works from time to time. Remember, this is What's Now so I just type and see where we go.

What is a miracle? Well maybe an alcoholic goes sober, maybe an abuser deals with their anger, maybe an emotionally withdrawn person opens up, maybe a depressed person realizes their own greatness, maybe the fearful realize there is nothing to be afraid of. How? Trust. I think if you've read any of my posts over the past few months you're aware that this just keeps coming up. Trust in God. And, here is where willingness comes to the plate. Just a little willingness is all He ever asks right? Are you willing to trust?

Yesterday I had a conversation that was observed by a third party. He stopped me at the end of it and pointed out how, while I may have had the best intentions, that the conversation was driven by my ego. I was being driven my be need to be right. Ouch! Damn! Not what I wanted to do. I wasn't being present and I wasn't listening. But, here is the miracle... when I am able to surrender my need to be right. Not giving up the "argument" and holding onto resentment, but truly acknowledging my lack of "rightness." Saying, I don't know. Trusting that. Trusting. Being willing to see things differently.

One thing I've found is while meditating (bringing it back here) I'm able to cultivate that willingness. I'm able to, in those moments of silence, plant the seeds of willingness. What they grow are: presence, an absence of fear, and trust. Those things start to creep out of my meditation sessions and into other times in my day. Awesome! That is my "goal." To be willing and trusting at all times; to be present as much as possible and to open myself up to what comes from that.

Now, to put a cap on what I suspect is a long and rambling post by this point... I am not here to advocate that you drop what you're doing, go sit on the floor, and start meditating. But what I am encouraging is more silence, more presence, more willingness, and more trust. However you want to get there is up to you. Whether you want to get there is up to you. We all have but one choice... I'm just trying to listen and allow the right one to be made.

Tune in next time when we play Hide and Go Seek with emotions and honesty. There is no home base, and no you can't unfreeze your friend just because his mom makes the best PB&Js.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

MTV goes back to the beach

One of the many advantages of living in Charleston is the weather. In the middle of December I'm able to both go to the beach and take a drive out into the country with the windows down in the car. Just beautiful.

Got up this morning and made some breakfast then went for a long walk on the beach then got to sit, just sit, for about two hours and watch the ocean and just be there. Awesome.
I got to see a dolphin at one point, he/she came up to the surface three or four times and then... gone. I kept looking to see more, but, alas just the one. Really made me appreciative of being able to be there right then though.

After the beach I drove across the islands, taking the long way home and got to see so many awesome Fall colors in the middle of December. We don't get a lot of leaf changing colors here every year, but today there were just so many awesome colors everywhere. Reds, yellows, browns, and greens all together with the sun and me.

I don't really have a point to this post other than to share an awesome morning experience with you and a short episode of Muganlo TV. Hope all of you are having a peaceful Sunday and hope you find some time to spend with yourself as well. Enjoy life today!

Friday, December 11, 2015


Celebrate good times come on! Do do do de do de dit... (hands clapping)

In all of my looking and digging and changing of my perspectives in life I've come across some hard truths about myself and the world that I live in. There have been some moments where I wanted to call myself a real asshole. There have been times when I've felt really guilty and times when I've felt real anger over things that I did in the past. I've changed my mind on a lot of those attitudes and I see so many things so much differently these days. That is cause for celebration.

I far too seldom stop and look back and then take stock of the present and say, 'Hey man. You've done a good job, you're doing a good job, and you're in a much better place right now.' Why not take time today and celebrate all that is right today rather than focusing on the negative.

I saw a kid the other day raking leaves in his yard. I was at a stop light so I had a few minutes to just kind of watch him and remember when I was a kid raking and doing yard work. He had maybe done about 10% of his yard and he stopped, sighed, and looked at the rest of the yard. Been there kid.
I know, there is so much more to do. I remember when I would finish raking as a kid my hands would hurt, my back would be sore from scooping all the leaves into a bag, and I would be really tired. But, then I'd look back at the yard and think, wow, I got a lot done and now our yard looks so much better. I'm sure he had the same feeling a few hours later whether he enjoyed raking those leaves or not.

That raking is sort of like the work I'm doing in my life. I can't say how much of my 'yard' I've gotten done, but I can take a minute to lean on my rake and look back at what I have done and celebrate that work and those accomplishments. There may have been a lot of acorns, sticks, and hidden dog poop in there to clean up, but it got done. Some work has been done. Now, I'm not looking to toss down my rake and call it a day, but I am willing to stop for a second, enjoy some sun on my face and celebrate where I am right now.

You don't have to accomplish 'big things' to celebrate your successes either. Did you get out of bed and put some pants on today? Good for you! Maybe yesterday that wasn't a possibility for you and now it is. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe a shirt and some coffee...

It's like that in life though. You have to take the small steps before you're able to take the big ones. For me, one of these steps lately has been trust. Trusting not only myself to listen, love, and make the right choices for me, but the ability to trust others. There is a vulnerability in that. 'I trust you.' was not something I would say (and mean) very often in the past. Today, I seem to be able to not only say it and mean it, but crave it. I've gotten to a point where I've surrounded myself with people, thoughts, and mindsets that I can trust. How? By trusting in God, by not planning for the future but trusting in it, by listening to people in my life whom I know have my best interest at heart. It's great to look at someone and ask, 'What do you think?' and then fully trust that their response will be the best thing for you.

I made a choice to see my life differently, see my world differently, and to give up trying to control and force 'my will' onto it. In defenselessness my safety lies. All of this took a ton of trust, faith, and willingness to see things differently. Today, I'm willing to stop and celebrate that. I may just be leaning on my rake for a minute before getting back to work, but the sun feels great on my face and I'm confident that my yard is going to look amazing once I finish.

So dear reader, just stop for a second and celebrate yourself. It's ok to take a breather from time to time and find something to be grateful for.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Oh Honesty

Its nice to feel good every now and then ain't it?

You know the quickest way to get there? Honesty. No matter what you're feeling or who is around you, honesty quite literally is the best policy.

Over the past few months there have been times when I've wanted to deny that fact, when I've wanted to look away from the truth because sometimes it was uncomfortable, sometimes it really hurt. However, in the end it was honesty that got me to a place of comfort, quiet, and peace. When you take time to look at yourself and life around you and get real honest about it is when you find the answers you're really looking for.

Take whatever your current predicament or upset is dear reader and look at it. Go head, this post can wait for you to find it and I'm sure it's not far from your thoughts. Now... what about that is yours? Not what others have done to you or better yet what you think they've done to you, but what about that situation is your part? Not an easy question to answer if you're not willing to get real honest with yourself. Some might even label coming to those answers as work. But trust me, from where I sit today I can tell you that if you're willing to do it and be really truly honest with yourself, good things will come.

This magic honesty pill doesn't just work for you, it can work for others as well. After today, I can tell you that there is not a whole lot better in this world than expressing your honest emotions to someone else with confidence that you speak only the truth, and having that person accept it wholly. Because, if you've done your "work" and if you've been honest with yourself first, then there is no other way you can be accepted. Wholly honest. The same works for you. If others are truly honest with you its impossible not to accept them. If they're honest about what they're feeling or what they're fearing, seeing, whatever; you can't help but relate to that honesty, that person and accept them.

(Take a moment and recover from your mind just being blown there).

I could go on with this but it would take pages to get you the story of my journey within and the terrors that had to be faced honestly. That's not what this blog is about. It's about what's now. And what's now is this... honesty works.

However, before I leave this today and go back to doing nothing and loving it... I will make one more statement. Honesty is love. It extends. Honesty, like love "is like itself, unchanged throughout." (ACIM WB 127).
Truth can not be changed, but it can extend to every aspect of our lives if we're willing to take it there and shine its light on the dark corners of our mind. And the truth is... we're all seeking love. Seeking to give and seeking to receive love. Seeking to reconnect to our love and the love of God that we all thought we'd thrown away. Honesty is a path back to that love. It may be rocky at times and you may get tired walking down that road, but if you're honest with yourself, I'll say it again... good things will come.

With honest love...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Elvis has not left the building (part two)

I don't know why I feel the need to continue with the Elvis reference, but... here we are back to talk about some abandonment. Well, I'm going to ramble on about what I've been learning. It's your job to keep up the best you can.

One thing that I noted in the first part of this was the assigning of roles to others and then projecting abandonment outwards onto them or myself once they "failed" or "left" me. This projection was something I worked long and hard on to recognize in myself. The idea that nobody is "doing" anything to me or walking away from me. People are walking their own path in life. I'm walking mine. When God's love is present and we are walking together then, "Everything is as it should be in your life." When I'm by myself and God's love is present, "Everything is as it should be in your life." There is only one common factor in all of this... Love and the love of God. Center it all in love and you'll be just fine.

Hard to feel truly abandoned when you KNOW that everything is as it is supposed to be. Faith and trust are needed here dear reader. Faith and trust. Two easy words to type but a singular concept that has to be accepted. This concept of faith and trust has to be transformed into a belief. Not a feeling, but a belief that God is with you and that everything is as it should be. If you, I , a brother haven't gotten to that belief then there is still work to be done. There is still forgiveness and surrendering to be done. Surrendering to the knowledge that you are loved and as the Course says, "God goes with me wherever I go." -WB Lesson 41. So, you're loved, and never alone. Simple as that.

You cannot control what you do not understand. But, you can understand what you cannot control.

Didn't mean to blow your mind on that last statement, but I've got to drop some knowledge when it comes to me. One night I was out walking and it was a bit cold and I started to shiver a bit when that statement of control came to me. I was asking God to help me with some work that I was doing and asking for understanding when I guess I was told that I didn't need to understand it, nor did I need to try and control it. I just needed to surrender and understanding would follow. So, I sat with that for a while and asked to see my abandonment as clearly as possible.

What followed was a surrendering of punishment. What I found was that I would immediately look to punish not only anyone that I was projecting abandonment onto, but myself for any feeling of loss. Guess who that was really directed at? God.
I was a drunken fool standing in the rain, shaking my fist at the sky, and blaming God for being wet.

Surrendering a need to punish came behind the realization that when I looked at it hard enough I was blaming God for it all. I was, as the Course says, a slave to fear and death. My ego was/is doing everything it can to keep me a slave to fear in order to keep me from seeing God as he truly is. It would be impossible to see God as abandoning me if I were able to see him as he truly is; a giver. God wants only to give love. He isn't "out there" to try and punish me or abandon me. Only my fears allowed me to project this onto him.

I laughed at myself for a long time on this one because I saw God as a man standing in front of me constantly handing me $100 bills; then me standing there yelling about how this man never gives me anything. In reality God is always standing beside me offering me love and guidance. It is only I who chooses not to see him as he truly is. It's my job to develop the faith, the patience, and the willingness to accept God. I'm the one who needs to shift. I'm the one who needs to stop abandoning.

As I sit here at work today dear reader I'm laughing because of how differently I see all of this today versus just a few short weeks ago. I'm never alone. I only every feel abandoned when I have disconnected myself from God. I am only afraid when I disconnect from God.

There is still work to be done through self-forgiveness and still fears to be discovered and handed over to God. But as I sit here today... I can never say that I don't know where my "abandonment" came from anymore. It is only I that projects the pain and it is only I that can surrender to the healing. Only I can choose to stop projecting and start seeing not only God, but God in others as well. We're all together in this and God is with us every step of the way.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Who do I see?

I heard an interesting phrase this week in a book I was going through... "Be an active observer of your own life."

Now as you may have noticed dear reader, I have over the past several months been looking at as many aspects of my life as I can find. Trying to find fears, guilt, anger, or anything really that I can and looking at it, calling it up, forgiving it, and eliminating as much "junk" as I can. But what this phrase was referring to was being an observer of the whole human experience.

I accepted a long while ago the premises from which this phrase is referring to... we are not our bodies, we only live in the moment, the past is gone, and there is no use in planning for a future that has yet to come to pass. So, that leaves me with... now. Just now.
What the author was trying to convey is that I am never a human being having spiritual experiences but rather a spiritual being having human experiences. I am a spiritual being observing a human experience in each and every moment. Being an 'active observer' then would mean looking at each and every moment and seeing all of the projections, the fears, and the emotions that are tied up in that moment. From laughing with the grocery store attendant to cursing at the car in front of me in traffic.

The goal (as far as I understood it) of being an 'active observer' is to further enable me to look at where projection takes place most often and where fear is allowed to influence any decisions that I am not handing over to God.
Its supposed to help me, in the moment, to catch myself and say: 'Here! Here is where I'm afraid, angry, having an authority problem, feeling abandoned, feeling guilty, not being honest, judging, or not living/being present in that moment.'

This came to me at a time when I had an opportunity to test out something else that I have been working on. Who am I in any given situation?
I used to think that adaptability was something very useful. Why not? You can relate to everyone by adapting to them. Conceding more, changing your speech, your mannerisms, you interests, or any number of things to further relate to them. But you're not relating to them, you're mimicking them and trying to gain their "acceptance." What you're not doing is being you; the honest and true you. The most loving thing you can do is be who you are. Stop. Listen. Love.

So as I was getting to the, 'this is who I am, take it or leave it' stage of this work, I came across this 'active observer' phrase. Awesome! Here is something that I can incorporate into my life to help me identify when it is that I'm not being honest with myself or about who I am. In the moment... actively observe. Are you doing or saying something because it's what you believe, think, feel, or see? Or, are you acting in a way to best suit those around you? Hmmm... observe and find out.

I had three tests of this over the past couple of weeks and I've got to say it was very interesting. What I found most helpful was the non-judgment of it all. You're observing, not judging! However, when I did find that I was changing or shifting my opinions or statements and caught myself in a non-present mindset, I always snapped back into the moment, took a second, and then asked for God to help me. Help me see this differently, help me not to judge, help me to be present with this person, help me to love.

Again, it's not a tool to help you further judge yourself. I'm sure we all do that enough on our own. What it has helped me do is identify. Here is where you do this, or think this, or project this onto others or the world around me. It does give me more things to go back to and to do some forgiveness on, but being an active observer is proving to be quite an interesting experience. Sort of like watching a child discover new things, being an active observer of my own life is like discovering new things about myself that I've tried to hide in plain sight.

One other phrase from the book that I'd like to share here dear reader at the end of this short little post is this: "You can't have a better past."
Love that. Your past is your past. Everything that happened happened for a reason. All past hurts, fears and wrongdoings are... gone. None of them exist in this moment.

So, take a moment for yourself. Realize that everything is as it should be right now.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

New world of forgiveness

This morning I felt like Scrooge McDuck as I ran outside to greet the world on Christmas morning. Except outside my apartment there was only a little redneck kid for me to shout at.

- You there boy! What day is it?
- Uh, it's college football Saturday there man.
- Then I haven't missed it! The Spirits! They've given me; a second chance!
- Whatever you say there Bubba. Ya might want to put some pants on though. Go Cocks (spit).

Now dear reader I might not have actually done this, but it certainly felt like it. I didn't cry myself to sleep last night, I laughed myself to sleep. I was literally hugging my mattress as I laughed and smiled over this new light feeling in my life. Why? Forgiveness. True forgiveness.

Have you ever been angry enough at someone or something in your life to portray it as betrayal? Betrayal. That's a big term with a lot of meaning behind it. I mean betrayal, like the kind of thing where you think so poorly of someone that you are almost in shock over how this action has affected you and your outlook on life. You call them names, you point fingers, you stomp your feet, you damn them, their friends, their dog! It's a dark place filled with anger, resentment, and fear. A place where it's tough to recover from right? That's what I thought too, but true forgiveness can erase it all.

Bare with me as I paint a picture for you. Imagine that you wake up and your house is surrounded by manure. Just shit everywhere. Gross right? Your life is deep in shit. Traditional forgiveness will shovel this shit over into a corner of your yard to get it away from the house so you can walk around, and live a normal life again. But, the wind will still blow some smell your way and the shit is still there, it's just over in the corner of the yard. You say all is 'forgiven' and you're ok. But, there's still shit over there and you can see it out of the corner of your eye.
True forgiveness is a truck. You dig up ever scrap of angry, resentful, fearful shit into a giant pile in your yard then just look at it. You look at this pile of shit for what it is and realize that its your shit. Gross! The true forgiveness truck is there for you though. So, you take your poo and shovel it into the truck; every last piece. You wash off the shovel and throw it into the truck too, then your boots, then your clothes. Then, the truck drives away. There is no more shit and you're just standing in the sun, clean, smiling, and whole.

That was me yesterday. I woke up so angry, so resentful over a perceived betrayal in my life. But all the anger was mine, all the fear was mine. The shit was mine! So I sat down and started to shovel it all up. At first it wasn't helping. I was getting angrier and more resentful. I was getting to a point where I was starting to defend myself again and point to where I was right and this person who betrayed me was so wrong. I kept piling it up, kept digging, and when the mountain of poo was so high I couldn't see over it anymore... the truck drove up.

Call the driver of that truck God. Call him the Holy Spirit. Call him whatever you wish, but know that I wasn't the driver of the truck, I was the guy waist deep in his own shit. And when the driver said, 'Hey! I'd like to take that shit off your hands.' I started shoveling it all into the truck. By the end of the day I was clean. By the time I got home from work and sat down to relax I was clean. When I went to bed, my ego came to me looking for shit and I literally started laughing. I went looking for anger, went looking for resentment, went looking for something outside myself, inside myself, anywhere to find some anger, some guilt, some fear... it. wasn't. there!

I (despite my poetic writing and expression) am unable to describe the lightness that came with the laughter that followed. Gratitude followed because I knew I had not shoveled all that shit myself. I had not driven the truck out of my yard.

Know this dear reader: In order to forgive you must truly forgive and give over your own emotions. You can not hang on to a single bit of resentment or anger. You must look upon the object, emotion, or person you are forgiving as well as yourself as being clean, bright, shining and new. The past is gone, never to return. The object of your forgiveness doesn't need to ask for it. They may not even have done anything wrong! Realize this: It could just be you! Admit that to yourself and get rid of your need to be right. Why would it matter? Whether they did, didn't, wanted to, whatever... it doesn't matter because you're surrounded by shit either way. So grab a shovel and start forgiving.

I always wanted to feel like Scrooge on that Christmas morning because he seemed so new to himself and his world seemed so new to him. Now I know how he felt. Nothing from yesterday exists today. I am able to go forward with only new experiences not dragging past with me.

Now! I know that I have promised to continue my posts on abandonment, but today, I can't find that. You can't feel abandoned when you feel full. So, go out today and dig up some shit. I promise you, if you give it all over, you'll live in a whole new world.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mini Muganlo TV

Yeah I think any videos I shoot will stay under the Muganlo TV flag. This morning, live from Folly Beach.

Just trying this out as something else to post and I may do a video from time to time... so, with out any other intro... the return of Muganlo TV!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Elvis has not left the building (part one)

Take a deep breath in.

Let that breath go.

Simple as that.

Where does that breath go? Has it really left you? Didn't that air become a part of you, nourish you, fill you, and sustain you in that moment? It did. And now? What happened? Did the air that you invited into your life abandon you or did you release it and invite in the next breath and the next moment. Have you tried holding onto a breath? What happens? Your face turns purple, you chest burns, and your moment turns to hell really quickly. You can't hold on to a breath beyond its purpose, you have to move on, you have to release it and accept the next breath of life.

I've come to realize that people are like this. People come into your life like air. We are all breathing the same air, we are all connected to one another, and we are all dreaming together. Some people come into your life and are there for just a moment. The cashier at the store, the mailman, the coworker... these people come into your life and are there for just a moment. You can show them love, or you can ignore them, the choice is yours. But, you are connected to them and they will come and they will go, just like air and these choices and these lessons will repeat until you learn them and get the ultimate lesson of connection and love.

The problem comes when you see a breath of air as "special." What about this breath of air? They've been around for years, I really like this breath of air, this breath of air makes me feel loved, this certain breath of air makes me feel guilty, angry, obligated to it. How can I let this breath of air go? These are the people in your life that make up your special relationships. Family, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, bosses, coworkers, neighbors, teachers... These are the people in your life that you put extra importance on and make "special." You assign them a role and expect them to preform that role for you.

"What is your brother for? You do not know, because your function is obscure to you. Do not ascribe a role to him that you imagine would bring happiness to you. And do not try to hurt him when he fails to take the part that you assigned to him..." ACIM

What does this tell us? One, you don't know what your role or path is in life. Two, you shouldn't assign roles to others in your life. Everyone is who they are, they are like you, they have their own fears and insecurities and love to give. It also tells us what we all already know; after we assign roles to these people we get angry with them when they fail to live up to the role that we assign them.

Take this out to the extreme... I want you dear reader to be a tightrope walker. Get up on a rope 100 feet in the air and walk across it. Go! Scared of heights? Not that great a balance? Never been on a rope before? Tough shit. Walk. I want a tightrope walker in my life. Can't do it? Don't want to? Well screw you! Get out of my life! Silly right?

Now let me shift this back to me. One of my biggest issues in life is abandonment. People "leave" me. I, like most of us, assign roles to those in my life and they do the same to me. When those roles break down, relationships end, and then we breathe out. However, one of my hang ups has always been the feeling of abandonment. I fail to take responsibility for my part in the assigning of roles either to myself or to the other party. And, when those relationships end, I feel abandoned. They left me! I'm alone! I'm the child in the corner crying with my knees pulled into my chest.

Take this out to the extreme... God has abandoned me! In these special relationships I have in the past assigned the role of savior, teacher, and supporter to those around me. Who but God do those adjectives describe? I made a lot of these "special" people in my life into shadow figures of God so when I find myself "alone" I feel abandoned by my "special" people and... God.

This year I've come to a couple of realizations. (A couple... Hahahaha!)
One of them is that my ego will find any outlet to place blame outside of myself. It's them not you. Get angry, feel guilty, get sad... you are alone, they have left you, you are not worthy of their love, you are not worthy of God's love.
Another realization that I've had is that it is me. I let the ego take me there and I started to believe in that and I let it shut me down, drive people away, reject love, and close off my ability to listen and give love. My ego assigned roles left and right and then stirred up anger when those roles were not fulfilled. When all of that happened, when I chose that, I then felt abandoned. Abandoned by love, people, and God. My ego won the day.

After a lot of thought and prayer dear reader I've come to another realization. God has not left the building. I may have tried to ignore God, but he never left. We all take our emotions to the end, to God. Anger? Who are you angry with? The guy with 15 items in the 10 or less aisle? Or what he represents to you?
If I assigned God rolls to those "special" people in my life and then feel abandoned by them, who am I really placing the blame on? God.
No more! The ego may have won the day in the past, but no more. I am no longer listening to that blaming, angry, guilty voice. I am no longer seeing those in my life as anything more than they present themselves in that moment. In that breath.

I recently had a test of this. I had a 'friend' come to town that I haven't seen in 6-7 years. We met up and went to dinner. I looked on him as he was that night as if I had forgotten all that I knew about him in the past and all that he knew about me. I presented myself as I was that night. Where I was, what I was thinking and how I was feeling. I asked him questions and listened and learned from his answers. At the end of the night, when I got home I realized that I was relaxed and refreshed. I wasn't exhausted from playing a role and assigning a role to this person. Just a breath in, and a breath out.

This was a small event. This was a huge event. Part of my abandonment problem is making people "special", dragging along my past and theirs, and holding onto assigned roles. No more. In my work I've come to the realization that my feelings of abandonment stem from me; not others. I used to take that to the extreme and cast that abandonment onto God. No more.

So dear reader, I will cut this here. Here you've only seen a glimpse at how deep this goes with me. A set up of just a part of the work that I'm doing on this issue. I am done with restricting, holding back, and hiding. I am not abandoned. I am never alone. So 'What's Now?' This. And, after I do some more work, more forgiveness on this issue I will report back on where I'm going from here. Hint: Love, acceptance, forgiveness, and healing.

Until then... breathe in, breathe out. In that moment: Be with me, Be with God, Be in the moment and Be in Love. None of us are alone. We are not abandoned.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Its not you, its me

"You never hate your brother for his sins, but only for your own. Whatever form his sins appear to take, it but obscures that fact that you believe them to be yours..." -ACIM

I've spent some time lately letting go of a lot of things. (This post really is just a continuation of the one from 10/22 since this is still on my mind. That post was mostly about my internal restlessness, this one more with outward projection as it relates. Keep up dear reader! We're not playing around here. Just kidding. Do what you want.)

One of my issues in life is my perceived inability to relax in my life, or to be comfortable in doing nothing. Do nothing? What are you crazy!? I have to be 'doing something' all the time otherwise... what?

The quote above can be seen as: what you hate in another or see as his/her faults is what you fear about yourself. I fear being perceived as lazy or not fulfilling my potential. That's right dear reader, I live (have lived) with that fear. Whenever I see someone or perceive someone as lazy it triggers in me a sense of anger or judgment. What a lazy bastard that guy is! Look at his life! Oh man, if he would just not be so lazy he could... what? Nothing. He/She isn't lazy. Its merely my projection out onto that person and a reflection of my own guilt over my own self-judgement of being lazy.

What's Now?
Here is what's now. I went to a good college, got a degree, traveled the world, learned new languages, cultures, I helped people, I learned a lot, and I checked off a lot of boxes that the world would consider to be "successes." Now, I'm 34 years old and working at an inn talking to tourists all day. According to the world, I barely make a living wage, I work at a service job that could be done by a high school kid, and I've "squandered" my checked boxes by not "working hard" and "living up to my potential." Oh my, how my life appears to suck from their perspective. How lazy are you? You could have "done" so much more!

Now, I laugh at that because I know that I am where I am supposed to be. I am comfortable in my life. However, in my internal search and in my digging into my path in life, there is this notion of laziness that has been nagging at me. I discovered that I was unable to even enjoy a day off from work because I needed to constantly be "doing" something so as not to appear lazy. Sunday off? Well I need to clean the bathroom, do laundry, go to the store, there's that project I've been meaning to work on, I really should go get the oil changed in the car... What happened to my day off? I might find sometime to meditate and relax, but even that had to be scheduled. What the shit is that? What happened to being able to sit on the couch, eat some popcorn and watch some football? What happened to being able to turn off the tv, the computer, the phone, the kindle, and everything else and just being?

Sorry, that last paragraph got a bit rambley there. I don't edit these as you may know, but rather just let stuff come up and then out... moving on...

I am not lazy. The inability to 'do nothing' that was present in my life in the past is slowly fading away as is my fear of being perceived as lazy. I've stopped projecting laziness out onto others and have stopped seeing that as "my brother's sin." The funny thing about it is that the more and more work I do on myself the more and more I enjoy it. The more I identify my "issues" the more and more I like looking at them rather than shying away from them. Laziness is just one of them. Relaxing, doing nothing, being present in the moment, these are not aspect of laziness. The only person the ever judged me for that was me.

Anxiety and fear are the things that come with this constant need to be 'doing something.' Better do something or you're lazy! But as I dig this up more and more and let it go, the more relaxed and comfortable I feel. The more relaxed and comfortable I feel the more I allow things to happen. I need do nothing!

I've stopped hiding. There is nothing that I want to hide anymore. Not from myself, God, my teachers, my friends, anyone really. I want to share. I want to share because I want to love. I want to accept because I want to accept love. Laziness was one of the first things to be tossed aside. This week, with a some help, I found another aspect that needs to be dug up and let go of... Abandonment.

So, tune in next time dear reader and hear all about it... in the interim, I'm going to 'do nothing' except my own work on myself. I have a lot to discover, uncover, look at, let go of, and a lot to forgive.

Hey, if you've made it this far, I just want you to know something... you are loved.
Smile a sincere smile today knowing that.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Goodbye Memaw

Yesterday I got word that my grandmother passed away.

Every parent or grandparent will tell you that they don't play favorites when it comes to their children or grandchildren. Not my Memaw. (That's right. I called my grandmother Memaw. Deal with it.) I was her first grandchild and she never really hid the fact that I was her favorite. Neither did I. She was, is and forever will be my most loved Memaw.

Death teaches us all a lot. I've come to learn that it is only a part of life and that we all only really move on to a greater understanding of ourselves and God after we leave our bodies and "die." We never really die. We are all just released from this reality and graduate to a greater understanding. That knowledge offers a great deal of comfort to those still behind who may be left here, still a little boy, missing their Memaw.

Those who play a large roll in our education and upbringing also offer us a chance to reflect once they pass away. And, my grandmother is certainly an example of that. Looking at it last night and again today I've been really appreciating the things that she taught me in life:

Unconditional Love.
I have never in my life met anyone who offered up so much unconditional love to everyone she met like my Memaw. "Andrew, everyone has something good to offer in this world." I also believe she is the first person I ever heard speak the universal truth of, "Our job is not to judge but to love." If only I could have truly learned that lesson from her.
Love is all you ever got from her. Always loving, always forgiving.

All of my grandparents were Depression Babies. They all grew up dirt poor in the rural South. For the most part my grandparents carried that with them throughout their lives. That sense of lack and always fearing a future of less. Not Memaw. She was the ever optimist. Things will always get better. Even after she had a stroke several years ago, had broken a hip, my grandfather had died, and she was in a wheelchair, she still believed that she would rehab, move out of assisted living, get a job, an apartment, and start living on her own again. Most people laughed this off, but you could see that she really just had a spirit of optimism in her eyes that despite it all would never fade.

Be Thankful for the Small Things in Life.
If love was number one from Memaw, gratitude was a close second. She was always so grateful for everything in her life. I was always amazed at how excited she could get over the smallest things. For her, everyday was like a CrackerJacks box; there was always a prize to be found in it. Never forced, never fake, genuine. There are several stories I could share to back this up, but trust me; she was always grateful for everyday that she lived on this earth.

The Christmas Spirit!
There was never a better time of year as a child than being around Memaw during the Christmas Season. Some of my happiest childhood memories involve Christmas and Memaw. For her it was a time of year to celebrate Jesus first of course, her family, and the wholeness of everything Christmas. Trees, lights, gifts, cookies, reds, greens, golds, Santa, elves, stockings, singing, and anything that made you think more and feel more about Christmas. Her love and her optimism grew ten times during Christmas and everyone around her could feel it. There has not been and never will be a Christmas that comes or goes with out me thinking about Memaw. She was one of the greatest gifts I ever received.

I cried a lot last night. I'm crying now. But only at the loss of the ability to be with my Memaw in this place. She has not left me. I heard her voice last night as clear as if she were in the room with me say what she had said a million times, "Andrew, sweetie... I love you."

I love you too Memaw. I love you too!

Mary H. Huldow

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Frustration is just Restless

We all have times when we're restless. Some people describe it like an itch, a drive to do something. We're taught that we get what we want in life by working hard and doing all we can to achieve that goal.

I've challenged a lot over the past couple of months and one of those things has been my constant urge to feel like I'm doing something to not appear lazy. If I'm doing something, working on something then I'm getting closer to my goals right? If I'm doing something then I can't be judged as lazy or not doing my work right? If I'm doing something then I'm in control of my path right?


I can get frustrated in my personal development because I sometimes don't feel like I'm doing enough. I judge myself for not doing enough or asking the right questions or reading enough, or forgiving enough. I judge myself as not doing enough. This restlessness causes frustration. But what about my past experiences has ever proved to me that my perceived control and my busy doing has worked? Nothing. Otherwise restlessness and frustration would never appear.

What if surrendering and doing nothing were the answer I've always been looking for. What if allowing rather than forcing was a better path. Strength comes from lack of defense right?

“I need do nothing”is a statement of allegiance, a truly undivided loyalty. Believe it for just one instant, and you will accomplish more than is given to a century of contemplation, or of struggle against temptation. -ACIM

More than a century of contemplation? Wow. Um... sounds good to me. In searching myself, I've found that allowing, accepting, and relaxing have in the past proven to be difficult for me. Now, I'm trying to relearn life. Reevaluate my life. Relax. Accept. Do nothing and be safe in that holy instant. Live in that instant.

One meditation that has proved helpful to me I will pass on to you dear reader here:
Think about this exact moment. Look away from the screen you're reading this on and think about right now. What problems do you have in this instant? Not rent being due next week, not work later today, not dinner that needs to be made, nothing from the past, nothing from the future. Right this second, what problems do you have? None! Everything is as it should be. You are where you should be.

“A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans that it receives through listening to Wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. It does not depend upon itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it. It is secure in certainty that obstacles can not impede its progress to accomplishment of any goal that serves the greater plan established for the good of everyone.” (W-pI.135.11:1-5)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Blog is back with a brand new edition

Something grabs a hold of me tightly pulls like a harpoon daily and nightly. Will this reference ever stop? I don't know.

Well dear reader, the blog is back. I will make no promises how long this will go on for, but there are as you may have seen just a few changes. Title among them. No longer am I going to look at What's Next but rather What's Now. I don't know what the future holds for me nor am I even concerned with that. I can and am only focusing on what's going on with me right now.

So in the coming days and weeks I will from time to time be coming here to express some of my thoughts and emotions and just using this as a place to get those, "out there." I doubt anyone is really reading this anymore since I haven't posted in so long, and that's fine too. But, if you do happen to stumble across this well, you may just be in for a few nuggets of wisdom, a few laughs, and maybe even a few tears. Who knows.

No college football commentary though. Sorry to all my past college football faithful. One realization that I came to about football is that it is divisive and can breed a lot more negativity than positivity. Think about your own "fandom." There is the team you love, the teams you sort of like or tolerate, then there are a whole group of teams that you just hate! Why? Because that's what football fandom creates in all of us. Anybody but the fucking Cowboys! Fuck them! Yaaarrr! Right? And if you don't agree with me, well then screw you too! Divisive. Not for me.
Now, I will still watch some football. But I certainly am not engaged with it like I used to be. It is what it is, I am what I am. We don't need to define or identify with one another. Football will be fine without me and I'll be fine without it.

This is what's now. Hopefully, I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

No man is an island

That's me. Yelling at my ego. My ego is my favorite ball that I've named and told to "protect me from all the bad things in life." Well folks, the "bad things" aren't that bad and that ball has taken over my mind. It won't change. The ball is just a ball. It's just whether or not I believe the ball or not that has to change. 

Instead, I'm just going to sit here and yell at it for a while...

We all know that we're interconnected. We all create our own realities. I am a man on an island all alone. But, my toes are in the sand, the sand is in the ocean, the ocean touches other shores, there are others on those shores and that shore is connected to land where even more people are. We all breathe the same air. We are all connected in spirit. We are never alone. Me, the sand, the air, the tree, the bird in the tree, the air, time, space... one thing. One creation. But inside me like some mad schizophrenic are two separate things: Me and my Ego. I know things. My ego tells me other things and convinces me of them. 

Right now my Ego is telling me that I am alone. Wholly alone. Rejected. Unworthy. Angry. All my efforts, all my time, all my energy towards trying to achieve happiness have led me once again to failure and being left wholly alone. I don't know where to go from here so I'm sitting here on my new island yelling at my Ego to stop lying to me. 

It's actually not too bad down here. There is a comforting feeling knowing that you can only go up from here. I can only feel better about this situation. I can only feel better about my self. There is no worse than this. Can't be. What sucks is I can't seem to get my Ego's foot off my throat long enough to breathe. What sucks is I can't seem to find an answer to the question of which direction to go. My island is surround by water. I'm trapped here with this Ego ball that keeps telling me I suck. 

Well if we're all interconnected and I can create my own reality, then the answer to the question of which way to go is: Anywhere. How? Anyway. I can walk on water. I can build a bridge. I can build a boat. I can swim. I can leave this island. Now... can I leave the Ego behind? Am I willing to stay off this island or will I want to let my Ego call me back here? 

When you're in a relationship you tend to eventually draw a sense of 'Self' from that relationship. I am a guy who ___. I ____. I like to _____ with my partner and she likes ____. She loves me, trusts me, she feels safe with me, she is comforted by me, wants me around because I am _____. Well what happens if she doesn't trust you? She doesn't want you around? Doesn't feel safe? Isn't comforted by you? Not necessarily because of something you've done but because of where she is or what she's going through. What if she feels trapped in your relationship? What does that mean? Does that change your definition of yourself? Are you not a guy who ____? Who is ____? And who likes to?____? Enter the Ego!!! You now have to look at your sense of Self! Who are YOU?

But long before the Ego will let you get to those questions you're going to have to deal with the fear that it wants you to choke on. Fear of rejection. Fear of separation. Fear of loneliness. Fear of being back on the island.

There are other options though. You can try seeing things differently. You can use forgiveness. You can go within. You can go to God. You can shift your perception. You can create a different narrative. It is a hard thing to admit that your yesterday's reality no longer exists. The people closest to you don't see you as you thought they did. You don't see you as you thought you did. None of that matters anymore. Today matters. Tomorrow can't matter yet because you haven't gotten there yet. Now. Only now. Work on now. Make a choice. Choose to source your reality in Love. Not fear. Not anger. Not rejection. Love. Your main problem is going to come only from this moment; this choice: Are you going to make a different choice than what you have in the past? Are you ready for that? If not, this island is going to stay lonely and there's going to be a long wait to get off of it. 

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Walking 0.01 Miles

"Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes."

We've all heard this. We've all said it to someone at some point. It's a cliche. It's also true. That's how sayings become cliche is they keep hitting you over the head with some truth until you lose the trees in the forest. You see there are really two parts to this phrase...

One, don't judge. That's "easy" enough. Good luck on your daily journey through your life without judging. Really, try that. Go a day without judging. I think the longest I made it was about 10 minutes. Now, I kept correcting and kept seeing other people and myself in different ways, but not judging; really hard. 

The second part here is walking a mile in his shoes. This is the part that I struggle with even more sometimes. This refers to something we call empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

Whoa! Hold on. I have my shoes, you have yours right? My feet stink, your feet stink, let's not go around putting our feet in each others shoes OK? But what this is saying is simply, in order for you to share your thoughts, feelings, emotions, struggles, successes, and failures with me, you have to honestly believe that I am willing and able to understand those feelings with you. Willing. Easy enough. Love your neighbor, partner, brother, or whoever and you're more than likely willing to share in their feelings with them. That's part of love. Able. Weeeeeell this is where practice is required. 

Being able to empathize with someone means you have to have to ability to not only acknowledge your own emotions but relate those emotions to the experiences of others. What? You mean you hurt too? I feel sad. You feel sad too? You're confused about your emotions and your feelings? Me too! If only it were that simple. You see dear reader, the problem for me here comes in the first part of this equation. First, I must recognize and acknowledge those emotions within myself. Yes, I feel sad. Yes, I feel angry. Yes, I feel guilty. No, these things do not make me a terrible person. 

I can listen to CC all day long. Our foster dog can listen to her all day long. There isn't much of a difference there. The only thing that separates me from the dog (aside from my thumbs) is my ability to have a shared experience and to empathize with her. What I have to be able to do is to not only hear the words shes saying but to have the ability to feel the emotions shes saying them with. I have to feel what shes saying. 

Intimacy: Close familiarity, closeness. What is more familiar than seeing, hearing, and experiencing your own emotions in others? Empathy as a path to intimacy.

Don't judge yourself too harshly for the inverse or lack of empathy that you're used to. This will take practice. This will take self-examination and forgiveness. I am not cold. I am not unempathetic. I am a man who has yet to fully realize and acknowledge his own emotions so therefore I am unable to understand and share the feelings of others. Willingness here will come in the form of practice. Ability will come as a result of that practice. 

I am empathetic. I am willing to listen, to hear, to share, to understand. We are all here together. We are all having an experience. Today is the only part of that experience that matters. Don't throw on my shoes and go walk a mile. Just try them on and take a step. Start with that. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hello? Are you there?

I spent a whole day circling around in my own mind this week. Meditating, thinking, writing short sentences, having ideas, and generally just listening to my own mind. When you stop to listen for that long of a period of time you start to wonder if you're really hearing things or  if you're just having your own thoughts that come to you from a deeper part of yourself. Don't let your mind get blown by that last sentence just yet...

I'm not here to write about meditation or the process of listening because that's not where I am right now. I am at a place where I'm stopping, listening and trying to hear what my own problems and issues are. I am at a place where I'm trying to forgive myself for the mistakes I've made and for even holding myself to some stupid standards that I've created for myself as well. Imagine a lazy perfectionist who is always down on themselves for not getting it right. 'Well, you're lazy. What did you expect?' Now I'm neither a perfectionist nor am I lazy, but that same oxymoronic struggle applies all the same.

We only live by the laws that we create for ourselves. I love that. You have to wear slacks when you go to a nice restaurant. Who says? I'm pretty sure I used to turn my nose at people in jeans and sandals if the place was "business casual." Now, Good for you! Your credit card will swipe as good as mine and shame on me for judging you for being comfortable enough to wear whatever you damn well please.
I don't feel that I'm giving you the best examples this morning of what I'm trying to express... writer reaches for coffee cup...

What I'm getting at here dear reader is this: Only you are going to find, experience, fear, fight, give into, forgive, and deal with your own shit in life. That's it. Nobody can do it for you. The only person in this life that can walk your road is you. How twisted, hilly, rocky or smooth that road is is up to you too.

The only help you can find in this life is in a mirror. I'm lucky enough to have one named CC who (God bless her) is willing to stick around long enough to watch, listen, and offer guidance when she can. She is a mirror in that I can (if I'm willing) ask her what she sees from me. She can then show me what she sees and that can really help to open up new parts my my Self that I was unaware of. I'm "lucky" enough to be in a relationship with my mirror. Sometimes that's not the best thing. In 'One Man's Path to Intimacy' that I'm exploring here, there are times when this relationship is not 'fun' or 'happy' in the 'normal' sense of those words. Even CC has questioned, 'Are you there? Is this the work you're doing? Is this who you really want to be?' At times she has not believed that I've been trying to grow and truly walk my own path to dealing with my own shit. She has seen signs, but not been convinced. And, I'm not here to convince her. I'm just here, working on my stuff the only way I know how.

I can only become the more intimate partner and more open person that our relationship needs and that I need as an individual by looking inside and asking, 'Hello? Are you there?'
Like dropping a rock down a well and listening for the splash at the bottom, I'm sitting and listening looking for signs that let me feel. I've been dropping pebbles and hearing ripples. This past week I dropped a stone and heard a splash. I've been smiling all week. Yes I'm afraid of things. Yes, I judge myself too harshly. Yes, I do hold on too tightly in life to ideas of control of ideas of  perfection. Yes, I do live by some pretty stupid rules that I've created for myself. Yes, I am emotionally withdrawn from a lot of people.

In the past if anyone in the street had come up to me and said those things, I think I would have immediately denied them. Like Judas I would have denied then hid. I think if someone said those things to me right now, I would listen and agree. Yeah, there are some things I'm not 'good' at right now. But that's today. Tomorrow I may be a bit better. I may not. Right now all I'm doing is listening to myself and observing the emotions that come to me and allowing those emotions to come to me.

I had a tendency to dismiss people and their ideas. You like hockey? Phssst. Hockey is dumb.
Why would I say hockey is dumb? Hockey isn't dumb. Hockey is a cool sport that I don't understand. By telling someone that what they like is 'dumb,' I'm expressing that I think they are 'dumb' and I am attacking them and their ideas. What I am not doing is allowing them to express their passion for something. I am not allowing them to share something with me. Think about the light you see pouring from an individual when you hear them describe something they love. It's amazing and you get to connect with them on that thing and experience their love along with them as they describe how much they truly love cross-stitched pillows with dogs on them. Sound silly?
Stop and think about someone doing that right now. An aunt or someone who loves dogs, cross-stitch and pillows. Lovely. And, after you embrace their passion for something, they are more likely to be interested in your passions and interests and that will lead to other ways in which to connect with one another. Do you think a hockey fan would be interested in hearing about my passion for baseball after I told him/her that hockey was dumb? Nope. More likely we would begin to attack one another and find more differences than commonality with one another. Ways to separate rather than connect. Never close a door before you see where it leads.

This week has been a rough one. I've felt so good about finding so many things to work on. I've felt so frustrated with my tendencies to hold on so tightly to my 'rules to live by' and my want for control. I've felt so happy when I look on myself and other with so little judgment. I've felt so disconnected from those that I want most to connect with the most. I've felt less guilty. I've felt more alive.
I've felt; and that's saying something.

Stop. Listen. Do yourself a favor this week and just listen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What if that's me?

I grew up watching more than a few action films. John Wayne pictures and such. Real men, doing real things, acting real tough. Tough guys said tough things. Tough guys didn't take shit off nobody. Real men wore leather, had guns, knew how to throw a punch, and always looked around when they entered a room. They went to sleep with whisky on the bedside table and they never let anyone see them cry. They probably never cried anyway. Real men. Doing real shit! Hell yeah! I should write a screenplay. 

So of course I grew up wanting to be a member of the A-Team one day. I would be hangin' with Mr. T, He-Man, and Rambo all in the same weekend. I was going to be a tough guy! Genetics had a part in holding me back from the rippled muscles of my heroes but my environment or "the real world" did even more to destroy boyhood fantasies. What do you mean I can't wear a sword to work? Ugh. So being in the woods for months and shooting exploding arrows... not ok in the suburbs you say? Can I at least get in a fist fight on the weekends at the Roadhouse? You go to jail for that? This stinks! John Wayne would not like this at all. 

I know I had thought about writing about something else this post, but this week I came face to face with a strong dose of reality of what and where I am. I am not John Wayne. I do not (thankfully) have the ability to act tough and be tougher no matter what and never let anyone else know otherwise. I did however find that I have the ability to experience what CC characterized as nervous breakdown of sorts. My heart was beating abnormally, I was shivering, felt like things were closing in on me... some scary and powerful stuff. I felt like I was going to puke and pass out all at the same time. It was awful! 

The whole time it was starting and during the first part of "the episode" I just kept trying to fight it. And I do mean fighting it. This isn't who I am. This isn't me. This isn't something that I want. This is wrong. I can't feel this. I can't be the type of person who has this sort of thing happen to them! This. Isn't. Me.
Why not? Why can't it be? It sure looks like it is. Because there you are sitting there shivering and sweating and scared out of your mind. So it sure looks like you're "the type." 

Thankfully CC was there. She didn't rush to my aid with a cold compress and tell me everything was going to be ok, because she knew that's not what I needed. She did talk me through it a bit and help me realize what was going on in the moment by asking me some questions and letting me stream my thoughts a bit. She then told me to write it all down and see that happens. And, I did. I ended up going into our bedroom and writing a very short story based on the images that were streaming through my mind. (I won't be sharing that story here however. Sorry some things I keep to myself and CC). In the end, I wrote down some questions that I needed to ask myself and CC to see where I was and what was really going on with me. Those questions led to some tough truths and they also led me to an intimate conversation with my partner about where we are right now and how each of us sees certain things from both the past and present. 

Can I accept that I'm not one of the heroes that I grew up watching? Sounds silly doesn't it? But really even though you know that you can't leap tall buildings, you somewhere still believe that you're a tough guy. You don't feel emotional pain. You don't get nervous. You don't get panicked. But what if you do? What if you're not the hero but the guy who needs saving? I'm not trying to turn this into a Lifetime movie where the quiet dad is heroic because he gets up and goes to work here. What I'm getting at is that the heroic action may just be in acceptance. 

Accept where you are. If right now you're tired. Be tired. If you're angry. Be angry. If you're nervous and confused, figure it out but be ok with the fact that you're nervous and confused. I was angry all day today. Could not shake it. Woke up that way and just damn well didn't feel like getting over it. Now I have a massive head ache and probably know why. But I was just pissy today. 
The other night I needed to wake up to the fact that I can't fight off what's coming up from the depths of my psyche and surfacing in the physical. I need to be where I am in the moment and I need to find out what that moment is trying to teach me. It doesn't always have to be a bad experience if you're learning something from it. 

Be willing to question what you're holding onto. Are you being a tough guy because that's what you learned was the right thing to do? How has that worked for you? How has being emotionally withdrawn and closed off worked for you? You (me) are sitting on your couch shivering and afraid, so how's that working out for you? 

Are you willing to see things differently? I try to get CC to ask me that when I'm either being stubborn or being angry or being judgmental about something. 'Would you like to see that differently?' Sounds pretty shitty the first few times you hear it. But it really works. It works if you say 'yes I would' and then you are actually willing to listen. 
Being a tough guy is not something I aspire to be anymore. I don't want to be 'tough.' I want to be open to new thought processes, new ways of seeing things, and new emotions and ways to express them. I want to be honest and intimate with my partner and I want that to be part of my daily life. I want to learn from my experiences, not run from them or try to fight them off just because they aren't that pleasant. 

"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at Midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday." -John Wayne

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kramer ain't walkin' through that door

Now just what the hell did I mean when I said that I would talk about walking through a door without it being awkward? It's not like every door I walk through is some kind of superhuman task for me that seems to confuse and befuddle. I don't just grab the doorknob and pray that everything will work out. I'm talking about entering environments that should be warm, welcoming and loving but somehow turn out to be awkward and strange for the first five minutes or so.

When I get home from work and find CC in the apartment sometimes I feel like I'm intruding on her. Like I've just interrupted her quiet alone time. She has told me that sometimes she 'doesn't know how to act' when I get home. What the hell is that!? We've been together for years now and it's still weird when I get home. As if we each need time to see what the other is feeling, what mood they're in, or where their energy level is.

I suppose some of this is natural and our desire to want to fall into place as soon as we occupy the same space may just be unrealistic. But I don't think it is. And, I don't believe CC thinks that way either. But why is it taking place? Why does it 'feel all weird' when either of us first get home and enter the space already occupied by the other?

My original theory was deference. I love to defer. Oh, whatever you like, or whatever you're feeling, I'll just match you or come to your level. But really my entrance issues boil down to the same thing most issues do... fear. But fear is easy to just say and explain away. After talking with CC I discovered that our issue in this circumstance was more along the lines of obligation,

Obligation comes from routine. Try waking up every morning for 20 years, making coffee, opening the door, grabbing the news paper, and putting that paper on the couch for your partner to read when they get up in the morning. Then say one morning you get up, make the coffee and then just go sit on the couch. Your partner comes in, looks around and says, "where's the newspaper?"
Was it your responsibility to get the newspaper? You probably just started doing it because it was 'nice' or 'it made your partner happy' and that turned into routine. Routine turns into obligation and obligation sucks. What do you mean I HAVE TO kiss you before I go to work? I HAVE TO be a certain way? I HAVE TO act a certain way? Whatever happened to being who I am in the moment and just being where I am? Could you see the look of utter disappointment and confusion on your partner's face after not seeing the newspaper on the couch that morning? How about the hurt on their face when you leave one day for work without saying I love you first? Sucks doesn't it? But guess what, you/he/she aren't obligated to do that stuff. You can be in a bad mood, you can be giddy, you can be frustrated when you get in the door in the afternoon. Don't perform. Be honest.

What happened with the door is simply this... neither of us knew how to act. That happened over a period of time and became a routine. An awkward routine. All we had to do was one of us had to call it awkward. Hey! This is weird! Is this weird to you? Yes! It's weird! Done.
Now there was a long talk about it and CC and I determined that there wasn't much more to that than "taking the lid off the jar" of the issue and letting it out there. Just let it out. Be honest. That was my lesson that day.

In writing this post I came across an early roadblock. I'm writing about one man's journey (this man) towards an intimate relationship with his partner. These post won't be scheduled, they won't be on a timetable because I have to do the work before I can write about it. Hard to talk about an issue and tell you what I learned if I haven't done it. What I learned this time around was a lot about just being open, honest and non obligatory. Don't place expectations on your partner and force obligations on them. Be honest about yourself and where you are in the moment. Don't put on an act.

Tune in next time when I talk about getting rid of blockers of intimacy and open relationships.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ignore the Exit Ramp!

I love a good Road Trip. I like "zoning out" on the open highway and just letting two lanes of asphalt zip under my car as I just relax into my seat. I have the ability to drive for hours without even listening to music or an audio book. Just drive man; just drive.
However, every now and then, I will get the urge to pee or need to eat. Then, I start looking for an exit ramp. Gas. Food. Clean restrooms. I have criteria for my exit choices because usually CC is with me and I want her to have those things. (I rarely succeed in the last criteria as if it's some kind of curse of the road and CC's bladder.) If it were just me then any place would do. Greasy food? Dr. Pepper? Peanut M&M's? Sold!

Is that how our relationships go too?
Oh wow this trip is long, my tolerance for this seat has reached it's max, I'm uncomfortable, we're having to talk to one another a lot, sure could use a break... oh look! A Dairy Queen! See ya!
Where I'm going with this is, our relationships may start off as an enjoyable trip with one another, but sometimes one or both of you will feel the need to take a break. Not like separation from one another or 'breaking up' but more of an emotional break. You'll kind of take your own exit and go do your own thing for a bit. You stop 'being' in the car. You take an emotional break. You cut off that path to intimacy by not sharing or not being open because... well, it's hard! Sure it's hard. But, the only way to get through that is to stay on the highway and get where you're going. You have to be your own strict parent and proclaim, 'There will be no stopping until we get there! So you best hold it!'

That road trip metaphor went on for a bit too long there. What I'm getting at here is this: We're all on a journey. Some of us have chosen to take this journey with a partner and we call that a relationship. And on this journey there will be times when there are opportunities to 'take a break' or an exit. You have to ignore those and stay on the journey. It may be hard to consistently stay on the road and keep your foot on the gas pressing forward. But that's the path you've chosen and there is no going back now. If you're making the commitment to intimacy then you have to be intimate. If your making the commitment to openness then you have to be open. If you know that honesty and  emotional expression are the keys to lead you to find yourself then that's where you have to go. No time for ice cream stops. No time for fireworks stands and peach cider. Fasten your seat belt and keep your eyes on the road!

"Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts." -Charles Dickens

I can count on one hand how many times I've cried in the past 5+ years. Over FIVE years that I can recall; less than a handful of times. Two of those were within the last week. People say it's fucking cathartic. I think the emotional release is great, but the tears... Dear God! What? My eyes burn, my chest hurts, I get all snotty. How is that at all a good thing?

A lot of tears could be saved if we all just communicated a bit better with one another. If we just understood one another more. If we were just more open and honest. So there. World problems solved. You can all go home now.

Imagine if you can a picture that you painted back in elementary school. You were 7. Now you're 30. You've looked at this picture that your parents framed and put on the wall your whole life. It looks a bit abstract, but you love it. You're so attached to it. It's always been there. You have it on the wall of your apartment and one day your girlfriend or boyfriend looks at it and goes, 'What the hell is that? I mean really, it looks so dumb. You made that? Really? God it looks so... dumb.'
Now,  you know that this art doesn't represent you but you created it. You've always had it and you've always loved it. It's been there for so long that you've grown to identify with it and then here comes this person whom you also love telling you that this thing sucks! What the hell man!?

I've gone though a lot over the past couple of years since returning to America from overseas. It hasn't been horrible by any means, but there has been a good bit of change for me. And over this time I've been anchored to one person, a loving partner whom I've grown to respect and appreciate for all that she does for me and for us. About two years ago I was going to bed one night and she was already asleep. I remember getting into bed and she woke up for just a second and I looked down and was just overwhelmed with gratitude that she was there. Overwhelmed. I looked down, smiled at her, gave her a quick kiss on the head and she went back to sleep. And, from that night until last night I have smiled at her every night before I go to bed and reminded myself how lucky I am that she's there. No matter what else is going on, no matter if I'm sick, tired, hurting, happy, or sad, she is there and I am so lucky.
Today, she told me that my smile before we go to bed is awkward, seemed forced, and out of place. Bang. Crash. Burn. Cue the tears.

Now, this happened because she had no idea why I was smiling at her. She would be going to bed either upset, thinking I was upset, feeling disconnected, feeling alone, feeling no intimacy and there's this guy looking over at her ginning like an idiot. So of course she would feel like it was forced (or fake) most of the time.  But MAN, when she said that, I thought my whole world had dropped out from under me. Wow. And then it opened up. I realized that I had been forcing that smile a lot of the time. Not that my gratitude for her being my partner was any less, but my true emotions in the moment weren't always there.  I didn't need to smile at her like some routine reaction to remind myself how lucky I am that she's in my life and sometimes I didn't need to be smiling at all. Maybe sometime I needed to acknowledge how I was feeling and go to bed sad, angry, upset or alone.

A lot of my problems with intimacy have come from ignoring or not acknowledging how I'm really feeling. 'It's not ok to be sad. It's not ok to be angry.' Um... yes it is. In fact, fuck you, I'm sad. There. Deal with it. I'm being honest. Part of my metaphor about the road trip from above comes back here. Be sad. Be angry. Be happy! Just be where you are, be honest about it and stick with that plan. Don't exit off to 'everything is ok' land. No it's not. Shit is fucked up! (Now if that last sentence doesn't win my a Pulitzer one day I don't know what will.)

Be honest with yourself. Start with that. Stick with that.

Tune in next time when we learn how to walk though a door without it being awkward.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jesus It's 2015!?

Good morning. I just woke up to the fact that it's 2015 and I haven't written a blog since the Blogtober experiment of 2014. For those of you that are reading the posting time and notice that this is well into the afternoon yet I started with good morning, then you'll be lost here. It'll take a certain type of mind to follow whats to come here on What's Next? in 2015.

You see dear reader I plan on taking you along with me in the search for answers this year. Also, fuck, yes I realize that's it's February and I'm talking like I'm making New Year's resolutions here. Just, relax and follow along. I've come to a simple conclusion that I can no longer think my way out of the problems that I face in life. Thinking is so 2014. What I've come to realize is that my feelings are what are going to wake me up this year. Feelings. Those gooey, sticky, yucky, slimy, feeling.

What is to come is what I'm calling:

How to be More Intimate: 
One Man's Journey from Emotional Barriers of Fear to Open Loving Relationships. 

So let me put a stamp down here and let you know that what follows on this blog is going to be sticky and gooey. Yucky and sometimes slimy. If you're not in for a whole lot of Truth and a good bit of answering of hard questions then you might want to unsubscribe. Mark it down. February 1st is the date that you'll need to reference back to when you log on one day and ask yourself, what the hell is all this? Don't worry dear reader, there will still be a lot of rambling, some sarcasm and my natural charm throughout this blog, but there will be times when this will get a bit ugly. For those of you that might want something else from my writing, I am starting a new blog as well about some of my hotel life stories and I hope to have that up and running soon. Think about my twitter posts and expand them into whole blog posts. What you're not on Twitter? Good for you. It's a waste of time. But if you are, seriously, follow me @HolyCityAndre Now, on with the next chapter of my life and this blog at What's Next?

So about three weeks ago as I was about to get into the shower I realized that my left testicle had swollen up to about twice its normal size. Oh, you thought I was fucking around when I said things were going to get real on this blog did you? Yeah, real real. Still with me? Ok...
So as I was getting in the shower I noticed this swollen ball and you can probably imagine the thoughts that were running through my head: Oh shit, this is it! I've gotten cancer, I'm going to die! Oh I'm so young and have some much more to live for! Oh whoa is me! I'm going to die in pain... Ridiculous right? Real Ridiculous.

After a trip to the local clinic and $800+ in medical bills, my doctor determined that I had epididymitis. Now, there are several causes of epididymitis, and a few of them point to STDs. However, I figured out quickly that I had no fear of that and more likely my condition was caused from a bacterial infection. Ok, here you go, have two weeks of antibiotics and call us if it doesn't clear up. Two weeks go by, the pain and swelling go away and I figure I'm in the clear right? Wrong. A few days after I came off the antibiotics, the swelling and some of the pain returned. Uh oh.

So what I, along with my girlfriend, decided to do was what I should have done to start with and that is do some research and find more home remedies and herbs to combat this infection and cure it the more natural way. Also, what I had failed to look at is how it was that I got this infection brought into my life to start with. Why did I need to experience this and what was it that I had to learn from this experience? One of the things the infection has done is it has taken away my ability to have sex. Not my sexual desire, or physical ability, just the practicality and actual 'ability'. Nobody wants to spread infections to their partner. Gross. What I didn't consider was what all that leaves behind...

Think about your closest partner that you've ever been sexually active with. If you took away the sex from your relationship, what was left there? You both liked video games? Cool. You both liked movies? Awesome. You both enjoyed long walks on the beach at sunset? Nice. Those are activities, hobbies, and interests. What they are not is intimacy, closeness and honesty. Having an open honest conversations with your partner in life is not an easy thing to do at first. It takes practice. Being truly close to your partner is not always comfortable. Feeling their moods, their pain, their worry, their joy, their ups and downs is not always the funnest thing to be around. However, it is what leads to the meat of any relationship and that is... intimacy. Not sexual intimacy. Just intimacy.

Intimacy: Closely personal, A close familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person. Typically develops after a certain level of trust has been reached and personal bonds have been established. 

So if there isn't sex to distract there isn't warmth to comfort and there isn't open honest communication, then there isn't a relationship anymore unless you have real intimacy in the relationship. So maybe my ball swelling was there to take some of those things away from me and force me to look at what was left. Forget the scare of cancer to death. Forget the pain and swelling. What was there for me to lean? Oh, that just leaves... um... you mean I need to talk about my feelings? How this makes me feel. Well I feel...

And that is where this has led us dear reader. I've taught myself through the years that I'm not allowed to express my real emotions. "There's no crying in baseball." I'm not allowed to do this, or I can't feel that because that would mean ________. If I can't allow myself to feel those things (anger, sadness, separation, love, fear) then how can I share them with my partner? How can I understand when she tries to share them with me? What's the point of having a relationship if you aren't sharing those things with one another?

So why haven't I been sharing things like this all along? Well there were the rules that I had to follow and... the fear. That's right I was afraid. Still am to be honest. I'm afraid of a lot of things when it comes to opening up my emotions to the world outside of my own mind. What if I can't control them? What if other people see them (read about them in a blog) and then judge me for that? Oh no! Oh well. The time for that is over. The time for me to start examining how to express myself and how to love myself and my ability to be intimate is now. I can't afford to have another ball swell up, another kidney stone, another pain in my ass from some pain in my ass. I'm done with that. Sorry it had to come to that for me to realize that my emotional repressions were causing my physical pain and preventing me from having the type of intimate relationships that I (and all of us really) want in my life.

As I sit now, by ball is still a little swollen, my body is still cleaning itself out, and my mind is still trying to take over an emotional task. I can't think my way out of all of this. I can only allow myself to feel my way out of it and into something so much better. I can't promise you anything here other than as I come across an emotion, it's going to appear on here and you're going to experience this journey with me. Like it or not.

A Course in Miracles: "Here is the perfect statement of my freedom. I am under no laws but God's. I am constantly tempted to make up other laws and give them power over me. I suffer only because I believe in them." W-188.