The Heart of the Matter
January 26, 2020
The Birthday Gift


Twenty four hours before Prem Rawat's birthday this year, I made my way to the nearest San Miguel FedEx store, first thing in the morning -- the place where I had shipped my birthday gift to him just two days before.

Since my present had not yet reached it's destination, I was very concerned. Actually, "concerned" was not really the right word to describe my sorry state of mind. I was actually somewhere between "extremely disappointed," "impatient," and "pissed off." For months I had been working on Prem's birthday gift and had made every effort imaginable to make sure it arrived at his residence on the day before his birthday.

But it didn't.

So here I was at the Mexican FedEx office trying to figure out what happened and when I could expect the package to arrive, especially since I had paid an ungodly amount of money to get it there on time.

While the delightful woman behind the counter did not speak English, she was able to secure the help of one of her bi-lingual co-workers who proceeded to explain that she had no idea where the package was and why it hadn't arrived and when it would arrive -- if, indeed, it was ever going to arrive.

Pointing to the third line on the nearest FedEX form, she mumbled something about "customs" and mentioned a few other things that didn't make sense or make me feel especially confident that my birthday present was going to arrive at Prem's residence any time soon.

I could feel the "irate customer" within me rising to the surface and, at the same time, could also feel the humor of the whole situation, followed by a gradual, somewhat curmudgeonly, letting go into "what will be will be" mode. Besides, this was Prem Rawat's birthday I was wanting to celebrate. It just didn't feel right to get uptight about the whole thing. Right occasion, wrong feeling.

So I diligently wrote down the US customer service number and my very long FedEx tracking number, thanked the two mujeres behind the counter and made my way to Zentenos, my favorite cafe in all of San Miguel, just a 3-minute walk away.

Ordering a cappuccino grande, I took a seat and got ready to call FedEx customer service. At the exact same moment, Fernando, the cappuccino maker, waiter, and all around good guy, walked over to my table, and placed, with great cuidado, my cappuccino before me.

swan coffee.JPG

D'oh! What? Huh? The image staring up at me was not the usual heart I had been accustomed to seeing in my froth for the past 100 visits to the cafe. Instead it was a swan with a heart for a head.

Time stopped. And space, too.

The swan, I knew, was an image near and dear to Prem and his own father, Shri Hans Ji Maharaji, one he had referred to many times before in his talks as a symbol for the divine -- a creature with the ability to be able to drink from a mixture of milk and water and drink only the milk. "Hansa", as the swan is referred to in Hindi, is often identified with the Supreme Spirit, Ultimate Reality, or Brahman. Indeed, hansa symbolizes "moksha", the release from the cycle of life and death.

One hundred times I had been to this cafe and 100 times I had ordered a cappuccino and never -- not once -- had I ever seen a swan in my cup.

The curious thing? I thought I had been making so much effort to deliver Prem's birthday gift on time and yet, here, now, in this Mexican cafe, staring into my cappuccino, I got to experience his gift to me -- the choice I have to enjoy the present moment and the extraordinary play of life... the choice I have go beyond my mind... to be liberated from the illusion... to be grateful for the many gifts being bestowed on me every single day -- and often when I least expect it.
Cappuccino with hearts

First photo: Ibrahim Rifath, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2020
Real Forgiveness


"Forgiveness," it has been said, "is the fragrance flowers give off when they have been trampled on" -- an ennobling sentiment, for sure, though, of course, much easier said than done. Who of us hasn't been hurt, wounded, or betrayed by another in this life? Who of us doesn't have someone we need to forgive? And who of us, no matter how loving we think we are, couldn't use a little nudge to help us on our way?

Allow me to be more specific.

The year is 1988 and I am sitting in an audience of 10,000 people in the Miami Beach Convention Center -- many of whom had flown from very long distances to listen to Prem Rawat hold forth. The occasion? "Holi" -- a celebrational event in honor of a sacred festival from Prem's home country, India.

Sitting in my seat, I am the proverbial happy camper, soaking it all up, when I hear him say these words I will never forget: "Holi is such a time when even the mothers of sons who have been murdered forgive the murderers of their sons."

I am stunned. Nailed to the back of my seat. Penetrated to the core of my being. In the ten seconds it takes him to speak those words, I know exactly what I need to do. HERE, NOW, TODAY -- my time to forgive someone I'd been holding a major grudge against for the past 10 years -- someone I knew was very likely in the hall, as well.

And then, without missing a beat, Prem announces there will be a 30-minute intermission -- a chance for everyone to do what they needed to do before the program resumed.

My first thought? "How am I possibly going to find this guy? There are 10,000 people in the hall!"

But this was not the time to calculate. This was the time to act. So I stand up, turn around, walk up the aisle, and enter the lobby. The FIRST person I see is the person I know I need to forgive. The FIRST person. Not the second. Not the fifth. Not the tenth. The FIRST person.

An extra spring in my step, I begin moving boldly in his direction. He sees me coming, turns around, and quickly walks away. At least I THINK he sees me. Maybe he didn't see me. I don't really know, for sure. What I DO know is that I had just experienced true forgiveness from the bottom of my heart. Gone was the weight I'd been carrying around for years. Gone was the knot in my stomach. Gone were all those dark thoughts. In their place? Wide open space, lightness, freedom, and relief.

It is now 31 years later and I can still hear Prem's words reverberating within me: "Holi is such a time where even the mothers of sons who were murdered forgive the murderers of their sons."

That singular, exquisite sentence continues to work its magic inside me. I am still drinking from its healing waters -- still doing what I can to LIVE those words, not just remember them -- especially when I feel slighted or offended by another. Easy? No. Possible? Yes.

Would I have had the same response to those words if someone other than Prem had uttered them that day? I don't really know. What I DO know is this: Prem Rawat spoke those words and they found their way inside me -- words, like keys, that opened a locked door in a prison I had unknowingly entered years before. But not just opened the door -- INSPIRED me to walk through the opening and turn those words into action.

Imagine having someone like this in your life -- someone who has the knack for saying just the right thing at the right time in the right way to lighten your load. Wow.

Who might YOU need to forgive? What old hurt, wound, or betrayal is it time for YOU to let go of? And what can YOU do, this week, to forgive whoever it is that needs to be forgiven?

Prem on forgiveness
Digital art: Evelyne Pouget

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2020
The Question of the Day


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2020

Meltdown man3.jpg
One of the curious things about the so-called 'spiritual life" is the palpable gap between theory and practice. On one hand, practitioners, in their effort to keep themselves in a positive state of mind, usually maintain an image of themselves as devoted, conscious, centered, and peaceful people. On the other hand (the one with the hangnail), those same people realize that, above and beyond their well crafted personas, they are much closer to being a fool than a sage. Or maybe it's only me I'm talking about.

Here's what I mean:

At one of Prem Rawat's five-day retreats, in Australia, a few years ago, I was having a leisurely lunch with a friend, neither of us with a care in the world. If this was Monopoly, we had both just landed on Free Parking.

When It was time for Mark to return to the Gift Store where he was helping out, I decided to linger a few minutes before trekking back to my tent, not wanting to rush things. Three minutes into my walk, I noticed I didn't have my iPhone, so I turned around and made my way back to the lunch table, expecting to see it just where I most likely left it. It wasn't there.

This did not feel good. So I began searching the many zippered pockets of my backpack -- Sherlock Holmes in heat. Hmmm... my iPhone was nowhere in sight. Then I looked under the table. Nothing. Then I checked the four pockets of my pants -- two in the front and two in the back. Zippo. Nada. Zilch. Then I dumped all the contents of my backpack onto the table just in case I missed something. Notebook? Check! Granola bar? Check! Seating pass? Check! iPhone? No check.

Problems 4.jpg

Surrounded by blissed-out people everywhere, my exponentially increasing sense of agitation began to feel very out of place. Having no clue where my cell phone was, I started sneaking furtive glances at the chatty people sitting at the next table -- people with accents I couldn't quite place. Then the guy cleaning the tables walked by, looking very suspicious -- his ear-to-ear smile obviously a ruse.

I think of approaching the foreigners at the next table, but what am I going to say? "Did you steal my phone?" "Would you be so kind, my brothers and sisters, to empty your pockets?"

I am not feeling good. My stress level is rising.

"Hey," I think to myself, "maybe Mark accidentally put my iPhone in HIS pocket when he left. Certainly possible, no? So I walked over to the Gift Store and asked him, but Mark tells me, big smile on his face, that he doesn't have it.

Now, I've got major butterflies in my stomach -- not the kind you see on greeting cards. No. These are evil butterflies, flying in formation, spitting at each other, while I start making a mental list of all the repercussions that comes with losing a cell phone: The cost of replacing it. The contact list that would need to be rebuilt. My personal information soon to be sold on the dark web. This was not the experience I wanted to be having today. No way. Not here! Not now. Not at Amaroo, the "Beautiful Place."

Ahh... but then I remember there is a LOST AND FOUND close by. Of course! Maybe someone had found my iPhone and brought it there. Isn't that what Lost and Founds are for? Of course! So I get myself over to the Lost and Found, envisioning on the way, that my phone is there and I have learned my lesson of the day. It wasn't there. And to make things worse, the way too smiley lady behind the counter suggests I fill out a form and check back later. Great! A form! Just what I want to be doing. Filling out a form. What is this, the DMV?

Where is my freaking iPhone, huh? WHERE IS IT?

Everyone around me is blissed out or, at the very least, mellow and here I am darting around the place like some kind of freak show, doing my Virgo best to mask the sorry state of my mind so I won't have to answer anyone's questions and lose whatever time I still had left to find my phone before it ended up on eBay. Now I am at Defcon 1, my amygdala kicking in on overdrive.

Returning to "the scene of the crime", I look under the table. My phone is not there. Then, for the 10th time, I look in my backpack, unzipping all the pockets. My phone is still not there. Never was. And apparently, never will be. I slap my pants pockets. Nothing. Just my wallet and a few Australian coins.

Out of options, I decide to check in with Mark once again -- just to make doubly sure he doesn't have it. He is sitting in the supply tent behind the Gift Store, very relaxed and talking to the extremely mellow, Javier.

"Hey Mark," I blurt, trying not to seem too concerned. "Are you SURE you don't have my iPhone?"

"Bro, I am totally sure," he replies, "I've already looked."

Then, to prove to me he's already been through this drill, he reaches behind him and puts his hand in his back pocket. A brief pause... and... then... lo and behold, he pulls out TWO iPhones -- his and mine. Apparently, Mark, when he picked up his phone from the lunch table an hour ago, also picked up mine.

My iPhone is back from the dead! All was right with the world! There is a God!

Yes, I am relieved, but more than that, humbled at how little it takes to knock me off my center -- even at such an extraordinary love-fest like Amaroo. How can this be? I've been "on the path" for almost 50 years and this is the best I can do? Really?

Methinks I am not alone in this phenomenon. No matter how much any of us experience joy, gratitude, fulfillment, peace, love, and freedom in our lives, we are all still human beings -- subject to change without notice -- fragile, vulnerable creatures who toggle back and forth between the highest states of WOW and the goofiest states of dread when things don't go exactly according to plan.

The good news? Every time I return from the land of crazy, I remember, once again, there is another place to dwell. It ain't down at the end of lonely street. It ain't in Heartbreak Hotel. It's nestled inside my breath and the experience that comes from returning to my true home once again -- no one I need to call except myself.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

Prem Rawat Talking About WAFA (Water Air Food Awards)

One of the things I love about Prem Rawat is how practical he is. His work is very grounded and he pays attention to not only the inner life, but the outer life, as well -- in this case the quality of wood, air, and food on planet Earth. One of the ways he accomplishes this noble commitment is via his support of WAFA, a Copenhagen-based non-profit whose mission it is to identify and celebrate the world's "silent heroes" -- people whose low-cost, high impact innovations are making a big difference in their villages, towns, and communities. If you don't know anything about WAFA and Prem's approach to helping WAFA have impact, check out the four-minute video above.

WAFA website
WAFA mission and vision
WAFA patrons
How to donate
One Lit Candle anthem and video

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

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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