The Heart of the Matter
March 24, 2009
The Right Bank for Changing Times

This just in from David Gittlin, guest blogger and all around cool guy.

The moment arrived unannounced during a set of solitary yoga postures on my plush, living room rug. A long stretch to relieve the tension of the day popped something open inside me. It was not a ligament or a tendon. It was my hardened heart.

In the Hollywood version of the story, the hero manages to crawl to the phone, call 911, and then wakes up in a hospital bed after a miraculous, life-saving operation by a brilliant, open-heart surgeon. The experience impresses upon our hero a number of crucial life lessons. After the crisis, the hero's character and actions towards others change profoundly for the better.

Fortunately, life does not resemble a Hollywood B movie, notwithstanding my intense desires for this to be the case at the time. My physical heart had not split open. A more subtle heart had opened, and with it, a door to a new world and another destiny.

It all started with Jorge, the new employee I would never have gone to lunch with if my usual lunch-buddies had not run off somewhere without me.

Jorge was Mexican, the only Latin guy on the second floor executive suite of Wallco, a wallpaper distribution company that hired mostly white Anglos in 1981, when Miami's transformation into a multi-cultural city began in earnest.

Jorge, like me, was in his early thirties, average looking, average height, dark hair, brown eyes, thin mustache -- an easy-to-get-lost-in the-crowd kind of guy. I had no idea his unheralded arrival would trigger a seminal occurrence in my life.

Wallco hired Jorge for its fledgling export division. Jorge's mission was to open up markets in South America and the Caribbean -- approximately one quarter of the world -- all by himself. He had the ability to speak Spanish and, I presumed, Super-human sales skills coupled with a pioneering spirit. I didn't envy Jorge one bit.

I considered myself above Jorge. I was the high and mighty Marketing Director -- Jorge the lowly new sales recruit. I had served my time in sales. I was grateful, beyond words, not to have to spend my days selling wallpaper sample books to dealers who had no more room in their stores for them. I figured, if nothing else, I could learn something about the export market by going to lunch with the new recruit. Besides, Jorge was the only soul left on the second floor other than myself.

Jorge suggested we eat at a nearby natural food restaurant. This sounded much better than tamales or burritos, or whatever weird, bready, spicy stuff Mexicans ate. I happily agreed.

Over salads and grain burgers, I discovered Jorge was a vegetarian and engaged in practicing meditation on a daily basis. Here was a subject I had some interest in, having experimented with various forms and teachers of meditation over the years. You might say I was a semi-serious spiritual seeker. I had reached a curious crossroads, a sort of impasse in my life.

I had everything a thirty-something American male could wish for: the perfect job in a field I enjoyed; a great boss; a townhouse bachelor pad; girlfriends, a few pals to hang out with; a sports car and club memberships. I had scrupulously followed all of the prescribed formulas for success. I had turned up every stone in my search for happiness.

I had cobbled together all of the accoutrements of an ideal life. Yet I felt restless and unfulfilled.I was terrified there was something terribly wrong with me. I felt the cold winds of middle age blowing in my direction. I saw myself dating one girl after another well into my eighties, until I finally abandoned the search for true love when my body and spirit caved in from old age.

There I was, sitting across from the lowly new recruit, munching on his iceberg lettuce, rattling on about a profound experience of peace. He invited me to a presentation scheduled at a hotel on Miami Beach that evening. I told myself there was no way I was going to drive all the way from South Miami to the Beach to attend some dubious spiritual seminar.

That night, I found myself sitting in a lime green, orange accented meeting room at the Carlyle Hotel. Curiosity and something between Jorge's words at lunch had picked me up from the chocolate brown pit sofa in my living room and deposited me in an uncomfortable chair with a room full of strangers.

Indian music played from six-foot speakers flanking a makeshift stage. The only thing that kept me in my seat was the absence of Hare Krishna-like chanting.

I glanced to my left and caught a glimpse of Jorge, who smiled kindly at me. Someone took the stage and began speaking into a microphone mounted on a pole with a long wire snaking outwards to an amplifier.

The Indian Music and the microphone are the only details I recall after the program began. My perspective slowly shifted from an outward focus to a pleasant inward experience. A succession of three speakers addressed the gathering that evening. I do not recall a single word any one of them said. I just remember feeling relaxed. For the first time in a very long while, I had actually enjoyed myself without a great deal of effort or alcohol to help me along. I felt like an invisible hand had knocked off a layer of caked mud from my body.

It is difficult for me to describe what happened after that evening. I can only say that it marked the beginning of a long journey that lasts to this day, to this very moment. It is a journey filled with peace and joy, based on a living, inner experience.

The experience has transformed me from the inside out. The Indian music has since changed to New Age and Modern. Six years after the event, I walked into the receptionist's office at work and promptly told her my life story. She became my wife and soul mate. A year later, our daughter, Danielle, came into the world. She is now a beautiful, sane, nineteen-year old who everyone adores.

My life remains full of challenges, but I face them with real joy and optimism. I have discovered that life can be every bit as beautiful as you want it to be. It takes some courage and effort, but the possibility is real for anyone willing to step up to the plate.

The saying goes: "No deposit—No return." The trick is to find the place where you can get the best return on your deposit.

If this story strikes a responsive chord, you can discover more at

Photo by BeHereNow

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at March 24, 2009 08:45 PM

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