The Heart of the Matter
March 30, 2024
The Glass of Water


I first heard the following story many years ago from Prem Rawat. I loved it then and I love it now, as it brings me back to a simple place of appreciation for life

What follows is my retelling of this tale. If I have messed it up in any way, please forgive me. It won't be the first time. If you enjoy it and would like to know more about my teacher and his message, click here or here or here. If you don't feel like clicking, no problem -- just savor whatever this story evokes in you.

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a young disciple of a great Master who found himself wrestling with a very difficult question -- one that would not go away no matter how much he contemplated it. Though he had asked all the senior monks in the monastery that had been his home for the past 20 years, no one had an answer that rang true to him. And so, one fine Spring day, gathering up all of his courage, he decided to approach the Master himself.


"Oh Illustrious One," the monk began, "for years I have been listening to your discourses. Time and again, you have referred to something called 'maya' -- the great illusion we are supposedly all bound by, but still I do not understand. Please, sir, can you explain to me what is this maya of which you speak?"

"Oh, my son," the Master replied, "yours is an excellent question. Most penetrating. And timely, too. Yes, I will be happy to provide an answer. But before I do, I have one request. Please bring me a glass of water. I am so very thirsty."

The young monk smiled, nodded his head and, with a simple bow, exited the room to begin his sacred mission.

His first instinct was an obvious one -- to walk to the well in the center of the monastery courtyard and draw the water. Upon reflection, however, he soon realized there was another, better source of water, just a little further up the road from the legendary well of a neighboring village.

"If I am going to get water for my Master," the young monk reasoned, "it has got to be the best."

And so, with a one-pointedness of focus he had never felt as deeply before, he was on his way.


The neighboring village, known not only for the purity of its water, but also for its breathtaking views, was not far away at all, but the road to it, washed out by a recent storm, was difficult to traverse and so the journey took just a little bit longer than expected. Fortunately, when the monk arrived, just a few minutes before sundown, there were only three people on line at the well and soon he would be on his way.

Thankful for his good fortune, he closed his eyes and turned his attention within, hearing only the sound of his breath -- one after the other -- and then, from who knows where, the sound of feint sobbing.

Surprised, he opened his eyes and noticed that the young woman standing in line before him was crying.

"Dear lady," the monk offered, leaning closer, "what seems to be the problem?"

"It is my father," she replied. "He is so very ill and nothing I do seems to help. I am besides myself with grief."

The monk nodded. "Yes, I understand. The body ages and declines. It is always sad to see our loved ones suffering, especially those who have brought us into the world."

For a moment, the two of them just stood there in silence, both at a loss for what to say. Then the woman spoke.

"Kind sir," she began, "I see, by your robes, that you are a monk. Is it true, as I've heard, that those of your order are masters of the healing arts?"

"Yes, it is true," dear woman. "From a very early age, we are taught many things -- how to chant, how to pray, how to meditate, read the stars, and heal with herbs and balms -- both of which I carry wherever I go."

The eyes of the young woman opened wider as she stepped forward and touched the monk lightly on the arm. "If it is agreeable to you, kind sir, would you, after drawing your water, accompany me ever so briefly to my father's house? Perhaps your healing touch is what he needs to stay alive."

Having been taught, for years, the power of service and compassion, the young monk's path was clear. "Of course!" he replied. "How could I refuse such a heartfelt request? Please, dear lady, lead the way."


It was only a short walk to her father's house, a small, well-kept cottage on the outskirts of town. One look at the old man was all it took for the monk to see the seriousness of the situation. Clearly, the man was at death's door and, unless the monk began immediately tending to his needs, it was obvious to him that the young woman would be fatherless by morning.

And so, all night, the monk sat by the old man's bedside, administering herbs and teas and balms, rubbing his feet, chanting sacred mantras and, all the while, abiding in a state of deep meditation.

At daybreak, when the young woman woke, she was amazed to see her father smiling, talking with the monk, the color of life having returned to his face. Bowing deeply, she embraced her father, stroked his hair, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"Praise God!" she cried. "And praise you, oh holy monk!"

"Thank you, dear woman. I appreciate your kind words, but it is not me that heals. It is the power of life and your father's will to live. But please know this: Your father is not yet healed. Last night was just a beginning. By my calculations, he will need at least three more days of care before he is back on his feet."

Three days. That was the monk's prediction. Not a long time to return from death's door. But on the fourth day, much to the monk's surprise, the father took a turn for the worse and died.

The old man's daughter, of course, was filled with grief. But grief was only part of what consumed her. She was also filled with fear. You see, with her father gone, there would be no one to run his shop of fine textiles in the center of town -- and with no one to run his shop, there would be no money to buy food and firewood, and with no food and firewood, the young woman would not only starve to death, but freeze, with winter fast approaching.

"Oh monk sent to us from God," she exclaimed on the fourth day after her father's passing, "I know what I am about to say is a lot to ask, but would you be willing to mind my father's shop for the next few days so I can get my house in order? The task is really quite a simple one. All you need to do is greet the people who enter the shop, help them find what they want, and sell it to them at a mutually agreeable price. In the meantime, I will fix you a bed in the barn so you will have a comfortable place to rest and meditate upon your return each night."

"I accept your kind invitation, dear woman. Remember, I have been trained to serve ever since I was a small boy. It's off to work I go. May God be with you on this glorious day."

One day turned to two. Two turned to four. And four turned to eight. Not only did the business grow with the young monk's loving care, so did his feelings for the woman. In time, his appreciation turned to fondness, his fondness turned to joy, and his joy turned to love. A year later they married and a few years after that they found themselves the proud parents of two beautiful children -- a boy and a girl -- both of whom the town elders claimed to be incarnations of great spiritual beings.

The young monk, now merchant and father, could not remember a time in his life when he had ever been as happy or as blessed.

Five years passed. Then another ten. In the 16th year of his adventure into love, 80 miles from his home on yet another buying mission in the extraordinary southern region, a sudden summer storm came upon the land. Not just any storm, but a storm whose ferociousness had never been seen before. It rained for days and days and days.

At first, the merchant simply buttoned up his coat, opened an umbrella, and trudged on, committed as he was to bringing home the finest of the region's textiles to his ever-growing store, especially since he had already taken advance orders from some of the town's most influential citizens. But no matter how steadfast he continued to be, the river continued to rise. And as it did, the keen-eyed merchant noticed three large bags of rice floating by him, bags marked with the insignia of his well-respected enterprise.

"This is not good," he said to himself. "Not good at all. It seems as if one of my silos must have been breached by the river. It's time to turn for home."

The rain kept coming. The river kept rising. And as it did, he noticed it carried more than bags of rice downstream. It also carried cows, three of which he recognized as his own.

"Not good, not good at all," he exclaimed again, digging his heels deeper into the side of his trusty steed and quickening his pace once again.

And then, yet another mile closer to home, he saw a sight he couldn't have imagined in a thousand years. There in the river, face up and unmoving, floated his young daughter and son.

"Oh my God," he wailed. "How can this be? My two precious children, gone. GONE!"

The man had never felt this kind of grief before, never such loss -- the only motivation he needed to gallop as fast as he could and return to the love of his life, the one who would be waiting for him, arms open, at home -- his sweet and precious wife.

Yes, he saw her, but far sooner than expected. There, not more than a few yards from where he now stood, he saw her, too, floating down the river, face up, unmoving, body bloated from a watery death.

Devastated beyond belief, he did what any man in his situation would do and threw himself headlong into the raging river. Simply put, he saw no reason to live anymore. Nor did he see, upon throwing himself into the water, a large piece of timber floating by. The impact of his head hitting this unseen piece of wood was strong enough to knock him out, the large piece of timber now a kind of makeshift raft carrying him downstream.

How long he floated no one knows for sure. Nor does anyone know where that miraculous piece of wood came to rest on the far river bank. But come to rest it did. Was he dead or alive? He could not tell. Shivering and stunned, all he could see when he opened his eyes was wet sand everywhere and what appeared to be a pair of feet. Rubbing his eyes, he continued staring at the feet now strangely familiar to him. Raising his head ever so slightly, he saw ankles, then the hem of a robe, and then, looking up all the way, the radiant face of a man looking down at him and smiling.

"Do you have my glass of water?" the Master said. "My son, many years ago you asked me to help you understand the meaning of maya. This... has been just one second of it. Welcome home."

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:36 AM | Comments (3)

November 04, 2023
The Miraculous Border Crossing


What follows is a chapter of a memoir-in-process by Joan Apter about her four-year overland-to-India adventure: 1967 to 1971 -- one that led her to the home of Prem Rawat (known as "Maharaji" at that time) when he was only 12 years old.

It was late in 1969. I was 21-years old and my bus from Pakistan to India was approaching the border.

I had left America in 1967 without a plan, feeling that it was time for me to bail from the chaos and darkness of the Vietnam war, the violent race riots and the assassination of my generation's heroes. Many of my friends were already fleeing to Canada.

Simply put, I was looking for a place to settle that made more sense, having already "turned on, tuned in and dropped out," quitting college after my second year.


So, with the little bit of money I had earned at my summer job, I said goodbye to my family, promised to be back soon, and boarded my Air Icelandic flight to Luxembourg. Thus began what was to become my four-year sojourn overland to India.

And now, sitting in the back of a colorful Pakistani bus, I was approaching India, having no idea about the protocols for border crossing and all of its ramifications.

I traveled light in those days, one bag over my shoulder that contained a single change of clothes -- a Pakistani-style shalwar/kameez (baggy pants and a long tunic). I also carried a small flute, the oratorio of Handel's "Messiah", a vintage, beautifully illustrated book of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, and a few other items I cannot remember.

All of the items I carried with me were bookmarks to experiences more of a spiritual nature than anything practical. And of course, I also had my chillum pipe and hashish, me being a self-identified member of the "seeker" class in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, where the chillim ceremony of passing the pipe in circle was a part of my life.

Magnetized by the mountains of Pakistan, I had been living in Chitral for about three months, a beautiful valley in the Hindukush range. Before Chitral, I had lived in the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan, surrounded by the Hindu Kush.

Although I was traveling alone, I wasn't lonely and always seemed to be adopted by the warm, hospitable locals. Many of them had never seen a white woman before, so I was an oddity to get to know and understand. I remember following the daily schedule of the women of the house, but joining the men's circle at night to smoke and tell stories.

It was a wonderful and simple life, surrounded by astounding beauty and grandeur, but I couldn't ignore the feeling that kept returning to me to keep on moving. I was beginning to understand that what I was looking for was not a particular place or culture -- that, indeed, there was no such thing as "the perfect place."

When the bus I was on got to the Indian border, the border patrol asked all of us to disembark so they could search our bags. Having my priorities in order, I had my pipe and stash on the top of my few possessions, so it was not hard to find.

"You will be going to jail!" the border guard announced, motioning me to enter a back office.

Once there, I sat in front of the guard as he searched my bag, explaining, as he did, that it was illegal to bring hashish into India and I would have to face the consequences.

Without much thought and trusting the moment, I began making an impassioned speech.

"The chillum is a part of my religion," I explained. "I believe in the unity of all people. When we sit in a circle and pass the chillum, all duality drops away, and we become one world."

Being in India, a culture of deep spiritual roots, this kind of talk had resonance. The border guard listened intently and took it all in as he sifted through my meager possessions.

"What is this?" he asked, holding my book of Handel's "Messiah" in his hands.

Again, I let it rip -- waxing on about the deep devotional feeling I got from this channeled piece of music since the first time I heard it in college.

Smiling, the guard then asked about my vintage Hans Christian Andersen book. As he did, I walked behind his desk and started leafing through the beautiful illustrations, describing the tales written by this famous Danish children's author. I was oozing inspiration.

When I took my seat again, there was a long pause as he continued looking at the book.

"I would love to give this book to you if you would like it," I said.

The guard's eyes sparkled.

"Would you sign it for me?" he replied. "Next time you go through a border crossing, put your chillum on the bottom of your bag!"

To be continued...

If you want to be alerted when Joan's book is published, let her know via email:


shiny fancy joan-1.jpeg

Joan Apter is an adventurer of the heart with many stories to tell. Now 74 and living in Woodstock, NY (nestled in the mountains), she still believes that love conquers all and that our greatest achievement is to experience and share the adventure of the heart. The memoir Joan is writing is still untitled, though she is leaning towards "The Miracle of Thirst."

Photo of Sadhu: Ira Meyer

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2023
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)

June 17, 2023
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)

March 03, 2023
What People Find Compelling About Prem Rawat's Storytelling


Prem Rawat is considered by many to be master storyteller. Indeed, his most recent book, Hear Yourself: How to Find Peace in a Noisy World, is filled with some of his favorite and most entertaining stories. Below are a selection of comments from various people who are big fans of Prem's storytelling with a focus on WHY they find his storytelling so compelling.

"His stories have the power of transforming something that is so complex to a very simple message that can be understood easily." - Uma JL

"I love how his stories take us back to the simplicity of life, with wisdom and kindness at the root." - Joanne Dorrance

"The stories renew my sense of childlike wonder. They are often playful with an invitation to laugh at life and our humanness. They are kind and provoke thought. Even though some are ancient. they remain relevant today." - Sigrid EA

"I think he has the best sense of humor. He has a way of communicating that helps me feel free." - Elise Lee

"His story telling addresses the innocence of childhood in us. The story always contains a truth that is universal and even a child can understand. His storytelling is not a showcase of his cleverness. It is the express lane, conduit to the heart." - Alla Rogers

"Stories from Prem are lovely expressions of wisdom for my heart's delight." - Allen Feld

"What do I like about Prem and his storytelling? It is an art, and for Prem, it is art straight from clarity, with a sprinkling of wisdom, and a side dish of kindness. Beautiful stories which somehow engage everyone in the audience. Engaging. Amazing." - Heather Joy Westley

"My experience with Prem's storytelling is that he is telling it from his heart to mine. If someone else told me the same story it just doesn't resonate the same. I guess it is the love between the master and the student why his stories make such a profound shift." - Lalita Mohini

"Prem's storytelling goes straight to my heart. My heart says a very big YES." - Patricia Ade

"His stories take me back to myself. They are an amazing way to communicate his messsage." - Nim Lal Bhandari

"I like his cleverness and wisdom -- like in the story about a place where everything costs three cents. Teachers/Masters, like Prem, are known for their clever, insightful wisdom." - Janice Wilson

"The stories he tells are educational and entertaining. I always feel like I'm enjoying and learning at the same time, not being lectured or preached to." - Josephine Robinson

"I find it compelling when he quotes Kabir or the Gita or Ramayana -- making his points through ancient texts or something he thought about last night. He is the best storyteller, explaining in the deepest and most simple ways at the same time. A very divine experience." - Bob Ellmer

"I think it is his timing and that wonderful grin of his. The way he approaches 'I'm going to tell you a story,' there is something in the way he says that, that just makes you want to hear it." - Jane Mirano

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2023
A Social Media Experiment


During the past two months I have been conducting an experiment on social media and it has been going quite well.

I've decided to curate the best of my writing and publish it on Medium -- an online platform that attracts over 100 million views each month.

Medium is a place where lots of people go to source new content on all kinds of topics and it is a very good way for writers to grow their audience.

What follows are the ten most popular Medium posts of mine. If you like what you read, feel free to forward it to your friends and/or post on social media.

What a Good Educator Does
When an Email at 2:00 a.m Changes Everything
The Real Marriage
The Beginning of the Book My Daughter, Mimi, Asked Me to Write
Back to the Garden
Introducing Eva Snyder
What Have You Accomplished?
Last Night I Googled Longing
What I Learned in a Closet from my 3-Year Old Son
On Being Visited By an Angel

You do not need to be a member of Medium to read the above stories.

If you want to receive weekly emails from me which will include a selection of the most recent Medium posts of mine, send me an email with the words "Keep Me Posted" in the subject line.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2023
The Orange


Every spiritual tradition in the world has its own collection of rites and rituals that make up the warp and woof if it's particular path.

These rites and rituals, the origins of which are not always understood, give its practitioners something to do -- something not just think about or meditate on, but a physical activity they can focus on to help them remember the metaphysical connection to the essence of their path.

I get it. I do. Rituals work. Or as my rabbi liked to say, "If you want to learn to dance, sometimes you need to start with the box step."

My kids, for example, cannot celebrate Christmas without leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, even though its been years since they realized that the fat guy in the red suit didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of making it down our chimney.

While I have never been a big fan of rites and rituals, I definitely have experienced their benefit, the most memorable one happening for me in 1974. That was the year I lived in a spiritual commune, on a 600 acre farm, 12 miles outside of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Three times a week, the six of us would sit, cross-legged, in our living room and, as a part of a spiritual practice given us by the same wonderful person, share from the heart.

Mitch long hair.jpg

It was at one of these gatherings that I first heard the news about an ashram that would soon be moving to our little town. An ashram! A center of spiritual life! A divine abode of God-seeking souls -- students of the same teacher I had -- who had dedicated their lives to the realization of the highest truth.

I couldn't believe my good fortune. Now, I would have a place to go and serve whenever I wanted to dive deeper into the depths of the spiritual path I was on. Cool.

Back then, as I understood it, the prevailing ritual of welcoming a new ashram was to bring a gift -- usually a flower or a piece of fruit -- and place it on the altar. And so, on the day the ashram was going to open its doors, I made a pilgrimage to my favorite grocery store in search of the perfect piece of fruit.

The cantaloupes looked great, but seemed a bit too big to place upon an altar. The apples also looked great. They were red, unblemished, and shiny. Too shiny, I thought -- almost as if they had been polished in some back room to make them stand out. Uh uh. No way did I want my offering to stand out. I wanted my offering to fit in with the other flowers and fruit. Hey, this wasn't about me and my offering. This was about selfless giving, right? That's when I noticed the oranges -- perfectly round, unpolished, and delicately textured pieces of fruit. Yes! Oranges!

Choosing the roundest and most orangey orange I could find, I blissfully made my way through the 5 Items or Less check-out lane, carefully positioned my orange on the passenger seat of my 1966 Volkswagen, and began driving to the ashram -- a destination that was going to be the radiant sun around which the Pluto of my longing was going to revolve.

Driving more slowly than usual to ensure my orange didn't roll onto the floor, I closed my eyes and meditated at every traffic light and stop sign along the way. Beauty was everywhere around me. The dogwood trees were blooming. The robins were singing. And the sweetest of fragrances filled the air.

And then, as if choreographed by the hand of an all knowing God, the perfect parking space opened up right in front of the ashram. Whoa! If this wasn't heaven, it was pretty damn close. How fortunate I felt! How graced! I closed my eyes and meditated some more.

Five minutes passed. Then another five. If there was one thing I was sure of it was this: my front seat meditation was not going to be of the token "minute of silence" variety. Nope. No way. My meditation was going to be the real deal -- as real as the feeling that brought me here in the first place.

Lovingly lifting my orange in the air, inspecting it for dust and dirt, I made my way out of the car, ascended a few steps, and found myself standing on the front porch. Pausing briefly, I lifted my hand and rang the bell. What a sweet sound it was -- a chime for all times. And then... as the sound slowly faded away... I enjoyed an even sweeter silence. A few seconds passed. Then the door opened. Standing there was a hairy, pot-bellied man in a stained undershirt. He had a bottle of beer in his left hand.

"Yeah?" he said. "Whaddya want?"

" is this the ashram?" I asked.

"Hell no," he barked. "Those freaks don't move in until tomorrow." Then he slammed the door in my face.

I just stood there, unmoving, nowhere to place my offering, a perfectly round orange in my right hand.

The above story is not included in my most recently published book.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:59 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2022
Lost and Found


This just in from Irene Woodhead in the UK -- a beautiful story of a life-changing moment in her life from 1979.

We had just sold our house in Cornwall (UK) so were flush with money, unlike the previous year when we stripped the house bare of saleable items to raise enough cash for two return flights to Florida to see Prem Rawat.

This year, we took our six-year old eldest son to Kissimmee with vague plans of visiting Disney World.

Once there, we happily joined the food tent line, as I reached into my pocket to bring out the wad of cash. Then my world crumbled. No money at all! Zilch. Vanished. Disappeared Nicked?

Devastated, we joined the other line for food -- the one for people with no money -- and continued to do so for the rest of the event.

I became aware, pretty instantaneously, that my biggest problem was not the lack of money. It was how to stop my mind from screaming "DO SOMETHING! FIX THIS!"

I considered going to the Lost and Found tent, but such was my faith in the people attending the event that my cynical mind decided if anyone found my wad of cash they would think it was an act of Grace. I could see them all dancing and whooping for joy!

Next plan of mine was to file a police report, so I could claim the loss on my travel insurance, but my vision of the police roaming the site, interviewing site managers to investigate my claim, filled me with fear and horror.

More than all of this, my primary concern was how to enjoy the event after traveling thousands of miles to be there and how not waste the precious opportunity I had to be with Prem.

The solution was simple: Shut up and go deep inside to the extent that not even a single thought in my mind could escape.

Days went by deep inside. I didn't dare indulge a single squeak of thought -- there was lots of prayer -- even in sleep, waking up and diving, once again, inside.

And it was amazing because it wasn't long before help came in the form of a beautiful feeling deep inside my breath, so sublimely, exquisitely adorable that I didn't want to lose it for anything in the world, certainly not for a mere thought, NOT EVEN FOR THE DISTRACTION OFPREM HIMSELF.

"Please, please let me stay in this beauty," I kept saying to myself.

So there I was in the reception line, waiting to see Prem -- positioned behind a big guy in a yellow t-shirt and doing my best to stay with the beautiful feeling inside me.

When I peeped out from behind the guy in the yellow t-shirt, Prem was looking straight at me. I ducked and closed my eyes, determined not to allow ANY distraction.

A few more steps and then another peep.

"Oh no!"

There was Prem looking straight at me again.

"No distraction, no distraction. This is too beautiful to leave. "HELP!'" I said to myself.

And on it went, Prem looking at me every time I peeped, and me ducking out of sight behind the guy in the yellow t-shirt, holding onto the sweet feeling within me for dear life -- a case of "I know that he knows that I know that he knows” going on ad infinitum.

By the time the line moved and I found myself standing in front of Prem, it all seemed so hilariously funny, I almost laughed out loud.

Anyway, the last day of the event came and we made our way to the front gates. So many people didn't have any money to get back home and were begging for change. I saw a long tent off to the side with a sign saying "Lost Property" and I found myself wandering over. Once there, the guy behind the counter asked me to remember the number of $100s, $50s that I had lost.

I told him.

"Here you are," he said, smiling. "Someone turned your lost money in on the first day of the event."

At that precise moment, a shout from outside the tent got our attention. Everyone was looking up and waving. There was Prem in a hot air balloon slowly sailing over the gates.

Lots of tears and laughter followed.

In the hours that followed, we became very aware of people asking us if we had any money to spare so they could get home. Before we got through the gates, most of our recently-recovered money was gone! But I took home, with me, everything I could ever want -- in every breath the treasure waiting to be felt.

3 kid nuance.jpg

-- Irene Woodhead

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2022


Here is a 4:20 excerpt from my forthcoming audiobook about a life-changing encounter I had with Prem Rawat a few years ago. I learned a lot from him (and myself) in that brief exchange -- something deep, timeless, and very familiar. One of the things I love about my connection with Prem is the way in which being around him amplifies my access to a greater sense of knowing and being.

His new book: Hear Yourself
My audio story excerpted from Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2021

NO time.jpg

When asked to explain his highly abstract Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein made it comprehensible in just two sentences. "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute," he said, "and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute."

I can relate. And though I like to think of myself as someone who understands Einstein's perspective, I realized, 14 years ago, that I haven't got a clue.

The year was 2005 and I was in India where I was living for three weeks at the ashram of my long-time teacher and favorite-person-in-the-whole-world, Prem Rawat. My mission? To learn how to coach people from North America who were in the process of being trained to facilitate Prem's Knowledge sessions.

Two weeks into the project, one of the program coordinators mentioned, during one of our evening debriefs, that Prem was less-than-pleased by the quality of teamwork being demonstrated by his various teams around the world -- a comment that immediately got my attention, as I had, within the past few months, created a deck of cards to help teams become as high functioning as possible.


"What perfect timing!" I thought to myself. "Prem wants to upgrade the quality of teamwork among his volunteers and I just happen to be 95% done with a deck of cards devoted to that very topic."

Badaboom. Badabing.

Later that night, back in my room, still bubbling with excitement, I wrote Prem a letter informing him of the existence of my card deck and suggesting that the two of us collaborate on its completion.

It felt good to write the letter, free as I was, in that moment, of the cloud of doubt that usually surfaced any time I thought of pitching him an idea. You know, the classic kind of mind static that long ago claimed squatter's rights in my head -- junk like "He's probably way too busy to read my letter" or "Who am I to pitch him such a half-baked idea?"

Free of this crapola, I signed the letter, put it in an envelope and, the next day, tracked down someone who promised they would put the letter on his desk within the next few hours. Whoo hoo!

Ten days later, back home in Woodstock, my time in India having ended, I overnighted Prem my deck of cards.

According to my new, improved, I've-just-returned-from-India-and-am-clearer-now-than-ever calculations, I figured I'd get a reply from him in a month or so. Two, at the most. After all, I reasoned, my letter, clearly written and succinct, was in direct response to a very real need he had expressed and I, having ALREADY created the deck, just happened to be at the right place at the right time. These things happen. They do. There was no denying that. Magic was afoot. I could feel it in my bones.

Eighteen months passed. That's 540 days -- about the time it takes for an elephant to give birth.

I got no response. Not a peep -- an outcome, I figured, that wasn't all that surprising, given Prem's insane travel schedule, non-stop events, and who knows how many other thousands of letters he'd received from people during that time, some of whom were probably dying or had much better ideas to pitch him than I did.

Oh well... this wasn't the first time I'd written to him and gotten no response. And it probably wasn't going to be the last. As they say in the old country, "obla di, bla da."

So there I am, in LA, after MC'ing one of Prem's events, when out of the corner of my eye, I see one of his main assistants approaching me at high velocity from across the room and beckoning me with one finger, as if to say, "Drop everything and follow me now!"

Falling into step behind him, the two of us weaved our way through several security checkpoints until we found ourselves parting a curtain and approaching Prem who was standing backstage, surrounded by four very smiling people.

It was totally still where he was standing. Absolutely quiet. The unblinking eye of a storm.

"Hi Mitch," he says, sharing a few pleasantries with me. "I got your letter."

I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about. None.

"Letter," I think to myself. "Letter? What letter? Did I write a letter?"

Prem just keeps looking at me. I know it's my move, but I have no moves, just the beginning of a vague remembrance of a letter I wrote some time ago, I think, in India, but could not, for the life of me, remember what it was about. So... I... er... uh... um... just made something up on the spot and blurted it out.

"NO!" he said. "Not that. TEAMWORK!"

Now, here is where things took quite a turn for me. Not a left turn. Not a right turn. And not a U-Turn. None of those. I'm talking about the kind of turn leaves make when the seasons change. Primal stuff.

Eighteen months had passed from the moment I had mailed him my letter. He remembered. I did not. But as he spoke, it felt as if no time had passed. Somehow, we had entered the timeless realm.

It's at moments like this where the perspective of Indian cosmology comes in handy.

As I understand it, in the Indian tradition, the in-breath and out-breath God, known as "yugas," are each 20,000 years long. Let's see... that's 20,000 years for God to take a complete in-breath... and another 20,000 years for God to exhale.

Me? My life is marked by a very different kind of cycles. Like "tomorrow," for example, and "next Thursday" or if I'm really feeling long-term, "a year from now."

Eighteen months? Not only isn't it a drop in the bucket, it's not even a molecule in the drop.

Looking back, I guess you could say that my letter-writing-to-Prem experience represents only 14 years of the 20,000 required for God to take an in-breath which, I guess, leaves me just 19,986 years short of a complete inhalation.

Maybe by that time my deck of cards will be complete.

PS: All of us, these days, are waiting for thie Coronavirus thing to be over, right? We want our lives back. We want to hug people. We want to sip cappuccino at our favorite cafe. All... in... good.... time, my friends. It... will... happen... eventually. But, clearly, not on OUR timeline. Breathe. One breath in. One breath out.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)

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 06, 2020
The Insecurity of Security

M hands up2.jpg

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.

Meltdown man4.jpg

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)

April 21, 2020
LOCKDOWN TALK #30: The Drunk King on the Drunk Elephant

Prem on stage.jpg

Here is the 30th in a series of talks by Prem Rawat in response to these challenging times of the Coronavirus. This one features a story Prem hadn't told in quite a while -- the one about a drunk King riding a drunk elephant and the predicament he ended up in. A great metaphor for what's going on in the world today. Stay conscious!

The entire series of LOCKDOWN talks
Photo: Courtesy of TimelessToday

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

April 18, 2020
My Sister, Prem Rawat, and Me


I first heard about Prem Rawat when I was 23 and he was 13. At that time, he was known as "Maharaji" and I was known as "Ditty." Though he was barely a teen, I found him to be extraordinarily wise, well beyond his years. Actually, I found him to be way more than wise, because he wasn't just talking about the eternal verities of life, he was sparking a palpable experience of peace, love, and joy.

And so, at 24, I decided to follow up on his offer and "receive Knowledge" -- his phrase for a kind of inner awakening. It was, for me, the most extraordinary day of my life.

Newly supercharged and supremely confident I had just discovered the secret of life, I soon called my sister and explained why it would be a good idea for her to do the same. It went over like a lead balloon. Make that two lead balloons. Though both of us had grown up in the same house, our bedrooms next to each other, we were now, it seemed, living on different planets -- her perception of me alternating between well-meaning flake, unemployed hippie, and baby boomer going through yet another phase.

Fifteen years passed.

She had three children. I had none. She lived in the suburbs. I lived in the woods. She watched TV. I watched the moon. Finding it painful for my grand declarations about the path I was on to fall on deaf ears, I stopped talking about Prem Rawat in my sister's company. But then, in 1988, upon hearing that he was going to be speaking at Lincoln Center, just 20 miles from her home -- I couldn't resist and invited her to come.

"What the hell?" I thought to myself. "The worst thing that can happen is she says NO." But she didn't. She said YES and agreed to meet me in the lobby of Avery Fisher Hall on the appointed day.

I was thrilled.

Settling into our seats as the hall filled up, my sister and I held hands, agreeing, once again, just how crazy our parents were. And then... the lights dimmed... Prem walked out on stage... sat down... adjusted his mic... and began.

Though I'd heard him speak at least 100 times before, he seemed to be in rare form that night, starting with a joke or two, a light-hearted story, and some funny remarks about New York. The audience loved it. And so did my sister. So much so, in fact, that two minutes into his talk she turned to me and spoke eight words I will never forget, "You never told me how funny he was."

This was my sister's first real introduction to Prem Rawat, everything I had mentioned before that moment merely a weird preamble. THIS was her initiation, laughing her tushie off in the third row of Avery Fisher Hall. Somehow, the man she once assumed she couldn't relate to was getting her to laugh. And laugh she did -- out and out belly laughs, tears coming to her eyes. I just sat there, stunned, amazed at how, in just a few minutes, the man she once was certain was only for her wacky, younger brother had sparked such a delightful opening in her.

Over the next 20 years, Phyllis accompanied me to another five Prem Rawat events. After the fifth, she asked me if there were any videos of him that she could watch. I sent her the links. She googled and followed suit, telling me, now and again, how much she was enjoying what he had to say. A year later, she asked if there was any way that she could receive Knowledge. I sent her the info and six months later she did. In her own home.

When she passed away a few years later, I had a chance to sit by her bedside just before the end, for eight long days, a small picture of Prem Rawat on her bedside table. I rubbed her feet. We talked. We cried. We laughed. She was ready when it was time to go.
Prem's new series of Lockdown talks

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:50 PM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2020
A Dream about Storytelling


I had a wonderful dream last night. I was in my hometown (wherever that was) and felt a need to go to the local library. When I walked in, I noticed that Prem Rawat was sitting at a low table with four children and reading them a story. I was very excited to see him, but didn't want to disturb the moment and call attention to myself, so I sat down at a nearby table, doing my best to be casual and not stare in his direction. Prem immediately looked up from his book, smiled, and waved to me. I smiled and waved back, feeling very, very happy, as he continued reading. Then, the four kids he was reading to stood up and started dancing. I stood up, too, joined them, and started dancing as well -- all of us together. Not wanting to tower over the kids, I bent my knees so I would be the same height as the childen, thinking, "I'm really just a big kid."

Then Prem stood up, walked over to me and began showing me the story, page by page. The writing, I could see, was in Italian and I realized it was a children's book he had written six months ago -- one I had never read. I mentioned that to Prem and he just smiled, continuing to turn the pages. Then it was time to go. So I left.

One reason why storytelling matters to children
A six-year old loves outer space
Helping children understand the moral of a story
PHOTO: Courtesy of TimelessToday

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2020
A Call for Silver Lining Stories

You have a story8.jpg

Mother Teresa once said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

Towards that end, I am inviting you and anyone else reading this post, to send me ONE "silver lining story" you've heard (or been a part of) that relates to the coronavirus outbreak. And by "silver lining story," I'm referring to examples of the unsung spread of kindness, love, neighborliness, selflessness, giving, care, goodness, tenderness, compassion, hope, heroism, and beyond-the-call-of-duty benevolence that is also happening in the world during these difficult times.


Maybe it's something you witnessed in your town, village, or community. Maybe it's something you read on the internet... or heard about... or saw on television. Maybe it's a project you are a part of or a "good deed" that blew your mind. You decide.

What I'm attempting to do on this blog is feature these kind of stories at a time when we need to balance the bad news with the good.

I'm not suggesting that you ignore the stark coronavirus updates we need to pay attention to or candy coat reality. All I'm suggesting is that we call more attention to inspiring examples of the what's possible when people go beyond fear, reach out, and express the very best of what it means to be a human being -- truth in action.

And one of the simplest ways to do this is via storytelling.

Not fiction. Fact. Real, living, breathing examples of how human beings are rising to the occasion.

If you decide to submit a story, please keep it to 500 words or less and include 1-3 photos or images. Please only send images for which you own the copyright. I am not guaranteeing that I will publish all the stories I receive. But I will do my best to read them and choose some to feature on this blog. NOTE: By submitting your story, you are granting me the right to edit it, as needed, for publication. Wash your hands!







What story will you tell today?

What kind of stories people want to tell
Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:57 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2020
The Birthday Gift


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

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

But it didn't.

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

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

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

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

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

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

swan coffee.JPG

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

Time stopped. And space, too.

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

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

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

First photo: Ibrahim Rifath, Unsplash

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

July 19, 2019
One Person at a Time


My teacher, Prem Rawat, is a marvelous storyteller. From what I can gather, he tells three kinds of stories: 1) Jokes, which are the shortest kind of story there is; 2) Classic teaching tales that have been told for centuries and; 3) His own, personal accounts of meaningful moments in his life. All three of these story genres pack a wallop. All three, delivered at the right time in the right way, have the potential to uplift, awaken, and inspire.

The following story, which I heard Prem tell years ago, has stayed with me from the moment I heard it. I continue to drink from its fountain, refreshed every time I do. It's a story about his father, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, a great Teacher of his time in India, and a few of his students. PS: Today is the anniversary of his passing in 1966.

In the 1960's, a small group of Shri Hans' students, thrilled at the prospect that he was going to be visiting their village in a few months, made an extraordinary effort to get the word out. They handed out flyers, nailed posters to trees, organized introductory events, and did whatever else it took to alert as many people as possible. These were exciting times for these young devotees, moved as they were by the all-too-rare opportunity to pave the way for their Teacher's imminent arrival and the public event that would follow.


Months passed. They worked around the clock, focused on just one thing -- inviting as many people as possible to hear their Master speak. Then the big day came. Everything was together -- the tickets, the ushers, the seating, the sound, and the music. But much to their surprise, only one person showed up. Just one. Supremely disappointed and experiencing who knows how many other painful emotions, they approached Shri Hans, solemnly, to deliver the bad news.

He just sat there, listening, nodding his head. Then he smiled broadly.

"OK," he said, "Very well! I understand. But do you realize how long this person has waited to hear my message?"

FOR YOUR REFLECTION: One person. That was it. Only one person showed up after months of effort. But the Master was not disappointed. Neither was he sad, upset, or judging anyone for the apparent lack of results. One person was sufficient for him. His was not a numbers game. His was something else. He was not measuring success the way most people do. He was coming from an entirely different place -- one that was filled with love, presence, and gratitude for the opportunity to share his message, even if there was just one person in the audience.

Maybe one day I will understand this. Maybe one day I will actually live this expression of truth. My strategy, historically, has been different. I conceive great goals. I make long lists. I execute a bunch of tasks in service to my great goals and, more often than not, there is a gap between my goals and what happens. Committed to a particular outcome, I usually end up feeling, much like Shri Hans' students, disappointed -- like I could have done better, way better. Like I blew it. Like the outcome I was going for would have manifested if only...

The older I get, the more I realize how flawed this way of thinking is. Having big goals is fine. There's nothing wrong with having big goals. But it's the attachment to my goals when things start getting strange.

While it's been years since I've heard Prem Rawat tell this story, I cannot get it out of my mind. And I don't want to. It's a lesson I need to keep on learning -- going beyond the numbers game and entering into the place where gratitude reigns -- the place where even one person showing up, or none, is not only sufficient, but divine.

Prem's series of Lockdown talks
Excerpted from this book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:03 AM | Comments (2)

June 29, 2019
THE SPRICE OF FREEDOM: A 5-Year Journey from Darkness to Light


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

February 20, 2019
Is That So?


Once upon a time, many years ago, before the invention of Starbucks, Velcro, or Fructose, there lived a humble monk in a remote monastery in China. His name was Wan Loo and he was much beloved by everyone he met, dedicated, as he was to realizing the highest truth with every fiber of his being.

Every morning, he meditated with the other monks in the Central Hall, then ate breakfast, washed his bowl, and worked in the garden for the rest of the day, taking brief moments now and again to read the sutras and teach calligraphy to the younger monks. Life was simple for Wan Loo. And very fulfilling. He couldn't have imagined a better life.

One day, in the 17th year of his monastic life, while cultivating radishes in the upper garden, he found himself being approached by the venerable Abbot and three of the local townspeople -- a husband, wife, and their very pregnant 16-year old daughter.

"That's him!" the girl cried out, pointing to the monk "He's the one who did this to me! Him!"

Wan Loo, still weeding the radishes, looked up slowly, smiled, and uttered just three words: "Is that so?"

And with that, the Abbot, a stern expression on his face, began to speak. "It is time for you to leave the monastery, young man. It is time. You have broken one of our most sacred vows. Now go!"

And just like that, Wan Loo was exiled from the only home he had ever known.

For the next five years, he lived in a small hut far away from the monastery. Each day he woke at 4:00 am, meditated, and then from dawn to dusk, dug graves in a nearby cemetery to make the money he needed to buy milk for the little boy the people of the region had now come to call "the young monk's son."

Wan Loo continued with his life. He never complained. He never took a day off. And he never stopped meditating.

Then, one summer day, in the fifth year of his exile, while cultivating a few tomato plants just outside his hut, he looked up and saw the young girl, her parents, the Abbot, and the now five-year old boy all standing over him.

"Mother and father," began the young girl, in between tears. "The time has come for me to speak the truth. It was not the monk. It was a boy I met in the fish market. He was the one. He is the father of my son."

Big silence. Big, big silence. No one spoke, The young monk just sat there, looking up, a ripe tomato in his left hand.

"Is that so?" he said.

Adapted from an ancient Zen story

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2019
The Old Yogi in the Forest


Once upon a timelessness there lived a great yogi, alone, deep in the forest of a faraway land. How long he had lived there, no one knew, not even him, living in the moment as he was.

The forest was his home, his sanctuary, his favorite place in all the world. Following nothing and no one, only his breath, he was free -- totally free. Like the birds overhead. Like the moss underfoot. Like the trees.

One day, after an especially long meditation, the Yogi opened his eyes and saw what seemed to be three people sitting before him.

"Oh Master," the eldest spoke, "we've been searching for you for many years and now we have found you. Praise God! Won't you teach us what you know?

The yogi just sat there. Motionless. Unmoving as the ground. Many years had passed since he had spoken. Words came slowly.

"I... am...." he said, looking at the sky, "not your teacher. I am just an old yogi in the woods. Won't you please return from where you came?"

And what that, he simply stood, gathered his blanket around him, and disappeared.

Five days he walked, stopping only to chant a few prayers, eat a few berries, and meditate.

When he opened his eyes, there were now ten people sitting before him, the three he had asked to return home and another seven.

"Oh Yogi supreme," the youngest one said, "we know you told us not to follow you, but something moved us here beyond our will. We were helpless not to follow. Please, kind sir, won't you teach us what you know?"

The Yogi just sat there, a few butterflies circling his head. A long time went by. And a longer time after that. Then, in a barely audible voice, he spoke.

"Sweet souls, I honor that which moved you here, but I am not your teacher. I have nothing to teach. Please respect my need for solitude and return from where you came."

And with that, he stood and simply walked away, moving deeper into the forest once again, a few deer now by his side.

Ten days passed, the old Yogi now having entered the absolute heart of the forest, a place no man had ever been before. How quiet it was! How still! How totally serene!

And there, he closed his eyes and entered into meditation once again.

Days passed. Maybe weeks. When he opened his eyes, there were 100 people sitting before him. Overhead? No sky. Just the ceiling of what appeared to be a Great Hall, freshly painted. Somehow, when the old Yogi was meditating, a beautiful ashram had been built around him.

He just sat there, marveling at what he saw -- finally understanding the message life had been trying to bring him. What he'd been running from would not be denied. It was time -- the perfect time to share what he knew.

"OK, my friends. Welcome. Now... who's got a question?"


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2018
Breaking the Sugar Habit


Many years ago, in India, a young boy was obsessed with eating sugar. When he woke up in the morning, all he wanted was candy. After lunch, all he wanted was chocolate. And just before he went to bed, he would tiptoe to the kitchen and eat two big spoonfuls of sugar. No matter what his mother said to him or what she did, she could not break him of his habit.

And so she decided, one fine summer day, to take her son to see his idol, Mahatma Gandhi, who she hoped would talk some sense into the boy.

The mother and son walked for hours, from their remote village, to make their way to the great saint's abode.

When they arrived, Gandhi's attendant, upon seeing how anxious the mother was, ushered her and the boy immediately into Gandhi's room where he was sitting quietly, sipping tea.

"Oh great Saint," the mother began, her son trailing behind her. "I humbly ask your counsel."

"What seems to be the trouble, my good woman?", said Gandhi.

"It's my son," she explained. "He's totally addicted to sugar. Nothing I say helps. Nothing I do. Will you please talk to him now and explain how bad it is for his health?"

Gandhi smiled, closed his eyes and meditated. Five minutes passed. Then he opened his eyes. "Good woman," he explained, "I completely understand your situation. I feel your pain. Please return in two weeks and we shall talk again."

The mother grabbed her son's hand and exited, confused and disappointed, especially after traveling such a long distance.

Two weeks later she returned with her son. Again, the two of them were ushered into Gandhi's room. Again, Gandhi was sipping tea and smiling.

Without a moment's hesitation, he turned to the boy and said" "Young man, you need to immediately stop eating sugar. It's very bad for your health."

The boy nodded, bowed his head, and agreed. His mother, now more confused than ever, leaned forward and, in barely a whisper, asked Gandhi why he needed two weeks to tell her son such a simple thing -- something he surely could have mentioned two weeks ago.

"My dear woman," Gandhi explained, "two weeks ago, I was addicted to sugar myself. I needed these past two weeks to kick the habit!"

What funky habit, being expressed by someone around you, would you like to see disappear? What can YOU do, within your own self, to go beyond its grasp?

This story is not excerpted from this book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:28 AM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2018

SFTR cover.jpg

GOOD NEWS! My new book, Storytelling for the Revolution, is now available for downloading as an ebook from Amazon. $9.99. Paperback also available.

If you are interested in the power of personal storytelling to build community, open minds, transmit wisdom, and elevate the conversation on planet Earth, this book is for you.

The book website
11 Amazon Reviews
The media weighs in
A fun excerpt

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:27 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2018
When Your Enemy Becomes Human

Inspiring story, beautifully told, by a very committed woman with a timeless message for us all. Saddika and I have never met, but have recently become Facebook friends.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:51 AM | Comments (1)

July 06, 2018
The Finger Snap


Two years ago, I traveled from Woodstock to Malibu to work with Prem Rawat, for a few days, on a project he was very passionate about -- the launch of his new enterprise, Rawat Creations. More specifically, he was asking me to write about his approach to photography and the five photos he wanted to feature on his website.

The first of our meetings went well. We spent an hour talking about photography -- his early boyhood fascination for it, the conditions necessary for high level results, and his own nuanced creative process. Later that night, I wrote what I thought was a pretty good description of the ground we covered, and emailed it, fingers crossed, to his secretary.

The next morning she called me to deliver his feedback. "More spices", was the message, the implication being that my writing was too bland.

So I got busy for another few hours and generated version 2.0. This draft, I thought, was far superior to the first -- better organized, more accurate, and with just the right amount of spices. Happy to have accomplished my goal, I submitted my writing to Prem's secretary one more time.

A day passed. I went for a long walk. I reread what I had written at least five times. Then I got another call from his secretary, asking me to meet with him one more time -- an invitation that quickly revealed the two sides of my psyche. The first? "Wow! I get to hang out with my favorite person in the whole world." The second? "Oops! I probably screwed up!"

When Prem walked into the room, none of these thoughts were apparent. He was, as far as I could tell, completely present, happy, radiant, and ready to dive in once again, holding, as he was, a copy of my most recent draft in his hand.

"I'm not going to give you any rules," he explained, scanning my words and suggesting a few approaches to the writing I hadn't yet considered. To me, it felt like some kind of psychic surgery was being performed -- him deftly reaching into my last draft and pointing out what needed to go. After a few minutes of elaboration, he stood, turned, and began to exit the room. As he did, I heard these words come blurting out of my mouth: "So... it looks like I'll be up late tonight working on the third draft".

That's when he turned to me and snapped his fingers.

"You mean," I said, "this is supposed to be easy?"

He snapped his fingers again. Then I snapped mine. Then he snapped his. Four finger snaps. That was it. Then he pivoted and left the room.

Thirty minutes later I sat down to write again, but this time the writing flowed much easier than before and the quality was recognizably higher. While I knew my task mattered, I also knew that the main effort I needed to make was to be in the moment and trust what I knew. As soon as I was finished, I emailed what I had written to Prem.

A few minutes later, I received his reply. "That's it. You got it!"

Two years have passed since that day. My finger snapping moment with Prem continues to uplift and clarify every aspect of my life. In a way, it feels like a sacred seed has been watered in me -- a seed of awareness now growing from the inside out -- a seed that infuses all of my choices -- especially the stuff I assume will be difficult -- with ease, simplicity, and grace.
Excerpted from this book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:30 AM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2018
A Bag of Small Red Berries

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Today, I was sitting in Mesa Grande, the cafe I most love to frequent in San Miguel, when I noticed an old, weathered woman entering the place. Dark skinned, wrinkled, and small, she was moving very slowly across the room, more like shuffling than walking, stopping at each table and attempting to sell whatever it was she was carrying in her gnarled left hand.

Averting my eyes, I felt myself withdrawing, not wanting to encounter yet another beggar of the day needing something else to survive, but she kept coming, pausing now and then to rest.

When she finally made it to my table, all she did was stand. That's it. Stand. She said nothing. She did nothing. She just stood there, holding, in her hand, what appeared to be a bag of small red berries. I continued pretending to be busy, looking down, not wanting to be yet another refusal she would get that day, hoping she would leave, but she did not -- now the still, sudden tribal center of the room.

Unable to ignore her presence any longer, I slowly raised my head, then looked into her eyes. She held my gaze. Like a flower. Like the way a baby, without guile, looks at a stranger. Gently, she shook her bag of berries, explaining without a single word that she was NOT a beggar, simply a seller of small red berries on a Tuesday afternoon. In the distance, I heard the familiar whooshing sound of a cappuccino machine.

"Cuanto?" I asked, holding her gaze.

"Veinte," she replied.

"Veinte?" I asked again, wanting to stay with her for as long as my Spanish would allow.

"Si", she said, "veinte."

"Bueno," I replied, pulling a 20 peso note from my pocket and placing it in her small brown hand. Smiling ever so slightly, she handed me the bag of berries, paused, bowed, and continued on her way.

I checked my email. I made a list. I ate a piece of fruit. Ten minutes later, Carlos, the waiter, walked over to me, saw the bag of berries by the sugar bowl and asked if he could have one.

"Si Carlos", I said, opening the bag so he could choose his favorite.

An hour later, when it was time to pay the bill and figure out the tip, I handed Carlos the bag and asked him to share the contents with his esposa and hijo when he got home that night. A few people came and went. Someone ordered a croissant. But Carlos and I just stood there, grinning, unmoving, a bag of small red berries now the center of our world.

Photo: Jesse Ditkoff

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February 04, 2018
Your Favorite Story?


What is your favorite story of all time? And why?


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:52 PM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2016
The Most Powerful Person in the World is the Storyteller


"The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the values, mission, and agenda of an entire generation that is yet to come." -- Steve Jobs

While this may seem just a bit exaggerated, there is something very TRUE about what Jobs was on to. The Hopi Indians said the same thing: "He who tells the stories rules the world."

This goes far beyond the Creation myth and "Once upon a time." This is about the way we perceive, conceive, and construct reality -- then share that construction with others in a way that is immediately grasped.

What is YOUR story these days? What story are YOU telling -- to yourself and to the world? We are, methinks, as a species, in the difficult time BETWEEN stories. The old story is dying and a new one is being born. Like any birth, the experience is both ecstatic and painful. Me? I am toggling back and forth between these two poles -- not the POLITICAL polls, but the far edges of the two narratives that rule my life.

Here's what I invite you to do in the next 24 hours. The next time someone approaches you with the DOOM and GLOOM story, after listening with compassion, see if there is ANOTHER story that will emerge from either of you -- a story of possibility... a story of awakening... a story of courage... or resilience... or breakthrough... or whatever you feel guided to say.

Stories are like water. We can drown in them or they can give us life. Choose life. Drink deep. And share your water with anyone you cross paths with who is even just a little bit thirsty.

TimelessToday ("Once Upon a Time")
Prem Rawat video clips

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:01 PM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2016
Give the Gift of Story

Wonderful book of stories

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

November 12, 2016
An Unforgettable Night with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

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I am Jewish. My parents were Jewish. My grandparents were Jewish and all their parents and grandparents were Jewish. My father's father's name was "Abraham". His brother's name was "Moses". I was circumcised, went to Hebrew School, was bar mitzvahed, and ate more than my share of bagels, lox, gefilte fish, and matzoh balls. Like any good Jew, I celebrated the High Holidays.

Wait... hold on a minute... I don't think "celebrate" is actually the right word. Make that "endure" -- me, as a young boy, being far more devoted to baseball and playing with my dog than fiddling around with that silky, red prayer book marker separating one section of indecipherable Old Testament text from another. My Rabbi, the very forthright, wise, benevolent, Rabbi Alvin D. Rubin, always seemed, at least from my adolescent point of view, to be wondering if he had, somehow, lifetimes ago, taken a wrong turn out of the Sinai desert, finding himself, as he was, these days, shepherding a flock of polyester-wearing suburbanites way more interested in their golf game than the unpronounceable name of God.

These were my roots -- not the grey roots my canasta-playing mother religiously turned blond the day before each family visit to the temple -- but roots, nonetheless. The hand I was dealt. My karma. The surreal, slightly salty smorgasbord of my not-yet-enlightened life.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not complaining. My introduction to Judaism was not a bad experience. On the contrary, it was good -- full of warmth, comfort, and the safety that comes from hanging out with "one's own kind". But the older I got, the more it dawned on me that it wasn't religion I was looking for, but whatever it was it was that inspired religion to come into being in the first place -- not the Ten Commandments, but the feeling of amazement that preceded them being inscribed on stone tablets.

And so, on the day I went off to college, I decided to take a break from Judaism. Though I still found the word Deuteronomy quite intriguing and knew, in my heart of hearts, I would miss the rugala after each irregularly attended Sabbath service, it was time for new adventures.

Fast forward seven semesters to my senior year of college.


As I crossed the threshold into my parent's house for Christmas vacation (notice I didn't mention "Hannukah"), my mother greeted me with three words I will never forget: "THE RABBI CALLED" -- a phrase that could only mean one thing: I had done something terribly wrong.

"He wants to see you," she continued. "Tomorrow morning."

While not quite a burning bush moment, I was definitely feeling the heat, as the echoes of my mother's words fanned out into the vast suburban horizon: "The Rabbi wants to see you... The Rabbi wants to see you... The Rabbi wants to see you".

Though I hadn't been to Temple in five years, I still remembered where it was and made my way there, dutifully, the next morning. Nervous? Yes. But more than that, curious.

The Rabbi was sitting behind his desk, smiling. Behind him were shelves of many books.

"Mitchell", he began. "Welcome. I'm going to cut right to the chase. We've been following your progress for years and... well... you see... there is shortage of Reform Rabbis and I want you to seriously consider entering the Rabbinate."

"Deer in the headlights" could not begin to describe the feeling I was having. More like "wildebeest at sunrise".

The rest of our conversation was a blur -- me half Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and half Lenny Bruce on speed. The Rabbi mentioned something about me not having to pay taxes on my future house and I mentioned something about a motorcycle.

Later that night, my father, whose belief in God seemed be escalating exponentially the closer I got to losing my Vietnam-phobic college deferment, wanted to talk.


"How'd it go?" he asked. "What did the Rabbi have to say?"

"Umm..." I replied, stalling for time. "It was... interesting. The Rabbi wants me to become a Rabbi."

"That's great," my father blurted. "You'll make a great Rabbi."

"But Dad," I protested. "I don't believe in God."

My father looked up. "That's really not important," he said. "You like PEOPLE, right? You like to READ, right? You'll make a great Rabbi."

"Dad... I don't think that's how this stuff works."

Five years passed. I went to Graduate School (in poetry, not medicine). I married a Shiksa (not a Jew). I took LSD (not the law boards). And I, blissfully, became the student of a 13-year old Guru from India. My parent's response? A kind of dark night of the upper middle class Jewish soul punctuated with words like "tsuris", "mishuggahah", and a ton of other Yiddish words they used whenever they didn't want my sister and I to know what they were talking about -- which was often.

Ornstein and Ditkoff laughing.jpg

But then a funny thing happened. The plot twisted. My good friend, Steven Ornstein -- also Jewish and also a student of the same young, Indian Guru -- invited me to an "Evening with Shlomo Carlebach", a Jewish Rabbi, who was one of the leading lights of the "Baal Teshuva movement" -- a movement I knew nothing about -- one that was apparently designed to attract secular Jewish youth back into the fold. Shlomo, Steven assured me, was the real deal -- not your run of the mill Rabbi, but a true "keeper of the Jewish flame..."

So I went. What else was I going to do? Eat a salami sandwich?

The first few minutes of Shlomo's presentation are unremarkable. What I see is a disheveled man with a beard and a guitar mumbling a few words of introduction to a very conservative audience wearing their well-pressed Sabbath clothes. First he starts strumming. Then he starts singing. Then he starts smiling as if the Red Sea is about to part.

"OK, fine," I say to myself. "We're in for a Yiddish Hootenanny with a non-traditional Rabbi just back from Israel. Cool".

But the next thing I know, Shlomo is jumping up and down. Not just a little. A lot. This is not shtick. This is not some Borscht Belt Vegas act. This is a man plugged in, on fire, and all of us can feel the heat.

With each deeply moving song he sings, Shlomo gets more animated, more out there, but the "out there" he gets isn't out there at all. It's IN THERE. Something is going on inside this man and we can all feel it. His own private Idaho? His own promised land? It's hard to tell, but what isn't hard to tell is how much he's enjoying himself and, even more than that, how much he wants the rest of us to join in.


It's clear now, that Reb Shlomo Carlebach, wide-eyed, soulful leader of the still forming Jewish renewal movement, is polarizing the room. Half of the congregation is with him. The other half is squirming in their seats, planning their escape. But Shlomo doesn't seem to mind. Like some kind of crazed bar mitzvah band leader in an alternative universe, he makes a few gestures and gets everyone standing, holding hands, and moving in unison up on stage and then down again -- a curious mix of hora and suburban conga line.

I have never seen anything like this before in a temple. Never. We aren't praying, we are PLAYING -- and the play is sparking the experience that prayer is supposed to take us to. Freedom. Joy. And gratitude. The last time I had been on a stage in a temple I was reciting my Haft Torah -- 14 lines I had painstakingly memorized for months so I could "become a man". Now it's all improv. Nothing is rehearsed. Nothing is memorized. Nothing is at stake. The only thing happening is joy.

Shlomo walks to the ark, takes out the Torah, and hands it to a smiling, young man who immediately starts dancing with it. Dancing with the Torah! Yes! Yet another phenomenon I have never witnessed before.

"My Holy Brother", he calls to the young man to my left. "My Holy Brother", it is so good BE with you. "My Holy Sister", he intones to the woman to my right. "Do you know what a blessing you are on this Earth"?

And the amazing thing? Just by saying these words it becomes instantly true. Whoever he hugs, whoever he directs his spontaneous declarations of love to suddenly FEELS holy, suddenly FEELS blessed, suddenly FEELS totally alive -- touched as they've been by the kind of "Lo, I say unto you" energy that has the power to instantly turn words into reality.

And then, with no absolutely warning, he turns to me. "Oh my Holy Brother", he exclaims, tapping his mic three times, "go find the Rabbi and tell him I need more power! Go!"

Man on a mission, I descend the stage and begin my search for the Rabbi. It doesn't take long. I find him in the kitchen, with his wife, rapidly putting on his overcoat. Very rapidly. If this was the Wild West, the Rabbi is, most definitely in his "get out of Dodge" mode.

"Rabbi", I ask, with as much respect as I can muster. "Shlomo needs more power".

The Rabbi says nothing. He just stands there, looking at me, shaking his head. The next thing I know, he is out the door, his wife trailing behind.

I return to the main room. "Shlomo!" I exclaim, "the Rabbi has left the building. He wasn't willing to give you any more power".

"Fine, my Holy Brother", he says. "I have my own power!"

And with that, he unplugs the mic and begins singing even louder than before, his jumping up and down some kind of unhinged call to prayer to anyone in the general vicinity.

Five minutes pass. Many people leave. Those of us who stay are all on stage now, spinning in circles, laughing, singing, arms outstretched, or simply gazing into a distance that is becoming increasingly closer.

"Shlomo!" calls a bearded young man in front of me, his shirt untucked. "Let's take this to my apartment! I live only two miles away".

And so, in a few minutes, the evening's caravan of love continues out the door, into cars, down a road, up some stairs, and into a book-lined, dimly lit abode of a local Hassid now kvelling, beyond belief, that Shlomo -- Reb Shlomo Carlebach -- charismatic, rule-breaking, wide-eyed leader of the still forming Jewish renewal movement, not having slept in God knows how long, is going to be holding forth (and fifth and sixth, no doubt) in just a few minutes, without a break and without a single complaint -- a motley crew of Hassids, hippies, and holy fools by his side.

Standing next to my Holy Brother, Steven, in the middle of what no one has a name for, I have no clue what the protocols are -- or if any exist... or if it matters... or why I am even thinking at all. Shlomo certainly isn't. He is just taking his seat, the one he is offered, surveying the room and sensing, once again, that this -- this HOLY MOMENT -- is the perfect time for a STORY. And so he begins.

I remember nothing of the story he told that night, not the plot, not the setting, not the characters. All I remember is the feeling -- the feeling of wonder, the feeling of awe, the feeling of being absolutely in the right place at the right time and being so utterly glad to be alive.

And when he is done (which, by the way, is something he never is), a great laughter fills the room, followed by a flood of Talmudic references I have no clue about, and the voice of someone, from the back, calling out, "That reminds me of a story".

And so another one begins... and then another.. and then another, waves of spoken love and wisdom bubbling up from a buoyant ocean we are all swimming in.

But even ecstatic Rabbis get tired, and Shlomo certainly is, his nodding no longer a sign of his unabashed appreciation of life, but a prelude to sleep, which is precisely when Steven and I, trusting our instincts, approach and ask if he would like a ride back to his hotel.

Wired as this man was to the experience that everything is coming to him directly from God, he nods, stands and, as he exits the room with us by his side, embraces as many people as he can get his hands on, saying something kind to everyone -- then continues with us, out the door, to the street below.

Thirty minutes later, we are in his hotel room, Shlomo making a beeline to a small bag of tangerines he had just brought back from Tel Aviv.

"These, my Holy Brothers, are sweet. You must have one. You must."

And with that, he begins peeling -- one for Steven and one for me.

The three of us, now sitting on his rumpled bed, are enacting a Jewish ritual that transcends space and time -- noshing. Sweet. The tangerines are sweet.

Then Steven speaks.

"Reb Shlomo," he begins. "A few years ago, my friend Mitchell and I, met a young Indian Master and received a very powerful inner experience called Knowledge. We are wondering if this experience is referred to in any of the Jewish holy books".

Shlomo's ears perk up, his eyebrows arch -- a signal to Steven to elaborate.

"Oh yes, YES!" Shlomo says, "absolutely", quoting from the Talmud, Kaballah, and God knows how many other sacred texts.

Steven and I keep looking at each other. We cannot believe our good fortune. I mean, here we are, completely out of the blue, having a private audience with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, wise man, sage, holy fool, storyteller supreme -- when we notice that the room has become suddenly quiet. Curious, we both glance at Shlomo. He is asleep, fast asleep, sprawled out sideways on the bed like some kind of beached Biblical whale, snoring lightly, shoes still on.

Steven, on a roll, leans closer and whispers into Shlomo's ear the news that his good friend, Mitchell, was going to be getting married in three weeks.

Shlomo, from a deep sleep, sits bolt upright and looks right through me"I'll perform the ceremony," he says. "Me! I'll marry you!"

If I had been Saul on a horse, I would have been knocked off by now, but I wasn't. It was just me, sitting on a bed with Shlomo and Steven in a mid-priced, mid-town Boston hotel room, 5,504 miles from Jerusalem.

"Um... Shlomo," I say. "We already have a Rabbi".

Shlomo's eyes open wider. "Is he straight?"

"Well... a lot straighter than you, Shlomo."

And with that, Shlomo smiles, closes his eyes, falls back, and goes to sleep.

Steven and I stand, turn out the lights, and continue on our way.

Holy Brother: a book of Shlomo's stories
Some of my stories

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2016
We Are Never More Than a Minute Away from the Big Breakthrough

SAW head shot.png

I want to tell you a brief story about 60 seconds of my life, nine years ago, that felt like an eternity -- an experience that was so totally infused with meaning that I am still drinking from it's fountain almost a decade later. Here goes:

The night before Prem Rawat's 50th birthday party event at the San Diego Convention Center, to be attended by 3,500 people, I was asked to be the MC. My response to this unexpected invitation? A curious blend of fascination and fear. Fascination that Prem had the confidence in me to do the job. And fear of totally screwing up. But since I barely had any time to prepare, I couldn't afford to indulge in the part of me that was freaking out. So I went to the dress rehearsal, studied the announcements, made sure my fly wasn't open, and got ready for the evening gig.

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So there I am, backstage, waiting for my cue, when I am hit upside the head by the worst case of stage fright I imagine anyone, anywhere, anytime, has ever experienced. This, my friends, was well beyond anxiety or nervousness. STUCK. I was completely stuck. Frozen. Fried. Terrified. Totally in my head. I had never, in all my life, experienced such an all-encompassing sense of dread. I was the poster boy for UPTIGHT. Jonah in the belly of the whale. Mr. Weirdo. I was SO uptight, in fact, I soon found myself PRAYING for someone to call in a bomb scare or the building would catch on fire -- anything to GET ME OUT OF THERE!

Richie, the very laid back stage manager in charge of time and space, could see I was quietly freaking out, and so with just five minutes left before show time, he walked over to me and began giving me a shoulder massage -- a kind deed which only succeeded in MAKING THINGS WORSE, because now I knew, for sure, that my inner meltdown was so totally visible to the outside world that Richie, my handler, felt obliged to cool me out. Doo doo. I was in deep doo doo.

It was now only FIVE minutes before the program began and, though my body was sitting on a folding chair backstage, the rest of me was on Mars. No make that an ASTEROID -- a very small, rocky, cold asteroid orbiting absolutely nothing.

Now there were FOUR minutes to go. Now there were THREE. And there was absolutely no sign, anywhere, that my hyper state of out-of-control-self-consciousness was going to abate anytime soon. This was clearly going to be the end of me. In three minutes, everyone in the hall would know, for sure, that I was a complete idiot, a fraud and a buzzkill -- someone likely to become a future synonym for the phrase "consumed with terror" -- as in "Hey, don't pull a Ditkoff on me."

The clock was ticking. Now there was only ONE MINUTE left. One minute! And then... completely out of the blue... with no warning whatsoever, two things happened that I will never forget. Not in this lifetime. And not in the next. First, on the house PA system, I heard Daya singing my favorite song, Find the Miracle -- a song that always managed to bring me back to a place of complete ease. The second thing? Up from the depths of my being percolated the remembrance of something I heard Prem say many years ago -- something about the CHOICE we all have every single day of our lives.

"You can spend your entire life gritting your teeth and praying for it all to be over," he said... "or you can just say YES!"

Wow! Incredible! Amazing! I HAD A CHOICE! I could sit there in the wings, a complete and total mess -- or I... could... EMBRACE the moment and say YES to whatever was going to happen next. So simple! So, so, utterly simple. A choice! I had a choice!

That's precisely the moment I said YES. And that's precisely the moment when Richie stepped forward, leaned closer, put his hand on my shoulder, and said these words: "Three.. Two... One... Go!"

I stood. I took a breath. I boldly walked on stage. This wasn't the plank I was walking. This was my life! FREE! I WAS FREE! Completely free! Unshackled. Unhindered. And uncontainable! Nothing was holding me back. Nothing! Every ounce of who I was had become totally available to me. Everything! Whatever I needed in that timeless moment to play my part fully was fully present and accounted for. And the FEELING behind it all was pure JOY! The rest of my MC experience for the next two days was a total breeze...

Now I finally understand what the expression "the darkest hour is just before dawn" really means. Tell me, who of us doesn't battle with doubt, fear, and self-consciousness? Who doesn't want to run and hide when the going gets tough? Though it may not be how we want the world to see us, it comes with the territory of being human. Not just YOU. And not just ME. All of us! But more powerful than fear is REMEMBRANCE and the deep KNOWLEDGE that we have everything we need to play our part fully in any situation. We may not feel it all the time. We may not trust it. But it's there. It is. In the end, it all comes down to CHOICE. We can grit our teeth and pray it will all end. Or we can just say YES. What do you choose?

Words of Peace Global

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:48 PM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2016
Tiny Sparks of Light


EDITOR'S NOTE: A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends to send me a story their father liked to tell. The one that follows, submitted by the appropriately named, Michal Story, touched me deeply and reveals a common humanity we all share, even during times of difficulty. I hope you enjoy it. If YOUR FATHER, like Michal's, had a favorite story he liked to tell, please consider sending it to me for possible publication on this blog.

"My father was a man of many secrets. Not by choice, but by temperament. He rarely spoke of his past. He'd come from a chaotic childhood and left home at 16 to join the Navy. He loved the camaraderie it afforded him and was proud of his service. He was what they called a 'lifer.'

I was a teenager in the 1960s when my father and I bonded through watching football and tuning up the car together on weekends. But it was between his tours of duty in Vietnam, when he invited me out onto our patio in the late Louisiana summer evenings, that I realized just how close we were. He'd sip scotch and smoke cigarettes while we listened to Hank Williams and Patsy Cline on the record player. Most of the time, we'd sing along with Hank and tell corny jokes. And sometimes, he'd comment on the heavy, warm humid air that reminded him of times in Vietnam. It was these times that I knew was in for a good story.

He spared me the horror he must have witnessed and would tell me stories of his friends and how they would pass the time. One particular story still strikes me.

I don't remember where, specifically, he was stationed, but it was on a border between North and South Vietnam. There was a rickety four-foot tall barbed-wire fence which separated the enemies and they could hear distant sporadic gunfire and explosions during the day. The fencing spanned a treeless, grassy field where each side could easily see the other's buildings. There was no movement between them during the day. My Dad's squadron's sole mission was to ensure that no one crossed. And no one ever attempted to cross from either side. It was an "easy tour" as he called it.

Late at night, and every night, a very different scene took place, however -- one my father said haunted him in a way that none of his other war experiences had. It would take place long after the gunfire and bombing had settled down to an almost peaceful calm.

My father and his brothers-in-arms would spot tiny sparks of periodic light emanating from the buildings across the field -- almost like a signal. The handful of American men on the night shift would approach the fence without hesitation, as if they were back home taking a leisurely stroll. As they approached, they'd see their counterparts, equally relaxed, approaching the fence. There they would meet and exchange brief greetings in whatever limited language each could understand -- making hand gestures, offering up cigarettes and, from the dim light of a match, show each other photographs of their families back home. Sometimes they would exchange odd wares unique to their respective cultures.

These men were no longer enemies in this nightly routine. They were just people managing to turn a blind eye to what divided them -- an American on one side, a Viet Cong on the other. No one knew when or how this ritual started. But it was repeated, nonetheless, by each new troop arrival. Was it from boredom? Curiosity? It didn't really seem to matter. Whatever the reason, it was a chance to be human again. The only danger seemed to be in caring."

One of my father's favorite stories

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2016
The Three Questions


Some years ago I attended a 5-day conference, in Miami, with Prem Rawat and 50 other people. On the first morning, during his opening remarks, Prem explained that he wanted everyone at the conference to feel absolutely free to ask their questions whenever they had one. Made perfect sense. After all, we were there to learn.

The first morning passed in a questionless mode for me. Everything he said was absolutely clear and I was content simply to sit, listen, and enjoy the feeling of being in the room with him.

The afternoon was a different story. About an hour after lunch, he said something that baffled me. No kapish. I had a question. But I also had something else -- and that was the fear of asking.

One part of me -- the respectful part -- thought I'd be interrupting him if I raised my hand. Another part -- the educated part -- thought I should already know the answer. Yet another part (hey! how many parts did I have?) didn't want to be the focus of attention.

My right hand twitched, but hung at my side like a slacker. Then I remembered what Prem had said the day before: "If you have a question, ask."


I raised my hand and asked.

"That's the stupidest thing I ever heard," he replied.

Ouch! Oy! Now it was official. I was a fool, a moron, a complete idiot -- something I'd always suspected, but now had all the proof I needed.

I could feel myself shrinking, slinking back into my chair.

Prem had answered my question, but I barely heard a word. My mind was out to lunch, but had no idea where the restaurant was. A hundred over-caffeinated PR guys inside me, hell bent on damage control, did their best to save the day, but their efforts were a joke.

I didn't sleep too well that night.

The next morning I took my seat with an extra dose of humility and some last-minute effort to gracefully manage my emotional meltdown from the day before.

Thirty minutes into Prem's morning presentation, he said something that made only partial sense to me. I kind of understood it. I mean, I sort of got what he said, but not really.

I had a question.

No way was I going to ask it. No way was I going to reveal yet another questionable side of my questionable self -- not only to him, but to 50 of my peers, some of whom, I knew, already had their doubts about me.

But then I remembered what he had said on Day One. "If you have a question, ask."

I raised my hand.

"That," he replied, "is a really good question."

Hallelujah! I was back in the game -- now hanging ten in my semi-comfortable hotel chair, waiting for his response to my now, officially-declared, good question.

I barely heard a word he said -- consumed, as I was, by his acknowledgment of my question being "good." I could see he was talking, but I was suddenly deaf. My mind, once more, was out to lunch. OK, maybe not lunch, but out for a meal. Like... maybe breakfast.. or a light snack.

Day Three came quickly.

I woke, took a shower, practiced Knowledge, drank coffee, ate a bagel, and took my seat.

The morning session was smooth as silk. Prem spoke, told some jokes, and showed some slides -- me enjoying my new found status as a question-free human being.

The afternoon?
Don't ask.

An hour into it, I felt an old familiar feeling coming over me. I wouldn't exactly call it cluelessness, but I was clearly in need of a clue.

I took a breath. I raised my hand. I asked.

Prem listened. Then he spoke. His response, this time, was neutral. My question wasn't good. My question wasn't bad. It was just a question.

Three days. Three questions. Three different responses.

Looking back at this conference with my favorite person on the planet, the metaphor that comes to mind is one a friend shared with me some years ago.

"Imagine yourself," she said, "as a sword in a stone. It's stuck and won't come out. You pull to the left. You pull to the right. You pull to the left, again. Back and forth, back and forth you go between the extremes: good and bad, up and down, black and white, rich and poor, this and that. With each movement between the extremes, the sword gets looser and looser until it gets loose enough for you to pull from the stone. That's how it works some times -- all this going back and forth, until we're finally free!"

I'm glad I took Prem up on his word and asked my questions. In a curious way, I may have learned more from the act of asking than I did from the answers I received. That's one of the cool things about being in relationship with someone like him. Every interaction is amplified. Every conversation has the potential to reveal something extraordinary.

I'm glad I didn't play it safe. I'm glad I didn't hide behind my simulated mask of understanding. Yes, it's a risk to speak up. But a risk to what? Only that self-serving, legend-in-my-own-mind character more concerned with other's opinions of me than the experience of truth.

Did he know that the three different ways he answered my questions put me through some changes? I doubt it. But it doesn't really matter.

Prem Rawat is not a mind reader. He is not a psychic. He is not a therapist. He merely holds up a mirror. What we see -- and what we do after we see what we see -- is completely up to us.

My Amaroo question

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:57 PM | Comments (13)

Inspiration, Past and Present

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While it is absolutely true that the past is over, the future is yet to come and NOW IS ALL THERE IS, sometimes it's inspiring to reflect on sweet moments of inspiration. Here are some from Prem Rawat's five-day Amaroo event in Australia last September.

His new book, Splitting the Arrow

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November 25, 2015
The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Awesome idea! So simple to do. All about the power of stories.

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November 17, 2015
Popping the Question

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When I was 24, I received Knowledge from Prem Rawat. It was, you might say, an initiation, a direct experience of the life force inside me, what exists beyond identity -- who we are behind the daily drama of our lives and all our seeming differences. Home, sweet home. The beginning and end of all journeys. The source!

Yes, I got a peek under the Big Top and felt as good as I could imagine a human being could feel. Doubts? Fears? Worries? Gone. If I was an Olympic diver at that moment, it would have been a perfect 10. No splash. No waves. Nothing but net as they say in the NBA. Perfect. Everything was perfect. And if anything wasn't perfect, that was perfect too. Questions? I didn't have any. None.

Except for one.

At that time in my life, I was in the third year of a relationship with a woman I loved -- someone I imagined was going to be my wife within a year or two. But after receiving Knowledge and really getting into it, I started wondering whether marriage, for me, was the right thing to do. Doubts began creeping into my mind. Questions began bubbling up. Would marriage be a distraction? Would I end up "stuck in maya", "off the path", or otherwise screw up the beautiful opportunity to deeply explore the experience that Prem had shown me?


Confused, I began asking Prem's "senior students" -- people I assumed were wiser than me. But nobody knew. Though each of them was extremely effusive in their responses, everyone gave me a different answer, fully confident they had just resolved my confusion.

Nothing having clarified, it dawned on me that there was only one person I could ask and that was Prem himself. Yes, of course! But... um... er... I had no idea how to get to him, me being from the boonies, knowing no one close to him, having no clue about the proper protocols, and was literally out to sea, living on an island as I was at the time.

Still the question burned inside me. Somehow, I HAD to find him. I had to ask my question.

So when I found out, a few weeks later, that he was going to be speaking at an event at Hunter College in New York City, I decided to make the six-hour journey from my home on Martha's Vineyard with the woman in question and three of my friends.

Prem, that night, was a total delight -- uplifting, inspiring, funny, and deep. An absolute breath of fresh air.

When his talk was over and the hall emptied out, I find myself standing in the middle of the street, when a complete stranger walks over to me, and in a very quiet voice, tells me exactly where Prem is going to be the next day and when -- an estate in Old Westbury. Then he walks away.

My heart is pounding. I can't believe my good fortune.

When my girlfriend and the rest of the crew finds me, I tell them the good news, but they just look at me as if I'm insane.

"I can't believe you believe that," one of them says. "Do you know how many rumors are flying around the place? You just can't believe anyone who walks up to you on the street. We're going back home, dude. You ready?"

Ready? Yes. But for something other than going back the way I came.

So I went about my business of finding a ride to the home I grew up in, on Long Island, which, as fate would have it, was just five miles from where Prem was supposed to be the following day.

When I got to my childhood home, later that night, I knocked on the door, expecting my parents to answer, but they were not in. So I did the only thing that made sense -- walk around to the back to my old bedroom and jiggle the window like I used to every time I forgot my key. Voila! It opened. I hoisted myself up, let myself in, and slept in my old bed. In the morning, I let myself out the front door, and hitched a ride to the address the stranger gave me on the street, last night, in front of Hunter College.

When I arrived, the place was buzzing with people also hoping to see Prem. For a few hours, we sang songs, played frisbee, and waited, craning our necks every few minutes in the direction of the house where he was staying.

And then, three hours later, someone starts rolling out a long red carpet on the manicured lawn, three other people trailing behind and carrying the most beautiful chair I had ever seen. This could only mean one thing -- Prem would soon be on his way. And he was. Fifteen minutes later, this 15-year old boy starts making his way to the chair now positioned just 20 feet in front of me.

He sits, surveys the crowd, and asks if there are any questions.

But I do not raise my hand, ruled by the thought that my question is absurd. Meanwhile, Prem is responding to anyone who raises their hand, continuing to ask "Are there any more questions?"

Finally, I raise my hand.

"Can a devotee be married and still be a devotee?"

Prem throws his head back, his whole body shaking with laughter, then he snaps his head forward as if shooting some kind of invisible arrow in my direction.

"Look," he says. "Even Lord Ram was a husband and a father of seven. I care about your soul. I don't care about your body. Your body can be anywhere. Next!"

Simple. So simple.

Prem was not telling me what to do. Nor was he telling me what not to do.
He was just speaking the truth -- the kind of truth around which everything revolves. This wasn't about right and wrong. This wasn't about good or bad. This wasn't about philosophy, spirituality, karma, lifestyle, religion, or decision making. This was about the experience of being fully alive, the off-the-grid, totally free, unhinged, unhampered, whirling dervish sweet spot of pure and perfect presence.

Pressure off, drama diffused, my question answered far beyond the place I was asking it from, I ended up choosing to get married. The marriage lasted four years. Then I took a 16-year break and got married a second time. That marriage is in its 26th year. My relationship with Prem, now is in it's 49th year.

If I had a bottle of champagne at this moment in time, I would pop the cork and pour a drink for everyone -- the guy on the street in front of Hunter College, my friends who drove back to Martha's Vineyard without me, Ram, his children, my parents, whoever left the window open to my old bedroom, both wives, my kids, you, your wives, husbands, children, and friends with all their questions and everyone else on planet earth who has ever longed to experience something timeless and pure.

Hey, with all those people, I'm guessing the bottle I'll be pouring from better be a big one. No worries. It is. Actually, it's beyond big. It's infinite.

May the bubbles tickle your nose. May our glasses clink in space. May we laugh for a million years. And no matter what shape our life takes or who we share it with, may we enjoy it to the max. Here. Now. In this moment.

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THREE MINUTE VIDEO: The Language of the Heart

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November 16, 2015
Be Who You Are

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When I heard about Prem Rawat's message of peace in 1971 and, soon after, received Knowledge, my life took a major turn for the better.

One of the things that opened up for me was the recognition of how beautiful it was to serve -- to give from the heart without any thought of return. The urge to serve was huge for me.

And so, one fine Spring day, I decided to leave my happy home on Martha's Vineyard and drive to an ashram in Concord, Massachusetts where I figured I could "help out" for the day.

All day long I did whatever was needed, happy to have the chance to give of myself from a place of total gratitude. And then, just before it was time to return home at the end of the day, my hosts, noticing how exhausted I was, invited me to stay the night in their living room in my sleeping bag.

Blissfully tired from a long day of service, I slept like a baby. That is, until 2:00 AM when the lights, in the room, suddenly went on and 20 highly animated people in pajamas came bounding into the room.

Apparently, one of them had just returned from India and wanted to show everyone, on his classic Kodak projector, some never-been-seen-before photos of Maharaji.

I yawned. They oohed and ahhed and oohed again.

Their super-enthusiastic response to the slide show totally baffled me. Though I, too, had received Knowledge, I wasn't feeling anything remotely close to oohing and ahhing.


The more everyone continued expressing themselves so effusively, the more I felt like there must be something terribly wrong with me. I wasn't oohing. I wasn't ahhing. I wasn't even smiling.

"Maybe this isn't the path for me," I thought. "Maybe I'm not loving enough. Maybe I'm too mental... too Western... too this or too that."

At the height of my rapidly escalating bout of doubt, a particularly radiant, saffron-robed, bald-headed man from India shot me a very powerful glance from across the room. And then, with a simple, downward sweep of his hand and a smile, he signaled me to lie down and go back to sleep, which I immediately did, hearing nothing more of the slide show which probably continued for another hour or so.

I woke up four hours later as the sun rose -- fully rested, quietly happy, and feeling very much alive.

I realize now, some 44 years later, that I learned a lot that night. And though my experience was a personal one, I think it's possible that it may have some resonance for you, too, whoever you are, wherever you live, and whatever path you follow or don't.


1. Comparing yourself to others is a total waste of time.
2. There is no one right way to express love.
3. Everyone grows in appreciation of their Beloved in their own sweet time.
4. There is no rush required to feel anything "special" at all.
5. I am who I am and that is good enough.
6. "Devotion" isn't always visible.
7. The practice of Knowledge is a very individual thing.
8. There's nothing wrong with going to sleep when you're tired.
9. Devotion is not emotion.
10. It's always a good idea to keep a sleeping bag in the trunk of your car.
Words of Peace Global
The Prem Rawat Foundation

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August 30, 2014
The Yoga of Data Roaming


So there I was, living the good life in San Miguel de Allende just a few weeks ago, enjoying the slow lane, mucho tiempo, hot springs, frosty margaritas, blue skies, and super-conscious of just how inexpensive everything was in my new found attempt to simplify my life when Caroline, one of my colleagues back in my Woodstock office, sends me an email explaining how we just got a data roaming bill from AT&T for $1,790 -- a bill that was due in three weeks.

$1,790? For roaming? Where? In the Pleiades? Pluto? Some parallel universe where the streets were made of platinum? No way, Jose. No way. Not me, Uh uh. Sorry. Not after these last six months of cost cutting and, for the first time in two years, actually having a positive cash flow. Uh uh. Nope. No can do.

Semi-catatonic, but still curious to find out WHICH of the five phones on our AT&T plan was the culprit, I quickly discovered it was my first born, my number one (and only) son, the carrier of the family name, the Digital Media Maven, the honorable Jesse Pouget Ditkoff, a 19-year old lad at the time who, upon landing in Mexico City (and not having been on social media for the five hour flight from Newark) somehow FORGOT to turn off his data roaming and proceeded, for the next 311 minutes, while he made his way to San Miguel, to reacquaint himself with Instagram, Facebook, and who knows what other online universes, all of which were now available to him through the grace of oversized cell towers where Mayan pyramids once stood.

Yes, they stood tall and technologically advanced, but THEY WERE NOT A PART OF MY CURRENT CELL PLAN -- the one I didn't buy, fully believing my request to both of my kids to TURN OFF YOUR DATA ROAMING WHEN YOU GET TO MEXICO, would be the teenage mantra of the week. It wasn't.

Thus Caroline's phone call and my newly emerging existential choice of whether to offload my angst onto my son, plead insanity to the POWERS THAT BE, obsess all weekend, or... THIS JUST IN... choose not to entertain a thousand dark thoughts about DEEP DEBT, RIP OFF PHONE COMPANIES, or TEENAGE FRONTAL CORTEXES -- which, after getting the low down from Jesse on what actually happened, is what I chose to do -- a kind of super mental tantra I am not usually good at, especially when an unexpected large bill bummer heads its ugly rear and begs for my attention -- a cognitive bummer, disguised as a thought, that like a relative who talks too much and doesn't know when it's time to leave takes up entirely too much space.

This thought, this "YOU OWE THE PHONE COMPANY $1,790" thought quickly took up residence in what was left of my mind. Or tried to... I should say. It pulled up a chair. It kicked off its shoes. It opened a beer and starting watching a 57" flat screen TV I don't even have.

It was then that I knew what I had to do -- CHOOSE!

I could either let this obsessive thought in and take over my house, or I could ignore it. Realizing, it was too late, on Friday afternoon, to ask for mercy from AT&T's customer service department, I was going to have to ride this one out, ducking the gale winds of my own fevered mind and CHOOSING again and again not to engage the unwanted VERY EXPENSIVE DATA ROAMING THOUGHT in my head for the rest of the weekend.


Easy for me to say. Easy for me to declare, but THOUGHTS, especially BIG HAIRY THOUGHTS have heard it all before from people like me and know exactly what to do to persist and grow larger.

Ah... but the plot thickens.

That night, you see, my amazing wife, Evelyne, and I had been invited to a sumptuous party with all kinds of great people in costumes and good moods, Day of the Dead statues all around us and music that begged you to dance.

Perfect! The environment was perfect. Like someone from Central Casting was going for an Academy Award just as the fun began, the invisible, subatomic, off the grid, holographic fun known in some parts as "God's Play."

As the fabulous Mexican evening wore on I couldn't help but notice that no matter who I was talking to, there was a kind of ghost behind them, rising slowly from the ground, a fat ghost, a slightly drunk and off putting ghost, a bulbous entity not unlike an overweight high school geometry teacher who took great pride in making kids uncomfortable with his news of cosines and tangents and POP QUIZZES ON A FRIDAY AFTERNOON.


Nice try, thought!
But I'm not buying it! It's Friday night and I'm at a party. Sorry, dude. There just ain't no room for worry tonight. You can huff and puff as much as you want, but I'm not paying attention to you. None. Like zippo, nada, zilch. I got other things to do. Comprende, senor? Lo siento mucho, bro, but I'm not playing your game. I will not engage with you.


OK. Yes, I will admit, there was a time, in my early 20's, after reading way too many Zen Buddhism books, when I thought that one day I would live in a realm of ABSOLUTELY NO THOUGHT -- hanging out, as I imagined myself to be in some large, perfect, empty calligraphic Zen circle, the circumference of which would be lined with motionless monks who had long ago reached SATORI and were now simply sitting or writing haiku in the sand.

Sorry, Zen friends, but it's not about that and never was. THAT whole scenario was only a thought, one among many high class thoughts that weighed me down.

Uh uh. No way. No way, Jose. The choice before me was simpler than that. The choice before me was simply NOT TO ENTERTAIN THE EXPENSIVE DATA ROAMING THOUGHT. I didn't have to make it wrong. I didn't have to demonize AT&T, iPhones, teenagers, cell towers or my own lack of long distance know how. All I had to do was not focus on my unwanted guest.

This, shall we say, went on for the entire weekend, the DATA ROAMING THOUGHT popping up again and again like a teenage zit right before the senior prom... but I did not engage, choosing LIFE over DEATH, the PRESENT over the FUTURE, BEING over DOING.

Monday came round fast enough. Oh yes, it did -- the long awaited time to deal with the customer service people of the big telecommunications company and see just how SERVICE-ORIENTED they were.

As I slowly dialed, I prayed to get someone compassionate on the other end of the line, someone not cranky, angry at their spouse, underpaid, under appreciated, hypoglycemic, menstruating, or reading from a script while pretending NOT to be reading from a script, trained as they were by the AT&T gods to listen to the customer so they could skillfully diffuse my angst while simultaneously reminding me of THE POLICY they were, by the power of their almighty Over Lords, paid to uphold.

Fortunately, I did not get that guy. I got a human being -- a very lovely man named "Daniel" who was "happy to help me" and "would do what he could" to resolve the situation.

He listened. I spoke. He listened some more. I spoke some more. I told him there was no way my 19-year old son, working all summer to pay his college tuition, could afford to pay $1,790. On and on I rambled, while the very unrobotic and Bodhisattva-like Daniel continued listening and finding new ways to let me know it was all going to be alright.

"We can just re-rate you" he explained.

"Re-rate?" I asked. "What is re-rate?"


Daniel went on to explain that "re-rate" is what AT&T does for its customers lost in DATA ROAMING LAND. Basically, they just sell you, retroactively, the data plan you should have bought before leaving the country.

So now I'm doing the math and figuring I still owe $600 or some other very large amount of dinero so AT&T's honchos can afford to send their own kids to college.

"$30," Daniel blurts after a few quick calculations. "That's what you owe. Not $1,790. Just $30."

Was there no end to my good fortune? Daniel, dear Daniel, who I was now talking to as if he was my best friend, had just reduced my data roaming charges by 98%. That was it! That was all it took! One simple calculation based on one simple concept and one wise decision made by AT&T not to rake their customers over the data roaming coals.

Relief! I was relieved.

But far beyond relief was the recognition that, somehow, throughout it all, I had made the right CHOICE -- the choice not to worry, the choice not to doubt, the choice not to entertain dark thoughts in my head... the choice to stay in the moment... stay in the light and enjoy life to the fullest no matter what invisible distractions begged for my attention.

If you liked this, you might also like this one. Or maybe this one over here.

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August 04, 2014
The Beggar


I have never been fired from a job. Except once -- a week after the man I wrote 350 speeches for in two years, Donald J. Manes, the Borough President of Queens, committed suicide in his kitchen because he knew he was just about to get busted for stealing more than one million dollars from the City of New York in what is now affectionately known as the Parking Violations Bureau scandal.

I wasn't fired because I had done anything wrong. I hadn't. I was fired because the successor to the Not-So-Honorable Donald J. Manes wanted to clean house in a "B" movie politically correct way to appease the irate public's need for reform. A new leaf. She was turning over a new leaf and a whole bunch of other metaphors being supplied to her by a newly hired PR advisor.

The bottom line? At 37, I was out of a job -- unemployed -- with an insanely exorbitant Upper West Side rent due in less than a month.


Having saved almost nothing from my speech writing gig and with absolutely no desire to write for yet another person with delusions of grandeur, I decided to go the artistic route and earn my living the honest way -- playing my clarinet in the subway.

The first day I made $8.00. There was no second day.

So I did what any, self-respecting, former English Lit major with a little known ability to recite Canterbury Tales in Middle English would do. I wrote. Not a screenplay. Not a suicide note. But a query letter to New York Magazine pitching an investigative journalism article on the beggars of Manhattan -- the real story, I declared, behind the people who panhandled for a living.

And so, for the next 30 days, that's exactly what I did -- walked the streets of the Big Apple, doing my underground reporter best to befriend the people most of us think aren't really beggars at all but con artists trying to fool us for a living, bad actors impersonating beggars so they can buy cheap wine and avoid the rush hour commute.

Thirty days I spent with them. Thirty days walking, talking, buying them lunch, and trying to discover the organizing principal around which my story would authentically take shape.

And I did. Find it, that is. The moment I met Fred.

His spot? 79th and Columbus, just one block from my apartment. His schtick? Pepe, his dog. Or more accurately, his sign for Pepe, his dog -- a portable cardboard sign painstakingly printed with a pen he found three weeks ago that let the world know he wasn't begging for himself, but for his faithful companion, a 10-year old mutt he found on the street and loved too much not to feed every day.


Standing there before this man, tape recorder tucked under my right arm, I couldn't help but smile. This was either the cleverest of panhandler scams or Fred was an uptown saint.

I looked at him and he looked at me. Then, with a crook of his head and a word I didn't understand, he signaled me to sit with him and Pepe on a blanket that had seen, shall we say, better days.

He told me his name, but not much else. We sat there, in silence, side by side, Pepe before us, as hundreds of people walked by, most casting glances, not coins.

Thirty minutes passed, then Fred, with a pained look in his eye, looked at me and asked if I would "mind his dog" while he went looking for a hotel or restaurant to relieve himself.

And so, for the next hour, I sat there on the blanket with Pepe, the sign, and a tin cup.

This being 79th and Columbus, many purposeful, well-dressed people walked by. All of them, of course, assumed I was the beggar.

"NO!" I wanted to scream. "You got it all wrong! I'm not a beggar. I'm a writer doing a story on beggars". But I couldn't find the words. Somehow, the dog and cat both had my tongue. I was speechless.

And then, not a single angel descending from heaven, I got it. I finally got it. I was a beggar. Yes, me. I was a beggar. I was absolutely no different than Fred. I wrote stories. He wrote signs. He was trying to get money. I was trying to get money. And both of us were asking for help.

When Fred finally returned, he had a large wet spot on his pants.

"Dude, what happened?" I asked.

Fred shook his head, attempting to cover the stain with his hand. "No one would let me in," he explained, a single slow tear rolling down his cheek. "I went to 15 restaurants and hotels and no one would let me in."

Also published in the Huffington Post
American Humane Society
PEACECAST: What do you have to say?
WOPG: Participate in Peace Day
TPRF: A wonderful humanitarian aid organization

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March 17, 2014
How to Spark Wisdom in the Workplace

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Dear Heart of the Matter Readers:

If you have received any value from this blog and would be interested in supporting my next, big transformational writing project -- now launched as a GoFundMe campaign -- click here for a 3-minute video of me describing it and a brief written description of what the whole thing is about -- a venture which includes the writing, publication, and promotion of a new book, Wisdom at Work, along with the launching of WISDOM CIRCLES in organizations and communities around the world.

Whatever support you can provide is very much appreciated. In exchange for your support, I will be happy to send you the book when it is published, in December. Plus, there are many other ways in which you can support this project and other rewards available to you.

Mitch Ditkoff's GoFundMe campaign

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October 10, 2012
The Afghani Cab Driver and the $250 Million Dollar Salty Snack Food


I am getting into the back seat of a yellow cab, as I've done a thousand times before, having just tipped the too-smiling bellboy too much for holding open the door and inviting me, as he had been trained to do just last week, to "have a nice day."

Here, 1,500 miles from home, at 6:30 am in front of yet another nameless business hotel, I settle into position, careful not to spill my coffee on my free copy of USA Today.

In 20 minutes, I will be arriving at the international headquarters of General Mills, creators of Cheerios, Wheaties, and the totally fictional 50's icon of American motherhood, Bette Crocker.


My mission? To help their product development team come up with a new $250 million dollar salty snack food.

It's too dark to read and I'm too caffeinated to nap, so I glance at the dashboard and see a fuzzy photo of my driver, his last name next to it -- an extremely long and unpronounceable last name -- as if a crazed bingo master had thrown all the letters of the alphabet into a brown paper bag, shook, and randomly pulled them out in between shots of cheap tequila.

Where he was from I had no clue.

"Hello," I manage to say, nervous that my driver with the long last name would end up getting us completely lost. "I'm on my way to General Mills. Do you... know where that is?"

"Oh yes," my driver replies with an accent I assume to be mid-eastern. "I know."

Small talk out of the way, I now had three choices -- the same three choices I have every time I get into the back seat of a cab.

I could check my email. I could review my agenda. Or I could continue the conversation with my driver -- always a risky proposition, especially with cabbies from foreign lands who were often difficult to understand, tired, or, seemingly angry at Americans, which, I am not proud to say, often led me to become way too polite, overcompensating for who knows how many years of my government's pre-emptive strikes -- a response, I'm sure (mine, not the government's), which even the least sophisticated cab driver could see through in a heart beat.

"Where are you from?" my driver asks.

"Woodstock," I reply. "Woodstock, New York. And you?"


Deep as we were in the middle of that war, I am stunned, my own backseat brand of battlefield fatigue now gathering itself for the appropriate response.

"Afghanistan?" I reply. "What brought you here?"

I could tell by his pause -- his long, pregnant pause, that things, in this taxi, were just about to change.


"Well..." my driver says, looking at me in the rearview mirror, "I was out for a walk with my 10-year old daughter when she stepped on a land mine."

I look out the window. Starbucks. MacDonalds. Pier 1 Imports.

"So I ripped off my shirt and tied it around her leg to stop the bleeding. Then I went running for a doctor. But there was no doctor."

For the next 20 minutes, he goes on to tell me about his three-day journey through the mountains of Afghanistan, his bleeding daughter on his back, slipping in and out of consciousness.

Villagers took them in, gave them food, applied centuries worth of home remedies, but no one knew of a doctor.

And then... a break. A man on horseback told him of some nurses from the Mayo Clinic who had just set up an outpost just a little way up the road.

With his last bit of energy, he got there and collapsed -- the nurses managing to keep his daughter alive and flying her, the next day, to the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, where, three days later, he and his wife were flown to be by her side to enter into a year long rehabilitation process with her, so she could learn to walk with her new prosthetic leg.

"That will be $27.55", my driver announces, checking the meter.

Somehow, I find my wallet, pay, and hug my driver, lingering with him as long as I could in that early morning light.

I enter the well-appointed lobby of General Mills, get my security pass, and make my way to the room where I am supposed to set things up for today's salty snack food brainstorming session.

An hour later, fifteen 30-somethings walk in, checking Blackberries.

I have a choice to make.

Do I dismiss my journey from hotel to headquarters as a surreal preamble to the day -- one that has nothing to do with the work at hand?

Or do I realize that my journey here this morning is the work at hand -- a story not only for me, but for everyone in the room that day?

To be continued in my new book: Wisdom at Work

One more story from the book
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:30 AM | Comments (3)

Welcome to Mitch Ditkoff's blog about what's really important in this life: Peace, gratitude, love, joy, clarity, and the effort required to wake up and smell the roses. Enjoy!

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