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!

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Reawakening the Blog

"Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?"
- A. A. Milne

Six months have passed since my last blog entry, and I wonder why.  I have myriad excuses!  I just didn’t feel like writing.  I had no deep ideas not elsewhere recorded in some billions of recorded words, so why write them?  I felt like a monkey trying to write Shakespeare, yet not patient enough to wait for chance.  I needed a rest, a sabbatical, a temporary respite from trying to translate my self into words and phrases.  I was afraid of your criticism, your misunderstanding, your disdain, your wondering, “What the hell is the matter with that man?”  So, too, perhaps you wondered why you signed up for my weekly emails and never got them.

Nevertheless, paraphrasing the classic phrase from Poltergeist, the movie:

“I’m B-A-C-K!"

There comes a time in the awakening man’s life that he realizes each person is unique in the universe.  He, too, is the only one of his kind with his life experiences and lessons.  He sees the possibilities of growth through sharing, through telling his stories, through being honest with others about who he is and why he exists.  Through his writing, he changes the mythology of his existence into reality on this plane of existence.

Moreover, he enjoys the opportunity to reach out to others with his reason, his feelings, his subjective view of life, and his own interpretation of meaning.  He grabs the opportunity to speak, and perhaps to be kind, to teach, to guide, or to simply to reveal new thought and meaning for others.

Through journals, poems, essays, meanderings of the pen in whatever form, he defines what is real for himself, and thus defines what he is as a man, as a person, as a spiritual body, and what is important.  Simply put, he brings meaning to his life through his writing, and in so doing, he opens the door to others and leaves his legacy. 

Thus, I return, with my thoughts on awakening.  Welcome to my journey!  May you take yours!

Friday, February 24, 2012


We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and even if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.  -- John Stuart Mill

Having lunch with a group of my “brothers” often opens my eyes to connection and wisdom.  By brothers, I mean men whom I know and trust deeply.  They often tell incredible stories of their lives or pose inscrutable questions, which I love.  They listen to mine. 

At lunch last Saturday, one of my brothers from The Mankind Project[1] asked this question: “Do you respect my right to my opinion, or do you respect my opinion even if it is opposed to your truth?  For example, let’s pose a hypothetical opinion: All <insert the name of a group of people> should be killed.  Do you respect that?”

The awakening man honors another person’s right to have an opinion.  He does not attack nor discount the person.  In our culture, we allow people to voice their opinions within the bounds of law.  For instance, our laws prescribe against speech designed to inflame violence against our democracy.

The awakening man listens with curiosity.  He asks questions respectfully so he may better understand the other person.  He knows that he may never fully comprehend the other’s way of thinking: he may never “get into the other’s head”.  However, he maintains his desire to connect with and to know the person on a deeper level.

The awakening man is open to changing his ideas and concepts.  To cement our current thinking into unyielding structures creates resistance, defeats transformation, and puts us back to sleep.  All revelation comes through change and all change comes through revelation.

The awakening man respects the absolute existence of an opinion.  He believes in the affirmation from the Desiderata[2], “…no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”  This leads him to understand that every opinion, every idea he is exposed to, is part of his own unfolding whether he agrees with it or not.  The unfolding of an opinion may be for a greater purpose, or it may exist simply to further the evolution of consciousness, bring a lesson, or guide one to deeper contemplation.  From this point of view, he honors and respects the existence of the opinion.  He uses his mind and heart to understand the meaning of it in his life.

Now comes the question of action.  The awakening man discerns what is “good”, and he welcomes the opportunity to allow good to flow through him into the world.  The awakening man uses his gifts of discernment, wisdom and intuition to decide on a course of action.  If he respects the content of another person’s opinion, he has the wonderful opportunity to choose to act on it.  In his path of learning, the awakening man may ask how he can promote the other person’s concepts, what type of support he can provide, or what action might be useful.

If he does not respect the idea, disagrees with it, or has a gut reaction against it, he can choose to act against it.  He may choose to quash it or campaign against it.  Of course, he also has the option of taking no action, allowing the idea to remain fallow until it germinates in his life and calls him to action.  However, he addresses any shadows of apathy or passivity in his life.  This is part of his awakening.

On the highest plane, the awakening man grows in consciousness to address the questions, “What if there is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’?  What if things just exist, and it is up to us to learn and grow from them without judgment?”  That is a topic for a future post!

In my theoretical discussion with my friend, it is clear to me that I respect his right to have his opinion.  I also respect the existential existence of his opinion.  It was useful to me because it allowed my mind to sort out what respect means.  I actually do not hold a firm opinion on the topic he brought up (ask me why).  Nevertheless, I know that one of my lessons from this dialogue is to become more aware of my passivity and “whatever” attitude!

How do you respond when someone voices an opinion you oppose?  Do you enter into preemptive judgment?  Do you browbeat the other person with your own ideas?  How do you open up to the dialogue, messages, and lessons from others?

- Pete

[1]                   For information on The Mankind Project, refer to http://www.mkp.org
[2]                   Desiderata was written around 1920 (although some say as early as 1906), and copyrighted in 1927, by lawyer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) based in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Murky Muck

This being human is a guest house, 
every morning a new arrival.
  A joy, a depression, a meanness,
 some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor.
  Welcome and entertain them all!
  Even if they are a crowd of sorrows 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture,
 still treat each guest honorably.
  He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
  The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing,
 and invite them in.
  Be grateful for whoever comes,
 because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond. -- Rumi

It has been a while since I blogged.  I went through some murky muck of anger and sadness, and I didn’t have much to say during the past month, except to myself.  I did a lot of journaling, which often is how I do my work.

The awakening man sees clouds and welcomes them, whether they bring sadness, fear, anger, or the refreshing rain of spring.  They provide great opportunities for learning.  The question is not, “Why am I feeling so depressed?”  The awakening man instead asks, “What are the shadows in my psyche that I hide deep and never confront; the shadows that manifest as ennui, dark sadness, enervation, and a 'fuck you' attitude that lashes out in rage?  How can I find my lessons in those shadows?”

Sometimes weltschmerz overwhelms and we take it on as our needful mantle.  Seething fear and anger blast out, and we hurt those we love and the innocents around us.  Did I actually kick the dog last week? 

The awakening man welcomes these unwanted visitors with curiosity.  How did they come into my house?  What is their purpose?  What causes me to set aside for a time the depths of joy, kindness, peace, and compassion I worked so hard to feel, to live, to give to others?

Such times are fires of trial and consternation, burning away the dross of our psyches if we work through them.  We must come to understand them, accept their guidance, and then release them.  Our soul awakens further, and we become more alive as we learn and grow.  We walk through and work through the swampy muck of depression or anger or fear, learning what our soul needs in its journey.  
This takes time.  The soul’s journey will not be hurried.

In time, the clouds drift away.  We let them go, keeping close to our heart the lessons we learned.  We allow the darkness to recede, welcome the dawn of new revelations, and feed on the breaking light of realization.  Within the shadows of our soul lies much gold[1].

Our shadow work can bring revelation.  A misbehaving dog can bring up memories of past darkness and can trigger suppressed rage.  We may be dismayed to find how our anger and fury spills over onto our loved ones.  We may be surprised that shadows of judgment, anger, and depression still lurk within.  They can surface in terrible ways.  Did we actually kick the dog?

We have heavy work ahead of us to drain that lake of murky muck (or is it mucky murk?)  We must do the anger work, or sob, or shudder within and without to feel all of the import of our shadow.  Then we must slowly slowly release its energy.  Perhaps this takes the form of beating a pillow with a tennis racquet, journaling pages of muck, or just sitting and bawling.

As the clouds begin to clear, we must walk into the light of new activities, sometimes so different from what we have been doing.  The awakening man often must get back into greater physical activity, especially during the winter if he suffers from SAD[2].  Perhaps this all will lead to taking on a some sort of major physical challenge, or a new career path, or something as simple and as complex as a rededication to his core values.

He must study his codependence – living life for others instead of self.  This is a common shadow behavior needing continual work!  The journey entails balancing our ideals of compassion and service with the need to take care of our own needs and wants.  Tough assignment!

Sometimes a shift is in the wind, an unknown shift of attitude, belief, or behavior.  Perhaps it includes letting go of the material things we covet, activities that no longer serve us, or friends that drain us.  Perhaps it takes the form of a stretch to try something in apposition to our current path.  Sometimes it means just sitting patiently in a state of not knowing until the fog lifts of its own accord.

Then we can recognize that new life is on the horizon, coming with the sunshine of spring!

When murky muck shows up in your life, do you take the time to welcome those clouds and discern the lessons they hold for your soul?  Are you patient enough to do the work of draining the swamp?  What does spring sunshine look like?

[1]         Carl Jung proposed the concept of gold in the shadows of our psyche.  For a brief description, refer to the website:

[2]         SAD stands for seasonal affective disorder.  I wrote a brief paper on this psychological phenomenon, which for some people results in depression when the daylight hours grow fewer in the fall and winter.  If you are interested, please contact me at petegf@att.net.