Remembering A Friend

This past Monday morning, I woke to the very sad and unexpected news that my friend, George Hickenlooper, had passed away. George and I knew each other from our days together at Yale. Although we were not close friends, each of us was a regular presence in the other’s life owing to fact that many of George’s friends were also friends of mine and in some cases my roommates. So back in the day, it would not have been at all unusual for me to come back to my room to find George there hanging out with guys, enjoying the leisure of college and plotting his next film project.

In truth, George and I might not have known each other had it not been for the overlap of our social circles. We were different people with divergent interests and sensibilities. But I always liked George (it was hard not to) and saw him as something of an interesting character. He was, for me, a study in contrasts and juxtapositions who always surprised me with the richness of his character.

In appearance, I remember how George often looked the part of the preppy nerd with his shirttails-out oxford button-downs and perpetually unruly hair. But he always impressed with the effortless orderliness of his intelligence and ideas.

He was also notorious for moving at his own slower pace and habitually arriving late at rendezvous -- for which he took quite a bit of goodnatured ribbing. But he never seemed to delay when it came to helping out his friends.

Never one to intentionally seek the limelight, George could even be painfully shy at times. Yet, he always seemed to garner attention, and his willingness to put himself “out there” when it came to manifesting his artistic vision was an inspiration to me and an example of what it means to truly love what you do.

By the time we were in our junior year, George had already attained a certain campus-wide reputation as a very talented film maker and was widely known and admired. Nonetheless, he always maintained the humility that was such an integral and beautiful part of his character.

Where my impressions of George have never held any contrast or juxtaposition are also what I most remember about him -- his gentleness and his kindness. He exuded a genuine warmth that was undeniable and that always made it a pleasure to engage with him.

After we graduated, George went out to LA to follow his film-making passion and I went off to Manhattan to attend law school. I only saw him a couple of times after that and for a long while didn’t really know much about him except for the random tidbit of information that someone would share or, as time went on, the increasingly frequent news story about his latest movie making efforts. Eventually, we did connect again on Facebook and every now and then would share a message or comment. Even in these brief communications, George proved to be, as always, gracious, kind and caring.

During my college years, I thankfully did not have too much experience with the death of loved ones. But many years have passed since then, and now as I live through my middle age, it is a very different story. I have lost friends, relatives, my father, my sister and my mother. I have also felt the loss of acquaintances, friends of friends, beloved pets and even of people that I never met but who in life had inspired me or touched me in some way.

When we lose someone close to us, we expect to feel deeply the pain of the loss and the disorientation of the emptiness that they leave behind. But even when the ties appear to be more tenuous, the sense of loss can be unexpectedly palpable.

I was very deeply moved by the news of George’s passing. We may not have been the closest of friends and we may not have had much contact in the past 25 years, but I felt the loss of him as if I had just seen him yesterday hanging out in my college suite.

What I have taken away from these different experiences of death is that everyone we meet on our journey from cradle to grave has an impact on us no matter how brief or insignificant the moment of contact my otherwise seem to us. And sometimes it is the fleeting contact that leaves the most lasting impression.

In the end, what matters is not really how much time we spend together or how much we know about each other. What matters is how well we’ve loved -- ourselves, each other and our life. The George I knew did all of those well.

George, a heartfelt thank you to you for having been a part of my life and for having made my life better for it.

Where There's A Will...

I recently came across this incredible video on the internet. It is of a young Chinese man that learned to play the piano after having lost both his arms in a childhood accident. How does he play piano without arms? Check it out. It's truly amazing! A wonderful reminder of what is possible when we set out minds to something as well as a testament to the resiliency and adaptability of the human form and the power of the human spirit.

The Parable of the Cracked Pot

One of the most daunting challenges of embracing a spiritual path is the willingness to accept reality as it is. Whether it is referred to as surrender, letting go, non-judgment, non-attachment or just plain acceptance, the willingness to take in the experience of life as it is (i.e. “thy will be done”) is one of the highest expressions of self-mastery and the foundation of all spiritual practice. Only through such acceptance can we quiet the mind and move beyond the polarity of our judgments of right and wrong to make contact with the fundamental goodness that is the deeper nature of all of creation.

Yet, every day of our lives, we find ourselves fighting -- in both subtle and not so subtle ways -- against life’s circumstances in a never-ending battle to cajole, negotiate, force, manipulate, coax and mold the circumstances of our lives into what we want them to be. From the fleeting annoyance of spilt milk, to the frustration of traffic that impedes our movement, to the injurious reluctance to forgive, whether it is the anger-fueled jab directed at the world around us or the more brooding seething that we inflict on ourselves, our daily lives are filled with both large and small examples of the ego’s judgments of what is right and wrong and its demands that it be “my will, NOT yours!”

While  such ego-created conflict ultimately does not serve us, it is easy to see why it happens. It is a paradox of our existence as individuals that although our consciousness forms the center of our life, life does not in fact revolve around us. As we look out on the world, our individual perspective is just one reflection in an infinite number of reflections through which the universe comes to know itself. As such, we can never truly understand the ultimate meaning of what happens in our lives or grasp the interconnectedness of all of its elements. We forget that we are only ever catching glimpses, but never “the big picture”.

But every now and then, something happens to remind us of “the big picture” and of how we don’t see everything there is to see. I recently received just such a reminder from a friend in the form of the following parable. In its simple wisdom, it made a deep impact on me and remains a reminder to me to be gentle with myself and with those with whom I come into contact.

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The Dictator and The Anarchist (The Journey to Not Blogging)

Two weeks ago, I visited The Sophianic Healing Blog out of curiosity to check exactly when I had last published a post. I knew that it had been some time since my last post given that during the prior few weeks I had been engrossed in a variety of other work-related projects. But when I finally looked at the date, I was not prepared for what I saw. There it was -- April 7, 2010. My heart sank. At that point, it was June 29, which meant that exactly 83 days had elapsed since my last posting.

I asked myself how that could have happened, as if I were just a casual, third-party observer rubber-necking as he passed by the scene of an accident. Had I really let so much time go by without realizing it? It seemed almost surreal. And yet the incontrovertible proof of a date that was 83 days in the past was staring back at me telling me otherwise.

So, what exactly did happen? This is the question that I sat down to reflect on. And reflect I did. In the process, I gleaned a few insights that I think have helped me come to a better understanding of myself. I also realized that if my intention for the blog was for it to be a more personal way of sharing and connecting with others, then my experience of what happened after launching the blog needed to be what I would write about next. If “The Journey To Blogging” was my first blog post, then “The Journey To Not Blogging” would be my latest.

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Moments of Recognition

There are many blessings that my healing work brings to me. And one of the most unexpectedly moving of these is the experience of seeing myself reflected in the stories shared by my clients.

Whether the story takes the form of an actual account told in words or an honest emotion conveyed wordlessly through the eyes, something deeply touching happens when I, as listener, recognize something of my own story -- the hopes, the yearnings, the struggles, the fears -- expressed through the essence of the other’s story. In that moment, a boundary that seemed to separate me from the other dissolves and I can’t help but feel a sense of oneness and connectedness.

These moments of recognition - of seeing ourselves reflected in the other - have a powerful ability to transform and heal us. By reminding us of our shared humanity, they draw us out of the isolation and alienation of our ego’s self-centeredness and into the richness of relatedness and of knowing that we are not alone. In the process, something in us is healed.

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The Journey To Blogging

The Journey To Blogging

As this is my first official blog post, I thought I would share a bit about how I came to create The Sophianic Healing Blog.

The creation of this blog took a very convoluted and circuitous path. It was a decidedly “two steps forward, one step back” affair with lots of side steps thrown in for the sake of procrastination and good measure.

You see, for me, just the idea of starting a blog pushed a lot of my buttons (for better and worse) and that made the process alternately exciting, frustrating, joyful and scary. In its own small way, the journey to blogging was a lot like life.

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