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Glenda Harty’s message on acceptance, with my thoughts appended

Glenda Harty is a dear friend, a marvelous teacher, and a powerful healer. She owns and operates the Sol Centre in Carmel, Indiana. If you require spiritual guidance or physical/mental/spiritual healing, please have a look at her website and see if she might be the right choice for you.

The other day, Glenda sent out by email a message that greatly resonated with me:

A Key to Peace is found in Acceptance

Accept who you are. Accept everything about who you are. Accept those things that you love about yourself and honor them. Accept those things you dislike about yourself and honor yourself for your honesty.

Accept who you perceive others to be. Accept everything about them. Accepting another simply means you recognize that they are who they are and you have no power to change them.  Release all attachment to another taking your advice or changing their behavior.  As long as you struggle to change someone else, you will not know peace.  Recognize if you are choosing not to know peace by your insistence on trying to change another and honor yourself for your honesty.

Accept all as it is–then ask your Self this question:

Is there a way I can change myself or my behavior to bring more peace and light to my world?

If yes, accept the truth of what you must do to accomplish this change. Do you choose to take the necessary action?  Whether or not you choose to take the necessary action at this time, accept your decision with clarity, responsibility, and love for yourself.

If no, accept and honor the opportunity to discover and explore any lessons brought forth in learning to accept all as it is.

Glenda did not come up with the idea of complete acceptance, but she has expressed it better than I have seen anywhere else, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

Toward the beginning of 2009, I had what I called my “Acceptance Revolution.” In 2008 I went through one of the most difficult things I have yet experienced in my life: finding the person of my dreams and having her leave. I tried my best to “get over” this relationship, but I found myself unable to do so. Thoughts and feelings are different than behaviors: we can push them outside of consciousness a bit, but they never go very far and often return without an invitation. In my little revolution, I found it easier just to accept that I had no real control over my thoughts and feelings about her. If I still loved her, I still loved her. I accepted it. I also made the effort to accept everything about myself and my life. Doing so made life much easier.

In trying to accept everything about everyone, we run into a core conflict of human existence: we are social animals, and, except for the rare hermit living completely without assistance from others, our existence and happiness is dependent on our cooperating with others.

It’s also a fact of life that we must act upon others. Bosses motivate. Salespersons sell. Parents reward and punish. We negotiate and argue with each other. We are constantly trying to Win Friends and Influence People.

How do we square the necessity of accepting others with the necessity of acting upon others?

First, I don’t think that we can completely square the two. I believe that the evolution of the individual and the evolution of the human species requires different, more advanced behavior than that in which we have heretofore engaged. We need to accept more and influence less.

Adjusting the ratio of acceptance to influence, however, does not obviate the need to influence others. What we need to do is make our influencing based as much as possible on love, compassion, and acceptance of people for who they are.

In the above-mentioned book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggests that one effective way to “win other people to your way of thinking” is to “let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.”

This may be psychologically effective, but the question remains whether that “idea” is beneficial to the person and in concordance with his or her being. If we are loving, compassionate, and accepting, we will not try to “win over” a person. Instead, we will offer something of true value and see if he or she accepts what we have to offer. This is the type of influence that is fair and untainted.

I will be painting too simplistic a picture if I say that this is the only type of influence in which we can ever engage. Life is messy and dangerous, people don’t always desire the right things, and people’s needs conflict. For example, if we know that someone is going to commit suicide, we don’t just let them do it. If we see that someone is about to hurt someone else, we try to prevent it.

It is working through the tough cases in life that allows us to grow spiritually. As Jesus said in Luke 6: 32-33,

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.

Likewise, it is easy to be loving, compassionate, and accepting to people who are like us and have similar needs. It is difficult to be loving, compassionate, and accepting to people who are different from us and have different needs. It is especially difficult to do right by people who seem not to value love, compassion, and acceptance! Yet it is how we behave in such cases that is a big part of our advancing spiritually.

There is no neat formula for how to be loving, compassionate, and accepting in life. And that’s just another fact that we need to accept.

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Walking in Broad Ripple

Photo by Matt Rouge: Squashed mulberry pattern on the street in Broad Ripple

Click on the photo for a larger image.

Broad Ripple is an area of Indianapolis less than 10 minutes from my house. One of my meditations these days is walking there, and for this purpose it is a most interesting environment. In a fairly condensed area, I receive the following:

  • The Indianapolis Art Center. A big part of my ritual, something I’ve done since 2006, is to walk up the Monon, visit the garden of the Center with all its sculptures, and then look at the White River from one of the two platforms that lie on the grounds. Often I also walk through the Center and see what art is on display. I really ought to take some sort of art class there soon.
  • The Monon Trail, full of walkers, bicyclists, roller bladers, etc. Life, people, happiness!
  • The woods and paths that lie off the Monon Trail.
  • The quaint shops that cater to the hippies, as well as Bohemians like myself (health food, coffee, etc.).
  • The quaint restaurants that cater to, well, the hippies and the Bohemians.
  • The bar scene. One of the biggest bar scenes in the city. Life, drunks, happiness! This is not my scene at all (except for the Broad Ripple Brew Pub on occasion), but many of the bars have outdoor seating or are open to the street, so one may enjoy the verve of drunken youth without partaking.
  • Starbucks. The people there are nice and friendly, and I often go there for my free Starbucks coffee (but I do leave a dollar tip, m’kay?). Then I do some more walking around with the coffee.
  • Streets. Bridges. Houses. Little offices. I have posted here a photo of squashed mulberries, which formed a pattern on the street.

There is a lot to take in there. I walked around there a bit tonight, around 8:30. On Sunday night the bars are quieter; there is a different feeling in the air that allows for a different form of meditation.

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Angela Hewitt played Bach's Goldberg Variations magnificently

I went with friends yesterday (May 24, 2009) to see Angela Hewitt at Chicago Symphony Center. She played Bach’s Goldberg Variations without an intermission (her only scheduled piece; it is quite long, having an aria and 30 variations). According to allmusic,

The Goldberg Variations are among the most sophisticated works ever written for keyboard, but the work does not sound like the awesomely complex compendium that it is. The music is deceptively simple and heartfelt, with a noble calm even when the performer is obliged to cross hands at lightning speeds.

Angela’s hands were clearly visible from where we were sitting, and therefore the difficulty of the piece was understandable both visually and aurally.

The performance was impeccable and astounding both in the areas of technique and style: she perfectly walked the line of mechanical precision and human art. It was simply the best performance of any type I have ever experienced.

There was no question that a standing ovation was coming, and, within a second or two after her performance, the rather full house was on its feet. Angela took four curtain calls and at least returned to the instrument to play, again beautifully, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” After the encore, she took two or three more curtain calls, thereafter going to the gift shop of the hall to sign CDs.

I must thank one of my great instructors for showing me by playing at her Yamaha her principle of “concepts” in piano performance; I could very clearly hear and understand them yesterday. I must thank a newer instructor for the introduction to the piece and the performance, as well as a wealth of other information and ideas recently imparted. Blessings to you both!

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My favorite chess openings


Photo: The Evans Gambit on my favorite chessboard, which was made in Poland quite a while ago (it’s been in the family ever since I can remember).

I play chess on Yahoo Games quite a bit. If you play chess on Yahoo, you will probably be interested in, which allows you to bypass Yahoo’s crapola interface–and room limits to boot!

I am what you might call a half-decent player. On Yahoo my rating ranges from mid 1300s to upper 1500s, usually hovering in the mid 1400s. I am an orthodox player, eschewing gimicky openings and generally trying to become a more solid player over time. I study chess books for the openings I favor.


I play e4 (king’s pawn) and c4 (English game) exclusively. I like both open/tactical and closed/positional games, but when it comes to closed games I would much rather play the English because few people study it, and my experience in it tends to give me a pretty good advantage.

When I start off playing someone, I will usually play e4. If the person plays a tricky, unorthodox response or an opening I really don’t like (fianchetto openings), I will usually switch to c4 in subsequent games.

If the reponse is e5, I will play either f4 (King’s Gambit) or Nf3 in the hope of eventually playing the Evan’s Gambit, perhaps my favorite opening of all.

If the response is c4 (Sicilian Defense), I will invariably play NC3 (Closed Sicilian). In fact, I really love playing against the Sicilian, as the Closed often turns into complete and enjoyable chaos.

Against the Two Knights Defense, I play d3.

There are not too many responses that I dread as white. I am comfortable against the Scandinavian, Caro-Kann, etc.


Against e4, I play e5 (most of the time), e6 (French Defense), and NF6 (Alekhine’s Defense). Against the Gioco Piano, I play Two Knights Defense and hope I get a chance to play the Ulvestad Variation.

Against d4, I will quite often play e6 with a view to playing Dutch Defense (although sometimes black will then play e4, turning this into the French Defense, which is usually fine by me). I also play d5 and then Queen’s Gambit Accepted.

Against c4, I will either play Dutch Defense (which works pretty well) or c5 (Symmetrical English).

As black, my chief weakness is when white sits back and waits, never attacking. I especially hate when white does this while playing the Ruy Lopez, an opening that I call the “Pussy Lopez.” Usually if white plays such a passive opening, I will try to open up the f file and put pressure on the king.

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Free brewed coffee from Starbucks–whenever you want it

Although I took the side of tea over coffee recently, I really do love coffee and drink it nearly every day. Here is a trick that I’ve learned for getting free coffee from Starbucks–legitimately, of course.

First, a lot of people don’t know that Starbucks has a special refill price for brewed coffee: $0.50 for any size.

Second, if you have a registered Starbucks card, coffee refills are free in the store (it’s pretty easy to register the card online).

Third–and this is the really important part–Starbucks baristas will almost always give you the refill price (and hence free coffee if you have a registered Starbucks card) if you bring in a Starbucks cup, and even if you haven’t been in the store (this doesn’t mean that you have to pretend to have been in the store; they don’t ask, and they don’t care, and they will give it to you even if they see you walk right in and know you haven’t been there. Once in awhile someone will state the official policy and say that they really oughtn’t give it to me but give it to me anyway.)

For this reason, I always carry a Starbucks Grande cup in my car (the Venti cup is too big and unwieldy to handle while driving; the Grande is just right). Whenever I feel like free coffee, which is often, since it’s free, I just take my cup and go into Starbucks. When the cup starts to get old and cruddy, usually the barista will say, “Let me get you a new cup.” So it’s not as if I have to pay for a new Grande after awhile at full price.

As they say in El Salvador, Sláinte!

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Hair frustrations

Matt Rouge on April 13, 2009A picture of Matt Rouge sporting a fairly decent cut from Borics. Click for a spectacularly large image and enjoy the fairly surly expression even more.

I am specific about my tonsorial needs.

I am up at the folks’ pad today in Crown Point, Indiana. I could no longer tolerate what was perhaps the worst haircut of my life, and the barber shops that I know well here are all closed on Monday–so I ventured into Borics and got, as the picture here demonstrates, a “fairly decent cut.”

Whenever I get a cut these days, I am very specific about what I need: make the sides short and flat, and don’t destroy what little bangs I have, lest the highly receded hairline look even further receded.

My person today did a pretty good job: the sides could be a little more even, but otherwise I am satisfied. The cut was $12.50, not a bad price at all, and, even with a sizable tip, my ROI was excellent.

The worst cut of my life almost broke my heart.

I was just as specific about my needs when I took a chance on a salon near my house a few weeks ago. I will be kind and leave the establishment nameless.

After I explained my needs and desires clearly and precisely, my hair assassin proceeded to do the very opposite, leaving me a rounded, satanic cut with not a bang in sight. I looked like a skinhead with poor grooming practices. Moreover, this chop-up cost $25.00. I stumbled out into the parking lot, reeling from the abuse I had endured. I was nearly a defeated man, but not quite: I vowed to grow out my hair once again and give the whole haircut concept a final chance.

Bruce Kimmel taught us that pressure is the demon of space. Experience teaches us that inconsistency is the demon of haircare.

I used to go to this guy in Downtown Indy who did the best job ever–except when he didn’t. Every sixth or seventh time, I received a disaster cut that rivaled the “worst ever” described above. It made no sense to me. This was also the most expensive salon I had ever used on a consistent basis; thus, the last time this happened, I said to myself, No more shall this happen. No more!

Why is it so hard to get a consistent cut? Is an expensive place worth it if one risks catastrophe even there? No, it is not. I bet it’s even worse if you are a woman: more hair and more complex styles to mess up. Throw in color and that kind of thing, and the possibility for trouble becomes even greater.

Someone I can recommend…

Some of the best cuts I’ve ever received have been by…

Marti Doering (who is the owner of)

414 W Kirkwood Ave # 1
Bloomington, IN 47404
(812) 332-0064

Truly a great cut at a great price, and no disasters! Needless to say, Marti handles both men’s and women’s haircare and is said to do an excellent job with color, etc. I do not get down to Bloomington as often these days, but it is worth going out of my way to get the job done right.

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Sick baby update for April 11, 2009

Here is the previous post on this child, who is now back in the hospital until the 17th. The reason for the stay is cholangitis, an inflammation of the bile duct, and the baby now has a PICC line in for treatment with antibiotics. The Kasai procedure has been a moderate, but not a complete, success, and the doctors now say that the goal is to have the baby grow as much as possible so that he can have access to a bigger donor pool when the time comes to have a transplant, which is now inevitable (a bigger child can use a whole liver instead of just a piece of one).

The family is planning to move back to Japan in May for good. Even though they have “good” health insurance here, they are facing the BS that always comes with our system. For example, the insurance company wasn’t going to pay for home nursing care of the PICC line, so–like magic!–a longer stay in the hospital because “necessary,” which the insurance company will pay for. So it goes in our system: the insurance company thinks it’s saving money but ends up costing itself more. Our system is full of waste and hurts people every day. It must change, it will change soon.

To me the child’s life force seemed strong, almost as if the whole liver deal is just an annoyance, an inconvenience to him. My intuition is that he will get the liver translplant eventually but will continue to bulldoze through life and not let his liver rule his existence.

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Sick baby update for February 22, 2009

Sorry I have not written in a great while! I have been swamped with writing work, and my life has been going through such rapid changes that the moment I feel like writing about them something new is happening. Things are good, however, and I hope now to settle into a rhythm and start posting again on a frequent basis.

I have news about our baby born with a birth defect of the liver. He has been back in the hospital for the past week or so. His dad is back in Japan, and so his mother has been staying with him. I was rather upset that I was not called by the hospital to interpret for them this time, as was the mom, who, after someone else showed up, specifically told the hospital that she wanted to use me. Oh well. In any case, our infant friend is doing okay but perhaps has had hepatitis of some sort. As I have not been interpreting for them, I have not heard the facts directly from the doctors, but it seems that the Kasai surgery that was performed is still working. That’s good news. I would request that you continue to keep this child and his family in your prayers.

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Depression is power and wisdom within you and for you

Chapter 7 of Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore is entitled “Gifts of Depression.” Moore writes,

The soul presents itself in a variety of colors, including all the shades of blue, gray, and black. To care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colorings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange–the brilliant colors.

As the chapter title and the quote imply, Moore goes on to teach us how depression can be of great use to us. I highly recommend the book and praise the wisdom of Moore’s view of depression.

Here are a few ideas of my own. First is my take on the difference between sadness and depression: sadness is the painful mental state that occurs when one desires something that one does not have but can imagine having. One may be sad, for example, at the death of a close relative; the return of the relative is impossible, but one can at least imagine it. One key aspect of sadness is that it could instantly be eliminated were the object of desire made available.

In my experience, depression has something of the “flavor” of sadness but differs in that there is no particular object of desire missing and no apparent path to resolution. Depression may feel as though it was caused by, say, the death of a close relative, yet at the same time one does not intuit that the darkness would lift should the relative return. Moreover, despite whatever causes may seem to pertain, depression ultimately feels like a dissatisfaction with existence itself, with the very nature of the universe.

It is this existential nature of depression that makes it such an important tool for our development: it takes us to the very heart of things and lets us abide there for an extended period of time. Certainly, depression is the pathway to the “Dark Side” of the heart of things, but once we are in the heart we can learn more about both the Dark and the Light.

In our society at present the typical view of depression is that it always weakens and reduces, never strengthens or augments–but is that really the case? Depression, of course, used to be known as “melancholy,” which state of mind has spurred deep reflections into the human condition and produced great art in all media. Before you push your depression away, despising it, see what gifts it has to offer you within its black inner sanctum. It truly can be power for your use in many areas of life.

There is both a mundane side to depression and a spiritual. Of course, there is no firm dividing line between the mundane and the spiritual; they are completely mixed together, and the smallest things in life can have great meaning: that’s why we’re here. Too often, however, depression is merely treated as a mundane matter, a chemical imbalance, a nuisance to be rid of as quickly and conveniently as possible. Take a pill and feel better.

To those in extreme mental anguish, I certainly recommend getting the necessary help, whether from a therapist or a psychiatrist, whether through talking it out or taking medication. There is no shame in that; doing so doesn’t make you any less spiritual of a person. Indeed, I highly recommend working with depression on both the mundane level (this is a nuisance making my life worse) and the spiritual level (what can this teach me about myself and about Reality?).

I just got over the second-worst depression of my life (and I have only really had two big ones). It was a time, I feel, of great development for me. Indeed, both my commercial and creative writing work continued to go better than ever, I made tough deadlines, and in general my life was orderly and productive. I was able to listen to classical music, to read poetry, and to appreciate both of these at a deep level. At the same time, I was in deep pain, pain which could not be divided from the lessons I was learning and the power I was accessing.

Depression is a teacher, but eventually the student must graduate. After I felt I had learned all the lessons this particular depression had to offer, I requested help from a Higher Power to leave the darkness. Within two days, the depression had lifted. About a week later, I had what might be termed a relapse, but this time I felt that a different approach was being requested of me: I was not supposed to push the depression away but go through it, into it, and out the other side.

I prayed the prayer, or mantra as I call it here, that you see below. In this mantra, we empathize with depression, seeing it not just as the source of the bad but the victim of the bad–while at the same time recognizing our complicity in the bad. We also see our Sat-cit-ananda (being-consciousness-bliss) nature as the ultimate remedy to the Pain-darkness-destruction of depression.

This prayer had for me an immediate and lasting effect. I invite you to try it and see if it doesn’t work for you, too. Of course, it is not really the words that have power but the concepts behind them, which are the wisdom of many teachers and many times.

If you are in pain, I wish you healing and love.



Source of Pain, I bless you and succor you; I have caused pain. Order of Darkness, I bless you and succor you; I have done the work of darkness. Power of Destruction, I bless you and succor you; I have caused destruction.

With being I free you from destruction, who destroy all. With the light of consciousness I free you from darkness, who bring darkness to all. With bliss I free you from pain, who bring pain to all.

Source of Pain, I bless you and succor you; I have caused pain. Order of Darkness, I bless you and succor you; I have done the work of darkness. Power of Destruction, I bless you and succor you; I have caused destruction.

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I am ready for whatever comes.

Yes or no, I am I ready for whatever comes.

I am more at peace for having asked; it was the right thing to do.

I do not need yes; I do not fear no.

There is love and purpose in the world no matter what happens.

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