The Heart of the Matter
June 29, 2019
THE SPRICE OF FREEDOM: A 5-Year Journey from Darkness to Light

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NOTE: It is with a heavy heart that I am sharing the news that dear, sweet Sprice Drury has passed on. What a special soul she was -- full of love and devotion and playfulness and such a commitment to lifelong learning. I will miss her very much. What follows is an article Sprice and I worked on together in January, 2018 -- her effort to communicate what she had learned about herself and life after going through a particularly challenging period of time. If you have a few minutes now, please take a look and see what there is for you to apply to your own life -- a gift from Sprice to you as she continues on her journey.

"When you are going through hell, keep going." -- Winston Churchill

Sprice Drury is a woman who had it all -- a loving husband, a fabulous home, two horses, three acres, four dogs, a $350,000 year income, and the kind of fascinating work that allowed her to travel the world producing TV shows and documentaries. She was, in many ways, the poster child for success.

There was no indication, in 2012, that all of this was about to change -- a perfect storm of unexpected events that would not only turn her life upside down, but challenge every assumption she had about who she was and what life was all about.

It began with the decline of her husband's health, an illness eventually diagnosed as colon cancer. No one saw it coming. Not long after that, Ray lost his job. Then Sprice lost her job. Then, one-by-one, each of her dogs died. Four of them. With no health insurance, her husband returned to Australia, his native country, for treatment -- a turn of events that left Sprice alone in their 5,000 square foot house to manage the process of selling their high end possessions to pay the ever-mounting bills.

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First went Sprice's convertible. Then the tractor. Then the piano. Then her diamond wedding ring. But no matter how many possessions Sprice sold, it was never enough. The bills were just too much to keep up with. And the horses had to be fed.

At one point, the only thing to eat in the house were a few saltines and butter. A home that had once been alive with parties, people, and the finest of foods, was now empty and barren of life.

Bankruptcy court followed, as did several failed attempts to restructure her home loan -- a process that revealed the loan was fraudulent. More legal bills poured in. More time in court. More mind-numbing paperwork and the omnipresent threat of foreclosure. In the end, nothing in Sprice's power was enough to turn things around and the house was sold, in the middle of the night, on an online auction. Soon after that, Ray passed away from unexpected complications in surgery.

Not surprisingly, Sprice's own health soon began to decline. The cause? A hard-to-treat parasite she had picked up on one of her many global business trips.

Get the picture? Non-stop disappointment. Non-stop anxiety. And non-stop loss of everything that mattered to her -- a veritable dark night of the soul that most of us only read about, but never experience. Where once Sprice's husband and dogs were her daily companions, now it was only worry, fear, and hopelessness.

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Some people, when they encounter this level of stress turn to alcohol or drugs. Some give in to despair, depression, and despondency. Others, consumed with grief, end up taking their own lives.

Sprice Drury chose another path. Somehow, throughout it all, she found a way -- her way. It's not like she saw the proverbial light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. She didn't. For Sprice, the tunnel had long since been sold to pay the bills. In her darkest hours, there was no tunnel. And the light? Flickering far off in the distance and barely visible within.

And yet, this woman who lost it all, much like the phoenix, rose from the ashes. Stumbling her way forward, she found a way to not only get back on her feet, but fly.

As her long time teacher, Prem Rawat, once told her, "There is nothing wrong with falling down. Everybody falls down. The key is to pick something up when you're down there."

What follows is a short list of what Sprice picked up when she was down there -- ten life-changing lessons she learned along the way that may be of value to you the next time you find yourself over your head, under water, or otherwise stressed to the max.

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1. ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT'S HAPPENING: The first response most people have when caught off guard by unexpected troubles is denial. "This can't be happening to me," they think to themselves. "Not me. Not now." But while denial may temporarily protect us from feelings of inadequacy and the fear of being judged by others, it also prevents us from taking the steps we need to take in order to resolve our situation. Sprice, like the rest of humanity, went through her denial stage, especially early on, but then she went beyond it, acknowledging her situation and the need to act.

2. ASK FOR HELP: Shocked by the massive down turn of events in her life, Sprice's first instinct was to grin and bear it -- keeping most of her troubles to herself. Indeed, in the beginning of her saga, only a few friends and family knew what she was going through. And because most of them didn't, help was not as forthcoming as it could have been. In time, however, she asked for the help she needed and soon it started showing up -- emotional, psychological, physical, financial, and spiritual help.

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If you find yourself going through tough times, know that you don't need to go through them alone. While your concept of strength may be "toughing it out," often the most powerful expression of strength is to ask for help. Whose help do you need to ask for today? About what? A friend? A neighbor? A member of your family?

3. MANAGE YOUR MINDSET: Antoine St. Exupery, the author of The Little Prince, once said, "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a person contemplates it with the image of a cathedral in mind." In other words, our experience of the challenges before us are often a function of our mindset. Sprice's initial mindset in response to the challenges before her was, understandably, an unholy cocktail of sadness, anxiety, fear, doubt, and confusion -- not exactly the kind of mindset that leads to successful outcomes. In time, exhausted by her struggles, Sprice made the decision to "see the rock pile with the image of a cathedral in mind." All around her house, she posted positive messages for herself -- one word reminders on the refrigerator, walls, mirrors. and anywhere else she might look. The message? BELIEVE! One word. That was it -- one word to contemplate several times a day to quicken the process of shifting her mindset for the better. Music also enabled her to manage her mindset and moods -- especially this song.
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4. ENVISION THE FUTURE YOU WANT: While Sprice's BELIEVE notes began to shift the way she thought about her future, her effort didn't end there. She also created vision boards throughout her house -- maps of better days ahead, complete with bold images of what it was she was trying to create. While Sprice's default condition may have been one of sadness, confusion, and grief, her vision boards spoke to her higher angels and the power of creating a new kind of future instead of obsessing about the past.

5. MAKE BEST USE OF YOUR AVAILABLE RESOURCES: Until the time when everything went South for Sprice, her most valuable possession had been her home -- a 5,000 square foot mansion that had been used for just one main purpose: to provide shelter for her, her husband, and their dogs. But now, with her husband and dogs gone, she needed to reconsider what "home" really meant and how it might provide for her needs in other ways.

That's when she got the idea to begin Fun in the Country, a dog boarding business that ended up providing shelter for 250 pooches -- much-needed companionship for her and a steady income.

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Yes, turning her home into a sanctuary for dogs, was a good start. But what about the owners of those dogs and others seeking shelter? That's when Sprice extended her boarding business to include people and thus began a thriving AirBnB business. Her third venture, a newly launched gourmet coffee business, fit right in. Both her Airbnb guests and the "doggie moms" ending up buying her coffee and tea -- a total win/win.

6. LET GO OF OLD ASSUMPTIONS: After years of a lifestyle that provided almost anything she wanted, Sprice's assumption was a simple one: All of her creature comforts would be provided for. And while this may have been true for a while, it wasn't a carved-in-stone reality. And because it wasn't, Sprice needed to take a fresh look at what her assumptions actually were -- the stakes in the ground she had planted before the ground beneath her feet collapsed. What are your biggest assumptions about your life? Which ones are likely to be toughest ones to let go of?

7. START A NEW PROJECT: Though not a physicist by profession, Sprice's ability to press through her challenges was very much related to Newton's First Law of Physics: "An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion." Translation? Get in gear! Get moving. Start something new -- especially if you find yourself becoming inert. Which is exactly what Sprice did. She started what turned out to become a very successful dog boarding business. She created an AirBnB business. And she began an International Distributorship of a Gourmet Coffee and Tea business. What inspiring, new project might you begin to help you create some positive momentum?

8. PUSH THROUGH THE PAIN: Though Sprice has never given birth to a child, she understood, like most mothers, what it took to "push through pain." Sprice's dark night of the soul, metaphorically speaking, was a way of giving birth to herself -- an act of courage that required a whole lot of pushing through pain. She didn't ask for a Caesarian. She didn't ask for drugs. She didn't give up. She just continued opening up and pushing through the obstacles before her until she gave birth to a whole new life for herself.

9. PAY IT FORWARD: Humbled by her trials and tribulations and newly attuned to a kind suffering she had never experienced before, Sprice began paying it forward even when her own finances were shaky. To begin with, she gave $2,000 to two young women who were supportive during her unexpected hardships. She also gave $1,000 to a local family who needed help after the Atlanta hurricane. Then she loaned money to a friend who had just lost her job. Inspired by a woman who had rescued an abandoned dog, Sprice donated her dog beds, dog toys, and dog crate. And, today, she continues looking for opportunities to lend a hand to anyone who may be experiencing the kind of stresses she endured. What can you do to pay it forward? Who, in need of help, might you support?

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10. LOOK INSIDE AND FIND YOURSELF: Yes, there were resources, on the outside, that Sprice tapped into during her tough times: the good will of friends, the love of her family, inspirational quotes, heart-opening music, and the ever-present BELIEVE signs she posted around her house. But in the end, it was her commitment to look within and connect to the source of peace inside herself that made all difference. This became her home, one that could never be foreclosed or dispossessed. When everything on the outside is going to hell in a hand basket, where do you go for solace and support? Where is your true home?

FOR YOUR REFLECTION: If you find yourself going through tough times, these days, what can you learn from Sprice's journey? Which of her ten insights can you apply to your life? And what can you do, today, to press through the pain and take a step into a bold new future for yourself?

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SPECIAL THANKS to the following friends and family of Sprice who provided loving support during her tough times: Ed and Andrea Trotta, Jim and Joan Levin, David and Debbie Sinensky, Evan Gusar, Ashley Alterman, Donald Beohner and Laurie Gordon. And a big shout out to two ladies who provided skillful and timely coaching: Sherry D. Fields and Irene Bettler.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:56 AM | Comments (1)

June 27, 2019
COLOMBIA: Choosing Peace

How the Peace Education Program is helping people in Colombia.



More about the Peace Education Program

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June 25, 2019
Prem Rawat's Conversation with a Cancer Patient

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June 23, 2019
What Do You Want?

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PremRawat.com

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June 22, 2019
Kim O'Leary in Da House

www.kimoleary.com

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June 21, 2019
INSIDE PEACE: The Trailer

The website

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June 18, 2019
The Three Faces of God

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When my mother and father, Sylvia and Barney, decided to sell their house on Long Island -- the one I grew up in -- and move to Florida, they invited my sister and me to take anything we wanted before they made their big move to West Palm Beach.

My sister, five years older and a mother of three, showed up with an 18-foot U-Haul truck. I showed up with a Volkswagen.

As I walked from room to room, exploring my choices, it soon became clear to me there was nothing I wanted. Not the blender. Not the toaster. Not the TV. Nothing. And so I spent the rest of the day, helping my sister carry out stuff to the truck.

I'm not exactly sure how long it took us to load it up, but by the time the last item was in -- a red, plastic silverware tray -- the sun was going down.

But I didn't leave empty-handed. I didn't. There was ONE thing my parents had that I wanted -- most definitely -- a wood carving they'd bought in Thailand on one of their rare vacations. It was hanging on the wall right behind the card table where my mother played canasta once a month with her four best friends -- Shirley, Blanche, Selma, and Ellie, each one of them a second mother to me.

Sprayed a nice shade of gold, the wood carving featured what spiritually-minded people from the East believed to be the three forms of God -- Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva -- the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of all things. Brahma, on the left, was praying. Vishnu, in the middle was dancing. And Shiva, on the right, looked as if he was just about to kick somebody's ass.

I found it astounding that my parents, they of the bagel and lox school of Judaism, chose to hang this particular piece of art in such a featured place in their home. Neither of them had any interest, whatsoever, in Eastern cosmology. They read the Sunday New York Times, not the Bhagavad Gita. "Om" was a misspelling to them. And their favorite mantra for me? "As long as she's Jewish" -- referring, of course, to their wishes for me, as the only son and carrier of the family name, to never marry outside the religion. For my mother and father to have placed a wood carving of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva just above the canasta table made absolutely no sense to me. Zero. Zippo. Zilch. But there it was in all its ancient glory. Noble. Pristine. Powerful. And calling to me on this most auspicious day of downsizing.

"Hey, Ma," I said. "Can I have the woodcarving?" pointing to the wall.

"THAT?" she replied. "That's all you want? That?"

"Yup. That's all I want."

My mother shrugged and mumbled something in Yiddish as I reached up and removed the piece from the wall, then positioned it carefully, in my suitcase, in between my pajamas and favorite t-shirt.

When I got back to Denver, the first thing I did was hang it in my living room just above my record player. Every time I left my bedroom and headed towards the kitchen, it was the first thing I would see.

A month later, I got word that a fundraising campaign had been launched to help my teacher, Prem Rawat, get his message of peace out into the world -- an effort I very much wanted to be part of. The only problem? Unemployed, I had no money to give. That's when I began cruising my apartment in search of "items of worth" to sell.

The first thing that caught my eye was my record collection which, I reasoned, might fetch about $200. Bye bye Otis Redding! Bye bye Rolling Stones! Bye bye Dave Brubeck! But I wanted to give more than that, so I kept on cruising. That's when it dawned on me that my most valuable possession was my newly acquired woodcarving. Clearly, it was time to let it go, so I reached up, removed it from the wall, and made my way to the finest antiques shop in town where I hoped to sell it on consignment. The owner, a nice Jewish man, loved it, and told me it would fetch a "pretty penny". Yes, he would get his commission, but I would get the rest -- probably, I figured, $500 at least. Hooray! Yippee! Yahoo! Let's hear it for Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva! Let's hear it for Sylvia and Barney!

A week passed. Then a second. Then a third. And a fourth. Every time I called the owner of the antiques shop he gave me the same response. No one was interested in buying my woodcarving. Did they admire it? Yes. But no one wanted to buy it. No one, he explained, even tried to bargain. Apparently, there wasn't a single person in the Mile High City of Denver who had room for Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva in their living room -- so I returned to the antiques store and drove it back to my apartment, hanging it, once again, over my record player (though, now, my albums, were gone.)

Part of me was glad it didn't sell. Part of me was sad. And part of me felt bad -- aware that my deep-seated need to GIVE SOMETHING of value to my Master did not bear fruit.

It was precisely at this moment that I had a revelation. "Why not give it to Prem? Why not give it to the one has given me everything? Nobody ELSE liked it. Maybe HE will!"

So I asked a carpenter friend of mine to make a box for it, asked another friend to gift wrap it, and gave it to a third friend, a gardener at Prem's residence, to hand-deliver it later that day.

A week passed. Then another. And another. And another, yet. I got no response. Absolutely none. It felt like the antiques consignment store saga all over again. Unwanted. No one wanted what I had to offer. Not even my own Guru.

And then, in the fifth week of this outtake from my own Mahabhrarata, I got a call from the gardener friend of mine who'd hand-delivered the woodcarving a few weeks ago. Prem, he explained, after a month in Denver, had traveled back to his home in Malibu. A few days later he called the Denver residence and requested that someone ship him the woodcarving immediately. Which they did.

As the story was told to me, he hung it in a place of honor in his living room.

PremRawat.com
TimelessToday
TPRF.org

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2019
Being Moved

This is how I felt after seeing Prem Rawat for the first time, back in 1972. And I still feel this way...

PremRawat.com

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June 16, 2019
KENNETH'S STORY: The Food for People Program in Ghana

In this video you will meet Kenneth, the first student from the Otinibi Basic School, in Ghana, to ever attend university. He credits the Food for People Program with empowering him to succeed in school and gain admission to the University of Ghana. Kenneth was the first from his community to make it to college, but now there are several others following in his footsteps.

As Prem Rawat said to the students at the opening of the Food for People facility in 2012, "This program is here to give you the opportunity to reach for the stars."



More videos about this project

To donate to the Food for People project

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June 15, 2019
Prem Rawat Talking to Inmates in an Australian Prison

Very moving 17-minute video of Prem Rawat talking to inmates in an Australian prison. "Stone walls do not a prison make." That becomes especially clear during the Q&A part of Prem's presentation about 2/3 of the way into the video.

More about the Peace Education Program

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June 07, 2019
Long Before Words

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Being of the Jewish persuasion, I'm not exactly the kind of person given to confession, but allow me the ecumenical luxury of confessing at least one thing in this first paragraph of what may well turn out to be the Mahabharata of blog postings:

Writing about Prem Rawat and the gift that he offers is not easy.

It's not easy for a few reasons.

First off, what I want to say existed long before words -- long before nouns and verbs and the leaky vessels we construct to float our shaky boats of babble. Secondly, words are approximations of the real thing at best. Like menus, they indicate something's cooking in the kitchen, but they are not the food itself. And thirdly, the dog ate my homework.

I don't know how it works, but there are years of my life I can barely remember, but seconds with Prem that remain a vast eternity, indelibly impressed on my heart like some kind of rock 'n roll Rosetta stone.

I never laugh so hard or cry so long as when I'm in his company. I never feel so good.

The first time I heard about him, I was both ecstatic and afraid -- ecstatic at the thought I might finally experience what I'd been born for -- afraid that somehow, grand impostor that I was, I would be the only person on the face of the Earth not to get it. Forget it. I got it.

Yes, that moment happened -- the moment of oooh -- the moment of aaah -- the moment of finally coming into my own after years of imagining my own was someplace far away -- in a forest, cave, or future lifetime.

What has he taught me? How to wake up -- and stay awake. How to appreciate. How to feel. How to simply be.

What Prem Rawat offers is not so much a teaching as it is transportation to the place we've either been seeking our entire lives or have given up on long ago -- the place of no judgment, the place of no doubt, the place of no worry, no fear, no problem.

Here! The place of remembering. And what we remember here is love -- plain and simple. For love is the name of the game...

PremRawat.com
Words of Peace Global
The Prem Rawat Foundation
RawatCreations

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:46 PM | Comments (3)

June 02, 2019
The Beautiful Sadness of Longing

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There is a beautiful kind of sadness -- one most people think they shouldn't feel -- that needs to be celebrated. Or, if not celebrated, then at least welcomed like the evening's last beggar at your door.

This sadness is divine, the experience most people assume to be an absence but, in reality, is the presence of the primal longing for the Beloved.

It would be easy to conclude that this feeling is a disconnection from joy, an unfortunate amnesia that would make an easy target for well-meaning givers of advice to quote from their favorite scripture. But I am not talking about this garden variety form of sadness. I am talking about another kind -- a holy melancholy that sculpts, deepens, and refines from within.

Like the dusk that follows day, it is not devoid of light, but only a another shade of light.

Yes, it is darker. But so what? Isn't it the darkness that allows the stars to shine?

When a human being is in the presence of their Beloved, it is easy to feel joy. Like leaving home in the middle of a storm, it is easy to get wet there.

But when the Beloved departs (ah, the paradox, the late night debates -- does the Beloved ever depart?), an uncomfortable feeling arises.

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The moon is full, but you are empty -- thirsty for something to fill you again, but the only thing left to drink is a bucket of tears and you cannot find the handle.

Off in the distance you hear the sound of cello. Is it sad or beautiful?

Drawn by the music, you follow, feeling your way, singing silent songs of praise and wondering if what you hear is the sound of your own voice or your name being called.

You know, and have always known, that the Beloved has left the world behind as a gift. But you do not want the gift. You want the Giver.

The above piece with music and images
Photo #1: Jesse Ditkoff

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:29 AM | Comments (3)

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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