Musings By My Writing Mentor and a Tobacco Vendor Turned Spiritual Genius


My writing mentor Rob had a pension for passing along his favorite books. I'd show up for weekly writing meetings, and more often than not he'd present me with one wrapped in beautiful paper.

Sometimes the books were brand new. Other times they were used classics that he'd pull from his own collection (I liked those the most).

Inside each cover, he'd write a note in his clean, clear script (ALL-CAPS, of course).

JUNE 25, 2014





I recently opened this particular book and randomly turned to a page that read:

"Absolute perfection is here and now, not in some future, near or far. The secret is in action -- here and now. It is your behavior that blinds you to yourself. Disregard whatever you think yourself to be and act as if you were absolutely perfect -- whatever your idea of perfection may be. All you need is courage."

It continued...

"All  you need you have. Use it. Behave as best you know, do what you think you should. Don't be afraid of mistakes; you can always correct them, only intentions matter. The shape things take is not within your power; the motives of your actions are."

Rob and Me

We use to talk about this a lot, Rob and I. How we human beings are such pros at clouding up our worlds with our complicated brains.

"Jen, everything is perfect," he'd reiterate time and time again. "It's all a choice. you just have to surrender. Your life is as simple as you make it."

I've thought long and hard about Rob's definition of surrender.

He defined it as allowing the heart to be your guide, rather than letting the ego run the show.  "It's about the heart consciousness," he explained. "Everything good in this world comes from the heart. Of course you need your brain to function, but the with the heart as guide, the mind can make sound and just decisions. Heartfelt decisions make the world better for everyone."


I think back to when I was a little girl running barefoot and free. I'd climb trees, play imaginary baseball games, skateboard, create products and sell them to our neighbors. I let my imagination run wild. More often than not I'd sit in school and count down the minutes until I could return to adventures at home.

In those days, I'd end up with all sorts of scratches and battle wounds. A skateboarding adventure would leave me with bloody knees. A tree climbing expedition left a long scar on my left wrist. I tried to rescue a cat from its apparent homelessness and it scratched my ear into oblivion. I brought home a stray dog that I claimed as my own, and my parents about fell over when they saw it was covered in mange.

While sometimes my adventures were painful, they were magnificent and worth every moment. The view from the tree was worth the scratch, the thrill of flying down a hill on four wheels made the bloody knee a prized battle wound, and hugging that homeless cat for a few moments made my day. Not to mention the numerous doors closed in my face during my sales efforts, made the single dollar I earned from one willing client a prize.

In the case of the dog that I found, my Dad's first impulse was to head to the pound. But I fought with everything I had in my 7-year-old being to keep her. I made it clear that I wanted to protect and love her. I had been pleading for a pup for so long. I wasn't going to take no for an answer this time.

Dad saw my passion and it caught his attention.

He decided to work with me. So we headed to the vet and got some horrible smelling medication. Each day we'd combine it with water and scrub the pup down. As result of our efforts, she got better and better -- and loved me for it. Ruffles became my confidant and friend. Everywhere I went she'd follow.

I saved her -- she saved me. It was an affair of the heart.

"Only good things come from the heart," said Rob.

"All you need is courage," said the tobacco vendor turned spiritual genius.


If Rob were alive today, I think he'd tell me that it all begins now. Forget the past... let go of your hurts and fears. Begin living from the heart in this second. Keep it simple. Tap into the child within (it still exists) and be authentically you. Don't let the world make you into a scared, inspirationless adult. Don't be idle.

When faced with a tough moment, take a deep breath and make every effort to see things from a heartfelt perspective. This doesn't mean not standing up for ourselves and having healthy boundaries, but we must understand our motives.

For "only intentions matter" in the end.

Tale of the Seeker & the First Bold Step by Lama Surya Das

There is a story about a seeker who travels to the Himalayas, looking for an enlightened Buddha in order to receive personal teachings. This seeker wants the last word on the subject of enlightenment. Walking and trekking for days, he begins to drop his heavy gear as he makes his way to the top of a high peak in Nepal. He drops his tent, his camping equipment, and his heavy backpack.

BUSHguruStripped of almost everything and having breathed so many hundreds of thousands of breaths, he has finally forgotten about his worldly preoccupations. He is ready to arrive and very ready to listen. He pulls himself up over the final rim of the mountain and looks into the mouth of a cave. Amazingly enough, the Buddha-like master is sitting right there.

Stunned, relieved, and overjoyed, the seeker asks the Sage, "What is the first principle? What is your most important truth and teaching?"

The seeker thinks this is going to be his big moment and that he is about to become enlightened. He is going to discover the one essential thing for him to ponder. And then the Buddha replies: "Dukkha. Life is suffering, life is fraught, life is difficult."

And the seeker is totally disappointed! He looks around wildly and shouts, "Is there anyone else up here that I can talk to?!!"

I love that story. What do we do when we experience something that isn't quite what we hoped for, or worse, when we experience something that is truly difficult?

A Buddhist wise guy's rendition of the First Nobel Truth of dukkha (or dissatisfaction) is that in life pain is inevitable, BUT SUFFERING IS OPTIONAL. How much we suffer depends on us, our internal development, and our spiritual understanding and realization.

By recognizing this, we can learn to use loss and suffering in ways that help us grow wiser and become more at peace with ourselves and the universe.

Lama Surya Das
Lama Surya Das

I believe that this is the time to become warriors for peace and dialogue, not warmongers or mere worriers. We must learn the hard lesson that without the pain of inner irritation, the pearls of wisdom will not be produced within us. I lovingly call this The Pearl Principle: no pain, no transformative gain.

- By Lama Surya Das in Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation

Love Like Water By Poet Mark Nepo

Water in its clear softness fills whatever hole it finds. It is not skeptical or distrusting. It does not say this gully is too deep or that field is too open. Like water, the miracle of love is that it covers whatever it touches, making the touched thing grow while leaving no trace of its touch. True, the faces of shores and the arms of cliffs are worn to the bone. But this is beyond the water's doing. This is the progress of life, of which water is but an element.

Most things break instead of transform because they resist.

The quiet miracle of love is that without our interference, it, like water accepts whatever is tossed or dropped or placed into it, embracing it completely.

Of course, we are human and are easily hurt. But we waste so much of life's energy by delivering who and what shall be worthy of our love when the deepest elemental sense, these choices are not in our province, anymore than rain can choose what it shall fall upon.

Certainly, we need to make decisions: Who will I spend time with? Who will I learn from?  But beneath all that, the element of love doesn't stop being elemental. It does not stop covering everything before it. And over a lifetime, the pain of withholding this great and quiet force is more damaging than anything. For love, like water, can be dammed, but toward what end?

In truth, the more we let love flow through, the more we have to love. This is the inner glow that sages and saints of all ages seem to share: the wash of their love over everything before them; not just people, but birds and rocks and flowers and air.

Beneath the many choices we have to make, love, like water, flows back into the world through us. It is the one great secret available to all. Yet somewhere the misperception has been enshrined that to withhold love will stop hurt.

In truth, it is the other way around. As water soaks scars, love soothes our wounds. If open to, love will accept the angrily thrown stone, and our small tears will lose some of their burn in the great ocean of tears, and the arrow released to the bottom of the river will lose its point.

-Mark Nepo - from The Book of Awakening

Igniting the Divine Spark of the Heart By Musician and Songwriter Devirose

By  Devirose

Ever since I can remember, I have been acutely aware of the suffering in the world, both that which is part of the fabric of life such as illness, death, and natural occurrences, and that which we create on our own through the perpetuation of our harmful beliefs and actions toward ourselves and others. It troubled me a great deal, and I often felt overwhelmed by it. I couldn’t make sense of it. At the same time, I recognized that many people deny this aspect of life. I felt quite isolated in my recognition of, and depth of feeling about, the painful aspects of being alive. This combination of factors became the impetus for my commitment to spiritual practice as well as my interest in psychotherapy. I began a very serious meditation practice as well as a great deal of inner work to clear my own harmful patterns.

I later learned that this is referred to as the “gate of suffering” in Buddhist practice--that the acute awareness of the painful aspects of life becomes the entry point into questioning conventional notions of attaining happiness through the acquisition of material possessions and pleasant experiences. That in fact this “gate” or doorway leads to the recognition that suffering is universal, that no one escapes it, and that it links us together as a human family. My response to this truth, as it is for many who recognize it deeply, has been to dedicate my life to learning how to respond to all beings with wisdom and love. This is quite a practice! I have also found that by facing suffering directly, it is transformed. The Heart can grow in its ability to love, and we can come to recognize the workings of Love all around us.

This commitment to using my life to grow in consciousness and living from the Heart has been the underlying force behind the various activities/roles that I have explored. Seeing the suffering in myself and others prompted me to undertake rigorous training in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis so as to help others transform harmful patterns that were blocking their authentic life force and ability to express themselves fully. As I continued on in my meditation practice, I was offered the opportunity to teach, and to use this role to help others to turn toward their own pain with compassion, and, eventually, to see that it is possible to use our limited time here to follow the promptings of the Heart, to grow in our capacity for love and wisdom.

Listening to my Heart’s intention to grow also prompted me to explore the Yogic tradition. I completed a Yoga Teacher Training and seriously undertook the practice of Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of Devotion. Bhakti Yoga has taught me, and continues to teach me, how to open to life with gratitude, to recognize that the life force which created everything is large beyond my comprehension, to pay homage to its grandeur and to the energy which caused all that is to come into being. It is a softening practice that asks us to not habitually demand what we want from life, but to surrender and to listen deeply to what life is asking of us! By giving up control of how I think things should be (which often causes a lot of suffering when things don’t turn out according to plan), I have been taken to wonderful places that I never would have expected. And this leads me right to my music!

I never set out to be a singer, or to write songs, but instead wanted to learn to how open my heart to life by singing and chanting. Through this process, I eventually met a man who I thought was going to teach me some well known yoga chants, but instead suggested that I write my own music. Having never been trained as a musician, at first I thought this a preposterous suggestion (!) but eventually I settled into it, and it felt completely right.

I have been singing and writing songs for almost ten years now. I began by using ancient yogic mantras in Sanskrit with my original music. Eventually, I was asked to lead evenings of chanting where groups of people come together and use chant as a heart-opening practice. Continuing to sing, write, and lead others in this practice, has been a great blessing for me and has brought me much joy! Without this as an agenda, I came to meet professional musicians, composers, and singers who were writing songs outside of a spiritual/chant based tradition. Being exposed to them, exposed me to the art of song-writing, and has birthed a whole new aspect of my music.

My journey has been to wake up by transforming the inner suffering, to ignite the Divine spark of the Heart, to fan the flame of this inner fire of love. This is a universal spiritual journey, not owned by any one group, but is the potential of everyone. And so, my songs are now outside of any particular spiritual tradition, they are songs that speak to the Divine spark of Love that lives within us all. At its core, my music continues to convey the same intention that I set as my life’s work many years ago. How do we use our time here wisely? Can the suffering in the world be responded to with Love? How do we evolve in our consciousness to see the Largeness of Life with gratitude, to wake up to its mystery, and the miracle that there is anything here at all? How do we pay homage to that Force that created us and everything that we see, a Force that is wise and loving beyond our comprehension? And how do we recognize that it is this Force that is the guiding Force of our own Heart, whispering to us, and prompting us to follow Love as a path.

Visit Devirose's Website at and friend her on Facebook.

Let Your Passion Feed Your Future by Jen Engevik

We have many choices in life, even when we think we don't. It's quite easy to fall into the trap of thinking we have to follow some sort of script or do the same thing day after day. What would happen if with laser beam focus, we were to hone in on what really thrills our souls?

"Build it and they will come"...that oh so famous voice in Ray Kinsella's mind in the blockbuster "Field of Dreams" pushed him to mow down a part of his corn field to build a baseball diamond. Those around him thought him crazy...they assumed his vision would one day land him in a psych ward. Yet, he wouldn't be moved. He listened to that voice within and created something of value.

Have you ever felt your heart thumping within...thump...thump...thump...when an inspired idea comes into your mind? And then you think at night..."what if"..."if only"...

Maybe you've shared your passionate idea with someone you love and their response is a roll of the eyes or a "that can never be done." And throw the idea out the window and decide to sit down on the couch and become immersed in someone else's dream.

That someone who created the show you are watching...well he or she probably rolled into Hollywood one fine day and dreamed that his or her show was going to be an instant hit. And rejection after another pushed them to the brink. He or she most likely lived on a dime a day and slept on couches (or in their car) until finally someone said "yes". Yes!!

When we have visions that are buried, we often just sit around and settle for dullness. What if, though, we were to let our passions fuel our future?

Steve Jobs was known to many as a crazy man. When he shared his products, his eyes would light up and he practically jumped out of his skin because his inspiration could barely be contained.

I'm thinking we were born to be creators and innovators. Also, we were given bodies that were meant to be lean and mean (not mean in spirit but vibrantly healthy!!).

Sometimes we think success is only meant for the Steve Jobs, Ashton Kutchers, and Madonnas of the world.'s not so. It's meant for every living creature. The only way it can be done is through vision, hard work, sweat, and tears.

What is  your passion? How about figuring out a way to make it your future?

- Jen Engevik

Founder of Project BE Bold and

Living with a Sense of Purpose

By Blogger Valerie Lutz

F. Scott Fitzgerald said “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some of us are stronger in the broken places.”  And I believe that in order to be stronger in the broken places, it is necessary to live boldly and with a sense of purpose.  I know that sometimes that is easier said than done.  I am close to 40 years old and I am still learning about myself and about life.

How am I living boldly and with a sense of purpose? I am sharing my story.  My story is that I am a survivor of child sexual abuse at the hands of my dad. The topic of sexual abuse is a difficult on to talk about for both victims and those who are afraid of the reality of it.

Please notice that I make a distinction between victim and survivor. A victim is defined as a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or a person. A survivor is defined as a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks. I am not a victim... I am a survivor.

I am a survivor because my mom believed me. I am a survivor because most of my family loves and supports me. I am a survivor because of the therapy I received throughout high school. I am a survivor because I forgave my dad - not for him but for me. I am a survivor because I can talk about my story without shame or guilt.

I am a mom of two teenagers and when they complain about having to do the dishes or my strict rules I tell them that there is always someone out there whose story is worse than you think yours is. I have also encouraged them to stand up for those that are not strong enough to stand up for themselves because that is what my mom did for me when I disclosed about being abused.

I know that I am blessed and not every kid that discloses has that experience. So by telling my story and encouraging people to discuss sexual abuse, I feel like I am standing up for those who cannot right now. We can put an end to sexual abuse if we stop ignoring that it exists. And if you are someone that cannot stand up right now start looking for the reasons that you can be and are a survivor. They may be different than mine.

Sometimes it seems we are overwhelmed with so much negativity in the world but if we stop and really look, we are surrounded by good… sometimes you may have to dig to find it but it’s there!  I always look for reminders that keep me moving forward. My favorite quote is “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'” by Eleanor Roosevelt. When I don’t feel confident or something scares me this quote reminds me that I am strong!

Even after everything I have been through, I have faith. It took me a long time to realize that when I felt alone and worthless; I was never really alone. I used to be angry and wonder how God could allow such things to happen. I have come to believe that He puts the people that we need in our lives and everyone has a purpose. My favorite bible passage is Psalm 28:7 and it says “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”

I have recently found a great church led by a wonderful Pastor! He has some really great sermons and the words seem to come just when I need to hear them.  Two sermons that have really stuck out for me were about having zeal and about blaming God.  I learned that sometimes it is okay to be angry or have zeal if you put it to good use. I also learned that instead of blaming God or looking for someone else to blame for our problems we should be looking for how we can use our problems to help and encourage others. So today I am thankful for all I have been through and because we are all trying to survive something.

My passion or zeal is rooted in the trauma I suffered growing up. It started when I was only about five years old. It went on for about nine years. My earliest memory is of my dad touching me; telling me that this was our secret.  Eventually it became more than just touching. There was physical and mental abuse as well, especially when I tried to fight him off.  By the time I was about 14 years old I had contemplated running away, killing my dad, and even attempted suicide.

I still struggle sometimes but I have a great support system and I am determined to help others and so I started a blog ( ) to share my story, my thoughts and experiences as an abuse survivor. I want to give others hope and courage.

I encourage you to find something positive that makes you feel strong and confident. Whether its music, poetry, quotes, Bible scripture, or even a new group of friends that have a positive outlook on life; if it speaks to you and influences your strength and courage than use it!

Different things will work for different people. It’s okay to sometimes feel discouraged, but remember that it is up to you how you deal with the situation. Like I tell my sixteen year old daughter, you can be as miserable or as happy as you want – not matter what you face. There will always be things in life that you cannot change. Try to step back and take another look at it from a different perspective. Always look for the positive in a bad situation.

By Blogger Valerie Lutz of