The Heart of the Matter
February 27, 2019
Last Night, I Had a Dream

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In the dream, someone told me that Prem Rawat was going to have an event within driving distance of where I lived. This very much inspired me and I began making preparations to go. I got my ticket, but I couldn't find the exact address, so my attempt to use my GPS didn't work and I felt some anxiety.

As I began my journey, I realized I had four people to pick up -- four people who also wanted to attend the event. Me getting a "late start", I felt some crankiness at having to slow down and pick up four more people (running the risk of getting to the event after it began), but I went with it.

When I got to the house of the fourth person to pick up, I was informed that he was upstairs, sleeping. Ouch! Now I was faced with a choice. Do I wait for him to wake up, increasing the risk of missing Prem's event, or do I just make a beeline to the event? I waited a few minutes, impatiently, and then, his mother informed me that he (the sleeping son) decided NOT to see Prem, so I immediately took off, asking the person in the "co-pilot" seat to enter the address of the event into my GPS -- still anxious that we wouldn't find the venue.

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Then, out of the blue, much to my surprise, a disembodied voice tells me to make the next left turn, which I do and, VOILA!, there we are at the event! Just like that. I get out of the car and see a whole bunch of happy people making their way to a big building. I fall into step behind them, enter the building, and come to a staircase, where everyone has stopped -- waiting for the event to begin. I am standing at the bottom of the stairs.

At that precise moment in time, I begin sobbing from the depths of my being -- volcanic sobs -- having finally "come to rest" and realizing how much of my life I had been spending "attempting to get there" -- making all kinds of heroic efforts, dealing with all kinds of difficult choices and responsibilities, when all I really wanted to experience was the moment of "having arrived" which I was NOW feeling very deeply -- waiting, on line, at the bottom of the stairs -- the feeling of LETTING GO COMPLETELY... the feeling of BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME... the feeling that all of the FORCES OF NATURE were not only behind me, but inside me.

That's when the line started moving and I began to feel a massive sense of appreciation and gladness that I WAS NOT LATE, but RIGHT ON TIME, exactly where I needed to be.

When I got to the top of the stairs, instead of there being a collective rush of people trying to get into the hall -- which is what I had been imagining -- we were informed that there had been some delays, that the event would begin in a little while, and that, in the meantime, refreshments would be served to everyone.

Taking a breath, I found my way to a table and sat down with some friends, feeling only gratitude and the deep desire to ENJOY EVERYTHING in my life -- the journey, the waiting, the choices, the not knowing, the chance to be of service, and especially the DEEP FEELING of gratitude I was capable of having no matter what was happening on the outside.

PremRawat.com
TimelessToday

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2019
Six Years with the Bloods of Ibarra

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What follows is in interview with Paul Murtha -- the Director of Mountains of Hope Foundation in Ecuador and Coordinator for Calle Paz y Respeto, the legalized entity for the Ibarra Bloods gang. His six years of work with the Bloods and other gang members has resulted in their well-documented transformation to peace that has become an exemplary model for other development programs seeking to support marginalized youth.

How did this work get started? What is your back story?

In 2012 I was presenting the Peace Education Program in the Ibarra Social Rehabilitation Center (prison). The Director got wind that the local Bloods and Latin Kings gangs were in a state of tenacious detente after two killings. The gangs were confronting the raw certainty that ongoing revenge only made matters outrageously worse and, after years of this, they had had enough! But what then? How to manage this tense hold-off and engage some kind of non-violent approach?

A meeting was arranged where a few gang leaders watched short clips of Prem Rawat's peace message. I think that something clicked here. Perhaps some new perspectives hit home on how to approach the dire situation, some common sense about what is truly important. It was a feeling that, whether or not they recognized what was happening, their angst had been addressed and a kind of relief had been initiated.

How were you able to gain their trust?

During the first meeting, a few gang leaders broke out into a rap song. It sounded great. At the time, I was partner in a recording studio and asked the rappers if they had ever recorded. The next week we were in the studio and the recorded songs were soon the impetus for the Bloods first public initiative, marching in the Ibarra Christmas parade with peace torches, their songs blaring away. So, I was straight up listed as "cool". They accepted this uncommon package of a white-haired gringo.

What were your first attempts to work with them like?

Four leaders, in particular, took to the message of peace and we began to meet every week to review a video clip of Prem and talk openly. It was interesting how the message played on them. I mostly just tried to get out of the way. The unfolding was theirs, at their own pace, according to their own understanding. Slowly, there evolved a sense of direction and an implication of recovered value.

From another person's perspective, our get-togethers would have seemed scattered, impulsive, and borderline outrageous. But the lively exchange actually gave honor to the new level of acceptance they were feeling. It was their way of rolling with it, even testing the boundaries.

I always said that the street youth, coming from years of deceit and treachery, could smell a falsehood four blocks away. That they kept returning and finding ways to make the peace message their own spoke volumes to how deeply they felt touched, to how important and real this feeling of unconditional acceptance was in their lives.

What do the gangs you are working with find compelling about your offer?

In essence, success has come by providing opportunities for the youth to self-express via creative projects. Rather than imposing my ideas on them, I have simply recognized and supported their innate talents and vision.

This practical kind of acceptance was and has been very compelling to them, especially after a long history of being rejected and marginalized. A prime example was the offer from Ecuador's national public radio (RPE) for them to produce a weekly radio program. Imagine street kids, failing students, and drop-outs now writing, recording interviews, rapping, editing, recording songs, and producing and delivering a weekly 40-minute broadcast.

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We built a simple studio and they got technical training from RPE staff. The gang leaders developed some great voice characters and the show became popular, each week focusing on a positive theme and always asserting the importance of personal peace.

Another compelling aspect for them was my approach not to disassemble, disrupt, or change the gang's existence. Rather, I was inspired to build on their positive characteristics. From the get-go, I was taken by their brotherhood, their joking around and jamming with each other, the prevalent sense of "family," and their commitment to watch-each-others-back. Even the rituals of the gatherings -- the colors, handshakes, sworn oaths, assented hierarchy, rap competitions, and shout-outs -- contributed to a sense of belonging that was decidedly sane considering the deprived and dysfunctional conditions that most gang members lived under.

How were you able to broker a truce between the Bloods and the Latin Kings?

Gang leaders from both sides were immediately impressed with the positive socio-economic impacts from their decision to embrace peace. They could now leave their homes without the fear of being attacked. Greetings instead of threats were shared across the streets. For some, family life started to normalize, valuable employment stabilized, and illicit activities diminished.

The peace pact between the gangs was an idea generated by leaders in Ibarra and Quito to formalize and, hopefully, solidify their newfound perspective. It was a surprising show of maturity and decisiveness on their part, demonstrating their hopes for the future.

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The first meeting generated a set of rules of the pact that outlined mutually agreed upon behaviors such as showing respect for each other and their distinctive groups, maintaining positive communications and seeking collaborations with authorities. Prem Rawat's message of peace played out in the process by reminding participants that simple respect for human life is the foundation for any meaningful success.

What kind of support, if any, have you received from the local or national government?

Last month, the Ibarra mayor fulfilled a long-standing dream for the Bloods by providing them with a cultural center, CultivArte, in their tough neighborhood Alpachaca. Here they plan to promote community outreach and provide job training and workshops in life skills including Prem Rawat's Peace Education Program (PEP). They now have to seriously step-up to a new level of responsibility, which is fantastic.

What have been your biggest challenges with the work you are doing in Ecuador?

Poverty creates many challenges both in its potential to affect a dysfunctional upbringing and the resulting denial of education and career opportunities. It is a condition that is very tricky to escape from, even more so for gang members due to the problematic/low-life stigma that gets attached to them. They have a hard time getting jobs. Leaving behind illicit activities is challenging, especially for those with families to support. But they understand the writing on the wall and most make more conscious choices that can be attributed to the entire gang's self-imposed mandate to pursue constructive means.

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What have you learned about yourself in all of this? How have you grown?

I have learned patience in this culture. There is a pervasive Latin "manana" attitude, a laid-back mode that defeats gringo-style punctuality, get-it-done-now compulsion and overly coerced goal agendas. Meetings always occur an hour later than planned. Folks wander in. Keeping to a schema is a pipe dream.

Nevertheless, eventually, something begins to gel. A point gets made that pulls strings. Decisions happen. More often than not, the outcome surpasses what I thought was possible and in an almost matter-of-fact manner, as if, "Of course, what was I thinking?"

I have also come to appreciate the power of choice and the operative self-discovery process. The transformation of the gang members happened because they chose to accept it. Even the first exploratory steps towards peace were remarkably effective. The charged ingredients of sheer necessity and openness merged together with Prem Rawat's forthright words to kick-start the progression. It's true, the human being is hot-wired to go for fulfillment.

Do you think the successes you've had with Ibarra's street gangs would "scale" to other cities and countries around the world?

In 2018, London, England featured the Blood's transformation documentary Peace is Inevitable as the center piece of a concerted conference aimed at resolving gang violence.

Recently, a packet of information was sent to interested people in Toronto, Canada. Program materials are available that describe this model of transformation. Overall, the solution lies in providing positive projects for the youth -- projects that promote their own talents and interests.

Can you tell us one memorable story of something that happened in your work with street gangs that is particularly memorable?

The Calle Paz y Respeto team presented successful anti-drug/bullying events in 22 high schools, combining their rap talents with personal testimony and video clips of the peace message. One school of 4,000 students invited the team back three times; first for 200 selected students with marked drug and delinquency issues, and second, for 100 parents of challenged youth, and the third time presenting four times, in one day, for the student body, at large.

In the Q&A session with the parents, a distraught mother asked Cunini what to do about her problem son. Now, here was a gang leader who left home as an adolescent and as recently as a year earlier, lived on the street fighting vengeful turf wars. Cunini spoke confidently to the mother telling her, "First, be a friend to your son. Simply listen and be supportive. Don't judge, dictate or be upset. Just offer your friendship. Be there for him!"

It was a potent moment. The experience behind his words was irrefutable. This honest street wisdom was what the parents had come to hear.

To contact Paul: myrthope@fastmail.fm


TPRF (The Prem Rawat Foundation)

PremRawat.com

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2019
Is That So?

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Once upon a time, many years ago, before the invention of Starbucks, Velcro, or Fructose, there lived a humble monk in a remote monastery in China. His name was Wan Loo and he was much beloved by everyone he met, dedicated, as he was to realizing the highest truth with every fiber of his being.

Every morning, he meditated with the other monks in the Central Hall, then ate breakfast, washed his bowl, and worked in the garden for the rest of the day, taking brief moments now and again to read the sutras and teach calligraphy to the younger monks. Life was simple for Wan Loo. And very fulfilling. He couldn't have imagined a better life.

One day, in the 17th year of his monastic life, while cultivating radishes in the upper garden, he found himself being approached by the venerable Abbot and three of the local townspeople -- a husband, wife, and their very pregnant 16-year old daughter.

"That's him!" the girl cried out, pointing to the monk "He's the one who did this to me! Him!"

Wan Loo, still weeding the radishes, looked up slowly, smiled, and uttered just three words: "Is that so?"

And with that, the Abbot, a stern expression on his face, began to speak. "It is time for you to leave the monastery, young man. It is time. You have broken one of our most sacred vows. Now go!"

And just like that, Wan Loo was exiled from the only home he had ever known.

For the next five years, he lived in a small hut far away from the monastery. Each day he woke at 4:00 am, meditated, and then from dawn to dusk, dug graves in a nearby cemetery to make the money he needed to buy milk for the little boy the people of the region had now come to call "the young monk's son."

Wan Loo continued with his life. He never complained. He never took a day off. And he never stopped meditating.

Then, one summer day, in the fifth year of his exile, while cultivating a few tomato plants just outside his hut, he looked up and saw the young girl, her parents, the Abbot, and the now five-year old boy all standing over him.

"Mother and father," began the young girl, in between tears. "The time has come for me to speak the truth. It was not the monk. It was a boy I met in the fish market. He was the one. He is the father of my son."

Big silence. Big, big silence. No one spoke, The young monk just sat there, looking up, a ripe tomato in his left hand.

"Is that so?" he said.

Adapted from an ancient Zen story

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2019
The Glass of Water

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I first heard the following story many years ago from Prem Rawat. I loved it then and I love it now, as it brings me back to a simple place of appreciation for life

What follows is my retelling of this tale. If I have messed it up in any way, please forgive me. It won't be the first time. If you enjoy it and would like to know more about my teacher and his message, click here or here or here. If you don't feel like clicking, no problem -- just savor whatever this story evokes in you.

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a young disciple of a great Master who found himself wrestling with a very difficult question -- one that would not go away no matter how much he contemplated it. Though he had asked all the senior monks in the monastery that had been his home for the past 20 years, no one had an answer that rang true to him. And so, one fine Spring day, gathering up all of his courage, he decided to approach the Master himself.

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"Oh Illustrious One," the monk began, "for years I have been listening to your discourses. Time and again, you have referred to something called 'maya' -- the great illusion we are supposedly all bound by, but still I do not understand. Please, sir, can you explain to me what is this maya of which you speak?"

"Oh, my son," the Master replied, "yours is an excellent question. Most penetrating. And timely, too. Yes, I will be happy to provide an answer. But before I do, I have one request. Please bring me a glass of water. I am so very thirsty."

The young monk smiled, nodded his head and, with a simple bow, exited the room to begin his sacred mission.

His first instinct was an obvious one -- to walk to the well in the center of the monastery courtyard and draw the water. Upon reflection, however, he soon realized there was another, better source of water, just a little further up the road from the legendary well of a neighboring village.

"If I am going to get water for my Master," the young monk reasoned, "it has got to be the best."

And so, with a one-pointedness of focus he had never felt as deeply before, he was on his way.

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The neighboring village, known not only for the purity of its water, but also for its breathtaking views, was not far away at all, but the road to it, washed out by a recent storm, was difficult to traverse and so the journey took just a little bit longer than expected. Fortunately, when the monk arrived, just a few minutes before sundown, there were only three people on line at the well and soon he would be on his way.

Thankful for his good fortune, he closed his eyes and turned his attention within, hearing only the sound of his breath -- one after the other -- and then, from who knows where, the sound of feint sobbing.

Surprised, he opened his eyes and noticed that the young woman standing in line before him was crying.

"Dear lady," the monk offered, leaning closer, "what seems to be the problem?"

"It is my father," she replied. "He is so very ill and nothing I do seems to help. I am besides myself with grief."

The monk nodded. "Yes, I understand. The body ages and declines. It is always sad to see our loved ones suffering, especially those who have brought us into the world."

For a moment, the two of them just stood there in silence, both at a loss for what to say. Then the woman spoke.

"Kind sir," she began, "I see, by your robes, that you are a monk. Is it true, as I've heard, that those of your order are masters of the healing arts?"

"Yes, it is true," dear woman. "From a very early age, we are taught many things -- how to chant, how to pray, how to meditate, read the stars, and heal with herbs and balms -- both of which I carry wherever I go."

The eyes of the young woman opened wider as she stepped forward and touched the monk lightly on the arm. "If it is agreeable to you, kind sir, would you, after drawing your water, accompany me ever so briefly to my father's house? Perhaps your healing touch is what he needs to stay alive."

Having been taught, for years, the power of service and compassion, the young monk's path was clear. "Of course!" he replied. "How could I refuse such a heartfelt request? Please, dear lady, lead the way."

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It was only a short walk to her father's house, a small, well-kept cottage on the outskirts of town. One look at the old man was all it took for the monk to see the seriousness of the situation. Clearly, the man was at death's door and, unless the monk began immediately tending to his needs, it was obvious to him that the young woman would be fatherless by morning.

And so, all night, the monk sat by the old man's bedside, administering herbs and teas and balms, rubbing his feet, chanting sacred mantras and, all the while, abiding in a state of deep meditation.

At daybreak, when the young woman woke, she was amazed to see her father smiling, talking with the monk, the color of life having returned to his face. Bowing deeply, she embraced her father, stroked his hair, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"Praise God!" she cried. "And praise you, oh holy monk!"

"Thank you, dear woman. I appreciate your kind words, but it is not me that heals. It is the power of life and your father's will to live. But please know this: Your father is not yet healed. Last night was just a beginning. By my calculations, he will need at least three more days of care before he is back on his feet."

Three days. That was the monk's prediction. Not a long time to return from death's door. But on the fourth day, much to the monk's surprise, the father took a turn for the worse and died.

The old man's daughter, of course, was filled with grief. But grief was only part of what consumed her. She was also filled with fear. You see, with her father gone, there would be no one to run his shop of fine textiles in the center of town -- and with no one to run his shop, there would be no money to buy food and firewood, and with no food and firewood, the young woman would not only starve to death, but freeze, with winter fast approaching.

"Oh monk sent to us from God," she exclaimed on the fourth day after her father's passing, "I know what I am about to say is a lot to ask, but would you be willing to mind my father's shop for the next few days so I can get my house in order? The task is really quite a simple one. All you need to do is greet the people who enter the shop, help them find what they want, and sell it to them at a mutually agreeable price. In the meantime, I will fix you a bed in the barn so you will have a comfortable place to rest and meditate upon your return each night."

"I accept your kind invitation, dear woman. Remember, I have been trained to serve ever since I was a small boy. It's off to work I go. May God be with you on this glorious day."

One day turned to two. Two turned to four. And four turned to eight. Not only did the business grow with the young monk's loving care, so did his feelings for the woman. In time, his appreciation turned to fondness, his fondness turned to joy, and his joy turned to love. A year later they married and a few years after that they found themselves the proud parents of two beautiful children -- a boy and a girl -- both of whom the town elders claimed to be incarnations of great spiritual beings.

The young monk, now merchant and father, could not remember a time in his life when he had ever been as happy or as blessed.

Five years passed. Then another ten. In the 16th year of his adventure into love, 80 miles from his home on yet another buying mission in the extraordinary southern region, a sudden summer storm came upon the land. Not just any storm, but a storm whose ferociousness had never been seen before. It rained for days and days and days.

At first, the merchant simply buttoned up his coat, opened an umbrella, and trudged on, committed as he was to bringing home the finest of the region's textiles to his ever-growing store, especially since he had already taken advance orders from some of the town's most influential citizens. But no matter how steadfast he continued to be, the river continued to rise. And as it did, the keen-eyed merchant noticed three large bags of rice floating by him, bags marked with the insignia of his well-respected enterprise.

"This is not good," he said to himself. "Not good at all. It seems as if one of my silos must have been breached by the river. It's time to turn for home."

The rain kept coming. The river kept rising. And as it did, he noticed it carried more than bags of rice downstream. It also carried cows, three of which he recognized as his own.

"Not good, not good at all," he exclaimed again, digging his heels deeper into the side of his trusty steed and quickening his pace once again.

And then, yet another mile closer to home, he saw a sight he couldn't have imagined in a thousand years. There in the river, face up and unmoving, floated his young daughter and son.

"Oh my God," he wailed. "How can this be? My two precious children, gone. GONE!"

The man had never felt this kind of grief before, never such loss -- the only motivation he needed to gallop as fast as he could and return to the love of his life, the one who would be waiting for him, arms open, at home -- his sweet and precious wife.

Yes, he saw her, but far sooner than expected. There, not more than a few yards from where he now stood, he saw her, too, floating down the river, face up, unmoving, body bloated from a watery death.

Devastated beyond belief, he did what any man in his situation would do and threw himself headlong into the raging river. Simply put, he saw no reason to live anymore. Nor did he see, upon throwing himself into the water, a large piece of timber floating by. The impact of his head hitting this unseen piece of wood was strong enough to knock him out, the large piece of timber now a kind of makeshift raft carrying him downstream.

How long he floated no one knows for sure. Nor does anyone know where that miraculous piece of wood came to rest on the far river bank. But come to rest it did. Was he dead or alive? He could not tell. Shivering and stunned, all he could see when he opened his eyes was wet sand everywhere and what appeared to be a pair of feet. Rubbing his eyes, he continued staring at the feet now strangely familiar to him. Raising his head ever so slightly, he saw ankles, then the hem of a robe, and then, looking up all the way, the radiant face of a man looking down at him and smiling.

"Do you have my glass of water?" the man said. "My son, many years ago you asked me to help you understand the meaning of maya. This... has been just one second of it. Welcome home."

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:36 AM | Comments (2)

February 14, 2019
With Love, on Valentine's Day

Don't know what to get your loved one for Valentine's Day? Looking for something a little different? How about the above slide show video -- 26 inspiring quotes on love set to some beautiful music?

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:25 AM | Comments (0)

February 13, 2019
What Is Wisdom? Who Is Wise?

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All people, at sometime in their lives, aspire to be wise. But what is wisdom, really? I don't know. But here's what some sages, throughout the years, have said about it. Food for thought and beyond thought for you to contemplate.

"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." - Aristotle

"The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling." - Carl Jung

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought." - Basho

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." - Shakespeare

"All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, until they take root in our personal experience." - Goethe

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." - Socrates

"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." - Isaac Asimov

"Any fool can know. The point is to understand." - Albert Einstein

"The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them." - Paulho Coelho

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius

"Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom." - Lao Tzu

"The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms." - Socrates

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself." - Rumi

"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens." - Jimi Hendrix

"The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise." - Maya Angelou

"Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." - Gandhi

"Wonder is the beginning of wisdom." - Socrates

"This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond." - Rumi

"Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it." - Albert Einstein

"A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving and fearless then he is in truth called wise." - Buddha

"There is a wisdom of the head, and... there is a wisdom of the heart." - Charles Dickens

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us." - Marcel Proust

"Wisdom is knowing I am nothing. Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two, my life moves." - Nisargadatta Maharaj

"Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children." - Kahlil Gibran

"Many have died; you also will die. The drum of death is being beaten. The world has fallen in love with a dream. Only the sayings of the wise will remain." - Kabir

"I thought to myself: I am wiser than this man; neither of us probably knows anything that is really good, but he thinks he has knowledge, when he has not, while I, having no knowledge, do not think I have." - Plato

"Wisdom is the oneness of mind that guides and permeates all things." - Heraclitus

"Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody." - Benjamin Franklin

"To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Once Upon a Timelessness

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February 12, 2019
When I Grow Up...

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TimelessToday
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February 10, 2019
The Old Yogi in the Forest

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Once upon a timelessness there lived a great yogi, alone, deep in the forest of a faraway land. How long he had lived there, no one knew, not even him, living in the moment as he was.

The forest was his home, his sanctuary, his favorite place in all the world. Following nothing and no one, only his breath, he was free -- totally free. Like the birds overhead. Like the moss underfoot. Like the trees.

One day, after an especially long meditation, the Yogi opened his eyes and saw what seemed to be three people sitting before him.

"Oh Master," the eldest spoke, "we've been searching for you for many years and now we have found you. Praise God! Won't you teach us what you know?

The yogi just sat there. Motionless. Unmoving as the ground. Many years had passed since he had spoken. Words came slowly.

"I... am...." he said, looking at the sky, "not your teacher. I am just an old yogi in the woods. Won't you please return from where you came?"

And what that, he simply stood, gathered his blanket around him, and disappeared.

Five days he walked, stopping only to chant a few prayers, eat a few berries, and meditate.

When he opened his eyes, there were now ten people sitting before him, the three he had asked to return home and another seven.

"Oh Yogi supreme," the youngest one said, "we know you told us not to follow you, but something moved us here beyond our will. We were helpless not to follow. Please, kind sir, won't you teach us what you know?"

The Yogi just sat there, a few butterflies circling his head. A long time went by. And a longer time after that. Then, in a barely audible voice, he spoke.

"Sweet souls, I honor that which moved you here, but I am not your teacher. I have nothing to teach. Please respect my need for solitude and return from where you came."

And with that, he stood and simply walked away, moving deeper into the forest once again, a few deer now by his side.

Ten days passed, the old Yogi now having entered the absolute heart of the forest, a place no man had ever been before. How quiet it was! How still! How totally serene!

And there, he closed his eyes and entered into meditation once again.

Days passed. Maybe weeks. When he opened his eyes, there were 100 people sitting before him. Overhead? No sky. Just the ceiling of what appeared to be a Great Hall, freshly painted. Somehow, when the old Yogi was meditating, a beautiful ashram had been built around him.

He just sat there, marveling at what he saw -- finally understanding the message life had been trying to bring him. What he'd been running from would not be denied. It was time -- the perfect time to share what he knew.

"OK, my friends. Welcome. Now... who's got a question?"

TimelessToday

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February 09, 2019
Even in Your Darkest Hour

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February 07, 2019
The Students of Prem Rawat Speak

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Six years ago, I posted the following question on Facebook: "If you are a student of Prem Rawat, what would you say is the one thing you've heard him say, over the years, that has had the most impact on you?" What follows is a sampling of the responses I received:

"Let me show you what is keeping you alive." - Daniel Light

"Everyone knows the drop is in the ocean, but very few know that the ocean dwells in the drop." - Jan Buchalter

"Peace is the perfume of God." - Stuart Hoffman

"Water the root." - Jennifer Boire

"Be true to your own heart." - Julia Howe

"Everything you need for complete fulfillment is inside of you. The thirst is within and the quenching is within. We are each complete!" - Alla Rogers

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"Peace is already inside of you, and I can help you get in touch with that." - Paul Pilcher

"Peace on Earth begins within you." - Sharon Blatt

"Be true to this breath." - Tim Hain

"The angel you are looking for is you!" - Sally Richman

"Peace is as close as your breath." - Linda D. Miller

"Be a true human being, the one who is filled with kindness, who's filled with love, who's filled with peace, who's filled with joy. And to know this, you need the knowledge of the self." - Cintra Hardy

"I can help." - Michael Taylor

"Belief is like an unlit candle. When you light it, it transforms into knowing." - David Klamph

"Wherever one spark of this Knowledge goes, it hits and makes it perfect. Perfect." - Jane Bennett

"Love the love like it's never been loved before." - Larry Lustbader

"Trying to describe this experience, this self-knowledge, is like trying to describe a mango. The only way to know a mango is to taste it." - Joyce Gerber

"Let me introduce you to you." - Gabriele Regan Gfeller

"Life is a one-seater car." - Jule Kowarsky

"Enjoy your life." - Fran King

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"It is not the words. Peace is a feeling." - Jan Scoular

"Many ask me are you a guru or a guide or a friend. The way I like to see it is I just hold up a mirror, keep it nice and shiny so you can see just how beautiful you truly are!" - Jeff Schreiber

"This is not a path of suffering." - Marcia Loft

"Everything you are really looking for is already inside of you." - Claudio Pollero

"Give me your love and I will give you peace." - Otto Vlach

"There is an ocean of joy and there is an ocean of sadness." - Stella Neary Sharpe

"An ocean of love is inside of you." - Rita Rubin Long

"Don't be a victim of circumstance. Be a human being." - Maggie Flannagan

"You get good at what you practice. Practice peace and you get good at that!" - Sigrid Eleonora Ariana

"Let your heart embrace you." - Cindy Lategan

"Live, live, live until there is no more." - Josephine Leslie Jackson

"Go in peace. Stay in peace. And come back in peace." - Kathy Sisler Soffer

"Longing is a beautiful experience." - Celia Jennings

"You are going to die." - Sharon Jeffers

"When you die, they will ask you two questions: 'Did you find peace?' and 'Did you help others find peace?'" - Bill Slater

"What you are looking for is within you." - Lucinda Brown

"Come closer." - Bhatta Sagar

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"And I want you to be among the very few who know." - Maryvonne Louise Segalen

"You are not a human doing. You are a human being." - Maggie Flanagan

"Knowledge. Understanding. These are the only things that can remove uncertainty from this life so that I can begin to welcome what tomorrow is." - Denise Cartwright

"Find the friend within. This is a friendship that can last forever." - Kim E. Scott

"You wear peace well." - Annie Tresidder

"If you don't like the altitude you're flying and it's too bumpy, change it. If you don't know how to change it, I can help you with that." - Sylvia Flyer

"Just do it." (way before Nike said it). - Alan Roderick-Jones

"It is what it is." - Buffy Black

"Remain in holy company." - Mimsy Bouret

"Meditate. This Knowledge will give you peace." - Geraldine Larson

"Be still, be very, very still, and let peace find you." - Paula Rosenblum

"Can you do this? Of course. Of course." - Helen M. Waters

"Know the infinite that resides in you." - Monika Winslow

"Thirst is everything." - Christy Hodgson

"Be free of concepts." - Mary Foxen

"You cannot bring in the light by scooping out the darkness." - Evee Danneburg

"Just stay on the boat." - Rainer Poulet

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"We get good at what we practice. So when we practice anger, we get good at that, but if we practice peace, then we get good at that." - Glenna Dumay

"Come to me and I will give you peace." - Joseph Rosenblatt

"You are the Angel that can solve your problems." - Laura Perez Velasco

"The only thing you have not done is accept, accept what is." - Janet Bloom

"You are greater than the sum of all your successes and failures." - Liz Westbyrd

"I can show you." - Howard Luckman

"Stay in the boat. Sit back and relax. That's all I ask. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride." - Joy Winnel

"It is all within." - Alaya Love

"Knowledge is your best friend. It's the sword that cuts clean the ambiguity." - Anna Luthi

"Come home." - Candice Wilmore

"Alan." (It's just my name, but of all the profoundly inspiring and helpful things I've heard him say, that one word meant the most to me. No one has said it with more love and respect). - Alan Roettinger

"Don't leave. If you can't express yourself here, where are you going to be able to do it?" - James Eartheart

"I will love you if you meditate or if you don't meditate." - Tara Lee Planett

"You are looking for peace, and peace is looking for you. Be still and let the peace find you." - Larry Mergentime

"The infinite resides in the finite." - Nikolaj Krarup

"You become good at what you practice." - Johan Drejare

"Feel the gratitude." - Melissa June Burnand

"A day without practice is a day wasted." - Asandra Lamb

"Even in your darkest hour I will not abandon you." - Teresa Wooldridge

"25,500 days." - Craig Klawuhn

"To get what you want without wanting is surrender."- Jan Herbert

"One second of being clear can save you a lifetime of being miserable." - Frieda Hill

"Practice." - Chris Cantrell

"Peace is within inside." - Kathy Lorenz

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink (but you can put salt in its food)." - Chris Hamerton

"You are capable, valuable, and loved." - Louise Amm

"Be grateful you are alive." - Joyce Czarny

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On Maintaining a Positive, Healthy Mindset

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Yesterday, I posted the above graphic on my Facebook page and asked people to share one way they stay in a positive, healthy mindset. Here are the replies:

Claudia Neuman Watts: "Practice having fun."

Mary Mcmanus: "No matter what happens, know that unless it's life threatening, ALL IS WELL."

Susan Armstrong: "Spend time paying attention to my inner resources."

Ranjini Rusch: "Clean up the mess."

Melissa Ward: "Laugh."

Paddy Noble: "Walk in the woods."

Linda Azato: "Listen to your heart. It's waiting for you."

Sarah Grace Powers: "Notice everything that is working in your life."

Janis Wilson: "See with the eyes of beauty the incredible gift it is to be alive on earth feeling peace."

Mary Foxen: "Keep the company of the Good in me."

Jos van Laar: Before you do ANYTHING, first tune your instrument PERFECTLY."

Sheila Lindsay: "Just be."

Jennifer Boire: "Get a good night's sleep. What a difference it makes."

Sandeep Agarwel: "Trust and have confidence in yourself."

Patty Lancaster: "Laugh."

Muriel Stockdale: "Express gratitude."

Robyn Botelho: "Focus on the good and positive, and water it, and it will grow more than the bad."

Lin D. Miller:
"Value each moment."

Sharon Jeffers: "BE in LOVE."

Joyce Gerber: "Turn my attention within inside myself. Center myself by going to my inner tuning fork."

Heike Schmeling: "Have a good laugh."

Priscilla Kelly: "Remain grateful."

James Hickey: "Remember the breath."

Venu Gopal: "Read Sri Nisargaddata's spiritual classic: I Am That."

Joan Ferlazzo: "Feed the good wolf."

Lisa Hart: "It's great to start the day laughing."

Lynne Ciccone: "Gratitude, baby."

How about YOU? How do you stay in a positive, healthy mindset?

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February 06, 2019
Peace Comes to Two Street Gangs in Ecuador

Wow. All I can say is wow. COMING SOON: An interview with Paul Murtha, the out-of-the-box gent who played such a vital role in helping The Bloods and Latin Kings of Ibarra find common ground, go beyond violence, and become contributing members of their communities.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2019
An Interview with Stuart Hoffman

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The following is an interview with singer/songwriter/composer/ Stuart Hoffman, a long time friend of Heart of the Matter and all-around awesome human being. It is the first in a series of interviews with Heart of the Matter readers with something of value to say.

Why is music especially important these days?

Music has been called the universal language. THAT is a powerful statement. These days, we, as a human race, maybe more than ever, need to be united, not divided. Music, the universal language, has the power to unite us.

What do you love the most about composing and performing music?

Giving my heart a voice. Bringing forth what was invisible and making it visible, what was inaudible and making it audible. Having the awesome feeling of being a channel for an expression that wants to be expressed, a message that wants to be shared. Being beyond the state of duality that enslaves the creative impulse. To put into words, without words, but with music. Channeling the love in my heart into the hearts of others. When I'm singing, I often close my eyes and feel as if I'm in a huge arena, the Hollywood Bowl, for example. The feeling is so massive, so all encompassing, so benevolent, so grand, and so life reinforcing.

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You have been a long-time student of Prem Rawat. What impact has he had on your music and creative life?

Prem Rawat has taught me how to go within myself to a place that is full of joy and peace. Spending time in this inner sanctuary and being filled by the beauty that lives there, I am compelled to give that feeling expression through music and song. He has dedicated his entire life to reminding me to spend time in the place that is the source of creativity within. It is because of his influence and the gift of having him in my life that I am compelled to try to express the beauty and gratitude I feel for life itself and all the amazing gifts wanting to be discovered everyday.

Over the years, you have performed at various Prem Rawat events around the world. What was that like for you?

Wonderful. A dream come true. Getting to give back in this way was a gift I will always treasure. It was a highlight of my life. Being a part of his events, him presenting his message to people everywhere, was such an honor. And getting to spend close time with him was precious.

What is the most challenging thing about being a composer/musician these days?

For me, making the time. Staying in a consistency of rhythm. There are many distractions, of course, the least of which is making a living. The primary way music is sold these days is via streaming. It has never been so difficult to get compensated for the mammoth efforts that go into the creation, production, recording, producing, mastering, distributing, and marketing of a music project.

What lyric of yours do you like enough to put on your tombstone?

"And if I could make a wish come true, I'd have one more day with you."

What songs have you written that are the you most proud of?

Many. Some instrumental, some words and music. From my first album "Silent Longing": Waiting (a collaboration with Marcel Adjibi). Joy to Joy

From my 2nd album, "Somewhere Tonight": Somewhere Tonight (inspired by my teacher, Prem Rawat's lifetime of endless travel to touch the Hearts of human beings.) One More Day. Capture the Day (a collaboration with Tara Liz Driscoll).

From my 3rd album, "Dance in the Dance": Dance in the Dance, Colors of the Beloved, You Get More Beautiful (inspired by the late Lee Hillyard)

From my 4th album, "Shine Your Light": When The Rain Begins (a collaboration with Jennifer Edwards, One Million Strong (a collaboration with Stephen Rivera, Shattered Dreams.

You've had several musical collaborations in your life. What do you like most about creating songs with a partner?

I love how all parties are taken outside of their abilities. I am always surprised by the magic -- the transformation of the piece into something beyond our greatest expectations. I guess, in this case, it's true that 1 + 1 = 11.

Imagine it's two years from now and your wildest musical fantasies have come true. What would that look like?

It would look like pure joy. It would look like performing in beautiful concert halls and arenas with my friends and musicians -- both my original music and covers I have made my own. And knowing our efforts are a part of a global effort to bring people together, to help usher in Peace on Earth for all peoples regardless of race, religion, color and differences. To finally celebrate and rejoice in the oneness we all share by the amazing fact that we are alive. To come together and sing from our hearts the glory of what we have discovered we have been given.

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As I understand it, you are a big fan of "anthems" and are in the process of creating new anthems for the future. What IS an anthem and why is it so meaningful to you?

An anthem can capture and express a universal feeling or knowing. An anthem sheds light on what was always there, but perhaps hidden from view. An anthem is the obvious made apparent. An anthem unites. An anthem lifts consciousness to a level where differences fall away and what is similar and common to ALL shines most clearly. An anthem brings hope where no hope could be found. An anthem transcends time. An anthem transcends age and gender and race. An anthem, if you are fortunate enough, writes itself through you. An anthem can speak to the most special place in all. An anthem can carry a generation, a nation. An anthem can unite the world. An anthem can bring out, without trying, what is the very best in us.

Can you tell me about your current musical project? How far along is it? What remains to be done?

My current music project is in its infancy. I am focused on new songs, collaborations, and an anthem or two. Beyond that, there are original and cover songs that did not make it on my latest music release, "Shine Your Light," that I am planning to include in my next project.

Finish this joke: A musician, a rabbi, and a politician walk into a bar...

A musician, a rabbi, and a politician walk into a bar. The TV is on. Donald Trump is talking. A musician, a rabbi, and a politician leave the bar.

I'm not sure if you are aware of it, but one of your songs (When the Rain Begins) is the fourth most popular posting (out of 1,710) on The Heart of the Matter blog. What do you attribute that to?

It's an anthem! Some of my greatest collaborations have been with with my life partner, Jennifer Edwards. When The Rain Begins is a wonderful example of our collaborative process. We were asked to write a theme song, an anthemic piece for an upcoming animated feature film. One of the most wonderful parts of the collaborative process, for me, is discovering the marriage of the music with the words/lyric -- as if it was already there and they were always destined to meet. This was one of those times.

Jennifer penned the lyrics. I put them in front of me at the piano and, effortlessly, within 30 minutes, the entire song was born: intro, verses, chorus, bridge, outro. Then began the production of the song which was also a joyous process from beginning to end.

What state of mind do you need to be in to compose a memorable piece of music?

Receptive. Non-judgmental of self. Being in a state of worthiness to receive a most wonderful gift with an almost infinite possibility of touching others.

Imagine you found a patron (or won the lottery) and no longer needed to work a "day job". How do you think that would affect your music-making?

It would free up all that physical, mental, psychic energy and time I have to spend now to create a steady income stream. That space would be freed up to allow for the creation of new material, production, and arrangement and recording of existing material. Also, it would raise the production level of the project. And most importantly, it would allow the songs to shine and be brought to their highest potential.

What advice, if any, do you have for musicians just starting out?

YOU have something to say. Learn to allow yourself to SAY IT in your own, unique way. Remember your creations are, first, gifts to yourself. Always give at least an equal weight to that fact. The "world" tends to ignore this and insists that all your attention should go into what OTHERS think. HUMBUG!

It's what you think and feel, first. Trust your passion. Never doubt it. You have been given a unique voice to say what you see. Your perception is unique to you and is your gift to share. Why? Because no one else can. And there may be someone else is this world who needs to hear and see your unique perspective. Never doubt. Your music is your best friend. As long as you allow it, it will always be with you. Take care of it.

What are the most important things you have learned about life?

Allow light and life to win everyday. This is the MAIN mission. Be filled with what you have, what you are -- not drained by what you think you don't have, who you think you're not. Life itself is non-judgmental and unconditional love. It holds no grievances or grudges. Every single moment starts fresh and is like a new day. Life wants me to WIN in the truest sense. Life is my best friend. Always. Life is simple. Try not to complicate it. Make an effort to come back to its simplicity everyday. In doing so, you will have achieved true success not as defined by our culture or society, but by life itself. Contentment and gratitude and fulfillment are everything. Our soul's mission is written and embedded deep within our true heart's core. Come home to it. Stay home with it. Always. As much as you can.

NOTE: Stuart's music can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Tidal and all popular streaming and download sites.

PS: Stuart is available for hire for movie and television soundtracks, commercials, and documentaries. He is also available for house concerts and parties.

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Welcome to Mitch Ditkoff's blog about what's really important in this life: Peace, gratitude, love, joy, clarity, and the effort required to wake up and smell the roses. Enjoy!

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