Living out a dream during the Covid-19 pandemic: Becoming poor and homeless in Colombia in a wheelchair.

In man’s search for meaning in life, a never-ending process of trials and tribulations, all without logical reason or rational explanation, whilst most live in the mind instead of in the heart, often it is a confusing mess, sometimes disastrous – where experience and growth trump all else, but one where happiness, a byproduct of the process, is the intended goal – with all of life’s lessons serving a greater purpose. The question of how to achieve this endmost goal through the phenomenal mystery of life begets humanity.

Society has replaced the hero’s journey, the person who faces his demons head-on, inevitably navigating through the labyrinth of darkness to find light, with stars in tabloid news, resulting in worship of the rich and famous. Modern society has never been as plentiful in wealth and choices as any time in history, yet we are more unhappy and unfulfilled as ever. Why? We have been taught that he with the biggest house, most impressive title and amount of toys wins. However, the answers lie within, not without.

Over twenty years ago, after leaving a successful career in corporate America, I decided to embark on an odyssey, the inner quest – replete with immense meaning and ambitious purpose – and so I looked into my heart and decided to follow where it directed me. It took me all over the world, from London to Tel Aviv to Hong Kong to Buenos Aires, all the while filling my soul with lessons that would in time mold me into who I was meant to be – the meaning of why I was on this magma filled rock hurling through space.

All that invaluable world experience gave me a unique perspective in which to give back to the world one day – but yet to no avail. At the age of thirty-seven I figured I had a few answers, the sum total of all those parts of my journey up till that point. It was not until a life changing event occurred, after waking up in a hospital trauma center with a priest by my side, that I knew I had no genuine answers, that a more imaginative approach had to be found – all so that I may heal and find light, love and happiness.

After a night out in Philadelphia celebrating the success of a new business venture, I awoke a full quadriplegic. Waking up paralyzed from your neck down is one way to gain new perspective in life, but not one I would recommend. Over the next ten years, with grueling physical therapy and countless insurmountable obstacles, by peering into my heart, making others the focus of my healing, writing a book and creating two blogs, mentoring and helping others in limitless ways, I found resolve, healing.

It was those years of never-ending hardship and healing that led me to my real purpose in life: to guide others on their journey, to help others in finding light through their darkness. Or, simply put: to assist others dismount their story horse, to look into their heart to discover their truth – which is exactly what eventually led to me to Colombia. It is a project that encompasses all the infinite lessons and experience of my life, fully preparing me for this new venture, specifically suited to someone with my detailed past.

Following a talk with an old college roommate, an idea being kicked around for two years, finally took form: a TV show to assist the masses. Steven Quigley Wheels Up was born. A spiritual travel show where I traverse the world conversing with others about their daily struggles, their desire to find new meaning and purpose in life, what led to their breakthrough, and the results – serving as a psychological mirror for the viewers at home. Soon after hearing my story a director and producer signed onto the project.

Life is a best learned through our peers – what we see in others we see in ourselves. It is only by hearing their stories and truth that we fully come to understand how to overcome our own battles. By learning that we all share the same life experiences, no matter the culture or country, we can relate to ourselves and one another in deeper ways. Through a travel show steeped in psychology we hope to utilize others’ examples in order to assist the viewers in their own personal journey for inner healing and happiness.

In May of 2020, expecting to move to Amsterdam to film the TV pilot, with the impetus of an international pandemic underway, thinking there was no reason to store my belongings, I decided to give them all away to the poor and homeless. Soon after in June, I left to NYC to see friends before flying to Europe. Little did I know what my future held and what my recent actions would mean to my life in due time. My profound journey into the heart to live out a dream project would be severely tested.

After being denied entry to board my plane at an empty Newark, NJ airport, resolute on making it to Europe, I moved into a hotel in Queens, NYC in order to await new entry rules into Europe. After three weeks at an expensive airport hotel, with funds dwindling while awaiting an update, I purchased a new ticket to Europe; once again I was unable to board the flight. That is when a good friend from Maine decided one morning to drive down to NYC to jettison me to Portland until the storm passed over.

Unable to find a suitable place to live, and after nine months living in a hotel in Maine – with nowhere in the world to move, as international travel was all but closed due to Covid-19 restrictions – eventually it appeared some countries would soon open. During this period I settled in to experience my first “Maine winter” while exploring moving to twelve different countries, but all were closed. The next part of my journey would bring me to Miami, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, back to Miami, and then finally to Colombia.

Tests completed, flight reserved, it was time to find a place to live in Cartagena. A good friend from Bogota, with local connections through family and friends, was determined to help me secure a new home in my adopted country. Prior to my arrival in Colombia, over six weeks many people helped me to find the right living match. With a stroke of luck, ten days before my departure, with thirty units already disqualified, she secured me a flat in the one of the hottest neighborhoods in Cartagena, Boca Grande.

Once landing in Cartagena and checking into a hotel for two weeks, while the lady we negotiated a deal with was away in Miami getting her vaccination, I relaxed and waited to sign the final contract. But soon that all changed as it became clear she was untrustworthy. From Bogota, of the newly minted nouveau riche class in Colombia, a result of recent expansive economic growth, she had zero commitment to a schedule or to her word. She paid almost no regard or respect to her renters, especially those in need.

Little did I realize how prescient a harbinger she would serve when attempting any successful real estate transactions in Colombia. Her behavior was egregious; her example did not set the bar too high. At this point, with no contract or apartment to rent on the horizon, I extended my stay at the hotel for another two weeks. With unexpected costs adding up (again), friends immediately went back to the drawing board, this time expanding their search to include other neighborhoods and possible living options.

One natural impediment to wheelchairs in South America kept repeating itself – small doorway widths. The main entrances are wide enough, as are many other doorways in homes, but bathroom doorways here are notoriously small, depriving access to the toilet and shower. Otherwise, when contractors are not cutting costs or because they are older buildings, limited consideration is paid to accessibility. Until recently many developing countries had no laws on the books requiring building codes for accessibility. 

Two days before my hotel reservation was to expire it looked like as if we had found the perfect location, building and apartment. It was in the neighborhood I wished to live, with restaurants, shops, cafes, supermarkets and a pharmacy all within close distance. It also had a steep ramp, albeit suicidal – requiring assistance, and two balconies, including one with a view of the ocean and the other with a nice vista of the bay. Once all measurements were verified, I scheduled an appointment to meet the realtor.

The next day the realtor came to the hotel to take receipt of my deposit. All was set, I would move there in 48 hours. A good friend from Venezuela volunteered to help me with the move. Friday arrived and early that morning we got into two taxis with luggage in tow and drove to the building. Two hours later all my belongings were on the ninth floor, awaiting the contract and final payment. As soon I got things settled I headed to the back balcony. That is when I realized the bathroom entrance looked a bit tight.

Immediately I tried entering the bathroom and was unable to enter. The manager soon arrived and attempted to increase the doorway width. Now just barely able to squeeze into the bathroom, I was unable to access the shower. The manager’s response was for me to use a plastic bucket to shower on the balcony. Unwilling in the face of evidence on text between the realtor and my friend, with agreed measurements, he refused to refund my money. He placed the key on the kitchen table and departed.

Wow – what a precarious situation: to either live in an apartment where I could barely access the toilet, and certainly not the shower, or face becoming a vagrant on the streets of Cartagena in a wheelchair.  To return to the hotel would have caused me to incur paying the highest daily rate. It was decided my friend and I would spend the night there and figure it out in the morning. Morning arrived and I was able to get a good daily price again at the hotel. Later I reported the transaction as fraud and was refunded.

Back at the hotel for a third extension the staff was beginning to think I may end up living there. Shortly after it was decided I would leave Colombia, returning to Europe. Holland recently opened their borders again to American travelers – and within two hours I had a reservation on KLM to Amsterdam. It was then that a good friend from another more relaxed city further up the Caribbean coast convinced me to give her country a second chance. Five days later I arrived at my new home: Barranquilla AKA Qiami.

Once there, after checking into another hotel, I immediately began looking for a new apartment. An exhaustive search resulted in no other possible options, until a friend at the hotel told me of a unit for rent in the private residences on the top floors of my building. That evening I met the owner, and after three hours of talking we came to a rental agreement. I was in heaven – a dream come true. Until the day before I was supposed to move in, a text arrived from the owner cancelling the deal at the 11th hour.

This meant I had to extend my stay in yet another hotel for an extended period of time, at full cost. It did not take long for the bill to add up to over two thousand USD, leaving me in a tough position continually paying such excessive living expenses. It was only a matter of ten days before I would be totally out of money. Until this point it was expected my monthly rent would only be a third of my hotel cost, but that was not my reality. My reality was I was about to be broke and on the streets in a second world country.

After careful consideration and conversing with close friends, it was decided I had to swallow my pride and ask others for assistance through public online donations. Otherwise, in the near future, I would have ended up living in the barrios in Colombia in a wheelchair. Since this had happened to me already twice in my life, first after my accident when I lost everything, and second when I could not enter Europe, I could not think of a less desirable place for such an event. A serious crisis was in the making.

A fundraiser was started and within a few weeks friends, through endless love and support, stepped up with legions of contributions. The support I received from the Hilton where I was staying was a Godsend. Christine, the manager, then Paola, the acting manager while Christine was on a leave of absence, along all with all the staff they supervise, were spectacular – both were essential in helping allow me to find a way to remain at my newfound home in Barranquilla. They allowed me to live on credit while I got it all figured out, whilst reducing my daily rate to a livable monthly fee – a true blessing from the heavens.

As life is one big mystical journey filled with otherwise impregnable hurdles, I am grateful for all the aforementioned – amalgamating me into who I am today. It is all a part of the magic of the spiritual trail. However difficult seeing a path forward, I had to remember it would all work out fine in the end. Iron sharpens iron. And although unknown at that time, as nothing worthy in life comes without sacrifice, I had to remind myself that it is all for a greater purpose to benefit myself and others in the near future.

When I set out on my quest to delve deep into the unplumbed frightening expanses of my heart, I had no idea where it would lead me. It has led me all over the world; and eventually to the vision of creating a TV show to help others find healing in life. There were inexhaustible barriers all along the way to derail me from my intention. Certainly I look forward to the day I can look back on all this with a smile. In the interim, I continue to follow the path of my heart, the hero’s journey, the fated work of life, my dream.

Travel Blog: Click here.

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Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

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Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

My Covid-19 forced adoption in Maine; Secure today due to the love of others: A cornucopia letter of colossal gratitude.

It is such in life that one cannot get through it successfully without others – their presence or help. We are sentient beings that learn through reflection, mimicry, experience, and intrapersonal and interpersonal communication. At every point of your day, no matter how far removed, solo or free you feel your emotions or thoughts or existence, you are wholly dependent on others for your survival. It is not only those in our inner circle that assist us on our journey in life, every day we receive boundless help in imperceptibly planned, synchronistic ways from strangers and other spirit-forms, playing to their own inter-connected orchestra, that most are totally unaware.

On the other side of the coin, life is meant to be lived. But it cannot be lived without facing trials and tribulations, of which, never cease throughout our lives. All that changes is your willingness to accept you have no control, and your attitude and reaction. As we face head-on the inevitable obstacles and countless struggles in life, we are unable to push through them without the help of others. It is impossible to function in life without coming into contact with others. Even having a PhD in advanced mathematics from Harvard will not help you escape. Just ask Ted Kaczynski.

In order to build character, integrity and understanding, to become more self-aware, the path leads throughout assisting others in life in need. There are lots of ways to assist others: money, time, support, love, forgiveness and gifts. Only by aiding others do we ultimately learn to place ourselves in their shoes, with vulnerability and authenticity, becoming closer to their actual situation, reality, providing the essential room needed for empathy, compassion and forgiveness to take root, resulting in profound inner-growth and an increased sense of self-enlightenment.

“When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”            

— Vietnamese Proverb

After becoming stranded at JFK in NYC, it became glowingly clear that I was in dire need of the help of others. What was meant to be a quick stopover to see friends in “The City,” on my way to moving to Europe, was turning into an emergency, a calamity within an existential international crisis. The obstacle is the way. True. As with Sisyphus, only with the help of others are we able to push the boulder up the hill. Nevertheless, it is in Doing The Dirty Dishes of life, getting both your hands dirty, that we truly can accomplish something of any substantive or substantial value.

Weeks later, now jettisoned in Portland, Maine, after ten days and finding no place to live – creating even more urgency – only exacerbating an already precarious situation. Things were starting to look more on the frightful side. Though I remained upbeat something would open up for me, nothing ever did; one rental after the other slowly voided into a black hole. Bouncing from hotel to hotel was exhausting, infeasible and unsustainable. The money in assistance I received when in trouble in NYC was quickly running out. The outlook was becoming dreadful.

Ending up at the Hilton, my future in disarray, after being denied General Assistance, trying desperately to find a place to stay long-term (anticipating Covid-19 wave two, I was planning ahead), it was looking like I would have to live in an extended-stay type hotel. But how? That was well beyond the stretch of my limited budget. Until one serendipitous afternoon I met the hotel manager, a Southie from Baston. Informed on my situation, he told me to give him a few days to see what he could do to help. He was my last hope – my Tom Brady “Hail Mary” pass.

A few days later, feeling depleted, while sunning outside on the patio, Vernon Briggs, the hotel’s new manager, came to talk with me. He said, “Steven, could you get by with an additional mini fridge and a hot-plate in your room?” “Sure can,” I answered. With all my past travel and hotel experience, every industry trick in the book inclusive, I could not lock-in a cheap enough daily rate to pay the hotel bill and still be able to afford food. “Well then, Steven, what do you think of this daily rate?” “It is definitely workable – thank you, Vernon!”  “Oh, and it is tax free, he said.”

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

— Voltaire

Over the next few months Vernon treated me more like an old friend than a guest at his hotel. On down days when feeling blue and depressed, he was consistently there with a positive word and smile. When money was tight and food was short, he always ensured I had a warm meal to eat. And most days it was hard to get past him without him offering me some type delectable sweet as well. In due time, several deep conversations abound, eventually a relationship developed. I now consider him a friend and look forward to meeting him and his family again in the future.

The rest of the staff at the hotel was just as helpful and supportive. Clive never let a shift go by when he did not place a goodies bag by my door for me to awake to – constantly going above and beyond. Shauna, evermore the momma-bear of the hotel, never missing a chance to bring me in a home-cooked meal or something much needed from the local food market – like the little sister I never had, a blessing. And Barbara, the humorous feisty Argentine tigress, incessantly greeting me with a vast smile and humorous remark – a pistol – continually nourished my soul.  

Mark, a person with infinite love and care in his heart for mankind, a man so willing to sacrifice his own contentment for the sake of others’ joy and happiness, someone who deeply understands the meaning of being altruistic, selfless. He is the type person one can only wish to have in their life as a friend or mentor– good stock to the core. Everyone else at the Hilton was super helpful, from staff, Sara and Alicia, to the engineers, Les and Al – everyone was spectacular. Forever will I be grateful to those who helped me transition from homelessness to finding a home in Portland.

As well, I met numerous other guests at the hotel that helped make my stay more enjoyable. Thank you to Anthony, Sheena, Brian and Alisa for the lovely meal in the main dining room. Some of recent acquaintance, Rita and Gwen, would later go on to become friends. Many a star-filled night was spent outside on the cozy patio conversing by the gaslit fire-pit. As a result of so much time spent by an airport hotel, I met a plethora of passersby, from all over the globe, from every profession imaginable, listening to their stories by blazing flames, and most often over a cold drink. Some nights with guests did not go as planned, concluding with memorable fodder.

Locally, others were also just as involved in making my extended stay in Maine comfortable. Laney, the friend who rescued me from NYC, and I spent much time road-tripping through New England, traveling the Kancamagus Scenic Byway in New Hampshire, eating seafood at Federal Jack’s in Kennebunkport, Maine, sharing laughs at Bentley’s Saloon (Bush Sr. would frequent when staying locally) with the owner and local celebrity, Bentley, or drinks or eats at any local Portland favorites, Wilson County BBQ, Duckfat or Omi’s Cafe, is an angel sent from above.

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In Unbreakable Mind, in order to get through a serious trauma and recovery, I write about how critical it is to form a team and superb plan – a community of unending support, because it is not only required [if you wish to succeed] but necessary – the same is true in life. It is by means of others that we best learn about ourselves. And why wouldn’t it? We are all one; a mere reflection of one another: the cosmos is your eye; and your eye is the cosmos. What you do to yourself, you do to your neighbor – and vice versa. We are all inter-fused through “one” shared sub-conscious.

The journey of life cannot be completed alone – we all require the love and support of others at various times of our lives. As humans we are animals and as animals we are social beings. It is via others how we ultimately graduate extreme ‘spirit school’ AKA earth – as it travels through the universe at 107,000 km/h. As masses of confused meat-drabbed stardust incarnate, we are on this hurling rock of magma through the cosmic shit-storm of unknown together. Community and society do not work unless everyone plays their part; all the cogs are interrelated. A life fulfilled, replete with purpose and mission, success and happiness, is best had by way of assisting others.

We all have the capability within us to bring out the greatest in others and, as a result, ourselves. If not today, when you do you become your best self? 2020 has been a year for the history books; it cannot end soon enough for a myriad. Now is a period of contemplative thinking and resolve – time to be alone with your thoughts and how you wish to improve yourself in the coming year – an opportunity to be together with your family and friends again, breathing life into yesteryear.  And at a time when the world is in such need of healing, why not start by helping others today?!  

#gratitude

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

Ep. #6 My Recovery: My gratitude: A mosaic homage to all those who helped me along the way.

When I first had my wits about myself, after waking up in the trauma unit of an inner-city hospital one very early Sunday morning, my first real recollection was of conversations with my team of five surgeons.  Ever since that moment, I have had what seems like a group of dedicated angels forever on my side and in my corner, ensuring that I would have all the necessary research, guidance and mentoring to help me become an enlightened being.

Help was received from many fronts: some was intentional, others, not. Some came upon my recovery by happenstance or fate; others helped out of guilt; yet others, by way an inadvertent connection. Numerous acts of kindness were intended, others unexpected. Altruism was on full display; as was anger and hatred.  Some even saved my life. The help bestowed upon me gave me the fuel to recover – to heal, to become a complete person, filled with light – now a guide.

To write out a list of personal interaction between giver and receiver seems a bit gratuitous, whereas the full meaning and impact is lost. A complete thank you will be included as a chapter in my second book on finding happiness in your heart.

Through this seemingly otherwise insurmountable journey, only possible on the shoulders of the greats who walked before me – and whom are only paying it forward in the circle of life – with their profound compassion, care, support and love for me and my being, my journey of recovery and healing – have allowed me now to light the way for others in need. Also through which I was able to find my inner-being, my higher-self, the Holy Spirit – my true intention.

By matching my heart with my life’s purpose, with everyone’s assistance, after choosing the road less traveled, journeying into the darkness of the soul, only to reemerge into light, I now intend to serve others.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

Ep. #5 The greatest gift I ever received: Beaten, left for dead: Found under an inner-city train.

All throughout history humans have lived, laughed and learned through narrative and story. As I speak of my accident for the first time publicly, one parable especially comes to mind, speaking volumes: Sower and the seed. The point of the story is not the sower or even the seed. It is the soil that we need be most concerned. Without proper conditions (self-nutrients) present in the soil, the seed (you) will not thrive and grow, thus deteriorating into decline, meeting its death.

As it is with human trauma, without the proper nutrients of love, care, compassion, profound self-understanding and forgiveness, one cannot hope to recover or heal their self. Just as the fate of the seed is determined by what soil it falls, so too does your recovery.  If it falls on rocky ground, it will not receive proper nourishment and cease living. If placed within the right conditions, it will flourish and grow into a healthy human, delivering light to a world in such dire need.

Just in from the competitive city winter winds, I sat down to relax, take a breather. Life was good, or at least so I thought. I had recently founded a financial company in Philadelphia with a silent partner. And it was growing quickly beyond our means. We could not locate office space or hire employees fast enough to accommodate our rapid expansive growth; sales were breaking new records each month. The 2008 financial crisis was in full swing and we were well positioned to assist homeowners in trouble, those in need of loss mitigation or negotiation.

It was Christmas season and so I decided to take one of my employees, a Peruvian Spanish translator, out for a thank you meal. We had a splendid dinner at an Irish pub, replete with Guinness and Irish fiddle. Shortly thereafter, an old friend phoned me to join her and visiting friends at her favorite corner watering hole for holiday cheer and to celebrate my newly found entrepreneurial success at a different neighborhood in the city, a short distance away. I was due back in New Jersey to meet an old friend, Dominic. That meeting would never take place.

Having had my fair share of holiday beverages, I decided it was safer to be driven home. I was feeling quite good; it was a time of revelry. Business was booming and it was celebration time.  My motto in life was always let the good times roll: Carpe Diem, even if pot-valor. Safety was not always at the front of the list. At eleven-forty or so in the evening, the night ended and we exited to the street to hail a taxi – unaware the fate that awaited me only moments away.

After sitting in the backseat of the taxi, exchanging pleasantries with old and new found friends alike, and telling the driver to take me to New Jersey, life as I knew it would forever be altered. Something terribly wrong occurred at this time. Five hours later I would awaken on a gurney, in a cold dark hallway, with a priest at my side. Father, I stated, in desperation, “Am I dead – am I in a morgue?” “No, my son, you have been in a tragic accident,” he said.  Those words are forever indelibly etched into my memory.

Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. It was the first time in my life when I knew I was all alone (or, at least I thought); there was no phone call to be made, no one person that could help resolve this emergency. After ten seconds of pity, while lying there with the priest at my side, unable to feel my body below my neck, a small voice came to me and said: “Yes, Steven, it is bad. You have been in a very tragic accident. It will be difficult, it will be almost insurmountable, but, [with my guidance] you will be ok. You will walk again and go on to help others in great ways.”  Immediately the pain subsided, a feeling of peace and calm unfolded, leaving me in trance state, a deep peace of mind.

From that moment I never looked back, never had pity for myself or situation again. I was determined to overcome this devastating tragedy with a fortitude I have to this day, without a clue from where it came.

Immediately, my attention turned to being positive, determined that this would not beat me, that I would walk again. The priest continued on with his prescribed religious rant but I asked rather that he focus on the solution. He was not happy with that request and ran off, never to return. Could I survive this trauma? Would I get see my friends and family again? There were so many unknowns – it was mentally devastating as these concerns raced through my mind.

However, not wallowing in self-pity, it was hard not to be overcome with emotion. Would my business survive; who would now run my company; would I ever be able to have sex again – marriage or babies; would my legs repair themselves– would I ever camp or hike in the woods again; how would my bills get paid – would there be enough money? I would not realize it as this time, but the accident would turn out to be my biggest gift of my life: a second chance.

Thought most of my memory from the time I stepped into the taxi until I woke up in the Jefferson Health trauma center was erased – a result of activation of the fight-or-flight reptilian response of the brain. As a psychological built-in defense mechanism of the body, the part of the brain that involves memory is often shut off in a trauma.  But, through proper investigation, and the help of a prestigious city law firm, additional information on events that occurred that fateful night came to light.

Upon investigation, it was determined I was a ghost, unseen on any camera for an eight block surrounding area. My taxi was just off view from the restaurant cameras. I stepped out of the recorded area by only a few feet but it was enough to obscure which taxi I got into. Somehow I ended up about four blocks away, beaten and left for dead in a city alleyway. We know this due to cellular records and triangulation. Two phone calls were made to two close friends for help. No one answered. It was 03:30 at this time – quite late to answer a call from a wild friend.

Upon entry to the trauma center, as doctors and surgeons conferred for what seemed like years, eventually a consensus was reached. Apparently I was struck with a large, long heavy object; most likely metal. They determined this by the width and length of the strike welt marks on my back, in three places. The strikes inflicted on me were intended to kill. The 45 angle blow to my neck caused six vertebrae to explode like hot popcorn kernels, causing bones to touch my spinal cord, resulting in quadriplegia: paralysis in all four limbs. But trauma can cause the body to react in unimaginable ways in order to survive, or find safety.  

There is some small memory of me waking up in the alley late that night but it is hard to say what is real and what is imagined – what parts the brain is filling in to make sense of or to complete a narrative, unclear as to where the story left off and the surreal dream I awoke to began. However, I do remember being on all fours, in severe pain, fully aware I was in deep trouble, realizing I was experiencing a serious trauma – that shit had hit the fan. It is unclear how I made it to the train station, whether by crawling or walking with adrenaline. A body under severe trauma, induced with adrenaline, can do accomplish extraordinary feats.

Forty minutes later I appeared on close circuit cameras entering the train station. I remember in all the malaise, as if stamped into me as a soldier: find a way to safety. Of course through  retrospect, after knowing what I know now, trying best to remove any bias, that would only make sense to get back to a place of safety, my home – via the train. In my confused state of being I figured I could get home, sleep, and then seek medical care. I was gravely mistaken.  

Most of my time at the train station was a blur, as are most memories from that night. Unclear how I arrived to the station but once there, I do recollect some actions but mostly only thinking I must get home, I must get home. After a short while, the adrenaline wore off and the pain set in – pain that no words can fully encompass. It felt as if a torch had been lit at the bottom of my spine. To say that it felt as if I had been electrocuted by high-tension wires with untold inexhaustible fire inside my lungs would be an understatement.

For the last nine years I have thought about what could have lead up this trauma. There are three possibilities I and others close to me have considered: 1. there was an argument with the taxi driver that lead to a physical altercation in the streets; 2. an argument with the taxi driver ensued, resulting in me exiting the taxi and then meeting my fate in the rough city back alley; or 3. I exited the taxi without paying, walking off, he pursued me and hit me from me behind, then dragged me down an alley to finish off the job. I believe it could be the first but I am unsure.   

I could immediately feel pain throughout every part of my body, causing bouts of blurred vision and physical blackouts. After what seemed like a year, a train finally arrived to the station, and someone was trying to help me, but I was in too much pain. As I was rocking by body back and forth in the platform chair, a result of reeling pain, suddenly the adrenaline wore off. After a few minutes, I stood up to look down the tracks for any incoming train. Not stepping past the safety bumps at platform’s edge, with no train in sight I leaned back up against a support pillar – and then, like a tree in the forest, I fell seven feet below onto the tracks. We know these details to be accurate as witnessed on various train station security camera recordings.

I do remember feeling a hard thud against my body.  Not realizing where I was or the true imminent danger that lay before me, I was unaware the life altering changes about to drastically unfold. Without total recall of the event, I do however remember looking down the tracks and seeing headlights coming straight at me. The train I was waiting for would arrive 2 minutes and 17 seconds later.  At that moment, I felt a gust of wind, my body rolling – then, all went black.

There I lay, in direct collision with a moving train. And it was the express, to boot. The train would not stop for me; it hadn’t sufficient time. The driver later swore he ran over a boy. Left for dead until the third rail electricity was turned off, waiting for the city coroner to arrive with a body bag, a group of fire, police and medics stood, chatting and drinking coffee. Late it came to light, after twenty minutes or so, a policeman who had just returned from war, figured he had seen much worse on the battlefields of Afghanistan and would see if by some chance I had survived.

He jumped down onto the track area, pulling himself under the train cars by sheer arm and hand strength, until he came to my body. Locating my arm, he felt a pulse, and called for me to be boarded my medics. I later heard that a cheer went up from the bystanders observing the scene when they heard the news come across the radio that I may have survived. More than one spray of coffee must have hit the wall of the station when that update was heard. The train engineer had already been taken for psychological evaluation.  He later found out through a policeman friend that I had survived.

Thank goodness one of the best trauma centers on the East Coast was only a four city-block free-ride away. Within minutes they had me on a stretcher and in the back of the ambulance. I do recall briefly being in one, sirens wailing – but unsure really if it was a dream or real. My mother told me I spoke of the emergency ride while in the trauma unit. Many things said at the time of a trauma are only to be forgotten later, a by-product of morphine and other drugs, plus the leftover effects of a full night of partying.

The doctors and all supporting medical staff at Jefferson Health were a godsend, making my stay there as comfortable and accommodating as possible. My time in the ICU, where I would spend Christmas, was brightened by one of my four full-time nurses, Mark, a musician who one evening entered my room playing Christmas carols on his violin. I cried. My team of doctors, five in total, seemed concerned for my care as if one of their own children – it was heartfelt, and made all the difference while spending your holidays all alone in an ICU unit.

As fate would have it, my surgeon was not only a world class doctor but also a gentleman of pragmatic healing, forever interested in what new crazy treatments I was considering or using to recover – so he could then share for the mutual benefit of other patients within his care. It was his level of compassion and concern for the well-being and recovery of his patients that help keep my inner fire lit. 90% of recovery and healing in psychological; and he absolutely was critical in that process by not giving me %s or probabilities of walking, or any level of recovery, resulting in never making it to the finish line before ever having had a chance to start the race.

After my extended stay at Jefferson I was farmed out to a nursing home for six weeks so my bones could heal; required in order to gain entry into a rehabilitation hospital. After healing my bones enough to place fifty-percent weight on each leg, multiple physical tests and an in-person interview, I was accepted into and transferred to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia. A top institution when it comes to brain and spinal cord injuries, of which I am hugely grateful.

Now a part of the same hospital system, Jefferson Health, but at the time the only independent hospital left in the country, Magee is one of the top rehab hospitals in the country. Their motto: The road back begins here. My team there certainly provided me the right conditions to do so. My head therapist, Elizabeth Watson DPT, was the lynchpin; bridging my off-the-wall healing methodologies, such as cold-laser treatment and other cutting-edge electromagnetic type treatments, with her education and experience helping others recover and heal. Carol Owens, the manager, deserves a medal of honor for putting up with my irascible personality.

My recovery and any true healing, I was aware, would only occur if the right conditions were present. As with the seed and the soil – if the soil is not properly nourished and watered, the seed would die, regardless. A close friend, Danny, a MD, visited me while in the hospital and told me: “Steven, I know this might sound strange but you need to learn to love yourself again, kind of like making love to your mind and body.” Yes, it sounded very strange to me but deep inside it resonated with my soul, my higher-inner-self.  He clearly understood my confusion.

Prior to the accident, saying I was capable of understanding or providing self-love through compassion and forgiveness for myself, would be the moral equivalent of betting it all on the shortest guy on your basketball team to dunk – simply not possible. It was very hard for me to accept help from others, in every capacity. I was a bit of a pissant, overly critical of self and others.  It was only by choosing the road less traveled, the journey of a thousand miles, enduring endless mental toil and torment, which resulted in a brutal physical recovery and veracious healing, that I was able to find compassion of self, of which without, there would never have been any lasting hope for inner-peace, empathy or therapeutic sympathetic amelioration.

It all begins with having compassion for yourself, and the circumstances in which you find yourself. It includes the highest form of forgiveness – true unconditional forgiveness, not only of self but others too. Forgiving others is not for their benefit, it is yours – it allows you to find peace of mind to sleep well at night.  Recovery would require a seemingly boundless list of requirements in order to fructify.  But without the right conditions present, you, the seed, will not grow and flourish in to a healthy plant, capable of bringing goodness and light to the world.

Without deeper inner forgiveness and unplumbed self-love nourishment I would not have found the wherewithal to write my book, Unbreakable Mind, as a give-back to the community, my way of paying it forward – helping others who face struggle in life. It was through ‘Doing the Dirty Dishes’ of life, facing one’s greatest challenges head-on, overcoming one’s fears and adversity, that provided the proper soil in which to heal. I figured if a train did not kill me, there must be a reason for my existence. Without that self-ethos support system in place, providing me a solid foundation, and through fathomless self-compassion and forgiveness, overcoming past errors and regrets, my rocket would not have made it off the launch pad, self-immolating into a pyre of worthless self ashes.

In our lives, we cannot choose where the seed falls, which is the result of intense fortitude and courage: one’s inability to become a victim of life. However, we can provide it the best environment in which we find it in order to allow it to grow into a survivor. Just as you would water and provide sunlight to a plant, you must also do the same for yourself, nourishing your body and soul like photosynthesis. Self determination and commitment are the cornerstones of any successful journey. At the end of the day, the choice is ours whether to become a withering weed or grow into a mature human capable of assisting others on their self-journey of healing.

Quote of the day: “Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”             — Epictetus

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

Ep. #0 My Story: How I arrived at this juncture in life – via the Express Train.

It was an early morning “hot” arrival after a late night out partying with local friends in Bali, Indonesia. There was no time to sleep, only to eat, shower and then off to the next social fete. Living in a third world country on a Western salary has its benefits. It surely allows for the life of an international socialite but a bit skint on spiritual growth. Though, ironically, while living on one of the most voted spiritual places on earth each year. Visiting a destination island as a tourist and living on one as a local who lives and works there is much different.  Although my time there was out of a movie, inside, far below, I was crying out for rescue, severely unaware.

An old friend from my days living in Tokyo, Alexi, a stunning Irish and Greek Manhattanite, had recently returned from studies in India, a newly anointed Vedic Astrologer, carrying with her some prudent warnings for me to heed while living in South Asia. We both had lived in Asia in the late 1990s. We met on an ANA plane ride from JFK, NYC to Narita, Japan. Prior to moving to Bali in 2000s she informed me my social and business lines intersected there; and while there, over the next two years, each reading proved true. Over the next few years Alexi would provide me multiple readings, some more prescient than others, but none more foretelling than one.

She gave abundant readings over the years, and the biggest themes always fructified. The time I was warned against partying while in Bali and almost ended up dead, the victim of inner-tribal warfare. Another period I was warned to avoid motorcycles and within days nearly lost my left leg when forced to dump my bike on the highway at 90kmh or face almost certain death by introduction to a dump truck. But one year came a reading that floored even the normally unflinching Upper East Side debutante. It said that I would be removed from my feet; the lesson so severe it could never be forgotten. This was a first for her – she was confused, as was I.

In the interim, amid receiving that fate-filled reading and my meeting the express train, I had begun a consumer finance company, a company that was very successful.  After numerous years of partial successes and failed entrepreneurship in the world of business, limitless toil and perseverance, finally it all came together, resulting in my first seven digit in sales company. All that success would come crashing down soon after – a deluge of pain and destruction lie in wait – all the while, I was ignorantly bliss of what was in store.  In the end, the company went to ruin through embezzlement, at the hands of a few friends. My investor then sued me for $1M USD.

Fast-forward three years and I am awakened to a priest at my side, while laying on a gurney in a dark, cold and sterile hallway.  I think, “Oh shit, this cannot be good.” And, “You have done it this time, Steven.” “But in my own backyard nonetheless,” I thought. “Father, am I dead, am I in heaven?” I will never forget his response: “No, my son, you have been in a tragic accident.” It was at that moment I realized I could not move any parts of my body, only my eyes, and even that was a struggle. It was also at that time I realized that no amount of phone calls or well-oiled connections could help me out of this.  A defining moment: It was up to one person only.   

Just a few hours prior to meeting Father Irish, I lay for dead under an inner-city train. It is obvious at this point I was not literally run over by a train, though the driver will swear to you he ran over a boy prostrated across the tracks. If I were him I would have thought the same.  Prior to making my way to train station I was beaten with a heavy metal object in a city alley.  Shortly before that I was out at a trendy bar with three girlfriends to celebrate Christmas week. My back was broken in three regions – neck, middle and lower. The blow to my neck, at a forty-five degree angle, meant to kill me, exploded six vertebrae like popcorn. A bad night in Philly! 

Not ten seconds of an itty-bitty pity party had passed and it was at that juncture, the moment when deciding whether to be a victim of circumstance or a survivor of life, when a small voice came to me – it came into my head, seemingly from nowhere, in an assuring voice – and said: “You have really done it this time, Steven. It is bad, very bad.  But you will get through this. It will take many years of pain and hardship but in the end you will walk again and go on to help others in tremendous ways.” Immediately my attitude turned positive, deciding this would not define who I am, rather choosing accepting the lesson(s), starting down a long road to healing.

The priest wanted to talk about things that he prejudicially thought had lead me to that night. Immediately my focus turned to the solution, quickly dismissing his set-in-stone, antiquated black-and-white clergymen’s course.  I was already a spiritual person and knew better to start looking for the silver lining, the hidden blessings.  I knew it would take a real hero’s journey, an introspective voyage extending within to the unchartered abscesses of a person’s core being, to their soul, to find real answers. The areas we try so hard in life to avoid, the emotions that we try desperately to suppress by any means to ‘busy’ our lives and keep us from our eternal truth.

The universe had warned me to alter my ways. The messages are always sent to us, yet we do not always recognize them. There are no mistakes in life – none. To me, the accident was not about my lifestyle so much as it was about where I was really intended to be in life. To me it was not a punishment, it was an awaiting lesson. What would I do with this challenge? Would I rise to the occasion, enduring the karmic balance of life, seeking out answers to questions that I had so clearly avoided (consciously and unconsciously), finding new meaning and direction?  Well, within me existed a great thirst, a fire in need of quenching – a journey would result.

Over the next eight years I embarked on an endless adventure in life – a journey to becoming a new man, one born anew with and through spiritual guidance and cosmic purpose where, after a long excruciating painful recovery, unbearable psychological torture, a total mental cleansing, financial devastation, loss of friends and family, and a emotional tsunami with ripples that seemed to undulate infinitely throughout my life – emerging entirely reborn. A being lost but now discovered who, after traveling profound into the scariest annals of the heart and soul, coming into view with resolute intent and meaning, found my purpose in life. But now what?

Discovering your purpose in life is only the first part of the equation – sharing it is part two.

Throughout my experience notwithstanding, I’ve drawn a clear distinction between recovering and healing: one is of the body and doctor, and the other, mind and soul, respectively. Along the road to recovery it cannot go without mention some of the spectacular people who assisted me to those ends: My surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Rihn, Jefferson Health, a world-class doctor who was open to any and all modalities of healing; my physical therapist, Elizabeth Watson DPT, Magee Rehab, who’s fervent spirit and unending belief in me fueled my drive to continue on; and Dr. Neil Liebman, DC for Philadelphia 76ers, an energy healer like no other, whose “magic hands” and boundless love for his patients and their healing helped carry me through the second half.

It was only through limitless fortitude and perseverance by confronting utterly seeming insurmountable odds that produced the greatest revelation in my life: The obstacle is the way. Without mud there can be no lotus. No pressure; no diamond. Without venturing into the most frightening parts of our-selves can one ever attempt to understand their true inner-self. Life is all about contrast; one cannot know happiness until one knows sadness. We have the choice in life in every situation how we react – determined by our attitude. Adjust your attitude and determine your outcome. Lessons never go away – what we resist will persist.  It’s up to you.

If not now, when?  – Zen proverb

Fall down seven times, stand up eight. – Japanese proverb

One amazing facet of that cavernous inward journey, the one that lulled me into the woods of Tennessee where I planned to pass onto the spiritual world (crazy story) by hanging myself on a camping site steel water pole, when I was homeless, living in a tent and out of my car for one year;  plumbing the darkest and most frightening depths of my being my inner-self, my soul, the Holy-Spirit, God; where there is no turning back; with no other choice but to “do your work,” to slay your dragons; choosing no longer to be a victim to your past; opting instead for the road less traveled; taking control of your energy, your life, your happiness – is the world it opened.

The outcome was an intense inner quest leading me down a path to healing, helping others with struggle in life. My ‘Doing The Dirty Dishes’ life philosophy provided ripe conditions for real learning, opening space for ample growth and change, leading to a place of teaching others, resulting in inspiring and motivating others through writing a book, Unbreakable Mind. Soon after, I started two blogs: one Spiritual and the other for those for whom Travel is a challenge. Both are read worldwide, resulting in invaluable feedback and immense satisfaction. While traveling in a wheelchair for two years for my travel blog, I took a hiatus from my spiritual blog.

After years of untold discussions and capricious agreements, I finally capitulated to my mentors and trusted advisors in life, deciding starting my own YouTube channel & Podcast. I determined that I would start writing my spiritual blog again, but this time I would then follow-up each blog entry with a podcast version. In each new episode an exciting topic is discussed within a spiritual context. A spiritual podcast that explores all topics under the sun, causing you to smile, think critically or ponder the soul and universe. This is my newest venture. Please consider listening and sharing my YouTube channel or Podcast with friends. Thank you for your support.

By now we all know what Alexi’s “knocked off your feet“reading truly meant. The accident was the greatest gift of my life. I am forever grateful to the universe and my lucky train. Choo-choo.

Teeth to the wind!

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.