Little Shack and Acts of Kindness

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral; returning violence with violence only multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." - Martin Luther King Jr.

I was watching a television channel’s "breaking news" the other day and what seems to have become the new normal of mass violence and environmental catastrophes. I couldn't help but remember the lines from the movie The Thin Red Line: "This great evil, where's it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doing this? Who's killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might've known? Does our ruin benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?"

What can we do about this new normal? How about random acts of kindness? The phrase "practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" is a homophone written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. It is based on the chilling phrases of our new normal: “random acts of violence” and “senseless acts of cruelty.” Randomly, the "stage" is always set in the outside world for an "act" of kindness. From a spiritual perspective, as practice, our intent is to be kind but our action will be spontaneous. It is analogous to telling someone a good joke and then laughing out loud with the other--telling the joke is intentional, but the joy of laughter comes from deep within--spontaneously!

"Sure the world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild." - Mary Karr

In spite of, or maybe as a result of, this new norm of violence, I have begun to notice that when I leave my little shack and go into the public, there seems to be a more congenial awareness of our human kinship ( kind, in fact, is related to an old root word cynn "family" or"kin"). I see more "good mornings!" more smiles, maybe more "you go ahead first." I hope this is so, I know I have been saying a lot more "thank yous!"

"Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not." - Samuel Johnson

There is a funny story that happened to me some time ago. I was driving with a friend when I was pulled over by a police officer for going over the speed limit. The officer wrote out a ticket and I said: "Thank you! Please be careful and have a nice day!" The officer looked startled and asked my friend: "What's wrong with him?" My friend answered, " I suppose he's touched!" Lately, when I am at the grocery store, post office or someplace of business and I am finished with a customer service person, I always say to them "have a nice day!" I feel like this is a way to change the current of the present negativity in the world. By changing the "current" I mean becoming more vulnerable, opening myself up to empathy to the other, instead of just keeping to my separate sense of self and just my own needs for the day. It's considering the other. It's "something I can do."

There are many websites now on the internet that give the reader some ideas on practicing random acts of kindness. I came across one that explains the Jewish concept of mitzvah; the word is used to mean a good deed or an act of kindness. Judaism teaches that "the world is built on kindness." I like that author Henry James sums this all up: "Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."

"Make yourself like a lake with a calm surface and great depths of kindness." - Lao Tzu

P.S. From the little shack: HAVE A NICE DAY!


Little Shack Stops Having the Last Word

'The last word' is the most dangerous of infernal machines, and husband and wife should no more fight to get it than they would struggle for the possession of a lighted bomb-shell.

-Douglas Jerrold

Several weeks ago, I had a group of people over, and I noticed how everyone kept interrupting each other's conversation, including yours truly! We all want to tell our story, nothing wrong with that, but I was observing and asking myself: Am I listening to each person's narrative? Am I genuinely interested in what they are saying? Why do I have to have the last word?

I began a new spiritual practice of being aware of how I end a conversation. Not having the last word is a practice of humility. It can be a surrender of the unconscious reactionary self's demand to be dominant. During an argument, having the last word can be an endless loop with the other."

Silence is true wisdom's best reply.


I have heard from a mother that had this problem with her children. Her ingenious solution uses the phrase, "I've spoken. Would you like to have the last word?" She explains, "This shifts the power. Instead of them taking control, you have decided to give it to them!" Of course, at times, it is essential to be firm, for example with a teaching or disciplinary situation. The exercise of sacrificing the last word may open a spiritual gate for a higher octave of connection to the other. A transformation can occur that creates freedom and spiritual flow through this gate by moving pass the narrow framework of our separative personal self.

Successfully practicing Not Having To Have The Last Word, we become more substantial, not diminished, and still can tell our own story.

Silence is a source of great strength.

-Lao Tzu

Sleepless Nights at the Little Shack

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results." 

-Willie Nelson

" A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results."

-Wade Boggs

"A strong, positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug." 

-Patricia Neal   

The last month or so I have only been getting an hour or two of sleep, likely caused by some of life's challenges. I go into the night outside and sit for a while, and the moon, the stars and the orchestra of bullfrogs, crickets and lightning bugs move me to thoughts of events from my past.

I was watching the full moon one night, and I remembered as a child being frightened after a relative's death, imagining that I saw a ghost in my closet. I would have so much trouble going to sleep! One night my mother came in and asked, "Why aren't you sleeping?"

I replied, "There is a ghost in my closet!" She went to the open door and showed me a white shirt that was glowing from the moonlight filtered in through the window blinds. She then told me a story. She was in a MASH unit during the World War II Battle of the Bulge. The front lines were not well defined, and the German and American armies were fighting above and behind her unit. She had finally gone to bed after a long day of surgery, and she woke up in the middle of the night in terror to a light shining through her tent! She was sure it was the Germans, and that they had broken through another line. After what to her seemed to be an eternity, she realized it was just the moonlight shining through the canvas wall.

After hearing her tale, I have never experienced fear in the same way again. Of course, I have gotten older, but my imagination of fearful possibilities has gone from a ghost in the closet or monsters under the bed to bills in the mailbox or urgent health matters. What has changed is me taking the reins on my negative imagination and replacing it with a clear affirmation that I can meet any possibilities with the determination that I will meet them with an acceptable solution. I substitute that negative imagining thought with a winning outcome.

A courageous example of this is Alex Trebek, host of the game show Jeopardy, who was recently diagnosed with 4th stage pancreatic cancer. He wrote to a fan who was seeking words of encouragement from him for her grandmother given the same challenging medical news: "XXXX, let’s you and I decide that we both are going to be cancer survivors. Stay positive. All the best! " Now that's what I call right thinking! Not surprisingly, In a new interview with People magazine, Mr. Trebek says that some of the tumors have now shrunk by more than 50 percent and that, according to doctors, he's "near remission." "It's kind of mind-boggling," he says. "The doctors said they hadn't seen this kind of positive result in their memory."

Practicing substitution of negative thinking also works with personal habits you may have. I found this practice helped me stop a three-pack-a-day cigarette habit 35 years ago! The key word here is"practice"— this does take time. No matter how old we are, substituting one line of thought that we want to change with another will work once it becomes ingrained in your way of living.                                                                                                  .                                                                             Goodwill and Positive thoughts to all!   


“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.

—— Chief Seattle

I met her 20 years ago, and we became fast friends, She was like seasonal clockwork, offering the fruit from her soul; my barter was just a little water and food.

We would sit together, I in the shade relishing all the cobblers and pies she'd make in the future! Her unique perfume worn in the spring would always be a calling of the sensual, not erotica per se, but of dancing butterflies, milk and honey seeping through the web of life.  As she grew old, her beauty was in the gnarl and wrinkle. No vanity or pretense for this one!  She never complained. Alas, this morning when I went out for my morning walk to say hello, I knew she had passed; her leaves had fallen as if it were December, her pulsing sap was gone. Goodbye, Peaches, old Friend. My sadness did not last long though. I am sure I heard a voice coming from my old Friend, "Forget the Apples; the Peach does not fall far from the tree!"  Behold a new Peach tree, inches tall, had grown from fallen seed. A new friendship, new memories await - Rebirth is the TRUTH!

““I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”

— ― Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters

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No Way Out but by Transformation

In the book "Trumbo" by Bruce Cook, the writer Dalton Trumbo tells a story about getting a job as a screenwriter. During his interview, the producer Bryan Foy had asked him to imagine a man at the bottom of a pit, sixty feet deep, with smooth, vertical walls and absolutely no way to get out. I think we all have been in a position where we felt we were sixty feet deep in trouble and no way out. Many spiritual teachers try to create situations where there is no hope of escape; there is no talk of blissful or ecstatic experiences –(not that these do not exist.)

I have been told that being around one spiritual teacher, U.G. Krishnamurti has been described as "a house of pain", meaning there was no compromise, no way out-- only total surrender. One quote from a book titled "No Way Out", compiled from the many talks he gave, has the following encouraging words (gallows humor intended!): "You are not ready to accept the fact that you have to give up. A complete and total surrender. It is a state of hopelessness which says there is no way out, any movement in any direction, on any dimension, at any level is taking you away from yourself.” 

Jiddu Krishnamurti, another well-known spiritual teacher, has said, “The fact is there is nothing that you can trust; and that is a terrible fact, whether you like it or not. Psychologically there is nothing in the world that you can put your faith, your trust, or your belief in.”

Marie-Louise Von Franz, in her book “The Interpretation of Fairy Tales” quotes Jung: “Jung has said that to be in a situation where there is No Way Out, or to be in a conflict where there is no solution, is the classical beginning of the process of individuation. It is meant to be a situation without solution: the unconscious wants the hopeless conflict to put ego-consciousness up against the wall so that the man has to realize that whatever he does is wrong, whichever way he decides will be wrong. This is meant to knock out the superiority of the ego, which always acts from the illusion that it has the responsibility of decision. Naturally, if a man says, "Oh well, then I shall just let everything go and make no decision, but just protract and wriggle out of [it]," the whole thing is equally wrong, for then naturally nothing happens. But if he is ethical enough to suffer to the core of his personality, then generally because of the insolubility of the conscious situation, the Self manifests. In religious language, you could say that the situation without issue is meant to force the man to rely on an act of God. "

From birth to death we come to points in our life that we consider there is No Way Out but sometimes luck, fate, miracle (spiritual law) or maybe even like physics (for example at 100ºC., not one degree less, water turns to a gas as steam) "THE NO WAY OUT" TRANSFORMS into a new beginning!

I like how Ernest Hemingway in his book "The Old Man in the Sea" sums up this No Way Out, and gives us all a little hope, even after total surrender: “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” (Meaning the man has become transformed)

Returning to Bruce Cook’s Trumbo and the story of Trumbo’s job interview, Dalton Trumbo told his interviewer, Bryan Foy, that he could imagine how he could get the man into the 60-foot pit with no way out. "Well," said Foy, "if you can get him out, too, then we're in good shape."

Another teacher has told me “No way out leads to surrender and surrender leads to transformation, but love itself is transformative. So one possible solution to no way out is the transformative power of love.” Since Valentine's Day is in February and celebrates this transformative power of love, I wanted to share a few quotes about it:

 “Be with me now. … We. We together. One being. Flow together like water. Till I can’t tell you from me. I drink you. Now. Now. … Love. Where does it come from? Who lit this flame in us?” - James Jones

“LOVE is the ultimate meaning of everything around us. It is not a mere sentiment. It is truth; it is the joy that is at the root of all creation.” Rabindranath Tagore

Here is a poem I wrote when I was battling cancer almost 5 years ago scrawled on Valentine's Day to my wife.

The First Light of Spring

Did you think I live alone? That I do not share this tent and cot with a woman? Revelations! I have a Wife! Let us forget about this Old Man's Illness for awhile! Let us celebrate! Her name Eileen. It means First Light of Spring. Her hair is like the clouds kissed by Dawn's blessings [Chorus: Cheers!] Her voice is a caress, [Chorus: Cheers!] Her eyes are deep pools of mysterious Beauty and Peace, [Chorus: Cheers!] She smells good! [Chorus: You Fool!]

May this burning violence of love in my heart for her spill over to all! [Chorus: Cheers!] [Fool, you are pardoned.]

From the Little Shack of Musings: Happy Valentine’s Day! I have put up a white flag on my Little Shack!

Bird Watching at the Little Shack

“Man’s hope can paint a purple picture, can transform a soaring vulture into a noble eagle or moaning dove.” — Ralph Ellison

My wife and I take our dog Hobo for a walk around the property every morning…I love this dog. We named him Hobo—as a stray he snuck up and downed two pecan pies cooling on our outdoor table—can’t get much more Hobo than that! Needless to say, he stuck around, but that's another story…While taking our morning stroll  last week, we came upon seven vultures standing on fence posts with their wings spread out catching the wind. They seemed to be in ecstasy, instantly reminding me of the film, "The City of Angels”. In the movie, there are angels all over Los Angeles, doing the merciful as angels do, totally unseen by the "mortals". Every morning they get together on the beach and they too stand in ecstasy, worshiping the rising Sun. (Haven’t you ever just stopped and felt the breeze, the splendid warmth of the Sun, the peace and communion of one worship in your single space, while gathered together with your friends or family?) As I witnessed the vultures in their morning salute, I couldn’t help but feel their very feathers were worshiping the wind and that, it seems to me, is why all birds fly: They and their feathers worship the wind and the boundless freedom of the sky. As we respectfully passed the birds, I looked up and saw a very large bald eagle, flying above a pine. Made me wonder—which came first, the feathers or the bird? …The ecstasy or the freedom?

I looked down at Hobo's knowing, smiling face that said: "Neither one! Just a Wordless Being and a Soundless AWE.....

“17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God… “ — Revelation 19:17-21 KJV

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A Romance at Christmas

Everyone has that special memory when the Christmas Spirit takes hold and ‘Joy runneth over’ with that fullness of delight. My most joyful Christmas holiday started out with some very harsh periods in my life: I was laid off from my job, lost both my parents that year, was in the middle of a turbulent divorce after 17 years of marriage... and my dog died! I spent a month severely depressed, gradually gathering myself to start living again, and eventually put my name out in an online singles dating site called Astral Hearts. The site catered to people with an interest in meditation, metaphysics, and those seeking spiritual companionship.

After meeting some interesting women locally, I received an inquiry from a woman in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Every evening we got together online and spent hours emailing one another—Eileen was her name. By the way, she did not know anything about instant messaging, just email.  One day I sent her an instant message, saying, "Hi, how did your day go?" Startled, she wrote me back, "How did you do that?????" (This was about 16 years ago so instant messaging was new, at least to us!) She was kind of frightened and thought I had somehow taken over her computer. We share a laugh about it now, especially when she tells me that she actually looked over her shoulder to make sure I wasn't somehow there!   

One day, after many months of this type of communication, she wanted to know if I was as lonely and miserable as she was. She wanted to see me and, of course, I said YES!  She invited me to visit the 4th of July and described it her favorite day because it meant Freedom! I liked this description and was anxious to meet her, so I began my 1,000 mile, 16 hour trip—one of many.  When I told my family and friends I was dating, I left out the part that I was driving a 2,000 mile round trip.  I checked into a hotel off I-40, agreeing to meet her at her home in the morning to have breakfast, and what a wonderful one it was! We had her special New Mexico omelets with coffee while we looked out her window, watching the Sandia Mountains.  She planned our day: a stroll down the Rio Grande, then a rock shop call Mama's Minerals. I bought her a jade carved Buddha and she bought me an amethyst one. We climbed Sandia Peak to watch the fireworks and this mystic mountain blew a cool breath of air that smelled of piñon pine, making us cuddle (I do not kiss and tell!). I stayed in my motel that evening and met her the next day to drive to Sky City—what a day that was!

After driving back and forth for my dates, we decided to spend Christmas together. This time I took a plane and I was there in 2 hours!  Our excitement was magnetic. We went to Home Depot and bought a pile of piñon pine for her fireplace. Then we went to Old Town Plaza. There was a tree, all lit up, and Christmas Carols flowing through the air. The temperature kept dropping and it began to snow.  Even though I was in my fifties, that night brought this Texan his first White Christmas.  I had never before felt the Joy that that Christmas gave to me.  I thought of a child wrapped in rags in a manger and knew then what the tradition of wrapped-gift giving is about during this season of Love and communion. As we walked through the different shops, talking about our future, I also knew then that no matter how old you are, Love and Romance are waiting for you, and in Eileen's words, "Our childlike spirit comes out to play again on that night of Light.”

Merry Christmas from the Little Shack, shining with love from a woman, now my wife, that I met online in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


These Bones Ache at the Little Shack

Oh those bones, oh those bones, 
oh, those skeleton bones…
Oh, mercy how they scare! (old spiritual by James Weldon Johnston)

Now in the 21st century, the boundaries separating chemistry, physics, and medicine have become blurred, and as happened during the Renaissance, scientists are following their curiosities even when they run beyond the formal limits of their training. (Peter Agre)

Several weeks ago, I woke up around 2 a.m., which has been usual lately due to nightly pain in my shoulders and knees. The pain occurs, I think, due to the physical stimulation I do get during the day. When I woke up, I had the frighting sensation of waking up in a decaying body and in fact, I had a mental image not unlike the Tarot card Death. I worried about this for the rest of the night and day till it dawned on me that I was observing a physical body. Science tells us our bodies are decaying every day, but also being renewed; as we age, this process of renewal slows down. I had forgotten that what I saw was not the ME decaying, but a physical body—one I happen to occupy! You and I are not the physical bodies we happen to be born with; we are much, much more. 

Because of my increasing concern for the escalating pain in my shoulders, hands and knees, I went to an osteoporosis specialist who ordered 5 X-rays, then a MRI. The doctor's verdict was more arthritis, and I was told that I would have to have both shoulders and a knee replacement. With those replacements, along with a cochlear implant for both ears that I have wanted to have done, I would become bionic, maybe part android or a cyborg!

Fortunately, I own a vintage brain, and I am alive and well in the 21st century, still making records, still working at an intense pace and most of all, still having fun doing it. (Tony Visconti) 

I often joke about one day waking up in the 21st Century— I am the type of guy that still looks around for a phone booth! I think this was my 21st century moment. A doctor friend told me, " I guess you will have to decide which body parts to replace when. The miracle is that they can be replaced. Welcome to the 21st century!" By the way, she also told me to "plug in your heating pad for those bones in this winter weather." Sound advice— HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I think there's every reason this 21st century will be much happier. (Dalai Lama)

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Halloween and Day of the Dead at the Little Shack of Insight

"What happens after death is so unspeakably glorious that our imagination and our feelings do not suffice to form even an approximate conception of it. The dissolution of our time-bound form in eternity brings no loss of meaning."               

—Carl Jung

In Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, Carl Jung wrote that "Six weeks after his death my father appeared to me in a dream... It was an unforgettable experience, and it forced me for the first time to think about life after death."

I had a similar experience with my mother after her passing. She appeared to me in her dream and said the word "Ambien." This I could not understand: why would she say the name of a sleeping pill, "Ambien"? The dream bothered me for several weeks, then one evening, I was relaxing in my hot tub without a care in the world, and like a strike of lightning, I knew what the dream meant; “Ambien” meant "AM BEING." Although she was no longer in the physical body, she was saying, "I AM BEING!"

I had an even more tangible communication experience with her several weeks after she had passed. Before I had built anything on my property, I would bring my mother out to the 8-acre tract. She had progressive dementia at the time. She would walk around and pick up different colors of pebbles, petrified wood and other unique stones, and hand them to me. After her passingI like to use the word "The Great Transition"I built a fence at the entrance of the property using corral board. This place was going to be a real ranch! One day after completion of the fence, I came out to paint the boards, and there was a row of stones, about 10, of all different shapes and colors, each placed about 1/2 inch apart. A little chill went up my spine!

I picked them up, thinking to myself maybe it was from a squirrel or bird, but spaces measuring 1/2 inch apart seemed to be beyond that possibility. A couple of days later I went back to check the painted wood, and there was a new row of stones in the same place as before! This went on for two more weeks then stopped. I feel this was her way of telling me "I AM BEING!"; "I LIVE!"

I have been reading about the symbolism of stones today, and I am floored. According to Jung in his book Man and His Symbols:

"Many people cannot refrain from picking up stones of slightly unusual color or shape and keeping them... without knowing why they do. It is as if the stone held a mystery in it that fascinates them. Men have collected stones since the beginning of time and have apparently assumed that certain ones were the containers of the spirit of the life-force with all its mystery. The stone symbolized something permanent that can never be lost or dissolved, something eternal that some have compared to the mystical experience of God within one's own soul. It symbolizes what is perhaps the simplest and deepest experience, the experience of something eternal that man can have in those moments when he feels immortal and unalterable."

Halloween during my childhood, as nowadays, was about dressing up in costume and going door to door hustling the candybeing scary or slightly scared was entertainment. "Spooky" was fun, but a real ghost story was enough to keep us up all night! 

One of my real ghost stories happened when I was in my early 20's; I had taken a trip to India for spiritual purposes but also for adventure! I probably saw myself as Lawrence of Arabia or Joseph Conrad's Lord Jimsome romantic adventurer. As the plane crossed the Atlantic, there was non-stop turbulence, and two experienced seatmates told me to drink a few martinis and I'd be fine! The plane landed in Bombay (now called Mumbai) right in the middle of a monsoon downpour. I had a hotel room for one night and after the 16-hour flight, I passed out, waking up to sitar music playing through the roomI was in India

I hired a taxi to Poona (now Pune), but did not know that all the rooms were taken due to the city’s very popular horse races. I reached Poona after a hair-raising taxi cab drive on wet roads with the driver racing at 80 MPH in the rain! I was serenaded by two enthusiastic Indians singing beautiful Hindi songs which made my ride a lot more enjoyable, despite the numerous auto accidents we saw on the way. On arrival, I went looking for a room, but yes, everything was booked. Horse racing was a holiday.  I finally found a “for rent” sign and inquired about it at a nearby restaurant.

For 3 dollars a night it seemed like a deal! I opened a sliding barn door in a 10’ by 20’ room to find a slab with burlap, a dirt floor, and a very musky smell. I finally got settled and locked the latch. I knew I probably would find a room the next day since the races would be ending. I was very tired and laid down on the burlap. All night long I would see lights, hear noises like laughter and movement in the room but no was one there. I then felt a hand move over my mouth, then two hands on my throat, choking me!

Again, there was no one thereat least not physically. Frighten was not the word, terror is a good one! Since this was not my first encounter with the supernatural, I contained myself till morning. I left as soon as I could see, but I was traveling with cash and a credit card on me, so I had to be very careful. Those thoughts had kept me from running out screaming when the haunted house started rocking! Later I found out that the "room" for rent was a type of morgue! People would place their loved ones there to prepare for ritual cremation. I was also told that the criminal element in Poona used it as well for the same purpose, hence my meeting with one rough ghost! 

I leave this Day of the Dead and Halloween Celebration with a little advice from our friend Jung. I call the quote: "Day of the Living!"

 "I urge one and all to live even to the last of his days as if the now were a Great Forever!” 

Happy Halloween and Day of the Dead, with much Living Now!

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The Trickster Visits The Little Shack of Insight”

“Many native traditions held clowns and tricksters as essential to any contact with the sacred. People could not pray until they had laughed, because laughter opens and frees from rigid preconception. Humans had to have tricksters within the most sacred ceremonies for fear that they forget the sacred comes through upset, reversal, surprise. The trickster in most native traditions is essential to creation, to birth.”

             —epigraph in "Napalm and Silly Putty" by George Carlin, 2001 


Everyone has heard the statement "You Can't Make This Up!"

My wife has a small business and after a successful service call, her client, who runs a hair salon, generously told her, “Ask your husband to come by and get a free haircut!” Since I am always ready to fill my "beggar’s bowl,” I took her up on it. Now, my hair is not long, maybe a bit over the collar, but not over my ears. In fact, I have a very pronounced receding hairline. I entered her salon and gave her my name, not wanting to greet her with the words "I am here for my free haircut!" (Especially not in front of clients that are paying!)

I sat down on the barber chair and the circus began, or maybe a Saturday Night Live skit at the Trickster Salon!  As she coughed all over me,  she asked me what I would like, and I replied "Just short." Taking her scissors out and snipping away, she began to clear her throat, then coughed again, explaining that she had a bad cold! I was thinking, "Now I am a goner—a free cold included in this deal!” Remember, I am almost deaf, and I explained this to her at the beginning. She kept asking me questions that I could not hear clearly, but I would guess and say, “Yes… haha… no… of course…” She could have been asking me if I lived on the Moon, or maybe even speaking to the lady sweeping the floor. I could not be sure.

A few minutes later, I felt a blowing on my ears and neck. Instead of a barber hose, she was blowing all the cut hair off of me and my shoulders! At the same time, she kept coughing! I was thinking: ”This is not happening." I grew very nervous as she pulled out her buzz blade and started to shave my hair at about an inch. I knew that one day this ordeal would be done, but my mind was as confused as a Zen Master’s Koan.

When I was shown a mirror to check my “do,”  my happy response was not really about the “perfect haircut,” but the relief that I was getting out of there!!! There I was at the counter, thinking she knew who I was, because of my name on the card I had given her, when she said, "That will be $35.” I have never had a $35 haircut and told her so, pointing to the pricing of “Men $12.” She explained that my hair was longer than most men that came in! 

I paid her the $35, because she was a good client for my wife, and I did not want to make a scene that would offend her. As I was leaving, she held out her hand and asked me, “Don’t you want to tip me?” With all the patience I could muster, I turned the other cheek, giving her a $3 tip. (I hope it was enough—she could have pulled out her scissors!!) I finally got out of the salon and was shell-shocked! I was either experiencing Don Juan’s non-ordinary reality, or I had met the Archetype Trickster.

I now think it was the best $35 haircut I ever received, and I have a good story to tell my wife and friends that laugh until tears pour out! To give the lady credit, after she later found out who I was, she asked my wife to tell me to come back and give her another chance. But I told my wife, “Just let her know it was the best $35 haircut I ever had!”


“We need the impish reflection of the Trickster, turning all our experiences and perceptions into their opposite, playfully inverting and reversing life's energies and directions, to free us from the tyranny of bias and dogma. For one-sidedness is the bringer of stagnancy and rigidity, the enemy of the free flow of life toward its goal of fullness.”                   

—Maureen B. Roberts Ph.D.

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Native American Trickster Kokopelli by S.Correu

Heaven Takes Root at the Little Shack of Insight

I am planting Gardenia's everywhere around the Shack so the fragrance will hover over the Property.  Perhaps the Incense of Heaven on Earth will take root.

The idea was brought to mind in early summer when the Gardenias bloomed. The scent still lingers from the flowers I picked for my wife one early June morning. Smiling, she pressed them in her favorite books as she whispered, "The perfume is always sweeter with age!" I laughed and said, "The Wine in the Bottle!" Inspired, I have begun to make cuttings from that special Gardenia bush. The Gardenia symbolizes Grace; it has been associated with the visiting scent of Saints. I find pleasure in growing plants, something I've learned through trial and error. To me, it is one form of co-creating in harmony with that mysterious purpose of Nature. For the aging and disabled, it definitely can become a synergistic exercise: Spiritual (co-creating, cultivating in harmony), Physical (hands-on shovel and pail, caressing the soil over a stem) and Mental (visualizing, mapping the completed growth) --a practice that can't be accomplished at the Gym! I have had good results with all kinds of plants, from cactus to fruit trees, making cuttings--an ancient form of cloning! While there are many sites on the internet with pictures and techniques, my simple way is: I find a fresh green stem about 6 inches long, cut it with a sharp knife--oval with a point not straight across, leave 2 or 3 green leaves at the top, moisten the stem, then poke it in powdered root stimulator. Poke a hole in any pot filled with potting soil, insert the stem, keeping it moist, not wet, for several weeks, out of direct sun. In a month's time, the Gardener becomes the Midwife for Nature, handing over the sprouts to a proud new day. A new birth, a resurrection, occurs in the plant!  In this harmony with Nature, we too are renewed.  Here is a wonderful description of this miracle:

Cuttings (Later) by Theodore Roethke

This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?
I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones I feel it --
The small waters seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out,
Slippery as fish,
I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet. “

Perhaps in a few years, we can get can get together, you and I down by the Shack, have tea or coffee and inhale deeply the scented breeze of Heaven on Earth, Rooted in the form of Gardenias!  (With a little help of co-creation!)



The Mimosa Tree


I usually read a page or two of some book before I go to bed. Recently, I was reading about Jung's decision to try to discover the myth by which he personally was living. He asked himself, "What was the game I enjoyed when I was a child?" Joseph Campbell asked a similar question: "What did you do as a child that created timelessness, that made you forget time?" That night, I began to drift in my memories, as aging people do. I drifted to a day when I was a preschool child with my mother, who was visiting her friend for coffee. In the back yard was a large Mimosa tree, cultivated in that rustic, branching, natural way by Sun, Wind and Rain - an image of Eastern Asia, with its fine pink flowers and mystic perfume. As I climbed high up a branch,  hanging on, hugging it, the sun entered my bones like an X-ray with a warmth and brightness boring deep in my essence, leaving a moment of "All is Right with my World" framed in memory -- a glowing happiness. This feeling has returned to me my whole life, whenever I see a Mimosa tree.  

My memory floated again to my old home where I grew up in Houston. There was a large elm tree in the back; the seeds always reminded me of bunches of bananas! I would climb high up the tree, perhaps looking for that timelessness of the Mimosa. One day, the first day of Spring, a Finch with green and yellow feathers landed right next to me. We looked at each other in a natural innocence and she sang a song to me.  I said, "Hello, little bird." There was magic in that moment as she turned her head inquisitively! Everyday I would climb the tree to see if my new friend was there, but she never was. Then the next year's first day of Spring came and I climbed the tree again, hoping, hoping I would see her once more. To my complete surprise she landed next to me. There was no mistake--it was her!  She sang her Song and gave me her eyes. I was hers.


Oh, of timeless days                                                                                                               when we are but a child.                                                                                                     Simple breezes of                                                                                                                   eternal moments,                                                                                                                  framed in our hearts,                                                                                                       magically change into                                                                                                                  our essence.

Thank you,                                                                                                                                  O Lord,                                                                                                                                       for blessed memories                                                                                                                      clinging to us,                                                                                                                               lightening our burdens,                                                                                                                and sweetening our rest.                                                                                                                           

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Tumbleweed Visits the Little Shack of Insight

An Old Friend of mine, Tumbleweed, came by today. I was really surprised! Have not seen him in ages. As usual, he walked from God-Knows-Where... Last time I heard, he was living in a culvert in Austin, Texas. The City tried to get him to move but he somehow got a lawyer to help him and he was allowed to live there--nice cozy place! From what I heard from people that knew him in school, he was a real academic guy, headed to a University, with a bright future ahead of him. Then he had an accident while working part time in a warehouse. A long heavy metal chain with a hook on it came loose, swung back and hit him right between the eyes! Knocked him out and he never was the same. Most thought he went mad. He told me once that it was his “Hard Knocks Transfiguration!”

After the accident, he lived in a cabin (really a Shanty, but he called it his cabin) near a family-owned creek that would flood from time to time. I would go check on him and he would be up on the roof talking to the water rushing through the creek below. Once there was a group at my home and a Neil Young concert came on the TV. We both started singing along to the “Old Laughing Lady.” Someone said, “Shut up Tumbleweed and let Jack sing,” so of course Tumbleweed started singing at the top of his voice. We ended up singing a duet that sounded like two tomcats howling! After the song we started laughing so hard, the nails and doors started to fall out of that house!

While he was visiting me last night, we stayed outside for a while. There were violent flashes of “heat” lightning. Tumbleweed would laugh and say, “You know that storm is a living being!” He began talking about reincarnation and then about the Man in the Moon. With his long beard, hair and bamboo walking stick he reminded me of a Prophet of old.... We made him a bed on the couch and in the morning I got up to make him coffee but he had already gone, headed for “God-knows-Where.” He left me a gift though: a fossil rock he picked up somewhere in his travels--but that's not all. He left me with that JOY that seems to abound around those with a certain wild freedom the world sometimes calls “madness.” An old poem popped in my head from Kahlil Gibran:

You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen — the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives — I ran mask-less through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves."
Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me. And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a housetop cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks."
Thus I became a madman. And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.    

...Goodbye Tumbleweed; Happy Trails to You!

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from "My Wilderness": I read all the books. I had many teachers, many paths; I had my moments of Satori's and stretches of Samadhi. But when I was turning 60, spiritually I became very dry, on a plateau. I began to pray intensely: “Something must happen!” (click here to continue reading)

My Wilderness

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.
They are plans for good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11

I read all the books. I had many teachers, many paths; I had my moments of Satori's and stretches of Samadhi. But when I was turning 60, spiritually I became very dry, on a plateau. I began to pray intensely: “Something must happen!” I imagined a New Teacher who would give me his/her Juice!

Well, I had my yearly health checkup and the Dr. reported: “ You have cancer, a tumor as big as a fist and I saw spots on your liver as well, probably stage 3 or 4. You need to get into chemotherapy right away!”

Shock! Panic! Denial, Anger, Terror! These were my emotions. I retreated into my imagination. In my mind's eye, I put up a large canvas tent for refuge. Let me explain – Years ago I bought a 16' by 16' Army Surplus Tent and pitched it behind my late ailing Mother's home, while I took care of her (she was suffering from dementia). She had been an Army Battlefield Nurse  near the Front Lines during WW2. This seemed to help her remember things about her past and she spent many days speaking of her experiences with the brave ones: healer, healing and dying. Cancer became my battlefield, the tent-- my struggle with healing. I wrote and wrote everyday, while I underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Alone in the tent, poetry began to flow:

“Rainy Sunday Afternoon

At the Tent

Resting by the Fire

Worn Out From All This Intensity

Listening to Healing Rain Drops

Relaxing on Warm Soft Canvas”

This was the beginning of The Little Shack of Insight. I looked Death in the Eye and It said No more bullshit!” “No more lies!” and repeating again and again: “Authentic! AUTHENTIC!” 

I remembered the quote of Castaneda's Don Juan: Death is the only wise adviser that we have.” I made Death my ally, my New Teacher.

Slowly I began to heal and Death did not take me... Now, 4 years later, inspired by recovery, I had an insight that I needed a grounded place for meditation, creativity and sharing musings of what my confrontation with Death taught me. I am converting a small shed into my Little Shack of Insight, on an 8 acre track surrounded by forest.

Wilderness is Salvation
— Joseph Campbell

A Teacher once told me All of us live in a Wilderness with no path, just the one we make.” I began my own unique journey from the spiritual plateau I found myself on and began a mountain climb to freedom. I became a Pilgrim like the film hero Jeremiah Johnston. To those who are not familiar with the film (and let me say now, despite the violence played out at times, I see and experience this film as a story of spiritual experience and awakening!)  Jeremiah is a battered war veteran in the 1800's. He leaves everything behind to become a Mountain Man in the Wilderness. His first year in the Mountain Country is very harsh, but he meets the elderly and eccentric  Del Gue, nicknamed “Bear Claw,” an experienced Mountain Man who mentors him on wilderness living. As Jeremiah survives, in spite of tragic loss, Bear Claw  returns and the conversation goes like this: “These are the finest sculptures” (the wild beauty surrounding them) “and there ain't no laws...and there ain't no Asylums...there ain't no Churches except this right here...and there ain't no Priest...except the birds...on this Great Map of the Magnificent!” 

I hope one day to hear my inner Bear Claw tell me as he told Jeremiah, “You come a far Pilgrim.”

I will respond, “Feels like far.” 

“Was it worth it, the trouble?”

...and like Jeremiah,  with new acceptance, in the clarity of Awakening, I will answer:   What trouble?

Build your sacred space, your refuge, find your own path in this Wilderness. Follow it like your life depends on it: Because it may bring you to your very own:                                                                                                                                                                                    “Great Map of the Magnificent!”