Monday, December 30, 2013

“Remember tonight... for it is the beginning of always”

   “Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”- Alan Watts

      Nebulae are both the starting points of stellar evolution and also the end. This is the nebula-star-nebula cycle. Stars that evolve into red giants can lose their outer layers during intense pulsations. Matter released is typically 97% hydrogen and 3% helium with a few other trace materials.  Nebulae are simply spectacular to imagine from photo's as evidenced above.(NASA). It reminds me of a perfect cosmic cotton candy cloud. It looks like a creation devised from our dreams.

     A nebula is a stunning swirling cloud in outer space, formed when portions of the interstellar medium collapse and collide together due to the gravitational attraction of the comprised particles. Out of chaos, magnificent order is formed. There is so much to discover in the universe and our own world we will never know all that exists. In one limited lifetime we may study or experience a mere teeny tiny fraction of our immense galaxy. Many philosophers and scholars have deeply contemplated the universe existing inside each and every one of us. Perhaps we are the beginning and ending of our own star cycles.

     There is so much beauty we overlook in the busyness of our daily lives. With all of our obligations and commitments we may forget to look up at the stars on occasion. Make the coming year an opportunity to slow down and observe. Allow yourself time to absorb and appreciate the many fascinating sights and sounds that surround you. May you make a resolution to tell your family how much you LOVE them all! Thank you.

 The brilliant English philosopher, Alan Watts once professed he "owed his solitude to other people". And without a doubt. So do I.   With Love & Peace Always.  Happy New Year


Thursday, December 26, 2013

"We don't laugh because we're happy, we're happy because we laugh."

Ron Burgundy: Brick, can you hear me?
Brick Tamland: I can’t hear you, Ron.
Ron Burgundy: You’re answering so I think you can hear me.
Brick Tamland: No, I can’t.

   Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. 
   Sitting in a movie theater surrounded by loved ones or even complete strangers who are genuinely
   enjoying themselves is such a captivating and contagious experience. Ultimately, our moods determine our quality of life. Laughter has the power to change our mood in mere moments by releasing chemicals from the brain called endorphins. When we're in a cheerful  mood it's passed on to others through out the day. Have you ever really thought what moods and emotions you're passing on to others? When you become conscious of how your smile and laughter effects the behavior of others, why wouldn't you want to do it more?  We all have the ability to share our happiness with others, directly or indirectly. Think of having a sense of humor as a gift we offer to take the edge off a tense moment or lighten the mood. Unwrap the gift of laughter in your life by watching funny movies, listening to your favorite comedians,  watching Comedy Central or visiting websites such as Funny or Die, Awkward Family Photo's or The  In a letter to his daughter Charlie Chaplain was said to have written, "a day without laughter is a day wasted." Don't waste any more time being unhappy in your life.

                                         "I don't trust anyone who doesn't laugh."
                                                                     ― Maya Angelou

 Even if we think we are too busy to laugh, think again. In today's tough competitive business world team building is essential. Group laughter can create a happy and motivated workforce which includes the element of strong team building.
 Have you ever worked for a boss without a sense of humor? Do your associates take themselves too seriously? People without an ability to laugh at themselves or see humor in the mundane,
 seem like emotional vampires that drain you of your energy. It may seem obvious but many companies are still out of touch with scientifically proven data linking human productivity and stress levels. Have you ever heard of Laughter Yoga? Laughter helps us face challenges whether at work or at home. In times of great difficulty, it's not easy to remain calm. Utilizing the essence of Laughter Yoga and its calming characteristics, we can learn to handle any situation effectively without losing  composure. Keeping a positive mental attitude allows us to cope with negative situations and deal with difficult people without absorbing their negative energy and attitudes ourselves. Read more at
 Laughter Yoga is a clinically proven technique to reduce stress in any work environment from stockroom to newsroom. Scientific research has shown that the brain needs 25% more oxygen than your other organs for optimal functioning. 25%!! Laughter increases oxygen which in turn increases optimal functioning. After watching a hilarious film or having a great belly laugh we feel refreshed and energized. Now don't forget to share that good feeling with others. Why not take a friend to see Anchorman 2 ?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

          One of many favorite scenes in the legendary holiday movie, A Christmas Story is when an elated nine year old, Ralphie Parker rubs sleep from his eyes after rising Christmas morning, slides open his bedroom window and in pure awestruck amazement peers out across his snow sugared neighborhood. "Wow!", the only word of wonder falls breathlessly from Ralphie's lips as he looks out in all directions. "Wow!"  That particular scene was actually filmed in 1983, not far from my hometown on the shores of Lake Erie. Today, you can tour the Christmas Story house and museum year 'round in Cleveland, OH. Even though the area is famous for blizzards and lake effect snow, the Christmas morning footage took a film crew over twelve hours to recreate the beautiful winter scene with ice machines.
     Children of all ages who have grown up adoring A Christmas Story's 24 hour television rotation never tire of reciting every line and savoring every classic quote. How many of us have to repeat the word "fragile" as "frag-geel lay" out loud every time we see it printed on a box or crate?. Thanks to genius author Jean Shepard, my childhood and a few of my siblings holidays were joyously punctuated with the anticipation of "What I Want for Christmas "theme writing (see video above), pink nightmare bunny suits, double-dawg dares, the glow of electric sex in the window and snowball sandwiches.

       How many of us reminisce when snow days meant playful hours frolicking in an enchanted winter wonderland rather than an inconvenience we have to shovel off walkways and scrape off car windshields before driving cautiously to work like the Grinch's we've become? It's not what you look at its what you see.
      As we grow older it's easy to lose our excitement and fascination. As adults our own intellect and arrogance allows us to falsely believe we know about every one and every thing instead of trusting our intuition to just ....believe. We cut off our own curiosity and creativity. It's imperative that we nurture our own inner nine year olds especially if we want to maintain a heart of appreciation and a wide eyed sense of wonder. When was the last time you were awe struck by nature or felt deeply connected to the beauty of the world?  When was the last time you were silenced by emotion or felt the wisdom of the mysterious?  Be grateful for the gifts you have right now. Be grateful for the beauty and richness of this moment. Being present is the greatest present you will ever give or receive.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

" knock on the sky and listen to the sound..."

 "Each celestial body, in fact each and every atom, produces a particular sound on account of its movement, its rhythm or vibration. All these sounds and vibrations form a universal harmony in which each element, while having it’s own function and character, contributes to the whole."
Pythagoras (569-475 BC)

        How many of us can name a Christmas or holiday song containing the word "bell"?  Have you ever wondered what the significance of bells and chimes mean in religious and spiritual ceremonies? The distinct ring of a bell resonates throughout space in all directions. Bells of churches call the masses together, signal warning, announce events or a time of mourning. Bells symbolize beginnings and endings.  A few religious practices use bells to ward off evil spirits and demons. Most commonly bell tones are used to purify and heal. The actual study of bells is called campanology.

       Bells seem to have a multitude of meanings and purposes and can be all different sizes, producing a multitude of tones. Bells can be made from ceramic or glass, metal and brass and some of the most popular this time of year are Sleigh Bells, Carol of the BellsSilver Bells and Jingle Bells.
       Scientists have long theorized that the universe is ringing with the sound of countless cosmic bells. These sound waves fill the emptiness of space with ripples like the surface of a pond pounded by stones. Sensitive instruments have allowed astronomers to derive and interpret the sounds of silence. The sound is deep and there is a simple reason the primordial sound is so deep, the Universe is gigantic!  Objects that vibrate more slowly have a deeper pitch. In a young universe, the size of the regions vibrating are many thousands of light years across so their vibrations are exceedingly slow.  Virtually everything on Earth is vibrating.
     Now imagine a bell resonating with a low deep tone. You can hear it in your ears, feel it in your mind and body.  In the universe the number of sound waves passing our ear per second or the sound frequency gives the sound its pitch which is about 50 octaves below our audible range.
      Plato, one of the deepest thinkers of our own universe and greatest philosophers of humankind stated  “Harmony sinks deep into the recesses of the soul and takes its strongest hold there, bringing grace also to the body and mind as well. Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order…"

                  .......and the musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart once wrote,
“The wonders of the music of the future will be of a higher and wider scale and will introduce many sounds that the human ear is now incapable of hearing. Among these new sounds will be the glorious music of angelic chorales. As men hear these they will cease to consider Angels as figments of their imagination.”
      So sound breathing life into everything does give a soul to the universe, " wings to the mind". In the essence of order on our beautiful flight maybe every time a bell rings an angel really does get its wings.




Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with you....."

Can be achieved
When the power of love
The love of power." -Sri Chinmoy

     According to Hollywood television lore if rock star David Bowie hadn't professed his hatred for the song Little Drummer Boy, the performance of Peace on Earth would never have been created. Apparently, a mere hour or so before Bowie was scheduled to sing the now famous duet with legendary crooner, Bing Crosby on Crosby's 1977 Christmas program, writers scrambled to assemble a contemporary composition Bowie felt would showcase his range. In the end both vocalists were appeased and the result is the strangely beautiful but classic melody melding of generations. Also featured (follow the link)  is the equally brilliant rendition of  Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly for the website Funny or Die. (both versions are a personal and family favorite)

What are the top five most beloved Christmas songs of all time? Lists vary from source, website and family but below are five of the most consistently requested around the country and the world.

                5.  I'll Be Home for Christmas- Frank Sinatra

                          4. The Most Wonderful Time- Andy Williams version

3. A Christmas Song- Nat King Cole

2. Feliz Navidad- Jose Feliciano

1. White Christmas- Bing Crosby

Monday, December 9, 2013

"When you've made your secret journey. You will find the love you miss."

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass     

     Once during my elementary school years I relentlessly begged my parents to buy me the Police's album Ghost in the Machine. The first time "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" came on the radio, my love affair with Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland began. Seldom if ever being a demanding child my parents thankfully relented and the album became a Christmas/ early birthday gift. Along with my first drum set and a brand new pair of skates, listening to the album over and over has been a vivid, beloved childhood memory. You could say the intense fascination with the Police and wanting a drum set was comparable to Ralphie Parker's overwhelming mission for a Red Ryder BB gun in the movie A Christmas Story.
     The album features the songs, " Invisible Sun", "One World", "Demolition Man" and " Spirit's in the Material World". The title, Ghost in the Machine was inspired by the book of the same name written by Hungarian-British journalist, Arthur Koestler. Many years later I purchased the CD and  Ghost in the Machine along with the Police's incomparable anthology and most of my early music history is safely stored on an iPod.
     Another powerful track from Ghost in the Machine is featured in the video above called "Secret Journey". The footage for the video was taken from the 1992 documentary film Baraka-A World Beyond Words directed by visionary artist Ron Fricke (Samsara -2011). The entire film is an incredible photographic journey of human life and religious ceremony. Although the song" Secret Journey" isn't featured in the film the images and music created for the video above complement and enhance a surreal experience.
       Sting called " Secret Journey" -" a quasi-mystical song. You have to do something, go somewhere, to get outside yourself. I read the book "Meetings with Remarkable Men"(G.I Gurdieff)  which says you have to make a journey. It doesn't have to be a real journey, it can be a mental
         During the holidays, it's especially easy to become nostalgic or fondly reminisce of "better days".  Although we do adhere to traditions of the past we should also recognize and respect change. It's human nature to adapt and aspire, to take on challenges and study new ideas. So instead of lingering too long on Memory Lane feeling regretful or sad, recall all of the difficult twists and turns you've survived on your own unique path. Remind yourself of the knowledge, courage and strength you've gained. No one else has or ever will travel that road for you. Honor it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams."

“The greatest glory in living
lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.”
― Nelson Mandela

One of my fellow writers posted an article on our social network about the truly amazing 109 year old pianist, Alice Herz Sommer. Immediately, it moved me to tears and set the tone for my entire writing and research day. Ms. Herz Sommer  is not only the oldest pianist in the world but the oldest Nazi Holocaust survivor. The video above is taken from the documentary of her inspirational story,  The Lady in Number 6 by Oscar winning filmmaker Malcolm Clark.

 Alice was born in 1903 and grew up in a loving, cultured family which was part of the German-speaking Czech-Jewish assimilated society. Alice's mother had been a childhood friend of Gustav Mahler and incredibly enough, Alice herself was playmates with writer Franz Kafka. Soon her enchanted secure world of writers, composers and artists would be destroyed by the Holocaust. As a child Alice grew up in a society that revered art, artists and great literature. It was a world where a concert, opera or book review made front page news in major newspapers. (Source:
       Alice suffered as no human being should ever have to suffer as she witnessed both her mother and her husband put aboard the trains to Auschwitz. During the filming of the documentary it was reported that she spoke of those times with an absence of hatred or malice, a quiet grace won the hearts of all who came in contact with her. Alice believed and still believes today that hatred only eats away at the soul.
     Along with her six-year-old son, Raphael, Alice was imprisoned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. It is stated that her most haunting memories were her feelings of helplessness and the inability to feed her child. Her son had so many questions about why they were at the camp and why so many people were being subjected to the indescribable nightmare of the Holocaust. Questions she and so many others are still unable to answer. Why?  Her strength and resilience was sustained by the depth of her sincere love of playing and listening to music.
And it’s from music that Alice derives her supreme optimism,
     “I have lived through many wars and have lost everything many times – including my husband, my mother and my beloved son. Yet, life is beautiful, and I have so much to learn and enjoy. I have no space nor time for pessimism and hate.”



Monday, December 2, 2013

“If we kill off the wild, then we are killing a part of our souls.”

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

      The US Department of State has declared December 4th, Wildlife Conservation Day and is calling out to individuals across the entire world to support threatened species by signing up for a Wildlife Pledge.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  has embraced the initiative given the recent dramatic escalation in poaching of numerous animals. Illegal poaching is compromising decades-long efforts towards the conservation and sustainable use of wild species. Poaching and crimes against wildlife are deadly serious. In the past fifty years alone there has been a significant rise in the numbers of endangered animals including rhino's, tigers and elephants.  Notably, the Western Black African Rhino was declared extinct a few months ago.

     What can you do right now?

     Push for all governments to protect threatened animal populations.

     Call for increased law enforcement.
     Impose strict deterrents to reduce demand for endangered species products and make sure your  own country honors international commitments. Take action now by asking Congress to support legislation which will crack down on wildlife trafficking and enact a moratorium on ivory trade in the US.   More than 30,000 elephants were slaughtered last year for their tusks and many of those tusks will end up in the US, in the form of carvings and small trinkets or jewelry. You have the power to make a difference.     

     Please, speak up on behalf of those on the front lines being threatened by dangerous armed poachers and ensure those protecting wildlife are properly trained, equipped and compensated for putting their lives at risk.

   Ask questions. Reduce demand for illegal wildlife parts and products now. Encourage others to ask questions and get the facts before buying any wildlife or plant product.

      Included above is part two of Poaching Wars, the thought provoking, eye-opening documentary produced and narrated by British actor, activist Tom Hardy. Warning: The video does contain graphic and disturbing images. The issue of wildlife crime should never be sugar coated or dismissed as something happening" far away" or "over there". Illegal poaching and the destruction of our wildlife systems affects all of humanity. For just as Mahatma Gandhi poignantly stated over fifty years ago,

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”