The Heart of the Matter
May 31, 2023
Fall Back Into Me

A beautiful new song by Stuart Hoffman. Let it in.

A just-published interview with Stuart on Medium
Stuart's GoFundMe campaign

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:16 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2023
The "D" Word


Most people who accomplish anything extraordinary in their life usually put in a lot of hard work towards that end. They know, from experience, that going beyond the status quo requires effort -- lots of effort.

Entrepreneurs, for example, often work seven days a week. They put in long hours, every day, to follow their dream and build something of value. Writers and artists spend countless hours, in solitude, in service to their muse. Moved to create something meaningful, they put in the work -- knowing, as they do, that the time they invest in themselves is time well-spent.

And the list goes on and on: Single mothers. Teachers. Nurses. Athletes. Long-haul truckers. Inventors. Recovering alcoholics. Monks. Immigrants. Each, in their own way, know that perseverance is required if they are ever going to realize their dreams.

Or, as Albert Einstein once said, "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

Each and every one of us, at some time in our lives, has had a dream -- an inspired aspiration -- something well beyond the status quo that called to us.

Maybe it was a book we wanted to write or a school we wanted to start. Maybe it was a business we wanted to launch or a cause we wanted to support. Maybe it was a pilgrimage we wanted to go on or a difference we wanted to make.


Often, our aspirations seemed to be "against all odds". And, quite likely, other people -- even those closest to us -- doubted our intentions and sanity.

Obstacles, frustrations, and disappointments came with the territory. Patience was needed. Clarity. And holding strong to the vision that moved us to make effort in the first place.

It took Tolkien 16 years to write the "Lord of the Rings". Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years. And countless monks spend countless years meditating in monasteries hoping to experience enlightenment, often with nothing to show for their effort than a sore back and a begging bowl.

Most people with bold dreams bail out along the way. Of every 100 aspiring authors who begin writing a book, only three complete it.

If you ask the average person trying to accomplish something extraordinary what quality they wish they had more of in order to put them over the top, almost always you'll hear the same thing: discipline. Indeed, when push comes to shove, that's what most people think is missing from their lives. The lack of discipline, they will confess, is their Achilles heel.

Logically speaking, this makes sense. The ability to be organized, focused, and persevering is essential to achieving results. No one, in their right mind, would dispute this. Discipline is required. Sustained discipline.

But here's where things get interesting.

When people bemoan the lack of discipline in their lives, their lament is often tinged with a dose of heaviness and dread -- how high school students often feel on a Sunday afternoon when they realize they haven't yet done their geometry homework. They know they have homework to do. They know it's important. But they just can't get up for it.

"You've got to be more disciplined," their parents tell them.

But no matter how hard those teenagers try to get their act together, the same drama plays out the next weekend and the one after that.

Yes, discipline is important. But discipline, per se, is not the really question. The question is: "What is at the root of discipline?" Or, put another way, "How can we access the kind of discipline that truly works for us?"

The dictionary definition of discipline sheds light on why so many of us bridle at the word: "The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience."

Ouch! Oof! Ugh! Who really likes obeying rules? Who looks forward to being bound by codes of behavior? Who enjoys being punished for disobeying?

The root of the word "discipline," curiously, comes from the Latin word for pupil -- "discipulus" -- a word that translates as "someone who wants to learn" -- the same root from where the word "disciple" originated.

Think about it for a minute. People who become disciples are people who are deeply committed to learning something. On fire with purpose, their subsequent actions towards that end are behaviors they commit to in response to what it is they want to learn. Their motivation is intrinsic. It comes from within. Their actions spring from their deep-seated recognition that there are is a specific kind of effort they need to make that will lead to the results they're looking for.

In other words, their discipline is rooted in choice, aspiration, and love -- not guilt, heaviness, and dread. Should is not their driver. Need is. Heartfelt need. They are, quite simply, responding to an inner calling and understand that the effort they need to make is a genuine effort -- one that is supported by the path they are on and the teacher or guide they are learning from.

Social scientists who study human potential have come to the conclusion. that intrinsic motivation, is the ultimate driver of extraordinary performance -- not carrots and sticks.

When a person is moved from the within to experience a particular outcome, their motivation is self-generated, authentic, and sustainable. They are not doing geometry homework. They are following what is calling them. And though, to outside observers, they may seem to be disciplined, their actions are inspired by fascination, will, and trust in the process they have embraced.

How much discipline does it take to eat when you're hungry? How much discipline does it take to look up when you see a rainbow? How much discipline is required to hug someone you love? Not much. And why not? Because you are intrinsically motivated to perform those actions. You are moved from the core of your being. Something inside of you is going for what it loves. Your effort is not forced. There are no shoulds, no guilt or self-recrimination -- just the natural expression of what genuinely moves you.

Is effort required to practice the knowledge that Prem Rawat offers? Yes, most definitely -- a daily effort -- one that requires focus, attention, and sustained commitment. Just like athletes train to master their sport, people who take Prem up on his offer to experience personal peace also need to make their effort. But it is not a heroic effort that's required, or a bang-your-head-against-the-wall kind of effort.

Prem understands the kind of effort it takes for people to plumb the depths of the experience he reveals. And, accordingly, he doesn't just talk about it or teach techniques for accessing it. He sees the big picture. He's in for the long haul. And he knows that he has a vital role to play for those who find value in his assistance -- encouraging, inspiring, and reminding people what it is that moved them, in the first place, to discover their true nature.
PEAK: Prem Rawat's Online Course on How to Discover Personal Peace
Hear Yourself: How to Find Peace in a Noisy World

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2023
My Tray of Hors D'oeuvres Is Empty


I have been a student of Prem Rawat since 1971. For the past 52 years, inspired by the feeling of deep peace and gladness he has awakened in me, I have been attempting, in various unsuccessful ways, to describe who he is.

In the beginning, my descriptions were extremely effusive. Borderline inflated, you might say, and tinged with a hint of the zealot -- not unlike the poetry of one in love for the first time and badly in need of an editor.

Charming? For sure. Engaging? You bet. Attention getting? That, too. But also confusing to anyone sincerely wanting to understand what the big deal was all about.

In time, like wine, I have mellowed, no longer ruled by the need to label, define, and explain. It's a game I choose not to play any more.

What does Prem say when people ask him who he is? "Just a human being -- a mirror that helps people see their true reflection at that moment in time." This has been my experience completely. Allow me to be more specific...

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The year was 1982 and I was living in Los Angeles.

Although I had enjoyed some wonderfully casual moments with Prem throughout the years, most of my contact with him had been at big programs, him on stage, me straining to see from the mezzanine, wondering how to get a better seat. Like most of his students I wanted "special" time with him, away from the crowds.

And so when a friend asked me to be a waiter at a party he was throwing for his neighbors I jumped at the chance. I rented the outfit. I shined my shoes. I showed up early. Nobody but my mother could have guessed I wasn't a waiter by profession.

And then, with a signal from the caterer, my adventure began -- silver tray of hors d'oeuvres in my left hand -- spreading out with the rest of the waiters among the guests, each according to our designated areas.

The first thing I saw was Prem.

Technically speaking, he wasn't in my "area," but since none of the other waiters were approaching him, I decided to fill the void. This was my chance, I reasoned, especially since I hadn't talked to him for three years.

"Hors d'oeuvre?" I asked, extending my tray of goodies in his direction.

He pulled his head back, looked away, and extended his hand in a slow, downward motion as if to say, "Keep that thing away from me!"

I smiled and continued on my way, wondering if his refusal had any kind of cosmic significance. Was it me or the pizza puffs? Was he seeing some deep, ancient flaw in me? Was I hopelessly uncool?

Fortunately, the day was too beautiful to obsess on my thoughts for long and so I kept moving until I located my area in the field behind his house. From where I was now positioned, there were absolutely no sight lines to the party, no chance to see, I thought, the one for whom I was happy to be serving. The only thing interesting to look at was the ocean and the sky.


And so it was: Every 10 minutes or so a few guests would make their way back to my area, surprised to see a waiter, umbrella in one hand (it was raining!), tray in the other, standing in a field so far from the party.

It took about ten guests to empty my tray. After that I would head back to the waiters' shed for refills. This must have happened at least 20 times during the day and each time it did, Prem would somehow enter my field of vision -- standing, talking, eating, walking, and doing all the things a person does at a party. And though I could never predict what he was going to be doing when I saw him, I could predict the feeling I would have.

"Jazzed" is how I would describe it. Pumped. Buzzed. Blissed. I was a curious hybrid of boy seeing Santa and a Grateful Dead groupie with a lifetime back stage pass.

"It's him, I would think to myself again and again. "Him!"

This little scene played itself out many times during the day. But then something curious happened. About the 20th time I saw him, I felt nothing. Zero. Nada. Zilch. An unwelcome sense of normalcy began to take me over. Seeing him was suddenly no big deal. I wasn't awed. I wasn't amazed. Neither was I captivated, astounded, excited, glad, grateful, inspired, delighted, or energized.

I wasn't anything.

My concept of Prem Rawat was being deconstructed before my eyes. My "mental model" wasn't working. Something I had counted on for years -- that seeing him would always be uplifting -- was no longer operational.

Was it him? Was it me? Was it both of us? Neither? Something else?

One conclusion I could have easily drawn was that the man before me was nothing special -- a Wizard of Oz made great only by my own neurotic projections.

Yes, if I wanted proof that he was nothing but my own self-invented hype, now I had it. But having received Knowledge from him 12 years earlier and having experienced the many benefits of his guidance in my life, I could not bail out at such a simplistic conclusion.

Something else was clearly going on.

Looking back at that time, my buzzless series of waitering moments at his party felt like the unceremonial end of my extended honeymoon with him -- that formerly delightful time of spiritual romance in which I had been protected from (or blinded to) the moments in which one's "significant other" does not appear very extraordinary.

In marriages, this either marks the beginning or the end of the painful acceptance of the apparent mundane -- the time when the husband no longer seems heroic and the wife is no longer recognized as goddess.

It was confronting to admit it, but the part of my relationship to Prem that I had fabricated was becoming undone. Without knowing it, I had become a fan and a groupie in addition to being a student.

Like my previous strategy in my personal life of creating short-term love affairs to keep myself feeling studly, I had been orchestrating my relationship with Prem to provide well-timed payoffs. Did it work? Yes, it did. But it went only so far.

I was not alone.

In my experience, lots of his students have set him up this way. Ruled by the very human need to define and categorize, we turned him into many things: a superstar, a hero, an Avatar, an anthropomorphized version of our own private God -- projecting all kinds of images on him, not unlike small children do with their parents or teachers.

Inevitably, this leads to disappointment. Which leads to doubt. Which leads to anger. And it is this anger, born from the gap between who he is and who we imagine him to be, that is often the reason why some students of Prem Rawat eventually reject him.

"He is not who I thought he was," they claim. And of course it is true, because, in many ways, it is impossible to know the very hard to categorize Mr. Rawat (or anyone else for that matter) through the medium of thought.

More relationships are ruined, I believe, by expectations than by anything else.

Husbands do it to their wives. Wives do it to their husbands. Parents do it to their kids. The Master/Student relationship is no exception. Somehow we get it into our heads that a Master has to be a certain way.

Casting directors in our own "B" movie, we patch together our favorite stereotypes and create a picture of how the Master should be and then proceed to compare everything he does to that picture.

Of course, we're going to be disappointed. How could it be any other way?

The alternative? Live and let live. Be who you are and let Prem be who he is. Give up the addiction to having everyone and everything fit the Procrustean bed of your own spiritualized imagination.

Allow the simplicity of love to be the fulcrum around which your life revolves. Appreciate each and every breath. Be grateful. Live and let live. Savor the opportunity to be alive and enjoy all the many blessings in your life. Take off the rose-colored glasses and those rose-colored explanations. You don't need them anymore.
Prem Photo: Courtesy of TimelessToday

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:15 PM | Comments (4)

May 11, 2023

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.

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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)

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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