Another Way

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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    Sometimes I'm a little slow grasping the patterns that emerge in my hologram. Well, really slow. But recently, a pattern that's been building for a while finally emerged in my awareness, and as usual, it sort of revolves around money.
    For some reason, a combination of online sales opportunities, home-based businesses and multi-level marketing programs with all their geometry -- pyramids, circles, funnels, parallelograms and matrices -- has entered my consciousness and crashed on the couch.
    It actually started a couple years ago with a partner and a plan to provide independent filmmakers the means to sell their movies online and be the first to make money, not the last. Despite the brilliance of this idea, this endeavor is still limping along, although I'm making some headway selling a couple of my own movies.
    During the course of this process, I have had to learn a lot about how to market stuff online, and I've become acquainted with such esoterica as search engine optimization, keyword searches and auto-responders. It's a deliciously complex game.
    But the pattern really kicked in a few months ago with an offer from a friend to market and sell environmentally safe cleaning products through a multi-level marketing "opportunity," as the folks in the biz like to call it. From that point, I attracted people offering me various opportunities -- affiliate re-seller programs for building your own solar panels, health juice, beauty and longevity aids and most recently, memberships in a travel club. (During the course of this, I also started this site, which sells Busting Loose products, but apparently only in theory.)
    I know many of you reading this are either participating in similar programs or thinking about it and from what I've heard, there are some successes. I'm not here to judge any of this. But my most recent brush with multi-level marketing did cause me to contemplate my own situation.
    From a Phase 1 perspective, I think I'm like most of you. I want to work very little and make a lot of money, so these programs are initially very attractive. I know from my brief time as an internet marketing pseudo-expert, that you can actually make money doing this type of thing,  but it takes a hell of a lot more work than they let on, and there are lot of things you have no control over. Heard that one before?
    That's why 97 percent of these types of businesses fail, if I'm to believe the person I created to spout that statistic in a blog recently.
    But not to worry, the marketing gurus say. There is an entire industry dedicated not to actual sales, but to selling sales programs at anywhere from a few hundred bucks to a few thousand bucks a year. The standard come-on is this. "I was a poor schlub just like you, struggling to make ends meet. I tried internet marketing and screwed up horribly. I lost everything I owned. But in the meantime, I learned my lessons and now make tens of thousands of dollars each week. I live on the beach and surf all day. I'm one badass dude now. I'm ready to make you one badass dude (or dudette). I made all the mistakes so you don't have to. Let me show you how you can start wiping your butt with $100 bills in just a matter of weeks with my new super accelerated advanced guaranteed super program. Do it today. Don't wait. Change your life. And don't forget your credit card."
    I know, hard to resist. When you take the plunge and sign up, you are inundated with CDs, DVDs, e-books, notebooks and books that will more than likely end up on that mini-fridge you snagged at the garage sale last summer. If you act now, you might also receive free customer support from a Raj in Bangalore, assistance in building new websites, rah rah conference calls with the owners to get your greed hormones flowing and on and on.
    But the point is, you've purchased a pass to get on the inside of this exciting new game, where anything could happen. Of all the thousands of programs out there, this is the formula that will work. This is the greatest product. You're in on the ground floor, and who knows what the next big breakthrough will be? Don't worry, you'll be notified by email in a couple days. These things evolve faster than fruit flies on cocaine.
    Now as a fledgling participant in Phase 2 of Busting Loose, I can look at this one of several ways. First, this is all a great game. You can embrace the challenge and match your keyword search wits with the millions trying to be successful at the same thing. Or you could play online poker and get the same effect.
    You might convince yourself it's for a good cause and/or you're helping others. Again, all fine as long as we remember that all causes are illusions, and the only person we can "help" is us.
    Or, you might suddenly wonder if this is not the universe dropping you a cash lifeline and you'd be a fool not to jump on this amazing opportunity right now. (See God/helicopter/flood joke here.) That's a toughie.
    Or, as in my case, you can shut up for a minute and see what resonates with you. Selling stuff I have no particular connection to for the purpose of making money is not one of those things. I'm not knocking prosperity, believe me. Yes, I like challenges, but why not apply that determination to something closer to my heart? And I think most of you know my position on causes -- run like hell the other way.
    It has become apparent to me over the last year that my joy lies in expressing myself through creative endeavors, among them, telling stories in a variety of formats from blogging to TV shows. These things aren't better or worse than any other games I could play, they're just what moves me. And if it is what I'm supposed to be doing, the universe will support me, which is a big change from my previous belief, do what you love and the bill collectors will follow. I know the money will, too.
    I appreciate all the opportunities that my other "aspects" have presented me. But I also realize that just because you love it doesn't mean I will, and by following you down the rabbit hole of multi-level marketing, I may just be distracting myself from my mission and purpose.
    As I told a friend the other day, go ahead and make wheelbarrows full of money, but don't dump your dreams in the meantime.

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    As I sat alone at one of my favorite dining spots in Miyako the other day --  the Mr. Donut coffee shop -- assessing whether I've been transformed as a result of my trip here, it hit me that while I'm more dependent than ever on others for my survival in this version of my hologram, I'm now much more willing to engage my new environment on my own.
    It starts with the Japanese language, something that ranks right up there in terms of things I am clueless about, like particle physics or the Roman Polanski code of ethics. One reason I even considered staying in Japan was because my son Teo already has a place here, speaks fairly fluent Japanese and knows his way around the Japanese culture. It seemed like a safe bet, and within a few hours of arriving at the Narita Airport, the payoff was obvious.
    He helped me exchange currency and buy a bus ticket before we were even out of the airport. (Although even he was mystified by the paperless high-tech toilet there.)  Soon, we were on our way to Tokyo to stay for a couple of days with a family he knew.
     We took a couple sight-seeing trips and he efficiently guided me through the labyrinth that is the Tokyo train and subway system. Imagine that there are no signs in plain English in this system, and not even any signs in romaji, the Latin alphabet translation of the traditional Japanese kanji characters.
     You've got to buy tickets from machines that display only kanji, purchase a ticket on the correct train, follow signs you will never in a million years decipher, attempt to find the right platform in the multi-level stations, board the correct train, get off at the correct stop, then transfer to another train. It makes the term byzantine seem quaint.
     But I watched with awe as Teo negotiated our journey through the subways every step of the way.
     In the coming days, whether it was translation or etiquette or ordering food, he was on top of it and I gladly accepted the help while fruitlessly leafing through my Japanese For Dummies phrase book, trying to formulate something intelligent in Japanese before winter came.
     I knew Teo would soon return to his teaching job and it seemed like my main option would be to sit in his apartment all day playing on my laptop, with an occasional bike ride mixed in. When I got hungry enough, I'd venture to a nearby convenience store for rice balls. I had figured out that all I had to do was place the rice balls on the counter, slip some coins to the cashier and just keep saying "hai" (yes) until they handed me back my change and my bag full of rice balls.
    This was not a blueprint for meaningful interaction. Not a way to learn the culture, one of my rationales for staying so long here.
    But slowly I made progress by studying my phrase book and meeting some locals at a weekly language class. I went from ordering a hamburger at the Tomato and Onion by pointing at the menu and nodding my head to ordering a fried egg sandwich by pointing at the menu and saying kore o kudasai  (this one, please) and actually requesting a glass of water in Japanese.
     This week, I befriended the owner of a little French cafe my son and I had stopped at a couple of times previously. Between Junichi's broken Engrish and my phrase-book Nihongo, we communicated. I learned about all the best places to eat in town, the coolest bars, the niftiest tourist attractions and the fact that his favorite food was steak, which he cannot get in Miyako. All that for a $3 cup of French roast.
     I can only guess what he thinks he knows about me after our exchange. But apparently he understands I like baseball and he does not think I'm a child molester, which is a good start when trying to hit it off with the locals in a foreign country.
       Full of confidence, I struck out on my own the next day to have lunch at the Chinese restaurant he had recommended.
     An older Japanese woman met me as I entered. I greeted her with a hearty konnichiwa (good afternoon), sat down and quickly stated in what sounded to me like flawless Japanese that, in fact, I spoke little Japanese. She smiled and pointed to the menu.
     That seemed to grease the wheels. After that, I successfully ordered some stir fry and green tea, requested a refill on the tea, complimented her on the food (I'm pretty sure there was chicken in there somewhere) and paid my bill, all in Japanese. I was proud I had struck out on my own.
    So back to Mr. Donut. While munching on a chocolate cream-filled, it struck me that the term for the action I had taken that day -- "striking out" -- had a double meaning, sort of like the Chinese character for "crisis," which supposedly is a combination of "danger" and "opportunity."
    Striking out on you own can mean to boldly go to a Chinese restaurant in a Japanese city where you've never gone before and order food despite a flimsy command of the language. It means to begin, to take action. In the baseball sense, of course, striking out means to end in utter failure. It means you've settled for convenience store rice balls.
    But you can't have one without the other. You can only strike out if you don't fear striking out. Maybe that's why bēsubōru (baseball) is so popular over here.
    Regardless, I've now had a Phase 2 glimpse of the two-sided power of playing the Human Game with limitations. It just might come in handy.
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    During my time in Japan, I have come to a much deeper appreciation of gratitude.
    I'm now getting the survival stuff, the gratitude for a roof, and a bed, and a shower and food. The precious-time-spent-with-my-son stuff. The once-in-a-lifetime chance to see places I've never seen before.
    There's also the usual stuff to appreciate, which is most often something we've judged as "good" -- a beautiful sunset, a sumptuous meal, a Jimi Hendrix solo, a discreet mistress or a reliable pot connection.
    That's easy. In fact, there's way too much of that stuff going around as I mentioned in a previous column. Not that we shouldn't acknowledge these things, but we're overloaded with easy and obvious things to express gratitude for.
    No, the true message of Busting Loose for me, as it continues to sink in, is that appreciation goes for everything we've created. So the other day I began making a list of the many things I now appreciate about my life, beginning with the catalogue of personal traits that used to make me uncomfortable. Bear with me.
    As Robert Scheinfeld notes in "Busting Loose From the Business Game," we're here to exchange beliefs and illusions for the Truth, not just different beliefs and illusions. So for me, the key is acknowledging exactly what those beliefs about myself are, so they can be processed and taken to the return department in Phase 2 and exchanged for my big, bad, abundant essence.
    Again, the idea here is not to turn my "negatives" into positives, like you're trained to do in job interviews. Q: "What's your biggest weakness?" A: "Uh, I work too hard." Nah, none of that crap.
    This is an exercise in recognizing our judgment about what is, and embracing these things we perceive about ourselves and our lives as part of the human game we've created. So here goes.
    I appreciate my laziness and willingness to take short cuts when it suits my purposes. I appreciate my ability to avoid serious introspection. I appreciate my ability to spot character flaws in others. I appreciate the way I over-think things. I appreciate my obsessiveness. I appreciate my carelessness.
    I appreciate my lack of blog ideas and my occasional bouts of writers block. I appreciate my insomnia and my snoring (though maybe not as much as others). I appreciate my ability to not do anything "meaningful," and waste hours online watching Youtube and searching for naked pictures of celebrities.
    I appreciate watching my bank account drain down to nothing and the great concern this causes me. I appreciate my consternation about having no permanent residence. I appreciate my envy of those creations that appear to have more than I do.
    I appreciate my skepticism and my gullibility. I appreciate the many doubts I have about myself and my abilities. I appreciate that I don't try hard enough. I appreciate that I'll always let you talk me into letting you pay for lunch.
    I appreciate my fear -- my fear of confrontation, my fear of making mistakes, my pathological avoidance of yoga and skydiving, my fear of imposing on others, my fear of being taken advantage of, my fear of not being able to finish the job.
    I appreciate the shape and weight of my body, the fitness and tone or the lack thereof, the ingrown toenail, the sore knees, the fallen arches, the bad eyesight, the pinched nerve in my shoulder. I appreciate my lower back pain and the times when my prostate acts up.
     I have gratitude for the ways in which I sabotage myself and my goals and resist the guidance of my Expanded Self. I appreciate my amazing ability to justify or rationalize anything -- from having unprotected sex to eating Original Recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken (two of the most hazardous things known to man.)
    I appreciate how I freely give power to things outside of me. I appreciate my ability to be authentic and phony, often at the same time. I appreciate my ability to be honest and lie, often at the same time.
    I appreciate my tendency to avoid talking about the elephant in the room, whatever it is, and then bring it up later at the most inappropriate time.
    I appreciate how easily I can be talked into giving money to organizations I've never heard of, for things I don't really care about, and how rude and confrontational I can become over a mistake on my phone bill.
    I appreciate how easily I give up some times. I appreciate how dogged I can be about some things, especially when they're leading to a dead end.
    I have much appreciation for the amazing illusions and stories I am able to spin about romantic breakups, and the ungodly amount of suffering I was willing to submit myself to.
    I appreciate how I still occasionally embrace the role of victim.
    I appreciate my belief that I've never been a good enough father, son, brother, husband, friend or boyfriend.
    I appreciate my self-absorption and my total lack of concern for tsunami victims in Southeast Asia. I appreciate my mean-spiritedness. I appreciate my attitude of not giving a shit sometimes. I appreciate my complete lack of interest in politics and my pity for those who believe politics can change anything. I appreciate my super cautious nature and my willingness to take risks based on whims and/or faulty intelligence.
    I appreciate the gnawing thought that my life has been a waste of time. I appreciate that I don't listen to my inner guidance as much as I'd like to. I appreciate that I have no desire to save the world. I appreciate that I'm probably not going to be the guy to help you move into your new apartment.
    This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I don't necessarily recommend this exercise for everyone. But God, that felt good.

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       Japan is a land steeped in traditions and customs and I've spent a good amount of my brief time here learning a few of them.
       It's important because etiquette governs about every area of Japanese life, from personal interactions (polite) to bathing in public bathhouses (nude).     
       For instance, there is a whole system of bowing, depending on age, social status and just how bad your sciatica is. I won't learn that in my lifetime. But I know that some type of bow or nod will suffice in most every situation, even if you have no idea what that situation is. I find myself in that predicament often whenever I'm in public, answering hai, or "yes" to just about any utterance, whether it's "would you like that sushi-flavored corn dog heated up," or "where are you from?"
        (And I must say that I'm relieved to know that at those rare times when a handshake takes the place of a bow, it's a straightforward grasp, not a time-consuming piece of fist-bumping performance art.)
    There are correct ways of eating -- expressing gratitude for a meal you've been served by voicing a a heartfelt itadakamasu before you dig in, using chopsticks dexterously and slurping your noodles like a Hoover vacuum cleaner.         When you pay for stuff, you do not hand your yen directly to the cashier, but instead, place it on a plastic tray and slide it over. You receive your change the same way. This could explain why the incidence of robberies in Japan is so low. It would take too long.
    There is a time-honored custom of giving gifts that makes Santa Claus look like a piker. Gifts are not only for relatives and lovers, but for co-workers, hosts and business associates and there doesn't need to be a special occasion. However, you do need to know the fine points as to not inadvertently offend the receiver by giving them something inappropriate or just plain wrong, like a set of four AC/DC beer mugs (nothing wrong with the band, but the word for "four" also signifies the word for "death" in Japanese) or a gift certificate for a lap dance (the lap dance would signify that that Americans are really crass.)
    The myriad of etiquette rules and their exceptions could cause you some agita. I have a big issue about screwing up, whatever it is, and the more I worry about doing it right, the less I enjoy the custom. But when I remind myself that the customs here are grounded in civility, kindness and respect -- and the people are forgiving --  I don't worry so much. In Japan, screwing up just means you get a mulligan.
    One of the new customs I'm quickly adapting to is the removal of shoes in the doorway before entering a home.
    As I understand it, the nature-loving Japanese believe that dirt is fine while it's outside, but no tramping it into the place where you live. Plus, shoes are hard on the woven tatami mats that cover the floors of most Japanese residences. I think it's a sane and sanitary idea.
    But as my friend Vickie points out, it's also a nice metaphor for Busting Loose.
    (I know you're thinking, how does he always manage to come up with these tortured connections to Busting Loose? It's a gift, what can I say.)
    Let's say "outside" is what Robert Scheinfeld calls Phase 1.
    Over the years, as we journey through life, our shoes pick up a lot of potentially nasty stuff to help convince us that we're anything but the totally abundant beings we were born as. Mud cakes on our Gucci loafers. Chewing gum adheres to the soles of our Birkenstocks. We step in some unseemly stuff while jogging past the dog park in our Nikes. Substitute mud, chewing gum and dogshit for false and self-defeating patterns, beliefs and stories, and you get the idea.
    In that context then, taking off your shoes upon entering a home can be construed as a sign of respect and appreciation for the place you or others live.
    The home, of course, represents Phase 2 and the Truth about yourself. By casting off the gnarly footwear and entering a place of expansion in clean socks, you are honoring yourself, appreciating your power, leaving behind judgments and loving yourself unconditionally.
      Who knew there was so much power in a pair of Payless specials? Maybe Imelda Marcos was onto something.
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       It struck me the other day as I was trying to get travelers checks cashed in Miyako that I am, for the first time in my life, rootless. When the woman assisting me asked for my address in the United States, I gave her the outdated address on my drivers license. I felt so...illegal.
      As those of you who follow this blog regularly know, I was asked to move out of the place I was living in Albuquerque in early September. I was still looking for my next residence when I made the decision to extend the length of my impending trip to Japan from 10 days to indefinitely.
    When I choose to end this particular part of my odyssey, I will likely return to Albuquerque, if only because that is where my remaining belongings and my car are. After that, who knows? In the meantime I'm staying in my son's apartment in MIyako, in what amounts to a halfway house on the way to nowhere in particular.
    My email address and my post office box in Albuquerque are as close to a permanent home as I have at this point. Now when friends visit, they stop by my Facebook page. It's a very strange situation, this virtual life.
    I've come to realize that a physical address is just as much part of our identity as any other description we attach to ourselves, like Wal-Mart sales associate or bon vivant. It attaches us to a specific spot on this planet that no one else can claim, at least until the lease runs out.
    Like a steady job, it gives us a false sense of security in a chaotic world. This is my home, this is my castle, this is the place that I can rest my head on a familiar bed. But try fitting a futon into a post office box.
    On the other hand, I'm not living in an abandoned car or a refugee camp in a third world country, so don't cry for me in Argentina, or wherever you may be reading this.
    From a Phase 2 perspective, my geographic rootlessness is part of a larger process in my life, a sort of spiritual boot camp whereby everything I hold dear is stripped away and I get to see what I am made of.
    In addition to no home, I have no girlfriend or wife to return to. I will, in fact, be leaving the person closest to me, my son, when I return to the states. I have no job to return to, and if I time it right, I won't have any money by the time I get home.
    I do have good friends, my tribe, and the largest concentration of them is in New Mexico. But friends, too, can be a too comfortable way of defining yourself, and you can get too attached to that notion. All you have to do is spend a few hours on Facebook to see my point.
    As a Phase 2 player I, of course, know that I already have all of the love, support, security, people and resources I need in spades. I've just hidden it so well, like that key to my bike lock, that I can't find it right now.  
    So for the time being, I'll do the Busting Loose process around the fact that I've chosen to give power to the idea of having a place to live, a person to come home to, my cool record collection, my bike, my bed, books, cooking utensils, a vehicle.
    And I'm quite aware that buried deep in my storage unit is an issue about my beliefs in scarcity. If I don't hoard these things I already have, I'll never have anything. ergo, nothing to "identify" myself. I mean, what's a man without a flat screen TV?
    Arnold Patent, Robert Scheinfeld's mentor, states it succinctly in number 15 of his universal principles -- non-attachment and freedom.
    "Our perceived need to hold on to anything or anyone demonstrates our belief in shortage and personal incompleteness. Holding on to anything -- people or possessions -- blocks the flow of energy around our experience with the person or object and reduces the joy of experience. It also inhibits new people and new things from coming into our lives."
    Again, I would suggest that holding on to ideas and beliefs and addresses does the same thing. It hinders us from experiencing the "Truth" as Robert likes to point out.
    As for now, I'm left to wonder what's in store for me post-Japan.
    I believe I will find the true meaning of abundance, for me, in Phase 2. But is it all the money necessary to express appreciation for anything I want to do or buy, or all the freedom to do anything I want? Or both? Or neither?
    Will I be moved to manifest my financial abundance and buy a large house and fill it with treasures, mementos and stuff, or will I live like a nomad, unfettered by the simplest creature comforts, carrying everything I own on my back and living in a portable yurt?
    In the meantime, as I'm figuring that one out, if you know anybody with an empty couch, be sure to shoot me an email.

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     I was asking my son the other day why there appeared to be so many ice cream trucks trolling around Miyako. Seems like every 20 minutes or so, through the apartment window or around the corner from whatever restaurant we were eating at, we were serenaded by the twinkling sounds of pre-recorded ice cream truck music.
    Turns out it was garbage trucks. I have no idea what the ice cream trucks sound like. Metallica, maybe.
    Ah, Japan, the land of the rising contradiction.
    To say that I've been overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, food and people of this fine country is to understatement what Kanye West is to tact.  
    Japan is definitely one of my best creations by far. If I had known I had created a place this amazing, I probably would have visited sooner.
    But let me start with the people. Of all the concepts in Busting Loose, expressing "appreciation" has probably been the one that I have neglected the most. So it's probably no surprise that I created myself to end up in a place where it is almost impossible not to appreciate everything, especially the people.
    For those of you who have never visited Japan, unfailing kindness and politeness is the starting point for personal interactions, and I must say I'm enjoying it immensely. Coming off my recent trip to Las Vegas, the contrast is even more dramatic.  
    In Las Vegas, everybody wants something. They want your attention, they want you to buy a timeshare, they want you to try their escort service, they want you to slurp margaritas off their breasts, they want you to spend money, they want you mainline alcohol so you'll spend more money, they want you to almost die in the heat so you'll go inside an air-conditioned casino and spend still more money. The list of wants goes on and on, along with the pretense of fake hospitality.
    By contrast, in Japan, I seem to be spending most of my time receiving. The first family that my son, Teo, and I spent time with in Tokyo bought us meal after meal in the city, cooked for us at home, paid for entry to shrines and temples, and hauled us all over the city to see the sights. They even came to the train station to see us off to Miyako and I felt like I was with family. It was quite a gift and I feel sort of inadequate for leaving them with a piece of Navajo pottery and a jar of El Pinto salsa. I mean the salsa's good, but not that good.
    That was just the start. Every time I think we're finished sightseeing or being entertained, along comes another benefactor. My son's landlord and his wife took us on a trip up the Japanese coast the day after we arrived, so we could see some of the most jaw-dropping land and seascapes in the world. And they bought us lunch at a swanky hotel.
    I must pause here for just one moment of not-so-greatness. The next day, Teo and I walked all over Miyako trying to find somewhere to exchange my traveler's checks for yen. One post office and four banks later, no luck. But my son did call someone he works with and found out where I could engage in this transaction the next day. As it turns out, that was just the prelude to another fabulous experience.
    Ito, a gentleman that works with my son, agreed to help me with the traveler's check problem. He came by the apartment at 9 a.m., drove me to the bank, and helped me negotiate the transaction with one of the most cheerful bank tellers I've ever met.
    That was pretty much all I was expecting. But I offered to take him to coffee at one of Japan's ubiquitous Mr. Donut shops, the one landmark in Miyako that I have quickly become familiar with. (It's right next to the other landmark I'm sure I'll become familiar with, the Tomato and Onion restaurant, where you can get traditional Japanese food, and wacked-out versions of American favorites, like meatloaf topped with pizza, pizza topped with meatloaf and triple-decker cheeseburgers with a slab of prime rib on top, and a side of fried chicken nuggets with lard sauce. Oh, and a green salad.) Anyway, we dined on donuts and coffee, then got back into his car, presumably to drop me off back at the apartment.
    Nope. I had mentioned that Teo and I had tried and failed to find a map of Miyako so I'd be able to get around when he wasn't there. So Ito took me to a place near the train station to find a map, along with a bunch of tourist brochures. He asked me if we'd seen Jodogahama Beach the day before.
    No, we had not.  
    Of course, within minutes, we were headed for the world-famous Jodogahama Beach up the road from Miyako. We not only cruised the beach, but spend a good three hours there, taking in the scenery, the sea breezes and the soba noodles for lunch.
    So, we're on the way back to Miyako and I'm thinking about all the important things I have to do when I get back to the apartment, and we stop to visit a farmer's market and then a "recreation center" that puts most spas to shame. The appreciation is the equivalent of $50 a month for swimming, a sea mist room, an aromatherapy room, yoga classes and many more cool things you won't find at Defined Fitness. I've spent $75 for a mud pack alone in Marin County, so believe me, this is a deal.
    Five hours later, he dropped me off at the apartment.
    I could give a dozen more examples of what I'm talking about, and that's just the first week. I mean, policemen bow to you here, and no, hell hasn't frozen over, although I hear it usually does by winter, at least in these parts.
    So appreciation is the watchword for my first week here. It's getting so intense, that I'm wrestling with the question of whether I deserve all this. Should I be more conscious of imposing on my creations, or should I just casually mention that I'd like to drive to Mt. Fuji and see what happens?
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