Monday, December 20, 2010

"Merry Christmas"

“Merry Christmas!” said my Jewish friend when he greeted me with a smile. “Merry Christmas,” I replied. I asked him if it ever bothered him that nearly everyone greets with “Merry Christmas” during December.

“Not at all,” he told me. “I mean, Hannukah is over, and I recognize that 90% of Americans are Christians.”

“What do you think about people saying ‘Happy Holidays,’” I asked.
My friend laughed. “When people ask me that, I ask them, ‘What holiday are you referring to?’ Most say nothing, but some say, well, it’s New Years too.”

It was refreshing that my Jewish friend was OK with the “Merry Christmas” greeting. In fact, he liked it. “I don’t expect the vast majority to conform to me,” he explained.

Fair enough. Then why has our society become cowardly in its political correctness so that we delete “Merry Christmas”? Are we really worried that it might offend someone?

Yes, there are other holidays: the secular Kwanzaa invented by a Long Beach State College teacher in the 1960s for African Americans, New Years (though most Chinese celebrate not January 1 but the Chinese New Years which usually falls in early Februrary), pagans who simply celebrate the solstice, and the month of Ramadan which sometimes falls near December, but not often since it moves forward through the calendar.

On the radio, a Christian man told the radio host that he didn’t celebrate Christmas because it was a lie. The host was shocked. What is the lie?, the host asked. The man said that he didn’t like the tale of Santa Claus, and that Jesus wasn’t born on the winter solstice. The host, in so many words, called the man an idiot.

But the conversation brought back memories of my researching the roots of Christmas back in my teens, when I discovered that Christmas in its present form was observed in pre-Christian days. Initially, this led to my disenchanted with the social norm of Christmas celebrations. If this isn’t really about the birth of Jesus, I wondered, why should I participate in this pagan practice. But over the years, I’ve come to have a rather different point of view about how to regard this odd Christmas holiday which is really a mish-mash customs from all over the world from various times. (Read the Golden Bough if these details interest you.)

First, a bit of history. Yes, it is true that the so-called “pagans” observed the solstices and equinoxes as their high holy days. In fact, nearly all religions in the past did so. “Pagan” originally referred to the country people who lived outside of Rome-proper, but gradually became a derogatory term for non-Christians.

We do not know when Jesus was born. The scriptures provide clues but no exact dates and no indication that this followers ever made a big deal about his birthday.

Though this raises eyebrows, it is a fact that Jesus was not a Christian, but a Jewish rabbi, most likely from the Essene sect. Since Christianity had not been invented yet, he observed the Jewish holy days, such as the Passover he was observing during the “last supper.”

And for the record, his name was not “Jesus Christ.” Look up “Christ” in your dictionary. “Christ” was a term referring to the Annointed One, referring to a messiah or savior. The original Hebrew term for his name was most often translated as Joshua, but was always translated “Jesus” to differentiate him from the other Joshua. A more accurate rendering would be Iesu, or Yeshua, ben Josephus or ben Pandira depending on which scholars you believe.

His followers changed their holy day to Sunday, in part to attract the “sun worshippers,” and also to separate themselves from the Jewish Saturday Sabbath.

But by the 4th Century, Constantine had a vision and declared Christianity the official religion of the kingdom. He Christianized all the “pagan” holy days, which is how the birth of the Sun celebration at the winter solstice morphed into the Birth of the Son, which we now call Christmas.

In fact, the observation of the winter solstice has been regarded with great reverence for as long as we can tell. During this winter’s deep, the sun was in its lowest part of the sky as it rose each day. Four days after the solstice, the rising sun appears to rise further north on the horizon – the sun has risen! This astronomical event has long had great metaphysical and personal value to the vast numbers of those people who have observed and celebrated it.

Though you may have many opinions about whether or not it was fair and square for the church to have stolen and renamed the pagan holy days, that does not make it inherently wrong. In fact, there is no inherent wrongness to it at all. As with most things in life, its value is wholly up to us, to use the timing for spiritual upliftment and growth, or not.

Interestingly, Christianity isn’t the only religion in recorded history which has a crucified savior, or a “Christ.” Nimrod, Mithra, Kukulkan (aka Quetzalcoatl) are just a few of history’s other “Christs.”

If we see that “Christ” is a Principle, and not just a person, we realize that the phrase “Merry Christmas” is indeed universal, ancient, and timeless. We can then also see that “Merry Christmas” is an appropriate greeting for this season for all people, of all backgrounds. It is the ideal blessings that we need to give to each other. It is a greeting that binds us together, and shouldn’t divide. It is a greeting that tells us we are all more alike than different, and that it is each of our destinys to let the universal Christ blossom in our hearts.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Sometimes we get so caught up in the problems of now and tomorrow that we simply disable ourselves to live in the moment and enjoy the miracle of life. I’d been so focussed on solving my own and other people’s problems, of growing older, of seeing friends die, of the consequences of financial mismanagement. I’d barely realized I’d fallen down the rabbit hole of not seeing the incredible that is before me.

After a late night meeting, I drove home, nearly mid-night, through the Arroyo Seco and along the Rose Bowl. The coolness of the night was refreshing, invigorating. I breathed deep and found myself looking anew at the enchanting hillside landscape that has always been hidden in plain view. I realized I’d been looking but not seeing. A lone coyote runs along the rode. Further along, a skunk hides from view by swiftly descending a storm drain. A melodic bird sings. The landscape is alive and bright, and I marvel at the late-night runners still engaged in their exercises.
Though my body aches with the scars of aging, I found that my mind was fresh, young, awakening again after a long sleep. I felt 17 again (or was it 14?) when I knew that I was immortal, eternal, a part of all things. I breathed deeply, and found great joy in the Eternal Now that was before me, the Eternal Now which always is. I experienced this same Eternal Now when running and motorcycling through the Arroyo Seco years ago, and when I would stand in the rain and feel its miracle.

I had been feeling anxious, worried, concerned, and though nothing had changed, I now felt free, hopeful, curious. I wanted to share, and I began to sing and think of poetry. But I quickly realized there is nothing that needs to be done. To experience the moment is sufficient, to go fully into the beauty of the moment, and to feel the past, and present, and future, all ripe with possibilities and discoveries, all in this moment.

I could now see the lights of the city and the peaks of the Angeles Forest with its occasional twinkling lights. I come by here every day, but somehow this was a new land, a magical land, the land of my mind. I began to wonder about the lot of man, working endlessly at jobs that are not enjoyed, to pursue more and better things, never defining real goals except maybe "retirement," which is not a real goal. I felt sad, and a gust of wind sobered me up, telling me to be concerned about my own choices, to refine my own daily actions and not to dwell on whatever it is that other people do or do not. The wind freed me of yet another pointless anchor—the thinking about what "other people" do or don’t do.

Be here now. Wasn’t that the title of an old hippie book? Be here now. Easy to say, hard to do. But it has become the main dictum in my inner religion, and though I have no church, the Arroyo Seco is the closest I’ve found. It is my homeland, my place of work and dreams, my place of endless adventures and ongoing discoveries. It is my Walden Pond, my Field of Dreams, my Golden Pond. It is simultaneously nothing and everything. It is a vehicle through which I continually find myself, still that same Self, still in that same body (for now), still eager to learn and to grow.

I finally got home and stood outside looking at the stars, feeling the cool evening wind. It felt good to be "up," and to know the fight is not over. I could feel the meaning of Bodhi-Dharma’s insightful words: "Fall down seven times, get up eight! Life starts from NOW."

And I began to realize, isn’t that the Christmas message? To rise again from the darkness, to be reborn again from the depth of the winter, to rediscover our inner self and our neighbor in this darkest time of the year? I felt a deep inner appreciation for whatever it was that provided me with this insight, this knowledge that I am apart of everything and everyone. I realized then that to truly experience the real meaning of Christmas I needed to create the environment so that the Christ-within can be born again within my own soul.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thoughts on Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year. Even moreso than Christmas. It is our uniquely American holiday where the family gathers, where we remember our roots, we share a meal, and we give thanks.

But look how quickly such simple and profound holidays get perverted. Today, we hardly know what “giving thanks” even means, and so the act of giving thanks is lost on most of us. Newscasters talk about “turkey day,” as if all there was to the day was eating turkey. Interestingly, most folks would not know whether or not they were eating turkey, or eating crow, and most of the time we’re doing the latter, figuratively speaking. Then, when we have barely taken the time to consider the notion of “giving thanks,” we get up early on the following “black Friday” to rush around with the mobs “looking for a good deal” to help us celebrate the consumer-driven commercial craze into which we’ve morphed “Christmas.”

Wow! How did we get here? What can we do about it? Let’s take a moment to look at the roots of Thanksgiving.

In the history of North America, we are told that the first historic Thanksgiving Day was in October of 1621. After a successful harvest that year at the Plymouth colony, there was about a week of celebrations. The local Indians and the colonists joined together, with the Indians generally showing the colonists (mostly city folks) how to hunt for the meal which consisted of fowl, deer, duck, goose, and fish. Corn bread, wild greens, plums, leeks, and many other vegetables (wild and domestic) were shared in this celebration. Interestingly, there is no evidence that wild turkey or wild cranberries (totally unpalatable without cooking and adding sweeteners) were part of the menu.

In fact, some historians question whether or not there were any religious overtones at all on this “first Thanksgiving,” citing such evidence as the archery and firearms games, and the running and jumping competitions, which they say would never be done at religious ceremonies by the Puritans.

Some say that the “first Thanksgiving” was just another Harvest Festival.
What then is it, if anything, that sets the American (and the Canadian) Thanksgiving celebration apart from any of the other myriad of Harvest Festivals?

The pilgrims experienced a severe drought in the summer of 1623. That season, they were totally dependent on wild game and wild plants, and owed their survival largely to the English-speaking Indian Squanto. In their lack, they refocussed upon their real purpose for coming to this new land. They sought to establish a time to give thanks for their spiritual bounty, in spite of the fact that they had no material bounty that year.

A harvest festival implies revelry and fun because of the material bounty; by contrast, a day of thanks is intended to remind us that there is more to life than the physical bodies and material food. The day of thanks is set apart so that we do not lose sight of our spiritual heritage, which is the real bounty.

Both Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July are the times that Americans have traditionally set aside to reflect upon the concepts of “freedom” and “giving thanks.” The purpose of such special times of reflection is to see how well we have done during the past year, and determine what corrections we should make if we find that we are veering away from our chosen path. It should not be a time of merely “having fun.”

Most of us have made the choice to abandon using the Thanksgiving day as a time of reflection, either personally or publicly. And thus, the Day of Thanksgiving continues to degenerate and we veer further and further from fulfilling any special destiny that may have been fulfilled by the people of the United States.

As long as we confuse “giving thanks” with “eating a lot of really good food,” the practical effect is that Thanksgiving today is little more than a Harvest Festival. “Giving Thanks” is a particular attitude which accompanies specific actions. Perhaps sharing our bounty with the needy would be a better Thanksgiving activity than eating large volumes of food. More to the point, perhaps we should use Thanksgiving to give thanks where it is due -- to the American Indians who have become the “forgotten minorities.” Rather than “eat a lot,” perhaps we could send blankets, food, or money to any of the American Indian families or nations who today live in Third World conditions.

To me, the essence of Thanksgiving was the coming together of two cultures, trying to work together under trying circumstances. Yes, they shared a meal. Food sustains us. But it was not about food, per se. They practiced with their bows and guns, a sign of mutual preparedness. And in their own ways, they “prayed to God,” in the ways that were appropriate to each culture.

The notion of a Supreme Intelligence was common to the Indians and the new settlers to the Northeastern coasts. That this was so is well-documented in William Stolzman awesome book, “The Pipe and Christ: A Christian-Sioux Dialogue.” He shows many of the similarities, and differences, between the native religion and the mostly Christian Europeans who began to occupy what became the United States and Canada. Similarly, these distinctions are well laid out in Vine Deloria’s classic work, “God is Red,” which Wilma Mankiller once declared to the be closest thing to an Indian Bible that’s ever been written.

By the way, much has been said about the term “Indian,” supposedly because Columbus thought he was in India when in fact he never got beyond the Carribean islands. But not everyone agrees with that linguistic conclusion. For one, India was not called “Indian” in the late 1400s. Some have suggested that it was the phrase “en Dios” (with God) that Columbus used to describe how the native, who lived simply and were perceived to be “close to God,” was the actual root of the term “Indians.” It is still debated.

Anyway, once we get to Halloween every year, we’re in the end-of-year Holiday mode that include Thanksgiving, and then Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Years. These could be special events that lead to our spiritual enlightenment, and evolution, but we have to fight to make them so.

There is much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, whether we give thanks to friends and family, thanks to God, and thanks for our relative bounty.

But we really should not forget our national roots. Don’t just give lip-service thanks to the Native Americans whose land was taken. Rather, find those organizations that are actually providing real assistance to Native Americans in poverty, such as many of those living in the third world conditions so prevalent on today’s reservations.

Friday, October 29, 2010

On Death


It was Memorial Day 1998, and I had scheduled to conduct a wild food outing at Pasadena’s Hahamongna Watershed Park. Since it was Memorial Day, my topic for a short discussion at the end of the outing was “death.” Hahamongna Park -- formerly called Oak Grove Park -- is the site of one of the Gabrielino Indian villages along the Arroyo Seco.

It was a cool and overcast day as participants for the wild food outing gathered in the parking area of the park. Among the half-dozen participants who showed up for the outing was Martin Kruse, a bearded, burly bear of a man who looked like he’d be more at home in the 19th century. He introduced himself and told me that he’d long wanted to meet me, that we both wrote for many of the same publications and had many friends in common, such as Ron Hood. Martin and I chatted as the other outing participants listened, and he told me about his work with archery and primitive bow-making.

I was struggling with almost-a-cold and with a stiff back, and so I felt almost not there. I wanted to just keep walking and to breathe deeply of the fresh air of the overcast day, but we walked slowly as everyone asked me countless questions about wild flowers, weeds, flowers, mushrooms, ground squirrels, and poisonous plants.

When we encountered poison hemlock, one woman seemed particularly interested. It turned out her interest was more than academic. Before her father died a few years earlier, the medical establishment managed to keep his body painfully alive for a few weeks beyond when he normally would have died. She said she wished she had known of a way to bring about a quick and painless death. I made no value judgement on her commentary, only saying that I regard each moment of life as sweet, and that death comes all too quickly for most of us. I explained that I was wholly against the idea of suicide, that I wanted to find ways to live longer, not shorter. Then we talked about other things.

We walked down in the flat area of the large expanse of the park, where the wet mud had hardened, capturing countless animal tracks. Martin told us how to differentiate between coyote and dog tracks. He identified crow and other birds, showed us how to recognize the tracks of squirrel and rabbit. He’d obviously done a lot of tracking during his time hunting with a bow.

I later learned from Martin’s father that this was a favorite place of Martin’s when he was much younger. He’d come here and spend a week or two and study nature and tracks and practice with his bow. When we saw the deer tracks, Martin showed us how the deer’s hind foot had stepped into its own track just laid by its front foot. Martin said that only the female walks this way, that the male’s gait is different. He told us that the size of the hoof print meant it was a female deer about a year and a half old. I could tell that Martin enjoyed telling us all about the track.

We walked out to the middle of the flat area to see some old shelters I’d built with one of my classes a few years earlier, though the rains had washed them away. We headed back to the picnic area with the plan to continue identifying wild greens, and collecting enough for our wild food meal that is customary on all these walks. Then I’d share my brief Memorial Day commentary that I described on the printed schedule as “Considering Death.”

I led the way back to the oak trees. Within seconds, someone in the rear called out. Martin had fallen. I first thought it was a joke, and ran to him. It was no joke. His face already looked purple. The man who had been walking with him said he’d not tripped -- he just fell. You could tell by his hand position that he didn’t trip. I tried to rouse him, but it was quickly obvious that he was “out.”

Several of us moved Martin into what we assumed would be a more comfortable position, and that wasn’t easy! Martin was a big guy. And then -- since I was the only one who knew the area -- I ran to a phone to call 911. This was before the days of ubiquitous cell phones. Within 10 minutes, before I even got back to the group and Martin’s flat body -- paramedics from the City of Pasadena were on the scene, attempting to revive him. They all worked like a highly-coordinated team, speaking among themselves only briefly and in terms we didn’t understand. They were what we call a “well-oiled machine.” They carried him into the ambulance and took him away.

I could tell that the remainder of the outing participants were in varying degrees of shock. It had all been like a dream, and now Martin was gone. When one paramedic was asked what he thought about Martin’s chances of recovery, he only said “I can’t do that.” Still, we all knew it was serious. We recalled one paramedic yelling “full arrest” to another when they arrived at the scene.

So there we stood in the cool afternoon breeze, contemplating death in the most sobering manner possible. I explained to everyone my death lesson -- which hardly seemed appropriate now. I didn’t talk everyone through the intended exercise -- I just explained a process that I’d done many times on Memorial Day.

Write a list of all those close people in your life. Then, close your eyes, and imagine getting a phone call telling you that they have just died. For most people, there are tears and a feeling of regret that they never told that person something. You write down all those things you wanted to say to that person. Then, since these folks are still alive, you then go and call them or write them or see them in person and tell them. This is a very profound exercise, and in many ways can be called “healing.”

But we didn’t actually go through this exercise. We were in no mood for an “exercise.” Someone had just died in our midst. We had to deal with it. We talked about how important it is to live each moment with intent, with joy, with soberness.

We talked about the stages that one passes through in the after death state, and how Martin will experience peace, but will also experience a life-review, a state of purgation, a state of heaven, and eventually another embodiment. One guy muttered, “I don’t believe in reincarnation.” I knew with this last point that I was treading on ground that some categorize as “religious beliefs,” so I didn’t push the matter. I just suggested that anyone interested read about it in Harold Percival’s Thinking and Destiny and decide for themselves.

At that moment, none of us knew yet that Martin would not recover, that he had in fact died, and that he died in a place he loved. Nor had we known that Martin had a heart pacer, and an artery to his heart that was narrow. We were aware that he’d had surgery -- probably to the heart -- because we opened his shirt and saw the scar. I noted that Martin had been smoking his pipe during most of the outing. While that couldn’t have been good for his health, I considered the ceremonial ramifications of tobacco smoking. What had really brought Martin there on that day? I felt goose bumps at first, thinking that on some level he wanted to be there, enjoying the natural world, meeting as two souls in the place he loved, near the old Indian burial ground, on his final day.

A German woman who’d been on the outing, Walti, told me that we should not feel sad. “It was quick,” she told me later. “What better place to die.” I could not help but agree with her. In his final moments, he was surrounded with friends that he’d only met that day, trail compadres who shared a common love of the outdoors, all brought together at this time and this place to witness his passing.
Though I barely knew him, I felt closer to him in death.

Of course, I told Dolores about this when I got home. I was a bit shaken by the experience. It was Martin’s wife who later told me that Martin died doing what he loved doing, and that it was probably the best of all possible outcomes that he died in that manner. She also said that the family felt Martin was living on “borrowed time,” that they felt he should have died (according to what the doctors said) five years earlier.

Dolores seemed very thoughtful about all this, and said that possibly Martin’s Doer (his spiritual Self) knew that his body was going to die. Coming to my outdoor outing brought him into contact with my Doer, my spiritual Self, which could have been a final uplifting act, whether or not each of us realized it.

Dolores was never one who engaged in flattery, and she always kept me humble. She knew that we were not perfect and that we had a long way to go. Yet, we continued to work at and struggle on the Spiritual Path of perfection and evolution. It was always “fall down seven times, get up eight times.” In our perspective of a morally-bankrupt, and spiritually dark world, we did feel that we represented a light in the darkness. Yes, often a flickering, barely noticeable light, but a light nevertheless. It is to that Light that Dolores believed Martin was coming to, and it was with that desire that he took his final breath. And that was good for Martin.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Self-discovery seems to be the ultimate quest for each of us. Who am I, what is my purpose in life.

I was watching a segment of “The Last Wave,” and Charlie the elder asks the Richard Chamberlain character, “Who are you?” It seemed to be a question that Chamberlain was not used to hearing, or answering.

I picked up a DVD of “Moon” with Sam Rockwell, having heard nothing about the movie. The cover reads “the hardest thing to face is yourself.”

“Moon” gives us an opportunity to look at what we mean by self-identity. It allows us to consider that much of what we call “me” is nothing but a construct, a collection of memories, but very little of what is real.

I don’t want to give the plot twist of the movie away, but I strongly recommend it as a vehicle for self-analysis and self-discovery. Don’t look at it as “just a science fiction story.”

Later in the day, my mentor asked me, “Do you believe that you are real?” Rather than glibly answer, “of course I do,” I considered what “Moon” was forcing me to consider. I realized that we never satisfactorily answer this question because we don’t delve deeply into the meaning of “me” and “I” as well as the meaning of “real.” In this case, I was considering the definition of “real” as per the writing of Percival in “Thinking and Destiny” where he equates “real” with a level of Conscious Light.

Anyway, watch “Moon” and let’s discuss further.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Death and Resurrection

During Easter of 2010, I spent the morning with a few close friends discussing the theme of the day. After we were finished with the more intellectual side of things, we viewed selected segments from a few movies to see the Death and Resurrection theme in action, either literally or figuratively.

We first watched some scenes from Whale Rider, where the grandfather does not want to acknowledge that the little girl (Pai) is the one destined to be chief. Finally, after Pai dives into the water to retrieve a whale bone (the boy who would have retrieved it earlier was to be chief, but no boy found it), she also helps a beached whale get back to sea. The whale was apparently responding to Pai, to the fact that Pai is the chosen one. But Pai goes into the deep with the whale, and is retrieved, hospitalized, and finally acknowledged as the future chief. A touching and beautiful story!

Next, we watched Powder, an incredible movie all around. Powder was born the night his mother was struck by lightning and died. Needless to say, Powder was unusual, highly intelligent, and electromagnetic. In many ways, this is a secular story of the Christ.

Then we watched some scenes from the very-moving Jesus of Nazareth, where Robert Powell played Jesus. We were most interested in the scene where Jesus went to dinner at the house of Matthew (the tax collector). Simon-Peter watches from the door as Jesus tells the story of the Prodigal Son, about the son who died spiritually and was re-born by his return to his father.

This Death and Resurrection theme is common in many movies, such as Pow Wow Highway, and Smoke Signals, and Robert Redford’s The Clearing. The Clearing is a fascinating study of the complexities of personality, but I found the final line the best: If you love me, then I have everything I need. It was beautiful, compelling, thoughtful. To understand that phrase was to understand the meaning of life, and the how the death is a necessary part of rebirth, whether we are speaking spiritually, literally, or figuratively.

Movies can be great teachers of life-lessons, if we choose the movies carefully, and if we actively seek out the lessons within.

By the way, we often view movies this way at Holy Days and holidays at the WTI commemorations in Highland Park. If you live nearby, please join us. Check the schedule on this web site, or contact me.

Friday, April 02, 2010

How I Spent Good Friday

When I was growing up, I can recall sitting in church for at least three hours on Good Friday. The large Catholic church was always packed with people, and the air circulation was poor. The aroma of incense was overwhelming and the distant drone of the priest in Latin was hypnotic. It was a solemn day and we usually fasted, but I had to nearly pinch myself to stay awake. I wanted to feel that special something, that painful and profound loss, and the coming joy; which was the very essence of the Easter celebration.

I always liked Easter, and I marveled at reports from the Phillippines where a few pilgrims every year would allow themselves to be nailed to a cross. Most could only endure the agony for three or four minutes, and they often fainted. Once removed from the cross, they would be cared for by waiting nurses and doctors. That’s certainly a far more intensive way of commemorating Good Friday than I was used to. Still, I wondered: Is there any inherent benefit in harming one’s body in that way? Does hammering nails in your palms make you more “spiritual”?

Years later, in the late 1970s, I began to attend a Survival Training School in the Highland Park district of Los Angeles. This school was somewhat akin to a martial arts school, except that we were constantly pushed in the direction of self-improvement, as opposed to competition with others. Throughout our various exercises and breathing regimens and runs and limit breaks and field events, it was constantly stressed that we were pushing our personal limits, that we were “waking up” our unused brain portions, and that we were using pain as a tool to grow, not as something to be avoided. There was constantly a spiritual dimension to our classes.

Through this school, I learned a unique way to commemorate the Christian Good Friday, and for nearly the last 20 years, I have observed Good Friday in a unique and most dynamic manner.

Students would gather at our class site and prepare themselves by doing a series of regular physical activities. Once a personal limit was broken, each student would then select a heavy log, which we referred to as “crosses.” Each student’s job was to silently carry the heavy cross up and down the dirt pathway to the school until they could no longer carry the burden. We were to remain silent during the entire time, and focus entirely on deep and regular breathing, and upon the specific martial arts-style walking that we’d been taught in class. It was called kamae-striding, a focused way of walking with knees bent, back straight, toes always straight ahead.

We were instructed to select a “cross” that was heavy so that we’d quickly go into a level of pain and exhaustion. On most years, I selected a cut section of a telephone pole, and would begin my very slow walking, breathing, thinking, up and down the dirt path.

The pain for me has usually been so intense that I could focus on nothing else. Thus, I was constantly challenged to find an internal way to deal with the pain, to breath, to focus on the fact that we are spiritual beings and not just the body.
Participants are told, “Pain is OK. Expect to be challenged by thoughts which say `I can’t’ or `I hurt.’ Acknowledge them, but do not fall to them.”

Dauring one of my past cross-bearings, the pain to my upper arms and back was unbelievably intense. I didn’t think I could continue. I wanted it to end. My arms ached. I stopped after going up and down the path three times. My intense pain had triggered an altered state of awareness, and I recall considering the phrase, “Jesus died for our sins.” I got up, continued the cross-bearing, and reflected on the meaning of those words.

As I slowly moved up and down the path, drenched in sweat, wracked with pain, I began to become one with the pain of humanity, the agony, the suffering, the ignorance, the horror of having no way-shower, no guide, being alone in the darkness. I found myself offering my pain to humanity: the mistakes, the blind gropings, the sin. It was then that I realized what Jesus meant. He literally offered up his pain, not for his personal benefit, but for those in dire need. This offering of pain was as real as if he wrote a check and sent it to someone. The giving was real, not allegory. The gift of pain served as strength to others.

Yet, this is no way meant that humanity -- that individuals -- do not need to balance inequities. We must sill pay for our debts and sins. Forgiveness is not synonymous with forgetting.

I would not have gained this insight through intellectual study. I earned this realization via the tool of controlled pain. I had made pain my ally. Obviously, pain for the sake of pain is pointless. But pain can be specifically applied and used as a tool. It can wake one up like nothing else.

As I say, this is just one of many personal insights that I have had while doing this unique cross-bearing.

When I performed the Cross Bearing today, I considered the value and power of Truth, and saw new meaning in the phrase, “What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Zone Therapy


Dolores kept notes on just about everything, not just the more mundane things such as daily “to do” lists and her daily planning, but her impressions from her various experiments in life and in thinking.

I found one notebook that she kept to chronicle her work with zone therapy. Zone-therapy can be described as a finger acupuncture to the feet. Dolores attended a Spiritual Studies class on this topic on Sunday April 10, 1988. This is what she had to say:

“During the Spiritual Studies Zone Therapy Lesson, I pressed on the area noted as ‘pineal.’ It hurt. I felt odd for a few moments but kept pressing. Awhile later, when Christopher and I arrived at the Flea Market [Dolores and I somewhat regularly sold things at various local flea markets], I suddenly realized I was experiencing a range of information about people and things that I didn’t have normal access to. In the same ‘way’ that I know details about my personal friends and belongings, I ‘knew’ details about strange people and objects.

“I ‘knew’ one person had children, for example. Another person caused me to recoil because their personal atmosphere was repellant. I ‘knew about’ strangers as if they were familiar. Items-for-sale were also familiar. I felt that a coffee grinder that Christopher wanted to buy had ‘a bad atmosphere’ – maybe it had been in a bar.

“This broader-range of information was disconcerting but I acted with the idea that this information was only for myself, as it this were just more of my working fund of details.

“I went to the hot dog stand, and the server looked real kinky, and I wondered to myself if I might get a disease from the food he handled. Another person approached while I was standing there and he said, ‘Any healthy food here?’ and the server said, ‘No, just good old American junk.’ I took this as a direct instruction to my doubts, and I left immediately.

“There were other instances of this ‘unusual information,’ then, after awhile, I seemed to return to ‘normal.’”

Wow! This kind of thing became somewhat “normal” as we would practice zone-therapy, and many, many of the other disciplines we were taught through our Spiritual Studies classes. What is the explanation? Could it be that the stimulation of the pineal zone on the foot released some chemicals which caused Dolores’ brain to perceive more?

I have had similar – though not identical—experiences when I received zone therapy. In my case, the zone therapy resulted in a heightened perspective, even a feeling of timelessness.

Dolores would use one of the standard charts on the subject. The one that Dolores kept handy was called “Rainbow-Coded Foot Reflexology Chart” published by Inner Light Resources from Tampa, Florida. The chart shows the bottom of a foot, divided into sections, with each section corresponding to some part of the body.

Here are the instructions for doing zone-therapy, as written in Dolores’ notebook:

1. State aloud to therapee what area you’re working on, or searching for.
2. Take charge of the foot you’re working on. Place it where it’s best for you to focus.
3. Consciously make every finger movement one of Conscious Upliftment.
4. Key to Zone Therapy: direct application of intense pressure directly on the junctions and meridians (that is, inches-along meridians, rather than “rubbing the feet”).
5. Use ch’i flow through the fingers.
6. Relax the fingers.
7. Use the fingernails as needles.
8. Use opposing fingers.
9. Wean-from any need to use a lubricant. Must practice directing will to have body-oils flow where and when needed.
10. Work to bring Zone Therapy into the realm of Real Thinking. Tell therapee “focus on glow of radiant healthy energy flooding into the body part I’m working on.”

In Dolores Zone Therapy notebook, I found some notes written by her teacher. There was a cartoon of the bottom of a happy foot, which had a big smiley face and was dancing. Underneath this foot were the words “stress control.” The teacher, Kina’u, suggested that Dolores work with others to begin dealing with stress control via Zone Therapy. Kina’u emphasized that it should not be a disguised “foot massage,” but that it should follow the above guidelines, and literally make the feet happy.

Kina’u added that when one is doing Zone Therapy properly, it is “for the Self,” not “for the other person.” In other words, he wrote, “if my fingers, with their zones, are pressing against someone else’s toe, with their zones, who, in reality, is ‘getting a Zone Therapy’ and who, in reality, is ‘giving a Zone Therapy’?”

Needless to say, there is much more to the science of Zone Therapy. Reading Dolores’ old notebook brought me back in touch with the path of natural science that so much of our “modern world” has rejected, and continues to scoff at.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Death Seminars

Dolores and I enjoyed conducting classes in our home. For a period of time during the mid-1990s, we discontinued renting out the front unit of our duplex, and we used it for meetings and classes. Some weeks, we’d have up to five classes, but usually we’d have two to three a week. These would be classes based upon the metaphysical studies we were doing in association with WTI, or they were survival and self-reliance classes based upon how we lived our lives. We called this enterprise Gateway, and we published a monthly schedule of our classes and lectures.

One night, we offered a class called “What Happens After Death.” About 10 people showed up for this one, which was a large class for our small meeting room.

We began by telling everyone that this was not some sort of religious exercise, nor was anyone required to “agree with” or “believe” anything we were telling them. Rather, we simply asked that they consider the scenario that we’d be sharing as a possibility, and that we would not consider “arguments” or “debates” about it. In other words, something does “happen” to us after our body dies. This “something” can range from “nothing” to reincarnation to “going to hell” and many other possibilities.

We were students of Harold Percival’s “Thinking and Destiny” book, and we explained that for this class, we’d be sharing his version of what happens after we die. Obviously, Dolores and I considered this version to be not only acceptable, but possible and plausible.

A brief explanation about Percival is required. He claimed in the preface to his monumental “Thinking and Destiny” book that he “came to” the information that he shares by means of what he calls “Real Thinking.” He further defines “Real Thinking” as a four-part process. The first step is the selection of a topic and turning the Conscious Light on it. (The Nature of Conscious Light is addressed repeatedly in his book). Next comes the fixing and cleansing of the subject, which is done by training the Light upon it. Then, the third step is to reduce the subject to a point, which is done by focusing Light upon it. This is what we would call "concentrating.” Lastly, by following this procedure, with the Light focused on the point, the result of this Thinking is a “Knowing” about the subject.

He provides no bibliography, no references, no “proofs” for anything he proffers except that the reader can do his or her own Real Thinking for verification. In general, Percival describes the evolutionary path that each of us should be on to awaken our minds of which we are composed. In fact, he says we really have no choice in the matter, that the purpose of life is to evolve, sooner or later.

Upon body death, according to Percival, we “automatically” go through a series of steps, which he initially describes as a brief overview on pages 240 to 253. He describes a specific order of 12 events, which includes a life-review, a judgement, a heaven-state, etc.
So, the purpose of our “What Happens After Death” class was to emphasize that all of us WILL die, and that “something” WILL then occur or begin, even if that something is “nothingness.”

After our brief explanation, we asked each participant to lie on our floor.

“Now you have just died,” we announced, and we covered each person with a sheet to further simulate the death experience. We then read through the after-death stages, one by one, slowly, in the darkened room, asked each participant to work hard to fully feel the experience.

Talking through this process took about 45 minutes.

Then, we got through the entire cycle, and explained that these steps could actually take several hundred years of earth time. Then it would be time for being reborn into a suitable and appropriate family, in the place on earth that we’ve earned for ourselves.

We turned on the lights, and removed the sheets, and let everyone take a few minutes to get their eyes adjusted to the light. Slowly, each person opened their eyes and slowly got up, and sat down in a chair.

We began to share significant experiences that each person had. A few folks were very quiet and would not talk at all, but others were very talkative. Some were even in tears.

We closed the class by telling everyone that they had not died tonight, and they everyone now has a “new opportunity” to still “do the right things” since they were still alive in a body.

We shared some freshly-made coffee-elixir and healthful cookies, and we discussed a few of the upcoming classes and poetry readings that we’d be having in the coming weeks. But no one was interested. Most everyone was strongly affected by the experience, and they wanted to ask more questions, which we tried to answer. As usual, we didn’t feel like the most perfect examples in the world, but we knew that “the future” is all the result of each and every choice that we make, second by second, and the consequences of those choices. To make the wisest possible choices every second of one’s entire life required a unique sort of sobriety and focus which itself required a unique lifestyle regimen to maintain – and, of course, those details were the subjects of our on-going classes.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


by Christopher Nyerges

Valentine’s Day. Hearts. Chocolates. Flowers. Pretty cards to your sweetheart. The newspaper advertisements tell us what Valentine’s Day is all about: jewelry for your loved one, chocolates, and sexy underwear for your wife or girlfriend. So this is nothing more than a day to flirt and arouse passions in your loved ones, right?

Hold on! At least one of the newspaper advertisements says “Saint” Valentine’s Day. What’s that all about?

That’s right. February 14 is the day set aside to commemorate a real historical person named Valentinus. With just a little bit of research, we learn that this Valentinus person was stoned, clubbed, and beheaded in about the year 270 A.D. He was violently killed by an unruly mob. That’s the meaning buried there in that word “martyr.” But why? And how have we come to associate Valentinus with chocolates and hearts and lovers?

It turns out that there were at least two people called Valentinus – possibly more – who lived in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries. One – who the Catholic Church now called Saint Valentine – was beheaded in 270 A.D.

Another Valentinus lived about a century earlier and founded one of the most important sects of Gnosticism. He was born in Egypt and educated in Alexandria. He settled in Rome during the reign of Pope Hyginus and taught there for more than 20 years. He attracted a large following to his beliefs, due in part to his intelligence, his eloquence of speech, and his forceful arguments.

But the teachings of this Valentinus differed in some ways from the Christian church of that time, and thus he was not selected for the office of Bishop. So Valentinus broke off from the Christian church, left Rome, and continued to develop his doctrines.

There are no original surviving documents from the teachings of Valentinus. So, if you want to discover what he actually believed and taught, you have to study fragmentary quotations found in the writings of his orthodox Christian opponents. Through research, we learn that Valentinus was influenced by Plato (the main source of the teachings of Socrates), Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. Valentinus also spoke of a spiritual realm which he called Pleroma, which consisted of a succession of aeons, or “emanations,” evolving from an original divine being. These aeons have been described as the layers of an onion, with each layer being a wholly complete reality.

The term Gnosticism came from the word “gnosis,” defined as spiritual knowledge. Those who followed this line of study were called the Gnostics, and many were referred to as Christian Gnostics. But by the third century, the more orthodox Christian church (and the political power of the day), decided to oppose and persecute the Gnostics. By the end of the third century, Gnosticism as a distinct movement had largely disapppeared.

Now, here’s the quiz: Where in all this did you hear anything about chocolates, hearts, greeting cards, bunnies, jewelry, roses, or lace underwear? Plus, there doesn’t appear to be any historical connection with any of the individuals named Valentinus with the date of February 14.

It turns out that in the pre-Christian days, there was a celebration in honor of Lupercus, a pastoral god, sometimes identified with Faunus or Pan. Faunus is depicted as having the body of a man but the horns, pointed ears, tail, and hind legs of a goat. That is, Faunus is more or less identical with the satyr, who was said to be lecherous, lustful, and always ready to party.

The pre-Christian observance of this day was called Lupercalia, which fell on February 15. Most of what people do today in the name of “celebrating St. Valentine’s Day” has its roots in the ancient feast of Lupercalia. On Lupercalia, cards were given (often with subtle or overt sexual overtones), and men reportedly chased women through the streets (sounds somewhat like Mardi Gras).

It is difficult to ascertain why the commemoration of Valentinus was used to supplant, uplift, and supercede the already-existing commemoration of Lupercus, but that’s what happened. Yet, very little of the trappings of modern St. Valentine’s Day have anything to do with the historical Valentinus.

And that’s really a shame, since Valentinus was as important as perhaps Socrates or Pythagoras, and yet most of us only associate him with the silly commercialism of Lupercalia’s remnants.

Certainly it’s possible that the Church engineered this substitution so that people would elevate their practices on this day, though there is no evidence that that has happened.

So rather than waste money and time on chocolates and red cards, why not take the time to study something meaningful about the great teacher Valentinus. Do this with your loved ones, and your family. You may discover that much of what he taught is very much relevant today.

Monday, February 08, 2010


I wrote this poem back in March of 2009.
I hope you like it. Someone told me, after looking at this blog, that "I don't like poetry." I responded, "No one was forcing you to look at my blog. If you have chosen the self-imposed limitation of telling yourself that you don't like poetry, then why didn't you just click-away to somewhere else? My poetry is for folks who appreciate poetry!" My acquaintance just mumbled as he walked away. So... for those of you who do enjoy poetry, please enjoy!


The day you died
I was by your side
You withdrew deep inside
I hugged you tight, as I cried
Your time had come, I could not hide
I wanted badly to the facts denied
But did not bring you back, though I tried
And something deep inside me died.

You meant so much, we lived as one
You were my moon, I was the sun
Together many battles won
Some lost too, which wasn’t fun
As fact sunk in, my mind was stunned
No more time, it was all done
As memories view and cried a ton
would never again have your hot cross bun
as baking bread your dharma was
You fully entered the thing you does
You didn’t question, ask why, just because
didn’t concern about what’s the buzz

Three months later I still daily cried
Was something that I tried to hide
Laughter too I often tried
Was good for me for time to bide
And one day George of Burbank said
Why aren’t you mourning? Got another friend?
I only laughed, as face I read
Thinking hard on what he said.
How much longer shall I mourn?
I can’t cry forever, must be reborn
Even though so deeply inside torn
I must force smile and seek new morn
Dolores wills it, she says to me
I see her smile in dreamtime see
As telling me true of my life key
Of how to live, of how to be
Of need to face sun, go forward free
Explore the meaning, in every tree
To love Otis, Popoki, even bee

It’s time for me to be reborn
I cannot forever mourn.


Thursday, February 04, 2010


[written while waiting in probate court 02/02/10]

Legal world of halls and courts
Paying fines, and collecting torts
In front of judge expose all warts
Lawyers nose buried in thick reports.

The thin veneer that looks so clean
But under the surface there’s so much mean
Can only survive if the mind is keen
And you present yourself as outwardly clean.

It’s a wonderful institute that we’ve created
Keeps us from killing our neighbors hated
Gives us a chance to keep our word as stated
Punishes actions of bullies baited.

But is it Justice, or for what is Right?
Is it for these things in court we fight?
Shouldn’t it elevate us to new moral height
Isn’t the goal that we see the Light?
Sadly, what happens in court is not all that bright
Keeps us from killing our neighbors with might
Somewhat relieves our deep night fright
Barely keeps us civil in our moral blight
Has little to do with what’s wrong or Right.

Is it about Justice, what’s objectively Best?
Or are the resolutions of these matters only guessed?
Where we find out our life is only a test
Where our eyes are opened before final rest?

Sadly, we’ve not achieved this lofty goal
For now we play a pretenders role
Rather than a diamond, we’ve chosen a coal
Would that our courts were concerned with our soul.

Monday, February 01, 2010


This is a poem I finished last night (1/30/10). It is about Dolores, who I have been thinking about as I am finishing a book about significant aspects of our life together. I hope you enjoy the poem -- I am also working on a book of poetry. Will I ever publish it? Who knows. Everyone raves over the "poets" who don't rhyme and who rant and rave as they angrily read their "work," whereas what I write seems unfit for public consumption, due to the fact that it has a point, it rhymes, and it generally has rhythm. Anyway, please enjoy!

We dreamed together while awake
Our ancient bonds we could not escape
We saw the path our life would take
We wanted Real, we eschewed fake
We prepared to survive a big earthquake
And Dolores’ dharma was bread to bake

We studied symbols that came our way
Secret message in our path did lay
Words in ads, numbers on license and house
Tatoos on drums that were made in Taos

We recorded, studied what it meant
Timely messages from above were sent
Saw hidden message in coffee cup
Patterns in clouds made us look up
Sometimes say change your way, repent
Or confirmed path was true to full extent
Pursued ethical business to help pay rent
Though at times we barely had a cent.

A great trip we took to Tahlequah, OK
Later in Gallup, and the pipe we did smoke
Followed Red Path as best we could
Shared our lessons in the neighborhood
Lots of ups and downs and in betweens
Often wish we met when in our teens
Towards end, Dolores business of boarding dogs
Renting to students, ebay, and writing blogs
She was quite a gal with talents many
I often linked her to our Henny Penny
She loved to dwell in Hawaii world
When her Eagle was present, her spirit unfurled

But time goes on as time it does
We all lose all that we loves
It was Dolores’ time, and she moved on
But I still can’t believe that she is gone

In my heart she’s with me always
In my mind I can view her gaze
If my mind-ear listens, I hear her phrase
I see her now where spirit Eagle plays
Where there are no bright colors, only grays
In the land I can’t reach, my eyes only glaze
Where she serves her bread on golden trays
Where she faces east to morning rays
Oh, that my end would be like hers, my heart prays
Dolores, you will be with me to the end of days.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2010 Birthday Run

I’d like to share with you my 2010 "birthday run." Since the mid-1970s, I have commemorated my birthday by doing a "birthday run," where I go to a local track and run one lap for each year, and recall the events of each year as I run. This year I ran around the casting pool in the Arroyo Seco. I enjoyed the coolness of the Arroyo and the wooded atmosphere.

I carried my little notebook with me to jot down significant memories. This year, it seemed that I was able to somewhat effortlessly get into my life re-view. The details of my life are not especially important (except to me). Rather, I’m sharing this so you can feel the value of doing such a life –review on your birthday.

I began the run and the memories began to flow quickly.

I recall in 1956 being aware of my father, and feeling great compassion for him. I had no idea what challenges he faced at that time, but I realized in retrospect that I always took my parents for granted. And this feeling of compassion was quickly followed by a feeling of fear and dread. "Where am I?" I wondered, here in this new body, being born into this strange Pasadena city.

By 1958, as my awareness began to grow, I felt that there was great magic in the world – real magic and wonderful things – that I was not yet experiencing. I assumed that adults all knew about these truly wonderful things, but I eventually learned that adults did not. In fact, most adults were the enemies of magic and wonder.

By the late 50s, I realized I was "learning" from my older brothers. This means I learned mostly bad things, learning to tame the dark side in order to be "cool," or accepted. I was both attracted to this dark side, and repelled by it.

I also felt a great attraction to the idea of being a priest. This seemed to be the possible path to the magic, and my mother often talked to me about this, though it was not a formal path that I would ever take.

I couldn’t yet read when in Kindergarten, but a Japanese girl in my class would read comics to me. My mind was awakened by the magic of words, and I was spellbound that another classmate had a skill that I lacked.

I realized that I didn’t talk much by first grade, but watched and observed others very closely. I received a lot of attention in October of 1961 when, during art class, I made a picture of a witch flying through the air on a broom, while everyone else made jack-o-lantern images, as instructed. In retrospect, I thought perhaps this was a sign to me of some past-life affinity to Wicca.

While running, I began to talk to Dolores, and looked up to see clouds in the sky that seemed to be Dolores "talking" to me. Then a V-formation of squaking ducks flew by, which made me happy, and made me feel that there is always hope.

I ran through grammar school this way, recalling significant incidents that affected me. But I realized now that I had a very little world, with very narrow horizons. I went to school, watched TV, did homework, went back to school. I felt that I needed, and should have had, far greater challenges even then.

By 1967, there was the allure of drugs, and I recall how marijuana opened my mind to world that was similar to the magic I believed existed. But I quickly realized that the mind-world of drugs was doing me no good: my health suffered, I had no friends, I was unproductive, always late, and unable to keep my word, so I quit taking any drugs.

My parents got a divorce, and eventually they got back together again. I was unable to see my parents as real people with their own life, and realizing this has made me far more compassionate towards them. I went through a period of great depression, and felt alone even though there were always people around. Maybe my parents knew no other way, but children at that formative age really need parents to be with them closely, and guide them into future endeavors. I was clearly ready for a lot.

I healed my pain by becoming a Buddhist, writing poetry, learning to play the drums, and starting martial arts. It was the beginning of a new life for me, and I felt a whole new world opening to me by the time I started 9th grade at St. Francis High School. I looked back now at the ridiculousness of wanting to be "in," and yet I spent a lot of time in that pointless pursuit.

Time flowed so quickly. I went to John Muir High school in 10th grade, and met Janice, who would be my first wife years later. I went to Ohio to get "back to the land" on my grandfather’s farm, and found that there was no life there for me. I traveled to Mexico, studied Spanish, visited pyramids, but still felt that I was not where I should be. I returned home, went to Pasadena City College and studied botany and journalism, and began Wild Food Outings in 1974, and a path of writing that has continued to this day.

I moved to Highland Park and Janice and I married in 1979, and I felt that I was on top of the world, despite my great ignorances. I was deeply involved in my studies with the non-profit WTI, and research and writing, and thought that I was to change the world. My marriage with Janice seemed OK, but we divorced after about 3 years, followed by a short period of homelessness by me.

Now, looking back, nearly all my "problems" could have been avoided if I had followed the principles I was saying I believed in: always keep your word, get it right from the beginning, don’t pursue purely material things.

My relationship with Dolores had begun and we got married when I was working at a Christian Science church in 1986. We had a fantastic first anniversary at our new home. I recall having such an awe of Dolores, seeing such vast potential and ability that she didn’t even see in herself. It seems we never see ourselves as others do. We pursued our dreams together. During our years together, I saw that we often were on slightly different paths, but we took the time to communicate and tried to solve the problems that arose. We did this a lot, as were by no means perfect.

I began to teach at Escalon (for developmentally disabled adults) and Dolores would often pick me up and we’d go shopping together. It was a happy time for me, and I could not help but cry as I ran, thinking back of all the little things I could have done better for Dolores and for our relationship

We had a wonderful trip to Tahlequah, OK for the Commemoration of the Trail of Tears in 1989 –we’d studied the Cherokee language together and wanted to visit our teacher in Oklahoma.
I quit that job and worked with Dolores at her Rainbow Garden Service for awhile, one of the many businesses that she would eventually start.

We began a pencil business, went to craft shows, wrote articles. It all went so fast, like a whir. I was like an observer seeing these events flow by, not realizing how rapidly flows the river of time. Maybe it was the oxygen, and running around a body of water, but I was deeply re-experiencing my life as I ran.

I saw myself take on the editor job of the Mensa magazine, redoing my Guide to Wild Food book, my writing for American Survival Guide magazine, and teaching cooking classes with Dolores at our home. We saw the Y2K fear come and go, and it forced us to put in solar electricity and solar water heating. Both my parents died, and Dolores assisted me in "being with" them during that time. We wrote our Extreme Simplicity book, and appeared on Huell Howser’s show. And I did some TV work, showing survival skills as Nature Man on Fox’s X show.

I always knew that everyone dies. Yet it was so hard to deal with it – my canine pal Cassius Clay died and I felt I lost a part of myself.

I loved it when Dolores came to the farmers market and sold her linens and antiques. It all went too fast. I could not help but focus on Dolores in the last years, our arguments, attempts at resolution, all my errors, and finally Dolores’ illness and my assisting her around the clock. She called it "Christopher’s Heavenly Hospital" as I took care of Dolores, kept the room warm, listened to music, and made plans for our future. I didn’t think Dolores would die, and my life was very dark with inner chaos and unspeakable sadness when she died. We’d become closest, best friends in our final weeks, and during my last year – my last lap of running – I couldn’t concentrate on much else but Dolores, and how I wished things were different. It felt that my tears were scarring my face.

When done running through my life, I sat with Nicole and tried to relate some of this – the "what to do" things, like keep your word, and do the right thing, and how times just flies, all the things we hope we learn before it is too late to matter. Nicole was a wonderful support, and organized a group of friends on the evening of my birthday. It was impossible to relate to everyone all the details of the run – except that I felt it was so good to have done the run. It was not simply a "review," but a re-living while re-feeling what had happened. It was truly as if I’d died, experienced a review of my life, and was born-again. It seemed to be my most significant run ever.

Upon reflection, I realized that all the "sayings" and rules we get from our priests and rabbis and parents were indeed survival tools of the utmost sort, designed to keep us on a straight and narrow path, the only path to real freedom and true peace.