Tuesday, September 9, 2014

You Don’t Have to Be Gay to Appreciate This by Rick Bettencourt

It’s amazing the changes the gay community have gone through over the last few years. Regardless of your views on gay marriage, and the like, the general opinion in the United States is in support of lesbians and gays. As a result being gay, is much more accepting. You’ll find gay characters common in television shows, movies and books; more so than they were just a decade ago. And it’s not just the LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender) who are enjoying this entertainment.

As someone who knew he was gay when he was five years old, I was fortunate enough to have lived in Massachusetts when gay marriage was invoked. To me it was like a blessing from God. I remember saying to my partner, at the time, (we’ve since divorced, but we’ll save that for another post), I said, “Oh my God! We can now marry. I can get on your health insurance!” I know. Probably not the most-romantic thing to say. (Now you are probably thinking you know why I got divorced—again, topic for another day.)

I bring this personal issue up because sharing benefits—such as health insurance, tax discounts, being able to see each other in the hospital in the event of an emergency—can provide security and allows people to take risks. Today I write fiction. I probably wouldn’t have gotten here had it not been for me venturing into entrepreneurial endeavors way back when.

While most of my writing involves gay characters, I’m astonished that over fifty percent of my fans are straight women. I think this is a testimony to the general acceptance of homosexuality over the last few years. Tim on Broadway, my latest book, is a case in point. Tim is an overweight twenty-something virgin. He’s infatuated with theater, divas, music and the bag boy at the grocery store from which he got fired. As one of my readers wrote, “It’s less a romance than a romantic tale of someone's self-discovery.” They went on to say, “You don't have to be a Broadway fan (or gay) to appreciate this work.”

Tim on Broadway deals with the complexities we all face: personal growth, career choices, religion and finding your purpose in life. Tim, the protagonist in the story, not only struggles with his weight but also battles anxiety. As the story unfolds, we learn the true nature of his psychological scars, and he turns to God for answers. It’s a story about finding oneself, experiencing love and discovering joy.
Here’s a short excerpt when Tim finally meets his favorite singer. I hope you like it.

“We all have our faults, Tim,” she said. She was still holding me. “You may think I’m some big star, some big celebrity without any problems but I’m not. I’m no better than you. I’m not an idol to worship.”

I hugged her a little tighter. The sequins on her shoulder strap pressed into my chin.
She let go and held me out by my shoulders. “You ready?”


“I am.”
“Good.” She gave me one more hug. She then went over to her make-up table to grab another tissue and fix her eyes.

And as she was cleaning the smear of make-up on her cheek, I noticed a note taped to her mirror:
I am God.

“Uh, that’s good enough,” she said to her reflection in the mirror. She looked down at the note at which I had been staring. “Oh, that,” she said, “it’s not what you think. I don’t think that highly of myself. Well, then again, in a sense I have to. We all have to.” She turned around. “We are all God, Tim.”

I took it in, thinking about those Judy Blume books I read as a kid. Are you there, God? It’s me, Timothy.

“As I was saying earlier, there’s a spark of God in us all,” she said.

I nodded.

She started toward the door, stopped and put her hands on her hips. “Tim, God’s not external from us. He, or she, is a spark in us all, and it’s our job to stoke the fire from it.” She held a fist out in front and put her arm out for me to escort her. “Sir?”

I moved over to her, and she put her arm in mine. “My lady,” I said and led her to the stage.
----------------
Rick Bettencourt lives with his husband and their little dog, Bandit, in the Sarasota area of Florida. Rick originally hails from Boston’s North Shore where he learned to speak without pronouncing the letter “r”—and say things like “tonic” when he wanted a Coke, or “bubbler” when getting a drink from the park’s water fountain. You can follow Rick on Twitter @rbettenc or subscribe to his mailing list at rickbettencourt.com.


Rick Bettencourt Talks About Writing and His... by talkstorytv

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Temple Dog Barks at Interpreters, Translators, and Followers by Doug Rose

        
 I’m writing this in the company of Buddhist Monks and Nuns in a Southeast Asian Temple. As well as being surrounded by Nuns and Monks, I am also surrounded by several dozen dogs of all sizes, colors, and breeds. My robed room mates have rescued these animals and me, from the intense cruelty of steaming Asian streets. These dogs, and of course the Temple folks themselves, are a joy to be with. They never blame the society, their moms, the government, the Boogeyman, or the anti-Buddha for any of the problems that they may suffer. They accept personal responsibility for their thoughts and actions.
         
Buddha himself was not a member of any of the many schools of Buddhism. Jesus was neither Catholic nor Protestant. The following inscription was on the hilt of Mohammed’s sword: “Forgive him who wrongs thee. Join him who cuts thee off. Do good to him who does evil to thee, and speak the truth although it be against thyself.”
   
Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and others like them were damn fine people and exceptional examples of productive spirituality. I have no quarrel with anyone’s God, teacher, or prophet, but followers can be fairly dangerous people at times. Translators or interpreters can be even more so.
 
Everybody talks about truth as if it is Ramen noodles, and they have a case of it in the kitchen cabinet, but the truth is that what we tend to call truth is usually defined by whose truth it is. The mundane truth by which we judge the world is subjective. It is dependent upon the angle from which it is being seen by the person who is seeing it.   
           
Symbolic references are often used in spiritual teachings. That’s no problem. The problems arise when interpreters and translators concretize those symbols into material “truth” or “fact,” and followers then treat that information as unbendable law. Many followers pay more attention to the illusory benevolence of inherited superstition than they pay to foster a functional benevolence within themselves.
   
For the first five hundred years of Buddhism, there were no material images of the Buddha—no statues, no paintings. There were good reasons for this.
           
Historical, literal, fundamentalist, concretized interpretations of symbols make it too easy for us to abuse spiritual mechanisms, and to escape responsibility for our own development and the well being of the world. This attitude ends badly. For yea, no lord can keepeth dry that person who will pisseth into the wind.
   
Translators and interpreters often reconfigure great wisdom teachings to fit their own ignorance and selfish motives—or the ignorance and selfish motives of the political and economic forces that ally with and employ them. Darkness sometimes co-opts the light. What we have inherited as “the will of God” may have as little to do with any God’s will as Wall Street has to do with integrity in finance, or snack cakes have to do with nutrition.
   
The term “spin doctors” may be a recently invented one, but the concept of readjusting the truth is nearly as ancient as the wisdom these vipers disassemble—and then rebuild to fit their own purposes. Many of today’s interpretations of “The Way” and “The Truth” resemble the originals about as much as the Christianity of Hitler, or the Spanish Inquisition resembled the original doctrine. Some of the people who know Christ is the answer must have forgotten what the question was. This forgetting-the-question syndrome is certainly not exclusive to Christians who have gone astray. Many followers of every faith on Earth have been way too trusting of the dogma presented them and some of the people who present it.
 
Interpreters package and then sell, rent, or impose upon us artificially flavored illusions of truth, salvation, enlightenment, and happiness that are built upon their goals. That twisted information and those errant goals are often very different from those of the original teachers from whom these interpreters borrow their moral authority.
          
Following our own inner guidance will yield better results than following the village idiot. Neither Buddha nor Jesus was waiting for a Buddha or a Jesus to come solve their personal problems or those of humanity. Whatever we need is within us. The job of uncovering and constructively using it is ours to do.
   
            
Ripe for spiritual paths that fit neatly into our fast food/consumer mentality, so-called civilized humanity is glad to pay the bill that its false prophets have presented us with. Many people believe that we can rent an available-on-demand and conveniently disposable synthetic substitute for decency and wisdom instead of working towards those qualities, earning them, sustaining them, and then constructively implementing them. The interpreters, the translators, the forces that ally with or employ them, and the enforcers that protect those interests continue to collect the rent for themselves while they return hollow benefits to us.
   
There are people who will tell you that they are on a fast track to Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, or Wherever. They may want you to pay for more information from them, buy certain products, fight “holy” wars at their request, or donate other parts of your mind and life to them. We all know of televangelists and politicians who make a robber baron’s fortune by convincing some of us that giving them money can buy us love and happiness—but a few greedy clowns on TV are just the tip of the iceberg.
          
We are the iceberg. The world might be full of Mother Teresas and Einsteins if the best of humanity’s notions were given proper attention by most of us. Many folks that wouldn’t trust an average stranger with a single dollar don’t mind trusting a politician or preacher full of vacuum-packed hope and bullshit with serious money and even their lives. Many people are too tired, misinformed, or stressed out to access on their own psychospiritual existence. Others are convinced that their personal spiritual maintenance is a job beyond their ability—so instead of working at it themselves, they trust TV personalities who they will never meet with that responsibility. The result? Instead of a world full of Mother Teresas and Einsteins we have an overabundance of dull, warped, frustrated spiritual slackers that never bothered to research where the road is, but are nonetheless pissed off about not reaching the destination! Go figure!
   
I have to say it again. Following our inner guidance would certainly yield better results than following the clamor of our village idiots.
        
Yes, it does require less strength to trust or blame something outside of one’s self than it takes to recognize one’s own responsibility, find one’s own faults, and change a detrimental emotional flaw. Unfortunately, this easy-road approach is bullshit.

Whatever that Bigger Spiritual Something Else out there may be if we are distracted by a biased dogma and the hidden agendas of the greedy interests that hide behind lies, concretized symbols, and rusted metaphor, we will never get in touch with that Something Else.

The move toward being at home with our unstained intelligence may be as simple as making a clear-minded decision to do so. Making the effort to be more aware of what we do and don’t want our brains to absorb and act upon has to yield results. Anyone consistently moving in the direction of clarified intelligence (or anything else, for that matter!) will have to reach it eventually. Try it! Point yourself somewhere, start moving, and don’t change direction. You will get to that somewhere. The mind moves toward the destination we plan for it just as surely as feet move us across the room.
  
The greatest purpose of our greatest teachers may be to show us how, in the long run, to be our own greatest teacher.
  
Does all this sound abstract, contradictory, weird, un-interpretable, obtuse, un-translatable, and maybe even bizarre? I hope so. I planned it that way. I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for a fucking interpreter or translator myself!
God Forbid! I’d rather be a dog.

“The common error of ordinary religious practice
is to mistake the symbol for the reality,
to look at the finger pointing the way
and then to suck it for comfort rather than follow it.”
Alan Watts

 “Having failed to distinguish thoughts from things,
we then fail to distinguish words from thoughts.
We think that if we can label a thing we have understood it.”
Maha Sthavira Sangharakshita

“You can tell you created God in your image
when it turns out, God hates the same people you do.”
Anne Lamott

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Urgent Need for Clinical Aromatherapy is NOW! by Carol Quigless, MedEssential Oils

There are records from the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and the Europeans of the Middle Ages, all the way through to today in America, India, and Australia, which give testimony to the use and efficacy of essential oils in healing practices. Though spanning eras and vast geography, clinical aromatherapy continues to stay out of the mainstream and in obscurity. Now is the time that this needs to change. 
 

The World Health Organization stated in the Forward of its 2014 Antimicrobial Resistance Report, ”A post-antibiotic era—in which common infections and minor injuries can kill—far from being an apocalyptic fantasy is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.” The Director of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, started sounding the alarm in 2004 when she stated, “ Resistance could bring the end of modern medicine. ” Even back then she explained that our continued overuse of antibiotics, indeed, interferes with the healing for which they were created. This means that because of overuse, antibiotics are becoming ineffective as bacteria strains are growing resistant to them. I experienced this resistance firsthand when I contracted Lymes Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever—the prescribed antibiotics had no effect whatsoever. The doctor  reported that I had a bacteria strain that was resistant to the antibiotic. I was given no alternative treatment and was told to go home and to treat the symptoms.
 

 Overuse of antibiotics not only occurs because of inappropriate medical practices, but also surfaces amongst meat-eaters as a result of consuming cows, pigs, chickens, and other livestock that are routinely treated with antibiotics. This unhealthy practice is widespread because the antibiotics enable animals to grow larger and fatter more quickly. Unfortunately, the administration of low doses of antibiotics in animals throughout their life means burgers, steaks, pork chops and broiled chicken come to your dinner table with another dose of antibiotics if the animal has had antibiotics within a certain time frame of slaughter.   
 

The World Health Organization’s plea for the reduction of antibiotic use sounds like a common sense plan, but I also propose the use of aromatherapy’s essential oils as a viable alternative to antibiotics that could effectively reduce the need for antibiotics.
 

Medicinal essential oils are meticulously steam -distilled volatile oil essences of leaves, flowers, roots, and bark of plants, bushes, and trees. They are powerful, highly concentrated healing agents that  have antibacterial, antiviral, and antiseptic properties. It is well known that many of our modern drugs are plant derivatives, such as digitalis from foxglove for heart conditions or derivative of snakeroot for hypertension or derivative of rhododendron for fatigue. Plants are basic to healing. Regarding aromatherapy, which includes application of oils via skin similar to “pain patches,” and ingestion only in certain supervised circumstances, European researchers, particularly from the UK and France, led the way to explore the properties of essential oils for decades.
 

Now, researchers worldwide, including in the United States, have joined in examining their use. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t know any orthodox medical personnel who used essential oils or alternative measures in their practice. In fact, alternative or natural approaches were regarded as nonsense. Today, I personally know doctors, physical therapists, and nurses, who use essential oil compounds and those who take a wait-and-see stance. Knowledge regarding essential oils is readily available. There are now rigorous aromatherapy programs of study available in the United States where before they were only offered in Europe. 
 

People often assume that aromatherapy is only used for brightening up or calming one’s mood. That’s only scratching the surface as the medical profession looks for alternatives to psychotropic drugs that   produce drastic side effects. Many people do not know that essential oils are antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic, some more so than others, and some more specifically effective to certain pathogens than others. Essential oils can aid in the treatment of inflammation and pain of arthritis and fibromyalgia, MS. IBS, intestinal parasites, asthma, pneumonia, cancer, gum abscesses, hot flashes, eczema, dermatitis, lymph congestion, swelling, and dreaded MRSA, to name only a few.
 

And, oh yes, essential oils treat Lymes disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I used essential oils as one of the measures to heal myself from Lymes and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever when antibiotics were ineffective due to bacterial resistance to the antibiotics.  I also used essential oils to accelerate healing and bring relief from pneumonia 2 winters ago.   A friend of mine who is a nurse used essential oils to heal chronic, severe, cellulitis where antibiotics had failed.  Another friend who is a family  psychotherapist used essential oils to relieve bronchitis.   Although these are only four stories, there are thousands of stories like these. In addition to lifestyle changes to focus on boosting immune system effectiveness, surely aromatherapy’s essential oils warrant serious consideration as an alternative to antibiotics.
 

Do essential oils produce side effects?  It is uncommon if allergy to specific plant matter is checked and if used as directed.
 

Are they cost effective?  Yes. 
 

Is information regarding essential oils readily available?  Rigorous professional grade study programs offering certification approved by professional aromatherapy organizations are available. 
 

Can other holistic approaches be used with aromatherapy?  Yes.
 

Can aromatherapy be used alongside allopathic measures?  In many cases, yes.
 

Is use of aromatherapy thinking outside the box?  Yes, all the more reason at this time of urgency to consider them.
 

References:
 

www.who.int, World Health Organization, 2014 Antimicrobial Resistance Report

www.CDC.gov/drug resistance

 
 

 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Writers Lifestyle by Susan Royal

  I’d be lying if I said my lifestyle as a writer has changed dramatically from what it was before I was published. It’s true there are some writers who are successful enough to give up their day jobs and concentrate full time on being a writer without worrying about eating, but in reality it doesn’t happen that way. If I had $100 for every time someone says, “You’re published? Wow…I guess you’re raking in the royalties. Why haven’t you quit your job?” I might be able to.

     Truth is it takes hard work and time. These days most authors work for a living, make time for their families, do a lot of their own marketing, network to make themselves known, and try to keep up with the newest literary trends. All this is done while we continue to write. That’s not counting first drafts, second drafts, edits, edits and more edits. This happens before we even submit our work. When I began writing, I was told once the author signs a contract, it can take as long as two years before seeing the finished product, and I wondered why so long. Now I know. Even more time is spent unearthing inconsistencies in a manuscript, tweaking, polishing and making it better, more cohesive story. That takes a lot of time. After going through it so many times I loathe and despise every character and every line of dialogue and wonder briefly whatever possessed me in the first place, I’m still not done. I have galley edits. 

     In spite of all this, I continue to write. Why? There’s nothing like breathing life into a scene I may have carried around in my head for weeks. Or making one of my characters seem like a real, live person. I carry a note pad with me, because I never know when inspiration will strike. I find myself paying close attention to conversations, body language or the way some place makes me feel. When it does I write it down. 

     I saw him the other day. It happened when I cut across Market Street and passed in front of the fancy new coffee shop. On the other side of spotless glass, waitresses in crisp black uniforms served expensive coffee in fancy cups and saucers. One man sat alone at a table by the window. No one I knew, just a handsome stranger who glanced up as I passed. Our eyes met, and I froze in the middle of a busy sidewalk crowded with impatient people. Annoyed, they parted, sweeping past me like water rushing downstream.

Monday, August 4, 2014

6 Secret Ways to Naturally Relieve Back Pain and Stress: by Dr. Anita Haque



1.       Stretch-A simple gentle stretch of the joint can be beneficial in many cases.  Most people with aches and pains forget about this simple fact of moving the muscles and breathing! My favorite way to effective stretching it to inhale as I begin the stretch and exhale though my nose as I extend the stretch. This will not only bring more oxygen and blood flow to the area, it will create a deep stretch allowing for better movement. Not sure what stretches to do? Ask us or visit www.haquechiropractic.com for ideas!

2.       http://pro.corbis.com/images/BXP26121.jpg?size=572&uid=%7B0603EC48-45E6-4511-AF6C-02E57E3B45B0%7DIce-Icing is a natural anti-inflammatory because it causes the arteries to constrict decreasing SWELLING! What most people find is that icing is not soothing but it will sooth if done correctly. What I mean is that the first few minutes of applying ice to a swollen area may be uncomfortable but after about 5 minutes the numbing sensation will kick in and begin to feel good!  Be sure not to ice more than 20 minutes because it will create a reaction (Huntington’s Reflex) where the blood vessels will dilate bringing in more blood flow and increasing the swelling.  Check out my favorite homemade ice pack recipe at on my blog at www.haquechiropractic.com.

3.       Heat- moist heat is my favorite type of heat to use (not an electrical heating pad) because it tends to really melt muscle tension away and moisten muscles.  Heat is a great tool for people who suffer with arthritis or chronic aches and pains.  My best heating solution is to use a moist towel that is warmed up in the microwave so it becomes steamy and apply to tightened joints.  Ahhh…..

4.       Move-This may seem intimidating for some people because when people are hurting it might not feel good to move! If you are feeling this way, then I strongly urge you seek help from a doctor. But movement for aches and chronic joint pains is the key to get the blood moving and therefore the joint to feel better and heal!  After all, motion is life!  If you are feeling stiff, move the joint around by going for a walk, preforming range of motion exercises etc. If you suffer with back pain and want to learn what exercises to do to help you feel better and slim down you can visit www.weightlosslivermore.com

Posture- Often times, bad postural habits can be the culprit to aches and pains and further injuries.  We are not built to sit at a computer station for long periods of time. We are made to move! So most of us have jobs and lifestyles where we end up doing one thing for long periods of time which can create bad postural habits.



Dr. Anita Haque, DC.., Ace Certified Fitness Expert


1855 First St. Livermore, CA 94550


Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Writer’s Lifestyle by Richard Barnes

I retired, as most people do, with the intention of lowering my golf handicap and getting involved with some kind of volunteer work. The first goal was not met. In fact, my handicap went up by a couple of strokes after the first year. My second goal was achieved for a while.

Our local newspaper published a list of volunteer organizations that needed help. I chose tutoring at one of the penal institutions in the Charlotte NC area. It was extremely rewarding for a while, but after a change in administrators, I found the environment unconducive for teaching. I changed venues – a county run ESL and GED facility – and that, too worked until they stopped having volunteers teach.

About that time I took a writing course just to keep out of my wife’s hair. I had no idea how it would change my life. It started with writing a few short stories for my class. Then a friend - a locally known playwright – invited me to join his writers group. That generated more short stores until one idea I had was just too big for three to five thousand words.
“Write a book,” I was told.
“Who, me?” I replied.
And so I began. Now, years later AND seven book along the way I have settled-in to a life style that is what I was searching for, but didn’t know it:
 
My family is fortunate to have a summer cottage on a large Island in northern Ontario. The area has a culture of its own, and three of my last four novels are set in the area. It has been a rich source of inspiration. At first I thought the idea of writing about this small part of the world would be limiting, but then remembered authors like Philip R. Craig and Cynthia Riggs who made a good living writing fiction about Martha’s Vineyard. The Vineyard is better known than St. Joseph Island, Ontario, but is smaller and has fewer places to find skullduggery!
The decision has had some writing benefits:
  • Having come to the area every summer for many years, I know a lot about the history, culture and geography—sources for ideas so hard to come by when developing a plot.
  • Writing about one geographical area suggested repeating my characters, thus developing a series around a hero (in my case a heroine).
  • Local residents are great sources for background and ideas.
  • Best of all, both summer and year-round residents are a great market. I have had book signings for four years, and they get better each year. In 2014 I have sold out my order of 20 soft covers on two occasions.
Of course sitting by the water on a nice day with my laptop is not the worst venue for inspiration. Even on a rainy day, a cozy fire in the wood stove takes the chill off. Yes, even in summer we often run the stove! This is my life style three months out of the year but it fuels me for the remaining nine. 

My latest published book, FORGOTTEN ROOTS, is an historic novel set at the time of the 1812 American war with Britain and Canada. The area around St. Joseph Island played a big part in that conflict, and I created a bit of a love story around it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Reluctant Jihadist by Geoff Thompson



People have been asking a lot lately about my new novel, The Caretaker.
It is very (hesitation) religious, they say.

As though I am not allowed (or perhaps, not qualified) to write about God, because usually I write about…other things: hard-men of repute, alcoholic brothers, paedophile priests, I create visceral theatre and challenging film where the social edit is spared and four letter words are used as terms of endearment.

People presume that you cannot find much of God in these dark places. Personally I find nothing but God here; in the cracks, in the vulnerabilities, in those delicious human fractures – that’s where the light gets in.

As a writer, actually as a human being, people struggle to know where I fit.
I struggle to know where I fit.

I have no exact category. I write books, plays, films, articles, I teach, I direct, I mentor, and I skive quite a lot. I enjoy what Eric Fromme would call a spontaneous life. I love being me. Spontaneity makes living in the world enjoyable but, I have to say, it makes me very hard to sell in the market place; I am a nightmare for agents, PR people and television commissioners.
When people hear the word religion they automatically read dogma, they presume you are either socks-and-sandals, hiding from the world behind layers of old scripture, or you are a fundamentalist, a jihadist who wants to make war with the world; same scripture, different interpretation.

God is a hard sell.

The word religion comes from the Latin re-ligare, it means to re-align, man to man, man to his source.From this perspective I am religious.
 
And Jihad derives from the Arabic, it means to struggle, the greater Jihad is the struggle with the self, where we go to war with false perception and limiting core beliefs. It seems I am a jihadist too; perhaps a reluctant jihadist because like most people I don’t want to suffer even though I innately know that there is no growth in comfort. And that is the nature of this book, The Caretaker. It is a fable about a man that seeks strength without struggle; he flirts with power but takes no reasonability for the office of power.

The Caretaker is a book about me. It is a book about me being bone-tired of listening to me and my own narcissistic whinging. I was going through a very selfish, self-pitying stage in my life, nothing came quickly enough, nothing seemed big enough or easy enough. I was constantly looking for wealth without work, growth without discomfort and skills without apprenticeship. I didn’t know how or where or why I had become so detached from my Logos, but purpose was lacking in my life, and as a consequence everything was an effort. I found myself complaining all the time about my lot and how, compared with others, it didn’t seem like I had much.

It was not true of course, I had breath in my lungs, there was bread on the table and I had as much opportunity as the next man, but at the time I couldn’t see it, I didn’t know how blessed I was, just to be alive. Embarrassed by my ingratitude, I decided to send an apology into the ether, a confession, a declaration of my many digressions. I asked (whoever was listening) please show me things as they are.

I was shown. I have to say it was a shock. It was jarring to look in the mirror and see the reflection of a fat, greedy, self-pitying man looking back at me. I couldn’t believe how ungrateful I had become and how easily, especially when I was surrounded on all sides by such luxury, such love. I was (am) married to the girl of my dreams, living in a house and making a living. I was the most blessed man I knew, and yet I still wanted more, without offering even a bead of sweat in exchange or word of thanks in return. I was practically living in the lap of luxury (I had running water!) and bemoaning my lack. I felt ashamed at how narrow minded I’d become, and how…lazy.

How had I become so very lazy?
The answer landed in my mind as quickly as the question had been asked: I had fallen into (what sages of old called) the forgetting. If we don’t remind ourselves on a regular basis of what we have, what we have will be taken from us, or at least hidden behind layers of false ego and twisted belief.
I realised in my moment of clarity that gratitude was a key, it opened the door to potential, and if gratitude was lacking, it locked the same door tightly shut. So I wrote what became known as The Enlightenment Prayer http://www.thecaretaker.co.uk something I could read every day to remind myself not to forget how much I had and how blessed I was, and to stop asking for things that I was not ready for yet. I was always asking for things that I was not ready for yet.

The prayer organically grew and became a short novel, written in parabolic form, and infused with the intuited wisdom of the ages.
The prayer began with the words:
Lord! God Almighty (The Universe)
A word if you don’t mind.
A word about me.
Actually, more precisely, a word about me and my specious requests.

 It is a muscular prayer. It demands that I take charge of my own life. It insists that the world cannot be changed, but I can, and in changing me, the world will change. It is a prayer that I read and listen to every time I lose my way; it kicks me up the backside when I fall into apathy or self-pity and forget to honour my suffering. It reminds me that growth is in struggle. Not the usual wrastle with outside forces, they are an easy distraction, rather the perennial struggle where I lean into the sharp edges and fight the only enemy worth my effort; myself.