Storytelling at Work
August 31, 2022
The Release of "Love Today"


Six years ago, I had a rare opportunity to meet with Prem Rawat for an hour each day over the course of four days to talk about his photography. The goal? To learn about his fascination and approach to the art so I could write about his photography for his website,

What was my experience during those four days? Like nothing I had ever experienced before.

After the second day of meeting with him, his secretary called to tell me that tomorrow would be a day off -- which I was very glad to have, needing as I was, some time to process everything we had talked about the previous two days and to more deeply get in touch with the feeling that was bubbling up inside of me.

And so, on the morning of the third day, after breakfast, I decided to go for a long walk by the beach.

As I walked, I began sensing an extraordinary sensation -- one most writers are very familiar with -- the experience of words spontaneously forming from deep within, giving shape to uncontainable inspiration.

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a pen in a sudden urge to write, but realized I had nothing to write on. Not a notebook. Not a piece of paper. Not even the back of a business card. So I kept on walking, letting the feeling within me marinate, assuming I'd write it all down when I got back home.

Nice concept. Wrong lifetime.

I had to write! I had to give shape to what was burning within me to be born. I had to get it down on paper. That's the moment when I saw a garbage can just ahead of me -- an overflowing garbage can. Never before had I been this happy to see a garbage can. Reaching in, I pulled out three almost pristine napkins. Then, as I sat down on a park bench, a kind of divine palsy took me over and shook a whole bunch of words out of me.

It wasn't a poem. It wasn't a story. It was a song and I could hear it being sung.


When I got back to my friend's house, I typed it up and emailed it to my good friend, Stuart Hoffman, a wonderful musician, composer, and arranger -- someone I had collaborated with many times before on all kinds of fun projects.

The title of the song? Love Today.

In the days that followed, Stuart, God bless him, produced a demo of the song.

A few years passed. We moved on to other projects. The song just sat there wherever unfinished songs sit. But every time we talked about it, we'd feel a surge of irrepressible inspiration and delight. Late at night, more than a few times, we talked about taking it further, but the time just wasn't right. Until it was. Like a few weeks ago to be more specific.

That's when Stuart engaged the services of Stephen Rivera, an extraordinary vocalist who had just the right sound for the song.

And so here we are, today. Or, should I say, Love Today -- a musical collaboration between Stuart, Stephen and myself.

The three of us invite you to give it a listen. If you like what you hear, feel free to forward it to your friends or, if have any enemies, them too.

If you want to download it from Stuart's Bandcamp site, it's simple to do. It's also the bonus track on Stuart's newly released compilation CD, "Can't Stop This Love: The Essential Collection", which will be available for sale at the Focus Five Amaroo Peace Event from September 4 - September 10 and online at Eversound.

"Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life, bringing peace, abolishing strife." -- Kahlil Gibran

Album cover design: Jennifer Edwards

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:04 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2022
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.

17.jpgAnd 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.

shiny fancy joan-1.jpeg

"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:


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 12:41 PM | Comments (1)

August 11, 2022
Getting Ready to Cross Over


This is my friend, Warren Bernhardt. I saw him early this evening in his room, on his death bed. Warren is getting ready to move on after 83 years on planet Earth. As usual, I brought him a chocolate milkshake, even though a few days ago he decided not to drink anything anymore, just as he had decided not to eat anything anymore. But the last time I visited him, he asked if i would bring him a milkshake and so I did.

Before I visited today, I spoke with his beautiful daughter, Nicole, and we talked about whether or not I should actually give him the milkshake, wanting to honor his new commitment not to drink anything anymore. Nicole suggested I put it in the refrigerator and just visit him, but if he asked for the milkshake (choice, always choice!), then I would bring it to him. Four seconds after walking into his room, Warren asked me if I had brought the milkshake, so I fetched it from the kitchen, held it for him and bent the straw in his direction, so he could sip. But try as he might, he could not get anything from the straw. So, I pulled the straw out and sucked the bottom of it, clogged as it was, with a chunk of vanilla ice cream. It tasted very good.

Warren laughed. And then it was his turn. He took four sips and then asked me to put it back in the refrigerator, which I did.

We talked about many things and laughed a lot. Then we started talking about gratitude and grace and how important it was, at this time of his life, to focus on them both. He told me that is exactly what he has been doing on his death bed -- thinking about all that he has to be grateful for -- his son, Tim, his daughter Nicole, his wife Jan, and his friends and his music -- all of the music that has come through him for so many years, bringing delight and inspiration to millions of people all over the world.

At one point in his life, Warren's roommate was Bill Evans. They spent 12 hours each day playing 4-handed piano, the two of them sitting on the same piano bench, playing music, together, into the wee hours of the night.

The last time I visited Warren, someone in the living room was playing his piano. Warren liked what he heard and he asked me to find out who it was and thank him. It was a 12-year old boy, Charlie. I thanked Charlie on Warren's behalf, then played chopsticks with Angel, Rachel's son, for a little while.

There is a look of bliss on Warren's face, these days, that is a prelude to his moving on -- a letting go of the pain and the world. He hopes his father will meet him on the other side and many of his teachers and friends who have gone before him.

We talked more about grace and gratitude, Warren noting that both words begin with the same three letters.

Yesterday, Scott played some of Warren's music for him on his laptop and he loved it. I mentioned to Warren that some people, when they leave their body, hear celestial music. Warren told me he didn't want to hear celestial music when it was his time to go. He wanted to hear jazz!

I will see Warren again, God willing, on Friday, with one more chocolate milkshake. (When I hold the straw for him, I can tell when it is getting to his lips because of the coolness I feel between my thumb and index finger. That, and the smile on his lips.)

Ladies and gentlemen: here's to coolness and sweetness! Here's to gratitude and grace! Here's to the precious few moments left in all of our lives!

In terms of eternity, Warren is leaving just a few milliseconds before the rest of us. His passing is a gentle reminder for each and everyone of us of just how temporary this life is and how fortunate we are to be alive -- and when it's time to go, as it will inevitably be one day, to feel the sweetness on our lips and in our hearts for all of the blessings in our lives. Ki Jai!

PS: Before I left Warren's room today, I asked him if I could take his photo and share the essence of what we talked about with all of you. He smiled and said YES.

PPS: If you want to listen to some of Warren's music, click below.

Fun Ride
Sara's Touch

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:47 AM | Comments (1)


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