Archive for March, 2009

One Arm, One Leg, Two Big Hearts

March 31, 2009

Dancers Ma Li, she with one arm, and Zhai Xiaowei, he with one leg, complement each other beautifully in a moving ballet performance. A perfect example of making the most of what you’ve got to work with.


Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei

According to the accompanying story on YouTube, Ma Li was a promising professional ballerina when she lost her right arm in a car accident in 1996 at the age of nineteen. After her boyfriend left her, she tried to kill herself, only to be saved by her parents. She learned to live with her disability and soon opened a small bookstore.

Five years later in 2001, she was invited to compete at the fifth national special performing art competition for handicapped performers and won the gold medal. In September 2005, she met twenty-one-year-old Xiaowei, who was being trained to be a cyclist for the national Special Olympics. He had never danced before.

Xiaowei had climbed on a tractor when he was four years old, fell off it and lost his left leg. His dad asked him, (more…)

Medical Miracles Brewing at the U of M

March 30, 2009

I interviewed four trailblazing researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School for Twin Cities Business magazine. I was stunned to find out that, over the next few years, Alzheimer’s disease and type 1 diabetes may be as scarce as polio, the severe organ donor shortage may be resolved and we might be much closer to being a tobacco-free nation.

All four of these ambitious, audacious initiatives are well under way at the U of M. Here are profiles of Doris TaylorKaren Hsiao Ashe, Meri Firpo and Dorothy Hatsukami.

Medtronic Bakken Professor of Medicine and Integrative Biology/Physiology,
Director of the
Center for Cardiovascular Repair


Doris Taylor

Doris Taylor’s favorite video is The Matrix, a stunning achievement which suggests the possibility of an alternate reality. No, not the film starring Keanu Reeves, but the short movie of a beating heart that was emailed to her at 3 AM by her then-colleague Harald Ott in the spring of 2005. “The sad but true fact was that it was three in the morning but I was in my office,” Taylor recalls. “Harald sent me the video and then called me. I watched the video, called him right back and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ It was a Eureka, fist-in-the-air, yes! moment.”

Why all the fuss? Because that beating rat heart may revolutionize organ transplants and save millions of lives. Through a process called whole-organ decellularization, all the cells were slowly drained from the heart, leaving only the extracellular matrix—the framework between the cells—intact. “You can think of it as a scaffold, a bare wooden frame for a house,” Taylor says.

The heart was repopulated with (more…)

Parker Palmer on Creativity and Granddaughters

March 29, 2009

Parker Palmer

In yesterday’s post, Parker Palmer shared his story of a spiritual epiphany, which I included in my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. In the same interview, however, he told me two other insightful stories he told me that you won’t find in the book. I’m happy I can share them here.

My second story of feeling connected to spirit is a recurring one that has to do with my life as a writer. I usually find writing very difficult and demanding, an ordeal of slogging through mud and fog, trying to bring clarity to complicated matters. But every now and then I am caught up in a creative flow of powerful ideas and images in which writing becomes effortless and totally engaging. I had an experience like that a few weeks ago when I found myself writing fifteen hours a day for ten straight days. I was getting less sleep than usual, yet I was feeling more alive, more energized, and more rested than I normally do. In stretches like that, you know you’re connected with something larger than yourself. You’re no longer reaching for it. Now it is reaching for you—holding you and propelling you in the way the ocean supports a swimmer. It’s a remarkable experience—and then it’s back to slogging through the mud! I find evidence of spirit even when I am slogging, if in nothing more than the will to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But those oceanic breakthroughs are overwhelming evidence that—although I have to show up and swim—creativity is not something I do all by myself.

My third story involves being fully present to my granddaughter, Heather, now fourteen, with whom I’ve been very close since the earliest days of her life. Being a grandparent is an extraordinary experience, and the spiritual dimensions of it seem pretty clear to me. For one thing, (more…)

Parker Palmer on the Indifference of the Universe

March 28, 2009

Parker Palmer

I asked author Parker Palmer to tell me a story for my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, in which he felt profoundly connected to spirit. Here is Parker’s story:

Fifteen years ago. I was hiking solo in the high desert at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Taos, New Mexico, when I was overwhelmed by a sudden realization that the universe is utterly indifferent to me, and at the same time, profoundly forgiving and compassionate toward me. I remember stopping and just standing in that knowledge for a long time. I had a simple and quiet sense of, Oh, I get it. I see who I am, where I am, and how I fit into things. I felt joy and lightness, as if my burdens had been taken from me. Talking about it almost distorts it. There are experiences that go far beyond words, and this was one of them.

I can’t say that this experience changed my life, but it gave me an important lens through which I’ve looked at my journey ever since. A few years ago I was reading a journal by Thomas Merton in which he reports his great revelation that “everything is emptiness and everything is compassion.” And I thought, That’s it! That’s the same experience I had!

Of course, this experience is paradoxical—how can indifference and compassion coexist? I’m reminded of a Hasidic tale where the rabbi says to his disciple, (more…)

Eckhart Tolle on Alleviating the Suffering of the World

March 27, 2009

Eckhart Tolle

So many people are so eager and passionate about helping those who are suffering that they lose themselves in others’ pain and end up suffering themselves. The answer? I like this Q&A excerpt from Eckhart Tolle‘s masterpiece, The Power of Now.

But there shouldn’t be any hunger and starvation in the first place. How can we create a better world without tackling evils such as hunger and violence first?

All evils are the effect of unconsciousness. You can alleviate the effects of unconsciousness, but you cannot eliminate them unless you eliminate their cause. True change happens within, not without.

If you feel called upon to alleviate suffering in the world, that is a very noble thing to do, but remember not to focus exclusively on the outer. Otherwise, you will encounter frustration and despair. Without a profound change in human consciousness, the world’s suffering is a bottomless pit. So don’t let your compassion become one-sided.

Empathy with someone else’s pain or lack and a desire to help must be balanced with a deeper realization of the eternal nature of all life and the ultimate illusion of all pain. Then let your peace flow into whatever you do and you will be working on the levels of effect and cause simultaneously.

Is pain truly an illusion? Is suffering a choice? Clearly, any attempt to understand the horrors of war, the injustice of tyranny, and the ravages of disease has its limits; and any purpose behind such incomprehensible suffering may remain beyond the capacity of human beings to grasp. But a purpose we cannot wrap our minds around is a purpose nonetheless.

It is insensitive at best and cruel at worst to (more…)

Eckhart Tolle on Becoming the “Light of the World”

March 26, 2009

Eckhart Tolle

In his spiritual tour de force, The Power of NowEckhart Tolle wrote: that the most effective way to contribute to the world is by transcending it. You then become a de facto instrument of peace and healing.

You may remember that we talked about the dual nature of true compassion, which is awareness of a common bond of shared mortality and immortality. At this deep level, compassion becomes healing in the widest sense. In that state, your healing influence is primarily based not on doing but on being. Everybody you come in contact with will be touched by your presence and affected by the peace you emanate, whether they are conscious of it or not. When you are fully present and people around you manifest unconscious behavior, you won’t feel the need to react to it, so you don’t give it any reality. Your peace is so vast and deep that anything that is not peace disappears into it as if it had never existed. This breaks the karmic cycle of action and reaction. Animals, trees, flowers will feel your peace and respond to it. You teach through being, through demonstrating the peace of God. You become the “light of the world,” an emanation of pure consciousness, and so you eliminate suffering on the level of cause. You eliminate unconsciousness from the world.

power-vs-forceBeautifully said. As more minds and hearts generate positive thoughts and loving energy, we inch ever closer to critical mass and lasting cultural change. Indeed, your next loving thought may tip the scales. In his groundbreaking book, Power vs. Force, Dr. David R. Hawkins scientifically substantiates how the most enlightened 15 percent of the world’s population counterbalances the negativity of the remaining 85 percent of the world’s people. 

Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.
Arundhati Roy



Marianne Williamson

Tolle’s words reminds me of the following widely quoted passage from Marianne Williamsons classic 1992 book, A Return To Love

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and (more…)

Caroline Myss’ Foreword for “Sixty Seconds”

March 25, 2009


Caroline Myss

I was honored that Caroline Myss, author of Entering the Castle, Anatomy of the Spirit and many other books, agreed to write the Foreword for my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. She put a lot of time into it and did her usual outstanding job. Here is what she wrote:

One of the great ironies in life is that as much as we fear change, we are constantly praying for our life to change in some way. We recognize on some level that change is constant, that nothing remains the same forever, and yet we hold tight to the idea that change must be easily recognized and, above all, initiate minimal trauma. Another irony is that, for all our fear of change, we believe that for something to make a difference in our lives, it has to be grand, obvious, big, loud, expensive, and have a guaranteed outcome. We have an inherent mistrust of the subtle, much less anything that takes a while to come to fruition.

Yet, the truth is that the most meaningful events that have shaped our lives have, by far, been the smallest and the most subtle. Even within the greatest traumas of life, such as the loss of a loved one, a major accident, a sudden job loss, a divorce, or any of the other great sufferings of life, what is most remembered after the months pass and the individual begins speaking about a sorrowful event are the particularly healing or grace-filled interactions that occurred during the darkest of times.

A conversation with the right person at the right time has the power to (more…)

I Hope You Dance

March 24, 2009


Lee Ann Womack


I don’t think there’s a better way to tell our friends and loved ones what we hope for them in this life.  And Lee Ann Womack sings it a whole lot better than I ever could!

By the way, the two girls (more…)

The History and Legacy of Paramahansa Yogananda

March 23, 2009

Paramahansa Yogananda

The Minneapolis Meditation Group of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) hosted a special Open House on June 11, 2010 featuring a talk entitled Kriya Yoga: Spiritual Science for an Awakening Age. The talk was presented by Brother Nakulananda, a longtime monk of SRF, which was founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic , Autobiography of a Yogi.

Click here to visit the website of the Minneapolis Meditation Group.

For more information about SRF or the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, click here to visit the official website of Self-Realization Fellowship.


The SRF Minneapolis Meditation Group's center at 112 West 43rd Street

Here is the flyer for Brother Nakulananda’s talk. Click on the flyer to enlarge it.


In an earlier post, I wrote about how reading Autobiography of a Yogi changed my life.


The SRF Encinitas Temple

I also shared my profoundly memorable experiences while visiting Self-Realization Fellowship’s hermitage and temple in Encinitas, California.

Here is an insightful article about the history of the Minneapolis Meditation Group from attorney Jerry Blackwell, a longtime member.


It was September 1927, and Paramahansa Yogananda was electrifying Twin Cities audiences with a novel but soul-rousing message. With long hair and golden brown skin, and always clad in an orange robe, he lectured nightly to sold out auditoriums of thousands on the body and soul benefits of meditation and inner communion, almost a century before modern medicine and pop culture would make these practices synonymous with enlightened wellness.

Yogananda had first arrived in America in (more…)

Declan Galbraith Sings “Tell Me Why”

March 22, 2009

Declan Galbraith

I continue to be astonished by the abundance of talented young singers making their mark in the world. Declan Galbraith, a British singer with Scottish and Irish heritage, is now seventeen but he was only ten when he made this video for his first album, Declan, in 2002. There are plenty of talented young kids who can sing, but few can match his authenticity and soulfulness.

Declan’s subsequent albums are Thank You (2006) and You and Me (2007). Click here to see more of his performances and interviews.

As a bonus, here is Declan singing an Irish classic for that same 2002 album.

DANNY BOY (more…)

My “Close to Home” Cartoons

March 21, 2009

I’ve been writing ideas for Close To Home, a nationally syndicated cartoon, since 1999. I send my ideas to John McPherson, the panel’s creator, and he picks what he likes. Here are some of the ideas he turned into cartoons.

Click here to see my cartoons for Strange Brew, another syndicated cartoon.

Click here to see my cartoons for Stage Left, a strip I created with Steve Mark, a cartoonist friend.






Jean Houston Commits Blashphemy!

March 20, 2009

Jean Houston

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jean Houston one on one to interview her for my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. Here is a hilarious excerpt from her story:

Since my father had promised to send me to a Catholic school, I went to St. Ephraim’s in Brooklyn. Everything was fine except that my father would “gag up” my catechism and give me the most interesting questions to ask the poor little nun in the morning. Like, “Sister Theresa, I counted my ribs and I counted Joey Mangiabella’s ribs, and we’ve got the same number of ribs. And I wonder, if God created Eve out of Adam’s ribs, how come we all have the same number of ribs?” Before the startled nun could respond, I added, “I’ll prove it! One, two, three, go!” And, right on cue, thirty little children lifted their undershirts.

Then there were the Jesus questions. “Sister Theresa, how do you know that Jesus wasn’t (more…)

Lose the Fear of Losing What You Fear to Lose

March 19, 2009

CB037598Whatever you are afraid of losing in your life, close your eyes and let your imagination create a scenario in which your fear is realized. Walk yourself through that scenario in real time. Feel the sadness, the despair wash over you and through you. Then, still immersed in this dream world, emerge from your grief and move into acceptance. Feel what it feels like to live on the other side of  your fear. When you have regained your equilibrium, come back to the present . . . and know that you are forever changed.

When you have faced your fear, when you have moved through it and transcended it, the unknown is no longer your master, able to bring you to your knees with but a single thought. Your fear no longer has a death grip on you, for in your mind you have dealt with your greatest fear and its aftermath, and you have survived, wiser and stronger for the experience.

From this point on, life can only get better. As motivational pioneer Dale Carnegie observed, (more…)

Tony Robbins Relates the Inspiring Story of “Rocky”

March 18, 2009

After watching this video, I was fired up! Not quite enough to punch slabs of meat in a slaughterhouse freezer, but fired up nonetheless! I was familiar with much of Sylvester Stallone‘s real-life rags-to-riches story but hearing Tony Robbins tell it gave me a real sense of Stallone’s (more…)

Trent Tucker’s Vision at Madison Square Garden

March 17, 2009

Trent Tucker and me

I enjoyed interviewing former NBA star Trent Tucker for my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. I was impressed with his willingness to share such a personal experience. Here is an excerpt from Trent’s story:

I’m not the most religious guy in the world but I have a strong faith and I believe in God. You know how you hear people talk sometimes about a spirit that came and uplifted them and moved them in the right direction? Well, one night, a spirit walked into Madison Square Garden and gave me an opportunity to play basketball again.

Ray Williams, one of the guys who was playing in front of me, went down with an ankle sprain. All of a sudden, I felt something come into the Garden. I looked up and saw this spirit coming down the aisle at the opposite end of the court down by the visitors’ bench behind the basket. It looked like a cloud. I knew right away it was a higher force, a positive force, and that what was happening was very real. I could feel it (more…)

A Shot in the Dark

March 16, 2009

Matt Steven: Hoops hero!

I love this piece by ESPN columnist RIck Reilly. It’s easy to forget that people who live with disabilities often want nothing more than to simply fit in with “normal” society, to be part of a group instead of being permanently relegated to the sidelines. I can’t imagine what that’s like, nor can I fully appreciate the exhilaration that Matt Steven surely felt on this magical day.

A few seconds left. The game teeters on these two free throws. The shooter gulps. The packed gym goes silent, save for the tapping of a white cane on the back of the rim. That’s right. The shooter’s brother is under the hoop, rapping a cane on the rim. That’s because the shooter, Matt Steven, is blind.

So why is a blind kid in a competitive CYO game for sighted high schoolers in Upper Darby, Pa.? Because he doesn’t like to miss anything — especially free throws.

Matt, a senior, had been on the St. Laurence CYO team for a year and never played in a game — never expected to. “He just likes being on the team,” says Matt’s brother and coach, Joe. Matt shoots free throws every practice, though, making about half. And that’s what gave Joe a crazy, unthinkable, wonderful idea.

Before a charity tourney this past February, Joe asked the other teams if Matt could shoot all of St. Laurence’s free throws. Amazingly, (more…)