Another Way
    It's been a year since I committed to the work of Busting Loose, and now I can honestly say I have experienced what that really means.
    In the essay that appears on my home page, I stated that I had reached a point where I had no choice but to live my life another way. When I made my vow of transformation, I wasn't really thinking about losing everything dear to me, like money, relationships, friends, health insurance, places to live or my identity. I was beyond naive.
    The last two months, in particular, have revealed the terrifying answer to the question, what would it look like if you got what you wished for?
    Because as it turns out, my Expanded Self has rabbit ears, an elephant's memory and a trickster's sense of theater.
    I know, I know. Robert Scheinfeld warned me. He repeatedly said that Busting Loose is a tumultuous journey, in which nothing is solid, stable or predictable. I had to learn it for myself. But I get it now. It's a question of how far down the rabbit hole I wanted to go.
    I'm happy to report that I have gone through the rabbit  hole and am now in a coal mine, deep beneath the surface. For right now, that seems to be home, and as my eyes adjust to the lack of light, I'm becoming more comfortable there.
    What's it like in here?
    Let's start with Robert's contention that you can't slip back into Phase 1 after you've entered Phase 2. On a number of occasions, I have questioned that assertion. Of course I can backslide, I do it on a daily basis.
    Expanded Self, in fact, will not let me relapse. It has shown me that emphatically -- with everything and everyone in my hologram.
    That crashing sound you just heard? That was a cave-in. Can't go back that way.
    Life accelerates like a NASCAR driver on the back stretch. The lessons that once took days, weeks, months, years to learn, are now coming by the hour. I can only assume that means I'm finally ready to receive them. Take my weekend, please.
    Friday night, I went on a date with a lovely woman I have known for some time. The date went well. We talked about getting together again soon. Sunday morning, I wake up to read on Facebook that's she's back in a relationship with her former fiance. Why I created Facebook and that stupid relationship status app, I'll never know. The point is, there is still something for me to clean up about my relationship to relationships, and instead of breakfast in bed, Expanded Self spilled hot coffee on my agenda. Why waste time?
    I cite this example simply because it is the freshest of a month of relationship disappointments that Expanded Self felt I needed to experience, a hallway full of doors closing to my past.
    Then there's that thing about joy and things disguised as joy. As I was whipsawed between the heights of ecstasy and depths of insensitivity, indifference, disappointment and fear, I began questioning my consciousness. If the hologram is a reflection of our consciousness, was mine in need of some thorazine?
    My friend, Vickie, gently reminded me of another Truth, that everything is something disguised as joy. It's all helpful and supportive, no matter what it looks or feels like.
    What a relief. Being the wise creation that she is, she also reminded me not to dismiss the hurt, pain and anger part of the equation, so I have sat with that and processed as necessary. And isn't that the point?
    Robert also notes that people will act totally out of character sometimes when you're in Phase 2. I will say he is a master of understatement. I have created a number of people I believed I was close to to act in some insensitive ways while delivering their message of joy.
    And you know what I have to say to all of you? No, not screw you. Thank you for letting me know how much digging I still need to do to get out of the coal mine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me. I don't really want to go to coffee with any of you any time soon, but thanks.
    I have also experienced some profound connections with my creations and birthed some absolutely joyful circumstances in rapid succession, too. People that I have had troublesome relationships within the hologram have extended a hand of peace. I have manifested money from consciousness. I've created a second residence.
    Which all led me strangely enough to a classic intro to the song "Better Off Without a Wife" done by Tom Waits on his live album "Nighthawks At the Diner," where he details the experience of taking himself out on a date. It is pure genius on many levels, not the least of which is the nature of reality.
    Because no matter who shows up on my arm, I really am just taking myself out on a date, right? Next time, I'll try not to take advantage of myself.    
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    The news broke this week that former major league slugger Mark McGwire finally admitted to using steroids. To the sports-challenged among you, McGwire made his mark as the hitter of prodigious homeruns for the Oakland As and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball teams, and in 1998, shattered the long-held homerun record of 61 in a season by hitting 70.
    It was long suspected that the bulked-up McGwire -- an Incredible Hulk in a baseball uniform -- doped to achieve what he did, and so when he finally broke his silence, it was no big surprise. But it did further damage his chances to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame and destroyed much of the good will he had built up during that historic season.
    What was more disturbing were his excuses for "juicing." In various interviews, he's blamed it on the sports culture he was part of, he's suggested he only did it for his health, that the doping did not improve his performance or give him a competitive edge, and that he only used illegal substances in small doses, which somehow makes it okay. Lastly, he contends, he would have hit all those homeruns anyway, regardless of the steroids.
    Now aside from the fact that baseball and steroid use is one big illusion inside the bigger illusion of life, there is a larger point --  -- that our illusions are more resistant than a yeast infection.
    Perhaps that is why this story has resonated with me so much.
    I'm not a major league slugger. I was a pro in the relationship game. But it was only in the past few weeks that I came to understand the breadth and depth of illusion I have energized around relationships, and around one in particular, with my most recent ex, Liz. She is the female "aspect" I created and became romantically involved with for five years, before breaking up more than a year ago.
    I realize that like McGwire what I've succeeded in doing is building bigger and stronger illusions, because that is part of the game of denying who we really are.
    I didn't just one day wake up and start this pattern. It took years. I went from being a heartsick and depressed victim of breakups, to understanding and addressing the co-dependence beneath it all, to experiencing these events as important spiritual lessons. In my mind, it's been an interesting, healthy and natural progression.
    Then a strange thing happened. Busting Loose came into my life -- via Liz -- and suddenly I was hooked on performance-enhancing spirituality.
    I would like to tell you that I only did Busting Loose for my emotional health. But I would be fabricating. i was able to twist the spiritual principles of Busting Loose around to justify continuing a relationship with Liz, long after I probably should have gone on my merry way. (To all my friends, you can stop snickering now.)
    I want to be clear. I am in full support of Busting Loose. It's not the fault of Robert Scheinfeld that I took the path I did. It has transformed my life in many positive ways. But as we know, anything can be used for good or bad purposes -- except maybe chicken-fried steak. I still haven't discovered the upside for that one.    
    That said, I don't regret any aspect of our relationship or the fact that I forced it to continue well after its expiration date. I just have a different perspective on what it was all about. I'm glad it helped me discover eggs and begin to drain them.  I know that confronting the fears reflected by Liz moved me through this transition in a more transformative way. Many things really have changed for me, including losing the need to actually be in a relationship.
    And to be honest, there were some fun times in the aftermath. But I realize I also expended a lot of effort injecting myself with rationalizations to bulk up my illusions.     
    I reached my Alcoholic's Anonymous epiphany around Christmas. I had visited Liz over the holidays and it became painfully clear that I was not having fun being with this aspect and the well of discomfort was seemingly without bottom. In other words, she continued to perfectly perform the role my Expanded Self had scripted for her, namely that of reflecting something I thought or felt about myself (I'll take self-loathing for $100, Alex), giving me a gift of insight, and setting something in motion that supports me on my journey.
    I won't bore you with what I think about myself and I have no idea exactly what has been set in motion, but I do have some insight into my illusions and illusory beliefs. So that's where I'll start.
    I created the belief that we must remain friends. I created the beIief that remaining friends would be the noble and spiritual thing to do and that it was important to see myself that way.  I created the illusion at various times that there was some interest on her part in becoming "involved" again. I created the belief that no matter what, we were spiritual companions and always would be. I created the illusion that she was wiser than I was when it came to spiritual issues and that no one could ever replace her as my spiritual guide.  
    I created the belief that only by going back again and again to experience the discomfort of being with her would I ever drain this relationship egg -- and that I wasn't really Busting Loose if I didn't bring on the discomfort.
    To further pervert the intent of Busting Loose, I created the belief that if I changed my consciousness, she would fall in love with me again. Ouch.
    In other words, instead of simply processing, I focused on a lot of things that were none of my damned business as a human player in Phase 2.
    Talk about a McGwire moment. I get it, though. That's the difference between me and Mark. So, I'm fessin' up. I still love her to death and appreciate her tremendous support, and Liz and I, are in truth, one in consciousness. I imagine some day when I'm firmly ensconced in Phase 2, we will create a lovely, unconditionally loving and joyful experience of relationship. Or neither of us will exist in the other's hologram. Until then, who knows?
    Either way, I accept the possibility that I may not get accepted into the Relationship Hall of Fame.  But today, I am clear, and so is the purpose of Busting Loose.
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True Bromance


    Many years ago before the term "bromance" came into vogue, I manifested a best buddy, a guy named Josh.
    We met shortly after I moved to Albuquerque in 1978 to help launch a bi-weekly newspaper. Josh approached me with a story, which I recall never saw the printed page of our august rag. But Josh was funny, cool and a talented writer. We were a good match.
    We shared our tastes in popular music, the adventure of discovering hole-in-the-wall restaurants, our predilection for exotic alcoholic drinks, our love of offbeat films and the usual guy stuff revolving around sex, sports, politics, cars and barbecue. We shared some of those things with our significant others at the time, but mostly it was about Josh and me.
    Less than two years after we met, I took a job at the big morning daily where I settled in as the weekend police reporter.  Several months later, I was bumped up to full-time police reporter.
    Josh was working as a paralegal, but his ambition was to become a journalist. He was dying to break into the business and when I got the promotion, he asked if there was any chance he could get the weekend cop job.
    Although I knew he could write, I imagined his lack of journalistic credentials would eliminate him. But my editor took my recommendation and offered him the job. He quickly became a golden boy at the paper, even though his habit of dressing as a Sandinista guerrilla was directly responsible for a dress code being instituted.
    Even after I married and became a father, we stayed close. But by the mid-80s, he was ready to move on and went off to Columbia to get his masters in journalism and work on the east coast. It was the beginning of his long and successful ascent in the business.
    He returned to Albuquerque a few times after graduation and once tried to return the favor I had done for him by getting him his first break.
    I had a number of reasons for turning down the opportunity he offered (the main one being that I would have to move to New Jersey).  He became exasperated, my wife became pissed at me, and I became defensive. That night, the bromance officially ended.
    For my part, I never thought Josh owed me anything, and I guess I was taken aback at his insistence I accept the favor.
    In the intervening years, Expanded Self decided that getting divorced and immersing myself in intense relationships with a series of women was the path to enlightenment. Josh, and guys in general, became an afterthought.
    Sometime in the early 2000s, I met Gene.
    We shared a love for writing, road-tripped together and engaged in marathon discussions on subjects ranging from his beloved Red Sox to economic development. Gene installed a beautiful tile floor in a condo I once owned, for free. I helped Gene get a job as a television host. We worked together on a film festival I had helped start. We even dated and broke up with the same woman at different times.
    I thought maybe, I'd found a new Josh.
    But over the last two or three years we got together less and less.  Sometimes we went months between contacts. Nothing went obviously wrong, as with Josh. The buddy-ness of our relationship just faded.
    Then this fall, we re-connected via a Facebook chat while I was in Japan. Out of the blue, he offered me a place to live when I returned.
     After creating much anxiety around my return to New Mexico and "reality," this seemed like a nice Busting Loose cookie.
     But I still had plenty to process, as I soon found out.
     After arriving in Albuquerque, I met Gene at his place near downtown. I'll admit, I had some judgment about it. It was small, old, worn, drafty and grungy. Breakfast nooks and jacuzzis were not part of the deal.
     I told myself to get over the ingratitude. I would get a chance to re-connect with Gene. I had always wanted to live near downtown. I had a roof over my head, even if it had a hole in it. But it would take more than a pep talk. The situation I had created forced me to look at some of my deepest insecurities and do some serious processing. I know I had long ago decided to do things "another way," but this was not exactly how I had envisioned it.
     Here's the cool part. I told Gene I had little money. No big deal, you're welcome. Don't worry about the rent.
     When it got cold, Gene said, crank up the heat. My bill is practically nothing.
     No Christmas presents this year? Well, Gene got me one.
     A couple nights later, he brought groceries home for me. I hadn't asked.
     We've renewed our marathon gab sessions. His girlfriend now gracefully exits when we get started, since she knows she won't be able to wedge a complete sentence in for a couple of hours.
     In his spare time, he doubles as my muse, (although I am still open to the idea of Penelope Cruz filling that role), not only supporting me in my starving artist game by providing me a place to live, but serving as a dread-locked sounding board for documentary movie themes, screenplay plot points and writing ideas.
     I hadn't asked for any favors. Yet there they were.
     I have heard that Gene is just as generous in the holograms of other people. I'm happy for them, too. All I know is that I've gotten another glimpse of what appreciation and gratitude are all about.
     It's good to be home again, and all I can say is, I love you, man.
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                                            On Dissolving the I (inspired by Adyashanti)
    I am not the accretion that becomes incarnate.
    I don't mean I haven't done it, or been it, or created it, or possessed it. I don't mean I am not deserving of it. I just mean I don't want it any more.   
    I am not a father. I am not a son. I am not an ex-husband. I am not a divorcé. I'm not a single guy. I am not a cousin. I am not a nephew. I am not a first cousin once removed. I am.
    I am not a writer. I am not a filmmaker. I am not a storyteller. I am not a screenwriter. I am not a producer. I am not a house-sitter. I am not a founder. I am not a teacher. I am not a student.  I am not a former journalist. I am not a college graduate. I am not the firstborn or the most special sibling in my family. I am not the teacher's pet. I am not the smartest kid in class. I am not from a long line of anything. I am not an ex-Catholic. I'm not an ex-Buddhist. I am not an entrepreneur. I'm not an artist.  I am not a visionary. I am not my resumé. I am.
    I say this with complete love. I am not your friend. I am not your long lost friend. I am not your buddy. I am not your lover. I am not your boyfriend. I am not your former boyfriend. I am not your future boyfriend. I am not your acquaintance. I am not your Facebook friend. I am not your uncle. I am not your brother. I am not your cousin. I am not your son. I am not your father. I am not your business partner. I am not your employee. I am not your boss. I am not somebody who knows somebody. I am not somebody who could help you. I'm not somebody who could hire you. I am.
    I am not my wit. I am not my sarcasm. I am not cynicism. I am not my wealth. I am not my poverty. I am not my knowledge. I am not my compassion. I am not my blessings. I am not my fate. I am not my sun sign. I am not too good for this. I am.
    I am not my full head of hair. I am not my jump shot. I am not the legendary over-the-shoulder catch to win the game. I am not my horrendous slice. I am not my back pain. I am not my old shoes. I am not my special socks. I am not my laptop. I am not the cute kid in the home movies. I'm not the school spelling bee champ. I am not my bank account. I am not the house I live in. I am not my next project.  I am not Steven King's lookalike, so just stop that shit. I am.
    I am not my car. I am not my journals. I am not my knick knacks, gewgaws or tchotches. I am not my art collection. I am not the lover of Guided by Voices. I am not my record collection. I am not the songs on my Ipod. I am not my clothes. I am.
    I am not my seeking.  I am not my fear. I am not my confidence. I am not my example.  I am not my victimhood. I am not my victimizing. I am not the stand up guy. I am not the chump. I am not my spirituality. I am not my reliability.  I'm not my authenticity. I'm not my falseness. I'm not my helpfulness. I'm not my indispensability.  I'm not my bitterness. I'm not my elation. I am not my drinking. I'm not my sobriety. I am not my exquisite taste in music. I am not my opinions. I am not my judgment. I am.
    I am not that funny story about visiting Europe. I am not that tragic story about dozens of romantic breakups. I'm not that blog about my amazing trip to Japan. I'm not my memories of sexual experiences. I'm not my memories of getting kicked in the ass. I'm not a book I read. I am not my friends. I am not my enemies.
    I am not my sense of obligation, my sense of duty, my sense of right, my sense of wrong, my sense of justice, my sense of betrayal, my sense of fairness. I am not my sense of humor. I am not my sense of anything. I am.
    I am not responsible for anything. I am responsible for everything. I am neither and both. I am only a passing thought. I am transparent. Can you still recognize me?
    I'll leave the keys under the mat. It's all yours if you want it. But I am out of here.
    The truth is I was drinking coffee from a yellow mug when I wrote this. I was sitting on a leather couch in a living room in a house in Placitas. I was wearing jeans and a pullover shirt. The sun was shining through the windows.
    The Truth is I am empty. I am light. I am one with.
    Now we're getting somewhere.
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Cookie Monsters


    Last time I wrote, I was adamant that upon setting foot in the United States after spending two months in Japan, I was not going to return to reality -- at least as defined by others. My hope was to bring my expanded consciousness back with me and perhaps rearrange the terrain.
    I guess the universe was listening to the first part, because what I stepped into upon my return was more surreal than real.
    As for the second part, that's still up for discussion. My predominant feeling has been one of disconnection from everything, including my true self and my upgraded consciousness. Busting Loose seems a distant memory. Somewhere on the flight across the Pacific, I entered the Twilight Zone and accidentally landed in someone else's hologram, and I don't know what I'm doing here. So if your hologram seems a little crowded, I apologize.
    That person in Japan who was wowed every day with sights and sounds and filled with gratitude for the experience is now questioning and judging creations, instead of appreciating them. My discomfort is rampant. My processing less so. Nothing seems quite right, whether it's my bank account, relationships or housing situation. This was not exactly the souvenir I wanted to return from Japan with.
    Of course, this is a judgment about what is right, judgment about an illusion, and judgment is the mother of disappointment.
    But for the first time since I embarked on the Busting Loose journey nearly a year ago, I've felt lost and doubting at times.
    Now from past experience, I know this is usually a necessary step -- the breakdown before the breakthrough, as a friend put it. Yet I still feel unsettled.
    As I told some friends recently, it's as if I went to spiritual rehab in Japan for two months. I got to see what it was like to be clean and sober. But upon returning to my previous environment, I was tempted to fall back into my same old junkie habits, patterns and limitations that frustrated me in the first place.
    From a Busting Loose perspective, I never really went anywhere. The true me was always here, I just rearranged the furniture in the hologram to make it look like I went somewhere. At the same time, whatever eggs I didn't drain there, are still with me.
    The thing is, I know my consciousness changed, and I understand now that I was hoping that would be reflected in my environment, and by implication, it would be good. Instead, I feel as if I've relapsed, although as Robert Scheinfeld tells us, that is not possible.
    While house-sitting the other day, I was watching a show on cable called "Hoarders." It's about people who refuse to let go of anything, whether it be old magazines, candy bar wrappers or stray cats. Their homes overflow with rubbish and filth, to the detriment of their health or well-being. It often gets to the point where personal relationships are threatened. One divorced woman, in fact, could not bring herself to clean up her home, even though leaving it cluttered meant she would not be able to get custody of her children.
    These are extreme cases, obviously. But it did cause me to reflect on all the clutter I refuse to let go of, all those boxes of beliefs that I am sure will be of use some day, in some situation, no matter how useless they truly are. That is what the Busting Loose process is there to address.
    The tricky thing is that our egos can turn anything around on us, even Busting Loose. I realized that the stream of cookies I had been receiving, the "signs" that I was on the right path since starting the process, have dried up since I returned.  
    The point is I am just as hooked on the cookies as I am on old patterns. I was hoarding them. When the cookies didn't continue to materialize, let alone get bigger and tastier, I got pissed. I began judging myself again, because of my inability to produce them.
    The lack of cookies began eating away at my identity, which is probably what my Expanded Self has intended all along.
    What this also says to me is that I am not being present. The signs of Busting Loose that appeared in my past mean nothing at this moment. They are sort of like sports trophies displayed in the rec room. They're nice to show off to friends, but only a reminder of the glory days. They have nothing to do with the present state of consciousness.
    As Robert says, you just do the process to reclaim the power and where it goes, it goes. It's not your choice. If it doesn't produce cookies, then so be it. The lack thereof may mean nothing more than that the Keebler elves are on vacation.

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    With my two-month Japan sojourn at an end, I'm in Los Angeles preparing for my re-entry into New Mexico. One of the things I've created is comments from friends about "returning to reality," as if what I was doing in Japan wasn't real.
    I understand that none of it is real in the hologram -- the only reality is my consciousness -- but for the sake of discussion, I am interested in examining what is being reflected back.
    The underlying message seems to be, "Gee, isn't that nice you got to screw around on vacation for two months and visit a bunch of cool places and eat a lot of great food and hang with your wonderful son and have an inspiring adventure, but...." The "but" is, "it's time to get real, get back to business, find a place to live, settle down and conform to the 'reality' you left before, because you just can't do that. What you really want is back here."
    It's not really about jealousy, at least I don't think so.
    It's an unsettling feeling I have that I've done something wrong, like the slutty cheerleader in a horror movie who has sex with the quarterback and then 15 minutes later is chainsawed by the killer with the not-so-subtle implication being that you don't get something -- pleasure, and a letter jacket, in this case -- for nothing, and thus, she merits dismemberment.
    I'm happy to report that I have not even heard a chainsaw, let alone been threatened with one, and that I'm processing my way through all the discomfort. Yes, I intend to return "home" for a time, look for work, get a place to live that has a street address and not a license plate number -- unless something else presents itself. I have no idea what that's going to look like or feel like, and at this point, I'll wait to be surprised. But as for returning to the generic reality envisioned by some aspects, I'm not so sold on that idea.
     One thing I came to realize is that I didn't deserve the richly abundant life I've lived for the past two months, and I mean that in a good way. The origin of the word means to be entitled to something because of good service. Now good service can be interpreted in a lot of ways, depending on whether you're talking about a geisha or a gas station attendant. But lets just say there's a lot of room for interpretation of service and deserving.  
    It can be as simple as, I deserve a chocolate donut because I biked 10 miles yesterday. I deserve an afternoon of watching football because I pruned the mulberry bush this morning. I deserve to go on a Caribbean cruise because I worked overtime at the car wash for two years to pay for it. You've got to pay to play.
    In Phase 1, returning to reality seems to be the payment or service I owe someone for enjoying myself for a few weeks in paradise.
    But I find that "deserving" something is just another b.s. belief in the hologram. I don't have to "do" anything to merit a joyful life. The only qualification for experiencing my abundance is the fact that I'm a conscious being. It comes with the entry fee.
     It feels different in another way, something more subtle. I've occasionally splurged on myself -- we all have -- with the implicit understanding that the new X-Box or BMW will bring us joy, or at least make us feel better -- and I deserve to feel good. But it's usually about putting power in things or people outside of ourselves to try to affect the hologram, and that, you don't deserve. You just open to receive what you already have. It's all just joy disguised as something else anyway.
    So I don't plan to spend any time justifying why I came to Japan, or why I returned to the states when I did. I will simply focus on appreciating the great gift I created and gave myself and watch the time-released transformation and expansion that will be apparent over the coming weeks, months and years.  
         When I went to Japan, I told myself I wanted the trip to be disorienting to an extent, to shake up everything, re-order my world. It worked.
      Learning to negotiate my way around a new city, trying to grasp a new language, eating strange (and wonderful) food, seeing only new sights, has given me new eyes (for about the same cost as laser surgery).
    Now, I can't wait to see just what "reality" looks like back in familiar territory,  
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Dearly Departing


    If Phase 2 is all about experience and feeling, my departure from Japan puts me in the thick of it.
    I've relished the time I've spent here and the fact that I created this for myself. Most of all, I've cherished the time with my son, Teo. But now I near the dreaded time of departure, and I have to force myself to remember that my discomfort provides a great opportunity to invoke the Process.
    Teo and I have a lot of leaving and separation to look back upon. At about age 12, about six years into our divorce, my ex-wife and I had to make a decision when her new husband was faced with the choice of losing his job or re-locating to Portland, Ore. Would Teo stay in Albuquerque with me or move with them to Portland?
    My wife and I had made one vow when we divorced, and that was to keep Teo's interest first, ours second, in anything we did. But at first, the familiar crap came up. Who were they to take my son away from me? What had I done to deserve this? What had he done to deserve this? If only we'd never divorced in the first place. Yada, yada, yada. I downloaded guilt through a high-speed connection.
    Teo has always been preternaturally mature and wise, at least we created him that way. After having him see a counselor, who agreed with us, we decided it best to leave the ultimate decision up to him. Some might say that was a dereliction of parental duty. I don't know. But it felt like the right thing to do at the time. As I realize now, there was no wrong decision. But we did not understand that at the time.
    I still swallow hard when I think about the day he told us he had decided to go to Oregon. I felt bad for myself, but I felt worse for him for having to even make the decision.
    During his years in Oregon, he came to stay with me for summers, and the occasional holiday. I visited Portland a couple of times. But for the most part, I watched my son grow up from afar and tried to maintain our bond.
    Our relationship not only survived, but thrived, despite my position as a long-range parent. I don't know if we could have grown any closer, but we did not grow further apart. We settled into a rhythm and an intimacy. Our time together was sweet, but inevitably too short for my liking and the trips to the airport to drop him off were the emotional equivalent of a root canal, no matter how much practice I got.
    After he went off to college in New York City, we saw even less of each other. His summer stays were curtailed greatly and we made do with weekly phone calls, holiday reunions and my rare visit to the Big Apple.
    Although Teo mastered life in the city, he struggled through college, more than I even knew until recently. At some point three or so years in, he was ready to give it up. Or at least take a semester off and consider what he would do with the rest of his life. When he told us, it brought up a lot of judgments from both his mother and me and his stepfather. But we again decided it was his decision to make.
    I knew this time that whatever he decided was right. No question. So when he decided to take a semester off, with the possibility that he might not return to school, I had no qualms. The fact that he returned to school later and graduated is nice in a Phase 1 sense. But really, I wouldn't have cared if he had gone off to live with Pygmies. I just wanted him to be happy and follow his heart.
    Now when I see him at age 26, living in a foreign country like he was born here, I couldn't be prouder. I am happy that he's learned to figure things out for himself, and the biggest piece of advice he's asked me for is what kind of razor to shave with. You gotta thrown dad a bone some time.
    I don't quite know what to make of our relationship now. As close as I feel to my son, he is still inscrutable at times. But he remains my best creation ever and my favorite reflection. His full name, Teodoro, means "divine gift" in Italian. I believe he's more than lived up to that billing.
    I've thought about the way I played the Parent Game and about how my father played the Parent Game. My father was a good father, still is.  But Dad came from a line of a stoic Italians (I know, an oxymoron) and didn't say much most of the time. It was difficult to know what he thought about me and my siblings. He worked hard and raised a big family. He'd show up at my baseball and basketball games to cheer, but rarely offered advice. He would acknowledge a good report card, then go back to watching TV before nodding off in his recliner.
    About 15 years ago, I decided to write a letter to my father back in Ohio for Father's Day. I wrote to tell him that even though I had sometimes felt a distance between us, I appreciated him and loved him and I just thought he ought to know.
    He wrote back a wonderful letter, the only letter I can ever remember getting from him. It's stored in a safe place. I think I will read part of it at his funeral, whenever that may happen. I haven't actually read the letter in years, but I distinctly remember him writing that whatever distance I might have felt, it was not for lack of love, but his desire to let me and my brothers and my sister find our own paths in life.
    I have been at peace with my father (and that aspect of myself) ever since. I know that he gave me a great gift, and no matter how he passes, or when he passes, I won't ever have any regret about what our relationship was, is, or could have been. It's been just perfect.
    I realize that I created my father to give me that gift of self-reliance, and I created Teo to receive it from me.
    We can never truly know what we are to someone in their hologram, but I am happy to have passed my father's gift to Teo, and as I prepare for the long journey back and a few hours of sadness, I, too, hope my son is at peace with our relationship.
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    We often say or do things that we seem to understand at the time, but only realize later what it was really all about. Marriage and divorce and the fling with the waitress that precipitated the divorce would be prime examples.
    Then there's this blog. While I'm glad that "others" have appreciated what I'm doing, I'm mostly writing so that I can understand things myself.
    Which is funny in retrospect, because I think I may have missed the point of my own writing recently. I typed a piece  about why the promise of internet sales and multi-level marketing programs did not appeal to me. As long as I'm going to play the Human Game, I noted, I felt I should follow my heart and focus on my writing, blogging and filmmaking, because that is what I'm inspired to do.
    And it's true as far as it goes. But something kept nagging at me. I awoke a couple days later and on a whim, turned on my Ipod and randomly chose a section from a program by Adyashanti, and not coincidentally, there was my answer.
    Listening to Adyashanti made it clear to me what is at the essence of this impulse.
    We do not live to imitate others, he said. The people who inspire us are those who didn't do it the way everybody else did. That's at the heart of my disinterest in my creations of organized religion or multi-level marketing plans or anything that says follow my formula and you've got it made. And I will repeat, this is simply me in my hologram. I have no problem with any path that my creations follow, and I understand that limitations are part of the game. But it explains why I love iconoclasts like Robert Pollard , Dave Eggers, David Lynch and Steve Jobs
    As Adyashanti points out, what has made Jesus or Buddha such compelling figures for thousands of years is that like Frank Sinatra, they did it their way, and they were unlike anybody else. They bucked the illusory beliefs we are all subject to and found their own path to the Truth. By trying to do what Jesus would do, (especially the hanging on the cross part) or meditate like the Buddha, we are missing the point.
    "They were pure undistorted expressions of life itself," Adyashanti said. "Each person has a gift. It's like reality or life is just waiting to express itself through each being in a totally unique way. Totally unique expressions of the one."
    Thus, anything that reeks of following the herd (literary cliches included) is by definition not part of my unique mission and purpose, as Robert Scheinfeld calls it in Busting Loose.
    Now, I'm a big believer in guidance. God knows I've sought enough of it in the last 30 years, whether it was the Sunday horoscope or reading chicken entrails or consuming the work of self-help authors like a crack addict.
    But I immediately recoil when someone tells me they have the "answer." It's depriving me of the exquisite pleasure of beating my head against the wall until I get it.
    That goes for Robert and Busting Loose. I admire Robert as one of the most important aspects I've ever created in this illusion. The wisdom he has imparted has changed my life. But I have no desire to live his life, or be too concerned about following his every suggestion to a T.
    Guidance can only point us in the right direction, or to use a diving analogy, Busting Loose is the springboard, but only I can perform the reverse 3 1/2 somersault in pike position that is my life.
    Busting Loose is a useful tool, an important stepping stone on my journey to awakening, nothing more, nothing less. But ultimately, I have no desire but to awaken to the truth of who I am. Whether I'm judged, or judge myself, to be faithful to the principles of Busting Loose is ultimately irrelevant, and I know Robert would be the first to agree.  
    I do not claim to be an authority on any of this subject matter, just an observer. I hope you will read something here that gives you an insight, or at least a good laugh. But if not, that's fine by me. If I stray from what you/me believe is the correct path, feel free to tell me, but more importantly, just be happy that in my "mistakenness," I've once again helped you clarify your own understanding.  
    A Native American friend once told me of an experience in a rez town. He was walking with another friend when they noticed a tribal elder passed out from drinking. My friend remarked what a shame it was that the elder was an alcoholic. His companion replied that the elder was just being a really good example to others of how dangerous alcohol can be.
    So if it helps to think of me as that alcoholic elder, please do so. At this point in my blogging career -- and the rest of my illusory life -- I value the authentic expression of what I'm experiencing in Phase 2 more than whether I'm doing it right. I think I'll drink to that.
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    A couple weeks ago I related the experience of going to a restaurant in Miyako by myself for the first time and taking a stab at using my limited Japanese to order a meal. It was empowering to say the least.
    It's human nature to want to be understood, and being understood in a language you can barely speak is beyond satisfying.
    But nothing has topped my most recent adventure.
    Out for my afternoon jaunt, I successfully ordered lunch at a local restaurant; bought a squeegee from a hardware store; and negotiated receipt of a Mr. Donut coffee mug after racking up 150 points on the store card.
    Again, nothing that you'd even think twice about in your own language, but quite a feat as far as I can tell for someone who spent two years trying to figure out the difference between sashimi and sushi.
    I began my quest for a squeegee by piecing together a sentence using my phrase book and a Japanese-English dictionary.
    As you might surmise, there was no Japanese word for squeegee in the dictionary. So using my inimitable logic, I prepared a couple of questions to ask the sales assistants. Do you have car accessories? I figured they'd just take me to that section and I'd take it out from there. But if they pressed me, I'd do my best imitation of a homeless man in New York City cleaning your car window at a stoplight. (I figured this would be easier than miming a window cleaner on a Manhattan skyscraper) True, the chances of someone working in this store in this little town who had been to New York and seen this service were pretty small. But, hey, who am I to judge?
    Just to be sure, I worked out an alternate phrase that amounted to something like "window" (and the verb) "to clean," followed by more squeegee action.  
    I walked in the store ready to go. I asked the cashier the car accessory question. She nodded and called over another assistant. I think that one asked me asked what kind of accessory was I looking for.
    "Squeegee," I blurted out. The assistant rolled that one around in her mouth for a few seconds. Then I quickly referred to my "window to clean" phrase and threw in the wiping motion. To make a long story short, it worked like a charm. She took me to see the squeegee department, showed me several sizes, and I walked out with what I wanted a few minutes later.
    Turns out, that was just the prelude to more linguistic fun.
    I met my son that afternoon after work and we went to the grocery store to get the fixings for a salmon dish. After returning home and starting the recipe, we realized we didn't have sake, the ubiquitous rice wine alcohol of Japan.
    I was dead-set on doing the recipe correctly -- and hungry -- so I suggested that instead of biking back across town to get the sake, he ask our downstairs neighbors, the Kandos, for a couple tablespoons. The Kandos have been gracious neighbors, but for whatever reason, Teo was reluctant to go downstairs and ask. But since I was the one with all this newfound Japanese knowledge, why didn't I go down there, he wondered? So I said, I'd go, but tell me what I need to ask.
    Teo told me how to say the equivalent of "may I have some sake?"  Then I planned to show them the picture in the recipe book to indicate it was for a dish we were making, and that would be it. Now here's the punchline. Sake is also the word for salmon. They wouldn't be confused, right, son?
    Nope, most people say salmon, instead of sake, he assured me. Besides, I rationalized, I could always perform my well-rehearsed imitation of a drunk homeless man with a squeegee to get my point across.
    Mr. Kando greeted me at the door and ushered me to the dining room, where his mother, a spry 92 years old, sat at the dinner table. His wife, the one who actually knew a little bit of English, was still out shopping. After exchanging some preliminary greetings, I posed the request for sake, and pointed to the picture of the dish in the book.   
    Both their faces lit up and grandma headed into the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later and handed me two sashimi-grade filets of salmon, wrapped in plastic. I realize in retrospect that showing her a picture of a salmon dish and asking for sake was sheer brilliance on my part. I thanked them profusely, and tried to explain again that I needed the drinking sake, not the swimming sake. Just a smidgen, I indicated with my thumb and forefinger.
    Their faces lit up again. Grandma again disappeared into the kitchen, only to return a few minutes later with a small container of translucent orange salmon eggs, one of Miyako's signature dishes. She even brought a spoon for me to taste. The eggs were delicious, of course, and who was I to turn down a healthy helping? She sealed the container and placed it in a bag with the salmon filets. Apparently she thought my smidgen gesture meant really small salmon, as in eggs.
    As we glided into Abbott and Costello territory, I thought, I might as well give it one more try. Sake, I said, adding the gesture of knocking one back.
    Mr. Kando was having fun now. He was apparently quite pleased that in addition to raiding his fridge, I wanted to drink with him, too. Grandma went to the kitchen and returned with a small unopened bottle of chilled sake, and a gift -- a colorful, many-faceted, cloth ball. I resigned myself to the fact that we'd have to wait for Mrs. Kando's arrival to clear things up and accepted a cupful of sake. Kompai --  "cheers" -- I said,  and we were off.
    Several shots later, Mrs. Kando arrived home. I didn't really care at that point. But after a few more minutes of hand gestures, my broken Japanese and her reading the recipe, she got it and simply pointed to the nearly empty sake bottle and uttered something to the effect of, "just take that with you."
    Now my point is not about miscommunication. I think it goes way beyond that. What I got out of it is an example of how our higher self knows much better what we want than we do. Really.
    The little me went downstairs for two measly tablespoons of sake.  The expanded Phase 2 player, came back with a fine buzz,  the final ingredient for our dinner, the next night's dinner, a local delicacy, a gift, a bonding experience, and a great story. Who says I'm not living large?
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    For the last few days I've had an ongoing dialogue with friends and relatives about what keeps us from experiencing our innate abundance.
    I've come to the conclusion it's all in the water.
    Actually, it's in the glass.
    I realized the age old question "Is the glass half empty or half full?" is emblematic of the problem. It's a tired Phase 1 question, pitting two meaningless answers against one another.
    The correct answer is, the glass is always full, we just made up a story about spilling some on the carpet. (Or the more correct answer is, neither the glass or the water or the carpet exists. But then I wouldn't have anything to write about, would I?)
    This goes back to the fundamental principle of Robert Scheinfeld's Busting Loose. The choice is not to substitute one false perception with another false perception. It's to exchange limiting beliefs for the Truth. The Truth is the glass is always full, overflowing in fact, with joy and abundance.
    This little nugget arrived courtesy of conversations I had with my friend, Vickie, and my son Teo about intention and visualization. As we have learned, intention and visualization are not all they're cracked up to be. That's why practices like the Law of Attraction and voodoo don't work for most people.
    One, they're usually focused on changing the hologram, the home of all that is illusory. Two, the intention behind it all usually originates with the ego, or the Player, and not from Expanded Self -- and I, at least, rarely know what I really want. There's a chance your ego could be aligned with Expanded Self, just as there is a chance that hell will freeze over and Neiman-Marcus will build a store there.
    Three, it means that somewhere inside, we are not accepting what is. We have to visualize something "better," or at least different. That is, if not denying the Truth, then twisting it like a French braid and yanking on it.
    But not to despair, visualizing and intentioning have their place. As Vickie points out, these practices can be used wisely. So go ahead, envision the beachfront balcony in your $10 million home and the beautiful wife/husband/cohabitator and the travels to exotic places, and the successful business. (For those of you for which this is not an issue, you are free to duck out for a minute and have a cold one on the balcony.)
    Then sit back in your La-Z-Boy and watch the thoughts and listen to the tiny voices tell you why you're going to blow it again, why you are unworthy of such things, and then process the discomfort.
    Whether you achieve your intentions or visualizations is irrelevant, just as whether the glass is half full or half empty is irrelevant. What's important is to identify the beliefs holding you back and exchange them for the Truth. (See my recent column about that.)
    My son is experiencing this on a visceral level. He has created some great stories about relationships, Japanese women and the half-formed intention of finding a wife here in Japan. He related the experience of meeting an attractive young woman and her colleague in a taxicab recently, and listening to the cacophony that rattled his brain pan. In the course of a brief ride, one voice had them married and settled down with kids. The other had him rejected by the woman, who was probably already married and/or had a boyfriend. Of course, he recognized later that both alternatives were equally false.  
    But while that opera of intention, worthiness and doubt was playing on an endless loop, the fact is, he never got a word in edgewise, never got her name, and before he could exit the cab, she was gone. His beliefs ran over the experience of the Truth.
    Nevertheless, it was a great lesson in changing consciousness and not just changing cabs or listening to a different opera. When the internal roadblocks surface and cause us discomfort, do the process. Or as my son's guru suggests, take on the presence of that dissenting voice and become it for a while until you're laughing your butt off at the ludicrousness of it all.
    When you have Busted Loose, you may still have intentions, but it won't matter. At that point, money, partners, relationships, happiness and love will be flowing into your hologram. You won't have to ask and you won't even have to plan. At least that's my theory.
    I think that's what playing in Phase 2 is all about. You don't question your life circumstances any more. Things are arising so fast and you're having so much fun that it doesn't matter what any of it looks like.
    You're in alignment with your Expanded Self. You don't have to reach out for anything. You reach in.
    And while we're on the topic of glassware and the fluids that fill them, I have a question. Why is it always water? In my Phase 2 world, it might be rum-spiked egg nog one night, Yoohoo the next, Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1789 the next. Why settle for water? C'mon people, let's be creative.
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