The Fall of 2016

6a00d83452060169e2019aff7836bc970c-600wiThis morning at 9:21 a.m. CDT in the Northern Hemisphere we will make the transition in seasons. We will move from our delightful summer into our amazing fall. I have always loved the change of seasons. I love all of the changes in seasons, but I particularly like the transition from summer to fall. As we enter the fall of 2016 there are many questions on the tables in our lives. Some of them are deeply personal and some of them are Universal. In my own life I can feel so many monumental changes on the near horizon. This change is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to choose fear of what might happen or to choose joy of what will happen. With much gratitude to my many mentors and spirit guides, I choose Joy!

We are living in a time where it may be easier to choose a path of fear. In this country we are on the precipice of a monumental presidential election that is hotly contested and awakens many emotions. It is so easy to point to our differences and throw up our arms and say that we are in a “no win” situation. On our planet we are watching individuals and groups take stances that at times lead to unrest and perhaps even to violence. It is easy to draw the conclusion that humanity is on a fast track to disaster. In our Universe we see shifts occurring that make us question the sustainability of our beliefs systems that the Divine has our backs and that everything will work out fine so we can live in a place of peace. It is easy to give up hope in higher power and allow our minds to move into a place of darkness.

Despite all the external circumstances that might try to point the personal ships of our minds into the current that carries us to fear, here’s my two cents as to why we should instead trust that the current is carrying us to Bliss. In my mind there is no other possibility!

Have you had a deep and meaningful conversation with anyone in the last couple of weeks? My bet is that you have. Did you notice in that conversation that the person you were talking to was searching and hoping  for answers? Maybe it was you who was searching for the answers and the person you were talking to was the one you were hoping would provide them? In the end the key word in the matter is hope.

The famous English poet Alexander Pope wrote in An Essay on Man, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast…” Odd words from a man who was ostracized for his Catholic faith in a time when being Catholic was a curse that meant he was banned from teaching. Odd words from a man who had numerous health problems including a form of tuberculosis. Odd words from a man who had his growth stunted so he only grew to four feet six inches as an adult.

In An Essay on Man, Pope writes a poem that is an affirmation of faith. Despite the fact that life seems to be chaotic and confusing to man when he is in the center of it, Pope suggests that life is really divinely ordered. In Pope’s world, God exists and is what he centers the Universe around in order to have an ordered structure. While humanity can only take in tiny portions of this reality, it is critical that we understand that we must rely on hope which then leads to faith. Humanity must be aware that our existence in the Universe is to flow with the current and accept that all is exactly as it is supposed to be, even when things happen that we might not prefer. It is man’s duty to strive to be good regardless of the external circumstances. Isn’t it true that you know far more people that live a life that exemplifies hope and goodness than those who exemplify fear and hate?

I need to look no further than my own circle to find many sources of hope. I have many friends who have the ability to tap into a form of cosmic consciousness and receive answers of hope about the possibilities. Most often this ability is called channeling. While the concept may be new to many humans, why shouldn’t we believe that that the answers of the ages are at our fingertips if we open our mind to the possibility? Haven’t all the greatest spiritual teachers of all faiths in all times told us that we are not only a piece of the Divine, but that we are one in that same with all that IS? Why shouldn’t we believe then that the messages that are being delivered in time and space are not an illusion, but in fact an absolute truth?

One such seeker of the Truth is a man named Darryl Anka who channels a multi-dimensional being that goes by the moniker of Bashar. Now before you sign off and say that Jim has taken his full dose of fruit loops this morning, give me a few more moments of your time…

Bashar has predicted many things about the fall of 2016. Many who have only superficially heard of these predictions assume that the “Fall” indicates a downward trajectory for mankind and not just a reference to the change in the season of humanity…

Bashar has predicted that between 2015 and 2017 humanity will come to discover beyond a reasonable doubt that life exists elsewhere beyond our current definitions. It may be within our own solar system or it may be an amoeba in another solar system. Does it really matter I say? Wouldn’t the simple fact that life exists elsewhere be enough for many humans to alter their belief system when we discover it is true. The possibilities are infinite!

Bashar has predicted a massive change in our economic system that would allow us to function as more of a planetary global system within the next 10-15 years. Perhaps a shift in our view on taxation that will allow for an energetic surge that will have repercussions that allow humanity to live in a place where we all help each other more and focus on self a bit less.

Bashar has predicted that we will shift from an older mindset that will allow for humanity to tap into a new idea of free energy the will create safe and sustainable sources for humanity to fuel itself without continuing to cause irreparable harm to our Mother Earth.

Bashar has predicted that at first the changes to our political system will appear to be “same old same old”, but that they will pave the way for a revamping by 2020 that will open the possibility for an historic event that will forever change the world as we see it now.

Bashar predicts that between 2020 and 2030 humanity will find inventions and capabilities that we never believed possible. We will start working together and we will be capable of abilities and adventures far beyond our thoughts and dreams. Time travel? Telekineses? Who knows? As a result, humanity will finally be focusing on a way where our resources are coordinated in a way we  did back in the beginning of time when we were capable of almost anything.

Does this sound like a downward fall? I think not! I think it sounds Divine!

In the past few years I have learned to reconsider the way I tell the story that is my life. More importantly, I have started to listen with greater intention to the stories of others. When we take the time to listen to the stories of others we come to the undeniable truth that we are in fact all the same. We all have desires. We all have dreams. We all go on journeys. We all face contrasts. We all have the opportunity to unveil awakenings in the challenges. We all have the possibility of mastering the path of our own lives. We all are offered the chance to understand that our end point is contentment and Bliss.

As we make this critical transition in the seasons of our own lives and of our planet’s rotation around it’s source of light, might I suggest that you make the only choice that will serve you. In a time when there is the distinct option of choosing fear, remember that the power of your own mind offers you the possibility of choosing Joy instead. Regardless of the external circumstances, in my mind, there is no other possibility!



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Am I Good Enough?

This weekend I came face to face with that age old question of “Am I good enough?” It’s always the first question we ask ourselves when doubt and fear enter our energy profiles, isn’t it? I came face to face with that question both in my own life and in the lives of more than few others I had the chance to interact with over the weekend. It’s a nice reminder that we are all the same. We all have the opportunity to face challenges large and small and determine what awakenings are intended to unfold. I’m pretty excited to see those awakenings even if I don’t always prefer the path we all need to travel on to get to them!

There have been periods of my life when I have lived with the question of “Am I good enough?” at the forefront of my mind 24/7 and there have been periods of my life where I truly know that my best effort in the moment is good enough. In the first scenario I am often paralyzed by my own fear and have trouble getting anything done. In the second scenario I typically move with confidence and grace. One of the interesting things about this dynamic is that it really doesn’t matter what part of the cycle you happen to be in or which scenario is your normal at the present moment, the answer to the question of “Am I good enough?” can change from “Yes” to “No” in a heartbeat!

Here’s a piece of good news though. The answer to the question of “Am I good enough?” can change back to “Yes” from “No” just as quickly as it flipped in the other direction if you let it. You get to decide!

Over the past couple of years, one of the many things that I’ve been working on to become a better version of myself is to get better at receiving feedback. My desire to get better at receiving feedback stemmed from years of being resistant to feedback because I had a hard time carrying the weight of judgment that I passed on myself whenever I found out that I wasn’t perfect at something. It didn’t matter if it was a kata I did in karate class, a project at work or just something as mundane as a dish I cooked for dinner, I would cringe at the idea that I needed to change anything. If you live in a place where you hold yourself to a standard of perfection, anything less than perfect in everybody’s eyes is going to be measured as a failure in your own heart. Anyone else out there ever live in that place?

About five years ago I attended an instructor training program in a form of yoga I had never taught before. I had already been teaching yoga for more than ten years at the time, but I challenged myself to enter the program with a total beginner’s mindset and in a place of humility. I told nobody in the group that I had any teaching experience. I tried to learn from the ground up. To my great good fortune the program was led by a fabulous woman named Megan Ducate. She taught me many wonderful things about yoga and about life. One of the most important things was this:

“When it comes to feedback, it’s important to remember two things: 1) always ask for permission to give before you offer it, and 2) receive it knowing that it is someone’s opinion of a moment in time and you can either accept it or reject it as you wish…”

That lesson alone was worth the investment of time and money in the instructor training. Ever since that day I have tried to be more kind to others in the way I offer feedback when given the opportunity to give it and to be more kind to myself when I receive it. What can I say?  I’m still a work in progress.

On Friday last week I got some feedback on something I had been working on. It wasn’t the feedback that I had expected or had hoped to hear. It started me on a path to that eternal question of “Am I good enough?” Now I will say that I received the feedback better than I would have a few years ago, but the weight of feeling judged put me in a place where I had a hard time navigating my life at all during the next 24 hours. Unfortunately for me, I had a full calendar and had little to no time to sit and reflect. I had to go about my schedule being as fully invested as I possibly could even though I was feeling broken inside. I did my best.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, I started to wake up in my normal positive mindset, but as quickly as I drifted out of the state of groggy I remembered the events of the day before. As a result of those memories, I started to feel like I was being pulled down into the whirlpool of “woe is me…” Now I’ve done a lot of work in my lifetime to come to the understanding that our thoughts and emotions create our own life path and that the stories that we tell ourselves create our own illusions and our illusions become our own realities. All that being said, it’s pretty hard to get out of the path of your own mental and energetic train wreck while it is already in progress.

Fortunately for me I had a previously scheduled early morning phone call with a friend to put in a little time on a joint project we are working on. During the course of that phone call my friend made a comment that they were frustrated that they weren’t making faster progress on their end of the project. I asked them why they felt that way because clearly I thought they were making great progress. What they told me next made me take a deeper look at my own mood and energy. What they told me was that one of their own family members asked them why they were even working on a project that they weren’t getting paid for and were making little if any progress at all on. The whole thing made my heart hurt for my friend. In the moment I immediately went to my support voice. I reminded  my friend that they were only person who held the power to pass judgement on themself. I referenced the book The Four Agreements where author Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Don’t take anything personally. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality…”

And just like that I remembered that I needed to be reminded of the same message that I was offering as feedback to my friend in that moment in time. Don’t take anything personally….Always do you best and remember that your best is a sliding scale that does not necessarily ever approach perfect. I was grateful for the awakening.

As my day continued I felt lighter and lighter. I had a number of other interactions with other people during the day and in many cases I found myself referencing teachings I had found at the hands of the many mentors I have been fortunate enough to find in my lifetime. In every case those teachings were inclusive of awakenings that applied not only to the person I was speaking to but also to myself and they were awakenings I needed to be reminded of in the moment. Isn’t it funny how the Universe works in that fashion? We might not always get what we want, but we always get what we need…

unnamed-24Much later that night Christiana and I sat down to eat our homemade crab boil (which I clearly was good enough to make) and to watch When Harry Met Sally. Before we sat down, I checked my email one final time for the day. In my inbox was a random and unexpected email from someone who had taken one of the first ever workshops we led almost two years ago. The email went on to thank us for the work that we continue to do, for the way that we see the world on a daily basis and for reminding others to just keep doing their best no matter what the external circumstances. As I sat on the couch and read the email I began to weep. For most of the previous 24 hours I danced in the minefield between self doubt and self acceptance with irrational fear about stepping on a land mine. 

In that moment on my couch before our crab boil dinner and When Harry Met Sally, I was gifted the reminder that only I hold the power to pass judgment on myself. I remembered that if I do my best and allow for my best to be measured on a variable scale, that I am not only good enough, but that I am in fact perfect! Both my strengths and my flaws make me a piece of all that IS.

Someone asked me the other day if finding higher self love is our ultimate goal as humans? In a world where it is often said that the absence of fear is love and that the opposite of love is fear, I would say this…

Each day that I move closer to the understanding that I have the right to love myself exactly as I am, I move closer to living without fear. On this night I go to bed remembering that I am indeed “Good enough”….I go to bed with the deep sense of knowing that the better I love myself, the better I can to the most important thing it is that I do in this lifetime in this Universe. To Love all that IS exactly the way that it IS without judgment….

I am grateful for the awakening. 


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Choose Your Words Carefully

Yesterday morning I left the Abbey at about 10:00 a.m. A part of me was sad to end such  a significant chapter of my fully amazing life. A larger part of me was excited for what lies ahead. After a quick stop at the gift shop to gather a few mementos from the trip I set my next destination point on my GPS. My next stop was Lexington, Kentucky where I would have the distinct pleasure of sitting in conversation and repast with my friends Craig and Anella in their stunning, vintage Kentucky bungalow. The drive was predicted to take about 75 minutes as I traveled northeast across the heart of Kentucky.

I caught a little traffic coming through downtown Lexington so I arrived 90 minutes after I departed. Fortunately none of us were tethered to any particular schedule on this day so my arrival time made no matter at all. It’s the moments of life when we are not tethered to time that the magic truly happens. Magic was about to happen!

When I arrived at their downtown Lexington bungalow home,  Craig was finishing up a conversation on the phone with his father. Early on when I first met Craig I remembered he had asked for prayers in a post online because of a health scare his father was experiencing. I thought about how nice it was that that time must have passed and that the two men were sharing conversation in the middle of the day on a perfect Friday summer morning. Anella gave me a quick tour of their circa 1920s home. I had just left a perfect sanctuary at the Abbey of Gethsemani. How lucky was I to have found another just 75 miles east?

After the tour and Craig’s phone call, we sat at their kitchen island and enjoyed delicious treats from their favorite local restaurant. I savored each bite of quiche, focaccia bread and muffins and finished with the most perfect macaroon. All the while we conversed about life, the nature of reality, the awakenings we find in our challenges and many other subjects that did NOT include politics or weather or other trivial things. We told stories that inspired laughter and even a few tears. To me the mark of a divine friendship is when you can pick up and converse about intimate things without any need to make small talk to start the process. Humanity in general is craving this realness. Once again I thought about how grateful I am to have people like Craig and Anella and so many others who step fully in to that space right away.

After about two hours I realized that it was time for me to continue my journey. I could have sat in the peace and tranquility of their home for eternity every bit as much as I could have stayed at Gethsemani for lifetimes, but there was more road to travel and more work yet to be done. When I left they gave me a box of macaroons to take home to Christiana and a pair of deep, heart to heart hugs. I left them with a Merton book I had gathered at the monastery for them and a kiss on the cheek. Mementos of the moment in time that we shared that would carry on as ripples into our lives going forward.

As I walked away from their front porch towards my car Craig said, “Thank you so much Jim for taking the time to drive out of your way for the stop in our home…safe travels my brother!” I replied without turning back by saying, “I’d have driven ten hours to have shared this experience…”

I started up the car, looked back at the home I had just been received in for conversation and other forms of sustenance and I drove away with an extremely full heart. At the first stop light in town I programed my GPS for my new destination. I was headed to my home. It looked like I had about a six hour drive ahead of me give or take based on how many times I decided to stop along the way. I am not typically a long drive person. In fact I have had the limiting belief that I can’t stand more than five hours in the car per day and at the most 2 hour stretches without a break. On this day though I was at peace and even a bit excited for the time in the car. I had many thoughts to process and many words buzzing in my brain.

In the last couple of years as I have stepped more fully into my role as a writer and a speaker I tend to look at every moment in life as a potential story – which they always are. I am also a believer in the infinite power of the the human mind and the fact that the thoughts we form become the things that happen in our lives. As a result I try to choose my words and my thoughts with precision and a mind for detail. In short I usually choose my words carefully.

About an hour into my drive I ran into a slight delay. It was caused by an accident that I was grateful to not have been a part of. As I drove past the crash site, I touched the St. Christopher medal that belonged to my father which I have clipped to the sun visor of my car and gave thanks and prayed for good health of those that had been less fortunate on this day. A bit further up the road there was a road closure that required me to drive south east for about 10 minutes on an alternate route. If you know even a little bit about geography you will know that the trip from Kentucky to Chicago should not include any time driving southeast. I trusted the process and followed my GPS.

After some slow going through Louisville and a few more construction zones on the path I eventually found myself just a bit south of Indianapolis after four hours in the car. I had only covered about half of the distance I had to travel thus far, but I needed to stop and get gas and use the facilities. When I stopped near Indy I realized that this had likely been the longest amount of time I had spent behind the wheel without a break in the last twenty years at least. Perhaps it was time to erase some of my limiting beliefs. I was grateful for the awakening.

After grabbing a latte at Starbucks I was back on the road. It was about 5:00 p.m. and I could still make Chicago by nightfall. The route on I-65 north was a bit of a challenge for the rest of the way. Numerous construction sites and a number of accidents had me stopping and starting for the next couple of hours. When I finally approached the turn off to Chicago I had to decide if I wanted to take I-94 and approach Chicago on the Dan Ryan expressway or if I wanted to catch the Indiana Toll Road, which is a more direct route but includes tolls and a potential back up on Lake Shore Drive when I did finally get downtown. I chose the I-94 route since it was the first to appear.

Shortly after the turn off onto I-94 my GPS said “Accident ahead…You can save six minutes by choosing alternate route…” I figured six minutes was not worth the change in plans and I stuck to my route instead of turning off. For the next hour I sat between Cline Avenue outside of Gary, Indiana and the Illinois State Line. Under normal circumstances this trip would take about 10 minutes.

unnamed-12I continued to make progress and by 9:00 pm as the sun was setting over the western suburbs I passed through my  beloved Chicago. I watched the sun streams dance off the high-rises over my right shoulder and said goodnight to the sun over my left. It was the same sun that I said goodnight to the night before as it set over the Kentucky hills. The geography of where I was on this planet had shifted, but the sun was still fixed like it always is as one brilliant lights in our glorious Universe. I decided I best head straight to one of my favorite local eateries and grab some food before heading home. I pulled into the parking lot at L Woods Pine Tap and Lodge just minutes before they closed at 9:30 p.m. I had just driven another four and a half hour stretch without a break. I felt a sense of triumph in the completion of my journey.

As  walked into L Woods I realized that had spent 90 minutes driving from New Haven to Lexington. I had spent four fours driving from Lexington to Indianapolis. I had spent four and a half hours driving from Indianapolis to L Woods which is within a mile of my home. In total I had just spent 10 hours behind the wheel in one day! And then instantaneously I recalled what I said to Craig as I walked away from their stunning, vintage Kentucky bungalow, “I’d have drive ten hours to have shared this experience….”

And that is exactly what I just did!

When I got home I brought my things up to our second floor two flat. I sat on the porch and looked at the moon as it sat low in the sky and danced in and out of the clouds. I thought about the multitude of words that have come through me over the last four days. Some 20,000 of them in the form of journal entries, blogs and writing on my larger project which is back on the table in full force. Many more words are stored in my heart for unveiling in the days and weeks ahead. I will choose them all carefully. They leave an indelible mark  that will become a permanent account of the story of our lives.

And so it continues…


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Walking Out of Gethsemani

This morning I depart from this chapter of my journey which has led to many places without traveling far at all. I have had many flavors of silence in the last four days and I have also had many conversations. It’s amazing how silence allows us to converse in the purest form. I have had conversations with those who used to be part of my life as I allowed them to reach me in ways I have not yet known. I have had conversations with those who I randomly intersected with on my side trips away from the monastery. I have had conversations with they Divine as it exists in places like this Abbey at a level where we are more inclined to listen. Mostly importantly, I have had numerous conversations with myself and in the process I have learned something very important. I’ve learned to be a better listener.

This morning after I cleared out my quarters and loaded my things into the car, I took an hour to walk the grounds one last time. Ultimately I landed yet again at the chairs by Merton’s gravesite. The chairs were not in the exact position I left them in last night after I returned a part of Richard’s ashes to the soil. They had been turned to face the back of the headstone at more of an angle and they had been placed a little closer to each other than they were last night. The chairs were slightly angled towards each other in the perfect position for two people to have an intimate conversation with each other so that they could see each other while still surveying the beauty of their surroundings. I sat in one of the chairs.

Of the many conversations I have had on this journey, more than a few of them have been with Richard’s spirit. It seemed one more conversation was being called in. When I sat I took a moment to drink in all that Is. To drink in all that had happened in the last 72 hours, which in reality seems more like 72 days. After a minute or two of silence I began to speak. I spoke not only in my mind. I spoke with my real voice. The grounds of the monastery were completely empty. Retreatants are asked to vacate their rooms by 8:00 a.m. on Fridays so the rooms can be prepared for new arrivals. Most leave right away, but we are allowed to stay until 10:00 a.m for final reflections. Since nobody else in human for was with me in the graveyard I spoke out loud for the first time on the monastery grounds.

When I was done speaking, I closed my eyes and listened in silence one last time. In that silence I got the loudest message of all, “Walk out of this garden and walk fully into you life…James!”

There are many untold stories in my life both from the past, the present and the future. Some of them are mine to tell and some of them are intended for me to listen to. When I stood to walk away, I turned and took one more look at the chairs as they faced the back of Merton’s grave. I had just crossed another important finish line and in the process was reminded that the journey had just began. I walk out of the Gethsemani and I walk fully into my life. And so it begins…


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Solisbury Hill

For those of you who are out there wondering if I will write a blog post for each song in Peter Gabriel’s music library while I’m on this trip, I can assure you that I will not. In fact it will likely end with this post, but the title came to me quite serendipitously yesterday morning while I was riding my bike through the Kentucky hills.

It is an innate human instinct to climb. We climb so we can see what heights we can achieve. We climb to push ourselves to our physical and spiritual limits. We climb so we can enjoy the coast on the way down the other side of the slope. Look no further than infants who want to climb on things higher up as soon as they can stand and you will know that we are all climbers at heart and our lives are full of so many potential hills.

unnamed-9Upon my arrival at Gethsemani the first thing I did after I got my things into my quarters was to walk outside and climb to the top of the hill at the edge of the property. Perched at the top of the hill was a rock grotto and tall cross to spark my desire further, but the potential view alone was enough to entice. With the sun high in the afternoon sky and the temperature in the mid 90s, the climb left me dripping in sweat, but it was a purifying start to my monastic retreat.

Climbing goes way back in my family. I have often spoken or written about my great grandfather Henry William Herbert who was born in Ireland in 1871. Henry grew up in a small fishing village named Ringaskiddy. Ring, as it is called by locals is on the south coast of Ireland across the bay from the famous final port of the RMS Titanic, one Queenstown/Cobh, Ireland. Back in great grandpa’s day, Ring was a quaint seaside village with docks for swimming, fields to play in and hills to climb on.

At the top of one of those hills stood an old Martello tower that dated back to the days of Cromwell’s invasion in the mid 1600s. In his autobiography great grandpa Henry wrote about climbing to the top of the hill through the blackberry briars with his father Captain James and playing on and around the allegedly haunted tower. It’s the stuff that all good boys stories are made of.

On our trip to Ireland in September of 2013, Christiana and I re-traced my ancestor’s footsteps and climbed to that same Martello Tower, but not without a few challenges along the way. Isn’t that what our innate instinct to climb is designed for though? So we can face challenges and enjoy the awakenings that come forth? If you want to read more about our quest to climb to that tower you can check out that story here.

This current story though is finally getting to its main point, which is my bike ride on Wednesday morning through the Kentucky hills. I have ridden my Trek mountain bike through the paved city streets of Chicago for three years now. It’s not one of those hybrids with the small nobby tires and a light frame. It is a full on mountain bike! My friends often tell me that I’m crazy to have such a heavy-duty bike for city riding, but I like the stability and somehow I knew I would find a day to ride it off road. That day had finally come.

I left the monastery grounds at about 9:00 a.m. with a bottle of water, a Cliff bar and the desire to ride for one hour or ten miles if I could last in the heat. On the city streets at normal temperatures that distance or even double would be no issue, but I had no idea what to expect in my current set of circumstances. Across the main road I saw a narrow path and a sign that said:

No Unauthorized Vehicles

No Boats

No Swimming

I clearly was not a vehicle. I wasn’t pulling a boat. I had no swimsuit or goggles. I figured I’d be okay. Off I went! It was as if my Trek mountain bike started to sing to me. It had waited for this day for three years. We bounced over the rocks. We climbed the hills and coasted down. It was a small loop, but I figured that was a good thing because I could just keep repeating it until I was too tired and then I could dash back across the street in a jiffy and be home at the monastery.

As I rode I listened to Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live Disc #1. I continue to be addicted to his music only a week removed from the fabulous Gabriel/Sting concert on my birthday weekend. At about the 50-minute mark of the ride, I was getting rather fatigued. The sun and the heat were taking their toll and I was fairly certain that this would be my last loop. As I came back to the part of the loop that was both the beginning and the ending of my circle I had a decision to make. Would I turn off or push through one more loop?

At that exact moment, the guitar riff for the Peter Gabriel’s Solisbury Hill started. My heart leapt up and my legs got a burst of life. Like an infant trying to get to a new highest height, I turned and started one more loop! I pushed my way up the hill dripping in sweat, but I felt more energy than I had at any point in the ride. As the final chorus of Solisbury Hill played in my earbuds, I glided down the hill with a nice breeze in my face. I coasted back across the street to the monastery parking lot. When I shut off my Runkeeper GPS it said one hour and three seconds for a total of 10.06 miles. Honestly you can’t even make this stuff up if you try!

Gabriel wrote the song Solisbury Hill upon his departure from the group Genesis in 1975. He had been a founding member and the lead vocalist. The song was his first solo career single and he has been quoted as saying, “It’s a song  about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get… It’s about letting go…” In his letter to the public in August of 1975 Gabriel also said:

“I believe the world has soon to go through a difficult period of changes. I’m excited by some of the areas coming through to the surface which seem to have been hidden away in people’s minds. I want to explore and be prepared to be open and flexible enough to respond…”

In this journey of infinite awakenings, I am reminded that it is only when we are willing to lose what we already have, that we can be open and flexible to the energetic space that will allow for what we are about to get. I continue my climb to get closer to Source and find my greatest self. Through the good grace of God and many angels and mentors, the deck is stacked in my favor. I am so grateful to have more than I need and my only want is to have enough time left on the path to help others find their own paths as well. What other things do I need in my life? To answer that question I give you the last few lines of Solisbury Hill:

“My heart’s going boom, boom, boom…Hey…I said…You can keep my things they’ve come to take me home…”

In letting go we find the path to the place we are always seeking. Many times in my life I’ve heard the phrase, “home is where the heart is…” What if it was the other way around and we all realized that “the heart is where the home is…” The simple act of opening up our hearts has the infinite power to create a home for all of mankind to find peace. Some might say that is an uphill battle. I say let’s join hands and continue the climb…


P.S. If you are not familiar with the song Solisbury Hill, I’ve included a link here to a Youtube video of a 1994 version from the Woodstock 1994 concert. It’s one of my favorite renditions of the song. Performed about 20 years after his departure from Genesis, it is crystal clear that Peter Gabriel found his path. It is an open and flexible path to his home of Joy!


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Seven Men Who Challenged Me

On Monday night I sat on the deck of my Louisville B&B with a glass of bourbon and looked into the heavens. The nearly full moon dominated the sky and I became increasingly aware of how many people were on my mind in the moment. much like the stars, each time I focused on one, another appeared in the same field of view. Now you might expect that a post with this title would quickly move in the direction of an anthology of relatives, teachers, yogis, senseis and other men who played enormous roles in shaping me into who I am becoming. Those are not the ones not I am speaking of in this moment. In that moment on Monday night one particular spirit came to mind. His name was Dustin Dix.

Dustin was a former co-worker of mine. Dustin was as proud of his Kentucky roots as anyone I have met in this lifetime and here I was for the first time ever in his home. I would say Dustin and I were friendly acquaintances more than friends. Since he was one of my managers a social relationship was not a part of our time on the path together. Since we almost always worked opposite shifts we had little time for interaction, but when we did, his southern charm and caring heart always made me feel like he was one of the truly good people I have had the pleasure of knowing in my life. Dustin passed on exactly four months ago Monday night. It would be a colossal understatement to say that his presence was felt. His spirit was everywhere.

I have the great good fortune of working at one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country – Joe’s Stone Crab Chicago. What we do there transcends the work of serving food to patrons. We create experiences that are memorable. We leave on mark on those that pass through our doors that they will remember for a lifetime. That happens not just because the food is excellent or that the setting is first rate. It happens because the people who work there put their souls into their everyday routines. We are a family of servants.

Like all families we share the accolades and joy as it comes to us. We also share the pain and grief when we experience loss. Thinking about Dustin last night made me retrace some steps on the path over the 15 years I have been employed at Joe’s. Our family has experienced more untimely loss than the average would bear out. In fact in the time I have worked at Joe’s we have had seven men leave us before their time should have expired. (I should note that a few very important women have left us also, but for the purposes of where my brain space is at while on retreat at a monastery in Kentucky, it was the men who were chiming in specifically.) There was a varying degree of closeness that I had with each of the seven men of Joe’s I will write about here, yet they all have one thing in common: they challenged me to be a better version of myself even if I didn’t always prefer the challenge in the moment.

On my week in meditation at the Abbey of Gethsemani, I travel with important mementos of my family members who have departed to the other side of the veil. I have a picture of my grandfather. I have the bear that my dad gave me when I was born. I have the autobiography that my great grandfather wrote. Their spirits and the spirits of other important teachers in my life are always present with me, but in this moment in time I thought I would share with you the ones who chimed in on Monday night as I sat on the porch with my bourbon. Each of them in their own way contributed to who I am becoming now, just like those who played what I referred earlier to as enormous roles in the story of my life. I make no attempt to re-tell their life stories, but rather give you a glimpse into a moment in time that I shared with them and the awakening it provided. Here they are in the order that they left, even though on Monday night I was reminded that they are still very much here.

Dustin – One day at work  about a year ago Dustin said something to me that infuriated me. As I sit here I can’t even remember what it was that he said, but I know that I gave him a good piece of my mind as a result. Later that day I noticed how much what I said to Dustin hurt him. He had no intention of raising my ire. That was so not his way. While I can’t remember the incident I can certainly remember the hurt that I caused. Before I left that night we made amends. There was no other possibility with a man like Dustin who carried his heart on his sleeve at all times. I think it was that heart that made it hard for Dustin to find his own inner peace. He just cared so much. As I think of Dustin in this moment, I am reminded to be more compassionate like Dustin always was. I am grateful for the awakening.

Oz – Oz was a larger than life hippie cool cat who was a Chicago restaurant icon. He came to work for us after closing one of his own establishments and quickly shot to the top of the pack as a Joe’s server. Oz provided service in a way I had never seen before in my life. He was flashy without being over-stated. He as many regulars that anyone on the staff. Running the door wasn’t always easy when Oz had a line of people trying to get into his station. On one such night he questioned why I sat one of his tables when he had a request coming in 30 minutes later. I told him it was my job to keep the room running on schedule and that he should focus his attention on his own station. Oz then shot me a look that penetrated me like a laser. By the end of the night we were back to our usual friendly conversation. It was Oz who was the first to come to my support when my very public divorce happened and I immediately began dating Christiana. He told me that I should stop worrying about what other people think and that I did my job with more integrity than anyone he had known in his 40+ years in the business. As I think of Oz in this moment, I am reminded not to sweat the small stuff because it always passes quickly. I am grateful for he awakening.

Richard – Where do I even begin with Richard? He is the catalyst of the journey that I am currently on at Gethsemani. He was the spiritual coach and teacher to all of us at Joe’s for the three and a half years he worked with us. I can’t even begin to calculate how many meals he shared with his co-workers. How many hand written notes of support he sent to all of us. I often say Richard’s time at Joe’s was his masterpiece. He was given a blank canvas and he painted a Rembrandt. One day at work Richard took exception to something I said about what he should do with one of his tables. He politely told me to mind my own business. I followed up with a barb. One of the games we played to pass the time was to exchange friendly barbs throughout the day. He liked my follow up even less and right after I delivered it he turned on his heels and glared at me without movement for what seemed like a full minute even though it was probably only a second. Later that night when I got out of yoga class I had a voicemail on my phone from Richard. He made no mention of our confrontation at work and instead said that he just wanted to call and remind me how much he loved me and how important our friendship was to him. Richard was never bashful about using the word love. In fact aside from my parents and Christiana, I would say nobody in my life has loved me without condition quite like Richard did. As I think of Richard in this moment, I am reminded to love without condition. I am grateful for the awakening.

Ciaran – Ciaran was one of the original hires at Joe’s when it opened in 2001. He was a five day a week staple on the dining room floor for over ten years and he was loved equally by his customers and his co-workers. Ciaran had a zest for life and his foot to the gas pedal quest for excitement was a thing of beauty to watch on a daily basis. He was one of the most confident men I have ever know and it was that confidence that caused to butt heads at times. I have been know to be a bit head strong myself at times. When I started running the door at night one day a week, Ciaran would at times take exception to how he was being sat. It was suggested by one of my managers that I address the matter myself and have a conversation with Ciaran man to man. I hated that idea! It took me over a week to work up the courage to approach him. I can still remember slowly walking up to table #10 in the corner as we were getting ready for the night. I sheepishly said, “Do you have a minute Ciaran?” He replied, “What’s on your mind Jim?” We talked a few things out and from that day forward there was a new sense of ease in working together; a new found mutual respect for each other’s positions. As I think of Ciaran in this moment, I am reminded that the fastest path to resolution is to meet that which you fear the most head on. Only through communication can we a achieve a better understanding of others and of ourselves. I am grateful for the awakening.

Bruce – Bruce was another original hire at Joe’s. He was a true service pro and left his guests in a state of awe as his eye for detail and his memory of people’s preferences was second to none. Very early on in my tenure at Joe’s I had a lunch table that stayed well into the evening. It was a large table and it happened to be in Bruce’s section so he lost two of his tables for the first few turns. I avoided talking to him as I waited for my table to leave, but I could feel his energy and when it reached 8:00 pm he finally came up to me and said, “Can’t you do anything to make them leave?” Inside I already felt terrible, but I became defensive and told him that I was just trying to do my job of letting the guest enjoy their experience and that I didn’t “need any of his negative energy.” I’m not proud of what I said, but what it led to is a thing of beauty. Before I left that night Bruce sought me out and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be so aggressive. I was just frustrated and I held it in too long. I wish I had just spoken to you sooner and let you know that I knew it was out of you control.” I’ll always remember that moment. It was particularly poignant when Bruce was failing in health from JV virus. One day Christiana and I went down to visit Bruce in his home. His mind was sharp as a tack but he couldn’t even speak because he had lost control of the muscles needed to use his voice. As I think of Bruce in this moment I am reminded to always use your voice with kindness and contrition. I am grateful for the awakening.

Marvin – Marvin was a dear friend of our owner Richard Melman. When Mr. Melman opened Joe’s he wanted to have a team of people on the door that knew the culture and the history of our company as well as that of the sister restaurant in Florida that had been open for 90 years. Marvin was one of the ambassadors of Joe’s in his years as a Maitre D’. Marvin’s wry smile and cunning wit could diffuse even the diciest situation. He was never too worried about whether or not he had the limelight as long as the job got done correctly.When I became a member of the door team in 2003 we had our first opportunities to work together. Since I was predominately days and Marvin was exclusively nights we didn’t have the chance to work together too often, but eventually I started working on Tuesday nights and I had the pleasure ofd sharing one night a week with Marvin for a couple of years. My style was to  keep as many balls in the air as possible and move quickly to keep the juggling act alive. Since Marvin was my senior by at least 25 years, his style was…shall we say…a bit different. One night when things were going in a million different directions at once I started to step on Marvin’s toes a bit. I was trying to do both my job and his job at the same time because I suspect I thought I could do it faster that way than I could if I asked for help. At one point Marvin turned to me and said, “I may not be able to move as fast as you can with my feet kid, but I promise you I can still move that fast in my mind…and that saves me some valuable steps.” I’m not sure that the lesson sunk in right away, but over time it certainly has. As I think of Marvin in this moment I am reminded that the fastest path to the finish line is not always the right path. I am grateful for the awakening.

Michael – Michael joined our team at Joe’s while I was still serving at lunch in my first year. He was brought on from another division within the company to take over as the General Manager after a few of our key managers had left for other opportunities. Michael was already a seasoned Lettuce manager and he came in with a sense of ease in his stride that most do no have when joining a team filled with so many career professionals. On his second day on the job Michael pulled me aside after watching me serve wine at a table during lunch. He picked up a bottle, put his thumb into the punt underneath and told me that “If I held the bottle from below and turned it slightly as I poured that it would prevent the wine from dripping when I took the bottle way from the glass.” Let’s just say that my ability to accept constructive criticism has improved with age. In that moment in time I believe my reply was, “I passed my level one sommelier exam almost twenty years ago, but thanks for the tip.” Michael cocked his head to the side, smiled at me and walked away shaking his head. Over the next few months we developed a working relationship and friendship that I will remember until the day I die. Michael was always more interested in you as a person than he was as an employee. He knew things about everyone’s personal lives, He knew the car you drove, the name of you pet and where you went on your last vacation. He led by inspiring you to be a better self instead of holding you in a place of fear. It was Michael that suggested I take over the door at lunch a few months after what I think I will refer to going forward as “Puntgate”. Michael saw something in me that I did not see in myself and the job he put me in has afforded me privileges beyond my wildest dreams. As I think of Michael in this moment I am reminded that we learn far more when we are willing to learn than when we are trying to demonstrate what we already know. I am grateful for the awakening.

We often seek to find the answers to the questions in our hearts by taking a look at the dramatic things that happen in our lives. We recall the awakenings that come from those who play an enormous role in the story of our lives. On this day, and on Monday night on the balcony with my bourbon, I was given a gift of remembering a few passing interactions that have shaped who I am becoming right now. In the simplicity of allowing space for seven divine souls from the other side of the veil to speak to me, I have unveiled a set of guidelines that could quite likely lead anyone to a life of peace and joy. As I reflect tonight and each day going forward, I will remember these seven men and the what they taught me. Seven absolute truths about how to live a good life.  I am immeasurably grateful for the awakening.

Be compassionate…

Small stuff passes quickly – Pay it no mind…

Love without condition…

Face that which you fear the most head on…

Speak with a voice of kindness and contrition…

The fastest path is not always the right path…

The less you try to know the more you will learn…


Image from the International OCD foundation




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Across The River

Last night I began my travel to the place I have been called to for quite some time. I decided that it would be best if I worked my regular day at work and the drive to Kentucky after my shift. It was the right decision because it led me to where I am at right now. When we allow the the current to flow through is we accept the path without rowing upstream. The river of life will always flow where we are intended to go when we let it flow.

My day at work was full of anticipation and anxiousness. I kept checking my phone to see what time it was. Each time I checked, less time had passed than I expected or hoped for. It was all part of the design. Anticipation is a endangered energy in our world of immediate gratification. When the work day finally ended, I had indeed escaped sooner than I might have hoped. I was in my car and on the road by 4:00 p.m without any unnecessary delays or interruptions. I plugged my phone into the car cable power source and set my destination on the GPS. In reality I had no idea where I was going because I had yet to select a resting point for the night. I did know that I was heading south towards Kentucky so in the moment I figured that would do. What a difference it is for me to start a journey without a specific endpoint. I never could have done that even two years ago. I am grateful for the ability to trust.

The second thing I did after I set Kentucky as my destination was to start some music. I allowed the connection from the USB cable to my iPhone to select whatever music it decided to play. What it decided to play my entire music library in alphabetical order from A to Z. Since I had just gotten a replacement phone this past Saturday, my music library was limited to a dozen or so albums and playlists that I downloaded from the cloud for this trip. Once again I was reminded that perfection emerges when we relinquish control. Here is what I heard…

As I drove through the streets of the city of Chicago the first song that came on was Peter Gabriel’s Across the River. It was the version fro the plays live album. I noticed that I was driving south on State Street approaching Wacker Drive. I was quite literally crossing the river. I smiled even though nobody was in the passenger seat. Well nobody in flesh and bone that is.

Next up was a song named All that You Give. It’s a song that I suspect less than one percent of anybody in the reading audience would have any familiarity with I’m sure. It is a house music song by DJ Kasakade and it features angelic vocals by a  woman named Mindi. For the last year or so it has been the final song on my martial arts workout playlist. No matter where I am on the playlist or how long my workout is, I always fast forward to the song and listen to it as I wind down my time in my virtual dojo. As I listen I stand with my arms out stretched to the heavens and drink in the energy of all that IsQuite often when I open my eyes I am weeping. I’ll share the words with you a bit later in the post. As it played this time, once again my heart filled with joy and a tear or two came to my eye.

The third song that played was a song named Alone from the Cirque de Soleil show Delirium. I was now on the Dan Ryan expressway and I had beaten the majority of the rush hour traffic before it started. The song Alone once again reminded me of the magnitude of the journey I was embarking upon. I will spend the majority of the next three days in silence as I reflect and write and pray and meditate at a place that is the oldest working Monastery in the entire United States. I will be alone in some ways and in other ways, I will be in absolute contact with all Is

The song Alone is also special to me because the Delirium show was the first thing my wife Christiana and I did together. It was long before we were even dating. We had been co-workers for a bit less than a year and I had tickets to the show and neither of our partners wanted to go. I asked her if she would like to join me and she said yes. We bought a copy of the CD at the concession stand and shared it so we could both download it to our computers. It is has been and always will be one of my favorites.

I was beginning to see a pattern in this music that was randomly playing through my iPhone and I wasn’t interested in changing the pattern even a little bit!

Fourth in succession of my symphony for the road was David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes. Once again that magnitude thing slapped me across the face as a firm awakening with a gentle touch. On the seat next to me was a bottle with a small amount of the ashes that are Richard’s physical remains. I will leave a piece of him at Gethsamani just as we did in Chartres, France last April. More about that later. I currently only have one Bowie album on my iPhone, mostly because the majority of his work that I own is on vinyl. I purchased the Best of Bowie from iTunes when he died last year so I could have something to listen to that would make me feel connected to the man I have always thought of as a musical genius. More importantly though, I have also thought of him as a being who came to this incarnation to make humanity change that way they saw labels of each other. Christiana has more to say about that and I hope she’ll share in a blog with you someday because she will say it better than I ever could.

downtown Four the next six hours I allowed my iPhone to play songs in alphabetical order and while I will not write out the playlist for you from start to finish, I will say the every song that I listened to had powerful meaning. My journey of the day drew near to a close as I passed through downtown Louisville. I was within a mile or two from my lodgings for the night and in the darkness I noticed I was driving across a bridge. I has no previous knowledge of the geography of Louisville so I had no idea I would end my journey just as it had began, by crossing a river.

I drove across the Ohio River with a deep sense of knowing that the journey was only beginning. All that Is was with me already and although my eyes were weary, my soul was full of life. Like all things in life each end is a new beginning and each start is a finish line; a never ending circle of life.

This journey for me is a culmination of a little over two years of learning to slow down…to find the silence between the notes that make up the symphony of life. I’ve learned from many and I’ve trusted myself along the way. I am grateful to all that Is, both on this side of the veil and on the other side. I’m grateful to you all for All that you Gave, and about those lyrics I promised…

“Used to be
I couldn’t slow down
Freedom was running
And what I sung

So I’d run
To try to catch up
As fast as I could
I wouldn’t give up

Did anything
To get to that spring
And drink the sound
It’s voice would sing

Whoa, ho, ho, ho
Whoa, ho, ho, ho
Whoa, ho, ho, ho
Whoa, ho, ho, ho

Then one day
I turned around
To see what I gained…
Nothing found!

So I chose
To slow myself down
Losing a dream
They call the sound

And that’s when it came
Loud as a rain
Filling my life
It’s voice did sing

Whoa, ho, ho, ho
Whoa, ho, ho, ho
Whoa, ho, ho, ho
Whoa, ho, ho, ho

Whoa, ho, ho, ho
(All that you give)
Whoa, ho, ho, ho
(Along the way)

Whoa, ho, ho, ho
(Oh, then you went)
Whoa, ho, ho, ho

All that you gave
Along the way…”


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