How to Let Go When Your Emotional Baggage Gets Poked

I wrote a piece last year about why Mickey Singer was my favorite spiritual teacher. The reason was simple: He’s the only one who emphasizes the need to let go of the emotional baggage we’ve accumulated over the course of our lives.

Most teachers, like another favorite of mine, Eckhart Tolle, stress the importance of being present. And they’re right. Nothing is healthier than living in the present moment, aka, being conscious. But most people, like just about everybody, say the same thing: I’d love to be present, but my mind is insanely busy!

What causes our minds to think so much?

So what Mickey does, far more than anybody I’ve encountered, is tackle the question of: What is it that prevents me from being present? Put another way, what is it that makes my mind so active? And the answer is: All that egoic baggage we’ve stored is the cause; letting it go is the solution.

Long story short, letting go of this stuff is central to becoming more conscious/living in the present moment.

That being the case, I’m always on the lookout for ways to assist in that letting go process. Because it isn’t easy. Far from it.

The Crème Brulee brouhaha

If you have body image issues and somebody suggests you order the fruit cup rather than the crème brulee for dessert, the emotion that arises will be difficult to let go of. You’ll do everything in your power to either push it away or attack the person who offended you.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article (link) about dealing with a painful piece of baggage as we would a muscle knot in our back during massage — instead of pushing it away, as we normally do, I suggested breathing through the pain and staying present with it.

This week’s letting go aide also involves a muscle metaphor, but in a different way. A knot in the back is something we want to work directly on so that it will smooth out, sort of like kneading bread.

The pulled hamstring analogy

Not so with an actual muscle injury. If we pull a hamstring muscle, a physical therapist won’t normally work directly on that muscle. What they’ll do is stretch and massage the muscles around the injured one. Doing so will allow the injured muscle to relax and loosen up.

It’s the same when we encounter an emotional “injury” like the person ordering the crème brulee. That person doesn’t want to dive in and massage or stretch that injury directly.

What’s the emotional equivalent of direct involvement in the injury? That would be saying inside, “Oh God, that’s too painful. Just ignore it and move on.” That’s just suppressing it.

Or they could go the opposite direction and say, “Go F*#K yourself! I’ll order whatever the hell I want!” That would be expressing the emotion which, while healthier than suppressing, still doesn’t let go of it.

Relax around the injury

The healthiest response is to relax around the feeling. We can feel these painful emotions just like we can an injured muscle. And it’s usually in a specific area. I feel most of my emotions in my gut/stomach.

So what we do is relax around the area of the emotional pain. And then what? Then we do our best to remain relaxed and not allow ourselves to either suppress or express the pain.

Relaxing around the painful feeling has the same effect as it does on the injured muscle — it allows it to loosen, break free and rise up.

And loosening and allowing a piece of egoic baggage (or Samskara as Mickey Singer and the ancient yogis refer to it) to break free and rise up is the highest work we can do. Why? Because if we do it enough, we’ll find ourselves living presently, no longer burdened by our thought factory minds. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The takeaway

Try using this image of leaning away and relaxing around your egoic injury/feeling. Loosen up as much as possible the area around the painful feeling.

Just as with an injured muscle, the feeling will loosen up, but only if you refrain from diving in and engaging with it.

Relax and let it go. It’s a mantra to live by.


Having Strong Opinions is Not All it’s Cracked Up to Be

A goldmine for writers is taking an accepted truth and calling bullshit on it. This usually creates controversy. Why? Because if something is accepted as truth by most people, they don’t want you upending their truth. But that’s what I’m doing today.

One accepted truth, especially here in America, is that being opinionated is a good thing. It means you’re strong. That you’re passionate. That you care about things.

But there’s another side to this. I can sum it up in one word: Ego.

Most of the time we express a strongly held opinion, that passion emanates from the ego’s need to feel ‘right.’ Further, it’s ‘I’m right and you’re wrong.’

I’ve heard Eckhart Tolle talk about this several times in past years. Here’s his take on it:

There is nothing that strengthens the ego more than being right. Being right is identification with a mental position — a perspective, an opinion, a judgement, a story. For you to be right, of course, you need someone else to be wrong, as so the ego loves to make wrong in order to be right.”

I was surprised when I first heard him say this. Why? Because I was part of that majority who holds that being opinionated is a good thing.

But I liked hearing this take from Eckhart. Why? Because I have a peculiar history with this subject.

Squashed like a bug at the dinner table

I grew up the youngest of six kids and my siblings were anything but wallflowers. They, and my parents, felt strongly about matters, big and small.

Our dinner table was loud and raucous, and as the youngest, I found it difficult to get a word in. When I did try to voice my view, I often got trampled on by one of my siblings.

Throwing in the towel

So at one point, probably around age seven or eight, I gave up. It wasn’t so much a “Wah, wah! I hate you and I’m not going to try anymore!” It was more a function of laziness. I didn’t want to go to the trouble of muscling my way into conversations.

So what did I do instead? I listened. A lot.

It’s one of those quirks of fate that carried on into my adult life. I’ve always been the type who did more listening than talking. But had I been the oldest child, I’m sure I would have become more opinionated and assertive in making sure my voice was heard. The vagaries of life.

For most of my adulthood I felt that this listening rather than “opining” thing was weak. That I was being passive.

Becoming a listener rather than a talker

But the further I travel on the spiritual path, the more it’s dawned on me that I lucked out on this one. Because Eckhart is right: The passionate pushing of views is all ego. It’s “I’m right, you’re wrong.”

And anybody who knows anything about true wisdom knows that the deepest beings of history have recommended listening over talking. Heard any of these?

“Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know.” Tao te Ching

“If we were meant to talk more than listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.” Mark Twain

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama

Which isn’t to say that having views and beliefs about things is bad. Of course not. I have views about Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, abortion, capital punishment, parenting, the PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf and thousands of other matters.

The takeaway

What this is about is having to be right. And if there’s anything I hope you take away from this piece it’s that you be on the lookout for when that “I’m right!” muscle flexes inside you. We all know what that feels like.

Then just be aware of it. Feel it. Don’t tangle with it or engage with it. Just feel it…

Then let it go.

It’s fine to let people know your views. But it’s ego if you feel the need to prove yourself right.

And the work of our lives lies in letting go of our egos.

So use your opinion/arguing sessions as opportunities to let go…

PS — I’m 100% sure I’m right about all of this so don’t even think about trying to prove me wrong in the comments section. :-)


One Guru Is Head and Shoulders Above The Rest: Life.

Guru is a word I would have frowned on ten years ago, before I dove into all this spiritual stuff. It would’ve conjured images of glassy-eyed devotees blindly worshipping some long-bearded guy in a flowing robe who was taking advantage of them financially, or worse.

I don’t feel that way now. Sure, there are some crackpots out there who call themselves gurus but who are really charlatans.

My fave guru, Neem Karoli Baba

But there have been some great ones. I’ve written a few articles (links herehere and here) about Neem Karoli Baba, the guru of Ram Dass. I’m looking at him right now as his photo sits on my desk, right next to one of Ram Dass.

This guy was the real deal. I haven’t tackled in depth in any article how and why he’s so amazing. I’ve simply found it too daunting. Someday I will.

But today’s article isn’t about Neem Karoli Baba or any other guru. It’s about the greatest guru of all:


What do I mean by life? Everything that happens to us. From the people in our lives to a tree falling on our car to watching the sun set over the ocean.

Before getting to life as guru, let’s first examine what a guru is. A guru is someone who helps us grow spiritually. Who helps us liberate ourselves from ourselves.

And there is no one person who does a better job of that than life itself.

Why is that? Because unless we’re living in a desert cave, life constantly challenges us. It pushes our buttons. It holds a mirror up to us that says, “This is what you need to let go of.” Every damn day.

Here are some examples, of the small, medium and venti variety…

SMALL: You’re driving home from work and you hit five red lights in a row. When you hit the sixth, you scream and smash your hands against the steering wheel. This is life teaching you to be in the moment and not constantly waiting for future moments — “I just want to get home! Those moments will be great. But these moments waiting at red lights SUCK!”

MEDIUM: Your girlfriend keeps talking to you about how she wants to deepen your relationship. Spend more time together. This sends your insides into a frenzy of panic. Which is a good thing. Why? Because your mother suffocated you in childhood. Helicoptering you. On you about everything. Never leaving you alone. Your girlfriend has been sent by life to stir this egoic baggage up so that you can deal with it. And let go of it. Because that baggage is weighing you down and needs to go.

VENTI: (The biggie.) COVID hit and stopped the entire planet. People died. Millions of shops and restaurants went out of business. Parents had kids at home 24/7. All because some bat in Wuhan, China, bit some hapless exotic animal that was then consumed by a customer at an outdoor market.

This was life telling every single one of us: ‘You can’t control everything so stop trying. Live your life in the moment and do your best with what the Universe has in store for you. Control freak-ness is a losing strategy!’

The takeaway

What’s the point of all this? Let life be your teacher. And yes, your guru.

Look at everything life throws your way as an opportunity to let go and grow.


Try This Approach to Life: Maximize the Good, Minimize the Bad

I write a lot about approaches to living life. Most of the time it’s of a spiritual bent, i.e., don’t look OUT to the world to heal what ails you inside. Look inside to heal what ails you inside.

Today’s approach to life is more of a practical/pragmatic variety. It’s about maximizing the good while minimizing the bad. What does that mean?

I’ll use my life to illustrate. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I was single. As I reached my upper twenties, I started to make some decent money.

Single and free

There was tons of upside to this life, spent mostly in Washington, D.C. It was mostly about one word: Freedom. I had zero attachments.

How did I take advantage of this state of affairs? In other words, how did I maximize this life situation? Let me count the ways…

Because I started making some money and had only me to spend it on, I did some spending. Not crazy spending. I’m not the Porsche, Gucci loafers kind of guy.

But I did buy a nice townhouse just north of Georgetown. And I put a hot tub in the back area (more on that later!).

Steaks and Sea Bass

There was a high-end grocery store called Sutton Place Gourmet literally 200 paces from my place (yes, anal me counted it once). I’d go there and buy Chilean Sea Bass, prime steaks, and all kinds of great produce.

But what’s good food without good wine? So I dove into the wine world, head first. I’d go to MacArthur Beverage, where wine God Robert Parker got his start, and buy cases of Bordeaux and the like.

My lobbying friend Bob always accused me of getting into wine solely to impress women. Which was, mostly, untrue. Though I’m not going to lie, making a woman a nice soy-marinated salmon with a good bottle of Sonoma Pinot Noir never hurt one’s chances of getting another date.

Fun in the hot tub

Back to the hot tub. I could write a whole article on this but suffice it to say that it became legendary in DC. We, mostly my friend John and I, had some amazing parties there after nights out on the town. But like Las Vegas, what happened at the hot tub stayed at the hot tub, so on we go to…

Travel. When one is single with a little extra cash, one travels. At least I did. I went to Israel for two weeks and toured the most historic area in human history. The Wall. The Dead Sea. The sunrise at Masada. Portugal for the World Expo.

And the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. We went to the Hotel du Cap for drinks where we saw Bruce Willis, Brooke Shields, Sharon Stone, and Winona Ryder.

A brush with the infamous Harvey Weinstein

True story. End of the night, after waiting forever and a day at the top of the stairs of the hotel entrance for our cab, it finally rolls up. At the bottom of the stairs Harvey Weinstein, with two Waify models in tow, heads for our cab. At which point I, who was slightly inebriated, yelled out, “HARVEY! Don’t you dare take our cab!”

He looks up at me, then says to the woman, “Who is that? I don’t know who that is…” We ran down the steps, got in our cab, and skedaddled. I knew back then that he was an awful guy, but not as awful as we all learned two decades later.

Minimizing the downsides of my single life

Alright, enough reminiscing about my good old single days. Let’s get into the minimize part of this life strategy.

I was single. Had decent money. And not responsible for anyone but me. Sounds great, right? And it was. But it wasn’t perfect.

What was missing? It can get lonely being single. Yes, I had a few long-termish girlfriends (6–12 months), but more often than not, I was single.

So how did I minimize this part of my life that was lacking? I got good at making sure I was seeing friends on weekends. I also stayed, and still do, in close touch on the phone with my family and some close friends from college. All this was in service of making sure I had regular human contact, something essential when one is single.

Marriage and kids

Now we take a 180-degree turn where my life flipped the other way. Remember those wacky, fun nights I mentioned? Well, in March of 2000, I met my wife on one of those.

We got married in 2005, had kids in 2008, 2010, and 2016, and here we are in 2023, one big, loud, boisterous, funny, and incredibly fortunate family.

What are the positives of this time of life that I try to maximize? They’re obvious. I have a lot of people around me. People who mean a lot to me.

So I go to tons of sporting events. Serve as an unpaid chauffeur, shuttling kids to practices, fast-food runs, friends’ houses, and the beach.

Dinners and Gerky Specials

I have fun making dinner every night, catching the news, and sipping a Gerky Special (vodka with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice) as I go along.

I take my six-year-old to the beach (fifteen minutes away) and watch her have a fabulous time. Play tennis with my thirteen-year-old daughter. And watch my son play in most of his lacrosse games.

My wife and I have also had a blast making friends with the parents of our kids’ friends. We party together. Laugh together. Bitch and moan together. It has been one of the pleasant surprises of having kids.

Doesn’t sound as fun or exciting as my previous life, does it? But I wouldn’t trade it for the previous one for all the tea in China.

A better life by far

Why? Because my old life was all about me. My current life is far from it. Any of you with kids knows this. If it’s not a universal truth, it’s damn near it: People are generally happier the less they focus on themselves and the more they give their attention to others.

The downsides to this life are obvious. It’s hard for me to pick up and travel somewhere. I can. And I do. But it’s generally trips of three or four days, not two weeks. And I’m not heading to Paris for a four-day trip.

Kids and families cost a lot of money, too. So no more expensive wines. And I can’t remember the last time I had Chilean Sea Bass.

Not to mention, kids screaming at each other, or at me, or vice-versa, drives me crazy. Ditto wives.

But again, I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.

The takeaway

The key to this approach to life is to be hyper-focused on the positive side of what your situation offers. If you’re single, take advantage and go out and have fun. Travel. Play the field in your romantic life. Be spontaneous. And do your best to cultivate friendships to offset the lonely times.

If you’re married with kids, cherish those relationships. Reap the profound benefits that come from a life based on love and unselfishness.

Bottom line: Put a ton of attention on avoiding a ‘grass is greener on the other side of the pasture’ life.

“If only I was married and had kids I’d be so happy…”


“Man I wish I was single again and could chase any woman I wanted and do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to…”

No. Don’t allow yourself to live in the moan zone.

Employ this life strategy and you’ll find that the grass under your feet is plenty green.


Understanding This Nuance Will Save You a Ton of Heart Ache Traveling the Spiritual Path

As I write this first sentence, my biggest fear is that my head will explode by the time I finish this. This ain’t gonna be an easy one, folks.

But this topic is so central that I am willing to put billions of innocent brain cells on the line. You’re welcome.

Alright, enough complaining. Onto the show…

When most people think of spiritual growth, they view it in terms of something that is attained. We could also use the word achieved. And we could frame spiritual growth in terms of something we strive for.

What kinds of things do we do thinking they will help us attain this growth? We meditate. Practice Mindfulness. Surrender. Let go. Pray. And do manifold other spiritual practices.

We already have what we’re striving for

But the truth is this: There is nothing to attain. Why? Because that state we’re striving to attain already exists within us. And we can’t attain something we already have.

That being the case, the spiritual path comes down to one endeavor: Realizing the conscious self that already exists within us. That’s it. Game, set, match.

The preceding few paragraphs form the core of a slew of teachings of spiritual masters. I would include Eckhart Tolle among that group.

Ramana Maharshi and self-realization

But it was the 20th century Indian yogi Ramana Maharshi who is most credited for teaching that self-realization need be the only pursuit of spiritual seekers. He taught that everything would come from merely realizing the true ‘I’ inside us.

The obvious question is, how do we come to realize who we are? What it comes down to is removing the obstacles that shroud our ability to realize this self.

We’re not adding anything. We’re subtracting those things that lead us to believe in our false selves. Essentially, we’re burning off the fog that prohibits us from seeing our true ‘I’.

Subtracting the ego

What is that false self? Mostly, it’s the ego — all those fears, insecurities and sensitivities that we build up from early childhood into adulthood.

But that false self is also believing that you are your body, your role (mom, dad), your job (astronaut, accountant, minister, professional tennis player)…None of that is true.

We are the consciousness underlying all of those things.

Ramana Maharshi’s only technique

And how do we remove all those egoic layers shrouding our true, conscious selves? Ramana Maharshi’s one and only technique was to meditate over and over on the question: “Who am I?”

The goal isn’t to answer the question, but to ponder the silence that follows. It is within that silence that we come to realize who we are.

We also do some or all of the practices I listed above: Meditate, practice mindfulness, let go and all the rest. The difference is, we do those practices in order to shed the ego, not to attain some distant, difficult spiritual state.

The subtle diff

Therein lies the subtle difference between attainment and realization. Now do you understand why I thought my head might explode on this one?

I’m going to err on the side of brevity on this piece because diving further into explaining and analyzing the nuances of this concept will only serve to complicate the matter…Not to mention destroy my ever-dwindling supply of brain cells.

The takeaway

Two points I hope you’ll take away from this article.

First, I hope you’ll realize that you’re already at the end of the path. Your true, conscious self is already there. To realize that reality, look inside, not outside.

Second, realize that this is great news. You don’t need to go to the four corners of the Earth trying to attain some grand spiritual state.

It’s already within you.


The Priceless Gift Mickey Singer Gave Me on My Second Visit to His Temple

I returned to Mickey Singer’s Temple of the Universe this past weekend after visiting back in March. Before describing this trip, here’s a quick recap of that March trip.

In a word, it was amazing. I’d let Mickey’s people know that I’d written several articles about his teachings and also gave my background. My hope was to have a quick introduction and maybe talk for a minute.

That request turned into an hour and a half walk around the Temple grounds wherein we talked about Ram Dass, Ramana Maharshi, my crazy (fun) kids and everything under the sun. We even went into his house and chatted in his living room for a while.

Thrilled to be asked on another walk

Then the next morning, after the daily one-hour chant he does of the Sri Atma Gita, he asked me to join two of his associates on another walk. I was flabbergasted. And honored. And tickled. And thrilled.

But that wasn’t all. After that walk, Mickey invited me to have dinner at the big house next to the Temple with his group that lives on the property. I couldn’t believe it. I was pinching myself.

High as can be

Bottom line: I was high as a kite. This man, who is my favorite spiritual teacher, met me and brought me into the fold. It was deeply gratifying.

Which brings me to this week’s trip and the invaluable gift that Mickey gave me. What was that gift?

He ignored me.

Say what?!

You read that right. Let me explain.

My first interaction with him came on Sunday morning after his talk when the whole group (around 100 people) gathers on a large grass field outside the Temple. They serve tea and cookies and Mickey chats with people and signs books.

Deflated in the book sign line

I stood in a short line to have him sign a copy of my favorite book of his, The Surrender Experiment. One of his close associates, Stephanie, was standing there and said, “Mickey, you remember David?” He looked up at me and said, “Yes.” Then he leaned over and signed my book.

And that was that. On to the next book. There was no, “David! Welcome back. Can’t wait to catch up. You want to take a walk after everybody heads out?” as we’d done on my first trip.

I walked back to my room at the main Temple house feeling deflated. But it was only day one.

Sunday night I went to the short service they do and, same thing, no recognition.

After the talk, no walk

Monday morning I got my lazy butt out of bed for the 6:30–7:30 (3:30–4:40 my time!) chant of the Sri Atma Gita. Afterward, I walked out and saw Mickey, Stephanie and another Temple colleague gearing up to go on a walk, which they do every morning after this service.

On the last trip, Mickey saw me and asked whether I wanted to join them on the walk, which, of course, I jumped at. This time, I walked out, looked over at them and…Nothing.

Mondays are one of three nights that the small Temple group — Mickey, Stephanie, Donna (Mickey’s wife) and a handful of others eat dinner together in the big house where I stayed. People staying at the house are invited to these dinners so of course I went.

Small talk at the big house

I sat near Mickey at dinner where there were around eight people. I had a couple quick interactions with him, but nothing in-depth. I did make a point of telling him that I was leaving the next day and in case I missed him, wanted to thank him for an amazing stay at the Temple house.

Tuesday morning was a repeat of Monday — they all gathered to walk and didn’t give me a second look. One highlight was that right after the Sri Atma Gita service ended, I happened to walk past him inside the Temple and he looked at me and quietly said, “Come back and see us.” So he remembered my telling him the night before that I was heading out the next day.

I should add that Mickey was not the slightest bit rude to me. Or dismissive. He treated me the same way he treated the other visitors, which was with kindness and courteousness.

Wondering why he ignored me

So that’s my tale of two trips to the Temple.

The human part of me kept going to the why. Did he read something of mine that offended him? Answer: Almost zero probability because he hardly reads anything, much less my articles.

The Club Med Theory

Did he and his people simply forget about my earlier trip? This is my Club Med theory. People who work at Club Meds meet oodles of people every week. They come and they go and there’s no way they remember most of them.

Same at the Temple. People come from all over the world to see Mickey. This trip there was someone from Switzerland. Last trip someone from Germany. The Club Med theory is the most probable.

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter. Which gets us to the meat of the matter.

It all boils down to EGO

The reason I chose to devote an entire article to this can be summed up in one word: Ego. Because ego is the central character in this whole melodrama.

In the March trip, it was my ego that lit up like the Eiffel Tower when Mickey showered me with all that attention. I tried to fool myself into thinking it was something else by couching it in terms of, “Wow. This great spiritual teacher, my favorite in fact, saw some sort of depth and wisdom in me. That’s really profoundly good.”

In retrospect, I now realize that that was a phony reaction. It was my ego that got stroked. Period.

This week’s trip was also all about ego. Only this time it got poked instead of stroked.

The takeaway

So what does this all add up to? A valuable lesson. That we need to be ever-vigilant about not clinging to (the adulation of the March trip) or resisting (this week’s trip) the events of our lives.

Recognizing when we cling or resist is invaluable in being able to let go of the egoic baggage that is coming up. And as I’ve written many times before, letting go of that baggage is an indispensable part of liberating ourselves from ourselves…otherwise known as the spiritual path.

That is why I view the experience of these two trips as such a gift. It was like getting a cooler of ice water poured over my head, with the intention of waking me up to the egoic reality underpinning both trips.

The real stuff lay in Mickey’s talks and the services I attended which taught me to stay anchored in what this stuff is all about. Getting quiet inside. Letting go of our stuff. Chopping the wood and carrying the water. Every day.

Thanks, Mickey.


Deal With a Triggered Emotion Just as You Would a Painful Knot During Massage

I’m writing this from my room at Mickey Singer’s Temple of the Universe in Alachua, Florida. It’s my second visit, the first being in early March. It’s been quite a trip, in more ways than one, which I’ll write about in depth later this week.

For now, I want to focus on something Mickey said in his Temple talk yesterday. He was talking about how to deal with inner disturbances.

What does he mean by inner disturbances? Some examples:

– Your parents hounded you about your weight throughout your teen years, causing you to become extremely sensitive about your body into adulthood. You’re in your 30s now, work out regularly and have a fantastic body. Nevertheless, on your third date with a guy you really like, his innocent comment about how fast you devoured your crème brulee cuts you to your core.

– You have a deep fear of abandonment due to your mom leaving the family when you were twelve years old, resulting in a history of avoiding intimate relationships. Now 35, you have a near-panic attack when your girlfriend of three months broaches the subject of moving in together.

– You developed an inferiority complex around sports because you were scrawny and unathletic as a kid. Now in your 40s, you’re a successful lawyer at a blue-chip law firm. But when you get picked last at a pickup basketball game with some of your attorney colleagues, it strikes a sore spot that deflates you.

These are all examples of painful experiences we hold onto. They just sit there, pockets of energy stuck in our lower selves, determining the course of our lives.

So what do we do about those pockets of energy, which I call emotional baggage and Mickey calls Samskaras (from the Sanskrit)? We let them go when they come up.

All three of the situations described above offer opportunities to free that energy so it can rise up. They’re opportunities to let go.

Letting go is the indispensable spiritual practice

And as I’ve written several times before and will in the future: We can do all the meditating, qi gonging and all the other spiritual practices all day long, but if we don’t let go of this baggage, it isn’t going anywhere. It will sit there and continue to plague our very being.

Long story short: Letting go of our emotional baggage is critical for liberation.

The problem is that, even if we’re in that fortunate minority that is aware of this baggage and the need to let it go, it’s still really difficult to do.

Why? Because when it comes up, when it gets poked, the first thing we want to do is push it away.

Why? Because it’s painful!

Working out the knots

Which brings us to the massage table. Most of you have gotten a massage from a friend, partner or professional.

And unless you’re superhuman, that masseuse has come across muscle knots in your body. Mine are invariably found in the shoulder blade area.

What do most of us do when that area gets hit? First, we grimace and groan a little bit. And then we say something like,

Yeah, right there. Work that nice and easy…Ahhh…Yes…

What do we not say?

“No! Stop. That hurts too much. Don’t even touch it!”

But that is what we do when a painful emotion arises. Again, we push it away.

What to do

So next time one of these feelings comes up, imagine a picture in your head of you laying on a massage table. And your masseuse has just arrived at a sensitive muscle knot.

Then see if you can treat that emotional “knot” just as you would the muscular one. How would that look? Something like this:

“Ooh. Ow, that hurts. Go ahead, get in there and work on it…Ow…Ahhh…”

In other words, instead of immediately pushing it away, just let it be. Let the masseuse loosen that energy pocket so it can rise up.

Because the goal is the same in both endeavors: To loosen the emotional/muscle knot so that it can stop blocking your natural flow.

A critical question

Now, here’s a key question we need to ask: Who’s the masseuse working out the emotional knot when you’ve been triggered?

Not you! You don’t get involved at all in the process of loosening up that Samskara/emotional baggage knot. All you do is, as you would in a massage, let the masseuse do her work.

Fine. Then who’s the masseuse here?


When you slice your thumb dicing onions, what do you do? You clean it, put on a bandaid and leave it alone. You don’t pick at it. You don’t do anything.

What do you do? You let nature heal the wound.

It’s the same here. We let nature heal/soften that energy pocket so it can rise up.

But in order for that to happen, we have to remain on the table and not resist or push away the pain. If we do push it away, as most of us do most of the time, that energy just gets pushed down again and continues to cause us problems. It’s an opportunity lost.

The takeaway

This really can be helpful. Use this image of seeing yourself on a massage table next time a feeling comes up that upsets you.

Do your best to remain on the table, leaning away from the pain, but remaining present with it.

Then let nature work out the knot.


Is Your Life a Constant Tug of War Pitting You Against the World? I have a great solution for you.

In case you don’t know, a tug of war is when two teams of people, presumably of equal strength, pull on a rope. The winning team is the one to pull the other over to their side.

Winning requires strength, energy, and determination.

Most of us Earthlings live our lives this way. Only, instead of equal numbers of people on each team, it’s us on one end and “the world” on the other.

What do I mean by “the world”?

– Heavy traffic while we desperately try to get to work for an important client presentation.

– Battling it out every day at work with a colleague you don’t like who’s vying for the same promotion.

– Fighting subterranean battles with your passive-aggressive mother-in-law.

– Navigating through the lion’s den of loony tunes moms at your kid’s preschool.

– Dealing with the constant push and pull that comes with marriage.

It’s the world that we deal with every day. And most of us fight our worlds like it’s a tug of war.

The good news is that sometimes we’re successful in pulling the world our way. We get the promotion. You get along with your mother-in-law at Thanksgiving. You and your spouse go through a good phase.

We never win long-term

The bad news is that this never, and I mean never, lasts. After a while, we’re inevitably back to straining hard to, at the very least, hold our ground against the world.

And what is that like? The constant battling, tugging and pulling against the world? A few words come to mind.




Fine. So we’re all fighting this exhausting battle against the world. Straining with all of our might to pull the rope our way.

The solution

Let’s end this pity party and get to the question at hand: What’s the solution? I’m happy to tell you that there is one. And it’s very simple:

Let go of the rope.


Yes. Let go of the rope. Stop battling with the world. In fact…


Surrender? You mean quit? Give up on life?

Hell no. Surrendering is the opposite of giving up on life. In fact, it’s the most life-affirming act there is.

But if we let go of the rope, what about that competition at work for the promotion? And trying to fit in with the moms at preschool? And managing our marriage? Those all take energy and work!

Yes, they do. But not the kind of work and energy required of the tug of war strategy.

Then how do we handle these situations? Instead of tugging and straining, we work on relaxing into the moments of our lives. And we accept the reality of our situations, rather than resisting them.

Dealing with the weaselly sycophant

That annoying competitor of yours at work who’s constantly sucking up to the boss? He or she is who they are and you’re not going to change them.

What good does it do you to skulk around the office every day fantasizing about how you’d love to take a sledgehammer to their head? Answer: It not only does you no good, it does you loads of harm by flooding your psyche with negative energy.

What to do instead? Put 100 percent of your focus and energy at work on performing your work.

And your annoying mother-in-law? Again, accept her for who she is, know you’re not going to change her and do your best to remain present when you’re around her.

The ego wants us to tug

Finally, be cognizant of the fact that most of the time we’re tugging and straining against the world, it is our drama-loving, selfish, me-me-me, I-I-I ego that is directing us to do so. Letting go of the rope is akin to letting go of the ego’s hold over us.

So step #1 in our solution is to let go of the rope.

What’s step #2?

Don’t pick up the rope again.

When life, and your ego, tries to lure you into picking up the rope and resuming the battle, don’t do it. Relax and let the rope sit on the ground.

But hey, we’ve all been fighting and tugging for many, many years, so odds are we’re going to pick up the rope again at some point. We’re not going to kick that habit in a day.

No, we’re not. So when we pick up the rope again…

Step #3 is to simply become aware that we’ve picked up the rope again.

“Oops, there I go again. Ruminating about how much I hate Gerald in the next cubicle over.”

Which leads to step #4: Let go of the rope again.

And that’s it. Rinse and repeat steps 1–4. Over and over.

With time, the periods between picking up the rope will increase. Until one day you realize, “Wow, I can’t remember the last time I picked up the rope…”

The takeaway

That’s it. Let go of the rope. Stop fighting with the world.

In fact, here’s how to use this in a practical way. The next time you find yourself tensed up, frustrated or pissed off about some battle you’re in, picture in your mind straining to pull the rope toward you. And then…

See yourself let go of the rope.

Take a few deep breaths. Relax. And respond to the situation from a state of presence.

You win.


The Spiritual Practice That Helps Me the Most – It’s about acceptance.

Let me state up front that I am not a high being. Far from it.

High beings are those like Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi and Neem Karoli Baba. These are people who shed their egos and became close to pure consciousness.

The question I’d ask

But if I were you, someone who I presume is interested in articles I write about traveling the spiritual path, I’d want to ask this question: Of all these things you write about, which work best for you?

The answer is that many work for me. But…

There is one that I find helps me the most. And it is this:

Accepting and not resisting what comes my way.

It’s about acceptance and resistance. I didn’t realize how much this dynamic came into play in my life until I started placing attention on it.

What I learned is that resistance, and please forgive the following inartful words, is a big fat bummer. Over time, it is the ultimate buzz kill of life.

How so? Let’s look at a few examples of resistance to get a better idea of what I mean.

– Your vacation to Hawaii gets screwed up when your flight gets cancelled and you can’t go until the next day. Your seven day trip is now six. Instead of clenching up inside and complaining all day about how unlucky you are and/or how horrible the airline is…you accept it. The flight got cancelled and there is nothing you can do about it. So you accept it.

– You hit a traffic jam, resulting in you missing the first ten minutes of a movie you were really excited to see. Nothing you can do. So instead of being pissed off, you accept it and make the best of it.

– You break your arm slipping and falling in the kitchen. This means no weekly golf game for three months. Nothing you can do. So you accept and don’t resist.

What do all of these examples have in common? Something happened that you have no control over.

Shit happens in life. Flights get cancelled. Traffic jams occur. People break bones.

We have a choice

When that stuff happens, it sets up a choice: Accept or resist. Most people resist, mainly out of sheer habit.

What they don’t know, and this is a main point of this article, is thatresistance causes us a ton of suffering.And the key is that it’s suffering we don’t need to experience.

How do we simply choose acceptance over resistance? First of all, it’s not simple. And it’s not easy. We’ve all been resisting life for as long as we can remember.

A 3-step process

So step one is to simply become aware of this dynamic. Mostly, it’s about becoming aware that we have a choice: accept or resist.

Step two is to commit to working on this. Unless we do that, we won’t succeed in…

Step three is to start practicing. Each time one of these situations arises in your daily life, you simply stop, relax, take a few breaths and then ask yourself, “There’s nothing I can do about this so it’s my choice: I can accept or resist…I’m going to accept.”

The more you practice this acceptance thing, the easier it gets. I can tell you from personal experience.

How accepting has helped me

I’ve gotten markedly better about not complaining when things don’t go my way. Whether it’s hitting red lights, my six-year-old having a meltdown or someone cancelling a tennis match, I now roll with things so much better.

And yes, these might seem like petty life annoyances, but their cumulative effect adds up, in both directions. That is, if we resist all these daily life occurrences, they add up to a ton of negative energy stored in our lower selves. And if we accept them, we feel lighter and more spacious inside.

It’s important to note that accepting doesn’t mean we’re trying to fool ourselves into liking the fact that we broke our arm, etc. No. It sucks. And we don’t like that it happened.

Getting into the no-moan zone

Acceptance merely means that we don’t torture ourselves with needless bitching and moaning about what has befallen us.

Instead of allowing our drama-queen egos to take over, we gather ourselves, take stock of the situation and then respond in a healthy, rational and productive manner.

Acceptance means rolling with life rather than constantly fighting it.

It’s flowing with the current of the river called life rather than exhausting ourselves by always trying to swim upriver.

Eckhart Tolle expressed all this far better than I’m capable. He wrote:

To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad.”

Acceptance produces grace, ease and lightness in our lives. Resistance brings frustration, anger and bad moods.

The takeaway

If you learn only one thing from this article, I hope it’s that you now know that you have a choice. Resistance is not your only option.

Will it take commitment and practice to slowly but surely learn how to accept rather than resist? Yes.

But take it from someone who’s experiencing more grace, ease and lightness in his life: It is so worth the effort.


Having trouble finding your way in the World? Try Mark Twain’s Simple Strategy for Life

In his essay The Turning Point of My Life, Mark Twain recounts the events of his life that led him to a literary career. In doing so, Twain teaches a universal lesson about how to live life.

What is that lesson? Allowing our lives to be governed by the marrying of fate and who we are at our core, something Twain calls temperament.

He wrote the essay in 1910 at the request of Harper’s Bazaar, which asked several prominent writers to relate the one incident in their lives that led them to the literary profession. Take the fifteen minutes it takes to read it. It may change your life forever. (free link to essay)

At the outset, Twain called BS on the question itself, arguing that there were several turning points that led him to a literary career, none more significant than the others. And, most important, every one of those turning points was random and dictated by fate.

Twain’s recounting of how he found the literary life offers a clear picture of how this can help you find YOUR way in life. Here it is.

A measles epidemic changes everything

Twain gives the lion’s share of credit for becoming a writer to a measles epidemic that ravaged his small Iowa town when he was twelve. What? Yes.

With his father recently deceased and his mother carrying the burden of the family, a measles epidemic killed several people in town. Twain was cooped up inside for weeks and worried constantly that he would be the next to get sick and die.

One day he couldn’t take it anymore, so he fled the house and jumped into bed with a friend who was dying. He just wanted to end it. Sure enough, he got sick and for the next two weeks was on the verge of death. Fortunately, he survived.

Twain’s mom makes a fateful decision

But his mother was so upset with him that she took him out of school and apprenticed him to a printer. For the next ten years young Twain traveled around, as printers did, and worked on setting several books.

One of those books, about the Amazon River and its exotic birds and animals, captivated him. He resolved that he would go there once he had enough money.

Soon thereafter, fate stepped in when he found a fifty-dollar bill on the street, a boatload of money in the 1850s. He advertised his find, but nobody claimed the money.

So he hopped on a riverboat and headed down the Ohio and the Mississippi for New Orleans where he planned to catch a ship to the Amazon. Upon reaching New Orleans he quickly learned that no boats were heading to Brazil. Ever. Oops.

Falling in love with the Mississippi

But on the trip South Twain fell in love with the Mississippi. The riverboat captain had taken him under his wing and taught him how to pilot.

So Twain became a riverboat pilot. And loved every minute of it. Then fate intervened again when the Civil War broke out and the boats stopped running.

Around that time, his older brother got a job in the Nevada Territory government and asked Twain to join him. This time Twain’s dream became striking it rich in the silver mines.

Twain tries his hand at writing

But he spent his spare time writing and sending articles to the Virginia City Enterprise newspaper. After printing and reading so many books the previous ten years, Twain learned about good and bad writing and decided to give it a try just for fun.

The Enterprise was so impressed with his writing that they hired him. Thus started a journalism career.

Not long after, the Sacramento Union sent Twain to the Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic to write about sugar. The quality and style of his writings there thrust him into the top echelon of journalists in Northern California.

The Innocents Abroad

That led to the San Francisco Alta sending him on a five-month trip to Europe and the Holy Land in 1867. Upon his return, Twain was asked to write a book about his travels. Two years later he published The Innocents Abroad. He was now officially an author, something Twain credits to getting the measles at age twelve.

Why Twain’s story matters to US

The relevance of all this to people living in 2023 is obvious: Most of us plan too much, analyze too much and just plain THINK too much. Everybody’s a control freak these days.

What does that do? It takes the universe, God, nature, fate, whatever you want to call it, out of the equation of our life’s journey. And that often leads to an antiseptic and flat journey through life.

Most of us 2023ers, were we put in Twain’s shoes, would’ve read that Amazon adventure book and said,

“Wow. That is so cool. But Brazil is too far away and I don’t have any money so…oh well. I’ll always have the book.”

Or if they’d found the fifty-dollar bill they would have done the “prudent” thing and put it in the bank for a rainy day. Or if they did strike the intrepid course and head for the Amazon, they would’ve written all kinds of letters inquiring about shipping schedules, etc. that would have taken several months after which time they’d be off to something else.

Don’t think, act

So my recommendation to you is this: Live as Twain did! Be spontaneous, adventurous, impetuous.

Here is all he did: Be himself, live in the present (i.e., no thinking about the past or future) and allow fate to be the riverboat transporting him through life. That’s it.

Granted, Twain had two advantages making it easier for him to live like this. First, he described his temperament as someone who “does things and reflects afterward.” That’s a hugely helpful trait.

Second, his father was not the Governor of Iowa putting pressure on him to go into politics. Or a farmer leaning on him to take over the family farm.

Twain was left to his own devices at age thirteen. So the combination of Twain’s temperament and his life circumstances made it relatively easy for him to pursue this life of adventure.

What or who is pressuring you?

What about you? Do your parents have a restaurant they expect you to take over some day? Is your father a Harvard trained lawyer at a blue-chip law firm in Manhattan who expects you to follow a similar path? Or maybe you just feel pressure from society in general to “stand out,” “be a big deal,” and “make it”?

I know from personal experience how powerful those forces can be in preventing one from following the Twain path. I was the youngest of six Type A, success-oriented kids and my father was a mega-successful Fortune 500 CEO.

I spent three decades trying to be “big,” first as a political aide in Washington, DC, then as a writer in Hollywood. But the truth is I never felt quite right inside.

An implosion in Hollywood puts me on the Twain path

What got me on the Twain path? My Hollywood career imploded, which resulted in me imploding. I had two kids under age four, a mortgage that was under water and no money coming in the door.

I tried meditation as a way of helping me cope with all the stress. And it worked. I felt better, calmer and less depressed.

As I read more, went to meditation and mindfulness conferences and really got into it, three things occurred to me: meditation is profoundly beneficial for anybody who does it, not many people do it regularly and it’s not that difficult.

As a result, I decided to devote myself to spreading meditation and mindfulness as far and wide as I can. Fate gave me something to help me through a tough time and that became my life’s work.

Be courageous and fight

So what does it take to live a Twain-like life for someone in 2023 who feels this familial and societal pressure? One word:


You have to fight like hell for yourself. Some will wage that fight against their parents. Others will wage it against their peers. And others will battle an amorphous force coming from multiple aspects of society telling them they need a higher profile job, a better car and a bigger house.

But most of these fights will be fought on the battlefield of your inner self. Because your parents, peers and society have spent years residing in your psyche.

So when you start thinking about leaving your job to spend a year in Paris working on the book you’ve always wanted to write, it’s going to roil your insides. And that’s when you have to fight. For yourself. And be as courageous as a warrior in combat, because you’ll be doing the same thing: Fighting for your life.

The takeaway:Be yourself and trust in life

But I hope you’ll trust me when I say that that battle is worth fighting. Because the Twain way of life is so much more fun, exciting and fulfilling than the worrier, planner way of the timid control freak.

When all you have to do is be yourself and trust in life, the stress and anxiety just melt away. And remember this: You will never feel true peace inside until you fully accept and embrace who you are and then entrust your life to the universe, nature, God, or whoever or whatever you believe is the CEO of creation.

Go for it. You, and the world, will be better for it.