The Heart of the Matter
May 30, 2020
The Sudden Glass of Orange Juice


There is an expression in poker called "going all in" which I've always loved. It refers to the moment when a poker player pushes all of his chips into the middle of the table, letting everyone know that he is betting everything, holding back nothing. Either his hand is so good, he knows he can't lose or he's trying to bluff everyone out of the game.

Several years ago, I had one of those moments -- not in a poker game, but in my kitchen. At the time, I was living in one of Prem Rawat's ashrams. Our lease was up and we had a only a week to move before the landlord threw us out.

We'd been trying for a while to find a new abode, but to no avail. The only place we could find -- just a few blocks away -- was a complete and total disaster. The previous tenant was a heroin addict and a devotee of the dark arts. As the realtor walked us from room to room we couldn't believe our eyes. Everywhere we looked there were syringes, many filled with blood. There was garbage everywhere, black magic books, rotting food, and, to top it all off, a dead dog in the back yard. Not exactly the centerfold of Metropolitan Home.

On the plus side, the rent was affordable and the house was available. Plus, the eight of us, ridiculously optimistic young men, were up for the challenge. And so we signed the lease.

For the next seven days we worked around the clock to rehabilitate the place. We pulled up rugs. We pulled up floors. We disinfected, scrubbed, scoured, power-sprayed, cleaned, vacuumed, painted, polished, and buried the dog. I still remember George Hope, bear hugging the refrigerator into submission and carrying it into the back yard to hose it down.

Now here's where things get even trippier. Three days after moving in, we get a phone call informing us that Mahatma Padarthanand, one of Prem's stellar emissaries from India, was arriving in Denver tomorrow and would be moving in with us for a month.


What? Really? Just seven days ago our house was a hellhole and now a holy man would be our guest?

My role in all of this was to make sure Mahatma-ji had what he needed. So, after showing him to his room, I asked if he had any requests.

"I'd like a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice in the morning after meditation," he said.

"Yes, Mahahatma-ji," I replied. "Consider it done."

An hour later, I made my way to a grocery store, bought two dozen oranges, and put them in the frig.

So there we are, the next morning, in the meditation room. Padarthanand is sitting on his meditation cushion, me sneaking glances at him every few minutes and noticing how still he is. No fidgeting. No fussing. No nodding out, like the rest of us. The man is completely still.

Remembering his orange juice request, I exit quietly, enter the kitchen, and open the frig. The oranges are gone. Every single one of them. Gone. Gone. Gone beyond. Gone beyond beyond. They are not on another shelf. They are not in the drawer next to the carrots. They are nowhere to be seen.

"This is not good," I say to myself. "In just 20 minutes our house guest from India will be emerging from his meditation and the only thing he asked me for -- fresh orange juice -- will not be there.

I look at my watch. The moment is upon me -- the moment of choice. What do I do? Do I calmly wait for Mahatmaji and explain to him that someone ate his oranges? Or do I go all in and sprint, barefoot, in my pajamas (no time to get dressed) to the nearest 7-11. The choice is clear. There's not a doubt in my mind. Not a single one. In a flash, I'm out the door, running down the street, praying the 7-11 has oranges.

And they do. Lots of them. I grab two bags, throw some money on the counter, and take off.

Back in my kitchen, out of breath, but not out of time, I open the bags and cut. Then I squeeze. Then I cut again. Then I squeeze again -- 20 times in a row -- filling the only pitcher I can find. And then... just as I squeeze the last bit of juice from the last orange, out of the corner of my eye, I see Padarthanand, in his perfectly creased yoga whites, smiling ever so slightly, moving slowly towards me.

He takes a glass from the shelf. He takes a step in my direction. He extends his glass. I lift the pitcher and pour.

FOR YOUR REFLECTION: One thing I know is this: We are all living in our own reality -- the one we create for ourselves. What happened to me (or for me) on that Denver morning of no oranges was simply another chapter in the book of life I'm writing. There was no right or wrong decision to make that day. There was nothing good or bad about what came to pass or didn't. Everything that happened was simply a function of the choices I made.

Another person might have made an entirely different choice and that choice would have been right for them. On another day, I might have made a different choice. Who knows? Same kitchen. Same Mahatma. Same refrigerator empty of oranges. On that memorable morning, I could have easily chosen to accept the apprarent limits of the moment and the outcome would have turned out differently.

But that is not the choice I made. For me, at that very juicy moment, going for it meant making maximum effort to deliver on a promise I had made -- to honor my word -- no matter what the seeming constraints of the situation.

That same moment is upon me now -- whether I'm locked down, acting up, or unmasked. And I presume that same moment is upon you, too. The details of our lives may be different. The cards in our hands may not be the same, but the same choice is upon us both -- whether to "go for it" or not.

What is that "go for it" moment for you? What is calling you these days? What will you choose against all odds?

What's this thing with oranges in my life?
Photo: Samuel Branch, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:19 AM | Comments (1)

May 26, 2020
Inspiring Cows


"Practice," it has been said, "makes perfect". Practice, indeed, is how human beings translate theory into action. Practice is how any of us get good at anything. Of course, there are a million of ways to practice. In a group. Alone. In a cave. In a gym. In your mind. Online. Off the wall. With a teacher. Without a teacher. The sky's the limit and even then there are pilots who can help. The following story is all about practice -- a version of it I never imagined I would try.

Here goes:

Some years ago, I was living in a commune on a 600-acre cattle farm in Virginia. We were three couples, two cats, and one child in a five bedroom house. We called ourselves "Ananda Household" (at least that's what it said on our checkbook), ananda being a Hindi word for bliss -- our go to word of the moment because all of us were students of the same teacher who, among other things, was helping us awaken to the source of bliss within ourselves. Or like, whatever.

Towards that end, once a week, we would have "satsang" in our living room -- "satsang" translating as "company of the truth" which, simply put, was a gathering of inward looking people to share, spontaneously, the timeless, non-denominational wisdom of the soul.


The six of us, inspired as we were, would do our best to advertise these gatherings to our local community, but because our home was 12 miles in the boonies there were many evenings when no one, other than the six of us, would be sitting in that living room.

And while these gatherings were always inspiring, I began to feel like something was missing -- that something being people other than us to share this good news with -- even if my high school English teacher told me never to end a sentence with a preposition.

Not more than a few days after this somber feeling began to arise in me, we got word that one of Prem Rawat's Mahatamas from India needed a place to stay for a week and we were the chosen ones.

Wow! Whoa! Whew! We were psyched -- a chance to host a holy man, someone much further along the path than any of us. Cool!

And so we prepared with great rigor -- spotlessly cleaning our guest room, picking fresh flowers, and buying a whole bunch of Indian spices.

On the day of Mahatmaji's arrival, even though he was tired from his travels, he joined us for dinner and shared some stories from the Mahabharata before turning in for the night.

The next night was satsang and we were thrilled to have, in our midst, a genuine devotee -- someone way more tuned in than any of us -- the real McCoy who, we knew in our bones, would be way more inspiring to a roomful of people than any of us local yokels.

The room was set. The flowers were on the alter. The incense was lit -- me positioned at the front door to escort what I imagined would be about 20 people, arriving a few at a time, into the living room.

No one showed up. No one. Not a single soul. As usual, it was just us -- the six householders (one child asleep) and, tonight, Mahatma-ji, smiling from ear to ear. And while the evening, as I recall, was enjoyable, I couldn't help but feel we had missed an opportunity to fill the room with people likely to have an experience of a lifetime.

Did I mention that no one showed up?

The next morning, Mahatma-ji, sensing my state of mind, invited me to join him for a walk. And so I did. As we strolled the country road, I confessed to feeling disappointed at the lack of "turn out" at last night's gathering.


"What do I do, Mahatma-ji, when no one shows up and I have so much, within me, to share?"

"Talk to the cows," he said, pointing to a field of Herefords to our left.

This was not the answer I was expecting. Talk to the cows? Really? Talk to cows? Giving satsang to animals seemed totally off-the-wall to me, maybe Mahatma-ji's misinterpretation of something he read in a scripture -- but we kept on walking, Mahatma-ji and me, the sound of mooing all around us.

A few days later it was Mahatma-ji's time to leave town and so he vamoosed just a few hours before our nightly satsang in our nightly living room. Guess how many people showed up? None. As in zero. No one.

And so, the next morning, after breakfast, remembering Mahatmaji's advice to me, I went for a walk on the same road we had trekked just days before, cows to the right of me, cows to the left of me, cows everywhere I looked.

Clearing my throat, I sidled up to the fence and let it rip.

"Dear brothers and sisters," I began, "what a beautiful life this is! How fortunate we are to be alive at this precious time. And for what purpose? Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? To know ourselves. To experience the divine self. To feel gratitude for simply breath alone. To find the peace that passes all understanding."

And on and on and on I went.

The cows, it seemed, were enjoying what they heard. Herd! Their tails wagged. Their ears twitched. And some of them walked towards me. I realized course, it was possible that it was just the sound of my voice that animated them, or maybe the fact that anyone at all was standing at the fence -- maybe someone with a carrot or an apple.


Indeed, it was possible, I guess, that I would have gotten the same response from reading the phone book or reciting Canterbury Tales in Middle English. But in that particular moment, none of these thoughts mattered. And why they didn't matter, was because I was experiencing something totally beautiful within me -- something way beyond cow or human psychology.

My heart was opening. My mind was still. And I could feel the beautiful choo choo train of love soaring through me, destination unknown -- not to mention a huge dose of ease, freedom, flow, goodness, gladness, grace, and gratitude.

I was, you might say, practicing -- getting into the zone of letting the spontaneous expression of my inner being come roaring through me -- uninhibited, unannounced, and uncensored. Practicing, yes! Not performing. Not trying. Not impressing. Just practicing -- whether or not a single cow twitched an ear, wagged a tail, or mooed -- most of them staring at me as if I didn't even exist.
Photo #1: Lomig, Unsplash
Photo #2: RookieLuva, Unsplash
Photo #3: Alex Azabache, Unsplash
Photo #4: Jakob Cotton, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:25 PM | Comments (1)

May 22, 2020
A 15 Minute Oasis For You

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Got 15 minutes? If so, you might enjoy this presentation of Prem Rawat's. In my estimation, Prem is one of the brightest lights on the planet these days. Big perspective. Heartfelt. Encouraging. Inspiring. Wise. And a great sense of humor.

Other Prem Lockdown videos
Photo: Courtesy of TimelessToday

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2020
The Tourist Syndrome


A few years ago, I went to Istanbul for a vacation. Never having been to Turkey, I was excited to explore a new culture, which I did with great relish -- and a whole lot of hummus. Of all the new adventures, perhaps the most remarkable was the visit to the Grand Bazaar. Not because of the number of shops (2,432). Not because of the history (493 years old). And not because of the masses of people. No. Because I finally got clear about something in my own psyche and, by extension, the human psyche -- something I call the "Tourist Syndrome" -- a phenomenon that, curiously has great relevance to the way in which some people relate to Prem Rawat or any great teacher.

Here's how the Tourist Syndrome plays out:

You feel a need for something (i.e. a new experience, a good deal, an adventure) and decide to go to a specific destination to meet your need. In my case it was the Grand Bazaar and the possibility of buying a really good rug.

So you make your way there and begin your process of locating just the right shop that carries the kind of goodies you are seeking.

You know you are a tourist, but you don't want to appear to be a tourist because, you reason, if you appear to be a tourist, the odds of the merchants taking advantage of you will increase. So you do your best to take on the local color. You take the camera off your neck. You don't speak. You walk with confidence. Anything not to appear to be an easy mark.


Of course, the merchants (who have been merchants way longer than you have been a tourist) know exactly what you're doing. They've seen thousands of foreigners, like you, pretending not to be tourists, so they adjust their approach accordingly.

You see them seeing you seeing them and, even though you are attracted to the merchandise in their shops, decide to keep walking because you feel, somehow, that if you enter, the merchant will have the upper hand and it will only be a matter of time before you buy something you don't really need or want.

So you continue walking, appearing to be cool and purposeful. But the fact remains, you know you want something and you know that what you want is in one of these shops that you keep passing. You also know that this, being Turkey, has the potential to be THE place where you can buy a high quality rug at just the right price.

So you get over your self-consciousness for the moment and enter a shop. The merchant smiles. You smile back, but you don't want to make too much eye contact because, if you do, you are granting a kind of tacit permission for him to begin his sales shtick, which you already know will be extremely slick.

So you stand on the edges, feigning disinterest. You don't want the shop owner to see you actually marveling at his goods because then, you reason, he will probably raise his prices. So you play it cool. The merchant has seen many people like you before. So he bides his time.

The really savvy shop owners give you just enough space so you feel comfortable enough to step in of your own accord. Just to make matters even more interesting, there are an equally amount of savvy shop owners who, sensing your indecision and discomfort, make the decision to cross the chasm to YOU (in a very charming way), hoping to diffuse your anxiety just long enough to gain your trust and thus increase the odds of a sale.

You, sentient being that you are, see the shop owner sizing you up. You see him giving you the space to make your own decisions, which makes you even more uncomfortable, you now playing out an infinite loop of subtle mind games with the shop owner (who, in reality, is just a simple man who loves his children, plays cards with his friends, prays to Allah five times a day, and would be very pleased to sell you a rug at a fair price so both of you get what you want.)

From what I can tell, this same little game has played itself out for countless centuries whenever a human being, with a felt need, hears about the existence of a living Master.

You get curious. You move in his direction. You see his "shop" and are attracted. You get closer. But then, some version of the Tourist Syndrome kicks in. You sense that owner of the shop is very experienced, knows his stuff, and has been doing this for a looooooooong time. An old fear of yours rises to the surface. You don't want to be "taken." You don't want to be deceived, fooled, or sold something you don't need. You wonder if you can trust him/her. So you stand on the edge, arms folded, and observe. You don't want to get too close.

The Master is just standing there, smiling. You wonder why he's smiling -- if his smiling is all part of a ruse to disarm you. Other people come and go from his shop. Some leave with rugs. Some do not. You continue standing there on the edge, trying to decide if what he is offering is actually worth it.

You see another tourist exiting his shop, smiling, carrying a beautiful rug. You gather up the courage to ask how much. The tourist stops and says "It's free. No charge."

Now you are completely confused. "Free?" you think. "How can this be? It's too good to be true. What's the catch?"

An old woman enters the shop and exits with a beautiful rug -- the color of your living room walls. A young, married couple enters and leaves with a small prayer rug, something that would look great in your hallway. The shop owner's two children enter, laughing, bringing him tea.

You think about checking out the other shops. After all, you reason, there must be another 200 in the Grand Bazaar selling the same, or even better, carpets.

Lost in your thoughts, you don't see him approaching.

"Can I help you?" he asks. "Would you like to enter my shop? I think I have just what you're looking for."

He is smiling. The tourist in you wants to move on. But something in you encourages you to stay. You're not sure what it is -- the sound of his voice? The happy people coming and going from his shop? The fact that all his rugs are free?
An introduction to the message of Prem Rawat

Photo #1: unsplash-logonurhan

Photo #2: unsplash-logoRaul Cacho Oses

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:06 PM | Comments (3)

May 17, 2020
ESSENCE: A Beautiful Song by James Gallagher

If you have five minutes to spare and want to unplug from the momentum of your life, here's a real treat. Some of you may have already heard this song. Even if you have, like all great songs, this one goes in deeper and deeper the more you listen.


Big thanks to Kristina Finn for the heads up!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:29 AM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2020
It's Just a Matter of Paying Attention

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Prem Rawat's 50th Lockdown talk. 50! When this series began, I thought it might max out at 20. Another concept bites the dust. Might it go to 100? 200? Who knows? What I DO know is this is a good one -- and includes some updates on the upcoming release of the new PEP program which, by the way, will be called by some other name for a reason Prem will speak to down the road.

Photo: Courtesy of TimelessToday
The entire Lockdown series

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2020

OK. I get it. There's a serious virus going around that is disrupting just about everything on planet Earth. Not fun. And, apparently, it will be around for a while. But there is also something else capable of spreading -- and that is kindness. Human kindness. We all have it and, yes, it is perfectly fine to share with each other. Today, there will be at least one opportunity to express kindness to another human being. Or maybe, an animal. Go for it! Let kindness be the contagion!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2020
Vinny from Brooklyn


So there I am, in 1988 or whatever, sitting in my office in Brooklyn (and when I say "office", I mean the too small second bedroom in my funky, railroad apartment) when the phone rings. Since it's a business day, I figure it's a business call, but it's not a business call. It's a guy with an Australian accent -- Ray Belcher, to be more exact, Prem Rawat's Production Manager calling all the way from Fiji in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Ray explains that Prem has just asked him to call me. What? You gotta be kidding! Prem asked Ray to call me? Huh? I mean, the last time something like this happened was...let's see now... like never. But Ray wasn't kidding. He was serious and, with very little segue, asks for my fax number so he can send me a 24-page transcript of one of Prem's recent talks -- what devotees, from India, at that time, commonly referred to as "satsang" -- holy discourse.

My mission, Ray tells me, is to read the transcript through the eyes of a street smart guy from Brooklyn -- somebody with no concepts of who Prem Rawat was. But not just read it. Critique it. Apparently, Prem wanted to know what people really thought about his message -- not just appreciative, head nodding students of his, but regular people on the street.

A few minutes later, the 24-page fax comes through and I start reading, looking for words and phrases that didn't play all that well on the streets. You know, spiritual stuff -- stuff that wouldn't go over all that well at the local pizzeria.

I could feel Joe Pesci rising from deep within me. DeNiro, too. And the entire cast of the Sopranos.

So, after a cappuccino, I write up my street smart response to Prem's talk through my alter ego, Vinny. You know, badabing, badaboom Vinny. Yeah, THAT guy. Then I email it to the still very Australian Ray Belcher.

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A week goes by. Then Ray calls me again.

"Hey, Mitch," he begins. "I got your commentary. Thanks for that, mate, but it seemed a bit heavy to me. Too rough around the edges. Could you write up a second draft and soften it up a bit?"

"Sure Ray," I reply, not really sure where I missed the boat, but happy for the chance to be of service. So that's what I do. I write up my second critique. "Vinny Lite", you might say.

Actually, I thought my first draft was better, but, hey, what did I know? Maybe Ray knew best, right? I mean, after all, Ray was a lot closer to Prem than I was. He worked side-by-side with him, every day. Me? I sat in the mezzanine and talked to Prem maybe every seven years or so. And rarely for longer than a minute.

So I stay up late and rewrite the thing, softening it up just like Ray asked and email the whole kit and caboodle in the morning.

Three weeks go by. The phone rings. It's Ray again, explaining that he gave my Vinny-infused commentary to Prem. But not the second, lighter version I had so diligently edited. He gave the first -- the too heavy, inappropriate version.

Suddenly, I'm not feeling so good. All I can see is Prem reading it and cringing, forever associating me with its off-putting content and disrespectful tone.

"I am totally screwed," I think to myself. "I can't believe Ray gave him the first draft! What was he thinking? I see myself on the permanent bongo list, never again being allowed into any of Prem's events. I have butterflies in my stomach. My butterflies have butterflies.

Then Ray, savvy filmmaker that he was, paints the picture for me in no uncertain terms.

"There I am," he explains, "in a small room with Prem after handing him your first draft. He's totally focused on reading it. Totally. He doesn't say a word. Nothing. He's just reading it with great concentration. And I'm just standing there, across the room, watching him. A long time passes. Then he looks at me."

"This is absolutely right," he says. "This is what people actually think."

I don't remember the rest of my conversation with Ray that day. I don't remember what I did after I hung up. All I remember is his last sentence reverberating in what was left of my mind: "This is absolutely right. This is what people actually think."

Suffice it to say that my Vinny-from-Brooklyn experience deeply weeded my garden of concepts. My spiritual persona dissolved. My left brain left the building. My shoulders relaxed. In their place? A pepperoni pizza for my soul and a renewed respect for just how committed Prem Rawat is to finding out what he wants to know.

Photo #1: William Krause, Unsplash
Photo #2: Courtesy of TimelessToday

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2020


Prem Rawat speaking in Soweto, South Africa -- the 45th episode in his recent series of Lockdown talks (23 minutes).
Photo: Tim Goedhart, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2020
The Insecurity of Security

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One of the things that fascinates me about being in relationship with Prem Rawat is the phenomenon of becoming increasingly conscious of what gets in the way of me being able to enjoy his gift of Knowledge. The "weeds in my garden", you might say -- more commonly known as concepts, assumptions, beliefs, and monkey mind.

While often uncomfortable to experience, becoming aware of this stuff is also quite liberating. At least I get to know what I'm dealing with -- the so-called Big Bad Wolf on my way to Grandma's house.

Case in point: Some years ago, at one of Prem's events, I had the good fortune to be part of his security detail -- one of eight volunteers whose task it was to stand near him for three hours and respond if there was a need.

Upon being asked to play this role, I assumed that "doing security" was going to be a blissful experience -- a kind of inner peace insurance policy.

I was wrong. Well, at least halfway wrong.

Fifty percent of the time I was around him, I found myself in heaven -- completely joyful, grateful, and fulfilled. The other half of the time, I found myself in hell -- uncomfortable, awkward, and painfully self-conscious.

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This inner "battle of the bands" surprised me. I mean, Prem was the Ambassador of Peace, right? How could I not totally enjoy being so close to him? And yet, there I was, toggling uncontrollably back and forth between my inner Rumi and my inner Woody Allen.

What I've come to realize, over time, is that this battle of the bands inside me is very common. Indeed, Prem has spoken about the phenomenon a lot -- how there is 50% light within us and 50% darkness -- how there are two wolves inside fighting for my attention: the good wolf and the bad wolf. The one who wins is simply the one I feed.

In other words, I have a choice.

These days of the Coronavirus, the choice I have has never been as clear to me. Every day I have a choice of what to focus on, which "wolf" inside me I will feed. Prem, no matter how dedicated he is to reminding me of the choices I have, cannot make the choice for me. It is my choice -- a choice I need to make every single day or, more accurately stated, every single breath of every single day.

This moment? I choose life. I choose love. I choose kindness. I choose gratitude. I choose awareness. I choose compassion. I choose patience. I choose clarity. I choose possibility. I choose joy. I choose forgiveness. I choose letting go of whatever it is that might be in my way of becoming a fully conscious human being.

Photo: Courtesy of TimelessToday

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:45 AM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2020
Rolling Around on the Floor, Laughing, Laughing, Laughing


When I was 13, living in the suburbs of New York, there were three things I wanted to be when I grew up: a major league baseball player, a writer, and much taller. At no time during my adolescence did I ever once dream of becoming a modern-day monk. But at the age of 30, that had become my aspiration.

Coming out of a failed marriage and being very disillusioned with the world, I found myself on the cusp of taking a lifetime vow of renunciation and entering into one of Prem Rawat's ashrams -- not exactly the future my parents had envisioned for me.

Back then, the process for moving into an ashram was a simple one -- get together with like-minded people of the same gender, rent a place, and begin living the ashram lifestyle as best we understood. Soon after, one of Prem's instructors would visit and make sure we understood what we were getting into.

So that's what I did. I rented an apartment on Adams Street, found six brothers with the same aspiration and moved in.

For the first week, everything went according to plan. We meditated each morning and night. We put fresh flowers on the alter. We ate a lot of rice and beans.

And then something quite unexpected happened.

It began with a visit from Rich Neel, one of Prem's instructors. Rich sat with us in the living room, shared some heartfelt inspiration, and explained what the ashram lifestyle was all about. Inspiring stuff. Practical stuff. It made a lot of sense.


As the evening's gathering was coming to an end, all of us stood to join together in song -- more specifically, to sing Arti -- an ancient Indian song of praise, half in Hindi and half in English. I had sung this song every night for the past few years and loved everything about it -- the words, the melody, and the feeling I had when singing it.

I pretty much knew what to expect. Someone would wave a silver tray of candles to set the tone and then everyone else would chime in -- verse 1 followed by verse 2 followed by verse 3 and so on, all the way to verse 14 where the song would end and everyone would linger a while in the sweet spaciousness that had opened up.

But that's not what happened.

Totally out of the blue, after verse 3, I was overwhelmed by laughter. Big, BIG laughter. Beyond belly laugh laughter. A totally different kind of laughter than I had ever experienced before -- a welling up from the underground spring of laughter... a tidal wave of laughter.... an all-bets-are-off-and-you-have-no idea-what-laughter-is-about laughter.

It was so overwhelming, in fact, that I could not stand. Standing became impossible -- my vertical position some kind of blatant disregard for the Gods of laughter.

The next thing I knew I was on the floor, rolling around, howling with laughter. Everything was so unbelievably funny! Hysterically funny. An absolute riot. In that glorious moment, I was absolutely free -- free of the struggle, free of the past, the future, thinking, trying, not trying, doubt, worry, judgment, ego, self, and everything else that had ever brought me down. All of it was gone.

In it's place, total joy.

As I continued rolling around on the floor, my six beautiful brothers, standing above me, continued singing. No one shushed me. No one asked me to stop laughing. No one tried to get me to stand up.

That night's singing of Arti (what promised to be the soundtrack of the rest of my life), had become a very different kind of two-part harmony: six men standing, one man on the floor. That is, until the very delightful Kelly McGuiness fell to the floor beside me. Now there were two of us rolling around on the floor.

I don't remember how long this went on -- but it felt like forever.

On a night I assumed that reverence would have been the appropriate tone, it was irreverence that reigned supreme -- not the kind that diminished or disrespected the sacredness of our gathering. Quite the contrary. The irreverence I refer to was merely the spontaneous expression of how utterly blissful it was to completely let go of all my ideas, concepts, and beliefs.

These two whirling dervishes walk into a bar...


Prem photo: Courtesy of TimelessToday
Laugh photo: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash
A funny story about buying minced garlic

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2020
Adapt, Flow, Change & Respond


"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." - Charles Darwin

I don't think anything in my life has completely prepared me for the Coronavirus situation. But there is one experience I have had that partially prepared me.

The year? 1980. The place? Denver, Colorado. That's when and where I was asked to coordinate a public event for Prem Rawat. I had never coordinated any of his events before, but I was up for the challenge.

The task, as best I understood it, was going to be a demanding one, but definitely doable. There were teams to organize, a union contract to negotiate, meetings to conduct, things to figure out, and all kinds of planning to do, what with the security, ushering, ticketing, promotion, speaker selection, staging, and so forth. A stretch? For sure. But I was up for the game.

And so I got busy. Virgo that I was (and still am), I made lists, scheduled conference calls, met with volunteers, fielded questions, talked to the press, found assistants, facilitated meetings, and did a whole bunch of other stuff that goes along with preparing for one of Prem's events with only six weeks notice.


On the day of the event, knowing that Murphy's Law always had a way of kicking in, I got to the hall earlier than most people thought was necessary just to make sure I wouldn't have any last minute scrambling to do. And so, I made my rounds, checked in with the teams, poked and prodded, high-fived and hugged, and all the while feeling the joyful buzz of knowing that Prem Rawat would soon be holding forth.

Then the phone rang.

It was Bill Wishard, Prem's national event coordinator. He had some news for me -- that... um... er... there were some mechanical difficulties with the plane in LA and, while Prem was still planning on making it to the program, he was going to be two hours late.

This information was not, as I recall, on any my lists.

Prem, who in my experience, was the most punctual person on the planet, was not supposed to be late -- not by a minute and certainly not by two hours. But late he was going to be and it was clearly time for Plan "B" -- the one I didn't have, barely able, as I was, to get Plan "A" together.

Bill, God bless him, went on to give me some very useful advice, mentioning choices I might want to consider over the next few hours -- the gist of things, the goal -- but that's about it. The rest was up to me.

Show time!

The first thing I needed to do was renegotiate the union contract, since the one I'd signed a few weeks ago expired at 11:00 pm, but with Prem arriving two hours late we were going to need the hall at until 1:00 am.

OK. No big deal. Simple to do, right?

So I navigated my way through the back halls of the venue, found the union office, and walked in, looking for "Big John", the oversized union President. But Big John was not in his office.

"He's out to dinner," his assistant explained. "Italian food."

"OK," I replied. "Can you tell me which Italian restaurant -- like the name and the address?"

"Sorry, no can do," she said. "John didn't tell me. All he mentioned was he was going out for Italian."

The next thing I know I'm running through the streets of downtown Denver, contract in hand, looking for an Italian restaurant, preferably one with John in it. And wouldn't you know, by the Grace of God, at the end of the street, I see one! Amazing!

Huffing and puffing, I enter and look for John, but John is not there. Lots of other people are there, sipping wine and eating garlic bread, but not John. John is nowhere in sight.

I exit as fast as I can and continue running through the streets of downtown Denver. And then? Badaboom! Badabing! There, just a few doors away, I see yet another Italian restaurant: Gino's Trattoria -- a much nicer looking eatery than the one I had just exited.

Big John is not in this restaurant either.

I look at my watch. I take a breath. I look at my watch again.

"This is not good," I think to myself. "This is definitely not good. I've got to get back to the hall to handle all that other stuff!"

Visions of union officials turning off the lights in the middle of Prem's talk start rushing through my head. Not a pretty picture. But I cannot afford to dwell on this scenario for long, especially since now, somehow, I find myself standing in front of the third Italian restaurant of the night. Catching what's left of my breath, I push the door open, scan the room, and there, not more than 10 feet from me, sits Big John, white bib around his neck, big plate of spaghetti and meatballs before him.


I approach, explain the situation, and hand John the contract and a pen.

"No problem," he says, crossing out 11:00 pm and replacing it with 1:30 am. "But you know there will be overtime charges, right?"

"Yes, I do," I manage to say as I make my escape, rolled up contract in hand.

Boom! I'm back in the hall.

Next up? The band. And when I say "band" I'm referring to the five local musicians, also students of Prem's, who agreed, just a few weeks ago, to be the entertainment for the night. I find them in the green room. They are all looking a little bit green.

"Hey guys," I blurt, "listen up. There's been a change of plans. Prem's gonna be two hours late. You'll need to play 12 songs tonight."

"Twelve? Twelve? We only know four."

"Well, I guess you'll need to learn another eight. Go for it."

And with that I'm out the door for whatever is next, which, it suddenly dawns on me is drafting eight more guest speakers. Two I had already secured a month ago, the two "normal amount" of speakers who usually spoke before Prem spoke. But now, having done the math, I realize I'm eight short.

So I scan the audience, searching for people I think I can count on. One by one I ask, and one by one they accept, their plans for the evening having suddenly changed, though I didn't have the time to explore their feelings, it now being time to mount the stage and announce that "due to some mechanical difficulties with his plane in Los Angeles, our featured speaker of the evening, Prem Rawat, is going to be delayed -- like two hours or so."

I go on to explain that they have two choices -- they can either stay in the hall and enjoy our guest speakers and band OR they can go out for dinner, as long as they return to their seats in two hours.

Some stay. Some leave, as I introduce the band and exit stage right. Two songs... then a speaker. Two songs... then a speaker. Two more songs... and a speaker. And so the evening goes until the phone rings again. It is the very cheery Bill Wishard, informing me that they are "on their way", but are... um... going to be... just little bit later than they'd planned. Not that late, but late nonetheless.

Speak Your Truth!.jpg

OK. So be it. Whatever. I scan the audience and draft four more speakers. They speak. The band plays. And then, having run out of speakers, I speak, people now returning to their seats from whatever restaurant, bar, or stroll that had occupied them these past two hours.

And then someone signals me that Prem has arrived! He is in the hall. I thank everyone for their patience, give a brief introduction, and then, Prem takes the stage -- amazingly cool, calm, and collected. He speaks for an hour and a half, sharing his message of peace with 2,400 people thrilled for the chance to finally sit back, relax, and take it all in.

FOOD FOR BEYOND THOUGHT: What does that night, in Denver, 40 years ago, have to do with preparing me (or any of us) for these crazy days of the Coronavirus? Plenty! At the risk of oversimplifying things and seeming to be wiser than I am, here's the gist of what I learned in a deeper way than ever before -- all of which applies to this moment in time:

1. MAN PLANS, GOD LAUGHS: Yes, I made a ton of effort in the six weeks prior to Prem's Denver event. And I'm glad I did. But in the end, my plan was only a plan -- the menu, not the food. Something else, very, very different, was required of me that night -- the ability to let go of my plan and be totally in the moment.

2. ADAPTABILITY IS THE NAME OF THE GAME: The reason most trees don't break in a windstorm is because they're able to bend. If they don't bend, they break. It's the same for all of us. Windstorms come. Unexpected changes come. And sometimes, catastrophes. If we can bend, adapt, and go with the flow, we survive. If we can't, we don't.

3. TRUST: Somehow, at the core of what happened to me that fateful night in Denver, was the experience of trust. Trust! Something deep within me knew that everything was going to be just fine. Exactly how it was going to be fine was a mystery to me, but that wasn't my business. Bottom line, I just let go and followed the yellow brick road. It is with great respect and gratitude that I thank Prem for helping me experience this trust -- because, over the years, he has nudged me in oh so many meaningful ways to feel it in my bones -- the feeling and the knowledge that everything is gonna be alright.

4. ASK FOR HELP: From the moment Bill informed me that Prem was going to be late, it was clear to me I needed help -- a lot of help. I had to go beyond my fear of what people would think when I approached them and asked for their help. But help was needed. And it was my role to ask.

5. STAY CENTERED IN MY HEART: In my role as program coordinator that unforgettable night, it was my responsibility to stay focused, centered, and conscious. I could not afford to get crazy. While that option, of course, was always there, choosing it wouldn't have served anyone. Not Prem. Not the people in the audience. And not me. My only real option that night was to stay centered in my heart. And I thank Prem and the Knowledge he reveals for helping me do just that.

Ornstein and Ditkoff laughing.jpg

6. MAINTAIN MY SENSE OF HUMOR: A Denver program coordinator, a rabbi, and a penguin walk into bar. Or as Mahatma Gandhi once said, "If I didn't have a sense of humor, I would have committed suicide long ago." Even though there were tons of stressors to deal with that night, there was also something very funny about the whole thing. A divine comedy it was. A play. A comic outtake from my own Mahabharata. And I was in it. Just like we are all in it these days of the Coronavirus. It's not always easy and it's not always fun, but it's happening. How we respond to the challenges before us is up to us. We have a choice. We always have a choice

7. BE PATIENT AND PERSEVERE: The story I've just shared with you lasted only two and a half hours. The experience we are going through now, as much of what we have come to depend on falls apart, is lasting a whole lot longer. But no matter what the outcomes of Covid-19 might be for any of us, perseverance and patience are needed. Not just the idea of patience and perseverance, but the practice.

Like the Roman poet, Horatio, once said, "Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it."

Yes, adversity is front and center these days. And for some people, the worst kind of adversity -- the loss of lives -- their own or their loved ones. The scripts we've written that define our lives no longer apply. Our lists? Good for kindling, perhaps, but not much else. Our plans? Out the window of the house whose rent or mortgage we can no longer afford.

In it's place?

Ah... now that's the question, isn't it? What is it that takes the place of our old scripts, strategies, and plans? What?

Something for each of us to contemplate, for sure.

The good news? We have what it takes. We do. We've been through hardships and difficulties before. We have -- as individuals and as a species. We've adapted, adjusted, rebounded, learned, responded, let go, moved on, and found our way to higher ground.

Remember those times!
Call on whatever it is within you that's the source of your courage, resiliency, and trust. Go deeper than you've ever gone before. It's possible. It is. But not just possible. It's absolutely necessary.

One breath at a time.

First photo: Courtesy of TimelessToday
Inspiring quotes on patience

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:37 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2020
A Little Help From My Friends

PS: See if you can find Fuzzbee in this one.
PPS: We are all in this together. Reach out to a friend in need today.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:10 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2020
It's Time for Patience


Patience is defined as the ability to bear provocation, misfortune, or pain without complaint, loss of temper, or irritation -- the knack for going beyond restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

Well, then, what better time to practice patience than now, during these challenging days of the Coronavirus? If you've had enough of social distancing, self-isolation, lockdown, and quarantine -- guess what -- you get a chance to explore what patience is really all about. If you have a few minutes to spare, take a look at what some very wise souls have said about this most important topic:

"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures." - Lao Tzu

"It's not imagination on my part when I say that to look up at the sky, the clouds, the moon, and the stars make me calm and patient." - Anne Frank

"The enemy is the necessary condition for practicing patience." - Dalai Lama

"Patience is not passive, on the contrary, it is concentrated strength." - Bruce Lee

"Don't cross the bridge until you come to it." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these." - George Washington Carver


"It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with problems longer". -Albert Einstein

"If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?" - Rumi

"The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others." - Erik Erikson

"All good things arrive unto them that wait -- and don't die in the meantime." - Mark Twain

"First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi

"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." - Aristotle

"It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting." - Elizabeth Taylor

"Genius is eternal patience." - Michelangelo

"A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else." - George Savile

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." - Lao Tzu

"Patience is the only true foundation on which to make one's dreams come true.' - Franz Kafka

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." - Confucius

"Other people can't cause us to be impatient unless we let them do so. In other words, others don't make us impatient. We make ourselves impatient, through our expectations and demands, fixated attachments and stuckness." - Lama Surya Das


"Take up an idea, devote yourself to it, struggle on in patience, and the sun will rise for you." - Swami Vivekananda

"One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life." - Chinese proverb

"Many a man thinks he is patient when, in reality, he is indifferent." - B.C. Forbes

"Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come." - Robert Schuller

"Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity." - Carl Jung

"Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy." - Saadi

"The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching it, not by smashing the egg." - Arnold Glasgow

"Patience is passion tamed." - Lyman Abbot

"And sure enough, even waiting will end... if you can just wait long enough." - William Faulkner

"I will not be distracted by noise, chatter, or setbacks. Patience, commitment, grace, and purpose will guide me." - Louise Hay


"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace." - Victor Hugo

"Patience has its limits. Take it too far and its cowardice." - George Jackson

"All men commend patience, although few are willing to practice it." - Thomas a Kempis

"You must first have a lot of patience to learn to have patience." - Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

"Trying to understand is like straining through muddy water. Have the patience to wait! Be still and allow the mud to settle." - Lao Tzu

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." - John Quincy Adams

"What's coming will come and we'll meet it when it does." - J.K. Rowling

"If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm." - Mahatma Gandhi

"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"Inner peace is impossible without patience. Wisdom requires patience. Spiritual growth implies the mastery of patience. Patience allows the unfolding of destiny to proceed at its own unhurried pace." - Brian Weiss

"A boxer derives the greatest advantage from his sparring partner -- and my accuser is my sparring partner. He trains me in patience, civility and even temper." - Marcus Aurelius

"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day." - Rainer Maria Rilke

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. - Corinthians 13:4-5

"Patience is the mark of true love. If you truly love someone, you will be more patient with that person." - Thich Nhat Hanh

"Quietly endure, silently suffer and patiently wait." - Martin Luther King

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"Clearly older women and especially older women who have led an active life or elder women who successfully maneuver through their own family life have so much to teach us about sharing, patience, and wisdom." - Alice Walker

"How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?" - William Shakespeare

"He that can have patience can have what he will." - Benjamin Franklin

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." - Leo Tolstoy

"It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die. Than to find those who are willing to endure pain with patience." - Julius Caesar

"All great achievements require time." - Maya Angelou

"Patience is the key to contentment." - The Prophet Muhammad

"To lose patience is to lose the battle." - Mahatma Gandhi

"We could never learn to be brave and patient if there was only joy in the world." - Helen Keller

"Whoever is out of patience is out of possession of their soul." - Francis Bacon

"If I have done the public any service it is due to my patient thought." - Isaac Newton

"I'm patient." - Michael Jordan

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." - May Sarton

"Patience doesn't mean making a pact with the devil of denial, ignoring our emotions and aspirations. It means being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that's unfolding, rather than ripping open a budding flower or demanding a caterpillar hurry up and get that chrysalis stage over with." - Sharon Salzberg

"Have patience with all things. But, first of all, yourself." - St. Francis

In what ways can YOU be more patient during these challenging days of the Coronavirus?

Prem Rawat's Lockdown talks
A story about patience

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:58 PM | Comments (0)

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