Friday, December 22, 2006

Change is Inevitable

Change is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Bumper sticker shtik? Sure. Deep awareness grounded in experience? Certainly. My point is that reciting platitudes is one thing. Living from the truth they espouse is often quite another.

For example, I’ve been feeling kind of down lately. I’ve ascribed this feeling variously to the change in seasons, short days, traveling a lot, not being grounded and so forth. As I talk about at some length in Drunk with Wonder, there exists the “isness’ of a situation, let’s say the fact that the sun is setting a bit before 5 pm. There isn’t much I can do about that, expect perhaps to pack up and head south, way, way south, where the days are still getting longer rather than shorter and summer is coming on.

The other thing I can do is become present in the moment, particularly around my feelings; how I am with the “isness.” When I do that, I notice how much grief I’m feeling. Change is in the air, and with change comes loss. It turns out that loss is an inevitable part of change, that to grow into a more expansive perspective requires that we set aside our old stories of who we thought we were.

And so, in becoming present, at least hesitantly, to the moment, to my grief, my experience of depression immediately shifts. When I allow the “isness” to be, I become more relaxed.

My father has been dead for almost a year now. He loved the fall, the colors, the smell of burning leaves, carving a pumpkin. Or so I remember. On the tree farm we owned we loved to sit by the remains of a fire we had run as the color drained out of the sky. The leaves on the black oaks had turned yellow and dusky orange, carpeting the ground and festooning the forest with autumn splendor.

I so loved those times. A part of me knew then that it would not last, and that it was important to treasure those moments with my Dad. And I did. Until I become present, really present, I don’t realize how much I have withdrawn. I guess I thought this was just about autumn, but it’s more than that. It’s been eight years since we sold the farm and moved away, probably nine years since we ran a fire together. I miss those times with him so much!!! And grief comes pouring down like the first cleansing rains of autumn.

My family will be making a pilgrimage to this land we loved so much just after Christmas, so that we may spread his ashes by the stream. We have many wonderful memories of Christmas there on the farm. I treasure these memories deeply.

I had been resisting these feelings; now I’m embracing them. We’ll see where we go from here. There is more to explore. With the book finished, I’ve been feeling at loose ends. The marketing and such are not remotely as interesting or fulfilling. And with Challenge Day recently on Oprah, my place with that organization is sure to change. I have been letting go of that for some time, realizing that the wonderful, magic community I was privileged to be part of has already grown and transformed, as I knew it would have to do so that it’s promise and potential could be fulfilled.

I’m left wondering whether I will have another opportunity to experience something so magical again in this lifetime. I know I should feel grateful to have been given the opportunity to play with Challenge Day the way I have. And I do, of course. It’s just that, in the midst of all the excitement about Oprah, I’m also feeling a sense of loss for the way things were.

Yet I must feel this grief, let it wash over me like a tsunami and see on what distant shore I might wash up, a stranger in a strange land, becoming someone who I do not know. For now, the grief and sense of loss need to consume who I thought I was, leaving only the unity of “I am” to rest in peace.

Monday, December 11, 2006

More Christmas Memories

The excitement built from Thanksgiving on. Mom would not allow Christmas music before then. Dad’s birthday was November 23rd, (he passed away last January) and sometimes Thanksgiving came on that very day. When we lived in Seattle we spent Thanksgiving at Grandma and Grandpa’s (Dad’s father) and when we came home from Thanksgiving weekend the Christmas boxes came out and the Christmas music came on. We had a December calendar where each day had a little door, and Mom let us take turns opening these doors.

The days seemed to crawl by. After we got out of school for the holidays, the evening got even more intense. We boys spent hours huddled around the Sears Christmas catalog, endlessly discussing the merits of various toys and what we thought our chances were of Santa bringing any of them to us. We tended to be on our best behavior before Christmas, trying to curry favor from Mom and Dad, the source of many of our gifts.

When we were young, Mom read “Twas the Night before Christmas” and we all believed in Santa Claus. He was like this unconditionally loving grandfather who knew us better than we knew ourselves. We even put out cookies and milk for him, and they were always gone in the morning! Mom and Dad stayed up late on Christmas Eve, arranging our “big” gifts in front of the tree. These weren’t wrapped, and the story was that Santa brought those on his sleigh. Sometimes they stayed up very late, putting presents together, stuffing our handmade Christmas stockings, and making sure everything was just so. When we peeked around the corner at 7:00 on Christmas morning, the tree was still lit and all these presents were spread out. It was amazing, really. They showed us so much love!

Several times during that month big boxes would arrive on our doorstep, filled with wrapped presents from grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We’d carefully pull out each gift, read the tag to see who it was for and who it was from and then arrange them all under the tree. I would spend hours gazing raptly at the tree and all those presents, wrapped in Christmas smells, and Christmas music, savoring the anticipation of Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Memories

I’m feeling exquisitely melancholy (in this case, meaning pensive reflection or contemplation) on this gorgeous late autumn day. I found the Dylan Thomas story, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” and printed it out. I’d love to read it to an appreciative audience. I have no idea whether that will happen this year. Perhaps at Mom’s on Christmas Eve. I know Scott (my brother) loves it. I had kind of established a tradition of reading it up in Manton, but that life is gone. Oh well. Things change.

As I read the very first words of the story, I began to cry … I’m not sure why. I’m guessing that it may have something to do with the “story” I brought out of my own childhood, my personal “Christmas Story.” In this story, wrapped mostly in Seattle memories, our house was warm, the tree sparkled with lights and ornaments and silvery, shimmering tinsel. Presents seemed to tumble willy-nilly out from under the tree. The smell of the fresh-cut tree mingled with the odors of Christmas cookies and other treats streaming out of the kitchen in a seemingly endless and delightful profusion, my Mom a sorceress magically concocting perfect almond roca or French breakfast puffs, still among my favorites. There were also sour cream twists, chocolate crackles, the best chocolate chip cookies (with walnuts! My Dad, and so of course all us boys, loved nuts), snow drops and so much more.

My Mom was always at the center of Christmas. She and my Dad had decided they would create family traditions just for the seven of us (I have four younger brothers) and for many years it was just us, no grandparents, no cousins, just us. Mom taught us to love the whole Christmas season. She made it magic. There was a wreath on the door, snow flakes and Frosty pasted on the windows. The mantel held the cutest little Christmas figurines cocooned in angel hair that when I was little was still made from spun glass and would cut you if you weren’t careful. With my Mom, decorating the tree became high art, every ornament lovingly placed, lights just so, tinsel draped strand by strand until the whole tree shimmered in the colored lights.

Looking back, I feel as though there was such a sense of innocence about it all. I guess that’s where my feelings of nostalgia, or melancholy, are coming from. As I said at the beginning, things change. With Dad gone, and my Mom feeling less and less like taking on having Christmas at her house (this year, 2006, may be the last), I’m feeling a whole new wave of letting go break over me, scouring out more of my stories of who I thought I was. It’s liberating, in an intense kind of way. There’s such a feeling of letting go, and I haven’t figured out how to let go without feeling some sadness (hint to myself: there’s nothing to “figure out” – just feel).

Anyhow, I’ll continue with more Christmas memories in my next blog.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Continuing the Thread of Loneliness

Continuing the thread of loneliness, I want to explore the idea (mistaken, as it turns out) that we are ever alone in the first place. When we are not in the physical presence of others, it can certainly be said that we are alone. Loneliness is a state of mind, though, not a state of being. Feelings of loneliness come from stories we tell ourselves; what we make the “isness” of the being alone (not being in another’s physical presence) mean.

This idea that loneliness is a state of mind is borne out in virtually every Challenge Day I’ve ever participated in (dozens). One of the questions asked during the activity called The Power Shuffle is “Cross the line if you have ever felt lonely or isolated at school.” Most of the time, most of the participants cross. Sometimes everyone in the room crosses. Imagine that. In a school with hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, many feel lonely and isolated.

Another example involves numerous surveys and polls taken over the years. Time after time, many people report intensely debilitating feelings of loneliness even when living in cities with hundreds of thousands or even millions of other people. Why does this seem to be such a nearly universal phenomena?

Well, as Challenge Day and others point out, it’s not a lack of people that typically causes loneliness; it’s a lack of connection between people. Having pointed that out, and owning that I have personally experienced this apparent truth many times, I want to repeat what I said earlier: loneliness does not equal being without immediate human companionship. It’s a story. We have a choice about whether to experience being alone as the “suffering” of loneliness, or to savor the opportunity to think, perhaps meditate, read quietly, listen to some favorite music, write a letter to a friend (or reach out and call them!) listen to some favorite music (or discover new music). The list is pretty much endless. As with the experience of suffering in general, a story of loneliness can shift in the blink of an eye. All it takes is the willingness to Notice that we’re running an old story (in this case around loneliness) Choose to do it different, and Act by trying out a new story.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Loneliness is a Choice

In my new book, Drunk with Wonder, I talk extensively about choice. The truth is that we have an opportunity to make new choices in every moment we remember to focus on our breath, become present to the magnificent Divinity we all embody, and let go of stories and limiting beliefs that no longer serve us.

I know firsthand about the awesome power of choice, having lived much of my life under a dark cloud of fear-based stories and beliefs about myself that I had taken on when I was very young. The belief that I'm looking at today, one that truly no longer serves me (if, indeed, it ever did) is that when I'm not in the company of others I am "lonely." Lonely literally means, "affected with or causing a feeling of being alone, destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship." I was inculcated with this definition as a small boy. Though I came from a fairly large family, including four younger brothers, I learned to measure what little self-worth I could engender by whether I had any friends, especially a "best" friend. My story said that if I was not with my best friend (assuming I had one) I was lonely, and lonely meant suffering. Suffering this way felt like an agonizing ache of longing.

50 years later, I still remember Gary Headberg, my best friend from the 1st through 3rd grades. I treasured that friendship, and it broke my heart when we moved away to the suburbs when I was nine. I took a while to find another best friend, and until I did I often felt miserable. Steve Randles, the friend I eventually made, remains one of my dearest friends to this day. One of the gifts Steve and my other friends have given me is to deeply value unconditional friendship. My friends are deeply important to me. And my very bestest friend in the whole world turns out to be my beloved JoAnn, who I am profoundly Blessed to have as my lover and wife as well as my dearest friend.

How does all this relate to feeling lonely? Well, JoAnn has been in San Diego helping her mother Lucy deal with some lingering health issues. After being gone almost a week in late October on the same mission, JoAnn found it necessary to return a week ago. During her first absence, I got triggered into my old story that made being alone mean that I needed to suffer. Suffer I did, big time. It was not pleasant, to say the least. I chose to isolate, then feel sorry for myself (poor me!) and our time apart felt endless and boring. I was so grateful when we reunited!

It seemed as though we had barely gotten back together when JoAnn realized that she needed to return and help her mother some more. My initial reaction was, as you might imagine, something like "oh no!" This time, though, I made a conscious choice to be present with my feelings. I remembered that I could choose what I made JoAnn's absence mean. I could choose to create more suffering for myself, but I had just done that, and it wasn't much fun. I decided to choose love, to remember that I am enough even when I'm alone, and that suffering is a choice. Yes, of course I miss my sweetie. But I've had, and continue to have, an amazing, full, high-spirited week. I created this amazing week with my choice not to turn the "isness" of being alone into my old story of suffering from loneliness. Suffering is a choice. It's optional! I urge you to choose love instead. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Challenge Day on Oprah

It's been a busy month (and barely half over!). We had two Challenge Days in Ukiah last week, culminating November 9th with Challenge Day being featured on Oprah. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been part of Challenge Day for nearly 12 years now. To see my dear friends, Rich and Yvonne Dutra-St. John, their organization and the amazing work they do with teens finally be acknowledged by Oprah was a dream come true for many of us in the Challenge Day family. To be able to participate in a Challenge Day right here in Ukiah, then run over to a local pizza parlor to watch Oprah on the big screen with the Challenge Day leaders and our Ukiah Valley Circle of Change, made a magical day just that much more fabulous (not to mention a bit surreal).

Those of you who know me, or at least have read my new book, Drunk with Wonder, know also that I hold a passionate belief that we can create a world where everyone feels safe, loved and celebrated. Challenge Day embodies this vision every day. I have never known anyone, or any organization, to be more relentless in walking their talk. Being part of this family has given me both the space and the tools to do a great deal of healing and growing up, and I am forever grateful. Now, the "secret" of Challenge Day is out like never before, and people are calling and emailing the office from all over the world. A common theme seems to be an ache to be part of something larger than themselves, something that is making a positive, healthy, lasting difference in the world. One thing I know for sure: together, united in love and purpose, we can do anything!

That's what Drunk with Wonder is all about. It's a blueprint that an Awakening Heart can use to craft stories of healing and joyous service. We find ourselves in a world that desperately needs our care, love and support. We need to hold each other, our children and grandchildren in a sweet embrace. Then, hand in hand, we must create a sustainable, friendly future for everyone. We can do this! And Challenge Day is definitely part of the solution.

Another part of the equation is the Institute of Noetic Sciences, or IONS. IONS is dedicated to exploring frontier science, helping us understand the role quantum physics plays in allowing dreams to become reality. The movie "The Secret" also has much light to shed on this topic. Learning and applying "The Secret" (which involves the law of attraction) in your life will utterly transform your moment-to-moment experience. Truly, we're all connected, there is no separation, and every time we choose love we make more love available for the entire world.

I hope you were able to catch my interview with Belvie Rooks on her excellent show, "ConverZations that Matter," on November 15th. I know there were as least 90 people on the call with us, and we had a lively and heartfelt discussion with people from all over the country. It was a great blessing to my heart to be asked to participate, and I am deeply grateful to Belvie for her warmth and support. The show will be available on the Shift in Action web site in a week or so (though you may have to become at lest a trial member to listen - it's only $1) We also plan to stream it on our Drunk with Wonder web site.

Remember, dear ones: You are the heroes you've been waiting for!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Creating a "to be" List

Like many people today, I have "to do" lists that I often seem to measure by the foot. Sometimes I measure a successful day not by how many tasks I accomplish, or even how good a job I do in completing these tasks. Rather, I measure success by how many inches I knock off the list. I know I've gone way off the deep end when I start comparing my "to do" lists with others and feeling smug when mine is longer or more intense. Somehow, I've made having a longer "to do" list mean that I'm somehow more important or better. "Hey, everyone, check it out! I'm more hooked into external measures of worth than you are! Neiner neiner neiner!!!"

Recently, I got to thinking about this business of "to do" lists, and I decided that what I needed was a "to be" list. I am a human being; being love, being a grandpa, a godfather, a devoted husband, lover, friend, brother, son. I'm a human being alive, being present, being awake (at least occasionally) and being a writer. Notice that we don't speak of "doing" alive, or "doing" present, or "doing" awake. These aren't tasks, they're ways of "being" in the world, ways that engender more joy, more wonder, more satisfaction and peace than any amount of doing ever could (at least for me).

My suggestion is simple. Before tackling your daily "to do" list, take a few minutes and become present to your "to be" list. Fully embody the Truth of who you really are ... who you "be." Then, out of that spacious, peaceful, awakened state of being, by all means enjoy some purposeful doing. You'll not only get a lot done, you'll also have a great day.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Shanti Returns

And then she came home. Yesterday morning, after I had posted my previous blog about Shanti, the tiny but sturdy stray kitty who adopted us the week our granddaughter was born, she showed up, bloody but unbowed. Well, not bloody exactly, but her left ear has a couple of gashes, her left jaw has a small chunk missing, and she was skinnier than I’ve ever seen her. Except for when she first showed up, of course. Back then she wasn’t much more than skin and bones and a will to live.

When she walked in, meowing, and joined us for breakfast, meowing like it was our fault for her being hungry, it felt like an electric shock. We’d had a good cry, the day before, I’d written a requiem, we were already moving on. Then, like a ghost, here she came strolling in like the petite princess she is. We shed tears of joy, fed her some treats, and generally spoiled her as if there was no tomorrow.

At the moment, Shanti is sleeping in her bed, fed and relaxed and healing. We are feeling so grateful we get to hang out with her some more. The point to my blog is simple. Tell everyone you love how much you love them! Give them hugs like you might never see them again. Don’t wait another second to be gratuitously lavish with your loves. And don’t forget yourself. After all, dear one, you are also well worth loving. Truly, love is all there is.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Requiem for a Stray

Shanti disappeared as mysteriously as she had appeared, wraith-like and starving, back in January. She had arrived like a bonus gift the same week our granddaughter, Tessa Grace, first graced us with her presence.

I had stepped outside between rain showers to grab some fresh air. As I stood in the waning winter sun, a tiny “meow” touched my awareness. Looking around, I thought I spotted a small cat, but it could as easily have been a trick of the fading light. Then I heard the meow again, and suddenly I knew we had been adopted. At least my heart knew. It took a while longer for my head to be sure, but my heart knew right away.

I can still hear my heart saying something to the effect of, “Ah no, please don’t make us love another cat. They’ll just break us wide open, and then where will we be?” You see, we had cats a few years ago, Sophie and Amy. They had both vanished without a trace, perhaps taken by a coyote, maybe a cougar. We live in wild country.

I smiled and answered my heart’s question, “Why, broken open, of course. Again. If we’re going to be in this world, we’re going to love, and lose, and love again. That’s how it works.” My heart sighed, already falling in love with this tiny being.

And so Shanti, small and orange and black with just the tip of her tail and her random paws streaked with white, came into our lives. Through the winter and into the spring this beautiful, shy little angel became part of the family. Over time, she went from barely tolerating a pet to insisting on affection, even running after us if she didn’t feel sufficiently adored.

Shanti hadn’t been around for more than a couple of weeks when she got pregnant (the noise was amazing). We were shocked! She was so small we thought she was too young to go “preggers” on us. Of course, we’d talked about having her fixed, but didn’t think it was an immediate issue. She wouldn’t have let us near enough to catch her anyhow, at least not at the beginning.

Then one day, several weeks later, Shanti was no longer pregnant. We saw no evidence of kittens, no hint any had survived. We finally decided to take her to the vet and take care of business. That weekend was Mother’s Day, and she brought out four babies to show off. We didn’t know she’d been paying any attention to the calendar, but there they were. Oh great, we thought. So cute, totally adorable, and more responsibility. We certainly weren’t going to keep five cats around, no matter how much fun they were to play with.

Eventually we found good homes for three of them, all with friends, and we kept one so Shanti wouldn’t be alone. Ginger, we called him. Ginger Baker, because of the orange markings across his shoulders and because we laughed every time we said his name. Ginger is outside as I write this, meowing for his Mom, who has been gone for days. No trace. We’re all heart broken. It doesn’t feel like she’s coming back. Maybe the coyotes got her. Maybe she just up and died. The vet thought she might have feline leukemia, and wondered if we wanted to “put her down.” We were horrified. And yet, four and a half months later, she’s gone anyhow.

We kept thinking she’d show up. She is a country cat, after all, and knows how to take care of herself. But it’s been six days, and today we finally cried. We need to let go. And I got to thinking about Shanti, and all the lessons she’s already given us, especially around unconditional love, and I decided to write a blog.

Precious memories … a few pictures … a moment of video. Our broken-open hearts. That’s what it’s all about, I think. Life is precious memories, some pictures, present moments strung like beads sparkling in the sun of pure awareness. God came to live with us for a few months, and now it seems she’s moved on. Ginger’s right here, though. He’s half grown, loves to be petted, and he’s just started to purr. We all miss his Mom. And still, with our broken open hearts, we are grateful, so grateful, for life.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I am very excited to announce that we are now able to accept subscriptions for our new email newsletter, which we are also calling Drunk with Wonder. Please know that we will keep your information entirely confidential, and will not rent or sell our list to anyone.

Just enter your email address below and click "go" to begin the signup process. We look forward to playing with you in this new (at least for us) way.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Creating a "to be" List

Like many people today, I have “to do” lists that I often seem to measure by the foot. Sometimes I measure a successful day not by how many tasks I accomplish, or even how good a job I do in completing these tasks. Rather, I measure success by how many inches I knock off the list. I know I’ve gone way off the deep end when I start comparing my “to do” lists with others and feeling smug when mine is longer or more intense. Somehow, I’ve made having a longer “to do” list mean that I’m somehow more important or better. “Hey, everyone, check it out! I’m more hooked into external measures of worth than you are! Neiner neiner neiner!!!”

Recently, I got to thinking about this business of “to do” lists, and I decided that what I needed was a “to be” list. I am a human being… being love, being a grandpa, a godfather, a devoted husband, lover, friend, brother, son. I’m a human “being” alive, being present, being awake (at least occasionally) and being a writer. Notice that we don’t speak of “doing” alive, or “doing” present, or “doing” awake. These aren’t tasks, they’re ways of “being” in the world, ways that engender more joy, more wonder, more satisfaction and peace than any amount of doing ever could (at least for me).

My suggestion is simple. Before tackling your daily “to do” list, take a few minutes and become present to your “to be” list. Fully embody the Truth of who you really are… who you “be.” Then, out of that spacious, peaceful, awakened state of being, by all means enjoy some purposeful doing. You’ll not only get a lot done, you’ll also have a great day.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Remembering Robert

Robert Frey died two years ago today (June 15, 2004). He was a real friend, someone who made a huge difference in my life. I still miss him. I probably always will. The day he died I was busy working on a book with my friend Garvin. I had been struggling to find a way to articulate the perspective I longed to share with the world, and so Garvin and I had been spending quite a bit of time together that spring.

The truth is, I was terrified of taking a stand on how to delineate the perspective that has become my new book, Drunk with Wonder: Awakening to the God Within. I guess I thought that as long as I kept the whole idea “out there” somewhere, I could remain safe in my comfort zone. You see, my friends Rich and Yvonne taught me that all leaders are judged. They taught me many other things as well, as did Robert, and some of this material appears in the book.

My point here is that I was (and still am, from time to time) petrified at the idea of being “seen.” “The material is important,” I would say, “but I am not.” However, as I and so many others teach, we are all precious sparks of God… even me. And if I wish “to be the change I wish to see in the world,” I must show up as that change.

So, on that fateful day two years ago, sitting with Garvin in the office sobbing over Robert’s passing, a sense of clarity and resolve washed over me like the warmth of a sunrise. Through my tears, I looked up at Garvin and said, “I know what to do. I know how I want to craft it. Let’s get busy.”

Garvin helped get my extensive notes organized and we had a rough draft of the first half of the book completed by the following January. My dear friend Franklin and I took it from there, and by last August we had what I called “Build 3” ready for inspection. I was blessed to have several talented, wise and loving people carefully read the manuscript and give countless helpful suggestions. I kept putting out new “builds” until, early this year, it was essentially complete.

The past several months have been spent designing the book, with help from my friend David Smith of Nine Trees Design, and the terrific cover with my enormously talented step-son Calvin Turnwall of Real Smart Art. And now, two years to the day after Robert’s death, I hold Drunk with Wonder in my hands.

On one level, this book is actually more Robert’s gift than my own, because if he hadn’t reached out to me during a Quantum Shift Retreat in February 1993, I don’t know that I’d still be on the planet, let alone a published author. Among Robert’s many talents and gifts, he led Sufi dances of Universal Peace. I first did Sufi dancing with Robert during and after that same retreat, one of several he led with Joy Nelson. This past spring I have been blessed with Sufi Dancing coming to Ukiah. Sometimes, while I danced, I could feel Robert’s hand in mine and hear his laughter as it tickled my heart.

Namaste, Robert. I love you.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dreaming the BIG Dream

Peace – Om Shanti– Amani – Peace in any language sounds as sweet….

I dare to dream the BIG dream. Please, join me in this dream. I dream of peace and plenty, of a world without borders, without war, without racism, sexism, ageism or homophobia. A world where our culture wars are over, where the generation gap has healed. A world where every single person everywhere feels safe, loved and celebrated.

Is there a bigger dream? I don’t know. This is the biggest I can dream, the biggest dream I’ve ever had, that’s all. I have been having it, in one form or another, since I was a little boy.

Paix – Paz – Shalom – What’s on the other side of creating a world where everyone wins? Well, I don’t pretend to know all the answers to that question. What I do know is that it’s up to us, the human family, to dream it. And while I don’t know all the answers, I’m quite sure of several pieces, including that no one will be mutilating others, torturing others, enslaving others or slaughtering others for any “reason” – including in the name of God. Everyone will understand deep in their hearts what loves means … and compassion … and mercy … and forgiveness. Everyone will have the right to live their lives as they choose – as long as it’s not at someone else’s expense, or on another’s back.

Salam – WolakotaSulaI dream a BIG dream. I dream of a world that is held as Sacred. No pollution, no waste. Renewable, recyclable, sustainable. Clean air and water and wholesome food for all. Education, health care, true equality, true choice. How will we “pay” for all this? Well, as I said, it’s a BIG dream. And the truth is that we’re paying for it now. Some of our so-called “fearless” leaders are so filled with fear that they would have us recklessly, blindly squander the vast riches of this world for a few more “good” years exploiting people and resources until it all lies in smoking ruin, half-crazed “survivors” stumbling from burnt-out trash heap to another before crawling into a hole to die, the question “What happened?” frozen on their lips.

Mir – Katahimikan – Santiphap – I am blessed to be a grandfather. I am blessed to have a god-daughter and a beautiful, peace-filled place to live. I am blessed with health, with abundance, with amazing family, friends and community. Most of all, I am blessed to be living life in love with my Beloved JoAnn! I am blessed to know in my heart that I am making a difference, that I am Being the Change. I am blessed to know for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that everyone, everywhere deserves all of these Blessings and much, much more … deserves all the happiness, peace and prosperity that I am Blessed with.

Om Shanti –Pace - Sipala –Peace – It’s a BIG dream. Still, we can dream it, weave it, together. In the end, we have no choice, especially if we want to see our children and our grandchildren inherit the pure potential inherent in this moment. I see this world, I smell it, and I touch it with my heart. I know this to be true, and So It Is. Ho! Blessed Be … Peace.

Music reference: Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe’s 1989 eponymous masterpiece. Check out track 2, “Fist of Fire,” and track 3, “Brother of Mine” – especially part 1, “The Big Dream” (although the entire album, from beginning to end, is over-the-top).

The Earth Charter - ... is a declaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society for the 21st century. Created by the largest global consultation process ever associated with an international declaration, endorsed by thousands of organizations representing millions of individuals, the Earth Charter seeks to inspire in all peoples a sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The Earth Charter is an expression of hope and a call to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Running on Turkeys

In my new book, Drunk with Wonder: Awakening to the God Within, I don’t focus a lot of attention on the environment. Not because of disinterest, mind you, rather that my goal in the book is to assist those who are ready to move into a place of greater clarity, peace, purpose with passion and a strong sense of play. It seems abundantly clear that we need to be able to think clearly before we can begin making choices that truly support life in all its myriad forms, including the environment.

For example, people who are awake to their connection with the Earth do not tend to trash it. Most of us would not litter our living space, yet somehow millions of tons of trash get dumped on our roads every year. Our country, not to mention the rest of the world, still tosses billions of tons of “waste” into landfills as well.

It turns out (surprise, surprise!) that the vast majority of this material is recyclable in one form or another. Take our annual waste stream of some 15,000,000 scrapped cars (please!). Almost every shred of metal is already pulled out and reused, but that still leaves roughly 4.5 million tons of “shredder residue” (nice euphemism, huh?) that winds up being dumped in landfills.

The good news in all this is that a company called Changing World Technologies has figured out how to turn this unholy mess of shredder residue, which includes at least three dozen kinds of plastic, as well as treated fabrics, rubber and nylon, into high-grade “light” oil that can be used to run an electric generating plant. It can also easily be refined into gasoline. And this process uses only 15% of the available energy. As an extra bonus, all PCBs and dioxins are broken down into substances that can be used in other industrial processes. No PCBs, no dioxins, no emissions. How cool is that?

Using the same technology, Changing World Technologies has built a full-scale conversion plant in Carthage, Missouri, where they are already processing thousands of tons of turkey offal and pig fat daily. This process, which uses a combination of high pressure and heat, turns out thousands of gallons of this same high-grade fuel oil. This awful offal used to be dumped in landfills, and billions of tons still are. But this company has invented a solution that works, one that is already making a difference in helping our beloved Mother Earth while developing renewable sources of fuel. Truly what I call a win-win.

Source: Discover Magazine, April 2006, “Anything into Oil” by Brad Lemly.

Drunk with Wonder book update

Hello to all you millions of avid readers! (LOLROF)

For all of you waiting with baited breath for the latest news about my new book Drunk with Wonder: Awakening to the God Within, you'll be happy to know that it is actually at the printer.

We hope to have proofs to approve late next week, with actual copies shipping to us by June 6th. We will keep you posted. Please note that this post supersedes all previous postes about Drunk with Wonder.

Namaste , dear ones!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Where the Title Originated

Here is the poem in which I took the title for the book.

Drunk with Wonder

Drunk with wonder
I gaze at the wild,
Lustrous pearl
Of my personality
Shining in the center
Of the One Heart
Like a candle flame
In the heart of the sun
And know my Source
My Destination -
When I let go of knowing
I become the sun
Assume the crown
Of creation
And am Home –

Monday, April 24, 2006

Drunk with Anticipation

A number of people have expressed curiosity about the Drunk with Wonder title. I took Drunk with Wonder directly from the title of one of my poems, which I wrote a few years ago. The poem, along with about 20 others, appears in the book. I have used these poems as a way of presenting the material in a different light, or perspective.

I trace my use of the term directly the mystical Sufi tradition of Rumi and especially Hafiz, who lived many hundreds of years ago in what was then known as Persia, in what is now Iran. They wrote so passionately, so eloquently, about being, “Drunk on God, drunk with the Beloved,” that I, along with countless others over the centuries, have many time been reduced to tears of joy when reading their poetry.

Anyhow, this intense, juicy passion of my connection with God/Goddess (actually there is no separation at all, and never was) lives at the core of my spirituality. I see so clearly now that my decades of near-constant drug and alcohol use were not merely how I numbed out (though I did plenty of that). Occasionally, I glimpsed, as through antique glass, hints of an infinitely loving Presence. That’s what I wanted, what I longed for, to feel connected with Source in a continuous wave of Bliss and Joy. For the longest time, however, I was absolutely convinced that that the only way for me to “get there” was by using substances. Even 15 years ago, I would have howled with laughter at the thought that one day I would feel all of the joy I could ever have imagined, and much, much more, without “using” anything but my conscious awareness in each eternal moment. And yet, here I am, just another bliss bunny hanging out in this amazing circus we call life. What a long, strange trip it’s been…. Wahoo!!!

So now I live, at least a good part of the time, in wonder. Drunk with Wonder, to be precise; so present with my heart and the God I Am that a simple bird song can bring me to tears of joy. Yes, dear ones, this is an enormously vulnerable, tender, innocent place, and I know full well how scary this world can seem to that part of us. And yet … here I am, inviting all who would journey into the holy mystery of the present moment along for the ride, to become Drunk with Wonder and dance together as we howl at the moon. I promise it will not be boring.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Birthing the Book

My new book, Drunk with Wonder: Awakening to the God Within, is the final passage towards birth. I have selected McNaughton & Gunn, the distinguished printing company of Hay House Books (and many other publishers) to do the job. It feels like an immense blessing to have Drunk with Wonder printed on the same presses as Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and other luminaries. It seems that I am only weeks away from having an actual, physical copy of the book in my hands and ready for sale. I am enormously excited, to say the least. I can barely contain my joy enough to type out these words, so, for just one moment, may I shout Yahoo!!! to the skies. It has been an epic journey for me, one spanning well over two years of focused work, and I feel so deeply Blessed to have come to this point … blessed and grateful, for I have received immense help from a number of people. I reprint the dedication from my book below:

I dedicate this book to my dear friend, Franklin Markowitz, who spent hundreds and hundreds of hours giving me his eagle-eyed editing and wise counsel. Your clarity and strength of vision permeate virtually every page. Thanks to your tireless efforts and your gentle coaching on using conscious language, this book has turned into something magical. My gratitude is boundless, my thanks a never-ending shower of love.

I also dedicate this book to my Beloved, JoAnn SkyWatcher, and to my family and friends. Your love, patience and incredible support are ample evidence of miracles on Earth. I also want to acknowledge the immense help of the Challenge Day community, particularly the founders, Yvonne and Rich Dutra-St John.

To Garvin Deshazer, who helped erect the skeleton and hugely supported me in the early stages.

To my sister Quana. You believed in my higher self long before I did.

To Marilyn Gordon. Without your help, my higher self may never have begun to speak. I still have all those early tapes!

And to Robert Frey, a dear friend and trusted mentor. I miss you.

I wish to extend my undying gratitude for the people who read the manuscript and offered a multitude of cogent and helpful suggestions: Kim Kakade, Christina Turnwall, Quana Ryals, Doug Waagen, Barbara Ryals (Mom), Scott Ryals, Eileen Peterson, Stacey Sheldon, Rev. Tanya Wyldflower, Barbara Gardner and Shirley Freriks. My heart overflows with gratitude!

Finally, to my father, Stanley Ryals. While we had some challenging times, in the end our love for each other won out. Thank you, Dad, for your unwavering love. I wish I could share this book with you. I think you would be very proud.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


It is true that it was in the 70s at the beginning of March, the week before I wrote this poem. Since then, it has snowed several times. I want to share a couple of photos that my wife, JoAnn, took after I wrote this poem. Today is the first “official” day of Spring, and we got a dusting of snow. It’s pretty unusual to get as much snow as we have gotten this late in the season (sigh). I am ready for Spring-like (or even better, actual, real Spring) days in the 70s.

If you really knew me, you would know that I am a weather freak. I enjoy recording our annual rainfall, and have been doing that for years. So far, since last July 1, we’ve had roughly 64” of rain. That’s almost 5 ½ FEET of rain in just over five months. No frickin’ wonder I’m ready for Spring!

It was in the 70s last week

It was in the 70s last week
Sky blue as robin’s eggs
Cherry blossoms bursting
Pink eye candy

Yesterday it snowed
Ice white clouds
Coating plum blossoms
In sparkling death shrouds

Daffodils struck down
Like innocent bystanders
At a terrorist’s convention
Fresh yellow petals frozen open

Winter’s savage grace
Dancing on the graves
Of the early risers

It’ll be in the 70s next week
The decaying daffodils
Will melt easily
In the hungry sun

Snow forgotten
Like Yesterday’s Tears

Steve Ryals

Color it Done

JoAnn asked me to write something about how I’m feeling now that Drunk with Wonder is finished. Not finished as in printed and available, but finished in that it’s at the indexer’s, and that the cover is finished, and that we have the ISBN number, and the Catalog in Publication data. No more re-writes, no more “let’s just add this piece,” we’re done.

Anyhow, I’m feeling into all that, and I guess part of me finds it hard to accept, as though I thought this was going to continue forever, safely cocooned in my shell of “I’m working on the book. It’ll be out, well, later – sometime soon – whenever.” That time, that “later” is now at hand. I have to birth this baby. I must color it done, call it a day, perhaps even call it a book.

While the “official” publication date is still some months away (perhaps August 1, maybe as late as September 1) the book will be available in E-Book format as soon as I integrate the index and order form into the back and set it up on a site that accepts payment via our PayPal account. I’m thinking that could happen by April 7th. I hope to have the book to the printer by April 10th, and in my hands by the first week of May. (We’ll see. I know only too well that nature sides with the hidden flaw, and that if you want to make the Goddess laugh you just tell Her your plans. Still….)

And I just realized that I’ve wondered off the subject at hand, which is how I’m feeling about all this. Well, like Bambi caught in the headlights, I guess. I’ve been so focused for so long (or so it seems) on one version or another of this project, I’m hearing this giant sucking sound, as though a black hole is coming to take me away. Hardly true, of course.

There are a million details still to sort out, marketing plans to hatch, a PR campaign, a study guide, yada yada. And still, knowing there is all this to do, I feel a bit like a boat adrift. This book has been my anchor, my “raison d’etra”, and now it’s time to let it go. So I’m giving myself permission to savor the moment, to say “Well done!” and feel the distinctly warm and cheery glow of accomplishment, of completion. And so it is….

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Five Years Sober

It’s been five years since I used any alcohol. I still see quitting as one of my greatest life “accomplishments.” As I wrote in my journal in March of 2001, “It’s just incredible how alcohol can destroy dreams, or at least bury them so deeply it feels as though they never were….”

And it’s important to me to own that I had a ton of help. No, I didn’t go through AA. I had seen Ram Dass and Krishna Das here in Ukiah just 10 days before I stopped. They were, as always, thoroughly delightful and most inspiring. I made a conscious choice to ask the universe for help. I told my Beloved JoAnn about it, but kept right on drinking.

Then, after a night where I consumed a couple of strong margaritas (damn, I made really, really good margaritas!) a couple of micro brews (Boont Amber, I believe) and two excellent bottles of chardonnay (and no, I don’t remember what brand) I woke up early the next morning, with extreme pain in my gut. I mean, I felt as though I’d been gut shot. Few moments in my life had been scarier, at least up to that point. I couldn’t believe how much I hurt.

After a few hours, and medications such as Zantac and Maalox, the pain subsided. Ever since I was a teenager, I’d spent a lot of time dealing with varying levels of intestinal distress. (Shooting speed hadn’t helped.) But this pain was something else entirely. By that afternoon, I got it that this was my “gift” from Spirit, the help I’d been asking for. The intensity of the pain really got my attention, and gave me a level of motivation to say, “OK! All right already… I’ll quit drinking!

As if it was that easy. Even though I quite drinking alcohol that day, the pain in my gut kept returning. After three days, I got so scared I wound up in the emergency room at the local hospital. Diagnosed with a severe case of gastritis, I started taking Prilosec. My doctor helped by telling me that as long as I kept drinking, or if I ever started again, the pain would only get worse.

Well, I was drinking not to feel pain, especially emotional pain. But I never have been into pain that much, you know? So when it became abundantly clear that drinking would only exacerbate the situation, I realized with a sense of great finality that I was done. What a relief!

Now, JoAnn helped enormously. She had continued to love me unconditionally all through my drinking (at least during the time after we got together in 1995 – I’d been having issues with alcohol at least since the 70s). Almost every night for weeks after I quit drinking she’d rub my feet with Young Living essential oils, and then use an auricular probe on my ears as well. This was invaluable to me, as there were many times when I felt overwhelmed with anxiety, and JoAnn’s loving ministrations made all the difference. JoAnn, my Beloved, thank you! My gratitude know no bounds….

As it turned out, I’d been using alcohol to self-medicate. Once I stopped using, all the pain I’d been assiduously avoiding for, well, pretty much my entire life, showed up wanting (demanding, really) to be felt. That’s the journey I’ve been on the past five years, learning on a much deeper level to feel my feelings without fear, shame or guilt. To ride the roller coaster of life with joy, free from alcohol. I’ve never felt happier, or more proud, than today, five years after I made one of the wisest decisions of my life. Happy anniversary to me!

(For those taking notes, my new book Drunk with Wonder, chronicles much of what I’ve learned about emotions, science and spirituality. If you’re interested in a deeper understanding of these issues, please take a look. You can read the entire Introduction on our Rock Creek Press website, and listen to Chapter 8 as well. We hope to have the actual book in our hands by the first part of May, and audio as well as E-book versions are on their way.)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

My Favorite Season

Another reliable source of inspiration is the exquisite natural beauty of where I am Blessed to live, as well as anywhere I feel Nature's presence. All I need to do is become wholly present to the glorious natural world that surrounds me, and away I go. The following poem came to me a year ago:

My Favorite Season

Spring is my favorite season

And sometimes I hate it

For going by so fast

Like cherry blossom petals

Drifting away against

A burnished blue sky

So clean you could

Dream off it –

Spring makes me

So sad sometimes

When it rushes in

Bursting with

Balmy breezes

And new butterflies

And more flowers

Than there are stars –

I love spring…

And sometimes

I wish it

Wasn’t here yet –



Thursday, February 23, 2006

What is it that inspires you to write?

Many people have asked me, “What is it that inspires you to write?”

The simple answer is that my very soul compels me to write. I have known that I was a writer since I was six years old, some 50 years ago. Over the years I have written about many things. For example, I've been a poet since the age of 15, and have self-published several books of my poetry. Love, nature, feelings, family and friends have been particular inspirations for most of my poetry. I wrote the following poem, Desperation, just over three years ago. It describes some of my feelings about watching my father slide inexorably towards death (he passed away January 25, 2006).


My father knows desperation,

Has seen it welcoming him with open arms

As his family tearfully leaves him

At the warehouse of the useless & dying

He would die, too, if he could,

Drop his body like old clothes

And enter the beckoning doorway

Of light just around the corner –

I, too, know desperation,

That helpless feeling of doom,

Of nothing ever being right again,

Of impending death –

There is nothing for it,

For in the end we all

Go out the way

We came in… alone –

I am desperate for my father’s release,

Desperate for my own surcease,

Stumbling through the abandoned fields

Of a place I once called home –

Steve Ryals



Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What is Discernment?

Discernment is a tool. You don’t remember learning how to use discernment because you were born with it. You use it to distinguish light from dark, resonance from discord, balance from imbalance, that point where your knowledge and instincts intersect. You take all the information you have about a given topic, add to that everything you can learn from available sources, then filter it through your logical mind, doing your best to avoid bias or judgment. While you may not always be aware of this process, you use it on a daily basis to create every moment of your experience.

What we are suggesting here is that as you become fully conscious of this process of discernment, you can then use this awareness to more deeply appreciate your magnificence. We assure you that making choices based on your sacred essence will lead to more loving behavior.

Discernment is not only your birthright, it is an inextricable part of your Divinity. You were born with a finely tuned sense of natural knowing, or instinctual awareness, honed over millions of years of evolution. Instincts allowed you to suckle, to swallow, and to cry for help. Your instincts served you well then, or you wouldn’t be here now.

However, your natural knowing, what we call discernment, soon bumps up against your experiences of living in the world. One example would be, when you were an infant, feeling hungry at an inconvenient time for your caregiver to feed you. Under such circumstances, it wouldn’t take long to begin discounting your discernment and creating stories to explain, justify or rationalize this discontinuity.

Of course, the complete focus of your world at that point was to make sure your needs were met. It was all about you. You were the center of your universe. As you grew, you developed certain expectations, such as whether you would be fed when you were hungry, based on experience. These expectations became the stories you told yourself about how the world worked, and were often easier to accept than your discernment.

Relying on your stories instead of your consciousness became a habit, a de facto auto-pilot approach to life. For example, if you were hungry and no food was readily available, you probably soon discovered ways to distract yourself from your hunger. Instead of trusting your intuition, or discernment, you became a master at avoiding it altogether. In this light, drugs and alcohol can be seen as reliable ways to numb out.

These early experiences initiate your feeling of separation from your higher self. When you really look into a newborn’s eyes, you will see its soul shining with great clarity. This pure awareness is the nature of the higher self. Its light sparkles unquenchably from the body’s first breath to its last. Your higher self is unchanging, unceasing, immortal and drenched in unconditional love. It is your essence, who you really are.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I don’t claim to have any answers for you. Once you’ve learned how to access your higher self, you’ll discover that all the answers you will ever need have always been available to you. When you come to fully appreciate this, you will find all your questions answered from within. Please trust that you will recognize when your inner voice is offering guidance for your highest good. Now, let’s begin by creating some context.

To put it as simply as possible, we are a manifestation of All-That-Is, the animating spark of consciousness that you might think of as your soul, or higher self. We are a Divine expression of All-That-Is, and so are you.

Every single human being is a deeply cherished manifestation of All-That-Is. Like all people, and all of creation for that matter, Divinity is your birthright. Every thing (by which we mean all facets of the universe), whether or not you consider it alive, is also an expression of the infinitely loving heart of All-That-Is. For thousands of years, numerous spiritual traditions have taught that there is really no separation between us. In Drunk with Wonder, we heartily affirm that teaching.