Struggling with finding happiness in life? Tune out to social media, skip the epitome of incomprehensible psycho-couch-babble and go spend time with a child.

For the last nine months of my life I have been staying in an AirBnB rental in the Maya Riviera of Mexico. It is a worthy setup most preferred and conducive to constantly meeting new and interesting people and personalities. Having a steady supply of fresh people from all over the world ensures there is never a time without someone to serve as a new teacher in my life. Life is a mirror, what we see in others we are ourselves. Sometimes that can be a prickly thorn of annoyance, a lesson on what we need to work on in ourselves, and at others a wondrous gift in disguise. As with living, it is our perspective that counts most.   

There is no doubt you will get knocked down in life, of that you can be assured. The question rather is whether or not you decide to get back up. The rosy glasses through which we choose to view the world ultimately determines the outcome. At each crossroad we face this dilemma as ever present. Otherwise, life is outside of your control – don’t take the drama play too seriously. Like water in a river, learn to go with the flow. How we decide to react to our circumstances sets the path to either suffering or growth. Not many on my journey thus far have willingly chose agony, so there is still hope for those in want.

It is not common but every once and a while an adult is accompanied by a child here at our complex.  One couple, she, Mexican, he, American, stayed here for a short period; only for the female to return later for another stay, but this time she was accompanied by her eight year-old daughter, Ivanka. She settled in as my neighbor and in due time we all became friends. The daughter was extremely timid and guarded at first, taking only but a few requisite princess and tea chat sessions and gifts of sweets to win her over. As her mother was often busy, Ivanka would have no choice but to roam about the courtyard.

Other than your own rug-rats or children of immediate family, whom you are too close to and also a part of their development, it is hard to see every child with “fresh” eyes. There are so many practical lessons missed as a result. How often do you intentionally go out of your way to spend time with adolescents, watching how they maneuver their instantaneous fabricated reality, observing their selfless actions and surprising reactions, conversing with them at their level about things that interest them, or simply being in awe and wonder at their inherent guiltless disposition on seeing the world as one massive funhouse?

Much time outside while having a refreshing tropical fruit juice, meditation or soaking up some sunrays was spent observing Ivanka at play. Without any electronics or applications to steal away her focused attention and stupefy her to the world and nature all about her, I was in utter amazement the creative ways she found to pass time and enjoy her odyssey of perusal. Nothing is off limits! Kids can give rise to their own worlds of boundless radiance as quickly as an adult worries about impending bills or any other pointless trivialities. Kids are busy conquering their latest dream milieu – and its innumerable iterations.   

One evening, as her mom talked on the phone, she occupied herself at the public courtyard table where I was enjoying a cup of newly acquired chai tea shipped from India. She was carrying with her two small dye-cutout red castles, a tiny plastic princess figurine and a large stuffed pink hippo named Oscar. She was in her own little sphere; nothing could take her attention away as she transmogrified herself into the beautifully adorned princess and subsequent scenes played out for my viewing delight. The princess liked to hide inside the castles, when not lazily lounging atop the neck of her best friend for life, Oscar.  

What a wonderful way to experience life, with not a worry in the world –  gratitude for everything – as it is meant to be – as seen through the irreproachable guilt-free eyes of luminous God-like purity. As is with the perfect divine order of the universe, to kids all things in sight are enchantingly inter-connected, infinitely interchangeable: everything is faultlessly synchronistic, according to their juvenile eyes. As adults we lose the ability to perpetuate the allure and excitement, reverence for the wonderment of the omnipresent supernatural, the omnipotent attendance forever surrounding us on this spinning hot rock.

When the myriad priceless royal scenarios ran dry, off she went frolicking in the rain puddles from an earlier downpour. Nothing mattered to her at that time, succumbed by the instantaneous consciousness of excitement and untold astonishment that aimlessly splashing about in water can illicit – she was living unknowingly in the present. She was experiencing her life in the now, without a care for any distractive foreign stimuli. In sports psychology this is referred to as ‘being in the zone.’ Children do not need to practice mindfulness, it comes preternaturally. They can find untold joy in the tedious hum-drum of life.

Soon after my respite, it was time to head off to the corner market to get some sugary foodstuffs for the evening. I asked Ivanka if she wanted to join me. She finds immense happiness in helping assist others in need. I barely had finished my question and she was already bursting with fiery elation. She insisted on unlocking our front gate and opening the heavy metal door for me to exit safely in my wheelchair. Once at the store, she was unwavering about wanting something sweet. She wasted no time in finding the most decadent chocolate and nut ice cream bar in the store – while grinning an ear-to-ear smile to boot.

She was over the moon that her neighbor not only bought her small delights each day but that he also took her to the store and gave her full consideration of choice over which treat(s) she received. As she was always so well behaved, she was never in lack of favor. She was overflowing with gratitude the whole walk home; replete with absolute authentic gratefulness. We give to others in life to bring them a smile but also because it makes us happy, even releasing feel-good chemical hormones in our brain – a type of a ‘mental-gasm.’ The more you assist others in life, the better you feel. Give it a whirl sometime.

Some other days we would just chat about her day or homework or dreams of the future. It goes wholly without saying her biggest dream is to be a princess, living in an enchanting castle.  In the middle of our conversations, as soon as something caught her attention, without haste or hesitation, hurriedly she would run off with a sparkle in her eye – most often to something small an adult would overlook – such as the blossom of a new flower, an unknown bug or an impending rain storm. Nothing is off limits to the imagination of children; mysterious and otherworldly creation is always at the forefront of contingency.

As adults we have lost our effervescent God-innocence, our admiration and fascination at everything our eyes see, the thrill of new smells and adventure of new tastes, the spectacular feeling of living in a world that truly is our playground – we have lost our ability to find pleasure in living life, in appreciating the small things, in not yearning for tomorrow – in our ability to live in the now. We are too busy living in the past (depression) and the future (anxiety). We have been trained like Pavlov’s dog, responding to the bell, under the choking societal confines and rules meant to keep you a caged and obedient robot.

Tat Tvam Asi – “thou art that” in Sanscrit – the relationship between the Absolute and the individual in Hinduism. You are me, and I am you – we are the same, one shared conscious – undefined indescribable mysterious energy: God. We are all in the same boat; when the water rises, all boats rise. Children live their lives God-like, only for the present moment, able to metamorphose no end of marvel and suspend judgment enough to find the divine touch in all things. Buddhists speak on the beginners mind, being a child that knows nothing, seeing the glory of God’s existence and creation enveloping us at all times.

Children are naturally aligned by love; they are born knowing no different. Children are a by-product of what they learn and mimic from parents and peers. Over time this view becomes adulterated with the stresses and responsibilities of living in a vessel – an ethereal body covered in a meat-draped costume, on a hot boulder of magma flying through space; in a life where happiness is incessantly chased but often eluded; in an era with more wealth and access to information in all of history, yet we do all we can to avoid from plumbing the intense chasmic ineradicable depths of our heart and soul to find our “self.”

The mind itself is incapable of answering the bigger esoteric questions of humanity – the riddles of the universe are unanswerable. Dr. Seus considered adults as “outdated children.” Life does not come with an open guide book. If it did, life would be boring: one would never face challenges or obstacles that impel him to find out who he is, essentially what he is made of, or his eventual primary purpose. Neither fruitless exoteric inquiry nor intellect is sufficient; it is only through probing inspection of the heart that one can attain inner peace, contentedness, happiness. Children, with minds still unmolded, innately live thru heart-conscious, spending everyday living by way of perpetual stimuli and emotions, not intellect.

For it is through the profound innocence of solipsism, being the center of the world, that allows for the exploration of the child by dint of interaction with their environment and others, concluding that he is not the world but a part of it – his own little person. Children have no natural inborn prejudices or set ideations of things, people and places – they are pure of heart. This allows them to see others through a prism of love, ultimately teaching them that the world is smiles and laughter. Over time this innocence of sight loses focus to living life and how we perceive it; the mundane daily responsibilities of adulthood.

We are indescribably complex spiritual beings of light, living out this flash of a lifetime in spirit school on earth. We are created in God’s image of pure light, an imperceptible invisible vibration of flawless love, but the farther we suppress the self through the busyness and stresses of everyday life, the multitude of contemptible vices, whether psychological, mental, social, chemical or other, at all times losing sight of the “I” behind the “I,” we corrupt our child’s mind  – which is perfectly illustrated by Sri R. Maharshi’s instruction: “Just Be” –  therefore inflating the egoic conscious, moreover reducing our supernal sub-conscious valve, and to a great extent constricting the consummate symbiosis, the indelible connection to the Absolute source, our higher-self, our not-self, our cosmic-conscious, our super-conscious, God.

The older we get the further removed we are from the feeling of being a child awestruck by our intense surroundings. We no longer see life as simple – we treat it too seriously. We forget that we are all actors in a play of cosmogenic proportions. As you move forward, forging an onerous course on the road less traveled, the eternal quest of illumination of the heart, consider once more being a kid again, finding your inner-child, discovering your inner-Christ, your inner-God-conscious. Finding the child within will evermore reignite your soul and help you find bewilderment in everything you see and experience in life. So what if people think you are strange – the enchanting star-filled possibilities are without limit.

It all starts with being a child. What are you waiting for? Go be a child again. Your Happy Meal awaits!

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

BookUnbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTuneinAmazon 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 IrelandSpainSweden,  BelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermanyNew 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 move to the Yucatan, Mexico: Getting lost in Playa del Carmen – A life thrown into turmoil; Finding my heart in Nicte-Ha.

To travel the world is to experience and write you own book of history. Otherwise you are just reading history written at the hands of the victors. But to truly understand oneself and the world also one must depart the pseudo harbor of safety and explore the intrepid open seas. It is only through others that we truly learn about ourselves; it is only through travel that we sincerely learn of the untold people and cultures of other countries. Opening my mind to the possibilities of travel allowed me to find my heart.

This chapter of my life started in Amsterdam, Holland and ended up spitting me out in Yucatan, Mexico. In the interim, it brought me on a head spinning whistle-stop trek from New York City to Maine to Miami to Nicaragua, back to Miami again, then finally off to Colombia. After being unable to find a suitable apartment for my needs in two different cities in Colombia, with funds dwindling, on the verge of giving up, along with some close friends and business partners, it was determined I would relocate to Mexico.

All the while, my journey was eclipsed by the Covid-19 international pandemic and crisis. At every turn there was a new challenge or hurdle to overcome – they were incessant, always lurking in the shadows. Seventeen of the last twenty-four months have been spent living out of hotels. Whilst almost becoming broke and homeless in a wheelchair twice, having my whole life packed into three suitcases only added insult to injury, pre-pending undue stress and anxiety to an already precarious globetrotting expedition.

Do not be mistaken, this has been a wander of the heart since the start. The impetus behind the mad adventure, the magic of the trail, quest of the soul, always surrounded finding the proper foreign filming location for my TV pilot – an adventure travel show with a twist of spirituality, aptly named: Wheels Up! Once leaving Europe to move home temporarily to Philadelphia, whilst giving my car and all my home items away to the inner-city homeless, before being denied re-entry to Europe twice, it has been a slog.

Once I finally had made it to Cartagena, I thought that was my final destination. After attempting to move there twice before in life, my third attempt I planned to live there two to five years. But after six months of innumerable obstacles, breaking my wallet and almost leaving me no bed to sleep in, our team gave up on the possibility of filming in Colombia.  It was at this juncture that I went online in order to find a new city to relocate to in the Yucatan, Mexico. Through an ad on Craigslist I met Julio Cesar Chavez.

Cesar, as he liked to be addressed, was a very congenial person upon first introduction. Without wasting anyone’s time, immediately I informed him on my wheelchair and the necessary living requirements. Within a day he replied via text with a video, a video that showed a few areas of concern, that ended with him proposing where to build ramps for me. After umpteen apartment failures in Colombia, Cesar was an angel in disguise. And after losing all my money a week before my move, I knew it was a match.

At this point, it became evident that I was meant to be in Playa del Carmen – there are no mistakes in life. Since my time living in the Middle East I have always had a connection to the energy of the earth. It is much more fine-tuned in my current stage of life. Once I arrived in “Playa” the energy where I was living was immediately felt. As the same ethereally ‘at home’ comfortable feeling while living in Israel, Holland, Indonesia, Ireland and Colombia, Mexico was no different, genuinely l felt restfully at home.

Cesar owns an eight room apartment rental complex in an off-the-beaten-path quaint neighborhood, Nicte-Ha.  It is a working class neighborhood most representative of how average Mexicans live day-to-day. There is one thing for certain when living in such a regional locale, without the chaotic mess of the ‘el Centro’ zone, you do not see many “gringos” AKA foreigners in the streets. It certainly makes for an authentic experience, one most representational of the bona fide ways in which actual Mexicans live.

In my first week while staying in the warm and cozy barrio of Nicte-Ha, I could feel her warm embrace. The people here are incredibly polite and always willing to lend a hand. A local neighborhood replete with rooster crows all hours of the day, where residents often sit in front of their homes or in the street late into the night, where it is not uncommon to hear music played loud – no matter the hour – it is a district whose streets are alive with constant action all day and evening. The energy is alive, palpable.

Nicte-Ha is a neighborhood where the old-school trade traditions of yesteryear still exist. No matter if you need your shoe, electronic or car repaired, it is as safe a bet as finding a corner street food stand. The delectable choices of local recipes sold by individuals on foot or bicycle trying to support their families are boundless: tacos (14 + different types); tamales; pizza; cakes and pies; ice cream; ice treats; fresh coconut water and pulp; fruits and fresh squeezed juices, and a multitude of other delicious treats. 

On any given day you might see a pandemonium of tropical parrots or Chachalacas flying overhead, leaving yourself asking yourself Que Paso. There is a gorgeous beach, Esmeralda, within a ten minute walk. And, if you are up for the trek, ‘el Centro’ is a forty-five minute walk. When back home you can expect to be flooded with different shouts from the street by local sellers vending their wares, whether procured and resold, fresh mixed, prepared on cart, baked at home or random impulsive tasty foodstuff.

These hawkers depend on local sales to survive. Many live in homes nearby where the majority do not have doors, windows or flushing toilets. They each have their own distinct method to get your attention. The pizza-by-the-slice purveyor on a bike uses a car battery connected to a boom-box to blare out disco music, with voiceover as the menu. Another man goes through the streets, every other residence, in a very raspy hoarse voice, screaming of sweet bread for purchase. Each day over ten vendors would pass.

The complex was filled with affable guests from all over the world. Over time, I befriended one of my neighbors, Valentin, a burly hirsute Viking looking computer programmer from Montreal. He would later become the investor in my TV show. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail all eight units were booked. Many a night was spent outside sitting on the patio under the bright stars celebrating the wonder of life through profound conversation with new friends. One of the greatest benefits of travel is the people you meet.

Of the daily group there are always a few characters. George and Michele from Czech Republic were a daily source of meaningful conversation – as they travel the world trying to rid the oceans of endless plastic. Rocky, his preferred moniker, a seventy-two year old, extremely outgoing and energetic, filled with Midwest love and compassion, always at the ready for a witty remark or a good time, was a pisser. He was right out of a movie; as were many whose paths I crossed during my time in celebrated Nicte-Ha.

While living in close quarters with others over a long period of time it is without fail that some close relationships will result. Valentin was the first foreigner I met when I moved to Mexico. Eventually a friendship ensued. We would spend nights having local street-stand tacos and beers while talking about everything under the sun. At one point, my show became the topic of interest and, by the time the night had come to a close, Valentin decided he wanted to become the sole investor to produce my TV pilot.

As with any major life decision, I interjected that he should first take the proper amount of time in order find resolve with his decision. It was also recommended that he read a copy of my book, Unbreakable Mind, in order to better fully comprehend the totality of my story. Two weeks later he came to me one afternoon and told me he was 100% committed to the project. Unfortunately, without being forthright, he still had doubts deep in the back of his head. And though he tried to hide them, they were obvious.

Although his words said otherwise, and his questions were flashing red-flags of neon, he insisted he was ready to move forward. Within two weeks, in an infantile tantrum, he decided to pull the plug. The show was off. Not a few days passed before he realized his rash mistake and wanted back in on the deal. We reluctantly agreed to accept him a second time, with the fear that he would later find some other quack reason to kill the deal. We also worried that he might decide to have another shit fit once filming began.

Well, as anticipated, and as you might expect, in due time, Valentin withdrew from the project a second time. But by this time he had already made commitments to people for their time and service. Others ended up being affected, collateral damage so to speak, as a result of another unprocessed impulsive decision. After relentlessly chasing a dream all over the globe for almost two years, attempting to bring to fruition through all means, it was time to walk away. The universe’s message could not be clearer.

A wise elder friend and mentor once told me, “Steven, never tie a bow around it.” In life we have our agenda, but life has its own, as well. And guess whose wins? Never yours! We have no control over our lives; the power of fate conquers all. Life has a way of beating you down until you are on your raw knees begging for mercy from above. As part of your karmic balance, each has their own lessons to overcome in this life. If you do not yield and realize these lessons, the universe returns them with multiplied force.  

Obviously I had not learnt the intended lesson: giving up control – living in the now – learning to be patient, waiting for the ‘grand illusion’ to reveal itself. In the interim, we are to continue learning about love and forgiveness, increasing our vibration. Earth is a spiritual school where only the bravest of souls decide to live as a human. What is our purpose here? Why are we here? Every day we each have the opportunity to grow from our experience on earth – every day our reaction and attitude are our choice.  

Losing the deal was a gift in disguise. Truth be told, I have no real interest in being on TV, nor all that accompanies that lifestyle. Part of the lesson on giving up control was accepting that for one [unknown] reason or another, the universe had other plans for me than a TV show – at least at this period. What was the reason? That is part of the mystery of life: recognizing the infinite synchronicity and inextricable interconnectedness of the universe at play in every moment of our daily lives. It forever surrounds us.  

But I am fine with waiting for the universe to reveal its plan. If we continue on and do not acknowledge the lesson, continuing to carry on without being aware of our true purpose, in which the universe is trying to make us aware, life can be a real drag, not worth living. Life is about facing the unknown, head-on. Travel by its very nature has a never-ending plethora of unknowns. And no different than living, travel causes you to have to face and overcome your fears, befalling tremendous growth for future use.

Travel closely parallels life, as it is an experiential process: one that must be kicked off or fully lived, respectively. No different than trying to figure out how to get to a difficult location in a wheelchair, the universe does not provide a net until action is taken. It is only when venturing out into the void of the great mystery, questing through the fathomless far reaches of the heart, voyaging into the unrevealed dimensions of uncharted territory – the collective unconscious – that you find your conscious not-self.

This journey has revealed its purpose: to accept life as it comes by living ‘in the now’ – and to maintain immense gratitude for the limitless love and support surrounding us always, without fail neither of duty nor of time. Life is a big mirror, a mere self-reflection; what we see in others we are ourselves. Travel, forcing you to shed your superficial titles and security blankets, the story horse of vulnerability that we all  ride, opens the way to the road less traveled – the road to your heart, to your inner-being, to God.

Everything happens for a reason. I am where I am supposed to be at this moment of my life – Mexico.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

BookUnbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTuneinAmazon 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 IrelandSpainSweden,  BelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermanyNew 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.

Losing his dreams in life in order to help others discover theirs; finding his heart and purpose in the process: The story of Chester Ruiz.

As kids we all have dreams of becoming something spectacular one day in the future. Some kids want to become a farmer, or policeman, while others want to be a fireman or astronaut. For Chester Ruiz it was clear: he wanted to become a professional boxer. As the windy road of life so happens, often we do not get what we want; rather we get what we need. This life lesson, our medicine, is not one that comes too easily. But for those who embrace their soul’s path, the inner quest of the heart, the result is happiness.

The journey of the heart is not one chosen easily by the majority. They are susceptible to finding their way down a path of boundless surprises when life does not go as expected. Once befallen, it is easier to stay down in the dirt than fight your way back to your feet, finding new meaning and purpose. It is not the successes that define us in life; it is the struggles and obstacles that we had to overcome in the process. To each person the process takes on its own relative meaning. Chester Ruiz is no exception.

At fifty-two years of age, Chester has every reason to be sour on life. Growing up in Loma de Mico, a poor barrio of Grenada, Nicaragua, with dirt floors and no running water, with little chance of success being handed to him, he had to fight his way to where he currently is in life. In a house with eight males and two females, impoverished by the conditions of the life of his family, every extra bread crumb or piece of rice was fought over. Little did he know what his upbringing would mean for his future.

As a child, Chester always had a love of boxing. Henry, his older brother, was a boxer as long as he could remember. Henry went on to become a professional boxer, achieving 8thin world ranking (accruing a Pro-Champ of Latin America along the way), but by the time Chester got serious about the sport at age thirteen, his brother had already retired. Henry, a teacher of children by profession, went on to create an amateur boxing program for poor kids in the neighborhood. Henry was a huge inspiration on Chester.

In his first fight at age thirteen he was knocked out cold. He went on to win his next four fights. It was clear in his mind: he wanted to be World Champion. But did Chester have what it takes to get there? He eventually went on to fight his way to six national tournaments. Five of the six he won, taking home four bronze and one silver medal. After one fight with Camilo Ortega in Managua in which he won a gold medal he was forced to join the Nicaraguan Army. But this was good news for his boxing future.

All the best boxers were in the Army. He fought with Rosendo Alvaraez who went on to become World Champion. By all means, Chester was well on his way to living out his dream. We have our agenda in life but life has its own; the latter plan always getting its way. All roads lead to the same destination, however. On a trip home to visit family Chester was involved in a bad accident. He fell from a moving truck onto his elbow, resulting in the end of his boxing dreams of a world title. He retired at age twenty.

Not much time passed before Chester was back in the ring, this time in the capacity of his elder brother Henry: teaching children in the barrio. He started his coaching at the La Iguana Verde School of Boxing, a well-known and respected program in Nicaragua. At this school he quickly found himself in the presence of hungry boxers who wanted to become the best. He trained Victor Mayorga, who went on to become World Champion. Sadly though, Victor never returned much to the community in the way of gratitude.

Chester was married at age twenty-two. His wife, Melania, was twenty-four years old. Soon they would start a family. Little did he know that is life was about to experience more twists and turns, taking away all that he loved, including his family. His brothers were all gifted musicians and they spent time together singing and playing music. They thought he was good, that he had what it takes to succeed in such a highly competitive field. One brother encouraged him to take up music, to become a singer.

His up-and-coming band, Combo 76, found almost immediate success with the public. They were often invited to national festivals, sometimes winning awards for popularity. They once sang at Centro Recreativo, with seating for 1000 persons. Eventually their fame and popularity catapulted them onto a national TV program in 1992. At this point Chester was playing the part of the successful singer during the day but was an abusive drinker in the night. It was starting to affect how he sang and lived.

It is only a matter of time before our shadow side rears its ugly head. Chester’s reality was getting worse by the day. It was common for him to have all day and night drinking binges. It was not uncommon for Chester to wake up in the street, fully clothed, bruised and battered, at sunrise, after a long night’s bender. After our truth is revealed we have a choice: we can either choose to stop or continue on. Chester continued down the path of heavy drinking, effectively killing his music career by age thirty-five.

Chester was now at rock bottom in life. He had relentlessly pursued two huge opportunities to get himself and his family out of the ghetto in order to create a normal life for them – both had failed. And, even more so, on a deep inmost level, Chester felt like a let-down to himself and his family, a real failure at life. To add salt to the wound, two years earlier when his daughter with Down syndrome was born, he made a promise to God that he would stop drinking. But he did not. And now his life was in shambles.

No more were his nights filled with fall-down drinking escapades, Chester, now determined to beat his demon and get his life back in order, was on a mission. One night his bigger brother took him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting; since then his life has been changed for the better. On September 15th, 2009, he took his last drink, thus altering his ensuing path in life. He continued singing on weekends in order to keep his love and passion for music and people alive. He decided to start teaching boxing again.

Now a part of the Alexis Aguello boxing program, he was back in the streets teaching kids from his heart anew. Chester knew that this was what made him happy in life, that his true calling is helping children become a part of something bigger than them, to find a way out of the daily trouble on the streets and hopefully one day poverty. The kids find tremendous motivation and resolve by being involved in a sport of such agile skill and rugged determination, where training and hard work pay results – same as life.

The kids in his program come from severe poverty, and as with Chester, all growing up without running water and electricity.  They all arrive already with checkered backgrounds; were if not for the program they would end up roaming the streets inevitably getting into trouble or worse, most likely killed. They come from the neighborhoods called “Red Areas” – streets the average Nicaraguan would not dare walk down. These barrios are controlled by drug gangs; with drugs being supplied openly by the police.

In life one never knows where they will meet a Chester. We met because each morning a bike would arrive at my housing unit in Granada – it was Chester coming to work as a security guard. Over time we became friends, eventually leading me to know about his family, life and background. His is a story not unlike any other human who has a dream as a child, or as an adult. He went after his dreams twice in life and both ended in utter failure. But Chester is a boxer, one who would not be counted out of the fight.

Life does not always go as we wish; never tie a bow around it. You can never know if the gift will ever arrive – so lose your expectations. The universe always finds a way send us messages as to our true purpose in life. The further we push away from our sole objective here on earth the harder the universe pushes back. When they are not heeded the universe increases the frequency and severity of the message(s). Until the message is clearly understood, it will keep persisting in innumerable forms.

Like boxers, we all get knocked down in life from time to time. There is a guarantee at some time in your life you will face such a juncture. There is no shame in getting knocked down in life but there is shame in deciding not to get back up again. Chester was knocked more times than any boxer would care to openly admit, but each time it happened he quickly found the seed of positivity, sowing renewed hope for his family’s future – placing him on a new course in life, a path to profound inner contentedness, happiness.

It was in being stubbornly human, striving for his dreams of being a boxer and then a professional singer, having lost each because of excessive abuse of alcohol, and after endless barriers and battles, bringing him to his lowest point psychologically, that allowed Chester to find his true path in life: helping children. One can never know greatness if one never tries. But one also cannot ever taste or know inner happiness if one does not look deep within, choosing the intense quest of darkness in order to find light.

It was this dark and difficult path, the road less traveled, finally beating his fight with alcohol (his hardest opponent) – keeping his promise to his daughter and family, and finding his way back to coaching boxing to children afresh, whilst over a long period of time losing two dreams due to severe addiction, that led Chester to do the extreme grueling inner-work of self, his soul, life, that is required to make happiness an everyday part of one’s life. All the answers to your questions lie within the ring of life – ding, ding!

Chester is a volunteer and receives very little help with expenses for his boxing program. To make a donation, please contact him here.

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.

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.

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. #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.

Unbreakable Mind: One year anniversary – a letter of love and gratitude.

This weekend is the one year anniversary of publishing my first book, Unbreakable Mind. It was quite the experience getting to that point; it has been an amazing journey since. It has opened new doors never thought possible before, including being made into a movie in 2020. I am endlessly grateful to the process – the unfolding of the universe’s plan for us, no matter how different we think it will be. Mine just happened to include a ticket for the express train; and it was free ( 🤣 ) – though the true price was unimaginable, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Nonetheless, it has all brought me to this place, a place of healing and, as a result, helping others.

The book has assisted and touched thousands of lives, more than I ever could have dreamed or thought possible. Each month it continues to grow in new directions, amazing me at every turn. It can now be found in countless local, city, university and medical school libraries and bookstores. As well, one can find copies in a number of world-wide city and town libraries. Many teachers use the book for essay topics or various types instruction to their students as part of their lesson plan. It is also now under consideration at numerous well respected medical schools as required reading due to its unique perspective through the patient’s eyes. For all these reasons, I am filled with infinite gratitude and endless thanks.

There are no mistakes in life – events, places or people. Books come to us at the right time; we must be ready to receive the message. If you decided to read my book, thank you – I hope it resonated with your life and you found healing or meaning through it. Or perhaps just liked the story and found motivation and inspiration, as a result. If you know someone who has a struggle and could benefit from the book, please consider sharing the book or perhaps sending them a copy. I am eternally grateful for all those who have been a part of this journey, directly or indirectly. As this one year anniversary is upon me, I marvel at the possibilities the future holds. Thank you for being a part of the magik of the trail – the gratefulness in my heart is unbound, over-filled with love and gratitude. Love and light. S

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.