Friday, July 25, 2014


I took the week off from writing my usual column for this e-newsletter, instead sharing something from my book, Hurry Slowly. Reflecting back to one particular summer years ago, some things I learned still ring true. Enjoy!


            It's been quite a busy summer at our house. Among other things, we had the opportunity to re-do the front porch of our Victorian cottage. We were fortunate to receive a generous restoration grant from the San Antonio Conservation Society. The grant paid for all the supplies and contractors, but did not include the painting. So Zet and I have been prepping and painting the detailed woodwork off and on for a couple of weeks now.
            We've done a fair amount of this kind of work over the years, so we sort of knew what we were getting into. But we hadn't counted on having one for the hottest Junes in history. Combined with my awareness of all he other projects and deadlines bearing down on our overheated desktops, the oppressive heat made me feel tired and very put upon as I was painting in the yard.
            Then one morning, I got tired of working so hard and decided that the easiest solution was to make a game of it, to go ahead and do the work, but from a different perspective. The rules were simple: Pretend this painting project was really a Creative Living class I'd signed up for. My homework assignment for the week was to note the number of spiritual lessons being presented. Here are some of the things I learned in class:
1.    Slow down and relax. The work gets done a lot faster when I'm working slower. Trying to paint things in a hurry just means I'll spend more time cleaning up mistakes later.
2.    Focus on the little things. Paint one small area at a time. It's helpful to check in and take a look at the Big Picture, the larger task, periodically but not too often. The real work is done one small patch at a time.
3.    More is not always better. It's tempting to load the brush with paint, because it seems to go faster. But the more paint on the brush, the harder it is to control; the less paint, the more control and fewer mistakes.
4.    Work is more pleasant in the company of friends. It's not only more fun, but much easier painting alongside someone else. There's just more energy available when tow or more are gathered and focused on the work at hand. Even when Zet was painting on the other side of the house, I swear I could feel the energy of working together - or feel the drop in energy when she went off to take care of some unrelated business.
5.    Remember to breathe consciously, especially when faced with a particularly tricky task. It makes a big difference in a quiet little way.
             So, that's what I've learned so far. Both the front porch and the Creative Living class are definitely still works in progress. But that's the joy of owning an old house and of being enrolled as a perpetual student in the School of Life.
With gratitude and blessings,

Saturday, July 19, 2014


          The first time I ever played guitar was on February 10, 1964 - the day after being mesmerized by the Beatles' dynamic first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Wow! I'd never seen anything like it. They were so good, sounded so exciting and were having so much fun, that I wanted some of that action, too.
            Fortunately, my father had a cheap guitar on which he would bang out old jazz standards, neither of which had ever really interested me before. But overnight, that battered old instrument became the most magical, potent object in the house, radiating an aura of endless possibilities.

            Learning to play guitar wasn't easy; I didn't have very good hand-eye coordination, plus I was a left-hander trying to play on a right-hander's instrument, so it was a slow, tedious process at best.
            Luckily, I'd always enjoyed singing, frequently singing solos in the church choir and school music programs from the time I was six years old. Growing up, I often felt like an oddball, being the overweight, buck-toothed bookworm with big ears, few friends and a foreign accent. But all of that awkwardness seemed to melt away whenever I sang, whether standing in front of a full auditorium or sitting alone in my bedroom.

            So, once I'd finally managed the rudiments of strumming the instrument, there was something truly magical about the combination of singing and playing guitar together. The symbiotic relationship between fingers, guitar strings and vocal chords made it possible for a wellspring of primal urges to emerge from the recesses of my heart, where they'd been waiting in hiding for years. My newfound ability to entrain words with melody, rhythm, meaning and movement all in one fell swoop was not just fun, it was a fundamental shift in how I experienced the world and my place in it.
             Somehow those early songs by the Beatles, the Animals, the Rolling Stones and the many bands that followed allowed me to find words and music to express all the amorphous feelings that had been bottled up inside for years. It wasn't long before I joined forces with several junior high school classmates to form our first band, The Hodads. Now the magic was multiplied many times over by the driving power of bass, drums and harmonies - plus the sheer joy of having buddies to make music with. I was off and running, heading into a lifetime of sharing that musical joy with as many others as I could.

            Recently, Paul McLaughlin, the lead guitarist in the band, (a truly talented musician, who has since gone on to perform with many of the top names on the Texas music scene), unearthed and posted a photo of the Hodads to his Facebook page, which I've taken the liberty of reposting here. (That's me, the 2nd blue-shirted dude from the left, cradling my first microphone that I'd bought at Radio Shack just a few weeks earlier). It's definitely hokey and a little embarrassing, yet seeing that image brings back a flood of memories around the sheer joy of playing music, just for the heck of it.

            Fortunately, I've been able to make a living by sharing words and music from that magical space that the Beatles first showed us. Fifty years, eight albums and thousands of professional performances later, I continue to feel extremely blessed by the many gifts that music has brought to my life. I'm grateful each time a new song arrives in my heart, each time I get to sing with others, each time I feel stretched by the Muse. Whether it is on Sunday Morning in the Circle, or in concert, at a corporate event, arts festival or a nursing home - whenever I have an opportunity to perform from that inner space that music provides, it affirms that I'm living my purpose, doing what I was born to do.
            Of course, it hasn't been all fun and games; there have been plenty of challenges along the way, some of which continue to this day. There have been plenty of doubts and creative droughts; times when it was hard to make connections, or discern which direction to go next; times when someone's opinion carried more weight that I'd like to admit; times when it felt like I really should quit... 
            But, as far as I can tell, those aren't separate from the process of making music and living my life purposefully; they are an integral part of it. Plus, any discomforts or discouragements I've encountered are far outweighed by the sheer joy of doing what I love to do. To paraphrase the Fab Four, "I love it -- yeah, yeah, yeah."
With gratitude and blessings,
          PS:  Speaking of the sheer love of making music, our Underground Sounds concert in the Cave Without a Name last month was one of my all-time favorite gigs EVER! It wasn't just a show; it was an amazing mind-body-spirit experience. So much so that I immediately booked a return performance on July 26, to build on that energy. I really hope you can join us for what promises to be a wonderful time. (details at


Friday, July 11, 2014


          This morning I awoke with a deep-seated desire to get out of the city and spend the day in nature, preferably by going swimming and hiking at the Guadalupe River State Park near Bulverde. Fortunately, we can probably do it, because it's Monday, our day off. I can't wait to go. Unfortunately, first we need to spend an hour or two preparing the Circle newsletter for bulk mailing, then drive over to the Bulk Business Mail department at the Central Post Office for processing. Then get Mateo to a doctor's appointment and run another errand, before we can get on the road.
            Then, if traffic allows, it will be another 30-45 minute drive, plus the time to deal with parking and loading-in before we could actually get our feet wet. Bummer. I'm guessing that we'll be lucky to arrive at the river by3pm, at best.

            Sure enough, the rest of the bulk mailing process takes longer than expected, because the registration form we'd completed at home has to be re-done when I got to the post office. The friendly, but unyielding postal clerk informs me that USPS Bulk Mailing Form #3602-NZ had been replaced by the brand-new Postage Statement, 3602N-1 - which fact I didn't find out until after I'd already filled out a Form 3605N.
            And then there is the time-consuming process of being shuffled from one side of the huge postal facility to another and back, in order to pay the invoice and finalize the shipment.
            Then it's off to the doctor's office, to meet my hungry son, who really wants to eat at a nearby restaurant, more than he wants to travel an hour north for a picnic and swim. So... by the time we finish eating lunch, re-negotiating our family schedule and making our way through the heavy traffic bottle-necked on Highway 281, we finally pull into State Park parking lot alongside the river at 4:30pm. By then, all three of us are feeling tired, hot and grumpy - and I'm wondering whose crazy idea this was anyway.

            But five minutes later, as I wade into the cool, free-flowing water of the Guadalupe and lie down on a smooth, flat, semi-submerged limestone boulder in the middle of the stream, everything else fades into nothingness. Zet and Mateo have both gone off in their own directions. Now there is only this giant, age-old boulder beneath me, a clear blue sky above and the delicious sensation of the ceaseless river current washing over my neck, shoulders and torso, rinsing my cares downstream.
            Every now and then, I hop off my perch to splash around in an adjacent swimming hole for a minute or two, before resuming my prone position on the rock and feeling the direct transmission of energy from the earth, sun, sky and water flowing to me, through me, as me. Truly. We are One. Ahhh...

            Soon enough the sun sinks behind the hill. In a few minutes it will be time to get up, dry off and drive back to the city to resume my duties as Rudi. It's all too easy to think of my experience here (submerged in beauty) as being separate from my life there (busy in the city). But the free-flowing song of the river asks me to reconsider this artificial division and urges me remember that the Infinite Stream of Life, Love and Light flows to me, through me, as me - at all times, under all circumstances. How and why this is so remains a deep mystery -- but that doesn't change the power and the possibilities of living from this place of unity, wherever I go, whatever I do.
            At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

With love,

Friday, July 4, 2014


             I wish you were here to smell the sweet, pungent, scent of the night-blooming jasmine growing outside our office window, because there's no way that I'm going to find the right adjectives to adequately describe how delicately, but firmly, those jasmine flowers perfume the sticky, warm breeze blowing in from the Gulf Coast this evening.

            If you walked by it during the day, you probably wouldn't notice this amazing little tree, because Cestrum nocturnum just looks like an ordinary, mild-mannered shrub. Even now, during the height of its blooming season, when it's thick green foliage is covered with hundreds of blossoms, they remain inconspicuous, looking like little bits of thick, off-white thread, closed in on themselves, the secret of their scent kept under tight wraps.
            But shortly after nightfall, each one of those non-descript, limp threads has been magically transformed into a small, but stout trumpet, blaring out a distinctively haunting note which seems delicate from a distance, but becomes a loud, honking noise from up close.

            If I'd stayed indoors all night, I'd probably miss it. But instead, as soon as I walk out the kitchen door, I'm floored by the heady smell, telling me to slow down, breathe deeply, and feel the fleeting nature of this precious moment. Reminding me once again that this gift is only available for a few hours nightly, a few weeks of the year. "Enjoy us while you can," sing the blossoms...
            In this age of technological wonders, we've become so used to the availability of bright red strawberries from California (or Chili), plump green asparagus from Australia (or Mexico) and fresh-cut tulips from Holland (or Canada) year-round at the corner supermarket. To clicking on our smartphone and connecting instantly for a face-to-face chat with someone who is thousands of miles away. To switching on the thermostat and feeling warm as toast in winter, or cool as a cucumber in the heat of summer. And all of that is certainly wonderful.

            But the heady scent of this night-blooming jasmine pulls me fully into this one present moment now, reminding me that much of what is most precious and meaningful in life is transient. Local. Fleeting. Located just an arm's reach away, or right beneath my nose: a dear one's smile or loving touch; a songbird's call; the still small voice of Spirit -- all calling out to be recognized, realized and appreciated now... and now... and now. 
With gratitude and hopes that you, too, are enjoying the blessings of summer,