There is something in me that constantly searches. I want to become better, I want to grow and change. It’s a voice that whispers incessantly, “Further. Keep going.” There’s no turning it off or changing its tune. There is only ignoring it or listening to it, and I spend my life alternating between these approaches. It’s patient, this thing inside of me. It perches in my chest and waits for me to come back around. I always do.

As I walk this pilgrimage that is life, I find myself open to any tools, methods, or experiences that will help to push me further. To make me better. I might be painfully reserved in other aspects of my life, but in self-improvement I am fearless, relentless. I am a warrior. I tear through books and online articles and weekend workshops. I treat my life as a laboratory, experimenting with diets, daily regimens, esoteric practices. The books on my shelf get steadily stranger and stranger as I spelunk down the rabbit hole. In recent years I have taken a deep dive into meditation, yoga, reiki, qi gong, traditional Chinese medicine. And down, down, the path we go.

My first experience with ayahuasca was two years ago. I had heard of plant medicines before but they seemed like the type of thing for only a medicine woman or a madman lost in the desert. As the South American practice popped into my readings more and more I started to warm to the idea that this spiritual brew might be useful. It is not at all uncommon in Silicon Valley circles and plenty of famous visionaries have been known to explore the fringes of human consciousness (Steve Jobs was quite outspoken about the virtues of psychedelics, for example). When I discovered that Paul Simon used ayahuasca, I was sold. Besides, wasn’t I a madman lost in the desert?

One does not simply buy ayahuasca off the internet and drink it one night during reruns of The Office. This is a serious and sacred spiritual undertaking and requires weeks of physical and mental preparation. Meditation, fasting, and abstinence are all part of the regimen, and the dietary restrictions are severe. If undertaken sincerely, these practices inevitably cause emotional upheaval. After a week or two I’m usually ready to snap at anyone who looks at me funny and then go cry into my cereal. And really, maybe that’s the point — to get these raw emotions to the surface so the medicine can work on them. It’s a sacrifice, but no one promised that radical life changes would come easily.

The brew itself is a foul-tasting green concoction made from vines, leaves, and other natural substances. It is difficult to drink, as if to remind you that it is difficult to change. I always find myself both nervously dreading and eagerly anticipating a ceremony. What keeps me coming back to it is that I’m not sure what my alternative is…I can’t go on resenting my loved ones and wallowing in a stew of depression and anxiety. I just can’t. So I get off of my ass and I do the work. Exploring the depths of your inner life takes a courage and an honesty that are rare in today’s society. Only warriors need apply.

Once you gather your courage and get the pungent elixir down your throat, what follows is a six hour journey through what I call “the world behind the world”. Each time is different — you may see visions or hear music or visit other realms, but not always. It is common to weep. Or laugh. I bring a notebook and scratch away at it for hours in the dark. The only certainty is that you will be guided (either gently or otherwise) to confront the darkness inside of you that you have been running from for far too long. The shortcomings and mistakes that have been holding you back are laid bare and you have no choice but to regard them. This is why we do it: to finally draw a line in the sand, determined to look at ourselves with a fearless honesty.

This is not meant to be a solitary journey. When I partake of this odyssey I am surrounded by other pilgrims, searchers and warriors just like me. To my left and to my right are companions who are fighting alongside me and with me. The room is filled with music, both haunting and reassuring, to guide us along. We share our lives with each other and cry and laugh together in a rare space of unconditional love. Their stories are mine (and yours); strained relationships, broken families, staggering loss. We all come to the medicine for the same reason — not because we are whole, but because we wish to be.

Medicine — that’s the only word for it. Ayahuasca has been the catalyst of more growth in my life than hours upon hours of counseling. I awake after the experience with fresh eyes and the clear knowledge of what needs to change in my daily thoughts and actions. I leave with a list of relationships that need rekindling, tasks left too long undone, words that need to be spoken. I am a different man when I return, yet more myself than ever.

There is no such thing as a magic potion. There is no pill that can save you from your struggles. Ayahuasca does not make all of your problems magically disappear — they are all still right where you left them, waiting for you when you get home. But choosing to explore yourself and to be honest about what’s inside of you will bring you healing and peace and strength for the journey.



This was a difficult year. Tonight I’ll raise a glass to the end of it. Maybe a few glasses. I’ve earned them.

I had a strong feeling, around this time twelve months ago, that it was going to be a very important year. That prediction proved to be all too true, though important doesn’t always mean easy or fun– in fact it rarely does. This year was important in the way that an appendectomy is. When it’s time for it, you have to do it, ready or not. Nobody wants to get ripped open and have painful stuff cut out of them, but what’s the alternative?

Besides, pain brings lessons. Now that it’s almost over and I’m poised to dive into the unknown waters of next year, I can look back with wiser eyes and see the lessons that were begging to be learned. For me, they were all about being present.

Lesson 1: Let the past stay in the past. I didn’t realize how much anger I was carrying around inside until I started to let it out. I even scared myself with some of my unexpected outbursts this year, though they needed to be expressed. Now that I’ve given these thoughts voice I realize that no one has wronged me and I’m not owed any apologies, period. Anger mostly leaves me alone these days.

Lesson 2: Let the future stay in the future. I’ve been operating at alarming levels of anxiety for too long. This pervasive fear that has gripped me is common but not normal, and it’s time to stop worrying about what could be. I have everything that I need and there’s no fight or quest or achievement to be sought. It’s time to just enjoy where I’m at for once. Tomorrow will work itself out.

Simple lessons, sure. It’s not like I didn’t know them. Yoda has been preaching for decades that fear and anger lead to a dark place. But wisdom doesn’t come from hearing sermons or reading about other people’s experiences or watching awesome sci-fi movies. Wisdom only comes from struggle, and struggle means pain. And pain teaches the lesson.

So I’ll raise a glass to the closing year, thanking it for all of the pain. I’m a stronger, better person than I was before. Here’s to a slightly less important New Year.



I did it. I wrote a book.

It’s a first draft and it needs heavy editing before I’d show it to anyone, but it exists. After all those years of doubt and excuses and hearing negative voices in my head, now the question is finally settled. Can I do it? Yes, yes I definitely can. Because I did. My first book.

Firsts are magical, aren’t they? It’s so exciting to do something you’ve never done before.  I remember my first job, my first kiss, my first musical performance. There’s a sense of adventure and danger involved that makes life feel so malleable. You don’t really know if you can accomplish something until you’ve done it. Even if you fail at something, there’s still the possibility that you could succeed in the future. So failure doesn’t answer the question, only postpones it. Can you do it? Go do it and find out.

As a staunch creature of habit, I feel there’s something to be said for repetition. Doing the same thing over and over again invites a sense of stability into life. Practice makes perfect and all. But growth requires something else, a sacrifice of the comfortable and familiar to welcome an opening to possibility. Chaos and order need to be carefully balanced so that life can flourish in the cracks between. It is this push and pull that lets us shape new things. Like a book, for instance.

Now I need to edit it. I’ve never edited a book before. This will be exciting.




A pendulum swings.

A pendulum keeps time. Keeps the beat. After all, that’s it’s purpose. Without the oscillation there would be no rhythm, no use. It finds its way to the center, its home, but forgets to stop. Correct and over-correct, constantly displaced. How many times does it carve out this path?

There is a point on the journey where the pendulum says “enough”. More than enough. This path has been traveled to its conclusion. And it begins to turn its swing in the other direction, back toward equilibrium. Back to home. There’s another beat waiting there to be struck and it simply won’t do to miss it. And so it turns.

It is at this instant of syncopation, in the space between moments, that a wonderful thing happens. If you’re attentive you can catch it, the split-second where the pendulum is no longer moving. When it can no longer be said to be traveling in this direction, but not yet in that one either. It stands in place, however briefly, entirely at rest. This is eternity. Utter stillness amid perpetual motion.

May this be that moment, peace both fleeting and forever.



I thought I was fighting for us, but maybe I’m just fighting. Maybe it’s time to put down the damn sword and let natural things occur. I might be being selfish. Is fighting for things selfish?

There’s no clear way to determine when it’s time to give up. Have I done enough? I’ve done an awful lot more than anyone could understand. Few would have made it this far. Does that make me a doormat? Stupid? Tough? Stubborn? Kind? Who’s supposed to judge these things? Do I really have to just figure all this stuff out on my own? What if I fuck it up?

WHAT IF I FUCK IT UP? What’s the backup plan? Who comes to save me? Me?? This is a terrible plan. I shouldn’t be trusted with this shit. I’m damn unreliable in these situations and this is super important stuff. I can’t do this without a lifeline of some sort.

At least let me phone a friend.



You know what? We can do this. We can rise above our petty instincts. We can sublimate these lower base energies and turn them into beauty. This isn’t a civil war on the horizon — it’s a revolution.

An interior revolution such as the world has never seen. Not brother versus brother, not right versus wrong. This is us going within ourselves, doing the necessary work, and excavating the pure gold that lies in wait inside of us. Alchemy. Internal, transcendental alchemy. As the world watches we will rediscover love and its power to shape this planet and our lives. We will put down our devices and pick up our phones. To reach out. To connect. To remember all that we once found beautiful. Movies. Concerts. Picnics. Togetherness. Music. Poetry. Stories.

Real stories, not the stuff we fill our heads with these days. True tales of valor and compassion and tribulation. Sunrises. Lovers. Family. This is our story and it doesn’t have to end the way everyone expects. It’s time for a twist. We don’t have to attack, we can love. We don’t have to yell, we can cry. And then sing. And then embrace. We can be one if we just realize that we are one. One people, one tribe, one body. One story. The story of us; not us versus them.

What will it take? Not a little. It will require that we see each other as human, not as bits and bytes and sound clips. It will mean that we dig deeper, always deeper, beyond appearances and beyond our established rutted paths. We’ll have to do things differently, each and every one of us. We are not fighting for control. We are creating something new. As we begin to exit the haze we realize that these are the pangs of childbirth and the moment of revelation is nearly upon us. This great and beautiful new thing is here, the day is dawning. Whether we are ready for it or not, this new creature called us will be born. It will walk among us, look like us, talk like us. Indeed it will be indistinguishable from us because it is us. We are becoming something strange and beautiful.

Are we ready? No, certainly not. There is no preparing for this, only acceptance, anticipation, love. Excitement! Fear and worry and animosity have run their course. That time is done and that act is now complete. The climax is here and it’s going to be a doozy. We can do this. We are doing this.

If I start a revolution, will you follow?



My first sexual encounter was with a boy, sometime around the fifth grade. We were close friends, maybe best friends. We had a regular crew of summer sleepover buddies and all the moms would rotate hosting us. And it was always the moms who scheduled and wrangled us. The dads were off at work, doing dad things.

I can’t remember which specific toys he had at his house. It was always something different — one boy collected Legos and another had Transformers. Or GI Joe or Thundercats or He-Man action figures. One kid had a gigantic Star Wars collection that required a dedicated room.

I actually think he was the one with the educational Speak-N-Spells that taught various levels of language and grammar. I guess they worked.

It didn’t happen at night or in a blanket fort. It was the middle of the afternoon and he asked if I wanted to kiss. I wasn’t sure, but he swayed me with the argument “how will you know what to do when you start dating girls?” It was reasonable and I was curious, so we kissed. This went on for a couple of weeks, as we would lock ourselves in a bedroom and practice making out and undressing each other. Things never got R-rated — it just felt nice to express this new sexual energy and to feel the love of someone who welcomed it. Being with him was one of the most beautiful encounters of my young life and the feeling of being wanted made everything seem brighter.

We weren’t particularly great at hiding it and we got caught. The repercussions were swift and definite as my Proper Catholic Upbringing informed me that these actions were ugly and disappointing. There was no punishment, other than the shame, and no explanations of how to use this energy productively. Only the knowledge that I had sinned and that “good” boys didn’t act that way. The disgusting behavior would stop immediately.

I don’t remember what happened next. No recollection whatsoever of how this affected him or what conversations we had in the days or weeks that followed. Now that I’m typing it out, I wonder if this was the start of the disappearing memories. I only know that we drifted apart completely and have seen each other twice in the past thirty years, in passing at a wedding or some such. We’ll probably never talk about it.

I’ve made out with only a handful of men in my life. There’s something inside me that tells me it is ugly and disappointing. Sometimes the feeling bleeds over to women as well.

I still feel shame.

I didn’t do anything wrong and neither did anyone else.

Theoden’s Horse


When in conversation, we sometimes lose the thread.  To lose the thread means to unconsciously stop following the conversation. You’ve done it.

Maybe it’s a boring conversation and so you’ve started doing other things with your mind. Like when your boss turns to you and asks, “What do you think about that?” in the middle of a meeting and you realize you’ve been daydreaming about Justin Bieber. Or perhaps there are other times that you’re giving an honest effort to track the conversation, but the subject matter is outside of your grasp. As many times as I read Tolkien (long may he reign), I still get lost when he goes into the history of Theoden, son of Thengel, son of this guy, son of that guy, and how his horse Snowmane was in the battle of whatzis where the sword was forged that ended up getting melted and forged into this other sword……. I desperately want to follow the kajillion subplots, but I lose the thread. I just know Frodo needs to get to the mountain.

A similar thing happens to me as I walk through my life. There are so many subplots and so much to pay attention to. I’ve got to cook healthy meals and reach out to friends and keep plants alive and  monitor the work email and meditate and maintain a budget, but be sure to relax so I can write…and aren’t we supposed to start thinking about babies? Some days I lose the thread and can’t remember what the original point of it all was. I’m certain I set out to accomplish something. And that something is more important than daily minutiae.

I give myself permission to let a few things slip. If I miss an email or eat some fast food it won’t do any irreparable damage. And I forgive myself for daydreaming from time to time. It’s okay to skip ahead a few pages. Frodo needs to get to that mountain.



I really like the word ‘woke’ as people use it today. It’s a relatively new slang- it couldn’t be more than five years since I first heard it. People who use it knows what it means, but I’d have a hard time describing it clearly. The closest synonym is probably enlightened, which is itself a word that is difficult to define. If you know, you know.

I had a conversation recently with a college student who came into the gallery to see my wife’s art. He was one of the ones who “got” her work, if that makes sense. They are the ones who stand for minutes in front of the same painting while everyone else is milling through the room around them. They find themselves speechless with a lump in their throat or they explode with a million questions or look for someone to hug. It’s amazing to watch- they recognize something magical and powerful in her art as it reaches in and triggers their emotional centers. This guy was one of the talkers.

Being an artist himself he marveled at the craft, recognizing that each of these pieces must have taken months, if not years, to create. He peppered me with technical questions about her process and technique that I could only answer with a shrug and a blank stare (“Black magic, maybe?”). He gaped at that painting for a good ten or fifteen minutes as we talked about art and my job and his school work. He wasn’t in a hurry, didn’t think about whether he was bothering me or taking up too much of my time, wasn’t looking for anything more than the experience of standing right there, right then. He even shared with me a very personal story about his family that the painting had made him think of before he hugged me and moved on.

That dude was woke.

Time is Broken


I realize now that I have been absent for a long time.

My sense of time is bizarre. I can remember things that happened to me, but they are not moored to any reference points. Did I live with Mark a decade ago, or two? How old was I when our cat died? It’s all a jumbled mess of things that I think I did. Sometimes I can piece together enough context clues to anchor the memory to a timeline, often not. Things just happened.

There are pieces of my life missing. Memories that should be there but don’t seem to appear when summoned. When people walk up to me and act like they know me, I just play along. When a friend asks if I remember something, I say “Yeah, that was great.” I almost always get away with it.

I can’t judge how long I’ve been like this. Maybe since childhood. Or after college. I’m certain it got worse about five years ago.

I made a giant mistake and I’ve been terrified of making mistakes ever since. So I stopped making choices. I let my sister pick out all of my clothes. I buy the tires the sales guy recommends. The wife is obviously in charge of anything related to color or decorating. I’ve been gradually abdicating responsibility over pieces of my life. With nothing left to do, I fell asleep.

Fast asleep, I wake up and go to work, staying there only as long as I absolutely have to before I rush home to space out in front of the television. I don’t notice the people around me or what they are saying. I’m not sure what my dinner tasted like or who won the game I was watching. Time marches on without me and I can’t understand how everyone’s memories sound so clear. I’m caught on a ride that doesn’t seem to end.

But then one day I bump into a stranger in a book and he tells me a secret. There is no right and wrong. We are all one. I am important.

I start making choices that bring me happiness. I give away any t-shirt that doesn’t have a superhero on it. I buy the cheaper tires because I don’t care how long they last. I still don’t stay late at work- I come home early and choose to write. I build new memories. And I awaken.

Like a time traveler from god knows when, I open my eyes with no sense of what has happened between then and now. I step outside, blink a few times, and look around with fresh eyes.

Has the whole world gone mad, or is it just me?