Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”


I wake up. It is blurry. I am in a room with machines going off. There is a curtain. It is blue. There are people talking. I can see them talking. I look over to my right. My mom is there. She’s crying. Not just crying but sobbing. There are a lot of people in blue. They are talking. None of them talk to me.

After a while I am up. Now I remember. I am supposed to be dead. Why am I here? Am I dead? Is this real?

I am alive. I had tried to kill myself the night before by taking every pill in the house; I spent the next day being forced to drink charcoal and throwing up for hours.

But why are all the doctors in my room in the middle of the night?

I learned later that what had happened was I had 3rd degree heart block in the night.

Third-degree heart block limits the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. This type of heart block may cause fatigue (tiredness), dizziness, and fainting. Third-degree heart block requires prompt treatment because it can be fatal.

I was 17 years old. I was now remembering and I am angry that I am alive. I yell at my mother, because that is what I did. She loved and loved; she took on all of my anger and pain and I used her as an emotional punching bag. That was her life growing up and that is her life again. So I screamed at her, “Get out of here!!”

She cried more and she took it, as she always did. She always returned love.

I pass out again.

I wake up the next day. In walks this guy. He has blue on. He has brown hair, normal length with a beard. I am watching this guy thinking to myself, “Do not even say anything or I am going to punch you.”

“Hi, I am Tom. I will be the nurse working with you today.”

Ok that’s it, I am going to hit him. I do not say a word.

“Ok I will be here if you need anything. I have a menu here if you want to order food.”

I am not going to eat; I throw the menu away.

The food comes in daily and I do not eat. I think I am angry, but I know now that was not the case.

Day after day this guy says “Hi, how are you? Can I help with anything?” He does his work and I ignore him. My mom is by my side every day as I lash out at her. Tom doesn’t judge me for yelling at her. He does not say a word about it. He talks to my mom because she was an RN as well so she was asking him questions. I didn’t care. I wanted to punch them both was the thought in my mind.

I kept yelling at my mom, but my god I didn’t want her to leave that room. She never did leave. That was her way. A love that cannot be matched by anyone, anywhere, and it was given to me. I may have had hard times, but I had that. I had her. I had a love that everyone should experience as my core. It is what allows me to overcome everything. I would not trade it for anything.

It has been four days at this point. My mom has brought me a sweatshirt. My favorite team, The Minnesota Twins, sweatshirt. I loved baseball and I loved that sweatshirt. My mom knew this. I was going to ask her to bring it, but it was already there. Every time I looked, she was there. She was in tears, but she was there.

I wore the shirt. In comes this Tom guy. He won’t go away. I guess it is his job. But it’s others jobs, too. But they aren’t dumb enough to ask me how I am doing every day. My anger pushes them away as it is supposed to. This idiot Tom doesn’t seem to get it.

“Oh you like baseball? Me too. The Twins are my favorite team, too. Do you think they were better in 1991 or 1987?” (Those were the two years that they won the World Series). I was 11 and 15 when they won and they were moments I will always remember as a child.

I speak. I cannot let this go. “Yeah I like baseball. I think they were better in 1991.”

Tom starts talking to me about baseball, the ins and outs of the sport. I start to give one word answers that become two or three word answers. Then they become sentences.

Tom then says, “I know you haven’t been eating a lot and your mom says you’re a picky eater. Do you think I can make you a special order? I know they say you can’t have a burger yet, but I think I can make sure you get one if you’ll eat it.”

“Ok,” is what I say.

I eat the burger.

The next day. I am actually waiting for Tom to come. Some other lady walks in the room. I am thinking to myself, “where is that idiot who keeps talking to me? What the heck. This is stupid. Where is that corny dude?”

I ask my mom, “where is Tom?”

He has a day off.

“Whatever, he’s a moron anyways.” I say.

Tom is back after 2 days off. I won’t admit it, but I am excited to see him and I have been waiting for him to come back.

“Well you are starting to feel better it looks like we can take you off some of these machines.”

I am eating now and Tom helps me fill out the menu and helps me to understand what is happening.

The psychiatrist from the hospital comes down and I refuse to talk. Tom then walks in.

“I heard you didn’t talk to the doctor. It is really important so they know what to do to help you.”

I have learned to trust this moron. I think he has my best interest in mind. He is on my side. He got me a burger, he likes baseball, and he actually notices me and what I like. He takes time and has taken an interest in me. IN ME. He actually seems to care even though I think he is a corny moron. He is on my side. So I talk to the doctor.

Then I get the news that they want me to go to a psychiatric floor in the hospital. There is no way I am doing that. I am going to get up and leave. No No No No No.

Then Tom comes in and speaks to me. “I need to talk to you about this. You know, if you do not go willingly, they may force you to go and then you have no say in it; you could end up being here even longer that way. You said you hate it at home anyways. Think of it as a vacation. You get to go talk to people, to play games. They have a ping pong table and you said you like ping pong.”

Tom knew I liked ping pong and no one else did because no one else had asked. No one else noticed my sweatshirt, talked baseball, or knew I liked hamburgers. No one else went against the hospital rules and got me a burger. No one else talked to me as a person. So, if he says it is ok, I believe him. I say, “Ok I will go.”

He says, “Great I will walk up there with you. But first I have a surprise.”

In walks Tony Oliva, a retired Twins all star, (who missed the hall of fame by 1 vote in 2014,) with a baseball bat from the world series. He talks baseball with me and Tom for an hour. He signs a bat and gives it to me.

Tom found him visiting someone else in the hospital and went out of his way and bothered him until he would come. Tom did this on his breaks and his off time.

I, being a 17 year old Twins fanatic, thought this was heaven. Baseball was my favorite sport. This was the best thing ever. I smiled. My mom said, “That is the first time I have seen him smile in months” as she sobbed. It is like in her soul, she knew at that point I was going to be ok.

I walked up with Tom to the adolescent psych ward. As I walked I had my bat in my hand. When I opened the doors, my new life was about to begin. It was not the end for me, but the beginning.

I had the idea right. I had to kill myself, but not literally. I needed to kill my false self. That is how you heal.

I walked through those doors. The doors opened and it was the beginning of a long, painful journey. It was the opening to the beginning. Tom was my shepherd . I was the lost sheep.

I never would have made it through those doors without Tom.

It all started with him being present and saying hi. Him noticing things, building a relationship, going out of his way, and not always following the rules. Being invested in me. He had a wife and kids and he had a life, but in that hospital, he made me a priority. For the time I was with him, in that room, at those moments I was the most important thing in the world. When he left, I am sure he moved on. But for the time he was with me, he was focused completely on me. He was not distracted or thinking of other things. He was present completely with me. Before that, he was just there. Saying Hi.

I heard people say Tony Oliva got me to go up there; that he saved my life. While that was great, and it made my day, truth is, I was going with Tom regardless. Tom is the one that saved my life. What happened in those doors is another story for another day.

You think that you save someone’s life like you see on TV or the movies like this:

Someone is on fire; burning in the building. The fireman rushes in to save him. The fireman has all his armor on and has been trained well. He is ready for this and pulls him out of the building.

But it does not really go like that. Sometimes people are burning and dying inside. We do nothing. We let them burn. We all do. We are too caught up in our own lives.

You do not save a life by running into a burning building. You save a life by saying hi.

May you all be someone’s Tom today.

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution $3.99

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

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“It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.”

By Irwin Ozborne

As a child, I remember walking in my grandmother’s backyard and one day noticed a litter of kittens near her garage in the alleyway. They were hissing, crying, and yelping with the hair sticking up on their backs as their frames were so thin you could see their skeletons.

“I want to pet them,” I told my grandmother.

“Oh no. They are not ready for that,” she insisted, “Someone must have dropped them off and they need food and water first.”

“Why not?” I asked, “Are they bad kittens?”

“Of course not, “ she laughed, “there is no such thing as bad or evil. There is only misguided love. These kittens were abandoned and they just need love. But they are also starving so we need to first feed them so they can refill what is missing.”

We went inside and came back with dishes of tuna fish, milk, and water for the kittens. Like always, grandmothers are always right. As the kittens indulged in the meal we brought them, the hair on their backs went down and their growls turned to purring sounds. When cats purr it is an instinctive reaction to communicate their mood as content, calm, and safe.

It was truly amazing. They were lacking basic survival needs of food and water, which had altered their behavior to aggressive and mean. Yet, once that need was met, they were content and friendly.

I look back at this story often as it has so many wonderful lessons attached. The first such is that when these kittens were lacking basic needs – such as food and water – and then finally presented with this need, they instinctively indulged. In fact, a few of the kittens actually vomited after eating so fast.

It makes perfect sense. If I am walking in the desert and dehydrated and finally brought to an oasis, I am going to indulge in water to replenish the fluids and nutrients that were have been missing. If I am starving, I am going to crave high fatty foods to relieve all the nutrients that are missing and most certainly indulge. But, what if I am spiritually starving or thirsty? Wouldn’t it only make sense that if presented with a substance that would instantly fill this void, I would also indulge?

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is not religion; although religion is a type of spirituality.

Most people that get turned off by the word spirituality have had a negative experience with religion, which is why it is essential to differentiate between the two terms. Spirituality refers to finding purpose and meaning in life, as well as a sense of connection to the universe outside of our self. Some people find this in religion, which is why religion is a type of spirituality. Religion does so with traditions, customs, books, and preachers. And at the core, all religions have the exact same spiritual message – to love one another unconditionally.

Spirituality can be found in any type of connection such as nature, sports teams, understanding the universe, in meditation, groups of people with a common goal, love, friendships, and mindfulness. All of use experience spirituality at times of our lives, though may not have used that term or understood what the term actually means.

As Ekhart Tolle explains that the word is not the experience, “The word honey isn’t honey. You can study and talk about it as long as you like, but you won’t really know it until after you taste it. After you tasted it, the word becomes less important to you.”

In this same sense, the word spirituality turns people off. But it is not the word, it is the experience in which we have all had in our lives such as:

· Moment of clarity

· Sense of inner peace or calmness

· A burst of euphoria

· A feeling of interconnection with the world around us

· Being in the present  moment

· Detached from all of life’s labels and feeling as your true self

· Unconditional love

Is Spirituality a Human Need / Desire?

In the opening story, I share the story of the kittens that were derived of their basic animal needs of food and water for survival. But is spirituality also a human need and/or desire?

This answer comes in two parts. The first portion involves the innate need for love and connection, whereas the second part involves a historical perspective of spirituality in humanity.

In 1958, Harry Harlow performed the controversial “Wire Mother Experiment” which was a designed experiment on the overlooked human need of love.

In one study, the monkeys were reared in isolation in which many died and others were frightened and acted abnormally. Once they grew older, they could not interact with other monkeys. The second study separated monkeys from their mother and gave them options of two surrogate mothers – one made from wire and the other with a soft cloth, both which provided milk. All the monkeys spent more time with the mother made of cloth, even if she had no milk. They would only go to the wire mother when they were hungry and then spent the remainder of the day with the soft cloth mother.

Futhermore, when a scary object was placed in the cage, they rushed to the cloth mother for support. The monkeys were also more willing to explore, or take risks, when the cloth mother was present. This allowed Harlow to conclude that for a monkey to develop normally they must have some interaction with an object they can cling to during those critical first few months.

Back to the story with my grandmother, the behavioral theory would suggest that the kittens needed food and water which is why they responded with joy after that need was met. However, Harlow’s theory shows that it is actually that these kittens were abandoned of their basic animal need, love and security, which created the erratic behavior and they were only brought back to loving animals once they established trust and love.

In regards to the human history of spirituality it goes back to the beginning of humanity. Humans have always shared a desire to alter their level of consciousness in one way or another. The oldest evidence dates back 40,000 years ago in which archeologists have discovered cave paintings in France that show images of humans in a trance-like states, indicating the first recorded history of humans intentionally altering their consciousness.

All ancient cultures have had different ways in attempting to do the same, including indigenous tribes in the Americas would go on vision quests in nature in which they tried to find their mission or purpose in life. Tribes in Africa dance in the streets until they feel the presence of their creator, other tribes in the east will dance on hot coals to try to free their spirit from the body, and many other cultures use meditation as a means to alter their consciousness.

As shown by Harlow, spirituality in regards to love and connection is a basic human need. As indicated by historical accounts, for at least the past 40,000 years humans have had a strong desire to alter their consciousness.

And psychoactive substances have always contributed to this.

Historical Substance Use

One of the oldest organized religions today is Hinduism, which was founded around 3500 B.C. in eastern India. The scrolls and texts of the Hindu religion is organized in books known as the Vedas, which is put together by a series of poems and hymns. Throughout the texts, there are numerous references to the drug/plant called Soma. The drug is basically idolized and worshipped as a hallucinogenic drug that helps the people of this time feel a sense of connection to the world.

Today, experts still do not know what this plant is and have been unable to discover its origins. Historians believe that the drug got into the public’s hands and started to be abused recreationally which led to the first prohibition of a drug.

In the southwestern American tribes they used peyote buttons from cactus at religious ceremonies to feel the presence of the Great Spirit. Also in the ancient Americas, tobacco was initially used in prayer and in South America the Coca plant was originally deemed a gift from the Gods.

In the East, opium and cannabis also first were believed to be gifts from the Gods and used in religious ceremonies as it served as a way to alter the level of consciousness.  While these ancient cultures it seemed worshipped these drugs by their texts, documents, and artifacts, one could argue that not much has changed.

If someone were to research our current times a couple thousand years from now, they will report that this generation wore clothing and jewelry with a hemp plant, 90-percent of their popular music made references to this hemp plant, and their passionate conversations and debates all revolved around the use of this plant. They will clearly say that cannabis was worshipped in this time.

Even alcohol has its spiritual roots as the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all had Goddesses of Wine. Today, go into any liquor store and they still refer to hard liquor as spirits. As Bill W, the founder of AA refers to the formula for addiction as “spiritus contra spiritum,” which is directly translated to spirits against spirits. This means that the only solution to fight the spirits (alcohol) is to find a spiritual solution in a natural way.

The Craving Behind The Craving:

Addiction is a spiritual disease. It is a thirst, quench, hunger, or starvation for some type of fulfillment or wholeness in a person’s life. People who become addicted to something or another either have an initial void of spirituality, a innate higher drive for a spiritual connection, or a combination of the two.

In listening to many speakers over the years it is quite apparent that the first time the person uses their drug of choice, it significantly alters their consciousness to the point that addiction is inevitable. Just as the opening story indicates that the kittens indulged in food and water because of they were dangerously lacking the nutrients to fill what was missing, people who become addicted certainly share the same behavior in indulging in alcohol and drugs that help fill their spiritual void.

The craving behind the craving refers to looking beyond the desire to use the drug, but rather the desire of the spiritual connection.

In an unofficial collegiate study, a graduate student surveyed about 200 people including students, professors, and staff in regards to the reasons why they use alcohol. The student provided a checklist of ten reasons why the person uses and they could check off however many applied. The results showed that 100-percent of the people in the survey checked off the box marked, “I like the feeling.”

Every single person that drinks alcohol does so because they like the feeling. Which made me dig deeper into examining exactly what is this feeling that everyone craves?

Using personal experience along with talking with others that are actively using or in early recovery, we came up with a list of our own in describing the feeling of being drunk or being high:

· Everything makes sense / I just get it……………………………….…(Moment of clarity)

· I just relax and not worry about all the stressors of life………(Inner peace)

· Everything is better – food, people, jokes, experiences…….(Euphoria)

· I understand people better / love for everyone………………..(Interconnection/oneness)

· Not worried about minor things / Content in moment….….(Being present)

· Freedom from self-criticism and anxiety  …………..……………..(True self)

· No judgments about anyone……………………………………………..(Unconditional love)

In reviewing the list, you see that it is the exact same feelings of a spiritual moment. This proves it is not the drug we are craving, we are craving the feeling the drug provides. The drug is just a tool to help us reach that spiritual connection.

If I am dehydrated, I am going to indulge in water or fluids that help replenish what missing. If I am starving, I am going to indulge in some greasy food that brings energy and life back into my body to restore what was missing. If I am spiritually starving, of course I am going to indulge in a drink, a joint, or a pill that will revitalize all these things that have been depleted.

See the Forest for the Trees

It is highly common for people to find their first encounter with spirituality in the natural world and in nature. On a sober trip that I took with a group a few years ago, we went camping in one of the most beautiful places in the country – Northern California. We spent a couple of days in the Redwood Natural Forest and finding instant connection with the world around us.

In observing the Redwood Trees, there was something quite majestic about these giants. They stood about 300 feet high, some were 20 feet wide, in fact some of the trees have tunnels carved in the middle of them through the highway and our bus drove right through the center. The Redwoods are the tallest living organism on Earth and some of them date back to the time of the Ancient Greek Empire 2,500 years ago.

I always wondered, how do they grow so tall? Whenever there are storms, the tallest trees always topple over because they lack the strength to survive the strong winds. In order for a tree to grow tall, it needs strong and deep roots. But, in looking at the size of the Redwoods, you would think that the roots must reach to the center of the Earth to keep these trees upright amidst strong winds.

But then I discovered that the Redwood Trees roots only grow about five or six feet deep, only adding to my confusion and admiration of the species. Upon further research, I was told that the roots of the Redwoods actually grow horizontally and go about 100 feet wide. Also, they need to grow together in forests so that their roots can interlock underneath and they help prop each other up. You can not grow an individual Redwood tree, they can only grow together so their roots can connect and ensure that they grow together.

The trees also cycle nutrients amongst each other to help each other grow. The tallest trees collect moisture from the fog and share with the shorter trees, and the barks of the trees are intentionally burnt so help cycle the nutrients at the bottoms of the trees.

The story of the Redwoods is a perfect metaphor for spirituality and addiction. We can not survive the storm alone, but once we are able to interlock and find a sense of connection outside of ourselves we are able to embrace the stor more tant to know what sort of person thing as bad or evil. There is only misguided love. These kittens were abandoned and they just need love. But they are also starving so we need to first feed them so they can refill what is missing.”

We went inside and came back with dishes of tuna fish, milk, and water for the kittens. Like always, grandmothers are always right. As the kittens indulged in the meal we brought them, the hair on their backs went down and their growls turned to purring sounds. When cats purr it is an instinctive reaction to communicate their mood as content, calm, and safe.

It was truly amazing. They were lacking basic survival needs of food and water, which had altered their behavior to aggressive and mean. Yet, once that need was met, they were content and friendly.

I look back at this story often as it has so many wonderful lessons attached. The first such is that when these kittens were lacking basic needs – such as food and water – and then finally presented with fulfillment of these needs, they instinctively indulged. In fact, a few of the kittens actually vomited after eating so fast.

It makes perfect sense. If I am walking in the desert and dehydrated and finally brought to an oasis, I am going to drink water to replenish the fluids and nutrients that were have been missing. If I am starving, I am going to crave foods to relieve all the nutrients that are missing. But, what if I am spiritually starving or thirsty? Wouldn’t it only make sense that if presented with a substance that would seem to instantly fill this void, I would also indulge?

Spirituality

Spirituality is not religion; although religion is a type of spirituality.

Most people that get turned off by the word spirituality have had a negative experience with religion, which is why it is essential to differentiate between the two terms. Spirituality refers to finding purpose and meaning in life, as well as a sense of connection to the universe outside of our self. Some people find this in religion, which is why religion is a type of spirituality. Religion does so with traditions, customs, books, and preachers. And at the core, all religions have the exact same spiritual message – to love one another unconditionally.

Spirituality can be found in any type of connection such as nature, sports teams, understanding the universe, in meditation, groups of people with a common goal, love, friendships, and mindfulness. All of use experience spirituality at times of our lives, though may not have used that term or understood what the term actually means.

As Ekhart Tolle explains, the word is not the experience, “The word honey isn’t honey. You can study and talk about it as long as you like, but you won’t really know it until after you taste it. After you tasted it, the word becomes less important to you.

In this same sense, the word spirituality turns people off. But it is not the word, it is the experience in which we have all had in our lives such as:

  • Moment of clarity
  • Sense of inner peace or calmness
  • A burst of euphoria
  • A feeling of interconnection with the world around us
  • Being in the present  moment
  • Detached from all of life’s labels and feeling as your true self
  • Unconditional love

Is Spirituality a Human Need / Desire?

At every stage, addiction is driven by one of the most powerful, mysterious, and vital forces of human existence. What drives addiction is longing — a longing not just of the brain, belly, or loins but finally, of the heart.” ~ Cornelius Plantinga

In the opening story, I share the story of the kittens that were derived of their basic animal needs of food and water for survival. But is spirituality also a human need and/or desire?

This answer comes in two parts. The first portion involves the innate need for love and connection, whereas the second part involves a historical perspective of spirituality in humanity.

In 1958, Harry Harlow performed the controversial “Wire Mother Experiment” which was a designed experiment on the overlooked human need of love.

In one part of the study, the monkeys were reared in isolation in which many died and others were frightened and acted abnormally. Once they grew older, they could not interact with other monkeys. The second study separated monkeys from their mother and gave them options of two surrogate mothers – one made from wire and the other with a soft cloth, both which provided milk. All the monkeys spent more time with the mother made of cloth, even if she had no milk. They would only go to the wire mother when they were hungry and then spent the remainder of the day with the soft cloth mother.

Furthermore, when a scary object was placed in the cage, they rushed to the cloth mother for support. The monkeys were also more willing to explore, or take risks, when the cloth mother was present. This allowed Harlow to conclude that for a monkey to develop normally they must have some interaction with an object they can cling to during those critical first few months.

Back to the story with my grandmother, the behavioral theory would suggest that the kittens needed food and water which is why they responded with joy after that need was met. However, Harlow’s theory shows that it is actually that these kittens were abandoned of their basic animal need, love and security, which created the erratic behavior and they were only brought back to loving animals once they established trust and love.

In regards to the human history of spirituality it goes back to the beginning of humanity. Humans have always shared a desire to alter their level of consciousness in one way or another. The oldest evidence dates back 40,000 years ago in which archeologists have discovered cave paintings in France that show images of humans in a trance-like states, indicating the first recorded history of humans intentionally altering their consciousness.

All ancient cultures have had different ways in attempting to do the same, including indigenous tribes in the Americas would go on vision quests in nature in which they tried to find their mission or purpose in life. Tribes in Africa dance in the streets until they feel the presence of their creator, other tribes in the east will dance on hot coals to try to free their spirit from the body, and many other cultures use meditation as a means to alter their consciousness.

As shown by Harlow, spirituality in regards to love and connection is a basic human need. As indicated by historical accounts, for at least the past 40,000 years humans have had a strong desire to alter their consciousness.

And psychoactive substances have always contributed to this.

Historical Substance Use

One of the oldest organized religions today is Hinduism, which was founded around 3500 B.C. in eastern India. The scrolls and texts of the Hindu religion is organized in books known as the Vedas, which is put together by a series of poems and hymns. Throughout the texts, there are numerous references to the drug/plant called Soma. The drug is basically idolized and worshipped as a hallucinogenic drug that helps the people of this time feel a sense of connection to the world.

Today, experts still do not know what this plant is and have been unable to discover its origins. Historians believe that the drug got into the public’s hands and started to be abused recreationally which led to the first prohibition of a drug.

In the southwestern American tribes they used peyote buttons from cactus at religious ceremonies to feel the presence of the Great Spirit. Also in the ancient Americas, tobacco was initially used in prayer and in South America the Coca plant was originally deemed a gift from the Gods. In the East, opium andcannabis also first were believed to be gifts from the Gods and used in religious ceremonies as it served as a way to alter the level of consciousness. While these ancient cultures it seemed worshiped these drugs by their texts, documents, and artifacts, one could argue that not much has changed.

If someone were to research our current times a couple thousand years from now, they will report that this generation wore clothing and jewelry with a hemp plant, 90-percent of their popular music made references to this hemp plant, and their passionate conversations and debates all revolved around the use of this plant. They will clearly say that cannabis was worshipped in this time.

Even alcohol has its spiritual roots as the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all had Goddesses of Wine. Today, go into any liquor store and they still refer to hard liquor as spirits. As Bill W, the founder of AA refers to the formula for addiction as “spiritus contra spiritum,” which is directly translated to spirits against spirits. This means that the only solution to fight the spirits (alcohol) is to find a spiritual solution in a natural way.

The Craving Behind The Craving

Addiction is a spiritual disease. It is a thirst, quench, hunger, or starvation for some type of fulfillment or wholeness in a person’s life. People who become addicted to something or another either have an initial void of spirituality, a innate higher drive for a spiritual connection, or a combination of the two.

In listening to many speakers over the years it is quite apparent that the first time the person uses their drug of choice, it significantly alters their consciousness to the point that addiction is inevitable. Just as the opening story indicates that the kittens indulged in food and water because of they were dangerously lacking the nutrients to fill what was missing, people who become addicted certainly share the same behavior in indulging in alcohol and drugs that help fill their spiritual void.

The craving behind the craving refers to looking beyond the desire to use the drug, but rather the desire of the spiritual connection.

In an unofficial collegiate study, a graduate student surveyed about 200 people including students, professors, and staff in regards to the reasons why they use alcohol. The student provided a checklist of ten reasons why the person uses and they could check off however many applied. The results showed that 100-percent of the people in the survey checked off the box marked, “I like the feeling.”

Every single person that drinks alcohol does so because they like the feeling. Which made me dig deeper into examining exactly what is this feeling that everyone craves?

Using personal experience along with talking with others that are actively using or in early recovery, we came up with a list of our own in describing the feeling of being drunk or being high:

  • Everything makes sense / I just get it……………………………….…(Moment of clarity)
  • I just relax and not worry about all the stressors of life………(Inner peace)
  • Everything is better – food, people, jokes, experiences…….(Euphoria)
  • I understand people better / love for everyone………………..(Interconnection/oneness)
  • Not worried about minor things / Content in moment….….(Being present)
  • Freedom from self-criticism and anxiety  …………..……………..(True self)
  • No judgments about anyone……………………………………………..(Unconditional love)

In reviewing the list, you see that it is the exact same feelings of a spiritual moment. This proves it is not the drug we are craving, we are craving the feeling the drug provides. The drug is just a tool to help us reach that spiritual connection.

If I am dehydrated, I am going to drink water or fluids that help replenish what missing. If I am starving, I am going to eat some food that brings energy and life back into my body to restore what was missing. If I am spiritually starving, and have not yet identified that unfulfilled need, I am likely to indulge in a drink, a joint, or a pill that will temporarily revitalize all these things that have been depleted.

See the Forest for the Trees

It is highly common for people to find their first encounter with spirituality in the natural world and in nature. On a sober trip that I took with a group a few years ago, we went camping in one of the most beautiful places in the country – Northern California. We spent a couple of days in the Redwood Natural Forest and finding instant connection with the world around us.

In observing the Redwood Trees, there was something quite majestic about these giants. They stood about 300 feet high, some were 20 feet wide, in fact some of the trees have tunnels carved in the middle of them through the highway and our bus drove right through the center. The Redwoods are the tallest living organism on Earth and some of them date back to the time of the Ancient Greek Empire 2,500 years ago.

I always wondered, how do they grow so tall? Whenever there are storms, the tallest trees always topple over because they lack the strength to survive the strong winds. In order for a tree to grow tall, it needs strong and deep roots. But, in looking at the size of the Redwoods, you would think that the roots must reach to the center of the Earth to keep these trees upright amidst strong winds.

But then I discovered that the Redwood Trees roots only grow about five or six feet deep, only adding to my confusion and admiration of the species. Upon further research, I was told that the roots of the Redwoods actually grow horizontally and go about 100 feet wide. Also, they need to grow together in forests so that their roots can interlock underneath and they help prop each other up. You can not grow an individual Redwood tree, they can only grow together so their roots can connect and ensure that they grow together.

The trees also cycle nutrients amongst each other to help each other grow. The tallest trees collect moisture from the fog and share with the shorter trees, and the barks of the trees are intentionally burnt so help cycle the nutrients at the bottoms of the trees.

The story of the Redwoods is a perfect metaphor for spirituality and addiction. We can not survive the storm alone, but once we are able to interlock and find a sense of connection outside of ourselves we are able to embrace the storm and help each other flourish as we rise above and reach the skyline.

 

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution $3.99

taking-the-mask-off-stigma-barriers-mental-health-addiction-spiritual-solution

Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press.

grinchchristmas

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

“Maybe Christmas is not found in a store, maybe Christmas is about much much more.”

-The Grinch who stole Christmas

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We need the Grinch – We need someone to steal Christmas because we have lost the true meaning.

Christmas has become symbolic of all that is wrong with society, opposite of the original intent to bring out all that is right. Much like the Grinch, whose heart was three sizes too small; our hearts have diminished in size due to the culture of fear, conformity, and consumerism in which we reside.

In order to heal, we must overthrow the King. Yes, we need to kill the Western Christian version of God and change the way we celebrate Christmas.

This year, on Black Friday, I was reminded about the true meaning of life – and with that, the meaning of Christmas. I choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving, but rather honor the Day of Mourning for our Native American brothers and sisters. I surrounded myself in nature and spent time at a cabin in small-town Western Wisconsin. The sights and sounds were serene. It was a true “silent” and “holy” night with no one around, yet I was far from being alone as I was immersed in the picturesque landscape provided by mother earth. And it was here, at the local gas station, in which I re-discovered what the true meaning of Christmas was really about.

Black Friday has become as much part of the holiday season as Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Western world. Families anxiously await the moment the retail stores open for the extraordinary deals, and quickly abandon their feelings of gratitude and “thanks” by indulging on materialistic items.

I find it ironic how we published an article about the foundations of Thanksgiving and were slammed for “ruining Thanksgiving”, and being told “the meaning has changed and it is about being thankful and having gratitude.” While this sounds good in theory, it is not practiced. The day before Thanksgiving is the second biggest drunken night of the year in America – behind only New Year’s Eve. Then we have a phony meal together and cannot even make it a full 24 hours of showing thanks, as Black Friday deals start at 7:00 p.m. or earlier on the “Day of Thanksgiving.” It’s hard for me to buy into the concept of a day of gratitude when it starts with a hangover and before it ends we are ditching our families to wrestle with over others for materialistic items.

This leads to fights, people being trampled, arrests, and even a few deaths all in an effort to purchase “things” to provide for our family for Christmas – in the season of giving. This is what Christmas has become; it is about money, consumerism, and materialism.

The Season of Giving

The United States retail industry generated over three trillion dollars during the holidays in 2013, with the average person spending about $750 for the holiday. Additionally, 33 million real evergreen conifers will be purchased around $35 each for a market of $1.16 billion in Christmas tree sales.

It is estimated, by a United Nations world hunger project, that it would cost approximately $30 billion per year to end world hunger. Think about that. Only $30 billion to end world hunger per year; yet, on the season of giving, Americans will spend $465 billion for our own material possessions. This is not suggesting to abolish Christmas altogether, but if every family reduced their Christmas budget by fifteen-percent ($116.25) and contributed that to a world hunger fund it would meet the United Nations forecasted amount to end world hunger.

Wouldn’t that make a better gift? Wouldn’t that make for a better Christmas story if all the resources in the world were utilized to making a better life for everyone rather than benefiting the few?

In fact, this is how the original story of Santa Claus arose. St. Nicholas was a monk born in the third century. He lived near modern-day Turkey and was admired for his kindness and compassion. Legends suggest that gave away all of his wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. Over the years, we have created a mythical creature to symbolize this monk.

But, instead of going around and donating his wealth to the poor, modern-day Santa Claus runs a foreign sweatshop enslaving people to work around the clock to deliver material items to the richest nations.

Living in a Material World

As a child, I remember this holiday used to be about sharing love, giving, and caring for one another. I have seen this idea evaporate as the years have passed in which I refuse to further participate in this lie. So, this Black Friday, while millions were out searching for bargains, I found my own bargain – peace and tranquility for free. I find the word “bargain” quite ironic when talking about retail prices. One must realize that these really are not as great of deals as advertised.

The markup prices are astronomical. Many United States corporations employ workers in sweatshops overseas in countries like Bangladesh, India, China, Haiti, etc. They pay below minimum wages in deplorable working conditions – typically 14-16 hours per day for seven days per week. It costs pennies to make this material and it gets marked up to allow for enormous profits for the CEO of these corporations. Here are the top ten salaries of the CEOs of retail corporations in America in 2013:

Michael Jeffries, Abercrombie and Fitch $48,069,473

Gregg Steinhafel, Target $19,707,107

Leslie Wexner, Limited Brands $19,230,484

Michael Duke, Walmart Stores $18,131,738

Paul Marciano, Guess $14,399,134

Terry Lundgren, Macy’s $13,840,531

Michael Balmuth, Ross Stores $12,478,239

Gregory Wasson, Walgreens $12,041,058

David Dillon, Kroger $12,024,543

Steven Fishman, Big Lots $11,924,662

Christmas is not a complete lie, we just need to understand that it has to do with symbolism. Santa Claus no longer has anything to do with St. Nicholas or helping the sick and needy. Santa Claus now represents the fat and jolly CEOs listed above as they showcase good but inside they are running sweatshops for elves overseas. The elves also exist, but they don’t do work in the North Pole. The elves symbolize sweatshop workers that get paid nothing to work themselves to death while providing your material possessions. Perhaps the reason they are so small in stature, is because they represent the 10 year olds working 16 hours per day to provide wealth for their respective Santa Claus.

Then to tell children he delivers only to the “good” girls and boys create further separation. Again, it is symbolic, he delivers toys to those who have money and wealth. How do you explain to a child in poverty that he did not get gift this year? By this mythical logic, it would infer that he is a “bad” child because Santa did not bring him gifts.

This tale of Christmas we share is 180-degree difference from the true story of St. Nicholas. He helped those in need, but today we only help those with greed at the hands of the poor.

The concept of sweatshops is industry as it sporadically pops back up in the news. You see, it has never gone away; we just selectively decide when we want to pay attention. It was all over the news in the 1990s with Nike and Gap having 10-13 year old kids working in these shops as slave for their profits. The public outrage led to changes to be made; but once we saw the “great deals” on Black Friday we forget about the torturous conditions it takes to make these items.

Every few years, there is a story on the slave labor that produces the clothes we wear. Then the corporation tells us they have looked into things and have made changes. Yet, just a few years ago a factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing thousands of people and we come to find that Walmart, Gap, Target, etc. were all having clothing made at these factories.

It is a mass marketing scheme and manipulation of people. We have a group of people watching television, listening to the radio, or surfing the internet and the marketers simply pay money for air time and tell people what they need in order to fit in. Once they have these items, then they will be ok. It is based on fear, fear and consumption. A quote from Marilyn Manson says it all:

“Because that’s not the way the media wants to take it and spin it, and turn it into fear, because then you’re watching television, you’re watching the news, you’re being pumped full of fear, there’s floods, there’s AIDS, there’s murder, cut to commercial, “buy the Acura”, “buy the Colgate”, if you have bad breath they’re not going to talk to you, if you have pimples, the girl’s not going to fuck you, and it’s just this campaign of fear, and consumption, and that’s what I think it’s all based on, the whole idea of ‘keep everyone afraid, and they’ll consume.”

The Christian Rebuttal

The real genius-work behind this big façade is the connection with Christianity. This too, stems from fear. We tell our children that if you are good, then you will spend eternity in the clouds with a nice guy, or, if you are bad you will burn in fire with a man with horns. We decide to instill this into our children’s minds when they are impressionable, that way they believe it is true. In connection with Christmas, they are told that if they are good, that a man from the North Pole will fly his reindeer all over the world in less than 24 hours and deliver presents to them.

It is a way to control children by manipulation. It is a cycle that continues from generation to generation. Then your kids go to school, and those that do not participate in this lie will not receive presents, and become the outcasts. So the pressure is put on them by their peers, it is put on by television, and it is put on by society, and by this so called “Christian nation.” They will say,

“What you don’t believe in Jesus? You don’t want to celebrate this man who preached love and acceptance? What kind of person are you?”

My answer is No. Your god is dead. He has to be, in order for us to move forward. This version of God has done more harm than good. This fairy tale version of God has caused fear in children, it has caused wars to be fought, and has caused many secrets which lead to shame. It has caused the manipulation of generations and it is all celebrated on this day. So this version of God needs to die.

As George Carline once eloquently stated:

“Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it, religion has actually convinced people that there’s an INVISIBLE MAN…LIVING IN THE SKY…who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten special things that he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time…but he loves you.”

“He loves you and HE NEEDS MONEY. He always needs money! He is all powerful, all perfect, all knowing, and all wise. Somehow he just can’t handle money! Religions take in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.”

Many of the patrons inside the church that stand so faithfully behind their religion that stands for unconditional love and kindness, are the same ones that walk out the church and instantly abandon these teachings. The same people who complain about the poor receiving “handouts” are part of a church that can build a million dollar church without paying a dime in taxes while the poor go on without food or shelter.

In June of 2013, newly appointed pastor of Sango United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, reverend Willie Lyle spent four days disguised as a homeless man living on the streets. He wanted to see what it was like to truly live without anything and see who would offer food and assistance. Then, he transformed back into the role as pastor while delivering his sermon and addressed the congregation:

“Too many of us want to serve God one hour each week. That doesn’t cut it. That is not God’s plan.”

Similarly in November of 2013, Mormon bishop David Musselman did a similar experiment by posing as a homeless man outside a Taylorsville, Utah church one Sunday morning. At least five people asked him to leave the church property, some offered money, and some were indifferent. He addressed the congregation stating that his point was not to be so quick to judge one another.

“Many actually went out of their way to purposely ignore me, and they wouldn’t even make eye contact,” he said, “I’d approach them and say, ‘Happy Thanksgiving.’ Many of them I wouldn’t ask for any food or any kind of money, and their inability to even acknowledge me was very surprising.”

Saving Christmas

Spending my Black Friday in this small town it occurred to me how I am forced to conform. It is impossible for me to neglect Christmas; for if I were to not purchase my children presents then they would feel that I do not love them. I was really struggling with this as I pulled up to the gas station and noticed an elderly woman carrying a few turkeys and other groceries in a pull cart. At the time, I thought nothing of the lady or this scene.

However, it did allow me to reflect on some of my religious upbringings from the past. While people literally would put on their “Sunday Best” before walking into church to bow, chant, hug, and love each other; we were really just putting on an show for each other. We all put on our masks and went through the routines. Once walking out of the church, if we were to see an elderly woman such as this, we would be told not to do anything because they were likely trying to scam us out of money, abduct us, or kill us.

This is how extreme the fear-based society has become. We are guided with fear, rather than love; which creates separation, as opposed to our natural instinctual reaction to connect.

This is where spirituality differs from religion. Spirituality is about finding a connection to the world outside of ourselves, finding a sense of purpose and meaning, and living in harmony in the present moment with our surroundings. Spirituality teaches us that we are all one interconnected being and that at our true core there is only unconditional love.

Religion is a type of spirituality. It is meant to offer all of the above. In fact, if you look into the basic teachings of all religions, you will find this exact same message. However, as these messages get misinterpreted throughout the years we have received the opposite message. Religion starts to create separation and judgment which is the opposite of its intent – much like Christmas.

As explained by Don Migeul Ruiz:

There is an old story from India about the God, Brahma, who was alone. Nothing existed but Brahma, and he was completely bored. Brahma decided to play a game, but there was no one to play the game with. So he created a beautiful goddess, Maya, just for the purpose of having fun. Once Maya existed and Brahma told her the purpose of her existence, she said, &Okay, let’s play the most wonderful game, but you do what I tell you to do.& Brahma agreed and following Maya’s instructions, he created the whole universe, the sun and the stars, the moon and the planets. He created life on earth: the animals, the oceans, the atmosphere, everything.

Maya said, &How beautiful is this world of illusion you created. Now I want you to create an animal that is so intelligent and aware that it can appreciate your own creation.& Finally Brahma created humans, and after he finished the creation, he asked Maya when the game was going to start.

&We will start right now,& she said. She took Brahma and cut him into thousands of teeny, tiny pieces. She put a piece inside every human and said, &Now the game begins! I am going to make you forget what you are, and you are going to try and find yourself!& Maya created the Dream and still, even today, Brahma is trying to remember who he is. When you awake from the Dream, you become Brahma again and reclaim your divinity. You now know the trick of Maya and can share the truth with others who are going to wake up too.

This story explains how we are to find ourselves, and find God, in every person we encounter. We don’t do this buy purchasing items at a store, but by helping those in need, and showing unconditional love to each soul we encounter.

As all these thoughts were going through my mind, my friend comes out of the store and starts speaking with the elderly woman. As they continue to chat, I got out of the car to see what was going on. As I approached them, I noticed the woman’s wheel on her pull cart was missing.

“We are giving her a ride home,” my friend told me without asking. She never hesitated, she saw an opportunity and did the right thing without thinking or judging.

We packed her bags into the car and drove her about another mile to her house. It was a very cold day and her bags were awfully heavy. There is no way she would have been able to make it that far on her own. Many people saw her, but no one did anything, which was probably all based out of fear. Fear of a disabled, elderly woman on Thanksgiving.

I was overcome with emotion, and was told by my friend not to talk about it. She said “that is just what we should do, so I do it.”

I thought that is so true and so simple. We should do what we should do. Yet, no one seems to do this and I am not excluding myself. This is the difference between being guided by fear, as opposed to love. As John Lennon said:

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from lie. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

This is the real meaning of life. This is the real meaning of Christmas. To help, to give, to be with others and to love unconditionally. It doesn’t have to be some big act.

“People who move mountains begin by carrying away small stones.”

Christmas and life is about helping the elderly lady. It is about loving each other on a daily basis. It is about calling your parents, family, and friends and just being there for anyone and everyone. If we treated everyone like they were a piece of God, maybe then we would realize behave differently.

It doesn’t matter what we call our God, it is all the same. It is similar to the story of nine blind men that were all reaching out and touching an elephant. Each of the men were touching a different part of the elephant and describing what they felt. One is touching the elephant’s leg and says “it is a tree”; another is touching its tail and says “it is a rope”; another is touching its trunk and says “it is a snake”; another it touching a tusk and says “It is a spear”; another is touching its body and says “it is a wall”. However, they are all touching the same elephant. Imagine if they all fought and killed each other over this argument. How silly that would be? They are all blind, and they are all right. But they are fighting over their perspective.

The same way we fight wars over who is right about religion. Is it possible we are all right? And we are all wrong?

We are told we need this God in our lives to survive. But, in essences, it is the opposite. For it is this created God that is leading us to killing each other, phony holidays, and self-hatred and destruction. This holiday symbolizes all of the above. In order to survive, we need to remove the mask of God and remove the mask of Christmas.

How the Grinch Saved Christmas

While we like to claim the Grinch stole Christmas, it is clear he did the opposite. He saw the true meaning of Christmas and put an end to the charade. While his means were extreme, by stealing all the presents; he learned that the real meaning of Christmas had nothing to do with exchanging gifts, but exchanging love.

The Grinch was not the bad guy. The Grinch was a revolutionary but was misguided with fear, which led to his acts. But once all the gifts were gone, the masks were removed, everyone lived together in harmony.

For it is Wall Street, Corporations, and organized religions that “stole” Christmas by hijacking the holiday and changing the meaning. It comes from St. Nicholas who gave up all material wealth to help those in need. Yet, after the title was stolen it has turned into a celebration of consumerism and greed.

We need the Grinch to steal back this holiday to help us remember the true meaning.

largesoulcontract

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.

  • Mother Teresa

By Irwin Ozborne contributing writer to TTMO

There are no coincidences in life. A coincidence is defined as a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent connection or significant meaning. Again, these do not exist because all coincidences have meaning which is what Carl Jung defined as a synchronicity.

Synchronicities refer to the law of unity, that we are all linked through our unconscious. There is no separation between you, me, anyone, or anything. Any movement, no matter how small, will eventually be felt by us all.

Every interaction we have with others will trigger a chain reaction that impacts the universe. This can be small interactions that include a friendly smile to the clerk at the gas station, changing her day, which may make her smile at the next person, who treats his clients better, and they go along and feel better and pass along the chain of love to the next. It can also have enormous impacts on the world such as a woman in Montgomery, Alabama, refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955 which led to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Once we are aware of synchronicities, we start seeing them every day and with every moment, interaction, and movement. In fact, we see that not only are synchronicities true, but that they exist in every single moment. Everything is a synchronicity; every moment is changing the course of history for the world.

Yesterday, I had one of these that reminded me of how simple this works.

I had plans to meet up with someone at 9:00 p.m., and I was early so I stopped by my local gym to go for a quick 45 minute jog. Cardio has become a form of meditation for me and allows me to clear my mind and come up with new ideas. Currently, I had been struggling with how I can do more to give back to others and make a difference on the world. I was hoping that a quick cardio session would boost some creative juices and give me some ideas.

However, the universe had a greater plan in place. About seven minutes into my jog, the sole of my shoe had started to rip open and I could feel my big toe pressing against the moving rubber of the treadmill. Frustrated, I wanted to “fight through it,” but knew that it would only create much greater pain. I had no choice, but to end my session at this point. I didn’t feel like lifting, so I returned to my car to text my friend and see if we could meet earlier.

As I drove away from the gym, I was receiving about twenty texts and needed to pull over and see what was going on. Through the intersection, there is a Super America gas station on the left and a Walgreens pharmacy on the right. I come here often, and I would say 99 percent of the time I stop for a snack or anything that I always go to the gas station. I had every intent on going to the gas station today, in fact, had my left blinker on and there was a car behind me and it was clear to turn.

Just at this instant, it was if somebody grabbed hold of the wheel because I felt an incredibly strong urge to go to Walgreens suddenly. I switched my blinker to the right side and made a quick, sharp turn into the pharmacy so fast that my tires squealed which was quite embarrassing to say the least.

While I sat in my car responding to texts and in my own world, I continued to ask what I can do to give back and help the world. I grabbed a piece of paper and started making a list of the things I wanted to do to help volunteer, start new projects, or reach out to others. I came up with an incredible list and then just asked, “If only an opportunity would present itself to me.”

Then, opportunity knocked.

Literally, a knock on my passenger side glass startled me and I looked up. As I looked out the window, there was a middle-aged African-American man that had taken a good couple steps back from my car and had both his hands up as if to show me that he had no weapon and that he was not a threat. He had a sincere look of helplessness on his face and I almost wondered what my facial expression looked like to have him jump back a few steps. I rolled down the window and you could see everything in this man’s body language that he was in dire need.

“I am so very sorry,” the man stated with remorse in his eyes, “I really hate to bother you but I am in need of some help.”

“Sure what’s up?” I asked curiously.

“Do you know where Brooklyn Park is?” he asked, “It’s a long ass way from here. I came out here to help some people out and now I’m the one stuck here.”

Just to clarify, Brooklyn Park is a predominately black suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul area. I live in a predominately white suburb about an hour away from this man’s destination. I wasn’t sure what he needed at this time and just kept my window down and waiting for him to continue.

“This is so embarrassing, but I was out here helping someone out and I am just about out of gas,” he said with a shamed look in his face, “I have to make it all the way back to Brooklyn Park and I forgot my wallet. I’m trying to do a good thing and this is what happens. Is there any chance you could help me out?”

“Yeah, let’s go inside and I’ll grab you some cash,” I told him and you could see the life go back into this man’s life. As if hope in humanity had been restored.

As we walked inside to the ATM machine, I felt all eyes were upon us. An elderly couple looked at me in disgust, a middle-aged white man scowled at the man who was in need, one of the younger female workers had fear in her eyes. The woman behind the counter, the only other African-American in the store, gave me a look in her eye which said “you have a kind heart” but her facial expression had a tone as if to say, “but you are being taken advantage of by this guy.”

I gave them man $20 and asked if that would be enough to get him home.

“Thank you so much, you have no idea how embarrassing this is,” he said with a tear in his eye, “I asked a couple people and you wouldn’t believe their response. One man told me, ‘How the HELL does a GROWN-ASS man forget his wallet!’”

“I do it all the time,” I told him, “We’ve all been there. I’d hope someone would do the same for me if I were in your situation.”

He gave me a hug in front of everyone in the store and wished me a happy Fourth of July weekend. I wished him well and went on my way to pick up a few snacks at the store myself.

This is what I call a soul contract. A soul contract is a prearranged contract prior to entering this lifetime that we make with others. We do so in order to teach each other lessons that help us grow. This was part of our plan to meet at this encounter, and the universe works in ways to make sure we meet.

The worn out soles of my tennis shoes led me to another worn out soul asking for help.

But this is not where the soul contracts end, it goes much deeper. We actually have soul contracts with every person we encounter, every single day. There were other soul contracts with each person in that store for us to teach each other lessons.

As I made my way to the counter, the middle-aged man who had previously yelled at the guy asking for help was in front of me. He spent $34.17 that day, mostly on junk food, soda, candy, and unnecessary items.

“I can’t believe you gave that man money,” he tells me in disgust, “You realize he is taking it to the liquor store or a crack house right now.”

“That is not up to me,” I told the man as I looked directly into his eyes that filled with hurt of his own, “I am only responsible for my actions, choices, and behaviors. I am not responsible for the outcome. The man asked for money to get home and I willingly gave him some money. That is all that happened. Nobody knows the outcome, nor do we need to know.”

The man grumbled and threw his hands at me as to say, “The hell with you.” Then he took his bags of junk food and walked out the store continuing to carry with him his bitterness of this entire situation.

I also had a soul contract with this man. He was teaching me of how I have acted in situations in the past. In fact, just thirty minutes ago, worn out soles of my sneakers had ruined my day and I was getting bitter. Everyone we encounter is just a reflection of ourselves, and this man was portraying the way I was acting internally not too long ago. I was letting a minor inconvenience ruin my day. That is the lesson he was providing me. Hopefully, my lesson to him was spreading love. But again, it is not up to me what my lesson is to him. I am not responsible for results.

The woman behind the counter did not even mention the interaction. She just smiled and wished me well after paying for my items. There was a soul contract there too. I do not know the reasons, nor do I need to know. I have no idea how this story ends and probably never will. It brings great inner peace to no longer have the need to attach to outcomes. But it also brings great humility to remember that each person I meet, despite our difference is beliefs, opinions and attitudes, is there to teach me something and help me grow.

There are three main ways to help remember soul contracts and help use them throughout our daily lives. The first one is remembering the story of Brahma. In this tale, Brahma creates the universe and all the people. His friend Maya then asks to play a game in which she cuts Brahma up into millions of pieces and puts a piece of him in every human. She erases his memory so he does not remember, and the game is for him to find himself in every person – or for each of us to find God in each other.

Taking this concept one step deeper, I realize that every person is actually me from a different lifetime. It works on the same level as the story of Brahma. We are all one interconnected being and experiencing the world from different perspectives. When I view the world this way, I see the pain and hurt in others eyes, and see into their soul. I do not know the man’s story that was so angry, but I know that was me from a different lifetime and I am trying to help him grow and flourish.

The third way of thinking of soul contracts, is taking the second concept even one step further. Since we are all God from a different perspective, I think of each person I encounter as an enlightened master and have been put in my path to teach me a lesson. Everyone I meet is enlightened, except for myself. With this perspective, I learn from everyone. The man needing gas, the old couple, the angry man, the scared employee, and the kind woman behind the counter, were all put there to teach me something. I can only hope that I learned the lesson. But if I do not learn the lesson, the soul contracts have stipulations to ensure that we do not move on until we get what we needed to know from that interaction.

Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to go about looking at the world; as if nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” I prefer the latter. I prefer to believe that worn out soles leads me to worn out souls, and that worn out souls will always lead me to greater peace, freedom, and serenity.