Who is this man?

Men (and women) who wake from the slumber of humanity, progress to a spiritual consciousness of all that is good. They traverse the hero's journey, deal with the dross of their character and personality, formulate a mission to serve their fellow travelers in this realm, and dedicate their lives to spiritual progress. They leave behind the baggage of hate, discontent, judgment, resentment, addiction, anger, depression, and fear. They lessen the hold of ego. They infuse their souls and their lives with love, acceptance, integrity, humility, positive values, and the spiritual virtues. They come to know who they are and why they are here. They awaken!

Friday, September 13, 2013


Our language has an abundance of words about spirituality, yet a paucity of understanding.  Humankind often misses the essentials of what spirituality means, what it encompasses, and how it manifests on this plane of existence.  We see great confusion among the many competing religions of the world, a war of words and actual wars that rage and destroy our unity as a human species.  We call each other “evil” and curse others to hell, all in the name of our righteousness, indignity, and pride.  We manifest egoism instead of humility.

Our judgments and behaviors belie the compassion that humanity and all concepts of spirituality call us to practice.  We deny the oneness that many teach, we live our lives in a hell of our own devices, and we ignore the elements of spirituality that ultimately we must adopt to ensure the survival of the human race.

The principles of living in this human milieu while practicing our brand of spirituality are simple, and they form the basis of what Eckhart Tolle writes, a new world.  Unfortunately, our lives in this human existence often lead us astray of our merged humanity and spirituality.  We focus on the negative in our world and ignore the positive.  We decry the daily news of wars, pestilence, and inhumanity among us, yet we contribute to them daily.  Our sense of peace becomes shattered and scattered, and reassembling the pieces seems a monumental and overwhelming task. 

If you question these things, then this is the time to review your approach to living.  As a matter of fact, it is a good time for the seven billion people on earth to renew the task of spirituality, and it is the perfect time for you to look within yourself with deep honesty.  The time has come for you to question your worn out concepts and useless beliefs, and to renew your humanness and spirit. Whether you believe in a god or not, it would be good to question your belief system.  The rewards are manifold.  A renewed approach to the way you live, interact, behave, and believe will benefit you beyond your wildest dreams.  Furthermore, it will benefit humankind in the long run.

Two psychologists define spirit as “the essential core of the individual, the deepest part of the self, and one’s involving human essence.”[1]  They define spirituality as “the continuous journey people take to discover and realize their essential selves.”  In this section of my blog, I attempt to overcome the “paucity of words” and provide some ideas that can guide you as you re-evaluate your values, beliefs, meaning, purpose, and behaviors.  I try to keep it simple.  These are all part of what I call “spirituality”.  And remember, you must define IT for yourself.  Take what you like and leave the rest.

-- Pete

[1] Pargament, K.I., & Sweeney, P.J.  (2011).  Building spiritual fitness in the army.  American Psychologist, 47, 1102-1104.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Decision Time

Three frogs were sitting on a log in the middle of a rushing river.  One decided to jump in.  How many frogs were left?  Answer: three.  He made the decision to jump, but he did not commit to the action.
-- Unknown author

The message of this simple metaphor is clear.  Our mental decisions must be coupled with action.  Often, however, we self-defeat by procrastinating, perhaps indefinitely, and thus we never complete the task at hand.  Or we attack it at the last minute and do a less than satisfying job.  Several keys to decision-making exist.

First, the importance of courage cannot be overemphasized.  We must look within our selves for the kernel of courage that will move us forward.  Decisions require courage because we do not know the outcome in advance.  Significant change often means facing an uncertain end and dealing with our deep sense of wanting to remain in stasis without exerting ourselves – a comfort zone that may be hard to leave.


A true decision means that we will do everything possible to make it happen.  We must stop our hoping, wishing, wanting, and non-commitment that hold us back.  Furthermore, we must go beyond the idea of just playing at it to see what happens, just trying.  As Yoda in Star Wars said, “No!  Try not!  Do, or do not.  There is no try.”  This means going to any length and using every possible advantage to implement our decision.

A core belief that affects decision-making concerns our worthiness.  We must make an internal decision that we are worthy of successful living, positive self-esteem, good feelings, and a life that thrives.  The critical decision in life is to decide to come to our own assistance.

There are many reasons why people do not intercede on their own behalf.  Perhaps family messages discounted their abilities or self-worth, and they keep having problems as they fulfill the family injunction not to be successful.  Some seek comfort in their dreams rather than gain satisfaction from their accomplishments.  Perhaps they are paralyzed by fear, either of failure or of total success.  They might wither under their own perfectionism.  They think that if they cannot do something perfectly, it is not worth doing.  Whatever the issue, they live in the improbable and ignore obvious consequences of their inaction.  We must cultivate the willingness and drive to come to our own assistance.

Feelings often get in the way of action.  Unfortunately, many of us are victims of our emotions.  We place greater faith in how we feel now than in moving forward with our lives and enjoying feelings of satisfaction, fulfillment, peace, and self-worth.  We spend more time either whining or planning that actual doing!

Finally, some of our decisions and plans are too grandiose or even impossible to complete.  We must be grounded in reality and consider how probable success might be.  It is better to set up small action steps and make incremental changes that are well within the realm of possibility.

A useful way of dealing with this issue is to think about the times when you followed through on a decision and had some success.  Write these down, and identify how you felt in each circumstance.  On a scale of 1 to 5, identify how much courage you think it took to work through each decision.  Note what positive affects your action had on your life.  This exercise reminds us of precedents related to taking action in our lives that we can use for motivation.

A good method for addressing a decision is to list the following information and think about it in relation to your vision for your life:

1.    What is the decision you have made?
2.     What actions or steps are required to implement the decision?
3.     When will you complete the actions/steps (be specific)?
4.     What will be the positive effect on your life when you finish?
5.     What issues could stop you from completing your goal?
6.     What are the indicators of success that you will have when done?
7.     How much courage do you think it will take to do it?  Remember, you have access to all the courage you need!
8.     What positive feeling will you have as a result of your action?

You should also prioritize your decisions and actions you want to take.  Attacking the highest priority actions first can make the overall picture less overwhelming.  As you determine the steps toward your goal, keep them small and do-able.  Success is easier to achieve in small increments.

Google image
Clearly, the awakening man understands this simple process.  He uses his courage and will to strive toward successful living by making decisions and following through with action.  He is compelled to succeed.  He is dedicated not just to survival, but also to his dreams of a better life.

Will you use the turn of the New Year to develop and implement decisions that will benefit your life?  What is your commitment to wholeness in mind, body, and spirit?  How will you find the courage to move forward?  When will you stop thinking and planning and start doing?

-- Pete

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Love

I go all out for the Christmas season, starting just after Thanksgiving when I spend a half-day setting up my outdoor lights.  When I refurbished the garage ten years ago, I added an extra electrical circuit just for my lights.  In years past, I installed over twenty strings all across the front of my home: icicles hanging from the gutters, various colors chasing around the bushes, big old incandescent bulbs lining the sidewalk and gardens.  One year, I even added lights to the patio in the back.

My wife tried to get me to tone down the display so it was not so gaudy.  I tried to please her as the years passed, but I always seemed to overdo it.  This year, I found the job to be more tiring than I expected, so I stopped short of the Coney Island look.  However, I must admit we both are quite satisfied with the results:

The chore of retrieving boxes of Christmas tree ornaments stashed over the garage, and the tree itself, is a feat worthy of Atlas.  Now mind you, I grew up on a Christmas tree farm.  My father and I planted about twenty acres on the curved hill behind our house in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains.  In spring, we planted little seedlings of pine and spruce; in summer, we pruned them into shape; starting in November, we harvested them.  I fondly recall the hard work of dragging the cut trees off the hill into our yard to be sold wholesale to dealers, peddled individually off our lawn to the locals, or given to local orphanages.  It was hard work for a teenager, but the cold winter air, scent of pine everywhere, and exercise felt invigorating.

Christmas Tree Farm Painting - Laura Tasheiko

My sister helped, and Dad often hired my friends for the harvest.  We climbed the hill, grabbed two or three trees at a time, and pulled them with all our might down the slopes, over and over again!  By the end of the day, exhausted, we collapsed around our kitchen table for mom's hot chocolate and marshmallows.  How delicious those times were!  Of course, we had the best tree in town right in our living room!

About twenty years ago, when my stepdaughter was about twelve, I decided to introduce her and my second wife to the joys of finding and cutting our own Christmas tree.  We traveled out of the city to a farm just off the interstate, parked the car, and slogged through endless fields to find the perfect tree.  I was the “expert”, and we found a pretty good one.  By the time we got back to the car, we were cold, wet, and tired, and our boots were caked in an inch of muddy clay.  Tree hunting in Texas is not the same as up north! 

I reveled in the fun and excitement, but the girls were not so enthused.  After that year, we got our tree from a local dealer in a parking lot.  Soon after, we discovered that the garden center would deliver and set up a tree.  I never again had to tie a tree to the roof of my car, hassle it into the garage to re-cut the base of the trunk, try to fit it into the stand, drag it into the house knocking over furniture and knick-knacks as I went, and set the thing upright trying to get it vertical.  What a revelation!

Unfortunately, our daughter developed allergies in her teen years and, much to my consternation, she started sneezing and coughing as soon as the Christmas tree made its debut.  I guess it was catching, because my wife began having the same reaction.  It was a difficult decision for me to switch to an artificial tree, but now I am a believer.  I embraced the minimal hassle of setting up a three-section, pre-lighted, always vertical tree-in-a-box!

I enjoy the wonder and excitement of decorating the tree, setting out the stockings, buying and wrapping presents, and emailing my Christmas wishes.  But the most wonder-filled feeling comes with sharing time with my family.  Christmas brings warm feelings of connection and love.  It renews my faith, draws me closer to those I hold dear, and prepares me for the next great adventure of the season: making new year’s resolutions…

May this season bring you and your loved ones serenity, balance, connection, light, and the warmth of love!

-- Pete

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Everything in moderation.  -- Aristotle
… including moderation!  -- Clark Jones

Have you ever met someone who seemed a “bubble off of level”, a bit kooky, somewhat unbalanced?  How about someone who was way “off”, perhaps scary?  What about someone who was so monotone and boring that you wanted to escape just to get a breath of fresh air? 

To seek balance is an admirable preoccupation, but I believe life is a series of imbalances that allow us to grow as humans.  When we maintain a point of balance, there is no movement.  We stagnate, we cease our growth, and we lose our passion.  I think it is important for us get unsteady and move toward the edges, try new things, challenge ourselves, grow.

One of my favorite precarious experiences involves getting my mind “blown” with a new thought or concept.  Here are some examples:  
1.     The Higg’s Boson
2.     What if we are 90% soul, and just 10% of everything else?
3.     What if the body is not the temple of the spirit, but the spirit is the temple of the body?

I understand how people who have been quite out of balance often long for quietude and centering.  The man who worked all his life in a high-pressure job now finds tranquility tending his orchids day in and day out.  The woman who raised children now finds quite mornings to reflect and write her memoir.  Nevertheless, we must not confuse reflection and solitude with balance.  These provide opportunities for growth and movement as well.

The awakening man looks at balance and sees its two-edged blade.  Get too far unbalanced, and we move into dysfunction and insanity.  Stay at the center, and we become impotent, lifeless.  He understands that moments of terror on the edge of a cliff of life can open new opportunities and passions.  However, he also realizes that he must take time to center himself in meditation and renewal, rebalance his psyche, and revive his spirit.

The awakening man accepts that balance is an individual mandate.  Great balanced people like the Dalai Lama come to mind, as does the rather unbalanced Rumi with his wild visions and utterances.  Both have contributed greatly to our understanding of our humanness and our spirituality.

The awakening man understands there will be times of imbalance in his life, his thoughts, and his passions.  He uses this tremendous energy for learning, serving, completing.  Purposefully then, he returns to the center point of serenity within his being.  The touchstone of his heart brings him into awareness of the equanimity of the universe, the calmness within the chaos, the gold within his shadow.  And then he’s off again in this wild adventure we call life.


What does balance mean to you?  Do you wish for more balance in your life, or do you welcome the shattering of stability that life sometimes throws our way?  How will you seek your center point?  How will you find the fringes?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
-- Henry David Thoreau

I thought the word complexify was a neologism until I discovered it actually is listed in the unabridged dictionary.  It means, as one might guess, to make complex or to become complex.  It seems to me that human history writhes with increasing complexity.  Examples abound, but my favorite example is the US Tax Code.  The modern tax code debuted in 1913, comprising 400 pages of definitions and instructions.  Now, in 2012, 99 years later, there are 73,608 pages in it.  Indeed, the tax code is so complex that almost any change made by Congress will result in conflicts with some other part of the code.

Most of the tax code is unintelligible to the vast number of Americans, so an industry of tax preparers, programmers, and accountants has grown to meet the need. About 80% of Americans use a tax preparer or software to complete their tax return.  The IRS does not know how many tax preparers are in business nationwide, though estimates range from 600,000 to 900,000.  I’ll bet it is higher. 

The tax preparation industry itself cannot properly follow the code.  Every year, Money Magazine hires a bevy of tax experts to calculate the tax on a relatively complex financial scenario of “Mr. John Q” taxpayer.  Invariably, every preparer’s final number differs from the others, so no one gets it “right”.  Usually there are multiple ways of arriving at the final taxable amount.  Herein is the rub: if we simplified the code so the average-intelligence American could perform the calculation, it would put another million people out of business. 

Tax owed = $5,723...
or maybe you get a refund of $2,891 ?!

In college chemistry, I learned about the universal energy property of entropy, the measure of a system’s heat energy that is unavailable for doing useful work.  In a closed system, like our universe, entropy always increases.  It is not a reversible process. The analogy to an ever-increasing tax code that does not do useful work is obvious.

I find my own life filled with entropic complexity, always increasing, sometimes bringing confusion, and always causing me to wonder about simplifying.  However, that being said, I like to collect, organize, and play with STUFF.  I occasionally wonder about simplifying to the max, like Thoreau or Gandhi, men who were able to distill the cacophony of living to an essence that bespoke wisdom.

The awakening man grows in his awareness of how he complicates his life.  He discards first the dross of dishonesty, denial, and bigotry.  He cleans up his house, trashing all those useless character traits that no longer serve him.  He looks at all the material things he has accumulated and starts to eliminate the useless, the old and tired, the meaningless.  He opens up to letting go of his addictions, his negativity, and his diseases.  He understands that this purging opens up space in his world for positive change, new directions, and more of the values he wants.  Perhaps he simplifies to the extreme, or perhaps he lets go of an old photo that brings painful memories.  Perhaps he follows a simple middle ground.

What would be the most extreme way you might simplify your life?  Would you want that?  What about letting go of your depression, anxiety, or resentment?  What about awakening to the simple code of love?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I have looked into your eyes with my eyes.  I have put my heart near your heart.
-- Pope John XXIII

The awakening man comes to a realization that all people and all things are connected in some way.  He feels a connection with the earth when he plunges his trowel and hands into its derma.  Often, he feels at one with his mate, his family, or a close friend. As his consciousness expands, he feels a greater bond with all people, all animals, all of nature, all of the universe.

Connection is a fundamental property of the universe.  Scientists tell us that all matter in the universe is connected via a force not yet comprehended, although we have several models for it.  Perhaps its essence is the graviton, the Higgs boson, “dark” energy, or, for those spiritually inclined, what we might term God.  Pictures can clarify our models.
The universe pulsates as a living network
The awakening man feels a deep relationship with others that peaks in times of deep sharing from the heart.  Some may call that compassion, love, humanity, or it may be explained by the Jungian concept of the collective unconscious.  He understands not only that there are only six degrees of separation between any two people, but also that we are all directly linked with each other at a deeper level.  He looks into the eyes of each person, and he encounters their soul.  
You are separated from an other person only by four other people
Often, we feel a closeness with animals and nature.  My own experience includes dogs and horses who seem to have their own sense of relationship with humans.  They seem to know intuitively when we are in pain or ill or peaceful, and they often move close us in gentleness and comfort.

Finally, the awakening man reflects on inner unity, getting in touch with his emotions, mind, body, and spirit.  He takes the hero’s  journey inward to his core, that which has been variously called the inner child, true self, inner self, center, inner goddess, and spirit.

Our connectedness increases as we seek enlightenment.  Our hearts fill with awe, we feel the energy of the universe, perhaps name it God, ever reaching toward us, surrounding us, embracing our souls.

How have you connected today? What connections give your life meaning and joy? What will you do to become more intimate with the whole?

I look into your eyes and 
see the whole universe not yet born
-- Rumi 

Photo credits:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Better Place

"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.”  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do not know if it was my mother’s love of Emerson that brought this quote into my life, or if I heard it from someone I have long forgotten, or if I read it on a coffee mug.  This was one of my early lessons that I somehow took to heart as a young boy and worked it into my life.  It drove me to make my own surroundings better, to do a better job on whatever I undertook, and, more recently, to help people in their struggle to get better or have a better life or make a better world.  And we all know what better means!

The awakening man looks deeply into his soul for a vision of what he can be.  His constant companion must be that greater vision, for it drives him to surrender himself to achieving a better life for, first, himself, and for others.  He learns that better means discarding his childish ways, addictions, selfishness, grandiosity, and meanness.  It means dealing with his shadows that haunt and ruin his life purpose. 

He cries, screams, rages, and strides into the fire of his hero’s journey, through the inferno of his heart, to burn away the dross of his soul.  He steeps his ego in the boiling pot of humility and brews wholeness for his cup.  He learns to rise from the ashes of his wounds and proclaims a mission for his life, a mission filled with love, compassion, peace, value, the fulfillment of which is the offering of his own unique gold to the world.

He yearns to leave better wherever he goes, whatever his situation, for his family, his friends, and others.  His contributions may be small, but no matter.  They give his life joy and meaning, and that is enough!

What is your vision?  Your mission?  Your gold?  How will you follow Emerson’s call to true success today?  How will you leave the world a better place?

Photo credit: Credit: Austin Malleolo