Chiropractic From The Heart in HAMBURG with Dr. Stew Bittman

Chiropractic From The Heart in HAMBURG with Dr. Stew Bittman

June 29-30, 2018 | Click for FLIER

Would you love to serve and practice according to your deepest values and intentions? Does your head get in the way of practicing and living in alignment with what you know to be true in your heart? Do you go to seminars and get “pumped up” and then “lose it” quickly thereafter?

Join us for a “booster shot” of chiropractic principle, a host of tools to continually grow in consciousness and improve your life and practice, a safe place to release everything that no longer serves you and, generally, a life-changing weekend to fall back in love with chiropractic and yourself!

Suitable for DCs, heilpraktikers, CAs, significant others & patients

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Forgetting How to Ride a Bicycle

I used to ride a bike a lot when I was a kid, but in the subsequent 45 or so years I’ve ridden one perhaps a dozen times. Some of the gaps in between have been a decade or more. Yet each time I’ve ended one of those bike-riding droughts, all I’ve had to do is hop on and off I went as if the last time had been yesterday. I was not only able to do it, but it was easy. Apparently riding a bicycle is just like riding a bicycle! I find that pretty amazing, especially considering the fact that each time I’ve resumed bike riding after a long hiatus there wasn’t a single atom in my body that was in there the last time I’d done it!

My brain became wired to ride a bicycle early in life and it (and therefore I) will never forget how. Or so I thought.

Have you seen the YouTube video about the backwards bicycle? An engineer was given a bike that turned left when you turned the handlebars to the right, and vice versa. To his surprise, being a coordinated and intelligent guy, he could not ride it, even a few feet. He is a public speaker and began taking the bike on the road with him. He offered anyone in the audience $200 if they could ride the bike 10 feet across the stage and no one could do it. He himself took it on as a personal challenge, and practiced 5 or so minutes a day. It took him 8 months to be able to ride it. And the moment he could do it, he said it was like something clicked in his brain. (By the way, it took his 6-year son 2 weeks to accomplish what it took him 8 months to do)

The most interesting thing about all this for him was that once he was able to ride the backwards bike, he no longer could ride a regular bike (it took him 20 minutes of trying before he could). He forgot how to ride a bicycle!

This is incredibly interesting and empowering to me. I know my brain is wired and biased toward other things besides how to ride a bike. Things like anger, separation, taking things personally, wanting (needing) to be right, judging, being more aware of lack and limitation than of love and abundance, etc., and undoubtedly a whole host of other things I’m not even aware of. I find these things very easy to do and very hard to forget how to do. In fact, I have often entertained the idea that I could never unlearn some of these tendencies. But if it’s possible to unlearn how to ride a bicycle, I know it’s possible to unlearn those things as well. All I have to do is practice a different way, and stick with it until something clicks in my brain. Then I won’t be able to “ride a regular bicycle” anymore!

I believe that at the center of my being is love, and that love is always tapping at the door of my consciousness, ready, willing, able and indeed anxious to pour into my awareness, into my life and into this world. I realize I have allowed my brain to be wired in such a way as to ignore the tapping. I have allowed it to put walls, chains, locks, moats and guard dogs around the door. But I also realize that the more I practice opening the door, moment to moment and day to day, the quicker my brain will re-wire to support that love. I’m more than OK with my brain being biased toward expressing, giving, receiving and experiencing love. How about you? I’ll see you on the backwards bicycle!

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Compassion Includes Me

If you compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete”, The Buddha

Many years ago I heard a speaker in chiropractic say that the profession was unique in that whenever we’re under attack, our response has always been to circle the wagons and shoot…in (i.e. at one another, just in case you weren’t raised on John Wayne movies like I was). Alas, things don’t seem to have changed much since then. “Divide and conquer” might be an effective strategy if you’re planning an invasion or takeover, but it’s undoubtedly not a rational thing to do to ourselves. Especially over and over and over again.

That pattern continues to sadden me, and lots of judgments come up about it (because naturally I know who’s really right), but I’ve come to a point in my life where whenever I get triggered about something “out there”, I look within myself to see if the same pattern exists in me. It’s a bit nauseating how often I find it. And in this case, I can clearly see that I have often employed the same futile strategy in my own life.

How often have I been a house divided when “under attack”, conducting an argument between parts of myself, every one of them either convinced it was right or ashamed it was wrong? How often have I given myself flack when I needed some slack? How often have I beat myself up when I needed an ally? How often have I been my own adversary instead of my own advocate? Especially when I’ve needed an advocate the most?

Can I ever be compassionate with others until I’ve given myself some first? Can we as chiropractors ever develop the compassion to honor each other’s opinions and paths enough so that we might someday unite in any meaningful way? Can we as members of the human race do that? Can we ever do it until we’ve united all our pieces as individuals with compassion and love?

So I humbly offer the invitation to all of us to send some compassion to ourselves today. Tomorrow would be OK too. Not pity or sympathy, but unconditional love. Imagine how our Innate (Spirit) would talk to our Educated (ego), and let’s talk to ourselves that way. Let’s affirm that when all the pieces of you and I get together on the same team, we are both unstoppable. And when they stay together under any “attack”, they can work together to bring about the most loving outcome that serves everyone. Let’s circle the wagons and shoot love in so we can shoot compassion out to each other and to the world.

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Sigafoose the Great

For all who receive my blog, my apologies for falling off the blog planet for so long…I’m back! Thought I’d jump back in with this article I wrote a few days ago about my mentor and friend Jim Sigafoose who passed away recently. He was among the most influential chiropractors in our history and most assuredly among the most influential people in my life. The article was written for chiropractors but I think you’ll get the idea in case you don’t happen to match that description…

We just returned from Sig’s Celebration of Life. What a fabulous tribute! My blessings and thanks to Patsy and the whole Sigafoose clan for not only creating the event in the midst of their grief and this undoubtedly hectic period of their lives, but also for being such incredible models of strength and grace. It was wonderful to see so many old friends (even if many of you chose to comment on my gray-ness) and to reconnect with so many amazing warriors from the Gathering, Parker, DE and the mission trips with whom I’ve shared my heart and so many beautiful memories.

The Celebration brought up a whole spectrum of feelings and thoughts, many of which had already been scurrying through my heart and mind this whole past month. Most of them are deeply personal, but I did want to express some of them with y’all. Here goes…

Sig was my spiritual and chiropractic mentor, as he was for many of you. For about 12 years he was also my close friend, my traveling and drinking buddy (mostly coffee, but there were also some memorable tequila episodes…), and, I suppose one could say, my left-hand man (since I was his right-hand man at the Gathering and in the Systems). Because of that, I can confirm that his deepest and truest desire was for all of us to live and serve abundantly, to become maximum expressions of Innate, to become maximum expressions of Love.

This (finally) brings me to the point. Without question, Sig had amazing gifts. His capacity to love, his wisdom, his sense of humor, his dedication to the principle and to us, his non-attachment to things that don’t really make any difference, his tireless energy; I and many of you have worked to emulate some of these qualities. I just want to remind us that his message was pretty simple and pretty consistent over the many years that we heard it, and it’s time for us to embody it and to live it from the inside out, now that he’s no longer around to provide it for us from the outside in.

Our current situation reminds me of Jesus and the disciples. For 3 years Jesus modeled and taught a simple message, but the disciples never fully “got it” until after Jesus’ death, when the “holy Spirit” descended upon them and finished the job that Jesus started. That’s when they finally “shook the dust off their sandals” and reached their potential. Sig modeled and taught his simple message for 48 years. Can we now finally “get it?” Can we let Innate finish the job Sig started? Can we see Sig not so much as the exception but more as an example of what is possible for all of us? Can we find the things we loved and admired about him within ourselves? Can we bring those things out as boldly and beautifully as he did? It seems time we found out.

In almost every conceivable way, Sig was no different from you and me. He was human and he had his issues. There were a few occasions when Hillary and I threatened to lock him in a closet and force him to listen to his own tapes! But perhaps the greatest difference between him and us is that he didn’t let those issues get in the way. From the time many years ago when a guy came into his office trying to sell him an ultrasound machine and Sig, just to get rid of the guy, said, “I don’t have time for that, I’m seeing 80 people a day”, he held a crystal clear vision and spent the majority of his time focused on it. He put his attention more on what he wanted than on what he didn’t want. He put his energy into unfolding his vision and expressing his gifts rather than into all the reasons why he couldn’t or didn’t deserve to. He spent the majority of his moments on the Red Road of life, not wondering how he was going to get there.

Speaking of the Red Road, at the Celebration this past weekend, we were all given a small poster of his picture with the words, “I’ll see you on the Red Road of life”, which was essentially how he ended many of his talks. I think it’s important to mention that he usually didn’t say that precisely; he more often said, “If we are to meet again, it will be on the red road of life, because that’s where I’ll be.” For Native Americans, the Red Road (the loving, abundant, peaceful, spiritual road, as opposed to the Black Road of lack, limitation, greed and ego) wasn’t someplace they walked after they died, it was a place in their consciousness that they could access in each moment. Walking the Red Road was a conscious intention to live according to the ways of the Creator. Sig was reminding us that in each moment, we walked on either the Red Road or the Black through our thoughts, our attention, and our choices.

Every time I choose to get quiet, go within and focus on what is eternal and true, I walk the Red Road. Every time I choose love over fear, faith over appearances, or abundance over lack; every time I choose Spirit over ego, I walk the Red Road. And every time I do, I see Sig. I hear him. I feel him. I am with him on the Red Road, and I experience him just as powerfully as I did when I was in his bodily presence.

It is extremely difficult to envision my life, chiropractic and the world without Sigafoose in them. And, while we’re grieving over this great loss, let’s take what we’ve gained through his immense impact and walk the Red Road in more and more of our moments. I’ll see you there! I love you all.

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Don’t Should on Me

Years ago I heard a speaker say, “Never ever ‘should’ on yourself or others.” Hillary and I have both used that expression a lot ever since, but recently I have noticed that the word still shows up quite often in my vocabulary. Indeed, last week Hillary mentioned something she should do, and I very wisely (and nauseatingly) observed, “There are no shoulds; only choices and consequences.” Hillary re-phrased her statement in a more empowering way and I emphatically responded, “Well, that’s how you should say it!” We looked at each other for a split second and then simultaneously burst out laughing. It is a challenge to speak English and not use that word!

Since then I’ve had my ears tuned (they sound much better now) for the word and it’s amazing not only how often it comes up but also in how many ways. It’s also amazing how judgmental and disempowering the word often is, and how when we use it, we almost always really mean something else. In paying attention to the word, I’ve noticed that as soon as it’s used, it’s as if all the air gets immediately sucked out of the room, assuming it’s said in a room.

Shoulds are so ubiquitous and so deleterious to our spiritual unfolding that I plan to write my next book about them. I’ll lay out a general overview in this post and get more specific about some of the examples below in the next few posts.

Sometimes it’s pretty innocuous, such as in, “I should be home by 11” or “This should do the trick.” In those cases, we’re making a statement about what we expect, and it’s no big deal. Unfortunately, that’s not all we use it for.

We should on ourselves when we believe we’re not measuring up in some way, as in “I should be richer (happier, thinner, smarter, more enlightened).” My gosh, it’s one thing to acknowledge areas in which we might choose to grow or improve and another to judge ourselves for these “imperfections!” I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single time I even thought about self-growth or self-improvement while I was in a place of shame or blame or guilt or negative self-judgment. This is perhaps the shoulding that is most detrimental to our self-worth.

We also should on ourselves in regards to our choices; both those we’ve already made and those we’ve yet to make. The former goes something like this: “I shouldn’t have done this; I should have done that instead.” Yikes. Not only is this type of shoulding judgmental and disempowering, it has us living in the past. And, while we’re busy complaining or being resentful about the choice we’ve made, it stops us from doing what we can to make that choice work.

When we’re faced with a choice, “I should do ___” is just plain not helpful. What are we basing that should on? Usually, it’s based on what society might dictate, or what our mother might say, or what others might expect of us. Even if it’s the choice we’d prefer to make based on our core values and intentions, why say “should?” My ego, the spoiled teenager that it is, hears that I should do something and tends to want to do exactly the opposite!

The root of the word should means “to be under an obligation.” Do I have a greater obligation than to be true to myself? Is there a better criteria for my choices than my own core values, which tend to create win-win situations for all involved? When I say I should do something, it tends to rule out all other possibilities, as if I don’t have a choice. So in all the above cases of shoulding on myself, I’m working on replacing “I should” with “I choose.”

Finally, I do a great deal of shoulding on others as well. “He/She/They/The world should____ (be more grateful or more considerate or more like me, know better, give him or medal, string him up, not be so _____, etc.). Talk about judgmental! Once I have shoulded on you, it’s an inevitable and easy step to go ahead and judge you, blame you, impose my reality upon you and attempt to fix you. As with all cases of should-itis, these shoulds keep me in my head, they solidify the veil of separation between us and they effectively prevent me from loving you.

When I should on myself or on you, it’s a quick ticket out of my heart. Perhaps there really are no shoulds; only choices and consequences. So it behooves me to pay attention to when it comes out of my mouth (or better yet, to when it’s about to come out of my mouth) and change it to “I choose.” That’s what I’m focusing on lately, and I invite you to join me. I’m also focusing on lovingly reminding people when I hear them use the word that perhaps they’d choose to rephrase their statement. And, most of the time, I’ve remembered to not say, “You shouldn’t say should!”

And if that’s all we remember, that’s more than enough for now.

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The Angel in the Marble

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Rome was seeing some of Michelangelo’s sculptures (gawking at his frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel wasn’t too shabby either, though definitely tough on the neck…they ought to have chaise lounges in there). I had seen his Pieta once before when I was 8 years old at the World’s Fair in New York City, albeit briefly, as the throngs of people passed by it on a moving platform. I recall vividly being moved to tears in those short moments by the energy, the emotion and the real-ness of it; I remember being convinced that Jesus was going to slide right out of Mary’s lap in any moment. It was no less amazing and moving this time around, almost 40 years later.

I love what Michelangelo said about one of his sculptures: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” For me, this is a beautiful metaphor for our individual spiritual unfolding. We recognize that our original goodness, our true essence, is still present and active in the core of our being, and our work is to carve and chisel away at everything we’ve layered on top of it. This is the purpose of our spiritual practices. So we learn to forgive, to let go of patterns of thinking that limit us and lead to suffering, to release guilt and worry and judgment and the need to be right and the tendencies to take things personally and to sweat the small stuff. Essentially, we learn to stop thinking, speaking and acting as if our deepest beliefs weren’t true; we learn to stop being who we are not.

Michelangelo took up to 4 years to complete a sculpture; for you and I, uncovering “the angel” seems to take considerably longer. One of the reasons for this, I believe, is that you and I tend to get attached to some of our stuff. We carve off pieces of marble and then pick them up off the floor and stick them right back on. Michelangelo never had to deal with that!

I’ve done a lot of release work in my life and I’ve often noticed that some of the things I’ve released keep showing up like unwanted relatives or recurring bad dreams. This noticing used to lead to a lot of angst and self-abuse. I see now that part of the reason they kept returning and blocking the emergence of the angel that I am was all the mental gymnastics I engaged in when they did reappear. “I should know better.” “Why is this happening?” “Who’s to blame?” “I’ve been working on this issue for 25 years…what’s wrong with me?” When I do this (and I still do sometimes) I just get more attached, I just give the issues more power. I just make them more a part of my very identity. No wonder they love to hang around and jump back on!

Now, whenever I notice something show up that I’d previously released, I just release it again. I am learning to do this with less and less self-judgment, self-pity and resistance. I just acknowledge the familiar scrap of marble, and let it fall back down to the floor. Sometimes, I gently flick it off my arm as I might do with a tiny bug. This always leaves me feeling very empowered because I’m establishing where the power truly is—within me.

I’ve become convinced that release is not something we do once. It’s a moment-to-moment, ongoing process. Indeed, all of life is a process of releasing who we are not. It’s a moment-to-moment, ongoing process to remember who we are. I intend to keep that in mind and to keep on flicking. As I’ve done this, I’ve noticed that I may still have some of the same issues I had 25 years ago, but I have released a lot of my seriousness about them, my hatred of them, my self-criticism over them, my shoulds and yeah buts around them, and my identification with them. I have indeed left more marble on the floor than I used to think, and I know that my angel is emerging more and more and more.

So happy flicking!

And if that’s all we remember, that’s more than enough for now…

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The World Needs our Apples

We just returned from a fun mini-vacation down in San Francisco. I guess we needed to recover a bit more from our recent maxi-vacation in Europe. Anyway, we stayed one night, saw a stage production of The Wizard of Oz, had a wonderful seafood dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf and generally had a blast. On the way home, we stopped in Apple Hill. The fall colors were glorious and the apples showed up in abundance, in every way, shape, form and baked good you could possible imagine. Now I know there really is a difference between an apple turnover and an apple dumpling. Being inundated with apples got me thinking about abundance and where it comes from.

Where do the apples themselves come from? We might say they come from the roots or leaves of the tree or the soil or the sun or the DNA, and we wouldn’t be wrong. And still, the most complete answer for me is that they come from the Life within the tree (I capitalize the word because I see the Spirit of the divine in it; please feel free to insert any sized letters you might prefer). The apples come from the Intelligence that knows how to take some water and sunlight and carbon dioxide and minerals from the ground and make an apple. When the tree is dead, all those ingredients are still there, including the DNA, but you’ll never see another apple. Life in the tree manifests, creates, apples. The apples are the effect, Life is the cause.

When we tend an apple tree, we don’t have to tell it how to express apples or send it off to school to learn how, we just do our best to nurture it and provide it with the best conditions under which it can thrive. The tree already has everything it needs to express apples, and when conditions are right, we have apples up to our ears.

Where does our abundance come from? It comes from the same place that health, wholeness, love and joy come from. It comes from the Life within us; the life that we are. Just as the Spirit of the apple tree is always expressing apples (even in the winter when it’s resting because the conditions aren’t right), our God Self is always expressing the fruit of who we are: our gifts, our being, our presence, our love. Our job is to help establish the right conditions under which we can thrive so that we can give and receive these things in abundance. This is the source of all forms of abundance in our lives, even the green form. Money is the effect, WE are the cause.

One difference between the tree and you and I is that the tree never forgot any of this, and you and I undoubtedly have. Therefore, the tree never learned self-sabotage or self-judgment or self-pity or self-recrimination. In my life, I have mastered all of these at times. The tree never poisons its own roots. I’ve spent a lot of my life doing that, and I’m tired of it. So I do the work. The tree doesn’t need forgiveness work or self-help books or abundance seminars to re-discover its gift and provide the world with apples. You and I might have some work to do, only because we’ve forgotten.

The tree may not have forgotten, but all it knows to create is apples. You and I can create anything we can imagine, anything around which we center our consciousness. You might not be able to make a baked good out of what you and I can bring into the world, but that’s OK. The world isn’t suffering from a lack of baked goods, but perhaps it is suffering from a lack of the love and other gifts that you and I are currently not expressing.

So for me, “abundance work” is no different than any other spiritual practice. It’s about remembering who we are. When we remember, we can tap into our inner resources and be more open to creative ideas and opportunities, conditions that will surely help us manifest abundance in any form we choose. When we remember, we know that we are always bigger and stronger than any appearance of lack or limitation. And remembering can begin with the way we talk to ourselves and others. This has been my major focus of late. This is how we begin to establish the right conditions for our fruit to manifest in abundance.

Affirmations are a powerful tool for improving our self-talk. We can also upgrade our answers to those questions we hear all the time. The last time someone asked how you were doing, for instance, did you answer, “I always have more than enough because I am always more than enough” or “I am manifesting the life of my dreams and all the fruit that comes with it right now” or “All the abundance in this universe is unfolding through me and for me right here and right now”? If not, why not? As I’ve said recently about using this question as an opportunity to affirm our health and wholeness, we can choose to answer, “Who are you” instead of “How are you”, and affirm our true and natural state of abundance. The worst that can happen is that they’ll stop asking!

The world needs our apples! Happy creating!

And if that’s all we remember, that’s more than enough for now…

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The Zeal to Heal

Time to dust off and stretch these writing muscles after a long, wonderful summer of inactivity (for them, not me)…

The Zeal to Heal

There was a sign on the wall in my old chiropractic office, right next to the doorway leading back to the adjusting rooms, that read, “No negative thoughts beyond this point.” I used to tell everyone they’d get zapped if they tried it. We suggested that folks dump their stuff before going back to get adjusted by writing it all down on a piece of paper (which we would ceremonially gather and burn each evening—and no, we didn’t read them) and then grab a strip of paper with a positive affirmations written on it. Admittedly, this was wonderful for me because I didn’t have to hear 150-200 tales of woe each and every day. But it was equally wonderful for the folks who came in, because for at least those few moments, they had the opportunity to focus on something positive. They had the opportunity to be as enthusiastic about what was right with them as they generally were about what was wrong with them. They had the opportunity to think good thoughts about their bodies and their lives. What a precious thing and, sadly, what a rare thing those moments are in many lives.

My God, can a group of people my age get together without our prostates, eyes, and assorted sagging parts being the main topic of conversation? When you ask someone how they are doing, assuming you’re really asking because you care and not just as another way of saying hello, do you ever hear things like, “My body is a temple for the unlimited love of Spirit” or “Did you know that my body is capable of doing 600 octillion things simultaneously?” or “Hey, check it out! Those Twinkies I ate for breakfast are now part of my eyeballs and prostate!”? I doubt it. You probably hear what I hear–stuff about bone tired and bad knees and weak bladders and bum hips and sour stomachs—all communicated with great zeal and enthusiasm.

I recently saw a bunch of Jewish haikus, and this one applies beautifully:

Her lips near my ear,
Aunt Sadie whispers the name
of her friend’s disease

What if we applied as much zeal and enthusiasm toward affirming our own greatness and wholeness as we did toward our own frailty and symptoms?

I have made a long-time spiritual study of my own self-talk and, historically, I was just as guilty of badmouthing my body as most people. But not anymore. I’m following the example of Myrtle Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity. Myrtle was essentially an invalid for the first few decades of her life, diagnosed with tuberculosis, which was considered hereditary and incurable. One night she heard a speaker utter the words, “I am a child of God; therefore I do not inherit sickness”, and she proceeded to completely change the way she talked to her body. In addition to much prayer and meditation, Myrtle continually praised her body, she send love to her cells, and she apologized to those parts of her body that she had previously maligned and belittled. After two years of this practice she was healed, and lived and thrived to a ripe, old age. She believed it took two years because that’s how long it took to overcome her own deep-seated doubts.

What would happen if you and I did this?

Here’s a tool I’ve been using to help myself remember how I choose to talk to my body: whenever anyone asks me, “How are you?” I make believe they’ve asked me, “Who are you?” Then it’s easier for me to respond with something at least remotely aligned with the biggest, grandest vision I hold for myself. It’s easier to respond with something like, “Terrific” or “Awesome” or “I am filled with the power of Life” or “Every little cell in my body is happy and well!”

Speaking of Every Little Cell, it’s actually a song that we sing regularly at Unity at the Lake. It’s sung to the tune of “Momma’s Little Baby Loves Shortnin’ Bread”, and there are several versions on YouTube. Check it out! I did some research on it, and apparently it calibrates at 600 on David Hawkins’ consciousness scale (from the book Power Vs. Force, for those of you who are into such things). It was written by a German guy who had fractured his 2nd lumbar vertebrae in the early 80’s and was told he’s be a paraplegic for life. Clemens Kuby wrote this song, sang it to himself, walked out of the hospital in less than a year and is still walking (and speaking about self-healing) today. I’m singing it every day!

Whether we praise, affirm or sing, let’s work up a little zeal to heal!

And if that’s all we remember, that’s more than enough for now…

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June Busted Out All Over

Our country’s 237th birthday party has come and gone and I’m still celebrating June. It was a rather large month in my life.

Hillary and I were ordained as an Interfaith Ministers on June 9th, the highlight of a wonderful weeklong trip to New York. I hadn’t been to the City, where I was born and raised, in over 25 years, and everything exceeded my expectations. Perhaps most amazing to me is that every single thing I craved to eat—a hot dog from an umbrella stand guy, a slice of pizza, a bagel, Italian food and a knish (you might have to google that last one)—was just as good as I remembered.

At the ordination I got a strong inner message to shave my beard, which had adorned my face for 30 years. We came home and I promptly did. When I showed up at Unity without the beard, nearly everyone (including my mom) asked, “Did you grow a moustache?” So I decided to get rid of the moustache, too, which had been hiding my upper lip for upwards of 42 years.

It was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. I felt so vulnerable and naked even while I was doing it. And I was worrying the whole time about what I would look like. I wasn’t completely displeased, though my lip has this interesting curve to it…

Then when Hillary, who I met a mere 38 years ago, shed some tears upon seeing me totally clean shaven for the first time ever, doing her best to reassure me that she didn’t think it was ugly, just a huge change, I felt even more vulnerable showing my face in public. I got mixed reviews, and with Hillary obviously reluctant to kiss me because of my ever present stubble, the moustache has quickly made its return.

On the 23rd, at that point still sans moustache, we had a local celebration of our ordination at Unity. I have never felt so loved, so validated, so seen and heard, and so honored. It was quite the community love fest, and undoubtedly one of the highlights of my life.

And now that you’re up to date on my big June, including the current status of my facial hair, I suppose I can get to the point.

I didn’t expect to feel different after the ordination, but I did (I experienced that same thing when I got married). Something somehow feels different: more, bigger, better. I’m still processing all this, and I have no idea how the ordination will play out in my life as far as what I will do differently, but I suddenly have a more expansive vision of who I am. I feel a strong urge to be more, bigger and better. I suppose that’s why I got the message to shave my beard.

I also suppose I didn’t need two years of seminary and an ordination for this expanded vision to emerge, but as long as I did it, I’m grateful I haven’t gotten too wrapped up in worrying about “what do I do now?”. In fact, I think the biggest thing that has changed for is that I’m more convinced than ever that I never have to worry about what to do as long as I’m clear on who I am and what’s important to me.

I no longer hold a shred of belief that I have to first do something or acquire something I don’t already have in order to express and experience my deepest intentions and desires. In fact, I can clearly see how all my past striving to do and have more is precisely what got in the way of me living my dream right in that moment. When I look back at all the things I’ve wanted to do and have, I can also clearly see that I thought I needed those things in order to express and experience love, peace, joy, meaning, fulfillment and connection. But I don’t need to do or have anything to experience all those things; I simply have to stop believing I do and start expressing and experiencing them!

As one of our deans at our NYC ordination said, “When we’re grounded in enough love, the doing takes care of itself.” Amen!

And if that’s all I remember, that’s more than enough for now.

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Remembering the Peaceful Warriors (originally posted 5-28-12)

As Memorial Day looms, I am re-posting my thoughts about it from last year. Once again I have just returned from our Unity Regional Men’s Retreat and re-experienced the peace, oneness and sameness that spontaneously occur whenever men let down their guards and allow their authenticity and vulnerability to shine forth. This year there were 39 men in attendance at the retreat and I’m feeling immensely hopeful for the world. Enjoy!

Remembering the Peaceful Warriors (originally posted 5-28-12)

Memorial Day has held little meaning in my life beyond family picnics, the onset of the “summer vibe” and invariably, in my 33 years here in Lake Tahoe, snowstorms. I’ve always been aware of what the holiday was about, that it used to be called Decoration Day, but perhaps because I had no close relatives who died in battle I was insulated from its true meaning. At least in my early years. Growing up during the Vietnam War, that all changed. There were guys I grew up with in my neighborhood that didn’t come home.

But by then I had become a bit of a hippie and peacenik, and decorating the graves of soldiers just didn’t seem to be part of the program. Though I had grown up marching with my toy gun to John Philip Souza and reveling in multitudinous John Wayne films, by this time in my life anything related to military endeavors had not only lost its luster, but was an anathema, scary, unimaginable and something I didn’t even want to look at, let alone remember.

I see now that I have done a lot of people a tremendous disservice. For all these years, I have equated the warriors with the war. Even worse than that, I have blamed the warriors for the war. I have met a ton of Vietnam vets and so many of them are understandably bitter about the way they were “welcomed” home. In my anti-war stance I’ve managed pretty well to avoid any responsibility or self-recrimination for my part in that. I can’t begin to imagine how that must feel and I now humbly apologize to all of you. I realize it means little at this point, but it means a lot to me. Not only do I intend remembering all the fallen today, but also all those un-fallen who still carry the scars and wounds of war.

My stance on Memorial Day has changed as it has suddenly become clear that I am just as much to blame for war as anyone else. Every week in most Unity and Religious Science centers the service ends with The Peace Song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” Some in our community have wanted to change those words to more affirmative ones, “Yes, there is peace on earth; I know it begins with me.” I’ve been reluctant to change the words because as they stand, they remind me that in every moment I have a choice to allow peace to come into my awareness and into the world. Now, the next time someone asks about changing the words, I’ll be tempted to say, “Fine, as long as we also add the line, ‘Yes, there is war on earth; I know it begins with me.’” In every moment, I also have the choice to create violence, and I’ve become aware recently of how often I do so, in some subtle and not so subtle ways.

I just came back from a Unity men’s retreat. Thirty-three guys and the great majority have served in the military. They were some of the most peaceful men I’ve ever met, and it was perhaps the most peaceful gathering I’ve ever attended. Thirty-three guys and not one mention of football or politics. We laughed and cried and played music together. We shared things with each other that we hadn’t shared with anyone before, with the possible exception of our closest relations. We shared our gifts and also our authentic, screwed up selves and found out we weren’t alone in being gifted and screwed up. We found out that sorrow and joy can coexist in the same moment; that they are in fact inseparable. And we found out that we can each learn volumes about ourselves in community, especially when we can simply be ourselves in that community.

It seems ironic that I learned so much about violence by participating in such a peaceful gathering. The gift was that violence was so glaringly absent I was able to pay attention to what was missing. We weren’t competing! We weren’t doing all those usual man things like trying to fix each other or giving advice or negating others’ experiences (“ah, you think that’s bad? Well listen to this…”) or attempting to shift someone else’s reality (by interposing our own, of course) or sharing words with the sole intention of showing everyone how much we knew. These are common acts of violence! And I’m not sure they’re only man things.

We sat with our judgments and explored their origins within ourselves. We had agreed right off the bat to see and treat each other as whole, perfect and complete. We did a pretty damn good job of honoring that agreement, and peace reigned supreme. All this certainly wasn’t easy for me, but what helped was first honoring, and then tapping into, all the warrior energy in the room and finding it within myself. In letting go of my blind spots around what being a warrior means, I received a much greater awareness of what it means to be a peaceful warrior.

Gandhi said a coward could never be nonviolent. This means that all the qualities we attribute to warriors, such as discipline, decisiveness, preparation, mindfulness, courage and perseverance, are indispensible as we battle the demons and violence and craziness in our own minds and transform them so that love and peace remain.

I had another similar realization at the retreat: being anti-war never brought me to peace. Not once. By choosing to be against war and against warriors and against violence, by choosing to be against anything, I was just as guilty of choosing violence and expressing violence as everyone I judged. I believe we’ll continue to live in a violent world until we all take responsibility for the seeds of violence that we harbor and “put out there”, because only then can we begin to address the cause and use our warrior natures to transform our own consciousnesses.

So now I’m choosing to be for peace, and to be a warrior for peace. I know that begins with me, and for a start I’ll remember all the warriors today with honor, with gratitude and with love. I see a day when we won’t have to decorate graves and instead can focus on decorating the world with our beauty. Peace.

And, if that’s all we remember, that’s more than enough for now.

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