A Visit with Amma the Hugging Saint

“You cannot taste the sweetness of honey by licking a piece of paper on which the word ‘honey’ has been written. Likewise, the principles described in the religious texts must be contemplated, meditated upon, and finally realized.” – Amma the “hugging” saint

On July 5, at 6:30 AM, I arrived at my church to pick up two dear friends, Laura and Elaine, for a ‘wacky adventure’ to the congested streets of Arlington, VA. We were going to visit Amma the Hindu “Hugging Saint” on her world tour (possibly her last), and had gotten up extra early to make sure that we were assured of a good place in line so that our efforts were not in vain. For various reasons, each of us really felt we needed our hug, and we didn’t want to be left out.

To be bluntly honest, I had never heard of Amma. Facebook (FACEBOOK!!!) advertised her to me repeatedly, and as a result, I became intrigued and ultimately interested in going. I am somewhat obsessed with spiritual experiences, books, movies, and the like, and am always looking for an opportunity to expand my awareness of cultures, world religions, and thought systems, so my becoming interested was not much of a stretch. And I love events. Hay House Publishing used to do events with their spiritual authors called I Can Do It! and Nancy and I drove to Atlanta for one years ago. When the Dalai Lama was in D.C. in 2010 for the Kalachakra, we were in attendance for a day. Nancy attended Pope Francis’s D.C. Mass, but Catholic U only had enough tickets for students and faculty, so I missed that one, but I wasn’t going to miss this! And that is why I was up at 4:45 AM on July 5, and picking up my friends at 6:30 AM.

Our drive up to Arlington was friendly and uneventful. Spitty rain and D.C. traffic slowed us a bit, but nothing serious. We arrived at the Marriott Crystal City just after 8 AM and struggled despairingly to find a parking space in their labyrinth of an underground parking garage, until keen-eyed Laura spied a solitary overlooked space behind a pole, boxed in by other cars, that may have been used by staff but bore no designated markings. We maneuvered the car into the hidden gem, struggled further to find the elevators, and finally, with some effort and agitation, found an escalator marked “Amma – this way” – and knew we had arrived.

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Amma the “Hugging Saint” Image courtesy of Pintarest; no copyright info available

The next unexpected hurdle in our spiritual odyssey occurred almost immediately as we were confronted with hotel security bearing the Peanuts-gang-like message of “No Dogs Allowed” in variously hushed if vehement tones. My one friend, Elaine, had brought her licensed therapy dog along (a choice she had made after exhaustingly researching Amma’s website and deeming it acceptable), but Amma’s people had apparently not communicated their desires to the hotel management, the result being a serious conflict of protocol. I’m not going to dwell on this incident further out of discretion and respect for my friend, but suffice it to say, Elaine was wholly in the right, justice prevailed, a beautiful person named Victoria became the dog’s best friend (and ours) for the next few hours, and the Marriott needs to seriously rethink its customer service. For my part, I watched my friend repeatedly attempt to resolve the matter with Herculean strength, grace, and some frazzled charm, and my respect for her grew immensely as she fiercely protected her legal rights and those of her little charge. No adventure occurs without obstacles. But back to Amma.

“The aim of devotion and prayer is to develop love for everyone.”   – Amma the “hugging” saint

We were seated in one of several ballrooms, equipped with a stage at one end and an exhaustive gift shop at the other. We waited for more than an hour, watching a video scroll of Amma’s good works both here and abroad. She arrived on time at 10 AM, conducted a mostly silent – if loudly amplified – meditation, and by 10:40 AM the “hugging queue” was formed and the hugs began. My friends and I were in the first hour of the line and were moved swiftly barefoot from chair to chair, up onto the stage, and eventually into Amma’s waiting arms. It is not my place to retell how my friends felt about their experience, but each of us responded positively if differently. When it was my turn, I was hoisted before Amma on my knees and bent towards her at the waist. My body, for some inexplicable reason, became rigid. She gripped me, pulled me away from her body, gripped me tighter, and started whispering a Hindu prayer into my right ear. The world fell away, and for a few moments it was only she and I. Then she pulled me away from her body, looked me full in the face, handed me a present, and I was lifted by handlers emotionally to my feet and away from her embrace. I was dazed and unsteady and the handlers escorted me to a nearby seat, where I observed my friends have similar, but vastly different interactions with the woman known as “Mother.”

The three of us, satisfied that we had accomplished our goals, toured the gift shop, went to retrieve the car and dog, and headed out of Arlington for lunch and eventually a drop off at the church. We talked incessantly about the adventure, our various acutely emotional experiences with Amma, and the pros and cons of the day. The ballroom was exceedingly noisy throughout the event, even during the meditation to a degree, and Amma’s handlers were a swirl of activity throughout her hugging sessions. Amma was constantly talking to them, advising them, etc. while she was hugging participants, and that did diminish the intimacy and interpersonal communication one may have expected from the moment. She was also sweating profusely, it seemed, and constantly dabbing herself with a white towel, which made us wonder what was making her so hot. Was she ill, or was it just the intensity of her being? On the other hand, the thousands of devout participants at the event were staggering in their devotion, kindness, and compassion. Without the efforts of Victoria (truly living Amma’s message), our visit may have ended very differently and sadly. People in attendance were very open and receptive to being engaged in conversation and were exceedingly kind. All three of us felt the power of Amma’s energy/soul/compassion/what have you, coming off her and it was dizzying, enabling, and awe-inspiring. Laura quipped it best, and I paraphrase, “She seems to be in a perpetual state of happiness.” As little as I know about her even now, I know she is the real deal. Sorry fundamentalists of any faith, sainthood is about character and action, not about belief system. I’ve been in the presence of at least three “saints” in my life, and their aura of love is so palpable that it’s almost a narcotic “high.”

“The sun shines down, and its image reflects in a thousand different pots filled with water. The reflections are many, but they are each reflecting the same sun. Similarly, when we come to know who we truly are, we will see ourselves in all people.” – Amma the “hugging” saint

Five days since the event, I still don’t know a great deal about Amma. I watched the videos, read her Wikipedia article, and was hugged by her for heaven’s sake, but don’t know much else. I had never heard of her before, which I don’t understand, since she’s been touring the world for more than thirty years, hugging, raising millions for disaster relief here and abroad, building hospitals, advocating for the rights of women and children, and preaching a message of universal compassion. How is it we get so fixated on other lesser things that even when people do high-profile-good works for decades, it can still be lost to us until it’s advertised on Facebook? What does it take to put that which is truly important – peace, love, charity, compassion, kindness – front and center in the minds of the masses and the media? I honestly don’t know. But for what it’s worth, I’m grateful to Facebook for their targeted ads, I’m grateful to my friends for accompanying me on this adventure, and I’m grateful to Amma for the hug and for being who she is: a light in a dark world. May all such beings (and rest assured there are more and I’ll meet them) continue to shine, even in social media anonymity. We need you. We really need you.

Namaste,

Jason

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Three merry adventurers – Laura, myself, and Elaine – after our day of hugs, joy, and self-discovery

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

4644
You are a hero.
Your life’s a great adventure.
You’re up to the task.

4645
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.

 

4654
Keep your goals in mind.
When daily problems arise
Know why you’re fighting.

4655
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.

4665
Be compassionate
Towards those less fortunate.
You could be them soon.

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Happy Solstice, Everyone!!!

Hi Ho the Glamorous Life (Celebrating 40 “Happy” Years in the Theatre)

This weekend, as I sat in rehearsal for Shrek, the musical that I am currently music directing for Christian Youth Theatre of Fredericksburg, it occurred to me that, with the opening of this production, I will be celebrating forty years of involvement in show business. My first play was at the age of six around Christmastime. I played Santa Claus, and the play revolved around Santa considering putting jet packs on his sleigh to replace the reindeer. I remember almost nothing of the experience, save for the fact that it ended with me (pack over back) walking off the stage, stage left, to the cafeteria door and uttering before I exited, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.” A star was born. Oh, well, that and throwing up all over my beard once, due to only having eaten a mayonnaise sandwich for lunch before rehearsal.

Me as Santa

Me as Santa, with Karen Zimmerman as Mrs. Claus, in our first-grade play.

Forty years later, I’m on “the opposite side of the table,” just as much as acting, i.e. directing, music directing, composing, and the like, but after forty years I can honestly say that I still love the grand old pursuit or the Fabulous Invalid, but it goes without saying that there are lengthy periods where I hate the business just as much, wish I’d never gotten involved in the first place, and, without question, strongly dislike many of the negative and narcissistic personality types the business attracts. But with that aside, I want to focus on the good times, the special memories, and the unique experiences that being involved in Theatre has given me.

So in celebration of forty years of memories, here are a few of the most…uh…memorable. Almost every one of the following anecdotes is a blog post unto itself, but needless to say, after a forty year run, I’ve seen a few things. Here are a few selected highlights from the long strange trip, all good. I’ll save the not so good, bad, and bitchy memories for another day.

  1. Thanks to the now defunct American Family Theatre, I had the chance to tour parts of our grand country four times. I was to New Orleans before and after Mardi Gras in 1999, put my feet in the Gulf of Mexico, saw Addams Family in Chicago, visited lots of the southern Midwest, and went up and down the East Coast numerous times. With several cast mates from these tours I’m celebrating almost twenty years of friendship. How time flies.
  1. I have performed alongside or worked with a few Broadway veterans, some as acquaintances, others as friends. I have been blessed to work with Sally Struthers, Jonathan Groff, James Lane, Forrest McClendon, Milton Craig Nealy, and Celeste Holm, as well as a few lesser known luminaries. All have taught me something, and I couldn’t be prouder of my time spent with them. And I promise no more name-dropping.
  1. During my high school’s rehearsal period and run of Oklahoma! in 1986, both myself (playing Curly), and the boy playing Jud carried real guns to school in our backpacks, loaded with blanks made in our basement by our parents. The principal knew, and trusted us, and it was a non-issue. My how times have changed.
  1. I have played a Jewish father (Tevye in Fiddler), a woman (Edna in Hairspray), several priests, a movie mogul, a major-general, and lots of “loud-mouthed little guys.” I have been in not one but two productions of Dreamgirls, The Wiz, and Purlie, all with amazingly talented African-American casts. I was the youngest pit conductor to ever make his debut at the Fulton Opera House in Lancaster, PA and once had a production of Annie I directed reviewed favorably by Greenwich Village’s newspaper, The Village Voice.
  1. I choked once on stage while drinking and stopped the show for nearly five minutes while I recovered my voice. Another time, while shooting trap onstage the gun fell apart in my hands. On another occasion my cast of pranksters Vaseline-d all my props so that I couldn’t pick any of them up. Theatre is unpredictable.
  1. When my father played in the onstage pit for Cabaret, a pit done entirely in drag, I had to take him shopping! I can still remember his ugly black sack dress, old lady earrings, and gray wig, all worn while playing his sax. Somewhere there’s a picture. Someday I’ll find it and post it.
  1. I have been in productions where “showmances” escalated into both on and offstage public displays of affection that skirted the boundaries of propriety and decency. And that said, I’m not telling you about any of them, but at the time they were scandalous and fun.
  1. I’ve had a song I wrote sung back to me with affection ten years later by an actor who didn’t realize I was the composer of the song he was singing. That led to my contributing songs to a New York fringe festival musical.
  1. I can name all the Signers of the Declaration of Independence thanks to my love of the musical 1776, and I know the names of more passengers on the Titanic than most people. My general knowledge of world history, cultures and customs, dates and events, has been greatly enhanced by all the plays and theatre history I’ve had to read over many years.
  1. Lastly, and most importantly, my wife Nancy and I met in an acting class at Villanova University. We were paired up for a scene from David Mamet’s Oleanna. I threw a chair at her, and said some horrible things I would never otherwise say to anyone…and she fell in love with me! Life is funny and wonderful that way.

So for all the above reasons and more I say, “Thanks, World of Theatre, for forty wonderful, terrible, illuminating, frustrating years. Here’s to many more together.”

Namaste,

Jason

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The next project – come see it!

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

 

Still Wild About Hank (And Damned Proud of It!)

On Sunday, August 14, Nancy and I attended the Virginia/US Premiere of the new documentary, Wild About Hank, the true story of the cat that ran for US Senate in 2012. Hank’s story holds a very special place in both our hearts. We learned about his bid for Congress shortly after it started. We bought bumper stickers and a lawn sign. We followed him on Facebook, liked his campaign messages, and even drove to meet him at Felix and Oscar’s pet store on Backlick Rd. in Northern Virginia when he was on the campaign trail. On Election Day, in the race between George Allen and now Vice-Presidential Democratic nominee Tim Kaine, we proudly wrote his name in and voted for him. Though he came in third, Hank received just shy of 7,000 votes statewide. Yes, Hank was a cat, but to many of us he was more than that: he was a movement. One we proudly supported.

Nancy and I posing before the Wild About Hank movie sign

Nancy and I posing before the Wild About Hank movie sign

Now, four years later, much has changed, much has stayed the same, and, generally speaking politically, things are worse than ever. Hank passed away in 2014 due to declining health complications so there’s no comeback possible. The 2016 Presidential Election is made up of two candidates who are arguably the two most distrusted and/or despised people in America, all the while other candidates are either denied or manipulated out of having a voice by the two big machines, and everyone is bracing for the potential violent response that could be the day after Election Day. It’s not hard to despair in such times, and I’ve written about some of my feelings on this previously in another post, “Primary Colors,” so there’s no further need to dwell here. Needless to say, sitting in the Cinema Arts Theater in Fairfax, VA when the movie finally started around 7 PM, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia and sadness for the good old days…from just four years ago.

The documentary, Wild About Hank, is a short and sweet 30 minute reminiscence of the late beloved feline visionary. Utilizing Facebook quotes, stock footage from the campaign, and seven primary interviews – including Republican challenger George Allen (Tim Kaine was unavailable for some reason) – the documentary briskly recounts owners Matthew O’Leary and Anthony Roberts’s reasons for Hank’s run, the process of getting him on (or not on) the ballot, the campaign itself, and the post-campaign life and eventual death of their beloved boy. Very lovingly crafted by director Emma Kouguell, who was on hand to introduce the film and be a part of the post-screening panel Q and A, the film is a valentine to those fans who took part in Hank’s rise, run, and decline. On a very personal level, when the stock BBC footage surfaced about halfway through the film that included both Nancy and I snapping photos of Hank, only to be followed by a still photo of he and I discussing his campaign finance reform policies, we nearly leaped out of our seats with joy.  But the real substance of the documentary lies in the interviews of a few of his biggest fans, and in their responses as to why they would ever vote for a cat.

Hank the Cat for U.S. Senate, March 2012

Hank the Cat for U.S. Senate, March 2012

In one very emotional and poignant response toward the end of the film, one of the interviewees is recalling Hank’s run for Senate and discussing it with a mix of pride and deep-felt sadness. She recounts how her own district was so close to call that before she cast her ballot, she was pressured by friends out of voting for Hank, being told she was throwing her vote away on a third party write-in, and that it was her civic duty to vote for a particular candidate. She caved, didn’t vote for Hank, and through tears has regretted it ever since. She recounts emotionally how supporting Hank made her feel a part of the democratic process, and how proud she was to be supporting a clean-run campaign where due to Hank’s presence, candidates “would have to show up and be kind,” and where she knew the intentions of her candidate were noble. She then, to paraphrase, asks the question of us all, “What does it say about the state of American politics that a cat can win the hearts and minds of disaffected voters in a way that the humans we run for office can’t?”

What indeed.

With almost 7,000 votes, and over sixteen thousand dollars raised for animal charities in Virginia, to say nothing of the intangible amount of good his campaign did to raise awareness on animal rights and spay and neuter issues, I proudly supported Hank in 2012, and will gladly do so again when the right cat comes along.

Till then, we’re stuck with the Fat Cats. Lucky us.

Long Live Hank,

Jason

 

P.S. Here is the link to the official Wild About Hank website where you can view the trailer. http://www.wildabouthank.com/ We were told the film will be available for streaming later this year, so check back regularly.

Here is the BBC stock footage that includes Nancy and I: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-17348212

Here is Hank’s Wikipedia Page:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_the_Cat

Happy Exploring!

Ciao and Meow.

The cake at the Virginia Premiere of Wild About Hank

The cake at the Virginia Premiere of Wild About Hank

 

Hot, Hank, and Haiku

It’s the midpoint of August in Virginia, and it’s the hottest it’s been all year. My family and I are all mildly sick with a lingering bug, laying about the house for the weekend (to stay cool) and everything seems like a chore. Clean laundry is strewn about unfolded, meals planned have given way to the local sub shop, and naps are the best thing ever!

At this writing on Sunday morning I’m actively looking for supplementary work to compliment what I do at my church, I’m lining up premieres for new choral works I’ve written, I’m planning my next children’s book with the artist, and, above all, trying to make ends meet and pay bills. Tonight is the Virginia premiere of the new documentary Wild About Hank, the story of the cat that ran for US Senate, and my wife and I are hoping to be in attendance. If so, the night will certainly be a blog post in itself. Lots of balls in the air, lots of uncertainty, and lots of stress. It’s time for a few meditative haiku. Here’s hoping your world is filled with adventure, challenge, success, and some desired security, stability, and abundance. Till next time,

Namaste,

Jason

4585
If One Truth exists
It is Love made manifest
In all disguises.

4586
Own the reflection.
Your life mirrors your actions,
Inner and outer.

4587
We should mourn the dead,
But then leave them to their rest,
Not play with the corpse.

4588
Whatever your thoughts,
They will emerge from within,
Designing your skin.

4589
Meditate daily.
Listen to the voice within,
Soothing and guiding.

4590
Grieve for those who “know,”
For they have certainty, but
No authentic Truth.

4591
Riches are hidden
Right under your very feet,
Waiting to be mined.

4592
Stop wondering if
You’re worthy of happiness.
You were born worthy.

4593
Arrive at life’s end
Unfettered by regrets and
Armed with good mem’ries.

4594
You must not hate those
Who know no other pathway
Than what they’ve been taught.

IMG_1057 Ticket to WAH2

Nancy and I in the movie theater with our tickets to the US/Virginia premiere of Wild About Hank

Tony Robbins – Are You My Guru?

About a week ago, in mid-July, Netflix unceremoniously dropped an original documentary into my Top Picks for You category. The film, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, is just shy of two hours and follows motivational speaker Tony Robbins through a six-day event called Date with Destiny that he and his huge staff host in various places around the world. Participants, for the low, low price of $5,000 for the week attend workshops, group sessions, and lectures given by Robbins himself as they attempt to transform their life from whatever place they currently find themselves in to a new and better place of strength, courage, fulfillment, peace, or what have you. Over the course of the documentary, a handful of attendees are focused on and given epilogues after the fact with mostly positive results reported. I put the documentary on one afternoon almost on a dare/whim and left it run out in the background of my day. I had had very little exposure to Tony Robbins in the past, save purchasing on the cheap through iTunes a series of The Edge audio books that I tired of somewhat quickly, as they felt more like infomercials promoting more expensive content. But this movie, even half-listening, felt more like the real deal, and I found myself getting occasionally wrapped up in Tony’s interventions and interviews. So I determined to sit down and focus on the whole thing straight through. And I’m glad I did.

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Tony Robbins in a Date with Destiny event

Over the course of the two hours the film focuses on, among others, a suicidal young man, a woman in a dysfunctional relationship, another with “Daddy issues,” and another woman raised and abused in a sex cult. Each interaction/intervention with Tony Robbins proves tough to harsh, profane, emotionally super-charged, and ultimately, very strangely, loving in that “I’m kicking your ass for your own good” kind of way. Each segment is full of hugs, confrontations, and tears, and I found myself deeply moved by many moments in both viewings. I had never witnessed anything quite like Tony Robbins style of self-care: a hyper-steroid induced blend of Iyanla Vanzant, Caroline Myss, and Dr. Phil, but seemingly, almost inexplicably, grounded in the most loving and compassionate of philosophies.

In so much of what Tony Robbins said I could hear my own self-appointed guru, the late Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, saying to these people, albeit in a far more in your face and deliberately vulgarized way.

            You are a part of God

            You are worthy of love

            You are the story you tell yourself you are

Wayne’s way was one of patience, quiet, gentleness, introspection, and meditation on poetry and seminal texts. Tony’s is loud, jarring, abrupt, profane, immediate, and definitely “not in your head.” But both at their core seem to advocate for positive change, personal responsibility, God realization, and an acceptance and embracing of love, both from self and others, that we often feel we are unworthy of receiving. Like two radio stations that play Pop music, Wayne’s focus was on power ballads, while Tony’s plays upbeat dance and techno, but both men seem tuned into the same frequency, Source, themes, and intentions.

The one-year anniversary of Wayne Dyer’s death is fast approaching. He died of a heart attack in his sleep on August 29th of 2015. My heart has maintained a gaping void since then that has yet to be filled by the passing of a man who I studied and read voraciously for sixteen years, heard speak in person three times, and credit his teachings with salvaging my own imploding life in the early 2000s. The facts that I just finished reading Memories of Heaven, Wayne’s last posthumously published book, and that two of Wayne’s daughters claimed in a recent online interview that Wayne continues to guide their lives from beyond, are both comforting and helpful in maintaining my love and interest in my late guru’s work. But I’m just not sure that after sixteen years of meditative study and dedication that it’s not time to turn up the volume, get tough on my life, and join the dance party. So I’ve been asking myself for a week now, and I would at least ask you to consider asking the same question:

Tony Robbins: Are You My New Guru? 

I think I know my answer. What about you?

Watch the movie on Netflix, if you can, and share your thoughts with me.

Namaste,

Jason

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.