Minnesota

I wonder if I will ever really run out of ideas or topics to write about. It does seem as long as I am alive ideas will come to mind. I like this idea of living in the now to “find out”. I have a whole slew of mantras I say in the morning and evening as reminders all pointing to the moment: what is life asking of me now; If death alone is certain and time of death certain what should I do now; Yes to this moment; I vow to meet others on equal ground; Freedom is knowing I can go to a different window to experience and respond to life; Am I at ease and the last one – Let’s find out!

All of these are different ways of practice and bringing me back to the now. I wonder how many times per day I am brought back to it and how much I live in my thoughts without even realizing it? Each one of these sayings may point to the now, but offer up a practice in a slightly different manner.

What is life asking of me now? That is a question I sit with and being present the answer comes in time in that moment of readiness. The answer comes.

If death alone is certain, time of death uncertain, what should I do now? I am reminded of the word squander in this passage. Death is inevitable and we don’t know when that will be, so why allow oneself to get caught up in the pettiness of life, the self created dramas, emotional entanglements, and other things that we use to squander our life. I do, but far less it seems. Yes to this moment.

When I get an extreme feeling of emotion of some kind, one in which may just be a natural occurrence or one in which is self created, either way, Yes to this moment informs me to breathe, and is a reminder that just like when I am sitting in meditation observing this phenomenon to simply let it happen, don’t grasp and let it pass. And inevitably it does.

During those times that it is an all day event, I say these over and over which is very much in line with Buddhist mantras reminding us that there are things that can be changed and others that happen outside of our grasping.

Is there ease? I have not used this much, but like all of these I know that there will come a time in which I will need this saying for my practice. Is there ease? A question that signals me to search within to determine where there is dis-ease, or suffering. And I may ask the question after that, What is life asking of me now to figure out the cause of the dis-ease. Maybe I am holding on to something or creating drama. Whatever the cause, scanning for dis-ease and asking the question are the practice.

The newest “Let’s find out!” I put an exclamation point after because I am excited and passionate about life. This saying reminds me that there is no need to have expectations. Expectations are a sure fire setup for suffering. Because most likely nothing comes the way we exactly envision. And also that takes us out of the moment and into the future.

Living in either places future or past creates a fertile ground for suffering. Let’s find out is about living in the moment, be in the journey and what’s there later is out of our grasp. It also has an implication of wonderment and curiosity. I awaken in the morning. Whereas many dread the day or get right into their thinking and plans, I prefer to sit, get into the moment and then with a sense of vigor greet the day with a let’s see what’s in store attitude. The same goes with writing, life plans and goals. It is in the doing, that “first foot forward” that will inevitably lead us somewhere.

We may have a sense, but it is never exactly what we envision.

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I coined a phrase, the “Star Wars Principle.” I googled it and nobody has used the phrase. Sure I know what you are thinking, some obsessed fan. Well truth be told, I am not a fan and in fact I have only seen the first three. The reason why I came up with this phrase is because I have been pondering for quite some time the idea of the phrase made famous by the franchise – “the force.” In my humble opinion this is nothing more than an embellishment of a simple concept for the sake of drama and the continued storylines. Don’t get me wrong I think the earlier stories were brilliant, however over time it has become convoluted and contrived.

In real life, the force is nothing more than an understanding of how to shape the moment. In order to be able to have the skill to call forth the force one needs to be present and have a keen understanding of how human character, including one’s own works. This is not an easy undertaking. It calls for one to practice some form of meditation for long periods of time, in addition to studying character and mind. This then gives a sense of clarity to determine what you need to do to get out of your own way in order to be present enough to have the skill to shape the moment.

This force is really something that we all have the ability to do, but do not because we go about our day on autopilot not living in the moment. When someone does realize they have this ability and use the “force,” the other person is unaware on a conscious moment-to-moment level that something is happening. As is clearly stated in the Star Wars films, with this ability comes responsibility not to abuse the powers that have been cultivated, and in fact work to helping others to achieve it. This is very much in line with Buddhist vows that “beings are numberless I vow to save them.”

At this point it all sounds so esoteric, which is why the Star Wars storylines about the force is so brilliant. They have taken this concept and turned it into a tangible form for entertainment. But this force can be used in very simple day-to-day ways. One such example is working a room. When working a room full of people it begins the moment the moment you step through the door way or onto the stage or any other place that one encounters a group. It starts with how you see the moment, how you connect with others, how you let the nervousness and habits fall away to make room for the moment so that you can see with utmost clarity and subtlety. What you say and how you say it is never the same, because if you are truly in the moment, you will shape how you say what you want to say consciously. And what you might have planned on saying is not what is being called for in the moment.

This still may be unclear. Let’s try another tact – the individual and a handshake. The moment you shake a hand or greet someone, that moment it is in your hands (pun intended) to be able to shape how you want it to go. Ironically, it is a difficult thing to do while at the same time simple because all you need to decide is how you want to convey that moment and occurring moments afterward. I used to say that when I was living in NYC and dating I could tell just from the introduction, usually a handshake with a woman how the date would go. If it felt masculine or hard, then it was something that would not go beyond one date or in some cases cut short.

Also it is not just a one-way street, rather it goes both ways. What I mean by that is that one must also make room for the other person’s feeling and experience knowing that they too are playing a part in the shaping. There is a sense of responsibility to shape it, which is being open to the moment between the other, not just from one side. Controlling comes when other people are not taken into account and just comes from one side. There is no room for the other person to move within the moment to be shaped. Control has sharper edges and far less malleable. Shape has soft softer rounder edges and moves with the moment on an organic level.

I am reminded of this during an acting exercise back in my days in NYC. We each had to stand up say the line, “to be or not to be, that is the question” multiple times. And each time it had to be different, because no two moments are ever the same. We had to feel out the moments based on simple movements like taking a step or raising a hand up while we spoke the lines. This is nothing more than the force, shaping and being present with each moment.

May the force be with you all.   

I rarely get nightmares. Come to think of it I don’t dream very often either. I wonder why that is? I like to think that dreams and nightmares are our psyche’s way of working stuff out on the inside, and what we experience when it hits our consciousness are the stories we see while we sleep. I am not sure and I don’t think anyone is 100% sure of this. If it has in fact been proven to be true, then because I have not had dreams of any kind in over five years, I must have it all figured out.

Now that in and of itself is a scary thought. Can you imagine having it all figured out by age fifty-four? Then what do you do? I mean after you have all the answers what do you do with your life from that point on? Walk around as if you have all the answers? What fun would that be? Really what would be the point of going on living? Now don’t worry, this is not some kind of suicide note, just because I wrote “I got it all figured out,” and “What’s the point of going on living.” I have far too much to live for and love life. Besides that, I did have a nightmare.

I will say the nightmare was scary. So scary that when I started to tell the story to my nine-year old son the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Describing it to him, I conjured up the image of my childhood home where the story took place. He picked up on the vibe of fear and started to feel the impact of the nightmare and became scared. So much so that when asked by his Mom to go to his room to get dressed for soccer practice, he refused. That is a testament to the strength of this nightmare or my storytelling ability or both.

I must confess that I have not gone into grave details yet about the nightmare for fear of raising the hairs on my neck again. I cannot promise that it will be all that scary to you because it originated in my subconscious and not yours, Anyway, I will try my best. And yet still I hesitate, frozen in fear. Ok, not really, but hesitant, that’s for sure. Okay now here we go.

I am the same age I am now and find myself in my childhood home, a small postwar 3-story home in a middle class suburb of Minneapolis. Built for a family of three we were a family of five – Mom, Dad and three boys. As we got older the house felt more and more cramped. The reason, there were only three bedrooms – two on the first-floor and one in the attic. The attic was where the three of us slept for the first ten years of our lives. It was an interesting place. The sharp angled ceiling thanks to the V shaped roof made for a peculiar feeling. The L shaped room ran the length of the home and yet large enough to accommodate the three of us – a bunk bed for my younger brothers and a single for me. Windows on both ends of the room allowed for both morning and afternoon light, which made it bright and cheery throughout the day. I am not quite sure who chose the carpeting, but it was a small block shaped pattern blue tone color. It was an odd combination when contrasted against the typical 1970s light wood paneled walls. It did add an overall pleasantness to the unique space. And then there were the four doors that opened into the rarely used storage spaces. These tiny rooms when opened emanated nothing but blackness. At the time, our imaginations went wild whenever we opened them thinking ghost or goblins resided behind the doors. We dared one another to go in and stay as long as possible with the doors shut. I do not recall anyone ever going over the one-minute mark. When reaching our fright threshold we signaled to one another with a loud scream when it was time to open the door. I remember that all-encompassing feeling of dread once the doors shut. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. It was comforting that I could still hear brothers voices, but not enough so to make it past one-minute. To this day I do not know if it was our imaginations or there was some unseen entity lurking behind the doors. This is why I believe my nightmare had such an impact. Well that and the storage space at the top of the stairs was the scariest of them all. I cannot speak for my brothers, but this particular space’s creepiness factor was off the charts. Whenever I had to open those doors to put something in storage I would get so spooked and threw whatever it was slamming the door as quickly as possible.

I will continue from this point on with my horrific ordeal that took place while I slept. I stand before the bedroom door with a cardboard box in hand. I open the door and start to walk up the stairs leading to the bedrooms and storage space reaching the top without incident.  As I closed in on the storage space door fear began to seep in. I am not sure if it was my childhood memory causing this or something real lurking behind the door. All I know is the objective is to put this box in storage. Reluctantly opening the door, at first glance I see nothing but darkness. As my eyes adjusted I could make out a blue quilted blanket lying on the ground in the shape of a body. I shrug that off as my mind playing tricks.

Because the storage space is small the entrance is as well. Now that I am an adult I have to get down on my knees and wiggle my way in so I don’t hit my head. I’m on my knees breeching the threshold where darkness meets light. I just need to get myself in about a half a foot. Once there I can put drop the box, get out, shut the door and be done with it. Just as I am about to put the box down, the blanket in front of me moves ever so slightly. “It’s my imagination again,” I say out loud. As I move to put the box down, the blanket is whipped off on its own accord in a violent manner revealing within inches of my face the face of a decomposing corpse. Blood oozing from the white cranium like hot lava from a volcano only to be sidetracked by dark patches of greasy hair. The face was pus white contrasted by the surrounding blackness. The piercing deep black lifeless eyes revealed the true nature of this evil entity. I know in that moment, had I locked eyes I would have surely lost the stare down and my soul. With no time to waste I dropped the box, slammed the door hitting my head and screaming out in pain and fear.

The moment I stood up and backed away from grisly ghoul was the moment I found myself standing at the foot of the stairs again with the cardboard box in hand and no memory of what had just happened. I began my journey again walking the stairs to the storage space. Again I opened the door, and before opening the door I had that same dreadful feeling blaming it on my childhood. Opening the door I saw the very same blanket in the shape of a body. And like the first time the blanket whipped open revealing the same evil entity. And just like the first time I backed away in fear slamming the door shut, hitting my head, screaming and finding myself at the foot of stairs yet again with the same cardboard box. This continued over and over becoming a twisted horror version of Groundhog Day. That is in and of itself the real nightmare. Can you imagine having to relive that level of fear and evil over and over again for the rest of your life? No strike that there is no rest of your life in this scenario – it just continues ad infinitum.

Fortunately, it was my nightmare and my eighty-year old bladder residing in a 54 year old body saved the day by signaling to my brain it was time to relieve myself now or risk wetting the bed. And I don’t want to relive that childhood nightmare again.


I was out for an early morning run around our local park the other day located in a sleepy suburban town on the outskirts of Tokyo. Early morning runs are the best! I get the park all to myself, it’s peaceful and mid February temperatures have a slight nip in the air, which reminds me of Minnesota. After fifteen minutes of warming up, I kick into gear, not that high of a gear, just a notch faster than my warm up. When I hit my stride thoughts floating around my head ratchet up as well. Usually I do not grab them. Most are just trivial and related to politics, resentments or plans for the day. If I am in the midst of working on my book, ideas tend to float in. On this occasion it was none of the above. Having breached my 50s a while ago and weathered the mid-life confrontation, I still get the occasional residuals. On this particular morning what hit me was the word – mortality.

How many of you think of your own mortality? That inevitable truth we cannot escape. You can be the richest man in the world, what’s his name that owns Amazon? He will die. You can be the most famous actor or actress in the world and you know what, they will die. The president of the US will die. In short we all will die. How many have even said these words? – I will die someday. This does not have to be morbid in any way, it just is. Knowing this truism I choose to live my life like I may die today. What the heck does that mean? Or maybe you’ve heard that before. I certainly did not coin the phrase, but I do on a regular basis try to live that way. How I interpret the phrase “Live like you’ll die today,” or I believe another way of saying it is, “Live like it’s your last day,” is that I try not to get caught up in the pettiness of life, treat everything with at least a modicum of love and respect for everyone and everything and take risks. I am not perfect at it and I know I never will be, but I try.

For those results oriented people, what is the payoff of admitting one’s inevitable extinction?  It’s peace, serenity, clarity, joy, lightheartedness, compassion and love. The list of positives goes on and on and on. Really, I find it comforting knowing there will be an end and that I get to live my life on this planet in the best possible way.

I do want to add one caveat, and that is this is coming from someone who is in his 50s and well over the halfway mark. So it does seem to make sense that this whole notion of the inevitable has planted roots in my psyche. If there were only a way to teach those under the halfway mark the concept of mortality. I wonder how it would affect our world?


Bodies strewn about writhing in pain, with blood splatter canvasing the ice like a Jackson Pollock painting, ladies and gentleman it’s broomball!

Once a week from Japan I Skype a family member in Minneapolis to say hi and see what’s up. The first topic of conversation is always the weather. Lately it has been about how much snow there is in Minnesota – a lot! After a recent call I started reminiscing about Minnesota winters and how much I miss them. Winter exists in Japan and I go skiing twice a year with family, we just have to get in a car, bus or train for a few hours to reach it. What I miss most is the easy access to winter sports such as cross country skiing, hockey and my favorite, broomball. Ask anyone who has never experienced life in a winter wonderland what broomball is and 100% will be clueless.

To the untrained eye broomball looks like a trailer trash form of hockey in which participants unable to afford to buy the necessary equipment like skates, hockey sticks and a puck opted for dumpster diving and came up with brooms, old winter boots and a volleyball. This is not the case. In fact broomball is a legitimate sport with teams, leagues and tournaments. There are commonalities with hockey such as six players to a side, an ice rink and goals. Other than that it’s a game all its own.

Made with rubber soles, the boots do not mix well with ice causing extreme slippage adding to the danger factor. The lethal combination of rubber soles and a lack of head protection increase the chance of a noggin cracking. The broom is the centerpiece of equipment and used to bash the volleyball. The object of the game is simple, put the ball into the opposing team’s goal. This is not an easy task due to the slick ice and the opposing team trying to slam you into the boards. Like passing a hockey puck, passing the ball to a teammate is next to an impossible task.

This game is about timing and team members overshooting their position sliding past an incoming pass is common. With skates you can stop on a dime thanks to the sharp edges. Boots offer no stopping power whatsoever. Besides timing, it comes down to speed, balance and an understanding of physics. I failed out of physics in college and ended up relying on my speed, which explains why I nearly always overshot my mark.

Like Usain Bolt in the 100 meters, at the ready in my starting position at one end of the rink hoping this time physics and gravity work in my favor, my starter pistol is a teammate screaming at the top of his lungs “Unleash the fury!” At that moment I start my dash gathering speed as I go from one end of the rink to the other with an aspiration to remain on my feet for the duration before getting the pass. Receiving the pass just as I reach top speed, shooting and scoring was a rare occasion. Most of the time the ball would end up behind me and at bone breaking speed I would crash into the boards surrounding the rink injuring my shoulder and pride, or the next best thing run headlong into the opposing team knocking them down like a set of bowling pins. Whenever that happened spectators would yell out in unison STRIKE!

Hockey fans go to games to cheer on their favorite team, but we all know the real reason is to see fights. Fighting is the highlight. Hockey fights are barbaric and brutal in which tempers flare at the slightest infraction. Loyal broomball fans of course support their teams, but what really puts butts in the seats is the promise of seeing cracked skulls. To the tried and true, it doesn’t matter win or lose the rallying cry of both teams is the same – “Victory is ours only when enough blood is spilt!”

Weary and woozy from a well fought battle and concussions, we enter our local watering hole to glorious applause knowing we did our best for our diehard fans and Jackson – leaving enough blood for his next masterpiece.