Eckhart Tolle’s Beautiful Quote About Who We Are and Who We Aren’t

Have I written a slew of articles about Eckhart Tolle’s teachings? Yes. Guilty as charged.

But I make no apologies for it. Why? Because I love the guy. And, more important, because I find his teachings so wise, simple and accessible.

Which brings us to today’s gem from the joyous German. It deals with a fundamental misconception many people have about what their life is all about. Here it is:

You are not a problem that needs solving.

What does Eckhart mean by this?

Let’s start by stating what it means to live your life as if it were a problem to be solved. At the root, that means looking at your life through the eyes of your ego. What are some examples?

– “I need to solve the problem of my body by losing twenty pounds off my butt and thighs.”

– “I need to solve my problem of not being successful enough in the eyes of society by getting a more high-profile job with a fancy title.”

– “I need to solve the problem of my loneliness by doing everything possible to find a boyfriend/girlfriend.”

The ego is the one driving your car when those pronouncements are made. How do we know this? Because your conscious, true self, the real you, doesn’t care about any of those things. Not your butt, your thighs, your job, your relationship status, your car, your house…None of it.

The bottom line is that YOU are not a problem. You don’t need to be solved.

Unfortunately, this is how many people lead their lives. And it’s frustrating and deeply painful.

Worst of all, it’s a problem that can’t be solved. Sure, we can solve our “problems” in the short term. You get the promotion, the Porsche, the weight loss…whatever. But those good feelings never last.

What we need to do

Fine. So our lives, we, are not a problem to be solved. What the heck should we do?

Remember that true, conscious self I mentioned? It’s beautiful, compassionate and filled with love. In fact, it is love.

Well, it’s inside you. It’s inside all of us.

So what is the purpose of our lives? It is to realize that that consciousness inside us is who we are. At the deepest level. And to identify as that.

You are not male/female, tall/short, athletic/unathletic, dumb/brilliant, beautiful/homely, funny/unfunny…You are that consciousness inside you.

It’s at the heart of all spiritual traditions

Maybe this sounds familiar, maybe it doesn’t. But I can tell you that in all of my studying of the great spiritual traditions, this identifying as the consciousness, the soul, the spirit inside us is the central teaching of most of them.

Whether it’s Ramana Maharshi (whose work I’ve delved into recently), Ram Dass, Buddha or, yes, even Jesus Christ, who said that the kingdom of Heaven is within us, they all taught the same thing. Heck, the name of Yogananda’s extant organization is the Self-Realization Fellowship.

So that’s the name of the game, folks. Realizing that you are that beautiful consciousness within.

Realizing our true selves

How do we do that? We get quiet inside. And we let go of all the attachments our egos have accumulated over the years.

Get quiet. Let go.

Why do we have to do that? Because our egos create so much noise static that we can’t sense that consciousness within.

The jackhammer and Mozart

It’s like a jackhammer digging up concrete on the street right outside your window as you try to listen to the mellifluous notes of a Mozart piano concerto. It’s impossible. Getting quiet and letting go eliminates the jackhammer.

How to get quiet? Meditate regularly. Practice mindfulness. Pray. Walk in nature. Do the things that quiet your mind.

Gradually, you’ll get a stronger sense of that consciousness. It won’t come in words or concepts. It’s a force whose nature far transcends words.

The takeaway

So remember. You are not a problem. You don’t need to be solved.

There’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, there’s everything right with you.

You just need to get quiet, let go, and allow the beautiful force within you to emerge through you and into the world.

That’s why we’re here.


You Want to Be Present? Escape to the Moment in Front Of You

I know. If you had a nickel for every article you’ve seen about the importance of “being in the moment” you’d be rich. But read on. This one’s got a cool, useful wrinkle.

It’s about how we view being in the present moment. For most of us, ‘easier said than done’ doesn’t even begin to describe the difficulty of pulling this off.

Why? Because our minds constantly get distracted by thoughts that take us out of our moments, for reasons I’ve written about in a slew of other articles.

Most of the time we get stuck in one of these thought streams it drives us crazy. What are some examples of these torture-inducing thought hurricanes?

-Your spouse said something shitty to you on their way out the door to work. You mull over in your head, off and on all day, how pissed off you are at them and think through fifty versions of what you’ll say to them when they get home from work.

-It’s the night before your annual job review and you can’t stop thinking about it.

-You have a date in four days and you can’t stop the repeating thought cycle wondering whether he’ll be your soul mate, a complete bore with bad breath or a serial killer…Repeat cycle…

We all do this in some form or fashion. And I don’t know about you, but I find it hugely annoying, frustrating and exhausting.

What can we do? How about this? We say to ourselves something along the lines of:

“This is driving me crazy, thinking about this over and over. Let’s get the hell out of here and escape to the present moment.”

Yes. You literally look at it like you’re escaping from a bad situation. You look at the present moment as a refuge. A safe place.

What does escaping to the present moment look like? Here’s just one example:

“I’m exhausted thinking about X so let’s escape to this moment. I’m just here in my car. Driving to work. I see a black Prius in front of me, with Nebraska license plates. There’s a beautiful, billowy white cloud in the sky. My car smells like coffee. I feel my hands on the steering wheel. I hear The Eagles’ Hotel California on the radio. And I feel myself breathing. That is everything in my life right now. That’s all there is. That’s all that exists. Everything else is just a big pile of thought crap. So I’m staying right here, ensconced in this moment…”

Then, inevitably, our ego will try to spoil the party with,

“No. We’re not staying here. We need to worry about the job review. If we don’t, it won’t go well.”

To which we need to respond:


And we would be right. Ruminating and worrying about what’s up in our lives is NEVER a good thing. It doesn’t help. It grinds us down.

What does help? I’ll borrow the words of Abraham Maslow, one of the great psychologists of the 20th century:

“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.”

“But,” our ego says, “if I don’t worry about the future, bad things will happen. I need to prepare!”

For the answer to that, I’ll go to another 20th century titan, the great Indian saint, Ramana Maharshi, who said:

Take care of the present; the future will then take care of itself.”

Can I get a Hallelujah to that?! We could live our entire lives based on that one sentence.

The key quirk here lies in viewing this as an escape. Because normally we view escape as something bad. Like we can’t handle reality so we need to go elsewhere. Only the weak need to escape.

This moment is all we have

But that isn’t true here. Why? Because the present moment is the only place where life exists. It’s always been that way and always will be.

So we’re really not escaping at all. We’re going to the one and only place we truly need to be: The present moment.

You might be thinking,

“Great. I love this. I’d love to escape to the present moment. And I think I can…But how do I stay there? I inevitably get pulled away by my Ego Goliath!”

The answer to that is simple: We practice. But before we start practicing, we need to do something first:

We need to commit to giving this attention; lots of it.

And then we practice. Every day. Each time we find ourselves trapped inside our heads in a thought storm, we escape to the present moment.

Say to yourself,

“I’m outta here. I have no interest in hanging out with this mess.

Then just look at what’s going on in that moment. See it. Touch it. Listen to it. Hear it. Immerse yourself in it.

If you keep practicing, you’ll get better at it. Until you reach the day that there won’t be anything to escape from or to.

You’ll just be there. In the moment. Living life rather than thinking it.


This Meditation Cue Will Knock Your Socks Off

I’ve been meditating most every day for the past ten years. I do fifteen minutes in the morning and a shorter session in the afternoon.

The results? I’m calmer. I play better tennis. I’m more patient. Focus better. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

As part of my journey, I’ve read the books and listened to the great meditation teachers. Two have stood out above the rest.

Two fantastic meditation teachers

One is Peter Russell who I wrote an article about a few months ago (link). Peter’s voice and overall emphasis on relaxation and enjoyment of meditation strike a chord with me.

My favorite cue of Peter’s is to say to ourselves early in a session:

I’m not trying to get to any special spiritual state. I’m just sitting here, following my breath. That’s all.

The other teacher I’ve responded to is Adyashanti, formerly known as Stephen Gray, a really cool guy who lives in Northern California. Here’s one way Adya, as he’s known, sums up his view of things:

“The Truth I point to is not confined within any religious point of view, belief system, or doctrine, but is open to all and found within all.”

Adya also emphasizes relaxation in meditation. But he ventures into a really cool area that I haven’t seen others teach. Once we’ve warmed up in our session, situating ourselves and following our breath for a period, Adya teaches to sense our natural state of awareness.

What is our “natural state of awareness?” Just what it sounds like. It’s the awareness within us that’s always there. It’s our natural state.

Which brings us to Adya’s mind-blowing cue. After sitting with our natural state of awareness for a short while, he asks us to say this to ourselves:

Now, see if you can get rid of the meditator…

Did your head just explode? I love this!

Going from duality to nonduality

What’s this about? With virtually everything in meditation, there is a subject/object relationship. There is ME, the meditator (subject) following my BREATH (object). Or ME (subject) listening to the faint sounds of birds and cars outside (objects). Or ME (subject) repeating a mantra (object).

The key is that there is dualism, two entities. Subject/object.

What Adya is asking us to do, by getting rid of the meditator, is to simply BE that natural state of awareness inside.

You want to know why that is so massive and mind-blowing? Because it’s a microcosm of the END of the spiritual journey.

The endpoint of the spiritual path

What is that end? It’s the ego withering away and leaving us as only pure consciousness/natural awareness. It’s reaching a state of nonduality. No more subject/object.

That’s what high beings like the Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Meher Baba and Neem Karoli Baba achieved. Adya invites us, with this cue, to see if we can experience a taste of that state.

I hope this makes sense. If not, skewer me in the comments section.

To sum up:

-Get to the point in your session where you are calm, relaxed and focused. For me, that’s going to be ten minutes, on a good day.

-Then sense the natural state of awareness flowing inside you.

-Then direct yourself to eliminate the meditator.

-Finally, see if you can simply exist as that natural state of awareness.

The takeaway

Why is ‘existing as our natural state of awareness’ so critical?

Because that natural state of awareness is who we are, at the deepest level.

And that, my friends, is why this cue blows me away…


Ramana Maharshi’s Mind-Blowing Quote About Pondering the World’s Ills

A few months ago I received an email from a woman who works with Dr. Srikumar Rao, a bestselling author and former professor at Columbia Business School. She said they both enjoyed my articles and asked if I’d be interested in meeting Dr. Rao.

After perusing his CV, I jumped at the chance. Suffice it to say, Dr. Rao has had an impressive career and I was flattered that he wanted to talk. We had a long chat over Zoom about a month ago.

Talking about Sri Ramana Maharshi

Though we covered many topics, the one that stood out was Dr. Rao’s deep devotion to the revered Indian saint, Ramana Maharshi. Who’s that? If there was a Mount Rushmore of Indian saints, Ramana Maharshi would be on it. He was a high being who influenced generations of spiritual seekers in the last hundred years.

Dr. Rao asked me to read A Search in Secret India, Paul Brunton’s iconic bestseller about his travels through India in the 1930s. Brunton, a Brit, traversed India in search of authentic yogis. He met with Meher Baba, among others.

But the one yogi who blew him away was Ramana Maharshi. Brunton’s recounting of their conversations is profoundly moving.

This article is about a part of one of those conversations. Brunton presses the sage about the state of the world. He asks if good times are ahead or “chaos and war?” After several attempts at extracting an answer, Brunton receives this response from Ramana Maharshi:

“Without understanding yourself, what is the use of trying to understand the world? This is a question that seekers after truth need not consider. People waste their energies over all such questions. First, find out the truth behind yourself; then you will be in a better position to understand the truth behind the world, of which yourself is a part.”

I love this. It simplifies our lives and leads to a massive decrease in wasted energy, as Maharshi puts it, not to mention anxiety and worry.

This doesn’t mean we don’t interact with the world and question matters. It simply means that we don’t waste mental and psychic energy trying to understand things we are incapable of understanding…

Until we understand ourselves. Which is where we do need to place our energies.

Finding the truth behind ourselves

What does Ramana Maharshi recommend we do to find the truth behind ourselves?For the devotees who surrounded him, he said that the best way was to simply sit with him as he sat in silence. That that in itself, by a sort of spiritual osmosis, would help people to realize their true selves.

Second best was to listen to his words on the subject. What were those words? He taught that we should get quiet and continually ask ourselves, “Who am I?” Over and over and over. Crucially, he urged not to try and answer that question, but merely to pose it.

The truth lies in the silence

As with most sages, he taught that understanding oneself cannot happen through words or concepts. It can only occur through the silencing of the mind.

That’s the key. Quieting the mind.

That’s where the answers are found, to the truth behind yourself, and of the world.

In the silent stillness.

I’ll cut the words short here and leave you with that.


Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Passage in Mickey Singer’s New Book “Living Untethered”

Whether you like Oprah or not (I do, a lot), there is no arguing that she is one of the most influential people on the planet in the spiritual arena, something she has focused her work on for at least the past twenty years or so.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that she singlehandedly put Eckhart Tolle on the map with her recommendation of The Power of Now.She’s also helped to launch my favorite teacher, Mickey Singer, into the spiritual stratosphere by recommending The Untethered Soul, which Oprah calls, “One of the most important books of my spiritual growth and development.”

Turns out she’s also a big fan of Mickey’s latest book, Living Untethered. Her favorite passage from the book is this:

The moment in front of you is not bothering you. You are bothering yourself about the moment in front of you.”

I get why this had such an impact on her. It’s all about our external versus internal worlds.

Some examples of how this plays out:

-You hit five red lights in a row, resulting in a screaming you slamming the steering wheel. The red lights didn’t cause that. Your reaction to the red lights caused that.

-Your wife called you cheap for insisting the family get fast food for dinner rather than go to a decent restaurant. Your wife and her comment didn’t cause you to sulk for the rest of the night. Your reaction to her comment caused that.

-You look in the mirror and see several new gray hairs, which puts you in a bad mood. The gray hairs didn’t you in a bad mood. Your reaction to them did.

Some may respond to this by thinking it sounds overly harsh. That Mickey, and I, are telling you to stop being so sensitive/angry/temperamental, etc. That’s not what it’s about. And it overlooks something supremely important. What?

That this provides a HUGE opportunity for us.

How? Because if we don’t just cave in and react to the moments that bother us, we can significantly improve our lives.

Marital spats

How? I’ll give you an example from my life. I’ve been married for seventeen years. Like any married couple, we do our share of fighting/bickering. Luckily, it’s been a pretty normal, unexcessive level. But we do it.

Since I’ve been adhering to this “it’s not the moment in front of you that’s bothering you, but how you’re responding to that moment,” mantra, the amount of times we’ve gotten into prolonged battles has declined. Why?

Because if my wife says something that really pisses me off, shortly after absorbing that feeling and weighing how I should respond, it occurs to me:

“Okay, that thing she just said really pissed me off. But I have a choice in how I’m going to respond. I can either let it ruin MY night (and probably hers, too) or I can stay level-headed and deal with it in a calm, measured way. It’s MY choice. I can feel pissed off and upset, or…not.”

What I’ve been doing for a while now is putting the situation back on me.

“I’m not feeling pissed off right now because of her. I’m feeling pissed off because of how I’m responding to what she said.”

Do you see how this could eliminate megatons of negative energy and bad moods in your life? Most of you get this immediately. Think about all the times we say, “Screw him/her. I’m not talking to him/her unless they apologize. That was SO insensitive!”

Then we spend the next hour, evening, three days, week, month stewing over the fight. And feeling miserable because of it. What a waste!

The takeaway

Bottom line: Conducting our lives according to that quote by Mickey Singer is incredibly beneficial. And well worth working on.


My 3 Year Depression Odyssey, Part 2: 3 Lessons I Learned – Wisdom gained through the awful grace of God.

Part 1 chronicled the story of my three-year battle with depression in my late teens and early 20’s. Today I’ll relate the lessons I took away from those challenging years.

LESSON #1: Sometimes life can be unbearably hard.

First, let me define what I mean by ‘unbearably hard.’ It’s not just going through a rough patch where things aren’t going your way.

It means feeling so low that you honestly don’t know how you’re going to make it through the day. On my hardest days, I had so much anxiety that I would go on three separate runs of around four miles each just to try and tire myself out.

A life crisis

One phrase that describes these states is ‘life crisis.’ I know many going through acrimonious divorces experience this absolute desperation. Same with losing a loved one. Ditto those battling substance addictions.

Why was this a lesson I learned? Because up until I was 18, I’d never had anything close to days like those. I’m not saying everything was peaches and cream every day for 18 years, but I’d experienced nothing close to a life crisis.

Ironically, that fact is singlehandedly responsible for the tailspin I fell into. I had no experience with serious adversity growing up.

A runt vs. Muhammad Ali

So when this brew of circumstances arose, that I described in Part 1, I was utterly incapable of handling the situation in a healthy manner. It was like a 100-pound weakling being thrown into the boxing ring with Muhammad Ali.

I’m convinced that I’d have responded better had somebody clued me in along the way that life could be unbearable. Even though my parents both grew up during the Great Depression, I don’t think either of them ever found themselves in the abyss, so they couldn’t have prepared me.

But I can, and will, prepare my three kids. How? Not by scaring them. Maybe they’ll never fall into the abyss. But I will make them aware that it’s a possibility. And that if it does happen, I will drill it into them that they can make it out. How?

That leads to…

LESSON #2: Sometimes it comes down to simply not giving up.

If you asked me how I, a clueless teenager, crawled out of the abyss, my answer would be simple: I didn’t give up. That’s all it was. Nothing more complicated than that. Not having the tools I’ve learned these past years on the spiritual path, all I could do was just hang in there.

Believe it or not, I think sports helped me on this. How? Because particularly with tennis, I had gotten good over my junior years at never giving up in a match. At digging down in my gut and saying to myself, “It’s not over until this guy wins match point.” So while I had weak muscles in the adversity department, my “Never give up!” muscles were strong.

The S word

Of course, the only alternative to hanging in there when you’re trapped in the abyss is the big S word. Suicide. Fortunately, that never became an option I seriously considered.

But I do want to offer my two cents on this. People say things like, “I can’t believe he did it. He had so much to live for.” Or, “How could anybody do something so selfish. Look at all the pain she caused her family.” All that stuff is true.

But what people miss is that suicide can be a rational decision. Not a good decision, but a rational one.

How? Because when you feel so terrible, and you’re convinced that that feeling will never subside, ending it all is the only viable solution for ending the pain. I hope that makes sense.

If you haven’t been in that place, you probably think I’m crazy for writing that. If you have, you get it.

Depression is a dangerous disease

And this is why depression is so dangerous. It’s not like cancer where the health danger lies in good cells going bad that can lead to death.

No. The danger of depression is that you feel so badly that you end it all. It’s an incredibly dangerous disease.

The moral of the story, and then I promise I’ll move on, is this: If you, or someone you know, is clinically depressed, do your best to get them professional help.

That will mean at least talk therapy with a psychiatrist or psychologist and probably antidepressant medication. In dire cases, it could mean hospitalization, something I probably should have done at my lowest points. I did the therapy during that period, but not the antidepressants as they weren’t that effective in the early 1980s.

LESSON #3: Gaining admission to a beautiful club that I never wanted to join.

It took some years to realize it, but after dwelling in the lowest of lows, one gains automatic entry into the club of those who’ve been there, too. It’s a club nobody would join if given the choice. But once God, the Universe, nature, the Supreme Being, the One…puts you in that abyss, you’re in, whether you like it or not.

Club Compassion

Why do I call this a “beautiful” club? Because it is. I think I can sum up in one word what being thrust into this club instills in those who become a member: Compassion.

The best thing that came out of my trying time was that I feel for people who are going through it. It could be a friend going through a divorce or a teenage daughter of a friend who is struggling with depression.

Especially with the younger people I try to help, I tell them about this club they will join once they make it out of the abyss. And that they will be a better, more compassionate person once they make it out.

Most important, I tell them what I wish someone would have told me: That they will make it through if they hang in there. That the worst part of my ordeal was having that feeling, that knowledge, that things were never going to get better. Hearing that from someone who’s been there can make a difference.

The takeaway

So yes, groveling in the abyss of life is indescribably painful. But it made me a better, more compassionate person for which I am deeply grateful.

My favorite Greek poet, Aeschylus, captured this sentiment beautifully:

“Even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”


My 3 Year Depression Odyssey, Part 1: The Story – From the abyss to beholding the stars.

Depression is not fun. Those of you who’ve had it know of what I speak.

First, let me clarify what I mean by depression. I don’t mean the periodic ‘down-in-the-dumps’ phases we all experience.

Your girlfriend/boyfriend breaks up with you. You don’t get the promotion at work. Your daughter is struggling mightily in school. You feel terrible in all these scenarios. But most of the time, it doesn’t lead to full-blown depression.

My Bed of Nails

Which leads to that ever-so-difficult endeavor: Describing depression. To those who’ve never experienced it, clinical depression is hard to describe. It’s a type of pain one can’t pinpoint as one can, say, that of a broken ankle or a stomach flu.

Rather than expound further, I’ll give you what many say is the most articulate rendering of depression ever written. It came from the great American writer, William Styron, who, in Darkness Visible, a memoir of his bout with depression, wrote this:

“The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the foreknowledge that no remedy will come — not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute…It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes.”

To that I would only add the physical feeling of heavy-headedness, a dull fog that descends over one’s being, preventing any semblance of joy, thrusting the depressed into an abyss where the soil produces only negative, pessimistic thoughts.

The Odyssey begins: Collapsing at College

My bout with depression started soon after arriving at Princeton in September of 1982. I’d grown up in laid-back Newport Beach, California. The toughest decision most kids at my high school had to make was whether they were going to surf before or after school.

Then I arrived at Princeton with its worldly prep-schoolers, Long Island neurotics and garden-variety over-achievers from every state in the union. The confluence of that jarring change and the crumbling of my first love relationship resulted in my psychic collapse.

My biggest problem in dealing with this convulsive change was that my first 18 years had been quite good. No deaths in the family. No divorces. Decent financial security. Fun with sports. Bottom line: My life toughness muscles were flabby and untested.

A few months in at Princeton and I was genuinely worried that I’d have to spend the rest of my life in a mental hospital. That is not an exaggeration.

My thoughts became consumed with the pointlessness of life. I couldn’t shake the idea that I was just going to die someday so why did anything really matter? I was in that existential funk for the better part of three years.

In retrospect, I should have been treated in a hospital. I’d probably have recovered faster.

Breakdown at Christmas

I kept thinking that everything would be okay when I returned home for Christmas vacation in December of 1982. A couple weeks out I was counting the hours until my flight home. Big mistake.

When I got home, I realized that my life was no longer there. It was gone. Forever. I realized all I had was the awful life back at Princeton.

That’s when I cratered and had a breakdown. I had a pit in my stomach for several days and couldn’t stop crying.

My mom took me to see a psychiatrist, but nothing came of it. Ironically, what saved me from that crisis within a crisis was an English paper I had to write that forced me to focus on something other than how terrible I felt.

Sophomore year wasn’t much better, so I decided to take a year off from school.

My year away from school

I moved home and frankly didn’t have a whole lot to do. Not smart. Too much time to ponder how lousy I felt. Then again, the pressure cooker of the Princeton academic life wasn’t good for me, either.

And that is the single worst thing about depression — there is no answer. No relief. As Styron said, you’re attached to your bed of nails wherever you go, whatever you do.

So I carried my bed of nails with me to San Francisco and lived with my sister for a few months. I saw my first therapist, which was minorly helpful.

Home Not-so-Sweet Home

A few months later, still lost, I headed back home, my bed of nails still snug on my back. I saw another therapist, this one marginally more effective than the last, but continued to feel awful.

My mom, who I was very close to growing up, was beside herself with all this. She possessed a rare combination of being emotionally tough but also unselfish and loving. Nothing could break her. But now that her “baby” was in year three of this depressive journey and didn’t seem to be improving, her shell was starting to crack.

My Battle of Gettysburg

The lowest point came one night when I was in the living room, pouring my thoughts into a journal, anything to get them out of my head and somewhere else.

I was listening to a classical music record I randomly came upon that spoke to me for some reason — Harris Symphony №6 “Gettysburg,” which chronicled the battle of Gettysburg. I knew nothing about classical music but found that I really loved the third movement, a slow and mournful piece depicting the dead on the battlefield after the fighting stopped.

My mom looked at me as she walked past the living room, started up the stairs, then burst into tears and ran into her bedroom. I walked up to her room. Sat on the bed and told her I was going to be fine which, of course, was a big lie.

At that point, I thought my miserable state would be the new-normal for the rest of my life. She kept saying she wished there was something she could do.

Climbing Into the Boat

It’s not that nothing good happened in those three years, or that I never felt okay. It’s just that it was never enough to recover.

The best analogy I’ve come up with is that it was as if I was stuck in the ocean, treading water, becoming more exhausted every day. And there was a boat there, a boat that if I could only climb into it, could whisk me to the comfort of dry land. Sometimes things were good enough that I could pull myself partially up the side of the boat, but never high enough to make it all the way in.

Until one day I did.

Styron, again, described best what it is like to emerge from the fog of depression. Borrowing from Dante’s ascent from the depths of hell, he wrote:

“For those who have dwelt in depression’s dark wood, and known its inexplicable agony, their return from the abyss is not unlike the ascent of the poet, trudging upward and upward out of hell’s black depths and at last emerging into ‘the shining world.’ There, whoever has been restored to health has almost always been restored to the capacity for serenity and joy, and this may be indemnity enough for having endured the despair beyond despair.”

The final line of Styron’s Darkness Visible is taken from the final line of The Inferno:

“And so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars.”

Beholding the Stars

What finally picked me up high enough that I could climb into the boat and return to the land of the living? In May of 1985 I went on a two-month backpacking trip to Europe. That might seem like a crazy thing to do for a depressed 21 year-old who was a couple tweaks away from admission to the psychiatric ward, but remember, there was no good “answer” so in my mind heading to Europe was no worse than anything else.

In a twist of fate that I desperately needed, my roommate from Princeton hooked me up with his friend, Rick, who was studying in London.

And that was it. I had the time of my life. By day it was hanging out in Trafalgar Square, marveling at da Vinci paintings at the National Gallery of Art and contemplating the vastness of St. Paul’s Cathedral. By night it was chasing women, dancing and partying into the wee hours with my new friend, Rick (who, not so incidentally, officiated my wedding 30 years later).

After a few weeks of this, it dawned on me: I’d made it into the boat and was speeding toward terra firma. After three hellish years, I’d finally come forth, and once again beheld the stars…

Coming soon, part II: What I learned from my depression odyssey.


The Beatles Song That Captures It All

I wasn’t conscious during the Beatles’ meteoric success in the 1960s. When they broke up in 1970, I was only six.

But that didn’t mean I didn’t completely fall in love with their music in the early 1970s, thanks mostly to the fact that my older siblings had bought a ton of their 45s and a few of the albums, too. I remember some of my early faves being Paperback Writer and I Wanna Hold Your Hand, the latter top of mind whenever I had one of my massive, secret crushes (I’m thinking of you, Karleen Thurnher, and that mustard cardigan sweater you used to wear in fourth grade!).

But now that I’m a bald, fat, old guy (my kids’ description of me, not mine) who has devoted his life to trekking the spiritual path, there’s another Beatles song that tops my list. That song?

Let It Be

Why that one? Because in those three words, Paul McCartney captured one way of describing the entirety of the spiritual path.

Paul’s dream about his mom

McCartney said the song came to him in a dream he had about his mother, Mary, who had died in 1956 when he was fourteen. The dream came in 1968 during the boisterous period when the band was recording the White Album. The sessions were tense, and they took a toll on Paul.

In the dream, McCartney said that his mother told him, “It will be alright. Just let it be.” Hence the opening lines of the song:

“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

So poignant. So beautiful.

What did McCartney’s mother, Mary, mean by let it be? And what is the grand meaning of these three words from a spiritual point of view?

What does it mean?

There’s no definitive definition, but I’ll offer mine. I think what Paul’s mom meant was to get yourself out of the way. That they were having trouble making this record because outsized egos wanted different things. So she wanted him to get his ego out of the way and then let it be.

It’s very Taoist to me. Taoism is about working with nature, not against it. Being a part of nature, not a manipulator of it. It’s about living a life of letting things be as they are.

Here in America, those last few sentences are blasphemous.

“Let things be as they are? Are you f-ing kidding me?! If I do that, someone will take advantage of me and screw me! I have to insert myself into everything that comes my way to make sure things go the way I want them to.”

Unfortunately, for those who live that way, it doesn’t work. Why not?

As it says in Chapter 30 of the Tao:

“The master understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.”

What’s an example of this? Let’s say you opened a restaurant in January of 2020. You did all your due diligence, analyzed your market, secured the best suppliers, and had a kick-ass opening…

Unbeknownst to you, a bat in China had bitten some exotic animal that a poor Chinese person ate. The result? The world shut down. Who got hit worst? Businesses where people congregated indoors. Like restaurants. Your restaurant closed a few months later.

The takeaway

The bottom line: The universe is going to do what it’s going to do. It’s been doing that for 13.8 billion years.

The healthiest way to deal with that reality is to let it be. That doesn’t mean you let people walk all over you every day.

It simply means that you park your ego in the backseat as best you can. Every day. In every situation. And then…

Let it be.


4 Things I Want for My Kids – Now, and for the rest of their lives.

It’s hard to predict what you’ll value for your kids…until you have kids. Coming from a family of Type A successful people, I’d have predicted that I’d place a premium on my kids achieving extraordinary things.

It hasn’t turned out that way. At all. I’ve found that, towering over everything else, what I yearn for is that my kids be happy.

I know that word happy can be tricky for people. So I’ll expand that to mean peacefully content. So far, my fourteen-year-old son and twelve and six year old daughters have done quite well in that department.

Here are the four things I have encouraged and will continue to encourage them to do that I think will give them the best chance to remain peacefully content for the rest of their lives. I’ll start with the lighter side and move up to the deeper.


Let’s start with some raw honesty: We’re all clueless. We’re born, we live, we die. Nobody knows with any certainty what it all means. Why we’re here. Who put us here.

We have options on how to coexist with this vexing metaphysical reality. For the sake of ease, let’s break it down to two: We can take it all really seriously…or not. The path for me on this one has always been crystal clear: I choose to be a nut and not overly serious.

The bottom line is that laughter is the ultimate elixir. And it’s what I want for my kids.

As such, I have encouraged them to develop their sense of humor from an early age. When they did or said something funny, I’d laugh and make a point to tell them that being funny was a gift not just to them, but to the world. That putting smiles on people’s faces was a good thing.

In my son’s case, that has meant some trouble with his teachers, but mostly they’ve appreciated him. At age eight, his teacher told us that she was doing an exercise where the kids needed to come up with words ending in ‘light.’ Like flashlight or gaslight. She called on my son who said, “Bud Light!” She told us she had to turn away and try not to laugh.

Then there was the time a few months ago that I was on his case about something and he said, “Thank you Jeff Bezos without the money.” Apparently, I look like Jeff Bezos.

The favorite activity for my 14 and 12 year olds recently has been to purposely rile me up, then surreptitiously record my volcanic eruption. A few weeks ago the little rascals accomplished this by having my son throw a lacrosse ball smack into my forehead. I, of course, was livid and completely lost my shit.

A few minutes later I hear them howling with laughter as they watch the video, taken by my daughter, of me exploding. Torturous? Yes. Funny? You bet…As long as they don’t post it online!


I won’t bore you with the ten trillion medical studies showing the enormous benefits of physical exertion. Suffice to say that exercise does humans a world of good.

Fortunately, all three of my kids like physical activity. My son plays on his high school lacrosse team and my older daughter plays everything — soccer, tennis, volleyball and basketball. My six year old plays soccer, basketball and tennis.

Key to this is they see their mom and dad working out most days. I play tennis, cycle, swim and lift weights, while my wife plays tennis and does vigorous exercise classes with some of her friends. So the example is there.

My hope is that they bring regular exercise with them into adulthood. It’s an effective weapon in fighting depression, anxiety and a whole host of other maladies.


Love everyone, serve everyone is the main teaching of Ram Dass’s guru, Neem Karoli Baba, something I wrote a separate article about. It’s basically the equivalent of Christianity’s “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

As for how this relates to my kids, it’s not about forcing them to volunteer at a soup kitchen or things like that. It’s more about encouraging them to be decent to those around them.

And at their age, that’s mostly about how they relate to their friends. My 12 year old daughter is at that age where girls can be brutal to each other. I can’t tell you how many stories I hear about parents freaking out that their daughters have been shunned by some friend group. It’s all too common.

I go out of my way to encourage my daughter to NOT exclude other girls. And to not badmouth girls behind their backs.

So far, so good. My daughter is friends with several girls who are in several different friend groups.

I think the reason she’s able to do this is that she does her best to treat all the girls with decency and respect. Pretty sure it’s also because she’s really funny (see #1, Humor).

She’s very talented, both academically and athletically, but I have told her several times that what I like most about her, and what makes me proudest, is what a great friend she is to so many girls.

I hope this will stick with her for the rest of her life. Why? Because I think most would agree that the highest riches life has to offer are attained through giving your love to others. I know I’ve found that to be true.


Anybody’s who’s read my articles knew this one was coming. Getting quiet and listening to the voice inside is central to most everything I write about.

We get quiet by practicing meditation, mindfulness and a whole host of other techniques and practices. Once we get quiet, we listen.

This is the one I really want for my kids. Why? Because getting quiet and being able to hear that sacred, divine voice within is paramount to living a successful life.

My definition of successful is living a life that is in harmony with the Universe/God/Nature. The best way to do that is to quiet our minds so that the Universe can express itself through us.

How do I communicate this to 14, 12 and 6 year olds? Not directly, at this point.

The two older kids have meditated on and off these past few years. I also use sports as an avenue to transmit these ideas.

For example, the only advice I give my son in lacrosse is to do his best to remain as relaxed as possible while he’s out on the field. Because only when we’re truly relaxed can we access the genius within who knows exactly what to do. I see relaxation as just another form of quieting down inside.

I think I’ll talk more about this with them when they hit their later teens and twenties. I sure wish I’d known about all this stuff back then.

The takeaway

Humor, exercise, loving others and getting quiet inside. Those are the four things that I believe give my kids the best chance at the best life.

And I hope this is no surprise, but that is also what I want for all of you. And for the same reason: Incorporating those big four will maximize your life experience.

I hope you’ll give some thought to adding more laughter, exercise, love and quiet in your life.


Ram Dass on Being Spiritual in our Business Work

Most people have some connection to the business world. Maybe you run a flower shop. Or you’re an accountant. Or you’re an executive at Walmart. We all have to make a buck somehow and that usually involves some connection to business.

Which brings me to an old Ram Dass talk I listened to yesterday. [By the way, there are oodles of these talks on and I highly recommend them. I find him to be the best ever Western interpreter of Eastern spirituality.]

He got a question from a guy about spirituality and business. The question was along the lines of:

“I work for a business. And I need to make plans. Five-year plans. This requires me to do a lot of thinking about the past and the future. How can I ‘be here now’ while making those plans?”

Ram Dass’s answer was illuminating. In brief, what he told the guy to do was to ‘be here now’ while thinking about the past and the future in fashioning his business plan.

Success in business, and many other pursuits, requires deep, focused thinking.

Disabusing a fallacy

This points to a fallacy among many who believe that all thinking is eschewed by spirituality. That’s not the case at all.

As Mickey Singer frequently points out, our minds are brilliant. They figured out a way to fly human beings all the way to the moon…and land them safely. They figured out a way that we can say something in Los Angeles and someone in Paris can hear us. They created an internet that allows for near-total access to almost all information all over the planet. That’s incredible.

This is the intelligent mind. The mind that we use for all kinds of life endeavors.

The personal mind/ego

We also have what Singer calls a personal mind. This is the ego. Its thinking is based on the sum total of all of our life experiences that we’ve held onto. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have our best interests at heart in most of its thoughts and actions.

One vital difference between these two minds of ours is that with the intelligent mind, WE, the conscious self, directs it. When that businessman sits down to write his plan, he is calling on his intelligent mind to perform certain functions.

“We increased sales by an average of fifteen percent per year for the past five years. The numbers show me that our market will grow far faster than it did these past five years. So for the next five years, I need to project how fast sales will increase based on those forecasted market increases.”

That is what I call intentional thinking. We are asking our mind to work for us. You’re at the grocery store and you ask your mind to tell you what you need…eggs, milk, lettuce, ice cream, cereal and cream cheese.

Involuntary thinking

Involuntary thinking is most of what the personal mind does. You’re standing in line at Home Depot, ruminating about how pissed off you are that your boss is making you work all Saturday. Do you really say to yourself, “Let’s think about how mad we are at our schmuck boss.”

No. It just happens. Our personal mind takes over and tells us to start thinking about that and thousands of other things we would be better off not thinking about.

The key to spiritual growth is minimizing the control our personal mind exerts over our lives. How? As I’ve written many times, we do it by practicing meditation, mindfulness, letting go when our egos are poked and many other spiritual practices.

The takeaway

But in business, heck yeah we use our minds. And while doing so we can absolutely ‘be here now,’ as Ram Dass inspires us all to do. We just do it intentionally.