Fishing For Soul

Angling for Spiritual Reconnection

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American Idol vs. My Gym Workout


Talent. Drama. Competition. Judgment.

New York Sports Club was full of people vying for a treadmill with a working video screen. Yes, Obama was holding a televised ‘First 100 Days In Office’ press conference (Fox kept it’s regular programming, thank you very much), but more importantly, American Idol was about to begin. Wednesday night. The Final Five.

I do most of my TV viewing at the gym these days. I hadn’t seen American Idol in a long time, but I’ve somehow managed to follow it (and other shows) via on-line news, friends on Facebook, chatter on the subway, and the occasional Twitter update. Come to think of it, I’ve never actually sat through an entire episode of American Idol. In the past I’ve been too horrified by Simon’s comments to keep watching. This time Simon impressed me with his positive statements about the previous night’s performances and some of my past judgments melted away. I watched for a few minutes as I finished on the elliptical. Then I had to go and work my abs.


Walking away from the television screen I thought about what it might be like for those Final Five contestants. One of them would be eliminated by show’s end. Who would it be? The girl with the dyed hair? The guy with the dyed hair? Why did I care?

I’ve seen my share of reality TV. I was hooked on Shear Genius for a while and would schedule my cardio workouts so that I’d be on the treadmill or bike in time to watch it (BTW: How old is Jaclyn Smith? She looks great.) There was an interior design show that intrigued me as well. All the shows are pretty much the same. Contestants perform. They are judged. Someone goes home sad but determined to succeed anyway. Hmm… Sounds like an average weeknight at a New York City fitness club.

Let’s face it, we judge people. We’re just like Simon, Paula, Randy and that other woman. We’re judges. Judging others makes us feel better about ourselves – temporarily. We judge ourselves and we feel crappy. But, please, don’t judge me. That’s not right.

As I examined my legs in the mirror and decided that they were OK, but that a few sets of leg extensions and hamstring curls couldn’t hurt, I remembered my two years in television and how we used to judge the on-air talent. “What is she wearing?” “Did you hear how he flubbed that intro?” “What’s with that voice?” I happily added to the critiques. A few months ago a former colleague posted some pictures and videos from that era on Facebook. Seeing them after 20 years I thought, “Wow, those people were really talented. Oh, god, look at those clothes!” Same judgments, different year.

My workout finished, I headed to the locker room. I grabbed a clean towel and nearly bumped into a guy whose body I had admired earlier. I smiled. He smiled back. I made my way to the showers a bit self-consciously. Was he looking at my legs?

Talent? Drama? Competition? Judgment!

(American Idol update: According to a post on the web’s People TV Watch, “Matt Giraud was the week’s loser — he’s been on the verge of being voted off virtually week-to-week. When Ryan called his name at the start of the cruel yet elating game of elimination Wednesday, poor Matt started to tear up. He must have seen that long, dark cloud coming down.”)

Thanks and peace.



Fun Not Fear


As I walked along 5th Avenue from 96th St. to Central Park North in Manhattan last night talking on the phone with someone from college I’d seen earlier in the day for the first time in 20 years, the message “There is so much life to be lived” kept running through my head. Sharing memories with Carole, who I reconnected with via Facebook, made me laugh and remember how much fun we had as silly, confused, searching, 18-22 year-old students. YES! We had fun! Perhaps it didn’t all seem that way at the time, but we can choose now to focus on the fun and not the drama we created.

When I hung up the phone I walked into the subway station and waited for my train. I pulled out my iPod and hit ‘shuffle’. A dance tune came on and I began to sing quietly and move my feet to the beat. “Why don’t you dance, right here, right now?” I dared myself. Thinking about my Radical Openness policy and a commitment to do something Radically Unusual once a day, I started to dance, slowly and self-consciously at first, and then I just closed my eyes and let the rhythm consume me. Spinning around on the subway platform I again heard “There is so much life to be lived.”

When the #3 train came I hopped on and sat down. The next song on my iPod was a slow one by Patty Griffin called Heavenly Day. The song is about focusing on what is beautiful right here, right now. Again the message came, “There is so much life to be lived.” I thought about my dream of moving to a warmer climate, near the beach, on the west coast, of taking chances, of stepping more fully into the life I want. “There is so much life to be lived. How much fun do you want to have?”


Melea Seward is a great people connector and genius idea generator who has been teaching me a lot about blogging, Facebook, storytelling, and following an impulse. She recently introduced me to a project she’s involved with called Fun Not Fear. She said, “Check it out. You’ll like it. It’s your kind of thing.” So I checked it out. I like it. It’s my kind of thing. The Fun Not Fear web site says: “With the ‘fun not fear’ Facebook campaign, we are combating the culture of fear with good news, good acts and a focus on the importance of everyday creativity. The goal is to have 1,234,567 Facebook members participating by April 1, 2009.” How perfect. I’m holding that Fun Not Fear concept close to my heart as I move into this next phase of life’s incredible journey. Thanks Melea!

Now here’s a challenge: Can you find one fun, upbeat, positive thing to discuss or do today? Start by joining the Fun Not Fear campaign, . Go ahead. I dare you. There is so much life to be lived. Have fun, not fear. And if you find that fear comes up, do what someone recommended to me the other day: Do it afraid. (a quote from Dr. Joyce Meyer)

Have a heavenly day (and lots of fun!).


Today’s links:

The Healing Power of Facebook (and time), Part 2


“Placing the blame or judgment on someone else
leaves you powerless to change your experience.
Taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them.”
~ Byron Katie ~

Why do we sometimes wait so long to make amends to ourselves and others? Is it because we are busy taking care of other things and we get distracted? Is it that we don’t want to look at the dark, scary stuff? Or is it that we don’t truly realize what ails us until something comes along and forces the issue? For many of us, Facebook has forced the issue.

Roll back the years and meet your former self! You’ve just become Facebook Friends with your long forgotten high school pals! Or were they your pals? It may be time to find out. Let Facebook (and time) help you!

Here’s what some readers discovered:

“I was what “I thought” not so fabulous in high school. Boy have I changed and grown and healed ..Also, I have had many apologies given to me here on Facebook from people who have changed as well. It’s beautiful and I am full of gratitude.”

“I think it’s very cool to revisit our former selves. I wonder what we can teach each other.”

“I started getting friend requests from college friends…then high school friends. I was still pretty insecure about asking people to be my friend on FB. I felt like a skinny nerd in HS and thought I could reinvent myself in college… I am now addicted to reconnecting with old friends – and am overcoming my insecurities.”

“One of the aspects that I am surprised and delighted by is that I am coming to know some people who were just on the margins of my view back then. Now I am seeing them in a new light and loving it. And maybe people are seeing me differently, too.”

“FB really does heal . The wounds of time vanish more if completely. I had the same kind of experience recently with someone from senior year h.s. who hit me up as a friend. We all felt separate, weird, in our own ways. It took me right back and I was able to bridge a gap that I haven’t looked at in a while.”

“To see all these faces, some I knew very well in junior and senior high and some I didn’t, and to have discussions with all these people who helped to shape who I am today has been wonderful.”

Two weeks ago I posted the first part of this story. The night I wrote Part One I was aware that I just might be having a cathartic experience. I signed off on the post and went to bed feeling quite vulnerable. I woke up feeling more so. Then the responses started coming in and my fears began to wash away. Hey, I’m no longer the skinny, misunderstood, confused, tortured guy I thought I was in 1984. After many years of spiritual studies and practice I know that my thoughts about myself created that reality. I could never have known what “those Ridley people” truly thought or what was motivating them 25 years ago. Thanks to the Facebook friends who knew me then I have allowed myself to be Radically Open to changing my perception, to embrace the past with joy and gratitude, and truly move on. Amen!



The Healing Power of Facebook

I didn’t realize how much I still needed to acknowledge and heal from my past until I signed up for Facebook last November and started making connections with the high school folks.

It started innocently enough. I was curious. I wanted to see what 25 years had done to their faces and their fortunes. I was asked to be someone’s friend. I said yes. Then I added another friend, and another. Tracy suggested I add Greg, who suggested I add Joe, who suggested I add Cheryl. Trish was found in my People You May Know column. Pretty soon I was spending my late night hours looking at profiles, searching for people from those forgotten days, wondering what their lives were like and how often they thought about me. Lisa got inspired and created a Ridley High School Class of 1984 Facebook Group. Perfect! More people to daydream about!

And then it happened. I had a meltdown. “Oh, my God, I haven’t talked to these people since graduation in June of 1984 and now they want to be my friend? What does that mean? I don’t think they even liked me back then. Was I a friend 25 years ago? Geez, I was really weird then.” I found myself stuck in some crazy time warp. Was I 16 or 43?

I left Folsom, PA at the age of 18 hoping never to return. Oh, OK, that sounds dramatic, but I really meant it, and at the risk of sounding like an angst-filled teen from an ABC Afterschool Special (does that program still exist?) I will continue.

How many of us suffered silently through our high school years, wishing we knew how to ‘be cool’, thinking we were the weird one, feeling misunderstood, hormonally wacked, frustrated, afraid to go to the cafeteria and be seen by the guys who we thought wanted to beat us up, searching for a way out? I suppose Ridley was a fairly normal high school in the 1980’s (based on what my current friends tell me). I suppose I was a fairly normal teenager, but I sure didn’t feel like one. I had far too many dark secrets. Leaving ‘those Ridley people’ behind and going away to college was a dream come true. I realized that I could reinvent myself and start with a clean slate. So what if a few of my high school classmates were on campus with me? We were different there, more mature, free. We were in COLLEGE. High school was so over. A couple of years after graduating from college I made my way to New York City. Man, I could really reinvent myself there!

A few days ago I received a message on my cell phone. “Hey Joe, it’s Lily.” That voice. That Philly accent. “Holy shit! Lily is calling me?” Yeah, I posted my number on her wall with a sincere message inviting her to connect but I didn’t think she’d actually do it. I couldn’t stop pacing around my office as I thought about Lily and the things we had in common.

Lily and I grew up in the same town. We met in Mrs. Shields’ kindergarten class. We shared 12 years of schooling and socilaizing. Lily was one of the hottest girls around and she scared the crap out of me (as many beautiful women used to). I was sure she saw me as a total loser in high school based on what I considered a disaterous make-out and groping session on her living room couch (in 8th grade?) while the movie Grease played on cable TV in the background.

I listened to the message a second time and there was no doubt in my mind that I had to get in touch with Lily immediately. My fingers and feet danced as I dialed her number. Her voicemail kicked in and I started to leave a message, but before I finished, my Blackberry beeped in a way that told me there was an incoming call. It was Lily. I was about to have my first off-line conversation with someone I’d left behind in the era of big hair.

“I can’t believe this!,” I said, as we talked and laughed like old friends who just happened to have lost track of one another. “Do you remember Spencer in that dress?” “What ever happened to Karen?” “Do you ever talk to Mike?” It was a magical experience. Layers of awkwardness and embarrassment melted away. In April Lily will be coming to New York City, where I’ve lived for the past 18.5 years. She’ll be traveling with some other women I know from high school. I will happily do whatever I can to make their weekend fun, interesting and worry-free. Ah, the power of Facebook.

Last week I meditated on the thoughts and feelings I had about my high school years. I looked at my fears. I recalled my month-long intention of Radical Openness and the book next to my bed, Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping. I was a bit shocked to discover that although I saw myself as a dramatically different person than the young man who tried to run away from his painful past by fleeing his hometown all those years ago, I hadn’t made the conscious connection that ‘those Ridley people’ had changed too. 25 years is a long time. “Perhaps a large dose of Radical Openness and Radical Forgiveness would help here,” I heard myself say. I guess it’s working.

As my list of Facebook friends grow, I look forward to adding more Ridley High School Class of 1984 almuni to it. I am open to healing whatever needs to be healed in regard to that part of my amazing life. I’ve asked someone to post my yearbook photo on Facebook. I intend to look at it with openness, forgiveness and love. Amen!