2021 – Forget your resolutions, affirmations and manifestations; You have your agenda in life and life has its own: Never tie a bow around it!

As we approach the New Year, it is a time of introspection, where we look back on the prior year with either regretful dismay or joyous glee, a period when the future, though uncertain, holds a refreshing breath of hope and promise, when we get a short respite to reassess where we are in life and where we’d like to be, beware jumping to any conclusions or having set attachments to any outcomes, as it is highly likely, all resolutions, daily affirmations and drive-through-Guru manifestations aside, that what events and actions you think will occur this year most likely will not result in the wishes you so desire.

At this point you are probably thinking that is a bold statement for one to make. It is. But there is truth behind it. For, we are not in control of our lives nor our minds in the ways we think [and have become accustomed] or feel we are. Alone, almost ninety percent of what we do on a daily basis is done without our knowing, our conscious willing, as we are on auto-pilot. Our mind and what we know is of a system that is in itself incapable of answering the biggest questions, for how can a system think outside of itself, it is self-contradictory and paradoxically absurd. Most modern ideas on decision theory, the what, why and how we reach them, have now been debunked by the likes of Gladwell, R Wright and Kahneman.

The cultural heuristics alone at play, if appropriately understood and applied to any said period, would make the average person rethink how their mind works.  Many of the ways we come to decisions are out of our control; and they are made before we are even aware – as if pre-programmed in our subconscious. So, where then are decisions made? And how are they made? We know only one side of the equation. We know why we see the color red but we do not know why it is red. Other than outside environmental factors, affecting the person through epigenetics, imprinting memories from emotions and context links, the brain itself is only a machine good for calculations, logic and reasoning; otherwise, it is an unnecessary, stressful and anxiety loaded ping-pong machine filled with unfathomable confusion.

2020 has been a year for the history books, a year millions would rather have forgotten ever happened. But we cannot – we cannot change anything that happens in the universe or in our own lives even, we can only change our reaction, our attitude and perspective. We can only live in the present, the now – we have no choice, it is impossible to live in the past or future, there is only the present, and the present is now. As the ten-year anniversary of my horrific accident comes to pass, rendering me quadriplegic below the neck, waking up in a cold dark inner-city trauma ward with a priest at my side, it reminded me that we have our agenda in life, but life has its own – and guess whose wins, every time? Dare to guess?

“Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting.”

—  Marcus Aurelius

Once we are knocked down in life we have a choice, we can either choose to stand [or try] back up again, refusing to yield a victim, choosing instead to become a survivor by pushing forward and finding purpose and meaning in life, or lay down, crying “poor me,” allowing ourselves to wistfully blow abound in a blizzard of overly-emotional ‘snowflakes,’ offended by every little one of life’s idiosyncrasies, creating a world of delicate little ‘flowers,’ where no one can speak their mind or truth without causing harsh judgment or irreparable psychological damages to a ruling generation already in need of increased self-worth and inner-confidence. If there was ever a doubt, go read Jordan Peterson of the ‘true north.’

When I went out that Christmas week night with three girlfriends I had no idea I would wake up severely injured. Well, I was almost lost on the trauma table four times so I guess it was a bit worse than was originally thought. Most are not found under a moving train and live to talk about it, let alone become eighty-four percent recovered through a long torturous road of recovery and healing – resulting in a book. In due accorded time, I fully plan to walk and run again. It is through Doing The Dirty Dishes of life that one achieves something of any real integrated value or virtue – anything really worth having in life. 

But, did I have a choice? Do any of us have a choice what [personally] happens to us in life? Are we mere products of fate, pre-destined to be a certain someone or somebody? How much of it is in our control? Does free will exist, or is it the greatest invention of the mind since Siegfried thought he could befriend a wild white tiger – crude bold trickery of the mind? This is not the appropriate space or place to address such lengthy complex subjects or concerns, as they are worthy of their own book chapter each, however it is important that they have some mention. Had I not gone out that night to party and celebrate the success of my new business venture would I have still have ended up in a wheelchair? The answer is YES.

One could go so far as to the hard-determinism view on life, where Elon Musk, a huge proponent and supporter of simulation theory, where it is believed our whole lives are being lived out through a VR headset, sitting in a comfortable cosmo chair, somewhere in a universe conference room, believes we see and experience modern life and reality – virtually – the “ultimate reality.” It is no wonder he wants [and will] to take us to Mars one day in our future, our lifetime. Not that determinism, the doctrine that states that all actions are outside the will of humans, is flawed. Free will is a phantasm of the brain.

The existential and corporal illusion of free will once discovered is overtly disappointing, and at the same time covertly surprising; but once fully understood, an [third] eye-opening occurs, an enlightening and freeing of the mind and all its constraints. Along with believing we have control over our lives, they are the two most critical elements in contributing to the massive increase and ramped rise in stress and anxiety in modern society. There is no need to worry or stress, you have no control over any of your life, including your thoughts. We do not live in the universe; the universe lives within us.

“Fate leads him who follow it, and drags him who resists.”

—  Plutarch

Your life was pre-planned long ago at a meeting somewhere and sometime in the universe. It might have been near your home planet, or somewhere else of past assimilation or experience, but you were there in pure soul-spirit-form and agreed to every little facet of your life. In pre-birth soul planning you planned every part of your life, every last detail, from whom would be your parents, brother, who you will marry, kids or not, divorce, disease, accidents, graduations, travel, likes and dislikes – nothing is left out, or to chance. You spend all your lives surrounded by the same tribe of people, interchanging roles in each lifetime. So in this lifetime your mother could have been your brother in a past life, other-where.

Ever wonder sometimes when you wish to give up, when you ponder taking your own life through suicide, that there is this small flame deep inside that still burns on, a dim pilot that gives you a flicker of hope, a connection to something, a something familiar that makes you feel as if it will all be ok? When you intuit such feelings, even those you feel as you are committing wrongs, there are multiple reasons other than your inner body’s feeling of dis-agreement, they are also influenced through angel, spirit and ancestral guides, as well as your inner Holy Spirit, higher-self, inner-spirit-being, conscious existence – God, and the inexhaustible wheel of karmic debt self-balancing and inescapable cycle of reincarnation.

For those who question fate, and especially for those who believe in [what others blindly tell them] self-manifestation, for those who think you can (or sell other “sheep” into slaughter) do and become anything you wish, or order from the fast food universe, never having done the “actual” inner-work to achieve the desired results, who occupy their time being narcissistic, self-centered and egoistic, have not gone deep within their heart – into their soul – try temping it and see what results. Thus differently, without giving up control in life and what it brings us daily, it is impossible to garner the said outcome cleverly sold to you. That is for those who see success in the most verdant sense, not riches of the heart.

“Everything hangs on one’s thinking…A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself he is. “

—  Aristotle

For those who think that success, since in the modern world he with the biggest and most toys wins, the prevailing current ethos of our society where we elevate the superficial and reward the shallow, in constant need of daily emotional affirmation, is the result of untold selfless hard work, sacrifice, perseverance, Sisyphus grit and determination, are in for a shock. It is not due to their hard work, lack of personal conviction or endless resolve. The Bill Gates and Oppenheimers of the world owe their success to a complex sinew of universally inter-woven and inter-connected ensemble of synchronistic events.

Resolutions are also a waste – as if the habit, the base of the addiction or pattern, is not changed, so too will the results remain unchanged – rendering them worthless. Otherwise, beware, by definition, if you continue to do the same thing each day and yet wake up the next day expecting different results, one may be labeled insane. There can only be one Michael Jordan, no one else. Focus on yourself, figuring out who you are, why you are here and your passion and purpose, for everyone else is already taken.

Free will does not exist; it is a mental construct of the mind – same as linear time. They are two sides of the same coin – multiple choices in the tree of life, insofar all decisions lead to the same place, your fate.  You become what you are meant to become, even if you take a few detours on the way. You might even have an Unbreakable Mind and choose the road less traveled. It might take more lifetimes as Samsara plays itself out but, eventually once the lessons of earth are learned, you vibration increases manyfold. To begotten one must beget. Life will not come to you, you must go to it – what you put in, you get out.

All the ascended masters over time, whether Jesus, Buddha or Krishna, have increased their frequency and sprung forth their vibration not by logging onto “Rock-sta-app,” wishing they owned a large Mc-mud-hut atop a large desert rock outcrop – replete with haboob window-covers, through manifestation, by endless prayer (as if it is a list; as if God does not already know your wants and concerns), through daily affirmations (which have been proven to have little value outside the warm-fuzzies), or by the hand of any number of self-ordained – fill-in-the-blank on any social media type – life and success coaches.

These are the newly ordained graduating class of ass-hats, requiring  self-sacrificial thorns, a lamb of the self-crucified sub-group of those who have who have in life only successfully achieved mid-life crisis, a never-ending link in the infinite self-help movement societal noose, where a license found in a Cheerios box is no longer par excellence, however thoroughly ensured you are of impossible results via their Facebook PhD – the same group who they themselves have not walked the path by way of traumatic mistake, planned purpose or even happenstance, yet believe themselves worthy of guiding, or even worse, advising others on life – incessantly selling you inbox success and happiness. It is condescending and arrogant to think you know of another’s life better than he himself does; or that you affect change.

“Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”

—  Epictetus

Whether I went out that frigid December night ten years ago in Philadelphia or not, I still would be injured, in a wheelchair at this time, unable to walk. If it were not the Friday night Express Train tragic accident, it would have been the Saturday morning bus smash incident – it was fate I would end up where I am now. There are no mistakes in life – or chance meetings of places or people of our collective memory. No mud; no lotus. Everything in our lives is inter-connected, with limitless imagination and possibility, as the trees in your backyard are inter-twined and co-dependent – one cannot escape the eternal condition and balance of our own personal karma – each lifetime and lesson must be lived out.

The meaning of life is just that: life – living. It is an experiential process that requires your participation. Sure, fate will bring us to where we are going, and we will get there, eventually, but only first by getting your hands dirty, Doing The Dirty Dishes of life, do you advance. Think of life as a garden, you can either till the soil, providing the proper earth loving nutrients and sunlight, so splendid flowers of love, support and friendship can take root and develop and grow into healthy and mature, bright and beautiful shining souls, or you can pay it no mind, denying it the necessary inner-self-love and natural needed nutrients to bring the plant, your life, to fruition. Life can and will, and is almost guaranteed, change in a just a flash of an eye – if only the Local Train! In life, by the way, your agenda ne’er wins: Never tie a bow around it.

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.

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.

Using your Covid-19 time wisely; Hey everyone, look at me: The incessant need to be affirmed on social media.

In the Covid-19 world we currently find ourselves, there has never been a greater need for inter-personal communication. Today’s generation, born into the digital age, lack the ability to communicate with others person-to-person. The fact that social media plays such a big part in so many peoples’ lives only exacerbates the issue on a larger level. As a result of the current international health and economic crisis, social distancing and other counter measures, we find ourselves exceedingly separated from friends and loved ones, increasing isolation and anxiety.

With schedules in disarray, resulting in more time off, the amount of hours per day spent online has increased many-fold. Rather than take that spare time to read a book, take a walk in nature or spend time improving oneself through contemplation, it is wasted on frivolous empty activities, providing no value to our brains and souls. One of the gifts of this international crisis is solitude: time alone to explore within for direction; and to look without, through close friends and family, for answers. The need to fill our schedules with “busy” time pervades our thoughts, however.

Those who are whole and complete, who have done their work AKA “stuff” in life, fought their demons by embarking on a profound journey into the furthest annals of their being, only to find light, are handling this turning point with empathy and compassion. They understand the world is not fair, that they cannot control what happens in life, as that is out of their control, but they can be in control of their emotions – their reaction and attitude to life’s trials and tribulations. They understand the underpinning inter-connected essential elements of community, and the need to protect fellow mankind, regardless the level of their [professed and misguided] patriotism.

For those who are not complete, those who have not embarked on the intolerable voyage to better understand themselves, those still lacking inner content and resolve, they are pining for life to return to yesteryear. Aside from being separated from daily socialization with others, through measures implemented by governments worldwide, by banning people from social events and functions that would otherwise provide much obliged human communication, interaction and touch, whilst others suffer in silence, unable to access social services, there are no outlets for citizens to vent, they do not exist. It is left up to you to explore new ways to find well-being.

What issues and concerns existed prior to the catastrophe have only multiplied exponentially. Social media, normally an outlet for most to keep in touch with family and friends or post about their lives, has turned into the biggest self-psychology self-help platform in the world. Anytime anyone goes on social media they are bombarded with unreliable, poorly sourced information or fake news. Kind of like believing you are Frank Sinatra in your own shower – well, everyone on Facebook, newfound PhDs abound, are experts in everything from epidemiology to financial market fluctuations to political history to quantum physics. Geez, how did I ever go amiss?!

My favorites are the alleged ‘spiritual advisors’ of the Internet. They are in a stratosphere all their own, figuratively and literally. These ass-hats are as in need of therapy as much themselves as those they [attempt to] help, and certainly should not be doling out advice on life to anyone in want.  The Internet is replete with countless throngs of blind sheep searching for their shepherd. And there are no lack of shepherds to boot. Their specialty need of assurance is of an elite class, where few are chosen but many are self-ordained. In other words, the blind leading the blind!

There is nothing better than when one of these self-proclaimed ‘spiritual advisors’ openly advertises her sexuality to sell her message – the antithesis of being spiritual, by placing utter emphasis and excessive value on beauty, the shallow, vain and superficial. Somehow the “message” gets lost in the infinite inappropriate ogling of comments of pathetic men – probably the same group who randomly send gross dick-pics to unsuspecting [and shocked] women. If they were advertising VIP lounge champagne lap dances or comfort-bunny cuddle-services it would make sense. But they are not.

Good luck seeing your way through the labyrinth of personal hypocrisy and self-contradiction.

These same vapid types will also immediately and constantly reply to any comment you make on their narcissistic post, never missing an opportunity to “tag” someone, thus providing the ‘click-whirl,’ immediate gratification and confirmation modern society has come to reward. Whereas, if these ‘spiritual advisors’ had anything “spiritual” to offer, aforementioned notwithstanding, they would not be advertising their bodies and cheapening their message, a byproduct of the ‘hedonic treadmill,’ to solicit “likes” and comments – thus fueling the social media algorithms to the point of manipulating the news feed to keep their post reappearing – so long as they feed the machine.

And for those on the other side of the narcissism coin, those with an insatiable appetite, enough to fill a black hole, in a world where discipline and rigor are foreign, where the cheap and the shallow are de rigueur, whose use of social media as modern self-therapy, with an never-ending thirst for non-self-effacing daily attestation – everything from their new car, who by accident include the [luxury] make, to their kid’s every poop (we all defecate, by the way), to the ever-so-lovely forever updated profile photo, with every self-beautifying angle and trick straight from the photographer’s handbook – you are just as guilty in being abundantly devoid of self-awareness.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

— Aristotle

Let me suggest some other more constructive uses of your ever precious time: Perhaps you could better utilize this donation of newfound wonder, a gift in disguise, rather than spending your days filled with endless social media, by taking some time for silence – a moment to look deep within your inner-being, quiet the busyness of your day, eliminate the time thieves, and explore the cavernous vicissitudes of your soul – discovering who you are, why you are here, and what is your purpose in life. We are here on this earth to find meaning, and it is best found by listening to your heart. Satisfaction and happiness are two sure roads built on the backs of helping others.

Learn to take back control of your life; learn to appreciate the value of silence and introspection; learn the practicality and immense fathomless benefits of inward contemplative reflection.

There is good news: Your feelings of not being whole, not having walked your innermost journey – where your ‘stuff’ is identified and worked through – your emotional state of unease and unhappiness, and your quest to fill a vast bottomless depression has a solution: That time spent on social media, entreating to be affirmed and liked by others, is better spent by directing that same energy inward, by completing the pursuit in life slaying your dragon(s), commencing unraveling the onion called you, gaining a better understanding of the [inner] route to happiness.

We currently live in a culture of personality, where the superficial is elevated to emperor status, where we have replaced virtue with vice and integrity with sub-moral character, where we have elevated actors to hero status – no longer valuing the true heroes in our society: those who look deep within for answers, those who face insurmountable odds, those who play with the cards they are dealt (and do it well), and those who often fall down but get back up, even through affliction, struggle, suffering and disease. These are the heroes we need to reinstate in society.

The burning desire that others find interest in our lives, instead of discovering that same interest in and of ourselves on our own, creates a Jungian self-reflective mirror effect of our own self inadequacies unplumbed in the chasmic cleavage we call our self, perpetuating the inexhaustible cycle of unhappiness. No one can be sure what the results of this worldwide economic and health catastrophe ultimately will be, but rest assured we are experiencing drastic change never seen the likes of history. Change is uncomfortable; it does not come easily.  There is no way around Doing The Dirty Dishes of life; anything of value worth having takes hard work and sacrifice.

Buddhist proverb: No mud; no lotus. (Without dirt and fight there is no flower and beauty.)

You will not find such satisfaction on social media, nor will you find happiness through the need for incessant affirmation. Algorithmic social media feeds – specifically programmed, with psychology and addiction in mind, to show us more of what we want – guaranteeing we continually reinforce our ideas of the world, no matter how skewed or misinformed, always playing out to our own heartfelt capacious self-made and self-fulfilling narrative. Through their continuous psychological manipulation, you are drinking the cool-aid, questioning nothing, and allowing conspiracy theories to take root and gain credibility when false and unsubstantiated.

The irony of it is that these humbugs are going onto social media to tell others how to be whole and complete. Ladies and gentleman and clowns, it is like what is said of being a guru: If one calls oneself a guru, simply be definition they cannot be one. Same goes for those who purport to be self-assured on social media, and can show you how to do so too – they are incapable. A fruit tree that is not healthy cannot bear fruit. Therefore, how can a person who has not walked that path in life inform others how to proceed downward? They cannot. Only you can. And for free.

It is a dichotomous paradox so few can find their way out of yet. And this interminable self-contradiction is only worsened and compounded by those feeding their never contented egos under the guise of spiritual guidance. Time is the only commodity you can never recover, though often we find ourselves unceasingly wasting it, to our own detriment. Only once we face our traumas and make peace with our past can we begin to hope to find happiness and realize it is ours to gain or lose. It certainly will not come through social media affirmation. Look within – where you will find, abound with untold cosmic wanderlust –all that you seek is seeking you.

Quote of the day: “A man has as many social selves as there are distinctive groups of persons about whose opinion he cares. He generally shows a different side of himself to each of these different groups.” — William James

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. #4 Synchronistic Altruism: Homeless and on the run: Meeting Norbert in Amsterdam.

If eighteen years of brainwashing at the hands of nuns and priests in Catholic school taught me anything, it was to be charitable, help those in need and the Golden Rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated. These are basic tenants of humanity, we all can agree. But how many of us actually carry them out; how many of us demonstratively match our actions to our words? Forty-five years into this ‘simulated life’ and I am still learning every minute, day – lifetimes.

Growing up it was instilled in me that as helpful as it was to give a man a fish it was far more valuable if you taught him how to fish for himself. A soft-spot for those less advantaged in life, it was innate. Something I never had to specifically learn or be told; it felt natural to me to look after them, almost instinctive. It was as if I was preparing one day to be on that side of the table without knowing how, when, or if. We now have that answer – complimentary wheels included.  

It is late 2010s, I am spending my summers living in Europe as a writer. And another three to four months a year traveling the world in my wheelchair, blogging for those whom travel is a challenge. Later I would have an apartment in Amsterdam, Holland, but for much of my time there it is spent in an upper-scale hostel. Hostels are the absolute best for meeting all different type people the world over. Amsterdam: surely a city not lacking in off-the-wall personalities.

This one particular summer I decided to divide my time in Amsterdam into two separate six- week trips. The first would be a bit earlier, in spring, the latter later, into fall. I had never been there for King’s Day, which meant I would be in the city for a time and an event new to me. I had heard it was a wild party but nothing could have prepared me for the mayhem. During the debauchery, shockingly I witnessed a man in the nascent stages of a psychological melt-down.

Later that afternoon in the café, when approached to check his mental state, as he was heavily dosed up on multiple drugs, resulting in adverse ‘Sponge-Bob Square Pants’ type stares, in need of adult supervision, he finally allowed me to talk with him. He would affectionately come to be known as Davo AKA “Crazy Dave.” Davo was a straggly, dreadlock haired down-under wild man, hell-bent on pissing away his newly acquired Australian lawsuit money that summer in Europe.

Each night, at the hostel bar, a gaggle of us would gather to imbibe and indulge decadence. Basically, we were motley group of new friends, from all over the planet, amalgamating as one. Like moths drawn to the magic of ‘the trail’ – sharing understanding and bonding through rich inter-cultural conversation. One night a new guy appeared in the picture – or rather, on the couch. Who was this cat? He looked disheveled – oddly a wee bit dodgy. Something was amiss.

Days passed and he was still there. On the third day, I noticed different people in our crowd ordering food, and when it arrived they would say they were not hungry, pushing the food toward the yet unknown scraggly person, now a part of our ensemble. Later that day I found out that he was from Poland, homeless with nowhere to go each night, other than the streets. Wow, really?! My heart immediately went out to him. But my mind had so many questions.

The next day in the auditorium, a public room with lots of couches and chairs for us to loiter, our group clustered. We would do the same outside the hostel almost every night, on Oostpark. Some days we were there from 11:00 to 03:00 the next morning. Everyone boogied off, doing their thing, leaving only him and I alone. “Hello, what is your name?” “I am Norbert,” he said. He went on to tell me, “I am homeless,” and “I currently live in the park, hidden in the brush.”

Immediately my eyes welled up. I was unsure what I had just heard. He went on to tell me, “Everyone I know steals from me. No one is honest; they all lie to me; take advantage of me.” He continued, “I have no real true friends in life – I am alone on the streets. Currently I live in a park, under a tree, on the dirt.” He explained, “I was squatting on a boat but one morning the owner came home and I had to run, leaving all my belongings there, including my cell phone.”

Before continuing on with the story, let me interject some perspective. I am a spiritual person who has walked through hell to be me. Reading has been an essential tool on my journey. It was also a key part of my recovery and ultimately, healing. It was the foundation needed for writing my first book: Unbreakable Mind.  Although I espouse ‘Doing The Dirty Dishes’ of life, sometimes a person just needs a hand extended with love to get them get back up to the sink.

Being a prolific reader (3-5 books a week), and especially since spending my summers living in Amsterdam, I packed a small library to read. One book that I was most enchanted: Altruism, by a favorite author of mine, Matthieu Ricard. A 700 + page yellow behemoth of lessons awaited me.  As with all books, there are no mistakes – they come to you at the time meant. And, true of all lessons in life, one must first be receptive to change before any enlightenment is possible.

This book changed me; it affected me in profound ways. The book spoke to my soul, extending deep into my core being – Holy Spirit. I thought I understood altruism but I was tremendously mistaken. It is so much more than simply lending a hand or helping someone. Often it is argued how possible is it to be ‘purely altruistic’ but this book makes the case. It explains the high level of compassion, care and concern needed for the well-being of another to help them in their life.

 “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

Well, it was time to put the metal to the grind. What better time to hone an indispensable life lesson? Or simply put, welcome the universe at play with synchronicity. We were both meant to meet one another and speak alone that day. I decided that I was going to step up and show him what it meant to have a good friend, someone who is genuinely concerned with your inner-prosperity, not just today but also the future – someone who wants better for your life, always.

While he was visiting the bathroom I took the opportunity to fold up Euros, placing them under his beer. Being a poor writer did not pay my bills but being a trader did, providing me enough to share. When he returned for a sip of beer he saw it and said, “What is this…Why?” It was hard to play dumb as no one was there to scapegoat action I would have preferred unseen.  Aware he was Polish, I asked, “Are you Catholic?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Merry Christmas, early.”

That afternoon he went on to tell me a story of extreme heartbreak. At this time he was ‘on the lam’ from the law in Poland – other friends were not so lucky. Some unfortunate things outside his immediate control happened. He and some friends were working for a wealthy businessman and were not paid.  So they robbed his property in order to eat. They worked for two months and were left to starve. All this meant he had no papers, thus living in Holland illegally – a ghost.

“Show me a man without a skeleton in his closet and I will show you a man without virtue. “         – Abraham Lincoln

None of that mattered to me. And at this point helping him with lawyers and legal fees was the least of his worries. He was homeless, living on the streets of a major European city. His biggest daily concerns were primal: food, water, shelter – basic survival. He was living like an animal in the bushes of many a popular park in central Amsterdam, including Vondelpark. Whilst tourists passed by, ignorantly bliss to his dire plight, someone’s son, brother, uncle – was living a hell.

As we sat in the auditorium one chilly spring afternoon on the couch together, drinking beers and eating fries (top 3 in Amsterdam), talking and smiling, he was completely baffled – he wanted to know why I was assisting him in life, why did I chose him? Who was I? He only knew me as the quiet general who liked to eat and drink, puff and chat, meet new interesting people, listen to music and wonder beneath the stars with anyone crazy enough to join the cacophony.  

Norbert, “You deserve to have a good friend in life; you merit to be treated with dignity and respect. You are worthy of love and having someone in life that values you and treats you as a real friend – and now you do not have that. You are lacking the primary essentials in life, needs all humans require and warrant. I will be that friend, I will show you that there are good people in the world still, who love others unconditionally and wish happiness for you.” He cried softly.   

The thought that someone I had just crossed paths with synchronously needed to be reminded he was human, entitled to respect, kindness, goodness, love, courage, dignity, worthiness, joy, hope and dreams – like every other human on this planet, hit me like a ton of bricks. Searching for an opportunity to marry my actions to my words, the universe provided me an alter: a triple cross, draped in neon. Our lives would be forever altered in time. So many others’ lives too!

Friends suddenly all poured back in, the party was back in full swing. Not ten minutes passed since everyone had gone off for a smoke or to the café to fetch some more beers and two lives, now inextricably intertwined, had universally changed in tremendous ways, setting off ripples of love and goodness, ad infinitum. My heart felt like it never did before; it was electrified. The light that was lit inside of Norbert was clear – he now had a friend for life. His grin said it all.

The next morning I was awakened by a knock at my door at 08:30. Aware the cleaning service was not due in that morning – I was puzzled as to who could be at my door so early. It was Norbert, with a big smile. Over time his constant thirst for living life and daily dose of positivism secretly lifted me up on my most difficult days. He stood there, two large white plastic bags in tow. They were filled with food and shower items – gifts of love. What had just happened? I was stunned.

This slim-shady looking Pole, coming from spending the night sleeping in the local park located adjacent the hostel, without the most basic necessities of life, could only think of me, of how he could make me content. Wow! Are you kidding me? The night before I gave him my room key so he could go have a hot shower. He took note of the fruits and snacks I had on my desk and decided to surprise me with my favorites. The fruit was [always] fresh from the Turkish stand.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.  — Proverb attributed to Buddha

On my return trip that summer, upon arriving at the hostel, Norbert was waiting outside for me. He always had a welcome satchel of treats and bathroom items when I arrived; and travel to-go bag when I departed. From that day forward, to the end of my stay in September, never once did he leave my side. Amsterdam is a big city with dangers, aside from all the drugged up tourists ‘running amok’ in Centrum, home to the Red Light District, where safety is prudent.

A person whose life has been dealt a bad hand but approaches every morning with a glimmer of hope, always overly optimistic the sun will shine tomorrow. He almost has a touch of innocent naïveté. He now had a safe place to keep his bag of life’s belongings, to eat whenever needed, or have a shower and rest. Without ID he could not stay at the hostel; papers are required for proper ID. Often I would give him a pillow and linens to bring to the park to sleep for the night.

Every morning he was at my door – even one day after being stabbed in Oostpark on his way to see me. The greatest helper an injured person could wish, forever a step ahead of me. Always he handled the wheelchair for all Uber rides – endlessly my guardian, always ensuring my safety everywhere we went. He constantly checked locations we patronized for accessibility. He never knew how much that meant. His love and care meant the world to me. I am forever grateful.

We went everywhere together, most times surrounded by other friends from the hostel. Over the next two summers we shared countless memories. We visited museums, exhibitions, the zoo, the beach, went to lunch at fancy places and spent much time in the sun at local cafes, enveloped in conversation. He told me how special all those trips were to him – how they made him feel like a little boy again. He had a hard upbringing in rural Poland where money was tight. 

If ever I wished [secretly] to have a little brother in life – I had found him.

Many nights at the start of the relationship he wanted to know why I was so generous to him. Explaining the 700 page opus on Altruism was out of the question. But a story from a past life was not. I told him that most likely in the 1500s, in Europe, I was a poor peasant in trouble, in dreadful need, and he was a rich businessman who took pity on me and my family. This was the universe’s karmic balance. In fact, truth told: he was my helper, an angel – my life teacher.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.  – Polish Proverb

But, oh, yes, it is our circus, and they are our monkeys.

The measure of any civilized society is how it treats those who are in need. The measure of an individual is how he/she, through daily virtue and practice, treats those same in need. By which he transcends all differences, helping relieving suffering of others, giving fellow humans hope for days of happiness ahead, assisting others without question or prejudice, eliminating despair and instilling hope, truly caring and concerning for the welfare of others. That is just a start!

Life’s worth and happiness do not come from how many toys or titles you can collect but the good you do in life.  We all originate from the same wellspring of humanity. It goes beyond the ethos of a society, squarely at the base of your core values as a person, as a human. Anyone can help another person – Altruism is about transforming their whole life into one that guarantees them the same universal dignity and respect afforded all humanity. It is about service to others. 

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is your genius?”  – Albert Einstein

There is no limit to what ‘true altruism’ can accomplish. In the end, we are here on this planet to contribute to the betterment of humanity: it is our sacred duty, to the extent our best inner strengths are utilized for the sake of all people. When we die no one remembers our 3000sq meter home but they certainly remember those whom we helped from disparagement, those we supported their greatest inner qualities so as to awaken happiness. That is one’s true legacy.

Everyone within them possesses immeasurable gifts of treasure and promise; it is up to us to tap into that creative light, encouraging others to be their best self – to shine their brightest.

Life is a dance best done together. Thank you for being my partner – your love, Norbert.

Three years on, life is vastly different for Norbert. No longer are the park, jail or prison nightly sleeping options. He now has a full-time construction job, a Polish girlfriend and an apartment replete with friends, in a nice suburb of Amsterdam. He has made progress on the legal front, expecting to get his “papers” within months. He now has dignity, hope, confidence, joy and happiness in his life again. He dreams of one day going to America. I’ll be waiting, arms open.  

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.

Spiritual Blog, along with YouTube Channel and Podcast, coming end of March 2020.

Happy New Year 2020 ~ a new decade is upon us, how exciting – the possibilities are endless.  Aside from being a presidential election year, it is shaping up to be a doozy of a year for me also.  It has been quite the journey to get to this point. As life often surprises us, and after some time off from this blog while traveling the world (see injured travel blog), the time has come for my spiritual blog to start again.  In March, I will begin a YouTube channel: Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast. The spiritual blog will cover the same topic discussed on the channel, as well as published into podcast format.  I am looking forward to seeing what develops. Please consider taking this journey with me. Today, sign-up to receive new notices of spiritual blog posts via email (on right side of this blog).  Also, you can click here to sign-up for new YouTube channel.  Sending eternal healing love and light. Thank you for your love and support.

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.