Message In a Bottle – Part One

Dear Friends,

At this moment I am sitting on a palm-fringed beach in Koh Tao, a small island on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand. It is 5:45pm and Mother Nature is exhibiting her magnificence, spreading an array of red and orange hues across the sky as a tangerine sun melts into the horizon. In the foreground, colorful long-tail, wooden boats sway in turquoise water as white foamy waves lap at my feet. Please help me, it is miserable here.

I do not carry a thermometer when traveling, because it takes up too much room in a suitcase, but I would venture to say the water here is 87 degrees. This is not a random guess. Eighty-seven is a temperature I’m very familiar with from childhood. I spent many hours swimming in our eighty-seven-degree pool in the suburbs of Philadelphia. That was the temperature my father declared as absolutely perfect. Anything above it was too warm in the heat of the day, and anything below eighty-seven made for less enjoyable night swims. So, there you have it; a bit more insight to my rough and tumble childhood in the burbs, and a tad more confidence in my assertion that the water here in Koh Tao is eighty-seven degrees. Okay, maybe it’s 86, but no colder. It’s certainly warm enough to walk in neck deep without having to dive under. In other words, it’s delightfully warm. Shall I go on about the water? Perhaps at this point you are thinking, “Is Neil going to share anything of value in this email? He’s been gone for months and all he can ramble on about is the friggin water temperature. Do you have anything worthy to say, Neil?”

Reasonable questions, I assure you, but I have no answer as of yet. Perhaps the reason for this correspondence will reveal itself as we meander on. Or as I meander on. For all I know you will have lost patience by now and move on to the next matter at hand. Something productive, not an incoherent communication from your friend who seems to have nothing but time on his hands. 

Ah yes, time. The one precious commodity we give away so easily. We hold on to our watches, cars and jobs but we give away our time as if it is an infinite resource. So for now, I am savoring my time, cherishing it. I am embracing nature’s perfection, fully present to this gift, this joyous life. Perhaps, if there is anything at all missing at this moment, it is having you next to me and seeing your smile. This, my friends, is probably the purpose of the email and why you are receiving it…To let you know that it would be nice to share this hour with you. To let you know that I am thinking of you, right this moment, while I am halfway around our earth, verifying for all of us that it is, in fact, round. And that the water in Koh Tao is eighty-seven-degrees.

No More Shopping Carts

I had a bunch of groceries that I wasn’t going to eat, so I packed them up, got in my car, and found a homeless person on Rose Avenue in Venice. 

It did not take long.

It is easy to find people without homes…

They live on the outside.

This particular middle-aged man, about my age, was pushing a shopping cart down the street. 

It was overflowing with all of life’s luxuries; a few blankets, a tent, and some other indiscernible objects. 

I lowered my window and asked if he wanted some food.

Sure, he said. That would be great.

So, I put the car in park, got out, and handed him the bag. 

It was not lost on me that it was a Whole Foods bag, and this man would now be walking with groceries that totaled more than the entire contents of his shopping cart.

We looked at each other, and he thanked me. “God bless you.”

His large brown eyes conveyed warmth and sincerity.

He was present and gentle.

If I had met him at a business meeting, I would have wanted to strike up a conversation.

God bless you too, I offered.

We shared a knowing smile.

I see you.

As I drove off, I thought…

We may be born equal, but it does not stay that way for long.  

Why did I get a good family and opportunities?

Why does he get a shopping cart?

I usually avoid this train of thought because I know where it goes.

It leads to non-duality.

To see all of us as One.

And that leads to a place where we can no longer ignore Others.

Because we feel the connection.

And what good comes of that?

Do I invite him into my house?

Do I give him my clothes?

What about everyone else living on the outside?

Where does it stop?

Where do we draw the line with our compassion?
How giving can we allow ourselves to become?

Those who live with nothing do not live in fear of giving away what they have.

That is what we, who have so much more, need to reconcile.

And when we do,

When we finally have the courage to be fully human,

There will be no more houses built out of shopping carts.

On The Road To Nowhere, and Enjoying The Ride

The Bergen train that runs from Oslo to Bergen does not live up to its claim of being one of the most beautiful train routes in Europe. Nor, for that matter, does the Fram Railway, billed as one of the greatest train rides in the world. While the Fram is certainly a technological feat, maneuvering through twenty miles of rugged mountain terrain while descending from 200 meters to sea level, it ultimately feels like a tourist attraction akin to a Disney ride in the Norwegian Fjords, complete with souvenir shops, tour busses and the crowds that come with them.

Thus, thoroughly underwhelmed and still having hours to go, I settled into an attitude of acquiescence. Instead of moving from side to side on the train in search of that elusive photo, I simply allowed the gentle rumble of the tracks to lull me to a calm state of just being present. Now and again, I would look around, or begin to read my book, but for the most part I was simply happy to be right there, in the moment.

Eventually it occurred to me that this is the true magic of train rides. And while marketing whiz kids may have done their job selling tickets to the Fram Railway, it is my belief they have missed the mark. 

Social media will eventually spread word that the views on the Fram Railway are not much better than what you can find in national parks in the U.S., or many other destinations around the world. Travelers do not need to build in extra days to take in the scenery of these routes. Instead, advertisers and marketers would be well served to point out the real virtues of taking the train…

The value is the ride itself. To sit back and truly enter the present moment. To watch as this incredible land rolls past is one of life’s true simple pleasures, and everyone owes it to themself to try it at least once. That is not to say that Norway doesn’t have the advantage of picturesque scenery that goes on and on without end. It does. Beyond every turn, as the train emerges from yet another tunnel, a new view emerges. Another mountain or Fjord with small houses dotting the verdant green grass of the valley. Sheep congregate and the calm river reflects the entire scene. But if you can’t get to Norway or somewhere exotic, fret not. Find a ride, any ride. The cheapest ride possible. Then sit back, relax and let the world pass you by and feel once again that time is on your side.

How To Mend a Broken Heart

Al Green asked, “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” 

I have an answer. 

Let it ache, I say. 

Drown me in the sorrow of this life. 
Leave me to mourn the loss of my father. 
And touch the pain of my severed marriage. 
I want to hear the loneliness of a house where children have grown and gone. 

I want to touch it all. 

The laughter
The pain
This human experience
The full catastrophe.

A broken heart may leave me gasping for air
Yet breath itself
Is the magical elixir.

I rise up
A new day
Behold the magnificence of this life
Tears of joy run down my face. 

What a gift to be alive!

Tears of Joy and Sorrow

I looked up at the moon tonight.

It was shining so bright, there were no stars.

Where are we, I wondered?

Planet earth.

The Milky Way Galaxy.

What is this life?

Earth is spinning on its axis, rotating around the sun.

Gravity holds everything down.

Behold this human experience.

And, what do we know about Love?

We have holy bibles.

Poems from sages.

There is wisdom and learning for those who seek it.

There is a Buddhist path to freedom.

A multitude of Holy Bibles.

All preaching and teaching love.

Still, we are here.

With all of our technology and progress.

Crypto and NFT’s.

And more than 100,000 Russian troops amassed at the Ukrainian border.

Are we sleepwalking into World War Three?

I look up at the moon tonight.

Tears of joy and sorrow.

Filled with awe and wonder.

The inconceivable reality of our existence.

The magic.

The mystery.

And astonishment…

That despite all we know,

We still do not know how to love.

I will look again tomorrow.

jeen-yuhs: a delirium wrap

I watched the Kanye trilogy

Was feeling inspired

Still I was tired.

Been in bed two days straight

My body is weak

It’s been a long week

I can hardly think

Let alone speak.

Stuffy nose and congestion

Eyes red and puffy

What else should I mention?

Oh yeah, I’m down

Not just in bed

But knocked off the crown.

For so long I was king

From other’s perception

Now unemployed

Cause I changed the direction.

Have nowhere to go

Don’t know which way is home.

I lay here in bed

The career seems dead

Guess You could say

There’s a good bit of dread.

But I don’t.

I don’t feel depressed

Bottom of the game?


I feel so blessed

For this moment

This breath.

Still my body needs rest.

Maybe after I pee.

Church bell rings three.

That reminds me

Days go fast

Even with the daylight savings

They just don’t last.

Back in bed

Pillow, meet head.

Got to get some sleep

But instead, I weep.

Cause it’s all so clear

Everything is fine

Better than fine

These words, this moment

All thanks to You

Perfectly Divine.

A Viral Strain Worth Sharing

Every now and then we stumble upon a funny or warm post on social media, but generally speaking our platforms have become a cesspool of hateful rhetoric and vile behavior. Over the past two months, however, something new and inspiring has been occurring. People are using social media to share and connect in positive ways. I call it Coronavirus Kindness.

Continue reading “A Viral Strain Worth Sharing”
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