Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm a Writer

I've been reading a book recently called The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. I could go on all day about what I've learned--or started to begin to learn--from this book. I'm sure I will eventually. There's one thing that he talks about that come s to my mind now though. He's a writer so his struggle is to write. Other artists struggle to paint or make music and so on. I can relate to him well though because I'm a writer. (Wow....I think that's the first time I can remember actually writing that down and really putting it out there. "I'm a writer." I may not have even said it! I'm a writer. I write.)

Every day he gets up and starts again. If he underestimates the power of Resistance, which is his term for all the inertia, resistance, doubt, and sabatoge that goes on within us and limits our progress towards our dreams, then he will find by the end of the day that he's gotten off track and he hasn't practiced his discipline of writing. He's a writer so he must write every day. He must sit down at his desk and write. He must be disciplined and commit time to it.

I must do that too. (A more comfortable chair would help!) I must sit down and write every day. I've thought about it before over the years, always giving myself some reason to not do it, some argument conjured by Resistance. Now I just feel like I don't have any choice. It's write or die. If I don't write I'm finished. If I don't write I'll go throught the rest of my life not being who I am, being a shadow self. After writing just that little piece of microfiction the other day I realized the fact: I'm a repressed artist. Bigtime. My temperment, outlook, and way of perceiving and expressing have always been complementary to creative expression. It's a natural fit for me. It's what I need. It's what I have to give. Writing draws on something in me that longs to grow and develop and shine. Something that I've been keeping shut up in a closet for most of the past decade.

I'm already starting to feel the grief. You can't truly feel the loss of something until you really appreciate it. I could always tell myself before that it wasn't that big of a deal. The world didn't need it. I could be just as happy doing something else. Now I realize that I've been neglecting a vital part of who I am for a really, really long time, like living for years with my right hand tied behind my back! It's almost nauseating to think about, but I'm glad it makes me feel sad because that means I'm really seeing the truth now. I'm no longer in denial about my creative nature.

I'm here now, 32 years old, with my whole life ahead of me. Not too old. I've a lot left to give, hopefully lots of time. And I'm coming to these realizations in an ideal situation. I've got all this time to myself, especially on work days, and a job with not that many hours. There's lots of time to write. Lots of time to start developing the discipline of writing. time to sit down and just write and work on it and work through the Resistance and start growing and gaining confidence as a writer. Time to find my passion, my interests, my Muse. Time to weather the ups and downs of the whole process.

I'm exhausted right now. Lots of thoughts swirling but they'll have to wait. This is life. Sometimes you just have to laugh and shake your head at yourself and the decisions you've made and the excuses you've given yourself for them. This is growing up. Life is good. And it's short. Accomplishing a lot and leaving a legacy is great if you can manage it, but the main thing is the journey, the growing, the discovery, the illumination! What matters most is what carries on into the next world. If I publish one book or ten or none, what matters is the process I go through, the joy I feel, the happiness I bring to others, the vibrancy and spiritual power with which I move through this life. Writing is part of that somehow for me. It must be part of my path through this life, part of my way of taking in and giving out. Maybe drawing and painting too! Music! Just creative expression. I don't know how it's going to all come together. That not knowing was enough to turn me back in the past, but now I can't turn back. There's no going back. I'll just have to keep creating and see where it leads me. I'll keep praying and loving God and seeking His Kingdom, so I'm not worried it's going to lead me astray or anything like that. Creating is goin to lead me into another phase of life, one in which I start to become the man I was created to be. I'm a creator. I'm a Baha'i. I'm a soul. I'm a servant. I'm a counselor? Working on that one. I can finally say with certainty, though, I'm a writer. I write.

On another note, I want to continue putting down firsts here:

-- Today was the first time I had a persimmon since I was in China. It was awesome! They look like little orange tomatoes but their insides are almost like pudding. You can just open up a hole and suck out the goodness! Yummy! They just showed up at the fruit lady's stand so maybe it's the season. It's-a niice!

-- Last night was the first time I made spaghetti in Korea. I added lots of veggies. It was goooood.

-- On Monday I wrote a fictional story for the first time in maybe 10 years! It was a huge breakthrough for me, part of other breakthroughs happening in me right now. I'm breaking into pieces with all these breakthroughs! Happy pieces.

-- That was also my first installment in what will be weekly contributions to a microfiction writing group that I just joined, It's The Water, which is linked to this blog. Stoked about it.

-- Tomorrow will be my first trip to Costco in Korea. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Evil Eye

Ok, definitely keeping this one short!! Just want to throw down my thoughts for today.

I couldn't sleep last night until ungodly late, so then i woke up late and didn't have much time before work. My goal is to turn off the lights at 1 am every night and wake up at 10 am every day. I'll transition to that this week and start it in earnest on Sunday night. Then I'll keep it up for 21 days. A friend told me that that's the amount of time it takes to establish a new habit. So I guess I'll be realizing my goals over 3 weeks and then it'll be more habitual and easier and flowier.

Another thing is that I'm getting so sick of the news! It's like crack! I get so sick and poisoned from reading about the presidential campaign, but I'm so worried that McCain might win that I keep going back. I have to admit I SO want Obama to win and it would be an absolute DISASTER worse than Bush if McCain wins. I can't even bear the thought! Oy...but it's still the darkness before the dawn and things still have to get worse before they get better and the old world order is still in need of futher crumbling. McCain would be the man for that.'s hard to be detached. There's nothing for it, though, except to stop soaking it in and just let those matters be.

Today I played a computer game but only for a little bit. The only other goofing around was the politics crack rock smoking. The main problem today (and most days) is just going a little too slow. I mean there's no doubt that going slow and taking it easy is and always will be my style. A lot of good things come from it but I also want to feel productive. Like if I'm going to be doing nothing or going slow it should be purposeful and meditative. That's spiritual work that bears fruit. Too often, though, I jsut find that a lot of time has passed while I was just thinknig or day dreaming or dragging something out and taking forever to finish and move on. Internet surfing is the main thing that I have a problem with that. I could save an hour or more each day by just checking things quickly, doing my thing, and not lingering. So little comes from the lingering! So very little! Blech...sick of it. Internet surfing is draining the life out of me. It's time for me to take it back.

I felt a bit lost over the last couple days, feeling a bit like I'm in a vacuum. There's more times when I'm choosing to not do what I usually do but my mind hasn't quite figured out how to do anything else yet so there's been a lot of moments of floating and thinking "now what?" I take that at a good sign. It means I'm pulling out and creating space for new activities. During the week I'm forced to be alone a lot so I have to figure out how to be productive alone. That's a challenge for me. I always veer towards escape. I think a good thing to do in those moments when I feel lost and clueless is to pick up a book and just start absorbing what's in it. I have resistance to that and often feel like I have to be in the mood and everything has to be right for to sit down with a book. That's got to end now because with this schedule and all this alone time, it either read a lot (which I truly need and want to do) or end up goofing off more than I should. Goals are forthcoming in this area.

And now for something completely different.....

The students in my most advanced class--all 3rd to 5th graders--think I look like Harry Potter with my glasses on. When i take them off, though, they're mortified, saying I transform into Voldemort! They always have this dramatic reaction whenever I take off my glasses! It's crazy to me! Can I really look that different? Hailey said it was a big difference. I know my eyes are a lot smaller in the glasses. Anyways today I took my glasses off for a moment for whatever reason and there was comment of course. One girl in particular, Lynn--a really brilliant and wonderful girl--doesn't like me to do it. She groaned and told me to put them back on. Later I was joking around and pulled them down on my nose and fake-scary peered at her with my real, apparently gargantuan, eyes. She put her head in her arms and i soon realized she was crying! I apologized to her and told her I didn't realize that it really was upsetting to her. I thought it was all good fun. I promised to never do it again and assured her I wasn't trying to scare her and I'm not a scary man. I've never even hit anybody! She suggested that I have them surgically attached to my head to remove the threat once and for all. I told her I'd consider it. Anyways, it was just a funny, crazy, yet also unsettling situation. The last thing I want is to be creepy!

So on to the new things I did today:

- Today was the second time in Korea that I bought vegetables and tofu and chopped them and cooked them and made a meal at home! It was the first time I did it just cooking for myself. I got leftovers too! There was basically no spices or anything so it wasn't exactly momma's home cookin', but it was a great start. I'm definitely doing more of that and will be setting a concrete goal for how much I do it every week.

- Today was the first time I listened to the amazing mix CD that Hailey gave me! I'm so in love with it! It's so awesome and moving and soulful, and it's diverse yet full of all kinds of music that I don't listen to much and new artists to me. I suddenly adore the Indigo Girls. Never even tried them before. Just assumed they weren't my thing. Assumption strikes again. All kinds of good spiritual and stirring and passionate and fun and energizing music. The songs and the dynamic of the whole mix is really filled with Hailey's spirit. It makes me feel closer to her and miss her more at the same time.

- Today was one of the first times in a while that I put the smack down on one of my classes and let them know who's boss. They're middle school kids who need it sometimes. I actually took this class over because they were driving one of the other teachers batty. They had been doing this thing of jabbering and coming up with consant distractions and being sluggish and recalcitrant for a while but today it got to be too much. I let them know who's in control of my classroom. It's me. I was nice afterward, though, and it felt like a step in the right direction. One the main problems with this group is that it's 8pm, they've been in school forever alrady that day, they're exhausted and their blood suger is bottoming out. Parents need to make sure their kids get fed before 9:30 or whatever! One way or another! It just infuriates me that these kids can't get any food in their bellies day after day! It's a tough life for them. Tough being a Korean teenager. Tough being Korean.

Anyways, that's a whole other ball of wax. Check ya later!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Well I started off my last entry by saying that I was going to just write and not try to produce a major synthesis on the page. Turned out to be just as long as most of my posts! I don't feel pressure to express big ideas here, though, so it's all good. I just end up having a lot to say. Some of it seems like it would be good to read. Other stuff's a little more for me. Yep, that's ok.

Anyways, got some stuff on my mind. This last weekend was Chuseok, which is basically the Korean harvest festival. It ends up being almost exactly like Thanksgiving except Korean. I received an invitation from some friends, for which I am still grateful, to go with them for a trip to the country--way out in the country apparently--to a Buddhist temple. There would be some Chuseok celebration there, as well as lots of time to relax and chill. I think they were planning to study the Faith together some. Everyday would involve some time in the sauna and alone time just walking in the woods. Fresh air. Lots of stars at night (as opposed to zero here in Seoul.) It was also a chance for me to hang with Lex, my old friend who I knew before I got here but haven't been able to see much of since I got here, and get to know some other foreign friends better. So it was an ideal situation.

In the end, though, pretty much at the last minute, I decided not to go. At that moment, as great as it was it just seemed like another thing I needed to do. I wasn’t feeling joy at the thought of it. I also did NOT want to get up at 5:30 on Saturday morning to go catch the bus and ride on it for 5 or 6 hours or whatever after staying up late celebrating my friends birthday. So I didn’t go.

Why am I going on about this? I guess because what I wanted to do instead was stay home and have time to myself and do all these things I said I was going to do. Well I didn’t do most of the things I said I would do. I simply fell into the same rut I so often do when completely left to my own devices with no outside pressure. I surfed the internet, played computer games, watched movies, read a novel, annnnd….that’s about it. Yeah. At the end I definitely felt like I’de had a break but I felt just as worn out from it as rested. I felt so weary, like “so this is it?” This is what I do? This is my life? Just carry on like this?

Going to the Buddhist retreat would have been a more awesome thing to do, but I don’t regret not going. In the end I think this long weekend was useful. It was like a trip through all the things I do that I’m really tired of and ready in my heart to change. A tour through my vices and weaknesses. A chance to really look at them and how they arise and what they produce. It’s like all my weakness was a basket of peaches and I devoured every single one. I really tasted the fruit of my lame habits.

It also felt like it was right on time in this process I’ve been going through. After the first few months of Korea I was fully recovered from the divorce and the culture shock and able to start really living my life here. Then I started being truly active in the work of the Cause here and imbibing the spiritual juice from that. Then I went to the meditation retreat. During and after the retreat a new understanding and awareness of mindfulness in the present moment sprouted out and started growing in my mind. It was definitely a turning point for me. I was finally able to Be Here Now and feel the joy of that and make decisions coming out of that. Then things really turned on for me in serving the Cause and I found my way of engaging, of starting to give my all here. Then Hailey came back into my life from the brink of just letting each other go on into separate lives most likely. We started talking a lot and then spent a whole lot of time together for a week and a half here in Seoul. I really saw and felt and was deeply moved by her energy, her passion, her drive, her questing nature, her urge to create, experience, live! I realized that there’s not enough of that in me, that there used to be more. I think it kinda got tamped down steadily over time. I didn’t even realize how much the excitement had gone out of my life until it was rekindled by my friendship with Hailey.

I guess I have been through tough times of late, the kind of times that wear you down, make you stay in a shell without even knowing it. You feel enough stress and pain and the first priority becomes avoiding stress and pain! I guess that’s where I’ve been though I knew it not! I sure have felt a lot of stress and pain over the years, especially the last two. Oh man. But I witnessed a fire in Hailey that I recognized, a fire that has always burned in my heart, too weakly of late. It’s the fire of questing passion! The fire of the love of God! The blaze of attraction to Him as He appears in infinite manifestions of His beauty and power and wonder!

She saw that fire in me as it blazed more brightly in her presence and was attracted to it. Unfortunately that flame in me is fickle and much weaker than it should be. It should be a raging bonfire! It once was and can be again!

I feel a change inside. Now I know what’s been missing. Now I can begin to fill the hole, exercise the atrophied muscles. Other things have come together to make this next step possible. It’s all part of a process, a positive process of spiritual growth, and of healing it would seem. I’m ready to take action, to stoke the fire in my heart, to come out of my shell and sally forth on the ultimate quest, the quest to draw nearer to and live in the service of God! And what’s different now is that I can see that past ways I that I thought were on that path were really not actions but words and wispy thoughts. That’s the new thing! Seeing what is action on the path of God and what is not. It’s definitely part Be Here Now but it’s also just as much Sally Forth!

More soon on what Sally Forth! is to me and how I plan to act on it. One thing that feels like an important part of it is doing new things. Doing things I’ve never done before or doing things in a new way or even a new place. Newness! Freshness! Sally Forth! So I want to put down here the new things I do as I do them. here’s a few to start with.

- Today I put beautiful and profound things to look at up on the walls of my apartment for the first time.

- Today I lay down on the floor and listened to exquisite music on my headphones for a while, just relaxing and enjoying and doing nothing else, not even thinking. That was new and I realized as I was doing it that it was a concentrated dose of what I need after work. I’ve been whiling away the hours on the computer trying to get that kind of satisfaction from a terribly diluted source.

- Today I completely tidied up my apartment on a normal workday for the first time.

- Today I put an extension cord on my headphones so that I can listen to awesome music as loud as I like and with that nice headphone effect as go around the house and do stuff. First time for that and it was niiiice!

- Today I danced full on dance floor style to some sweet electronic . Not the first time for that but there haven’t been many. It was the first time, however, that I realized that I need to do that on a regular basis!

That’s it for today but that is JUST the beginning! I’m excited! More later!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Soul-Body Coordination

I'm going to to try to be a little less ambitious with my blog posts. I need to write--at least a little bit more--just to write and to express my thoughts through writing. Doesn't always need to be a big synthesis.

Really late now and I should be getting to bed, but I just felt that I've crossed over back into the world after two days of cutting myself off from it, so I wanted to make the connection.

Taking time off completely from everything is something I need to do every once in a while, if possible. The last 4 weeks have been busy and eventful. The last 2 weeks of them were mind-blowing. Hailey was up visiting Seoul for almost two weeks so that we could have a chance to get to know each other better.

She's in the difficult position of having gotten to know me late in the game after she'd already made hard and fast plans for school and a whole process of working toward her dream to be an art therapist. Our only options are for her to come back and put that off for however long being here for another year or so would require so that we can really explore our relationship OR for me to finish out my contract and do my best to meet up with her in Canada. That would mean getting a job up there and building a career as best I can in the circumstances. It's possible I could get a CELTA or something (intensive training for teaching ESL) and find some work teaching ESL up there. She'll be living in Montreal most likely. That's a pretty international city and there may be a demand for ESL teachers without Masters degrees. Then it could be more of that or getting things going for a Masters in Social Work. I starting to think I can add "teaching ESL" to list of things that I could be happy doing for a decade or more. The only other thing on that list right now is councelor/therapist. I had thought school teacher of the normal sort could be on it but I don't think that's my gig.

Just for fun, let's think of more things to put on that list. First to mind is making electronic music, stuff like Ulrich Schnauss or Boards of Canada or Autechre. One more thing I think I could be really good at. That one I think I could be REALLY good at but it takes time. My gosh that would be so fulfilling! Resistance...resistance. I think about creativity differently now. Just one of the many things I've learned from Hailey. Travel writing! That would be cool. Hailey has a friend, Peter, wonderful guy, who's working on that. What else? College professor. What subject? See that's where I start thinking, "Would I really want to read that much academia on one subject?" Maybe, maybe history.

You ever think about where you are now and wish you could use all you've learned to go back and do it all differently? I used to think those thoughts a lot. Still tempting, but not at all real. I've got 60 years left maybe, if I just die of old age.

One thing Hailey noticed about me that I don't remember other people commenting on is how much i think and talk about the afterlife. Not all the time but she saw that it's something that's on my mind and i relate a lot of things to it and kind of turn my mind to it at most opportunities. I hadn't thought about it much recently but it's totally true. Just a little perspective on the afterlife, learning what I've learned from Baha'u'llah, makes it so clear to me that everything relates back to it, everything gets its meaning from it. What's a baby in a womb without a world to be born into? Same thing goes for a life without a vision of eternal life, for me at least.

Trying to slide through this life while keeping my head up in those clouds isn't the way. Be Here Now has taught me some about that. Hailey taught me about it too. She's so alive! So active, so engaged, so driven to experience and create. I feel we're reaching towards the same goal, but she has some good ways of being that help her to keep going. She has a way of living that is very conducive to spiritual life. Pure heartedness, pure intention, backed up by determined, audacious, hungry, striving action!

That hasn't been easy for, that way of living. I must understand why. I do work and strive and really do a lot sometimes, but then I get tired. That probably means I don't have enough energy because I'm not physically healthy. I also get overwhelmed or distracted. I think a really big factor is goals though. People have more passion and drive when they're working towards goals. It gives them something to focus on. It enhances everything they do in pursuit of the goal, just being committed to that goal!

Fact is, I need more goals. I need any goals. There are things that are important to me. Baha'u'llah is so important to me. Serving His Cause is so very important to me. What are my goals in serving His Cause though? What am I working towards? Part of serving His Cause is to gain knowledge and insights? So what are my goals for that? I need energy for life and better health. What's my goal? Career must take root in my work and learning at some point. Even if I'm not certain if it's ESL or counceling and what circumstances will be, what my goal at this stage? I should be creating and making art of some sort--writing, drawing, music. As much as I've ignored it, it's still who I am, a creative, abstract thinking dreamer who longs to exist on a less material, more expressive, spiritual, fluid, creative plane. I think the word for that is artist. What's my goal?

Here's the fact that I'm looking at, staring me in the face right now: setting goals and working towards them is a good, fundamental function of life. It's something everyone should be doing in their lives. It's also an ability, something that get's better with practice and confidence. It can be a strength or a weakness.

For me it's a weakness, flat out. It's not something I grew up learning how to do, and I guess something I'm not as naturally as inclined to as many people. I've just kept on living, year after year, without really having to do it very much, without really having to learn it and develop that ability in myself.

So here I am, 32 years old, a good person, someone who enriches the lives of others and is a good but not great servant to them, a decent but not great teacher, a good but not great Baha'i. I do think people look at me and think, "Man, Daniel's so great! He's kind and helpful and spiritual and likes to talk about interesting things and has a good attitude. He's got a lot of good qualities. But something's missing, something's fuzzy, out of focus. What's missing in him?"

It's goals. Drive. Focus. Passion for something that's more than an idea or a vision. Purpose honed to a process of working towards a goal. I DO have a lot of passion, desire, love, longing! I cannot afford to mistake thought for action any longer though.

Hailey is so action packed. She's bursting, and it's a wonder to see! She likes me enough to be considering changing her plans to be near me, so I do have some things going for me it seems. I know I do. I have many good qualities. I bring good things into this world. Being with Hailey has taught me many things. Here's three big ones. 1) It's clear to me that she's giving and receiving the great benefits of a goal oriented, action oriented life. That's a life that simply brings out into reality more of the potential within. I love that in her and I need so much more of that in myself. 2) I have strong resistance in me to that kind of change, because it goes beneath the surface and messes with the established order, the ego king that doesn't wish for any reforms. 3) I have to start developing my ability to set and acheive goals from this moment forward or two things will happen. First, despite all the things she loves about me, Hailey won't be able to bear my floating through life and I'll have lost her. Aw hell naw! I am NOT letting that happen! Second, I'll just be lame and increasingly pathetic. It's not pathetic yet, but it's 100% lame. In just a year or so it will start becoming pathetic. Then I'm in BIG trouble. I must NOT let it get to that point!

We all have things we need to work on, things that we find, often around my age probably, that aren't where they should be. I think this is my biggie. Goals. It's all about goals for me. It's not too late, but I'm pushing it. I'm really pushing it.

It's hard to change! It's hard to change things in myself, my way of living, my daily routine, my way of thinking. It's hard to change things like setting and working diligently towards goals. Luckily it's simple. Fairly simple. It's definitely simple to just start. I can think of 5 things to set goals for right off the bat.
1. A jogging regimen.
2. A study regimen.
3. Creativity: writing, drawing, singing, dancing (don't want to say regimen.)
4. A cooking regimen.
5. A sleep regimen.

BAM! Of course, actual goals are more specific, so I need to work out the details.

I just realized....the next month or so is it. I've glimpsed the seriousness of my situation just in time! I have to do this now or there will be consequences.

I know when you;re in a relationship you can't be trying to change the person or looking for them to be someone they're not. I see that clearly, yet there is another side. Knowing that it will please the one you love and bring more harmony to the relationship is a powerful motivator for making deeper changes. Its happened many a time don't you think? Sure it's failed to happen many times too, but that's probably often when the person doesn't really want to make the change. I want to make this change in myself. I've felt this weakness in me for a long time and grown weary of the price I pay for it. When it's just me in the picture it's been tough to bring together the motivation and awareness and all the juice I need to work on this kind of thing and sustain my efforts. So tough that it hasn't really happened. Doing what it takes to be the man I need to be for the girl of my dreams, though, that's a whole different story! I really care about that and I'll do just about anything I can possibly do to be that man! That's not bad right? That's love! Love has transformed much worse men than me into much better men than me! So let its power drive me forward to new heights!

Just have to make sure I'm not getting ahead of the game. I also must be patient and open to what God gives me. It may not be what I desire, but everything from god is a precious gift. I must humbly accept His will.

Well, I've gotten some really good insights from this writing. I know they come from Thy Kingdom and the Concourse on High, Lord. Thank You! Time to go pray and live my life.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Quiet mind
Release grip
Quiet mind
Foot will find ground
Find rest
Questions and answers
Yesterday and tomorrow
Water I’m in
Drop down
Settle down
Universe is mooooooving
My Maker!
Here’s an instrument
On the ocean floor
No one can find it
But Thee!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chipped Tooth Daniel

Been a bit of time since the last entry. Can't say things have been terribly eventful since then...until this last Sunday! Saturday some folks got together at the Baha'i Center and studied some good Baha’i stuff. We got together again on Sunday for study and practice giving a brief presentation on the Faith. Then we went in different groups for home visits! A home visit is simply a few Baha’is going to someone’s home and talking about the Faith plus supporting the people there. Most of the time the folks are Baha’is, but not always. It’s the perfect thing for Baha’is who have been out of the loop for a while for whatever reason.

Anyways we went on the home visit and it was amazing. I went with So Jeong and Su Jeong, similar names and similarly radiant souls! We went to see a young woman who had embraced the Faith in Vancouver, Canada. She’s been back for 2 years but hasn’t been active in the community. She was so open with us about her story. I was impressed with how trusting she was and how she bared so much of her heart to us! I really LOVE that in people. Partly because I feel I am that way and want to be that way but most time people don’t have time or energy for it or something. Anyways, we talked for a while, getting to know each other and learning about her experiences and her spiritual needs. We prayed together and made a plan to have a devotional gathering at her house soon.

I’ve talked about the Faith a number of times since I’ve been here in Korea and had some good spiritual conversations. I guess since she’s already a Baha’i and because of her open heart I just felt the flow so much more and I really opened up and felt the spirit moving through me! Not sure the last time I’ve felt that way but it’s been too long! I realize now that the spirit of the Cause was moving through me and I was on a more spiritual level, not because of my own talents but because God works on that higher level and draws us up there when we strive to serve Him.

Anyways, something opened up a bit in me then. I feel more spiritual, more energized. I have been doing some of the Be Here Now stuff that I talked about in the last blog entry. I think that helps in serving the Cause a lot. Putting myself forward to serve the Cause has always stressed me out because of my fears about my own weakness, inadequacy, etc. and also other people’s lack of receptivity, not knowing how to go about it, etc. I feel less susceptible to all that now because, for one, I know it’s just negative self talk and doing the work of the Cause is of course bigger than me and not just putting together a lego jeep or something, so of course it tends to be overwhelming. Just do and do and flow and flow and let the ball roll down to the bottom and find rest. I also feel like the Now really is important to me and, for right now, I don’t need to concern myself with the future. there are so many things filling my present now that, if fully pursued, will change the whole scheme as far as plans go.

So, yeah, as I was saying…something opened up in me. I feel this vibration that I’ve felt at times before when I was serving the Cause and in a groove as a Baha’i. It’s funny because on Friday before the workshop and everything I was being my usual lazybones self but I guess I’ve been building up to this and was ready. So what is this vibration? I guess I can say it’s the spirit of the Cause. I can feel a bit of it flowing through me. I feel engaged. I feel the joy of serving Baha’u’llah! I know this is a fragile thing right now and I must nurture it and protect it and keep going forward. God has helped with that by giving me responsibilities for the coming weekend. I’m helping plan Common Ground, which is a discussion group that happens every other week at the Baha’i Center. It’s all in English and more indirectly about the Faith but a good way to connect to people and give them a chance to learn more about the Faith. I’m helping with a translation project earlier in the day. Before Common Ground I’m hanging out with a new friend who will hopefully come to the meeting. I’m even meeting with the Local Spiritual Assembly that day to reflect on the devotional gathering that I and a friend are in charge of. Sunday we’ll have the devotional at the house of the friend we visited. Friday I’m getting together to prepare everything for Common ground with my friend Carter, another American about my age. I’ve wanted to know him better for a while but it hadn’t quite happened. Now I feel like we’re becoming real friends.

The point of spewing all that is that I like being busy with all these things and I want to keep having weekends like this. Things won’t always be handed to me though, so i have to figure out how search out opportunities. one thing that will keep me busier starting in September is taking Korean classes! There are free classes given by a government sponsored institute, the Seoul Global Center, every Tues, and Thurs. from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm. Perfect for my schedule! They have different levels. Mine will be beginner I guess. I’m learning more on my own too. Be Here Now has opened me up to learning Korean and now that I’m starting I’m regaining my confidence and starting to think that the talent I had in learning Chinese will carry over to Korean. If I can find more chances to practice then I’m on my way. Language exchange is also a great way to share the teachings of Baha’u’llah as well.

Sharing the teachings of Baha’u’llah needs to become what my life is all about. The last veil clouding my vision of that truth has been lifted. Work is important. So are sleeping and eating and everything else. Of course those things mustn’t be overly compromised. If I do then I’m not really living a Baha’i life well and am diminished in my ability to share the spirit of the Faith with others. Of course I’ve got to get lots of those things, including sleeping, eating, and work up to spec. They’re on their way for sure.

I don’t even care anymore. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. It doesn’t matter if people end up not wanting to be Baha’is or if I bark up numerous wrong trees. It doesn’t matter if it takes a long time to get a few results. That’s all the obvious surface stuff. God works in mysterious ways and He’s got a plan for Seoul. I don’t know what it is I don’t need to know. I also don’t need to know how long I’m going to be a part of it. I just know I’m part of it now and I am DARN lucky to be a part of any of God’s plans! I’m just going to keep moving forward at taking steps and letting the ball of my wild mind roll down to find the spot of rest.

Oh Lord please empty me of all vanity and complacency! Purify me from all my worn out idleness! Aid me to think not of myself at all! I know in my heart—and now in more of my mind—that all my concern for myself is only a cause of suffering for myself and others. Wean me from self Lord! Fill me with the spirit of Thy Cause! Help me to not fall back or to either side! Make me a hollow reed from which the pith of self has been blown! Share your healing message through me Lord! Make me able to communicate it, heart to heart!

On Monday I chipped my tooth. Just a little. It was totally stupid. I was trying to close a little metal ring that had been bent out of shape. I couldn’t get it to close that last little bit so I used my teeth. Now I have a prominent tooth that will be chipped for the rest of my life. I can see it very clearly when I look in the mirror but of course I’m looking for it. Not sure if others notice. I was infuriated with myself at first but now I don’t mind so much. The timing of it is interesting. When I look in the mirror I see a slightly different person, a person whose appearance is permanently altered. A different person. A humbler person. I felt a change in me on Sunday. It was the beginning of something that I hope will only keep growing and getting stronger. It was the beginning of a new me. The next day I chipped my tooth a bit and changed on the outside too. When I look in the mirror I want to see a new image, a new heart, a new mind, a new Daniel! A purer, humbler, more dedicated and passionate, more spiritual, more active, less-talk-more-action Daniel!

The old Daniel is gone. Chipped Tooth Daniel is here to stay.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Be Here Now

First of all, reader, I appreciate you. Whether I know you or not, thank you for reading my words and wanting to look into my thoughts and feelings. I do realize that most blogs aren’t this personal and seem to be more focused on being an enjoyable read and/or a way of catching up with the stories of someone’s life. This blog is all in my head, a bit like me I guess. It’s good for me to put these thoughts down. I hope they are of some use to others or I wouldn’t put them out here. It’s the kind of blog I would love to read if I knew the person.

Anyways, you may or may not know that I attended a Vipassana meditation retreat recently. I’ve been telling everyone how excited I am to meditate and learn how to do it better and to experience the dynamite feelings of tranquility. Well, it was good but I ended up staying only 2 days instead of 10. Why? Well I had a different reaction to it this time. Both times before I felt it was absolutely the best thing I could do and no way should I leave. This time I just felt like I got some benefit from it and was ready to go after two days. They frown on that there, which I understand, and it is a bad idea for a new student to leave before the end.

I truly did learn some important things in those two days, two days of silence—outer silence. I had trouble quieting my mind but got better at it over time. It did feel quite clear, though, at times, and in those times I had some useful realizations. (Before I go I should say that the retreat was at a genuine temple out in the woods. Beautiful everything! Barebones facilities though. It was actually abandoned for three years because the man who built it went bankrupt in the process, so that’s the first time it’s been used in three years. They had to clear it of ghosts first!)

At these retreats (this being my third) the first 2.5 days are Anapana, the remaining are Vipassana. Anapana is simply awareness of breath, focusing on the in and out and sensation of breath and nothing else for prolonged periods of time. It develops the faculty of awareness or mindfulness. It helps you to “be here now.” Vipassana is also simple but not as much. Once you get into it, it consists of sweeping the body with your awareness, being aware of sensations as they arise and pass away. It’s deep and profound and intense.

Vipassana was the part I was excited about. I confess I wanted the altered state. However, the practice of Anapana really clicked for me. Of course I have to keep doing it to get it right. It was rare for me to be able to concentrate on my respiration for a full minute without following a train of thought. It was so simple and pure. The whole concept and feeling of BE HERE NOW was just so right for me! Long story short I realized that I got what I came for and wasn’t going to be able to commit mentally or physically (because it is definitely both!) to the extreme rigors of the course. I didn’t want rigor. I wanted to simply be present in the moment and start really living my life.

So I exited as gracefully as I could, but not before a real-deal old Buddhist monk asked me if I could please stop with the knuckle cracking. “It’s disturbing the other meditators,” he said very kindly. In hindsight I can’t believe I didn’t consider that in the stark silence of the meditation chamber, but I’m sure it had to do with distracting myself from the agony in my back and legs. (I knew that would be there and it didn’t drive me away. It just made it not a vacation.) So….sorry Mom and Dad! I guess I needed to hear it from a monk to really start thinking it may be time to wean myself of that fixation.

So where was I? Ah yes, Be Here Now. Lemme just copy/paste that. I’m probably going to write it a lot…..but pasting it wouldn’t be very Be Here Now would it? Oops! Just did it! I feel like I woke up juuuust a little bit more to how I can be more alive in the present moment. How I can actually experience life more and be happier and more peaceful simply from being aware of what’s happening. There’s a lot of beauty, a lot of grace. Life is rich. The moment is full. You could use anything as an example: looking into someone’s face, hearing children in the background, eating a peach, washing the dishes, taking a walk. It’s not that the content of those experiences is gonna dazzle me like the new Batman movie. My experience during those two days was that if I let go of expectation and….all the rest and just be there in that moment, taking in what He is providing at that moment, that, for me at least, it will be enough. It was enough in that environment. The environment, inner and outer, in my everyday life is not so hospitable to that state of mind, but I can change both, especially inside.

Actually, when I think of it, my life now is just fine for that, for being mindful. I’ve got a great chance to focus on that in my activities, and to do things that lend themselves to mindfulness, such as perhaps exercise and, well, lots of things: teaching, walking, studying the Faith, breathing meditation, chores. It threw me for a loop to feel this way, though, because when I start feeling in the moment I realize I’ve been going about living my life and making plans in a really skewed way. I’ve got to start over aaaagain. That’s how it goes though, for me at least. This time feels big though, like a synthesis of a lot of things. I won’t say that it’s anything. ACTION is something. These are just more words.

I’ll tell you what really throws me for a loop. It’s a loop inside a loop inside an Irish knot. When I calm down and clear my mind and settle into the present moment and just feel OK for long enough to get a little used to it, there’s something that happens to me. I didn’t see it clearly before but now I do. When I am at peace I am drained of all goals, dreams, aspirations, intentions, plans, machinations, etcetera! After a little peace I find myself back where I began. For example, this time, after this period of relaxation and letting go, releasing that grip, I found that I wasn’t excited about graduate school particularly. I didn’t feel the energy or drive—if that’s what it was—to go back to school and become a professional. I didn’t feel like I was on a path leading me to these goals I have a vision of. It was all blown away and I was just standing there, alive, breathing.

My first reaction to this was, “NOT AGAIN! OH I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN! I’ve dropped the ball again. Why can’t I maintain any motivation or goal long enough to make any progress? Same old Daniel! Wishy-washy waffling Charlie Brown. The cycle continues….now I’ll agonize over it more, weigh the pros and cons of this and that all over again. I disgust myself!” That was my first reaction. I’ve come to see this losing-hold-on-plans-and-goals-and-continuing-to-drift thing in me as a weakness, a sickness. I describe it, visualize it in negative terms, in terms of what it has cost me, of what I’ve lost, of how I’ve disappointed people, not realized my potential. “Coulda, shoulda, woulda” was my mantra for a long time. It’s still imprinted on my mind. Another mantra could be phrased, “There’s still time to make it right!”

Something clicked in my mind this time though! This time when it happened I saw it differently! During my meditation an amazing image came to me. I visualized myself like Sisyphus, pushing a great ball up an incline. The ball was as big as me and as round and smooth as a billiard ball. The ball was my thoughts, my dreams, my hopes and fears, the things I think about, focus on. It was my mind. I saw myself very clearly. I was pushing that ball dutifully up the incline toward somewhere. I said to myself, “Step aside…..and let the ball roll down and down, and let it roll around and wobble and finally find its place.” So I did. I stepped aside and let the ball go. It rolled down and, after a while, found its natural resting place. It was still. My mind was clear, clean, wide open, free. It was still, at rest in the present moment. The future and past were of no concern. I was at peace. The way forward was clear.

Then before I knew it I was rolling that great ball up the hill again! Again I stepped aside and let it roll down to find rest. And again and again. I believe I’ve found what meditation is to me, at this time in my life at least. It’s not a way to transcend mundane existence and find another level of experience, another way to perceive or live—an altered state. It’s about helping me to be content with normal life! When the ball is at rest I am not bored, not anxious, not lonely, not obsessive, not confused, not regretful, not caught in bad habits! I’m simply there…breathing, existing…alive in a body. The moment stands before me, each moment fresh and new.

In such a state my inclination is not to react or to follow some habit, neither is it to strive toward what I should be doing, what will “fix the problem.” In that moment there is no problem. There is only the feeling in me of being here now. Being me, Daniel. My heart responding to the wisdom that God has treasured in me. Simple, pure, joyful steps on the skipping, singing walk of life. In that moment I also have a feeling of being part of something greater than myself, something wonderful and incomprehensible, something I trust and I know that I must surrender myself to, like a simple plant choosing not revolt against nature but to be a harmonious, growing part of it. In that moment it is not an idea! It IS. Like the sun and moon and grass and mountains. It is.

In that state my inclination is to take that next step simply, joyfully, slowly, wisely. And then to take another. And another. And a lifetime of steps. Be Here Now. Live. Truly live your life Daniel! This is what my heart says to me in the silence and stillness. The future will take care of itself! The past is gone! The Kingdom of God is all around you and within you! It is closer than your life vein! Let the ball roll down…and roll around…and wobble…and rest. Be mindful. Be entirely present. Let all the impurities drain out of you. Drink in His presence. Practice virtue. Pass by all wrong doing as you would a shifting mirage. Allow yourself to love. Cease holding it back! Trust in Him! Rest in His palm.

For the first time in memory—literally!—I believe I’m starting to understand how to live my life in actual practice, not just theory. Beginning, only beginning to understand. It’s a beginning I must cherish like a newborn child. I must protect it and nourish and be mindful of it every day. I must cause it to flourish and not neglect it!

So what does that translate to in action? It means now is not the time to dwell on the past. I let it be past. Now is not the time to make plans for the future. Plans must stand on the solid ground of a mindful present. My ground is shaky—quaky! I must firm it up so much! I must make my present so much more solid and balanced before I build plans on it. So no plans. No graduate school. No counseling. No China. No career. Nothing of the sort. Only my life now—my life, which is like a wonderful garden pregnant with fruits and vegetables and flowers and herbs of all kinds, needing only to be tended, needing only a mindful gardener! Now is the time for me to be the mindful gardener of my life.

Before I became a Baha’i at age 17 I had searching for truth for a little while. It really started when I was 15 or 16. I had been exposed to spiritual writings and deep conversation for a while by that point but I started having nature experiences that really helped me to come out of the trance or whatever I had been in. I had a real moment of awakening on a hillside in the Olympic Mountains in the summer of ’92. At that time I started reading a book about Edgar Cayce. I don't remember anything about it but it was the first “spiritual” book I picked up and took with me and read through. Not long after, in this time of communing with nature, I read the Tao Te Ching. It opened something in me. It spoke to me in ways that touched me and it gave me the sense of perceiving truth in glimmers. It was the first book, I think, to do that for me. I responded to it. I felt like I was a Taoist. I resonated with the message. I wanted to practice that way of life. The Tao Te Ching helped me to open my heart and mind to walking a spiritual path in life, to living by principles, following a Way, seeking understanding and wisdom and wholeness.

In the years since, I really haven’t picked it up much. The few times I have I didn’t feel as open to it. Me and Lao Tzu weren’t seeing the same thing. I have a copy with me here. Thinking about all this I glanced at and thought, “Maybe there’s something in there for me.” I opened it up to a page on which was written the following:

Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

Other people are excited,
as though they were at a parade.
I alone don’t care.
I alone am expressionless,
like an infant before it can smile.

Other people have what they need;
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.

Other people are bright;
I alone am dark.
Other people are sharp;
I alone am dull.

Other people have a purpose;
I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean,
I blow as aimless as the wind.

I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.

I was just amazed. I felt, at that moment, I was seeing what Lao Tzu saw. I felt that it was not just the old sage speaking, but my heart of hearts. I felt His presence in those words, He who knows my heart completely! He know that, like every soul, I am unique, I am special, and there is a unique path for me in this life that flows in accordance with His divine will as well as with my own individual nature. Like a stream winding its way from the spring, running naturally over the landscape, letting itself be directed, I have a way through this life, a way for me alone. A way that only He comprehends. I accept this. I am content to be this one stream. More than content! It is my bliss to be this stream. I will follow my bliss!

I don’t know what the future holds for me or for any of us. Living life now will prepare the way for living life then. I am alive in this world. I am the soul they call Daniel, and I am a stream of water. The way for me is clear. Now but one thing remains! To flow. And to flow. And to flow.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Go Time

Can't sleep. A reliable source of anxiety has me up and thinking: graduate school, preparation for it, shall I do it or not?, would I be accepted?, will I have to take more undergraduate courses?, for how long?

I had an amazing conversation with a friend tonight. She's pursuing her dream of becoming an art therapist. First she needs to get a significant number of psychology credits before she can apply for the graduate program at the school she want to study at. It all adds up to a four-year process. 2 years of undergraduate study and 2 years of Masters study. She just decided, "I'm going to do this. This is my dream. It's what I want to do, my calling, my bliss. This is what I have to do to get to the point where I have the degree and can set forth as a professional art therapist. It will take me four years, four years of learning and growing, accomplishing and working."

I'm not sure how much she agonized about this decision beforehand. I do know that this is a person who is a traveler, an artist, and abstract thinker, an "intuitive" as my mom would say. She's lived outside the bounds of the normal for a while. Now she's getting back into school, beginning a long-term process. She doesn't know what will happen after she gets the degree. She's not worried about it. She knows that, no matter what, this is the right use of her time and money. The knowledge and experience is worthwhile in and of itself. It's valuable because she loves what she's learning and doing. Of course when people love what they do it usually leads to success in that field. When people follow their calling good things happen.

It was so big for me hear her story. I can relate so much to her experience and I guess that's important to me. It's a bigger deal to me to see this commitment in someone who's lived abroad for many years teaching ESL, who's been attracted to that lifestyle and gotten a lot out of it,who isn't usually a big planner doing big things like this, and who has a passion for helping and connecting with others. I just saw a lot of myself and my own experience in her.

It was actually amazing. I can't remember ever hearing someone's story like that and it just mirroring my own in so many ways and just kind of laying out what I should do. This is the time I need to make a decision about going to China from here or going back to school, for however long that takes, and studying counseling, psychology, social work, whatever exactly will get to the point where I'm paid to talk to people about spiritual things.

My friends commitment really encourages me! Actually what affects me more is her reasons, her motivation. The traveling life just isn't giving her what she needs anymore. It's time shoot straight into the things back home that she's been avoiding. It's time to break through all the resistance and fear. It's time to learn how to do something she loves and become a professional. It's time to pursue her calling! She's not just thinking and saying these things. She's really doing it!

As I write this I feel like what I'm saying may seem obvious, like "Yeah, so she did the old thing and now she's doing the new thing. She's going to school so she can get the job she wants. No big revelations coming to me." It IS obvious. It's simple. It's just something I've had SO MUCH resistance to.

My friend told me something an author she likes wrote, that whatever we have the strongest resistance to is where we should head for. We should make it our compass. Go straight for the fearsome challenge! It makes sense! It's the most direct route to transformation and growth! My mom was telling me the same thing the other day.

Thinking about things that way gives me some fresh perspective. Going back home, probably taking more undergraduate psychology courses, then going to graduate school, and dealing with all the stresses of American life on top of it: this is the difficult path, no doubt. Going to China, probably Yunnan province, teaching ESL there, pioneering, just living: this is definitely the easy path.

It's not just about hard vs. easy though. It's about challenge and meaning. The path to becoming a counselor for me is like an epic quest compared to what I've been doing. It's years full of learning and growing, facing challenges and overcoming them, accomplishing things that I've been avoiding for years. It's gaining knowledge and synthesizing it all into something I can really use. It's gaining experience and understanding. It's expanding and breaking through barriers. It's going through everything I've feared and coming out on the other end a real professional! Able to pursue my calling. Paid to do what I love!

Counseling and psychology is something that I would not only love to do for work but that I would love to keep learning about, year after year. It can be a true passion for me, I know it, if only I pursue it! On the other hand, teaching is probably never going to a passion for me. I've pretty much already accepted that being a teacher in the States or at an international school is not for me. I can't bear it. I can handle and enjoy teaching ESL however. It's never going to be a passion though. It's not my calling. It what I do to live abroad, and I do my best to enjoy it and do a good job. It has its moments. It can be awesome, but decades more of it?! Not a happy prospect. I'm sure I would get burned out.

Work is not the only thing in life. I want a lot more out of life than just loving my work, but hey! Why not try it on for size eh? Why not see what loving my work and feeling passionate about it and actually genuinely interested in it FEELS like? Why not try it and see what happens? Certainly the whole process will not be wasted time and effort. If I decide counseling isn't my calling or whatever then do the next thing. Right now it's the best chance I have, the only vision I have, for following my bliss.

Yes, there's lots of bliss in living in China. It's cool learning Chinese. It's good being a pioneer. Teaching ESL can be kinda fun and easy and not stressful. Chinese people are great. It's a very simple life and there's lots of time for teaching the Faith and meditation and other good stuff. If I was totally egoless I might see it as the way to give the most service possible.

It feels a little too easy though. Not the right kind of challenge. Not enough learning. It feels kinda like more of the same. Another way of doing what I've already been doing. Graduate school feels like something completely new, totally challenging, stimulating. I feel like I need something new, something to breath life into me, to stimulate me and push me. I just don't know how much I would really benefit from the peaceful, simple life in China. I need to do something totally new! I have absolutely worn out this path! And I really want to know what it's like to be a counselor. I don't want to wait forever to find out.

It's just time. I need to face up to it. It seems impossible for me to feel 100% about this. There's always an alternative, always benefits of other paths. I just need to accept 90% or 80% and move on. It's time to take my life in a new direction, time to learn new things, face new challenges. It's time to face my fears and break through to the other side. Time to become an expert at something, to be really good at one thing, a professional. Time to go back to school and learn something that interests me! Time to work towards getting payed to talk with people about life and stuff.

Life is long. I can't just live like the whole thing's gonna fly by. It's wise to seek a profession that i can envision myself enjoying more over the years as opposed to one I become increasingly disenchanted with.

Gotta pray about this. Gotta take it deeper. And before too long--as in over the next few weeks--need to start taking action on it. Online courses, whatever I can do. It may be a four year process for me as well to get a masters degree. It's all good. Mustn't worry about the debt and the blah, blah, blah. Fact is that that kind of worry is what's been holding me back for so long. It's always something. Just do it! It's gonna cost money! I'll go into debt. Then I'll not be making a lot of money and have to figure out how to pay off the debt. Just accept it! I won't starve. I'll be alright. I actually believe that now after talking with my friend, my friend who's already begun the process that I must begin. She's doing and it's clearly right and good. I need to stop fretting and just do the next thing.

So now it's time to pray and sleep on it...and then, if it still feels right, it's GO TIME BABY!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

What is Wrong?

Here's something worthy of writing about on this blog, something to work out, something that needs a solution:


Something is wrong. There can be no doubt. What is going ON? Why can't I sleep like a normal person EVER? Why can't I pull it together and take care of the basic elements of self-maintenance, namely feeding myself, without it being such a complicated chore? Why do I continue to wander through this life without any clear material, intellectual, or professional goals? Why is it so hard for me to get up and actually DO things? Why do I feel so overwhelmed by life? Why do I always feel this craving to escape? Why is my mind so overactive, so overstimulated? Why, after 32 years of earthy existence, do I still feel like I haven't gotten the hang of it? Why am I stuck in this place, imprisoned in my own mind?

How much longer is this going to go on? It will simply continue if I don't change it. I'll be this way for the rest of my life I don't do something about it. What is the way out of this?

A friend of mine is taking 3 different medications. One is an anti-depressant, another for ADD, and another for stress. I tell you what, if I could start that up right now I'd say OK, let's give it a shot. Part of me doesn't want to rely on medication and there have been times when I really didn't want to go that route. I've taken anti-depressants at different times but never worked closely with a professional to get it right. I don't think I ever took enough to affect me much.

I think before I might have thought 3 meds at once was overkill but now, heck let science take a shot. If I've got three different problems going on lets see what science can do about them. One thing I know for sure: something's not right in this brain of mine. I think too much and my thoughts are too intense. I think in circles way too much. I weave a web of thought that can be beautiful doesn't seem to take me anywhere! My mental habit patterns make it hard for me to consistently apply myself in the world. My mind weaves its web around everything and drags it down. Sometimes I'm so far out in my own world that I make foolish decisions or careless oversights. I'm so engaged in this inner world, wrestling with this neurosis, that I have too little energy left to make my way in the real world of action, relationships, career, and service.

I think all the massive alone time I'm getting here in Korea is not helping things. I don't know. Thank God I'll be doing Vipassana meditation for 10 days, 10 hours a day, in a little over a week. Couldn't come at a better time.

A friend of mine has been feeling lots of stress. She's overstimulated because of things coming from external situations. She says all she wants to do is sit and watch the trees grow. That's how I feel. I want to sit by a river like Siddhartha and relax and be with no stress, no anxiety, no struggle. I want to learn from that river so much that God can teach me about what is true and real and pure and beautiful! About what is real and shared between us all, not wrapped up in the craziness in my head.

I've got to do something. Medication and therapy would be ideal next step but that's not happening here in Seoul. That also wouldn't happen if I chose to live in China, along with not being able to practice my ideal profession, counseling. Actually one of the reasons I've recently been so set on going back to settle in China is that I envision finding a place not super in the middle of the hubbub, with lots of natural beauty in the area, and good simple people. I have a vision of making a simple life for myself there as an English teacher, free from the hydra-headed troubles and stresses and complications that have dogged me in America.

The fact that I'm still debating this counseling and America life vs. teaching ESL and China life and still feel torn just makes me want to EXPLOOOOOODE! When am I going to pick something and ride it all the way and get my life going in some consistent direction? I hope this bouncing around and trying stuff out for years and years has been worth something. I hope I can see more value in it later than I can now.

I'm worried that a Masters in Social Work would end up getting me a counseling job that isn't what I expected and I'll be poor and jaded by a crappy system and feel like I'm not getting through to people and just banging my head against a wall. I'm also afraid I'll be rejected by graduate schools. It's been so long since I was in school, longer still since I was proud of myself as a student. I'm worried that the ways things went down with my last job at Goodwill will make things harder for me in the future, and I just feel rotten about it and don't want to deal with any potential consequences. I'm also just afraid of living in America! All the crap you gotta deal with!

I actually preferred living in China in many ways, and of course felt more useful there on a spiritual level. I would love to settle into life in China, the China vibe, outside of the big city. I'm just not sure I can teach for the rest of my life, be it ESL teaching or at an international school or whatever. If I choose to settle in China, teaching, as far as I can see, is IT for me. I've done a lot of teaching and related stuff over the years. Every job I've had that wasn't just grunt work was educational. I'm starting to feel tired of it. Teaching is stressful man! When I'm with the kids I'm on stage in the spotlight the whole time. I've got keep everything moving the whole time. It's like I'm the heart of the class. Pump pump pump pump pump pump pump! I'm ON full blast from start to finish. I'm orchestrating the talking and participation like a conductor. I'm keeping things moving forward at a good pace while not rushing on before they understand well enough. I'm listening and observing at the same time that I'm entertaining and keeping them involved. I'm trying to reel in kids that are tired or unmotivated. I'm trying not be too sensitive and hurt when students don't like what I do or are bored. I'm planning and getting everything ready so that I'll be able to direct the show nonstop for 50 minutes for another day.

I'm just not sure if I can go through decades of this. The thing is --amazingly!-- some people don't find all that so stressful! They actually thrive on all that stuff! They work well under pressure. They like being in control of the classroom and designing the lessons and explaining things and multitasking. Those people are called to be teachers. It just comes naturally to them. Now teaching ESL can be much less stressful than teaching middle school back home, but you still have to do all that teacher stuff if you're going to do a good job. And if you're not going to do a good job and just slide by, well that's another, worse, kind of misery.

Good Lord, what is it going to take for me to just apply to graduate school and get a frickin MSW and actually give myself a chance to have a 9-5 that I genuinely enjoy? I want to go back to China so bad but I just feel really worried that I'll get burned out on teaching but have no other option there! No better option.

I know counseling can be stressful too. Long hours sometimes, low pay most of the time. Not necessarily a lot of results you see in people's lives. Paperwork. Bureaucracy. Maybe not being able to spend enough time with people. Who knows what else? The fact remains, however, that this is a job in which what you do is you talk to individuals and small groups about important things, often spiritual matters (whether they see them that way or not) and help them to see things in a different light. You listen, deeply listen, listen to different levels, different aspects of what the person is communicating. You love, you care, you be trustworthy and kind and compassionate. You gently guide and suggest. You open doors and windows. You support. You focus on what's important. You find the truth with that person. You shed the light of insight on their thoughts. You connect with that person. And then they give you a paycheck!

To me that just sounds so different from teaching! Not that I haven't made connections with kids teaching and haven't felt good vibes and all that good stuff. All the stuff that stresses me out in teaching seems to not be there in counseling though, and all the things that I like about teaching seem to be extracted and amplified. Can I really just go on with my life, go live in China and deal with the ups and downs of teaching for years and years without seeing what it's like to be a counselor? It's funny, I've tried so much in life, done so much, but I keep avoiding even getting a taste of what it's like to do the one, single thing that is most likely my calling in this life. WHAT is that ABOUT? What is my damage?

If I pull it together and really become a counselor, perhaps I'll look back on all this time of wandering and wildness and see that in some important ways it prepared me to be a better counselor. maybe I'll even be able to look back and see that it made me a deeper, more spiritual person. Whatever happens, I want to be looking back on this period from another level and a new stage in my life. I want to be looking back from that new level very soon. Help me do it Lord! Please help me!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I went to Kyobo bookstore on Sunday. It’s kind of a mega-Barnes & Nobles. It has quite a nice selection of English books. I spent a long time there just looking through lots of different books. I recently started reading Siddhartha again and in 2 weeks I’ll be taking part in a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. Vipassana is a kind of Buddhist meditation technique. So meditation and spiritual readings were on my mind.

I really love just hanging out in the spiritual, philosophy, and religion sections and just chillin and reading bits from different books. I realized at Kyobo that that is a kind of meditation for me, a solace. It’s my happy place! I know this now because I realize it comes out of spending so much time sitting by Mom and Michael’s bookshelves growing up, sampling and drifting through their many spiritual books. I was so blessed to have those books around every day when I was growing up in middle school and high school. Just the fact that so many interesting books were there and available and I could relax and forget about all my troubles and sit on the carpet and leaf through them—that was so comforting! All was right with the world while I was doing that, no matter how troubled I was. There was every kind of awesome book there: different kinds of I Ching, extra-biblical Christian documents, Mayan prophecies, astrology, tarot, American Indian traditions, psychology, history, meditation, philosophy, science, and so much more!

I’m not sure if I ever read even half of any of those books, but nevertheless I feel now that they had a huge role in my life! Resting into words of meaning and depth, of power and beauty, feeling happy and comfortable in that place, opened up that side of life for me and taught me to appreciate beauty and wisdom and eloquence. They prepared me for my own spiritual journey. They opened my heart and mind to receive the Word of God. Those books are still there on those same bookshelves. It gives me a unique feeling of joy and peace to know that they are waiting for me there. Until then I can always go to Kyobo bookstore and drift through the sea of words.

I was very pleased to purchase The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, which I guess I forgot to bring. I also bought Aesop’s Fables, treasury of some of the greatest lessons (and some more mundane, but fun, stuff) taught through simple allegory. I got two books by Krishnamurti. One is something he wrote on meditation. Another is a transcription of many talks he gave in the Q & A format.

Krishnamurti wasn’t a big fan of organized religion but I realize I have to get past that kind of stuff because if I want everything I read to be in accord with the teachings of the Faith then Baha’i writings are all I’ll read. That just doesn’t cut it. I need to read more spiritual texts coming from other angles because the writings of the Faith don’t seem to be explicit about everything. Of course a lot is clearly covered but perhaps there’s just a lot that doesn’t need to be. God is allowing us to discover so much on our own, guided by His principles, knowing that He is the goal and the essence of the truth we seek. The whole realm of science is open to us and we can explore it infinitely. We can do this in peace and joy if we have the love of God in our hearts and strive to be obedient as we progress. So it is in all our endeavors in the material realm.

I think this also applies to the immaterial realm as well, the realm of mind. Experienced philosophers and meditators will testify that there is a whole world to explore that is not physical, yet is accessible to us before we pass out of our bodies. I think there are different levels. One is a level of structure and analysis. Pure mathematics and philosophy are valuable pursuits but there is nothing physical about them. They are composed purely of thought and comprehension. They employ symbols and formulas to make the concepts communicable (which is what language is in the first place!) and they strive for ever more perfect synthesis, but it’s all really abstraction, ideas, something going on in the brain and perhaps beyond! I think greater understanding of this part of life may make the harmony of science and religion much clearer because this is where logic and the mind begin to journey out in to the reaches—that is, all beyond the concrete--that not long ago most thought could only be alluded to through mystic symbology.

There’s another level beyond that, however, which is the level of pure awareness. From my understanding, experience on this level is free of thought and all that comes with it, which is just about everything! On this level, the mind is simply aware of what is. That may seem anticlimactic but the thing is: we don’t know what the truly open, clear, balanced, and aware mind is capable of! WHAT IS is surely more than we now comprehend right? So when one arrives at that state of awareness he or she sees what he knows, but not only does he see it from a very different perspective, now his capacity for awareness is freed from previous limitations so he will naturally be opened up to new understandings, new awareness, new….I don’t know what it is because I’ve only had the briefest taste of it. I got that taste through meditation and I know others have experienced this level of mind much more deeply and consistently than I have.

Meditation opened me up to that higher level, to the realization that it exists, and it also filled me with peace and joy once I had worked through all my resistance and agitation. The peace and joy were, I think, the result of my mind working in a way that it is capable of but seldom does. Meditation kinda changed my brain or something, or maybe how I used my brain.

So if joy and peace come from it and it has rules that you follow in practice and it takes you to this higher level, how come it’s not included in Divine Revelation? How come Baha’u’llah didn’t give us a meditation technique and all that? I think it’s because meditation, stripped of all dogma and tradition, is like science, like philosophy, just on another level. Or it’s like exercise and martial arts. It’s a totally rational, explainable thing that one can do to discipline his or her mind. It’s good for some people but maybe not for everyone. It’s not religion, so like science and everything, it must be guided by love of God and obedience to God and pursued by those attracted to it.

We live for a short while and then what we experience makes any kind of pure awareness we had here look like a daydream. What matters most is what we do and how we live. The world is in big trouble and there is no time to lose! I want to be of service. I long to be useful to Baha’u’llah and to His Cause! I’ve struggled with some things up to this present moment that I think meditation can help me with in a big way. I think I’m one of those people that needs to be a meditator, that needs to experience that higher level. There’s something in my mind that’s not content with less, that is constantly striving for that state of mind! I know I must exercise moderation and stay focused on action. I hope meditation can be for me a means of taking control of my life on a whole new level, of unlocking my potential! Firstly as a servant of Baha’u’llah and also as person in relation to others and as a worker. I hope it can be a means of existing in a state of being that will enable me to be wholly content with the long voyage of earthly life and all its ups and downs. I hope it can be a means of awakening.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


One thing I was thinking about Before Sunset was, okay these two people are obviously meant for each other. They fell madly in love 9 years ago but then lost track of each other. Now they come together and feel the same way but it’s been so long. There are so many what ifs! His marriage is loveless, but his relationship with his son is full of love! Can they get together or not? Is it even right? How could it be wrong? And again WHAT IF they had JUST exchanged contact information 9 years ago? (silent scream) How would their lives be different?

I just feel I can really relate to their situation. What if? And on the other end, here I am now, with my Beloved before me! Am I going to sulk about what could have been or embrace the fullness of life to come? They’re both 32 too! They can feel like things are doomed because they missed so much or they can begin the process of healing and coming together into an eternal, blissful union. They can be rash and repeat mistakes of their youth or they can use the wisdom they’ve earned so dearly to make this most precious dream a wholesome, praiseworthy reality!

I just think Before Sunset captures SO PERFECTLY the position that many people my age probably are in. I don’t really know but I just feel like early thirties for many of us is a time of catching out breath, stepping back and saying “Whoa! What just happened? What happened in my twenties and where am I now? Who have I become and where is my life headed? Is it what I want? Do I even know what I want? What I am going to do? This is the moment of truth! This is the crossroads! I learned a lot of hard lessons and had a ton of experiences in my twenties that led me to where I am now, but I’m still on my way. I haven’t arrived. This is that brief window where I have a chance to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going and to change my course so that it heads directly for my heart’s desire, to make many important adjustments to how I proceed based on the wisdom I’ve gained. This is my chance before I really arrive and have to dwell for some time in an existence that my heart cannot be at peace with!”

Or maybe I’ve just taken so long to get anywhere that I’ve arrived here late and most other folks have already arrived, for better or for worse. Either way, for me this is the time. If I don’t exercise in get in shape in the next several months, it’s just not gonna happen. Same for studying the Baha’i writings, applying to MSW programs, praying and reading the Scriptures morning and evening, getting proper sleep. If not now, when? This is my golden opportunity! I have a chance to achieve many victories here and then go back to Austin in a blaze of glory! Accepted to graduate school! Twenty pounds lighter! More learned in the Faith! Healthier! In a spiritual zone! Why not? It’s not magic. It’s simple cause and effect.

I co-hosted a new devotional today for the first time. It was awesome despite a few kinks. It feels good to be somewhat active. Anyways, in preparation for it I read some of The Seven Valleys, in particular the Valley of Love. He saith:

“In this city the heaven of ecstasy is upraised and the world-illuming sun of yearning shineth, and the fire of love is ablaze; and when the fire of love is ablaze, it burneth to ashes the harvest of reason.

Now is the traveler unaware of himself, and of aught besides himself. He seeth neither ignorance nor knowledge, neither doubt nor certitude; he knoweth not the morn of guidance from the night of error. He fleeth both from unbelief and faith, and deadly poison is a balm to him. Wherefore Attar saith:

For the infidel, error -- for the faithful, faith;
For Attar's heart, an atom of Thy pain.”

I was thinking about how it is to be in the throes of new love, falling in love, being in love. How that felt for me, what I can understand from what I’ve seen in others. Yes, that’s how it is! It burns away all your reason! And all your reasons. It was like my mind was suddenly able to tear through all the veils and all the distractions and everything and my purpose, my desire, everything became clear! Just love her and bask in her love was my thought when I was in love with Kristen. Just love Baha’u’llah and bask in His love was my only thought when I was in love with Baha’u’llah. Nothing else mattered! Hah! Are you kidding! I don’t need reasons! I have no concern for doubt or certitude, unbelief or faith! I only long to be with my Beloved! That is ALL I care about! The rest I leave to whoever wants it. You can have all of it forever! I’ve got all I need and infinitely more!

To be IN that! To be really experiencing it and not just believing it. To be really feeling it and not just knowing it! In Before Sunset, Jesse and Celine have the priceless chance to renew their love, to fulfill their dreams, to be with their heart’s desire. They have a second chance at true love! That is not something to take lightly! Here I’ve been longing for a second chance at true love with a girl (not the same girl) when I’ve got a second chance at true love with Baha’u’llah! The former may take years to manifest, whereas the latter is ready! He saith:

I desire communion with thee, but thou wouldst put no trust in Me. The sword of thy rebellion hath felled the tree of thy hope. At all times I am near unto thee, but thou art ever far from Me. Imperishable glory I have chosen for thee, yet boundless shame thou hast chosen for thyself. While there is yet time, return, and lose not thy chance.”

Wow! That just says it all! First of all, I’m a stump of a tree, chopped down by my own rebellion. Not a hopeful image, yet He says there is still time! I still have a chance! Kristen is far from me, married with a kid. There’s no chance for that love. It’s gone. The only earthly love I’ve ever known is at all times a million miles away from me. Wow, that’s discouraging. I can feel that way about someone and then it just ends like that with no second chance? So this must be the ending between this servant and His Best Beloved. I turned my back on Him and then He began His inexorable drift into the far reaches of the galaxy. I am alone forever. WRONG! He is near to me, closer than my life vein. He is here with me. He is so close, so ready AT ALL TIMES. That means every single moment of every day of all my life.

Yet I do not trust Him. HE desires communion with ME? Wait, wait, He desires communion with me? Why? What can I possible have to offer that he would desire? I don’t know but I know it’s not a mistake. I know He really wants me back! What human being is even remotely that forgiving and selfless and loving! No one I can think of! And that’s just one set of qualities! He is superior to all others in every way! There’s not even the beginning of a comparison! I mean, a supermodel who is also a true saint has nothing on Him! NOTHING! No comparison! No supermodel saints are knocking on my door, much less desiring communion with me. But he desires communion with me! How many people in this life even care if I trust them? Very few think about that at all. He points to it as something of vital importance, a barrier between us! I can’t even remember the last time someone pointed out something that was holding us back from being closer to each other!

It’s true, I put no trust in Him! How do I trust Him? What do I do that’s based on trust? I don’t even trust that He’s really THERE! I “believe” in Him. SO WHAT! Yay, I believe. What does that mean? Did the martyrs believe? No, they trusted. They didn’t judge and weigh and then decide to believe, and keep judging and weighing and keep deciding to believe. They took a running jump off the cliff of trust in Him! They loved Him! They trusted that He would always return their love, that He would always be there for them! They flung themselves forward with no thought for themselves and trusted that he would guide them and direct their steps! Their hearts burned with love for Him and nothing else mattered! They were running to Him, flying to Him at all times!

He inhabited a body once, but no more. How can I be with Him then? Well, hey, why does being in a body have to be so important! He exists as He is! He is with me. Do I trust that He is? He loves me. Do I trust that He does? He desires for me return to Him, saying:

Be swift in the path of holiness, and enter the heaven of communion with Me. Cleanse thy heart with the burnish of the spirit, and hasten to the court of the Most High.”

Do I trust Him enough to set forth swiftly on the path of return?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Before Sunset

I just saw Before Sunset for the first time. Whew! That is one wonderful film. I have always adored Before Sunrise and seeing Before Sunset, its sequel, cemented their place as the undisputed #1 and #2 in my Top 10 movies, interchangeably. Anyone who loves those movies and has not found the love of their life is feeling me right now. Those movies just bring all those feelings right out of me. I’ve never experienced any story or anything that captures being in love like that and how two people can just really be a perfect fit for each other.

I really want that, as do countless other human beings. I’ve been feeling really lonely lately. I’m pretty starved for human contact. I mean, I get plenty of interaction at work with students and other teachers. Pretty much non-stop. But there’s very little depth to it. There are so many awesome, awesome kids there that I would love to get to know better and be friends with and be a mentor to and all that, but that’s probably not going to happen at all. They just zoom through my life every day. The teachers too. They’re all really nice and awesome, but it doesn’t seem like a deep friendship is developing there.

After work I just go back to my apartment and….write in my blog listening to Keith Jarret, among other things. Whatever I do at home I do alone. Getting out to see anyone on a weekday is tough because it’s often close to 10pm when I get home, and before work is the middle of most folks’ work day. So there’s the weekend. I could get out more than I do then. I have met and befriended some people but, except for one person, I haven’t really made a strong connection with anyone and gotten into many deeper conversations. It’s kind of seeing a few people at a few Baha’i events, but always different people showing up so I might see someone once a month or something. Plus just….developing close relationships doesn’t often happen quickly. In the meantime here I am, gazing into my computer screen yet again.

The fact that I’m communing with a blog at this moment instead of the love of my life does not sit well with me. It’s a test though. I have to learn to be patient about love! I mean I’m in a Year of patience for goodness sake! If I can’t see that I need to learn that lesson then I’m blind. But I do see. All my love relationships have been forced prematurely to deeper levels of intimacy by the vacuum of patience that existed in me at the time. That combined with other things doomed them.

Sometimes I worry that I’ve used up my all my chances at true love and I’m just going to have to wait this life out and experience those kinds of feelings (and much more) in the life to come. I mean it’s not like that hasn’t happened before! One of the things Celine said in Before Sunset is that when you’re young you feel sure that you’re going to meet many amazing people with whom you find a special connection. When that special connection happens to a young person they can easily take it for granted or be dissatisfied with it based on whatever ideals they have in their mind in the time or just plain mess it up. But the youth moves on, confident that bigger and brighter things await him or her. At a certain point, though, it seems life starts slowing down and it becomes harder to meet people and less people you meet have that energy that brings the life out in you and you start realizing that you may not meet a lot of people in this life that you have a profound connection with and with whom you can develop a deeper bond. It may be decades between such meetings. That point has come and gone for me and, like so many of the lessons I’ve learned, tempts me to dwell on what an abject fool I have been. Ignorant stupidity and stumbling drunken down the wrong path, and the agony that results in, just seem to be a part of life that is really hard to avoid though. I mean lots of people spend just about their whole lives in that state. Here I am reflecting on how I’ve been that way in the past and how I still am being a fool now. At least I’m aware of it! At least I’m trying to learn from it! That gives me hope.

I feel like an old man at 32. It’s just amazing how many experiences I’ve had! How many people I’ve known and places I’ve been and thoughts and feelings I’ve had. It’s like looking back on a whole lifetime. I’ve lived many lives already, yet there’s potentially twice that lifetime to come! I hope I live a long time, mainly because I don’t want other people to have to deal with grief about my sudden and unexpected death. It’s crazy to think about how someone can suddenly just be out of the picture completely. BOOM! They’re gone. And that could be me. Something could happen and all my plans suddenly turn to dust and I’m in the next world. It happens all the time. Of course I want out of this miserable life but I really could use a lot more time to grow and become a much better person. I have A LOT of growing to do. It’s kind of ridiculous. I talk a good talk but I have a lot to prove.

One thing I’ve started to realize is that I’m two different people. I’m one person with others and another alone. With others my better qualities tend to come out. I listen, I care, I want to serve them and make them happy. I see their goodness and appreciate the warmth of their souls. I feel more like a servant, a spiritual being in action with others.

When I’m alone, however, I feel like I’m either wanting to be with others in a meaningful way or I’m escaping from those feelings and many other painful feelings by playing computer games or watching movies or surfing the internet. I’m so driven to distraction. I just can’t seem to shake this feeling: I’ve experienced certain spiritual highs in life, levels of peace and joy and fulfillment and purposefulness. I long to feel those feelings again and have trouble bearing their absence. Escapism is just a drug though. The problem only gets worse.

I guess that’s one reason I would love to find the love of my life sooner rather than later. I respond so much to other people. When someone else is around and presents me, intentionally or not, with an opportunity to serve and connect, it always feels like just such a more straight and direct path to happiness and usefulness for me. So it would be great to have someone around that gave me that opportunity all the time. Imagine! Living with someone who I connect with on that deep level, who cares about those same deep spiritual things that are all that makes this life worth living to me, someone who is kind and soft spoken and pure hearted, who is a true lover of Baha’u’llah. Imagine having someone like that around to bring the best out of me all the time, a real person right there, a person who will respond to the kind of gifts I have to give, who will appreciate them! And then children around all the time who will respond even more and draw the best out of me even more! That really is a big part of it for me. The right kind of girl for me is someone who will help me to be that better version of myself all the time.

There’s no other feeling like being with someone, boy or girl, who truly is an intoxicated lover of Baha’ullah! Someone whose priorities and joys of life really truly are on a higher plane. I’m not talking about a saint, or even always someone who is living their life in a healthy way. I’m talking about someone whose heart longs for union with the Best Beloved, whose soul cries out for the freedom of nothingness before Him, whose eyes burn with search for any sign of Him in this dust heap of a world. I just want to find a woman who is truly, deeply in love with Baha’u’llah, who is kind and loving, whose inner heart is pure and full of longing, someone gentle and caring. She can have any interests she wants. She doesn’t have to be beautiful by societal standards, just basically pleasing to look at and listen to, y’know? She can be older than me even!

Somewhere in the Baha’i Writings it is said that as two lovers of God come closer to each other they come closer to God, so maybe that really is a way to draw nearer to Him! Maybe that really is a way to feel His presence more and experience the joy of His love and feel the warmth of His light more in the black abyss of nothingness that is the prison of self. Maybe that really is something that can help to lift me out of the prison and into the bright sky! But only if she is an intoxicated lover of Baha’u’llah. If not then we’re on a different subject and it’s not about any of this. It’s not about God or the spiritual realm. There isn’t that deep spiritual connection and sharing of love for Baha’u’llah, which is the most wonderful thing in life to share. In my life at least.

I won’t rush in again! I won’t settle for less than that level of spiritual connection! Even if I have to wait 10 years! Even if I have to wait until I cross the threshold of death! The challenge for me until then is to find a connection to God on my own, without much support from other at all. I guess that’s been my test. I’m the kind of person that thrives in giving and receiving support. That’s part of why I should be a counselor, which is a different subject. I have gotten lots of support from my parents and step-dad—and my brother when we’re together—especially in spiritual matters, but at the same time there’s so many things that a Baha’i who I don’t know very well can understand and relate to in my experience better than my family can. There are so many things about being a Baha’i that are extremely difficult and painful and trying and, for me, lonely. I wonder what it would be like to be raised in a family of devout Baha’is. My parents and siblings are all dedicated servants of Baha’u’llah. Any time I am feeling the challenges of this struggle for purity and obedience and concerted action and sacrifice I can go to them and confide in them and hear advice that comes out of the same devotion to Baha’u’llah that I feel, the same absolute commitment to God’s revealed plan that I feel deep in my heart. Would this journey feel so lonely then? Would that take some of the burden of my shoulders?

I have walked this path alone for too long. I mean the central principle of the Cause of God is unity! We’re not meant to do it alone! It’s not easy! We must strive to help each other all we can! I guess what I’m saying is I need help. I wasn’t willing to say that for so long because I felt like I should be the one giving help and that others must perceive me as strong in order for me to be of service, to be a leader. Well, I’ve been sufficiently humbled by now. Boy, am I humble. I am really, REALLY humble. Pride and vainglory definitely are not my primary weaknesses!

I can’t just go out and make a great marriage happen, and absolutely not for the next 2 months. Chances are I’m not going to suddenly have tons more support in my life here from friends. So if I don’t want to walk this path alone and I want to get the support I need I’m going to really have to reach out to the spiritual realm in ways that I haven’t for a long time. The last time I really was consistently linked with the spiritual world was when I was much younger and hadn’t been a Baha’i for very long and was a lot more innocent and pure. It kind of feels now like I was a child, full of the light of the Kingdom just naturally, without really trying, without fully knowing how or why. Now that innocence is gone forever and I’ve got to find my way back. i have to return to that secret and holy place as a man. It must be a conscious effort, it must involve a great deal of shedding of old ways, and lots of growing and lots of concerted and not easy or always pleasant work. I have to really, really want it! I have to work for it. If I try hard, if I seek His forgiveness and put myself at His mercy and open my heart to Him completely, I can still achieve the victory!

My love is My stronghold; he that entereth therein is safe and secure, and he that turneth away shall surely stray and perish.” -- Baha’u’llah

If only I can find way into that stronghold again Lord I swear I’ll never leave again! Not even I could be such a fool! I’ve learned my lesson and I’m a wiser man. Unfortunately I’m a wise man stuck in the middle of dark wilderness. Help me find my way back to You Lord and I’ll never leave You again! And if the way back to that fortress could be a little easier and smoother that would be great but I’ll just do my part and whatever You give me is the essence of awesomeness! You are so wonderful God! I’m just glad that I believe in You and that I recognize Baha’u’llah and that, though I’m far away and in the dark, You have deposited in my heart the compass that will guide me every step of the way, all the way to very court of Your throne! Yes! Life is actually pretty awesome. When I think about what You have revealed to me about what life is really about and the vision that You’ve given me for my own life’s path and of Your plan for us all, I feel really grateful. REALLY grateful! Like WOW! How in the heck do I deserve this amazing privilege when so many others are lacking it! I have got SO MUCH work to do to even begin to fulfill the responsibilities that come with this privilege. Oh I need help! I can’t do this alone! Ah, I just want scream right now! I NEED HEEEEELP! THIS IS REALLY HARD! I’M WEAK! I can’t even do this at all! I’m a body, a brain, a personality, an ego, a collection of desires and fears. What You’re asking Lord, it’s just beyond me! I can’t even imagine it! Please just destroy me and all this I, Me, Mine! Sweep it away so your work can be done through this vessel! Help me do what it takes to make that happen! I certainly don’t, in my heart, want to keep all this stuff! All this self. Blech! Cleanse me of it! Wash it away, please! Wash it away. Man, I hope that really happens. Help me do my part Lord, I beseech Thee!