Storytelling at Work
April 29, 2018
On Being Visited by an Angel

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Full disclosure: I have never been a person who believed in angels. Angels, to me, were merely poetic metaphors, the etheric embodiments of hard-to-describe feelings that some religiously-inclined people experienced when betwixt and between -- some kind of fairy tale mix of loneliness, love, and longing for something beyond what their own two eyes could see. Hovering somewhere between God and the Easter Bunny, angels struck me as nothing more than projections, the astral version of what imaginative children have been inventing for centuries -- "invisible friends."


This all changed for me one unforgettable night in 1974.

I was 27, two years into my first marriage, and all was not right with the world, at least not with my world. To most outside observers, my marriage looked just fine. We were a good-looking couple, had wonderful friends, great jobs in a children's hospital, and the same inspiring spiritual master. We grew lettuce, tomatoes, and watermelons in our garden, but at the same time, we were growing further apart. The honeymoon was over, replaced by a strange brew of second thoughts, boredom, and judgment.

My response to the situation, honed from many past lives as a monk? "Go within," a phrase I now understand was nothing more than my own DaVinci code for denial. My wife's response? Bake more bread. This gave us the appearance of us having a home life -- poor compensation for my not-so-subtle disappearing act.

Having a child, we thought, would fill the hole. And so we tried. But she had cysts on her ovaries and were told it was not in the cards. So we settled into a childless marriage, skirting the edges of our life, and throwing ourselves into our work.

When she called me from LA at the end of a two-week business trip, I could tell by the sound of her voice that everything was just about to change. And so it did. She was having an affair with another man -- someone who truly loved her, she explained, and was extending her trip for another three months.

"What? An affair? But what about us?" I managed to say -- the kind of lines a Hollywood script doctor might read, poolside, and rewrite, ordering a second martini. But she had made up her mind. And that was that. When I put down the phone, I was in shock. Stunned. Numb. Paralyzed. I couldn't move.

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From that moment on, life started getting very strange for me. I'd stare at a wedding picture of the two of us on a wall and it would fall off. I'd have clairvoyant dreams of her lover. But even stranger, I'd find myself crying, in the middle of the day, in my car, for no apparent reason. Simply put, I was falling apart -- a sad, lonely, guilty, depressed, embarrassed, disoriented young man too ashamed and self-loathing to share his private agony with even his best friend.

And so it continued for another three months.

And then, quite suddenly, on the night of the full moon in November, at the end of my ever-shortening rope, I decided to put an end to the madness. I picked up my meditation cushion, my meditation blanket, and a flashlight, exited my apartment, and walked into the forest that bordered my house. There, in a small clearing, I sat down, wrapped my blanket around my shoulders, closed my eyes, and started to meditate. My intention? To sit there, for however long it took, until I was free of the pain.

I'm sure if someone, walking their dog, had passed by, it must have looked like a scene from Siddhartha, but on the inside it was a very different story. On the inside, a war was raging. And the battlefield was littered with the wounded, the dead, and at least a few deserters pretending to be dead so they wouldn't have to die. I just sat there. On that cushion. In the cold, experiencing, for the entire time, not even a second of peace. Nothing but a mind on fire. But I kept sitting. I had to. I had no other choice. There was nowhere else to go. There was nothing else to do. This was it. It had all come down this. Either let go or lose my life. Those were my choices.

And then, with absolutely no warning, no drum roll from beyond, my mind completely stopped. It. Stopped. Just. Like. That. The battle was over. The war ended. I wasn't just sitting in the clearing. I was the clearing. The pain that had ruled me those past few months had completely fallen away. The fever broke. If I had been a snake, my old skin would have fallen off. I, for the first time in what seemed like forever, was free. And so, I simply stood, walked back to my apartment, and went to bed. It was the first good night's sleep I'd had in months.

A few hours later, the phone ringing woke me up. My wife. "Mitchell," she began. "I feel horrible. I am so sorry for what I've done. I want to come home. Will you take me back? Will you forgive me?"

This is not at all what I wanted to hear. Less than six hours into my new life as a free man and now I was being asked to forgive her? Really? Just like that? On the phone? In my pajamas? After I had finally surrendered everything to begin my new life? A long silence followed. And a longer silence after that.

"Yes," I heard myself saying. "Yes, I forgive you. Just get your flight times together and I'll pick you up at the airport."

Three days passed. I drove to the airport. I waited at the end of a long, tiled hallway. I scanned the faces of the many strangers getting off the plane. And then I saw her. She wore something new, a blue dress, and seemed to be happy. I wore something old and wasn't. We hugged, but nobody was home -- two actors in a low-budget movie, the director shaking his head. The ride home? Icy cold, our nervous small talk a desperate attempt to fill the growing silence.

I don't remember what we had for dinner that night. I don't remember her unpacking. All I remember is getting into bed, my only desire to sleep. I laid my head on the pillow and closed my eyes. And then, I don't know why, I opened my eyes and standing in the middle of the room, I saw a radiant being of light -- a glowing, translucent being of light, wings the color of moonlight folded into her sides. She just stood there looking at me. That was it. Just looking at me. And, I had never, in all my life, ever felt so cared for, so calm, and so sheltered from the storm.

"Oh, my God, I see an angel!" And, without a second thought, I fell immediately asleep.

In the morning, when I awoke, thoughts of the angel filled my head. Did this really happen to me? Did I really see an angel? Or was it only a dream? I turned to the woman, still my wife, and asked: "Did I... say something... last night... before I fell asleep?"

"Yes," you said, 'Oh my God I see an angel.'"

The next day, looking for some much-needed inspiration, we made our way to a nearby bookstore -- the spiritual kind. She went left and I went right, feeling totally guided, with no specific goal in mind. I walked to the back of the store, stopped, and looked up. I was standing in front of a section of books devoted entirely to angels. Taking a long, slow breath, I extended my hand and let it rest on the first book it touched. I pulled it out. It was a book by Rudolf Steiner with a very memorable name: On Angels. I opened it randomly and began to read -- a simple explanation of how everyone on planet Earth has a guardian angel, sometimes more than one, and that guardian angels make their appearance to human beings during times of great emotional turmoil for one purpose and one purpose only -- to bring comfort, love, and protection. The time of day these angels make their appearance? The last few seconds before sleep or the first few seconds upon waking -- the times when our analytical, rational mind is most at rest and a kind of portal opens to another realm.

I just stood there, book in hand, shaking, tears of joy streaming down my face.

FOR YOUR REFLECTION: I have told this story to very few people in my life. Ruled by the assumption that I couldn't find the words and, even if I could, my words would only pervert the sacredness of my experience. So I chose to remain silent. But that time has passed. I realize now, as I move closer to the other side myself, that it is not only my duty to report what I have seen, but my great pleasure.

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To any reader of mine who thinks that what I saw was self-invented, let me say this -- what I saw that night, in my room, was as real as you are, if not more real. Indeed, if I saw you today and told someone later that I saw you, it is doubtful they would question my seeing you. How had I known it was you I was seeing and not my mind playing tricks? Good question, one we rarely ask. But with the sighting of an angel, questions rule the day. Doubts creep in. But to the person who has seen the angel, nothing is subject to doubt and nothing needs explaining.

Simply put, there's a time in all of our lives when something pierces the veil and we see the unseen. We become witnesses to the beyond. And so, I will leave you with this: Angels exist. I have seen one. One of them visited me in my bedroom at my time of greatest need. It said nothing. It did nothing. It just radiated the presence of love in a way that changed the way I experience life. I received the kind of love that made everything, now and forever, absolutely beautiful, meaningful, sacred, and whole.

What beyond human forces of love have made an appearance in your life? What hard-to-describe moment of divine intervention has touched you in some way? And is there anyone in your life who might benefit from hearing your story?

Excerpted from Storytelling for the Revolution
Art: Asandra Lamb

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:32 PM | Comments (1)

April 28, 2018
I Am Not a Handyman

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Are you a man -- or know a man who is, shall we say, "handyman challenged"? If so, then this newly published Huffington Post article of mine, is for you. Three minutes worth of comic relief. If you like it, please LIKE it and forward the link to your friends. Let's go viral!

90 other HuffPost articles of mine

My day job
Storytelling at Work

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

HIGHER SELF MEDITATIONS

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Higher Self Meditations, as its name implies, offers meditations on your higher Self. Its 52 chapters provide clear understanding of why meditation is more successful when it effortlessly lets the Universe do it for you; explain how to contact your higher Self; give you a sense of the far-reaching benefits of such contact; offer a clear understanding of higher states of consciousness awaiting you; and show how meditation and higher consciousness relate to the creative arts, philosophy, the sciences, and so much more.

Cary Bayer, a Life Coach who has worked with Oscar-winners Alan Arkin and Pietro Scalia, Emmy-winners comic/director David Steinberg and Judy Henderson, and Quality Inns, founded Higher Self Healing Meditation in 2010.

A former teacher of Transcendental Meditation (TM), and a trainer of TM teachers, Cary studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Deepak Chopra, and Ram Dass, and taught meditation to hundreds of people from southern California and the Caribbean to Western Europe and Australia.

Cary's website

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2018
How to Tell a Story

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New York Times on How to Tell a Story. Nice and simple. Three key points. Worth the read. But the real question is this -- regardless of how the New York Times makes its case. When are YOU going to start telling your stories? And I'm not talking about anecdotes, snippets, and drive-by blurting. I'm talking about real stories, from your own life, with a beginning, middle, and end, an obstacle, a resolution, lots of juicy details, and some memorable meaning. You have a ton of these stories inside you. I know you do. Now's the time to let them out of the cage of your memory and share them with the world -- or, if not "the world", then at least a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor.

Storytelling at Work
Storytelling for the Revolution
These two rabbis walk into a bar

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2018
Why Stories Matter

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Here's a super simple way to better understand why stories matter -- 15 brief videos on the topic from the mind and heart of Mitch Ditkoff.

MitchDitkoff.com
Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2018
Why Leaders Should Tell Stories

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Here's why. Insightful article from Forbes Magazine

Storytelling at Work
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling and the Innovation Mindset

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2018
Good Leaders Tell Stories That Help People Trust Them with Power

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Are you a leader trying gain the trust of the people you lead? While there are many ways to approach this bold challenge, one of the simplest and most effective ways is storytelling. Abraham Lincoln was a master of the craft and, indeed, many historians claim this is what enabled him to distinguish himself from others aspiring to be President of the United States at the time. Read about it here. Plus more.

Idea Champions
Mastering storytelling in the workplace
Storytelling for the Revolution

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

April 14, 2018
KURT VONNEGUT SPEAKS: On the Shape of Stories

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The shape of stories in the workplace
Storytelling as a way to spark innovation

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2018
The Fence to Nowhere

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"Good fences make good neighbors," wrote the poet, Robert Frost, 63 years ago -- a now iconic poetic meme that looks at both sides of the human condition from two very different perspectives. Yes, it's true -- fences do make good neighbors. But not always. Sometimes, fences do other things -- like make good catalysts to help people understand the distinctions between selfless service, non-attachment, and idiocy.

The year? 1977. The place? Kissimmee, Florida. The occasion? A week-long, outdoor festival of spiritual seekers wanting to experience love. And I was one of them, having traveled 32 hours from Colorado for the chance to listen, learn, and be of service -- my chance to "give back" in response to the extraordinary gift I had been given six years earlier by the man whom all of us had traveled such long distances to see.

And so, when I arrived, after setting up my tent, I plopped myself down in the "service pool" and waited to be assigned to whatever project that needed to be done that day.

I sat there for an hour, doing my best to meditate, and staying open to the feeling that whatever was coming my way was going to be perfect. Though I was still relatively new to the so-called spiritual path, I understood that selfless service was a big piece of the puzzle. And though I had lots of skills to offer, I knew that, somehow, someway, whatever project I would be assigned to that day was going to be the perfect gig for me.

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A few minutes later, someone with an air of authority, points in my direction, beckons me forward, and explains that I am now part of the fence building crew

"Hmmm... fence building," I think to myself, "not one of my strengths" -- my most successful construction project, up to that time, being a letter holder I made for my mother in 7th grade.

The walk across the festival grounds to meet the fence building coordinator was delightful. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. And I waved at lots of smiling people. When I arrived, the man in charge was all business -- focused, earnest, and glad to see one more able-bodied member of his crew.

To my left, I noticed a pile of fence posts -- a pile, that even I could tell, was not nearly enough to extend across the massive field we were supposed to build a fence across.

While my "coordinator" scurried about, giving each newly arriving volunteer their instructions, I keep staring at the pile of fence posts. True, I was not a carpenter. And true, I had never built a fence across a field in Florida, but only an idiot could possibly believe there were enough fence posts on that pile for us to accomplish the goal.

Ah... my first existential question of the day -- what to do with my profound insight? What do I say? One option I had, of course, was to say nothing -- to simply go with the flow and be a good soldier. Another option was to exit stage right and return to the service pool -- hoping to be assigned to a different project with a better chance of success.

That's when I remembered a single bit of advice I heard my teacher say just a few years before -- that if I ever saw anyone about to step into a hole and said nothing, it was MY fault, not theirs. Bingo! My task was suddenly clear. All I had to do was approach the earnest, young fence-building coordinator and inform him, that based on my calculations, we were all about to step into a very big hole -- that, simply put, there weren't enough fence posts to build a fence across the field. Case closed.

My input, shall we say, was not well-received. With a blank expression on his face, the earnest, young, fence-building coordinator handed me a post-hole digger and gave me my marching orders for the day.

I paused. The moment of truth was now upon me. Do I begin working on a project I knew, from the outset, was doomed? Or do I just let go, trust the process, and see what happens. Besides, I thought to myself, there was always a chance that I didn't have ALL the information I needed to make a wise choice. Maybe a new supply of fence posts was going to be delivered later that day. Or maybe another crew of fence builders, from the opposite side of the field, were going to meet us half way. Or maybe, just maybe, my fence post calculations were seriously flawed.

And so I began.

It felt good to be digging holes in the ground. Good to sweat. Good to let go of the self-talk in my head. But even as I grunted and groaned, in the back of my mind, I knew that our chances of success were highly questionable.

The project went on for three days. From morning to night. In good weather and bad. Six of us dug. Six of us carried. Six of us stuck fence posts in the ground. No new fence posts arrived. No extra crew of fence builders magically appeared to meet us half way. The field did not get any smaller.

On the third day, when we ran out of materials, the six of us -- dirty, sweaty, and exhausted, simply stepped back and stared at the fence. As I predicted, it extended only halfway across the field, a kind of Andy Goldsworthy installation -- a bit of performance art that would have made a Zen master chuckle.

Two hours later, when the festival officially began, I witnessed hundreds of people, approaching from a distance. The fence had absolutely no effect on them. They noticed, of course, that they were approaching what appeared to be a fence, but since it only extended halfway into the field, they simply walked around it. It kept no one out. It kept no one in. It served absolutely no function at all. Except for me, that is -- a function that had something to do with what it really means to serve... what it really means to enjoy the experience of service... and what it really means to let go of all attachment to results.

TimelessToday
MitchDitkoff.com
If you like this one, here's another

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April 05, 2018
The Future of Storytelling Summit

FOST website

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ABOUT THE BLOG

Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

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