Monday, August 04, 2014

Now Offering Private Sessions

I have been encouraged by some people to start offering one on one sessions for people interested in deepening their experiential understanding of awakening.  I've been serving as a spiritual guidance counselor of sorts since I began the Awakening Practices Group back in 2007, but never considered myself a spiritual teacher.  I always felt myself to be a fellow "seeker" and group facilitator, and never put myself above anyone else in the group.  After all, I learn as much about mySelf as anyone else in a group meeting.
After encouragement from some other spiritual teachers, I have come to terms with the idea of being called a "spiritual teacher" though I only accept the term because everyone you encounter is a teacher.  I know that teaching is my heart's calling, and my egoic insecurity has been the only thing holding me back from answering that call, until Now.  

My passion for the last eight years or so has been to spread the seeds of conscious living to as many people who will listen.  My book and blog are a product of that drive, and offering private sessions is just another way that force wants to manifest itself through me.  It's time for me to embrace it.

I've come to realize over the years that Life is a perfect reflection, pointing us home to who we truly are.  This means I'm not really "teaching" when I sit with someone, just serving as a mirror for people to rediscover the Truth they already know themselves to be.  I'm just a vehicle for the message :)

Whether or not you're interested in a private session, I would like to ask you for a favor, if you feel so inclined.  My book reviews have been great (you can read them on and I'd love to hear more feedback from you if you have enjoyed the book.  But, I would also like reviews from people about "me" personally.  If people are considering coming to me for some form of guidance, they would like to know what other people have to say.  Plus, my website needs to be updated with such information as I promote this new offering.
I have included a very kind endorsement from Mary Pompeo below.  I met Mary a few times through the Awakening Practices Group over the years, and am humbled by what she had to say about me in one of her recent blog posts.  Don't feel that your review needs to be as kind or detailed ;)  I'm just including it because of her kindness <3 div="">

If you have something you would like to say publicly about me on my website (I can include as little or as much information about you as you want), just drop me an email with what you would like to say and how you would like me to cite you (i.e. John Smith, author of Such and Such; John Doe, Asheville, NC, etc.).  I'd be happy to provide a link to your website if you want me to promote you and/or what you do.  Any and all endorsements or book reviews are greatly appreciated.



Quote from Mary Pompeo's Blog:

"When I first moved to Asheville, I decided that if I was going to be a part of the spiritual community up here that I wanted to experience it as a member and not a teacher. I thought it would do my ego some good not to be the authority and I felt it was important for every teacher to spend time as a student, for perspective.

I searched for a group and the one that drew my attention was the Eckhart Tolle meditation group. The young man who led the group, Trey Carland, did so with pure absence of ego, more so than I had ever experienced outside of India. Each week, the way he conducted the discussions and led us to experience the material taught me even more than the material itself.

I have great respect for Trey Carland as a man, as a teacher, as a fellow seeker. I encourage you all to read his blogs and his book A Seakers Guide to Inner Peace, which you will find helpful no matter where you are on the path.

Trey sees life as the experiences which teach us and in the following peace we can see how his young daughter is teaching him how desire gets so fixed in our mind that we decide things must be a certain fixed way in order for us to find happiness." - Mary Pompeo (

Friday, July 11, 2014

Curiosity Killed the Ego

I've been reading (digesting really) this great book called, What's In the Way IS the Way, by Mary O'Malley and have really enjoyed her fresh take on Awakening.  The book is beautifully written, and has many places to stop and experience what you're reading throughout the book.  I've also been re-reminded about the power of just putting a question out, without looking for an answer, and allowing an answer appear.  As a result I've become more comfortable with letting Life do the driving (that it's doing anyway).

But I think one of the most powerful part of the teaching is the art of bringing compassionate curiosity to your present experience.  This sheds light on those stories that have been running us for so many years by honoring them.  Curiosity is a very powerful tool for self inquiry, so just using that nonjudgemental curiosity puts awareness back on itSelf.  Though Mary doesn't come out and say it, this is why curiosity kills the ego.  Unlike the cat, though, satisfaction ensures it is dead :)

I love this book like I love Power of Now and Loving What Is (I'm a big Tolle and Katie fan).  Hopefully you'll pick up a copy and check it out.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Mary recently and would like to share it with you.  My apologies in advance of the quality of the video as I was experiencing some connection speed issues  I have also included the audio version of the interview.  I hope you In-Joy.

Mary O'Malley Interview (MP3)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mountains out of Mole Hills

I hope you are enjoying the long days of Summer.  I love seeing the sunset at 9:00 at night and it feeling like room temperature in the evenings.  Anyway, I felt compelled to write something that might help someone in some way.  I hope you enjoy.

"Don't sweat the little stuff." What great advice.  How do you know if it's little stuff?  First, ask yourself, "Will this be important tomorrow?"  If not, then it's probably one of countless fleeting moments in a day that does not need your stress to fix (as if stress ever fixed anything).

Getting fixated on the little stuff is very habit forming, and possibly life shortening if the negativity becomes prevalent throughout each day.  We can't really help it, though.  Our past conditioning leads us to act in certain ways that feel familiar, even when they are destructive.  Many people, who have been exposed to frustration since they were young, are subconsciously looking for the least little thing to make a big deal out of because that's what they know.

One way out of making mountains out of mole hills is to pause before reacting.  All it takes is a few seconds, which may be difficult to do at first, but that brief pause may let in just a tad bit of clarity.  If the pause is long enough to look at the situation at face value, then that's all the better.  When there's room for a question in that pause, try a few different ones to see what suits you.  It may be highly situational, but here are a few that might help.

Will this matter later? Does this even matter now?  Is it that important to get upset over?  Will reacting this way make any difference?  Does this situation even need a response?  Would it hurt to remain silent?  What if I just let it go?  What if this situation is actually for the best?  Am I over reacting? Is anyone really being hurt by this?  Am I making things worse by reacting this way?

Don't forget the old saying, "There's no sense in crying over spilled milk."  Being upset about something that's already happened can't change a thing.  But if you can pause before a reaction, you might be able to change everything.  Even if you have already reacted out of habit, you can go back to these questions after the fact to see if your reaction was disproportionate to the event.  Hindsight is 20/20 and you can learn a lot from your mis-takes that will affect how you deal with similar situations in the future.

This only works if you are open to change and willing to entertain the idea that you may be making a big deal out of nothing from time to time.  It may take a close friend or loved one to tell you that, and it may not be well received.  But if you're feeling stressed out a lot, let me be the one to tell you that you are taking things too seriously.  Don't be so hard on yourself/others.  We're all doing the best we can, and that's not going to change regardless of what you do about it.

Take it easier :)


Monday, June 30, 2014

11:11 - You're Headed the Right Way

I've been seeing a lot of repeating numbers lately, on clocks and various other places (i.e. 11:11, 2:22, 5:55, etc.). It has been going on for quite some time, but has escalated recently to around 5 times a day. Rather than ascribe a superstitious meaning to it, which there may very well be, I use it as a reminder. My reminder for the last week has been, "You're headed the right way." We're always headed the right way, even if it seems as though we're lost. This is just a nice tool to enjoy a Life that is encouraging rather than fearful. Since Life wants me to feel that Love, it's giving me more signs that she can be trusted (hence the escalation of repeating numbers). Now that I've been doing it a while, every time I look at the clock I remind myself, "You're headed the right way." Then it doesn't matter what the clock says.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Judge Not

Dear Family and Friends,

I've been wanting to put something out about judgement lately to shed light on this quote from the Bible, "Judge not, that ye may not be judged (Matthew 7:1)."  Interpreted one way, this implies that "God" is very judgmental (a common theme in Christianity), but, looked at another way, it actually has to do with the mirror effect of Life.  When you judge another, you are actually judging yourself, for what you see outside of yourself is just a reflection of what's going on inside of you.  Another popular analogy involves the use of a pointed finger with the illustration that when I point my finger at another there are still three fingers pointing back at me.

We live our lives in fear of being judged poorly by others (or God), mainly because we started being judged from a very young age.  A lot of it happens when we are enter school and begin being tested, scored, looked at for certain aptitudes, etc.  Often times these forms of judgments carry negative outcomes, which guides us in the direction of trying to please others.  The trick is that we never really know how others see us, so we try to predict or interpret how we "think" others judge us to be.  But we can never really know what's going on in another person's mind.  Even if they tell us what they think, that's being filtered through their own fear of being judged.

We have a few key figures in our lives, such as partners, family members, etc., that we think we know so well that we are absolutely sure what they will think of something we do or say.  But that person is actually a figment of our imagination based on our past experience with him or her.  We see our judgments about him or her instead of who they really are, and we put our self judgements in their mind so that we're seeing a shadow of ourselves in others.

In addition to the key would-be judges in our lives, we also have generic shadow figures that are conglomerates of different segments of society.  These shadows represent people of similar or different nationalities, sub-groups, personalities, etc.  We craft an identity for them based on our judgments of them and ourselves.  "Knowing" how another person sees us, based solely on past experience, gives us the ability to respond accordingly.  The response is basically defending ourselves from negative judgment, whether that means we try to better ourselves or we lash out in a defensive manner to protect the ego.

The fear of being judged is so ingrained in us that it's barely noticeable.  It's almost like each move we make is instantaneously judged by ourselves and our shadow people.  This also explains why God has been seen by many as judgmental.  We created God in our image because that's all we knew.  We can't see what we don't know, which is why there has to be an element of ourselves in everyone we see.  But, rather than debate what God really is, my hope is to shed light on one of the core dysfunctions we share as human beings.

So, "What's the solution to this dysfunctional thinking?" you might wonder.  First, know that you are projecting on another when you judge them in any way. If the finger pointing trick makes a good reminder, by all means use it.  

Then, when you notice yourself judging, stay out of a "judgement loop" where you judge yourself for being judgmental.  That's like beating yourself up for being human.  Instead, you can learn a lot about yourself through your judgements of others.  

Also, be open to the possibility that you are completely wrong as you examine your judgments about others and how they might be judging you.  The end game, so to speak, is the realization that you are completely safe from judgment.  Even if a person openly states a negative judgment toward you, they have just told you something about themselves that they haven't realized yet.  But that's for them to discover on their own and not your job to point out (unless you feel like an argument).  In other words, you're the only one capable of judging yourself and everyone else is just running around judging themselves, too.

Basically, don't take anything personally and don't assume you're right about everything.

Namaste (I bow to the Divine in you),


Monday, March 17, 2014

I Want: The Birth of Desire

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope you and yours are doing well.  Spring is in the air now, I think.  We’ve been teased a bit here in WNC with dramatic swings in temperatures, but the flowers are waking up and reminding us it’s time for us to do the same :)

So, in case you hadn’t heard, our little Adorabella is almost two years old (hard to believe I know), and is learning the ropes of being a human.  She is talking up a storm and it’s so much fun to listen to her pronounce things.  It’s like she has a foreign accent that you can put your finger on, but she picks up on words so quickly.  She’s a happy little sponge and loves to have fun singing, dancing, smiling, making funny noises, laughing, and let’s not forget crying.  Despite what a happy toddler she is, she has her moments of frustration.  The underlying cause seems to be the “desire” for something other than what’s happening at a given moment.

As best as I can tell, desire is born very early and just gets stronger and more well refined.  At first it’s just preferences (i.e. I like this, not so much that).  Then, entertaining activities enter the picture, like things that she seemingly can’t get enough of.  For example, after we had our first big snow (which she loved), all she could say was, “I want walk snow all day.”  She said this for weeks despite the disappearance of the snow.  She would wake up and look out the window and say, “Hi snow,” even after it had all melted.  It was sooo cute.  She seemed okay with the snow leaving because we didn’t make a big deal out of it.

However, at a certain point desire brings on some attitude.  “I want...” is the way our little girl begins most of her sentences these days.  In some cases, if the want isn’t satisfied, screaming and crying can occur.  That’s never fun, but it comes with the territory, and we’re all learning how to cope with a life that doesn’t always give us what we want.  The only difference is that most adults don’t scream and cry if they can’t go watch DeeDee (Daniel Tiger) with Uncle NoNo (Shelby’s brother Norn).

It’s interesting to see the development of desire through an infant’s eyes.  There can be such great intensity behind not getting what they want, and it’s just a magnified version of the human adult’s reaction.  By the time we’re older, we’ve mostly toned it down a bit because we learn that we don’t get what we want by screaming and crying about it.  In general, we’re taught to ask nicely for things and learn new ways of getting what we want (maybe even by being manipulative).  Ultimately we become more civilized, but we are still adversely affected when all of our efforts fail to bring about the desired outcome.

Maybe I’m naive, but I think humankind has become worn down enough by not getting what we want for so long that we’re ready to be done with the pain that that causes.  That readiness, that ripeness, is where real change can happen.  When we run out of answers, when nothing we do seems to do any good, we may decide to open ourselves up to the unthinkable – give up on desires.  We’ve been crafting them since we were knee high to a grasshopper, so that’s a tough pill to swallow.  Our desires have become ingrained in who we think we are, so you may need to be at the end of your rope before you even consider giving up.  Plus, once you’re ready to give up, it may be too scary or you may not even know how.

Here is what I can offer if you are up to the challenge.  Things are not as bad as you think.  Not getting what you want is more important than getting what you want.  You are not being mistreated or punished by anyone other than yourself.  Take a close look at a desire that seems out of reach and see if it’s actually a need or just a want.  What’s the worst thing that could happen if a desire is not met?  How would you feel if you wanted what you already had?  How would you feel if you didn’t want anything other than what you have right now?  Would you feel complete?  Pick a desire and take a deep look at this.

The mind’s job is to step in here and say, “Without desire I wouldn’t have anything to work toward.  I wouldn’t get anything done.  I’d be stuck, complacent, etc.”  What if your mind is completely wrong about all of this stuff?  Have you ever been wrong about anything?  Be honest now.  What if Life has your best interest at heart and will not steer you wrong?  What if you can’t steer at all?  Can you trust Life enough to let it do the steering?  It already is, afterall.

There is nothing wrong with desire, but if you get too attached to the outcome it can lead to stress and suffering when things don’t work out.  Desires come and go whether you like it or not, so let a desire serve as a sign post and watch to see if it was meant to be attained or not.  If not, no big deal.  You’ve just gained more insight by not getting what you want, and Life may have created a new direction for you, which has it’s own sense of desire.  Life’s desire for you is for you to stop making your happiness contingent on attaining some future goal and to be happy Now.  Everything else will fall into place just as it should and when it should.  Trust me ;)

Yours Truly,


Friday, December 27, 2013

Living with the Buddha

I have been using a mantra of sorts lately when I'm feeling a bit stressed out by "others" -- "I am living with the Buddha." This applies to your significant others, or people that you only see on occasion. When you are encountering someone, you are living with them in that moment, and they are your teacher. And, as with various approaches to teaching Zen, the form of the teaching can vary from a compassionate embrace to a yelling drill Sargent. When you feel at odds with what is being encountered, try reminding yourself that you are living with, and being confronted by the Buddha. Their mission, even if they are unaware, is to get you to "wake up," which is to say realize that your beliefs about what "should" and "shouldn't" be are what holds you back from realizing the peace that lies prior to judgment. Welcome the teaching in whatever form it takes, and gratitude replaces attitude.

Be well,