Some Solstice Haiku

Hi Everyone,

We’re at the midpoint of the year today and I’m alone at home, while my wife is in London at a symposium and my son is visiting his grandparents. It’s been an interesting year so far to say the least, and that has me thinking about what I may or may not have accomplished, and also waxing somewhat poetic on this long day of light. While I think up what to say about my own life and progress in a subsequent post, here’s some haiku to chew on, meditate on, or just plain read, digest, and pass along. I hope your year is bringing you the Light of Truth, Love, and Abundance that you both need and deserve.

Namaste,

Jason

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You are a hero.
Your life’s a great adventure.
You’re up to the task.

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When God is ready
That which He has planned for you
Will be made quite clear.

4646
I believe that God
Is both the source of all things,
And lives within us.

4652
This student’s ready.
Pray, let the master appear.
Guidance is needed.

4653
May all souls in need
Find most what they seek tonight –
Food, Rest, Peace, Joy, Love.

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Bink and I contemplating the future.

 

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Keep your goals in mind.
When daily problems arise
Know why you’re fighting.

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Do not be afraid.
The Source of All is with you,
Offering you strength.

4656
Find your still, small, place.
Search both within and outside.
Visit it often.

4663
The world’s faith in you
Means absolutely nothing
If you don’t share it.

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Be compassionate
Towards those less fortunate.
You could be them soon.

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Happy Solstice, Everyone!!!

Haiku in Bloom

A busy week, a trip to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D. C., and the first day of spring made for good memories and the necessity of sharing some more haiku this month. Whatever your needs are, I hope they are being met. Whatever ails you – mental, physical, spiritual – I hope it is being managed. Know that you are not alone. Know that you are loved. Know that whatever your present state, it can be bettered.

Peace, Love, Spring, and Cherry Blossoms to You,

Jason

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The Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin in D.C.

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Your authentic voice
Is what people want to hear.
Let them hear your heart

4628
Your priorities
Must be kept in order if
You wish to succeed.

4629
When others succeed,
That doesn’t mean you have failed.
Stop comparing lives.

4630
It is your duty
To give your life to the world,
Serving its best needs.

4635
Focus heavenward.
The sun is beaming brightly
Above the storm clouds

At the Cherry Blossom Festival

Me and My Gal in the Blossoms

4637
How should you respond
To the hatred in the world?
Why, with love, of course.

4639
Give up all judgment.
Be a Citizen of Peace,
Enemy to none.

4640
You are on the verge
Of an explosion of Art,
Thought, and Abundance.

4641
Believe in yourself
And your ability to
Make a difference.

4642
Be the example
You want your children to love,
Follow, and become.

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Our own backyard.

March Into Haiku

It has been awhile since I’ve done a purely haiku post. But spring is around the corner, and I’m feeling like I need a real dose of inspiration to get me through the last of the winter woes.Whatever you may be struggling with, I hope you find some measure of assistance, uplift, guidance, or what have you in the next 10 poems. Hang in there, keep the faith, assist, resist, persist, and God bless.

Namaste,

Jason

4610
Whatever happens
You must never surrender
To hatred and fear.

4612
While you sit around
Complaining about the job,
Someone’s doing it.

4613
Rise with the dawn and
Offer sincere gratitude
For the day ahead.

4614
You cannot give thanks,
Too sincerely or too much,
But be one who tries.

4615
Put yourself out there.
Without risk there is no life,
Only stagnation.

4617
When you’ve been knocked down,
Look for anything to grab
That will help you up.

4618
You want my advice?
Whatever you want from life
Go out and get it!

4619
If you have a dream,
You can acquire the skill set
To make it happen.

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How can you improve
The lives of those around you
Just by showing up?

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Look for ways in which
You can make someone happy.
Seek joy for others.

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Two Contemplative Cats

A Toddler’s Guide to Manifesting

Some time ago John Adams was given a green balloon. He loved his balloon and kept it on his bed every night for safe keeping. He and I would bat it back and forth as a preliminary way to learn how to play catch. A helium-filled balloon is not going to move fast through the air, a slowly deflating one even less so. But its slow speed was just right for a three-year old learning how to catch a ball, or throw. We spent literally hours batting the deflating green balloon back and forth while sitting on his bed while he giggled ecstatically at his ability to catch his green, airborne, slo-mo ball.

When the green balloon finally deflated beyond repair he insisted on keeping it on his bed for several weeks thereafter. He openly wept several times over its inability to fly, or our inability to play with it anymore (although he refused to allow either of us to reinflate it). A long piece of ribbon with a deflated bulbous husk, he would pull it off the bed, twirl the ribbon, but the balloon didn’t refill. It would plop unsatisfying-ly onto the bed, and a frustrated toddler would well up, and a daddy would have to console the survivor that a new balloon could be found and order would be restored again to the galaxy.

A few weeks went by, and the green death was finally forgotten. Nancy and I seized the opportunity to discard the corpse. Then out of the blue – or wherever toddlers get their notions – John Adams looked at us one Sunday and stated that he wanted another balloon. He was earnest. We were going to church, but promised him we would try to find him one thereafter. We did the church thing, and then decided on a whim to go to IHO P for breakfast. Our young waitress, Jamie, was taken with the little guy, and they exchanged more than a few playful moments. He did his “bag of tricks” for her; she was enchanted, and headed off to do her work. She then returned quite abruptly and looked at us semi-seriously and said, “Don’t forget to get him his balloon on the way out.” In hindsight, I was less stunned than I should have been.

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John Adams and I manifesting silliness.

Behind the front counter where we paid the check was a cache of variously colored balloons from a previous promotion. They were giving them away to children upon request, and John Adams was requesting. It took him only a moment to blurt out that his new friend was to be “Yellow, please!” The well-meaning host tried unsuccessfully to tie it several times to his wrist, but he likes to “hoed it,” so with Mommy’s guidance his new yellow friend made it safely to our car and home to his bed for batting practice where it presently, lovingly resides.

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer repeatedly said a few things about the art of manifesting. 1) You have to let go of the past. 2) You have to leave your ego and insecurities behind and know that you are worthy of abundance. 3) You have to have a “knowing” of what you want, and hold that vision without fear of failure. 4) You have to detach yourself from outcome. Many of these lessons resonated with me over the incident of the balloons. Only when John Adams had made peace with the loss of the green balloon was he ready to receive a new one. Like most toddlers, he doesn’t know what an ego is yet, but he knows he is the Center of the Universe and worthy of his heart’s desire. He knew exactly what he wanted and was prepared for its arrival in his world. And he didn’t know the manner of its arrival, but he knew it would show up. And show up it did.

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Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book, Manifest Your Destiny

Dr. Dyer and his family reportedly used the art of manifesting with great success. I believe – in this instance at least – my son did too. I believe we’re all capable of bringing that which we desire into our lives through letting go of the past, ego-less love, detachment, and persistence of vision. So whatever green husk of hot air has blustered into your life today, know that it will deflate and, once released and forgotten, it can be replaced by something even better. Through the powers of a selfless knowing love, detachment, and persistence, peace can be restored to your galaxy too.

You just gotta believe.

Namaste,

Jason

Onward and Upward (My 100th Blog Post)

I can’t believe this milestone has arrived. 100 posts! Back in April of 2015, I decided to revitalize my blog with the announcement “I’m Still Here.” I had been inactive for months, what with the care and maintenance of John Adams plus life, and I hadn’t done much writing. But after months of inactivity, I decided to jump back in the saddle and try to kick start my blog. There have been fits and starts of creativity and exhaustion, but after months of sticking it out, here it is: 100.

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“What’s that you said? 100 Blog posts! You have got to be kidding me!!!”

Over the last year I’ve renewed my passion for writing, for poetry, for blogging, and for reaching out. I love to write things that make people think , that informs them of the good in the world, that shares something of my life in a way that might illuminate something in someone else’s. To that end, I’m re-branding my blog as of today. No longer “An introspective journal for spiritual growth,” but rather “A Journal of Joy, the Arts, Wellness, Parenting, and Personal Growth.” I want to inspire people, raise them up, and give them hope. I want to be a light in the dark, not the latest rant on Facebook. I want to make people laugh, cry, and think. I want to help people lead better lives, not remind them of the problems we all face. We already know.

Going forward I will continue to write about my personal experiences, my son John Adams, and my family. It’s what I know. I will include poetry, especially haiku of course, and I want to start including recipes, guest blogs, and other pieces of wisdom that promote better living. No extensive change here, just expansion. I want to stress that this will be the same Reflections from Shangri-La that you have read. I just want to expand the scope, hopefully net wider readership, and in turn, help more people any way that I can.

This last year has been one of some wonderful successes and milestones for my life and my family. My wife did a one-month teacher training fellowship in Kalamazoo on Beowulf through the National Endowment of the Humanities. My son has just turned three. I was a guest blogger for the first time on www.businessinrhyme.com . I just learned that one of my favorite poems, “My Greatest Treasure,” will be included in the Fall issue of Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review (more on this as it develops). I’m participating in the First Annual Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival this weekend, and reading both Daddy Doesn’t Purr (But I Love Him Anyway)and our forthcoming book Mommy Made a Beastie (But I Love Her Anyway) in their Kid’s Corner. And my arrangement, “God Rest Ye Jazzy Gentlemen” is being premiered by the area choral ensemble The Spotsylvanians. Much to be proud of, much to blog about, and much to inspire with, and bring hope to others. My life is far from perfect, with many struggles and woes, but there is also much to be thankful for. And that it what I wish to focus on here and share with you. This year alone, Reflections has had over 1,000 views from some 750 people. Two posts—“The Boy Who Lived” and “Still Wild About Hank”—have had over 100 views each. If you are still reading this, you are among those numbers and I can’t thank you enough for supporting my efforts, reading my thoughts, liking my posts, and being a part of my online life.

So here’s looking ahead to 2017, to post 200, and to all of the good things we can share and accomplish together.

Thank you again and see you next post.

Namaste,

Jason

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My son, father-in-law, and I celebrating 100 Blog posts…Not!

When the Dead Awaken…and Teach! (The Continuing Legacy of Dr. Wayne Dyer)

Today, August 29, 2016, marks the one year anniversary of the passing of Dr. Wayne Dyer, the “Father of Motivation,” and my self-appointed guru for fourteen years. One year ago today, Wayne succumbed to a heart attack and crossed over. He was seventy-five years old, and the author of more than forty books in the fields of self-help, positive thinking, and spirituality. Though he had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2009, an autopsy completed shortly after his death revealed the impossible: no trace of leukemia found anywhere in his body. Wayne had claimed without supportive medical evidence for several years prior to his death that he was in “perfect health,” and that through his lifestyle and positive outlook he was clean of disease. The autopsy validated his oft-claimed assertion that “our thoughts create our reality.” In death he was still teaching, and those of us willing to listen were still hearing. It seems in the year since his death, his voice has still not gone silent.

Wayne Dyer, Photo Credit: www.hayhouse.com

Wayne Dyer, Photo Credit: http://www.hayhouse.com

In June of this year, in Elevated Existence magazine, Tammy Mastroberte interviewed two of Wayne’s daughters – Saje and Serena – focusing on the family’s life since Wayne’s passing, their claim that he continues to speak through medium Karen Noe, and that his teaching is ongoing, if from the other side. Numerous anecdotes are recounted through the article, including the possibility of Wayne bi-locating while alive and in Australia, and a postmortem visit to daughter Saje in New York, to name just two. The article also reveals that he uncharacteristically insisted on paying in full daughter Saje’s last year of graduate school (ahead of his normal schedule), and that he felt driven to complete his autobiographical I Can See Clearly Now (his last published book while alive), indicating that he may have had some sense that his time on Earth was drawing to a close. In fact, the family now sees his last published book, Memories of Heaven – about children’s recollections of the other side – as something of a prescient extension of his sense of humor, given that it was published after he would have arrived there to verify the recollections. The family claims (in part through Noe) that Wayne has shifted his teaching of “I Am” to “We Are,” that he is available to anyone that calls upon him for guidance, and that he has summed up to them his philosophy of living somewhat simplistically as “always come from a place of love.”

Whatever the truth of the claims, the article is more than a welcome reminder of the profound teachings that this man offered the world starting with his landmark bestseller Your Erroneous Zones in 1975, and ending with the aforementioned Memories of Heaven. For myself, I know that I owe Wayne a debt that can never be repaid. I have written of my personal journey through Wayne’s work before in the posts “Dr. Wayne Dyer – In Memoriam,” and “Dr. Wayne Dyer – An Addendum,” as well as in an upcoming guest blog post for www.businessinrhyme.com to be released on September 12th called “The Healing Power of Haiku,” so there’s no need for me to dwell here on that debt; suffice it to say, without Dr. Wayne Dyer I don’t know if I would still be around to love my wife, my son, and the new outlook on life he gifted me by his beautiful words and timeless wisdom. Thanks are more than a little in order.

So to that end I want to close this post by recounting some of my favorite Wayne Wisdom, his 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace; enumerated in the book of the same name, and used as the template for Wayne’s third to last book, the co-written Don’t Die With Your Music Still in You, in which daughter Serena recounts what it was like to be a child growing up under the influence of such an “enlightened” father. The Second Secret holds deep significance for me as a musician, child of musicians, and artist in general, but I have tried to live by all of them in turn with varying degrees of success. For a life plan one could hardly do better.

 Dr. Wayne Dyer’s 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace

  1. Have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing.
  2. Don’t die with your music still in you.
  3. You can’t give away what you don’t have.
  4. Embrace silence.
  5. Give up your personal history.
  6. You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.
  7. There are no justified resentments.
  8. Treat yourself as if you already are what you’d like to be.
  9. Treasure your divinity.
  10. Wisdom is avoiding all thoughts which weaken you.

Thank you, Dr. Dyer, Wayne, for the last fifteen years; for the love, wisdom, outlook, and mentor-ship. You are neither gone nor forgotten.  Keep it coming. We’re listening. Namaste.

Love,

Jason

P.S. For those of you who want to explore Elevated Existence magazine, here is a link to their website: Elevated Existence

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Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (1940 – 2015) Photo credit:: http://www.awaken.com

 

Three Samaritans?

On Friday, July 29th, my car died a painful and ignoble death. While driving on a quiet stretch of road outside King George, intersecting Rt. 3 and the road we live on, my 2009 white Hyundai Accent gave a slight jolt as I applied the accelerator and then started to coast out of control. I felt the jolt in my foot, knew immediately that the foot pedal had lost all tension and, after voicing my concern to Nancy that “something had just gone wrong with the car,” guided my car gently to the periphery of the shoulder. I turned off the engine and tried to restart it. I had battery but no turnover. Something was definitely wrong. We found out the next day that my timing belt had snapped, and on its unrestricted way through the mechanisms of the car, had destroyed the engine. A $3,500 repair on a car with 230,000 miles; it was time to say goodbye to an old friend.

After stripping out of the car everything that made it Home on the road

After stripping out of the car everything that made it Home on the road

A financial tragedy to be sure, and one that we’re wrestling with to rectify, there is another part of the story that deserves more attention. My car’s ultimately final voyage was to be a special one. Friday, when I left the house, I was accompanied by both Nancy and our son, John Adams. We were heading into Fredericksburg for a few quick errands and then up to Washington D.C. to visit the National Zoo, and then further still up I-95 to the Maryland House rest area, where John Adams was to be handed off to his grandparents for a 5-day vacation with them. Nancy and I would then return home. My point being that most of the day was to be spent traveling up and down one of the busiest and most dangerously driven interstates in the country. When the timing belt snapped, the car lost all acceleration; all I could do was steer and coast. Had that belt snapped on I-95 at 65+ mph with us in a center lane, or passing, or on an exit ramp, given the nature of I-95 traffic and the average quality of driving on daily dangerous display, I don’t know what my car’s condition would be today, or whether myself, my wife, and son would be here to talk about it after the fact. What I do know is that the belt snapped a little over a mile from my home, on a quiet two-lane artery with limited controlled traffic behind me, and I had ample time to react, hit my hazards, and signal my intentions to get my car and my family to safety. For that alone I am grateful, but the story doesn’t end there.

No fewer than three people came to our aid almost immediately after the incident occurred. Nancy determined to walk back to our house – more than 1.5 miles – to retrieve her car while John Adams and I stayed with the vehicle and called AAA. The sooner she started the walk, the sooner we could get John Adams out of his car seat, off the periphery of the shoulder, out of danger, into air conditioning, and out of the midday Virginia summer sun. Moments after she departed, a friend of mine – we’ll call her V – pulled up and offered her assistance. I told her there was nothing that she could do, that we had the situation under control, and that we had already called for a tow. She wished us well and departed. However, I felt better knowing that, despite no overt help from her, we were not alone; we had a Samaritan watching over us.

Moments after V’s departure, Nancy returned much sooner than expected with her car. We got John Adams immediately out of my car, re-strapped him into Mommy’s air-conditioned car, and all immediate danger to him was ended.  With my mind preoccupied with John Adams’s safety and the impending tow, I didn’t think to ask Nancy how she got back to us so quickly. And, in any case, there was little time for chatter as who I thought was our second Samaritan was about to show up.

A local sheriff’s car pulled up behind me with its lights on. It was our friend – this one I’ll call T – from Animal Control. She indicated that my car was not far enough onto the shoulder for safety and, together, we proceeded to push and steer my Hyundai far enough onto the shoulder that it was out of all potential danger. I thanked her, told her the tow was on its way, and she headed off to work wishing us well. Two people, Two Samaritans, both of whom I knew, had shown up when we needed them to provide support, emotional or other, to keep my family safe. But there had been three, and the third was a total surprise.

After T left and we had a moment to ourselves, Nancy looked at me and said, “You may be wondering how it is I got home and back so fast.” An elderly veteran (whose air-conditioning in his house had fritzed out) had seen her while he was riding about in his own air-conditioned car to stay cool for the afternoon. He pulled over and offered her a ride back to our place, sensing her need, and perhaps just because he was a good person with time on his hands. He dropped Nancy at our door. On their short trip together he volunteered to her that he had had a series of strokes and couldn’t remember names. As a result they never bothered to exchange names. Our third surprise Samaritan embodied bitter sweetness, beauty, and anonymity.

The day worked out as you might expect: we shadowed the car to the repair shop, went into D.C but arrived too late to get our son to the zoo, met with Nancy’s parents at Maryland House on I-95, said good-bye to our son for a few days, and headed home. The financial burden on our family – incurring a new car payment months from being free from one – is troublesome in the extreme. But that notwithstanding, what keeps occupying my mind is how much worse the day could have gone. Had we been on I-95 or some other major highway when the belt snapped what could have happened to us? Would the surrounding traffic have reacted to our emergency situation safely and responsibly, or would our outcome have been grimmer and statistical? I just don’t or can’t know.  What I do know is that three Samaritans – V, T, and Unnamed Warm Veteran – stopped and offered my family assistance when it needed it the most, and for that we are forever grateful. But I also suspect – in fact I’m pretty sure – that a Fourth Samaritan was watching over my family that day, and snapped the timing belt at just the right time, so that I could coast my family to safety on a quiet stretch of road, and that we would be in view of more conventional assistance.

To that Power, Force, Karmic Debt, God, Goddess, or What-Have-You, I can only say:

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.

Namaste,

Jason

A rare double rainbow over the driver's side mirror.

A rare double rainbow over the driver’s side mirror.

The Purpose of Life – Solved!

At age 45, I find that one question resurfaces in my mind more than any other: What is my life’s purpose? Nancy poses this question to me from time to time as, “What do you want to be doing with your life?” which wife to husband sounds like, “How do you want to make a living?” but I know that’s not the entirety of her meaning. It’s a question that we ask ourselves from little on up, the world hammers in our face, and we struggle to make sense of by either relinquishing its answer to a higher power (God has a plan for me; I just need to find out what that is), or equivocating our financial success and stability with purpose (Wealth = Happiness = Purpose). But ultimately neither mainstream answer proves sufficient. On one hand, I’ve waited impatiently for God to reveal His Big Secret. Guess what? He hasn’t. On the other hand, wealth and stability elude me. I have very little money or security. I do have a beautiful wife and son, and I’ve been an actor, director, music director, poet, composer, educator, father, husband, son, mentor, and assorted other labels, and I’ve looked for illumination in them all to marginal avail. I’ve tried to play the “What is my life’s purpose?” game by society’s rules and I’ve never gotten a satisfying answer to the question. And Lord knows my mother tried to answer the question for me many, many times.

It’s beyond frustrating going through life being told that someone (or Someone) knows what your purpose is, and your sole responsibility is to figure out what they are keeping from you. You’re always chasing rainbows, chasing after the Unattainable Question, and always dissatisfied due to the fact that you can never really know what they – the World Soul, God, Ed, Whoever – is thinking. And you know what? I’m 45 and I’m just tired of playing the game. Here’s a fact: They – whoever they are – don’t know any more than I do, and they are more preoccupied with figuring out their own purpose than cluing me in on my own. SO I QUIT. I don’t want to know what THEY think my Personal Purpose is supposed to be. And, of course, now that I’ve stopped asking what it is, it presented itself to me without effort.

The other night lying in bed it hit me, the Purpose of Life, the answer to the Big Question, the mystery solved. It’s a three point plan with room for revision, but here it is in a nutshell:

The Purpose of Life:

1. Be a Bringer of Joy

2. Be a Facilitator of Healing

3. Be a Provider of Service

That’s it. That’s the whole list. All three foci are about elevating people, assisting people, making people’s lives better. If you’re a performer, comedian, actor, or musician, you are a bringer of joy where there is some measure of healing and service hoped for or implied. If you are a doctor or other medical practitioner, you are a healer who provides service and joy (think relief) in recovery. If you are in any service related field, and you do it with a willing and open heart, you are hopefully making people’s lives better and easier bringing joy and healing. End of story. Mystery solved.

How you choose to implement these three aims is up to you, based on your interests and inclination, and no one, NO ONE, can decide that for you – not your parents, friends, God, or partner. That part comes from you. But instead of concentrating on the vocation or avocation first, ask yourself “How can I be a bringer of joy, facilitator of healing, and provider of service?” to humanity and let the rest spring from your passions and the unique love that you can share with everyone else.

Oh, and one last thing: Joy, Healing, and Service are the real stem careers. They all stem from a place of unconditional love. They all stem from making the world better, easier, more beautiful, more radiant, and yes, godly when they are real and “on purpose.” So you could say then that the real Purpose of Life is Love, and there are three Pathways to Purpose: Joy, Healing, and Service. And the Primary Path you take is up to you, but make sure that the other Secondary Paths are accessible and frequently visited by you as path jumping is essential and strongly encouraged. Leaving any of the Pathways untraveled and overgrown leads to frustration, disillusionment, and a lack of fulfillment, rather than Purpose.

And there it is in a nutshell and yes, other people have said it better than me, but this is my “A-Ha” way of seeing it for what it is. The Purpose of Life is Love given freely by you to Humanity through Joy, Healing, and Service. It’s no mystery anymore. Now go figure out for yourself how your Passions inspire you to embark on one of the Three Pathways leading to your unique version of Life’s Purpose which is ultimately Unconditional Love for all the world.

Good Luck, God Bless, Namaste, and let me know if this makes sense.

Jason

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My son contemplating his Purpose.

Midsummer Haiku

It’s late July and, whether you’re inside or outside, it’s hot here in Virginia. My book signings went well, my family is reunited, and we’re trying to squeeze some collective summer memories into our lives before the craziness that is late August. And speaking of craziness, the presidential campaign season is in full bloom, and if you don’t duck you might get hit by a heap of slung mud. At the very least it’s easy to be brought down by all the negative rhetoric. I have some new ideas for blog posts coming up, but until then enjoy a few empowering haiku written well before, but seemingly inspired by or in response to, our present national dialogue.

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Ev’rywhere you look
Possibilities exist
For a better world.

4574
You can’t win them all,
But by staying in the game
You can win a few.

4575
What is your purpose?
Listen to the God within
To hear your answer.

4576
You have a calling,
To make people’s lives better,
To offer them joy.

4578
Spread your light around;
Let people know they have worth,
That they are worthy.

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Wildflowers at Shenandoah National Park, July 22, 2016

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What does the world need?
More compassion, kindness, love,
Tolerance, and peace.

4581
The world’s had enough
Hatred, bigotry, judgment,
Inequality.

4582
Hey! You reading this:
You really can change the world.
One choice at a time.

4583
For better or worse,
We all share the same planet.
Let’s try playing nice.

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Relax, take a breath,
Center yourself, and intone:
Peace is the answer.

Namaste,

Jason

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On our way toward a new adventure.

The Collateral Damaged (An Open Letter for the Cultivation of Universal Compassion)

My dear friend,

You are special to me. And you know who you are. We have grown up together, and we have just met. We have worked together, played together, dined together, and worshiped together. We have eaten the same foods, watched some of the same TV and movies, read fewer of the same books, and don’t listen to the same music. But I am dear to you and you are dear to me. And for that I thank you.

I understand that you are having trouble coming to terms with your feelings over the Orlando Massacre this past Sunday morning. Forty-nine mostly presumably gay men and women gunned down in a gay nightclub, the worst mass shooting in US history. A troubled, disgruntled ISIS sympathizer was to blame, ISIS has taken credit (or at least wanted to share the spotlight), and now you’re scared for your safety, angry that this could happen on American soil, looking to lay blame on something larger than one shooter, and feeling simultaneously, distressingly both compassion for and dispassionate toward the victims. As a person who doesn’t really support marriage equality and is leery of homosexuality in general, some of your feelings seem a bit at odds with your politics and your faith. By Sunday morning’s news the event had already become heavily polarizing and politicized, and a young Sacramento-based Baptist minister had gone viral saying that the massacre was God’s will, and you shouldn’t mourn for the gay dead because they are “all pedophiles,” and that they all “should be rounded up and shot.” That’s not your faith as you understand it, but you’re still confused by the contradictory faith-based messages you’re hearing. I get it. I have been there and I have been you.

As a suburban white child born to parents who were both born in 1929, even though we were a seemingly liberal-minded performing arts household, we had little to no discussion about gay people in our home. My father would never discuss such things, and my mother believed in treating everyone kindly (even if they were “odd”). She wasn’t sure if homosexuality was genetic or a choice, and mostly kept an open mind toward everyone since vocal opinions were “bad for business.” In hindsight, I’d say that, just like you, my upbringing was passively homophobic, based upon the agreed upon social conventions of suburbia in the 1970s. I had a best friend with a gay mother, my mother had a high school classmate who had been in the road company of The Pajama Game that lived over the beer distributor with another man, and I had a school music teacher who was closeted, but they were the exception, not the rule. They were odd and we were normal. We didn’t persecute, but we did subconsciously, politely judge. My parents were taught right and wrong by their parents, both born in the 1800s, and they passed that value system onto me: simple, honest, and always with the belief that what they were doing was for my own good and through love. So, my friend, I hear, I understand, and I have no right to judge you; only love you for who you are, and who you could become.

My passed-on parental beliefs went unchallenged until early on in my college years and didn’t start to shift until I had almost graduated. Change is hard after all, and changing one’s mind is often hardest of all. Decades of programming and experiences had to be sifted through before I could be who I am today. And I’m happy to say that I am more open-minded, compassionate, loving, and non-judgmental than I’ve ever been….but not always. I have my bad days, my blind spots, my old grudges, and my lazy moments when I fall back on old programming. I’m better than before, but far from perfect, and I know you love me as I am, and I love you too, even though we’re both still growing beyond our programming. That’s life right? Growth and change.

So, as I said at the beginning of this letter, I know you’re having trouble sorting out your feelings, your own programming regarding this “gay tragedy.” Perhaps I can, with love and compassion, give you a different perspective to consider, one that transcends the boundaries of the minority group for whom you hold mixed feelings. To date…

 Fifty people lost their lives in this tragedy, including the shooter. That said:

  • 100 Moms and Dads lost a child
  • Moms and Dads who were struggling to accept their child
  • Moms and Dads who had
  • Moms and Dads who fought with their child when they last spoke
  • Moms and Dads who parted with an “I love you”

None of them, none of them, thought that that would be the last time they would speak, or argue, or hug, or say “I love you.”

  • 200 Grandmothers, grandfathers, Nanas, and Pop Pops lost their grandchildren. What are they to think? What has happened to our world? Why would anyone do that to their little love?
  • Untold siblings lost their big or little brother, big or little sister, their playmate, their helpmate, their bunkmate, the only one who ever understood them.
  • Untold co-workers woke up to find their friend, their colleague, their secret crush, their ex, their “thorn in their side” would never be seen at work anymore; would never make them laugh, or smile, or brighten their day.
  • Hundreds of ex-boyfriends and girlfriends learned they had run out of time to heal the past, make amends, or reconnect. A wound shall remain a wound.
  • And hundreds of current boyfriends, girlfriends, and spouses just had their world shattered and their other half ripped away.
  • 1000s of teachers, elementary, middle-school, high school, and college, woke up to find that their star or underperforming pupil, the one they rooted so hard for, invested in, believed in, went to bat for…was no more. What a waste. What a loss.
  • Hundreds of pets – cats, dogs, birds, fish, exotics – just lost their best friend, their sleep buddy, their food friend, their reason for being, their Forever Home.
  • And then, of course, there’s always the possibility that some of the dead had human children of their own, both genetic and adopted. What of them? What of them? What of them?
  • And just in case it needs to be said, most of those left behind, suffering, grieving, coping, questioning, are heterosexual like you and me.

 You see, my friend, my dear friend, no tragedy like this ever occurs in its own bubble. There is no such thing as an isolated tragedy, and this was not just a gay tragedy, or not even a human tragedy, but rather a global one. When you consider all the lives each of us touches simply by being, then magnify that by 50, then multiply that again by another 50 for the survivors, the impact is unfathomable. And if, as you scanned the list above, you felt your heart break open for those left behind, let me tell you that it’s only one short nonjudgmental step till you find compassion for the victims – all of them – those that were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and those whose childhood programming left them damaged and full of hate. I’m just up ahead around the bend on Compassion’s Road because, like you, I started from behind without knowing it.

But I know you can catch me up and even surpass me.

I have faith in you.

And I love you.

See you on the road.

Jason

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