Saturday, May 28, 2016


      I went to see the dermatologist for my annual checkup this week, as I have for the past five years. Once again, he used liquid nitrogen to freeze off about fifty small, pre-cancerous sunspots distributed around my face, back, arms and legs. Based on past experience, I knew in advance that it would probably hurt quite a bit (for a guy with a well-demonstrated intolerance for pain) and be somewhat expensive. Still, it's worth it, because any one of these small patches of slightly rough skin, known scientifically as solar keratosis, has a good chance of becoming cancerous over time, especially for those of us who spend a significant amount of time outdoors while living in sun-drenched areas like South Texas. 

     There's really nothing to worry about, as long as I keep going back and have the doctor monitor this skin condition. The reason I'm mentioning it here is to share the awareness with others who might be at risk for skin cancer - which is basically anyone else who's over the age of 50 and has lived in a warm climate for most of their lives.  As Dr. Duncan pointed out, sun damage is cumulative, and any skin abnormalities I see today correspond to sun exposure from forty years ago. Forty years!
     Intellectually, I know that every action we take has consequences. But this particular visit to the dermatologist is such a concrete demonstration of that principle that it takes me by the shoulder and shakes me to the core. Had anyone told 24-year-old Rudi that sunbathing with his pals on the riverbank for days on end would have costly and painful results forty years later, he would probably have laughed, slathered on more baby oil and rolled over to get a more even tan.

     Fortunately, by the time I was in my late 20's, and since then I have become more health conscious in general, and aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen, hat and long sleeves when outdoors. But in the aftermath of this week's visit to the doctor, as these painful spots heal, I can't help but find myself wondering what other consequences am I living with as a results of past choices? And, more importantly, what choices and habits can I cultivate today, in order to reap more positive, healthful consequences in the future? Just wondering... 

With gratitude and blessings,

Friday, May 20, 2016


    Once upon a time, not that long ago, a chiropractor who had been treating both Zet and I for several years, half-jokingly observed that Zet was so tough that she could probably take 23 bullets and keep on coming, while I have such a low threshold of pain that just hearing the sound of gunfire would probably cause me to fall to the ground and scream "I think I got shot!"
     I don't mind admitting that there's definitely some truth in that.  Especially in the aftermath of slamming the car door shut on the index finger of my right hand earlier this week while I was loading the car and got distracted by our dog. Zet was nearby when it happened, and she immediately wrapped it with ice and administered arnica pellets, so the after effects aren't as bad as they might have been. Still, there's a deep bruise beneath the nail bed, and the top half of my finger is mighty stiff and sore. Being sensitive to pain, it really hurts. Being a professional guitarist, I can't help but feel concerned about my future ability to hold a guitar pick the way I have been for the past 50 years.
     Rationally, I know it's no big deal, because the bruise will probably heal in a few days. Spiritually, I'm clear that all is well and all shall be well. Even if, for some reason, this finger doesn't heal completely, I have faith that I'll either find a different way to strum guitar or create new ways of making music that won't involve that particular digit. And yet... I can't help but notice how often I seem to keep banging this one finger into things, and how each time the stabbing pain causes fearful little thoughts to pop up in my brain, proclaiming this to be a disaster.
     It's amazing how easy it is to fixate on one, small problem like this, while ignoring how much of life is going very well. Sure, one-third of one of my ten fingers is throbbing, but the other nine fingers are fine, as are both of my hands and feet, as well as all of the many organs, bones and complex bodily systems that are functioning perfectly.
    Having noticed this often-used tendency to focus on the negative, I'm doing my best to use this situation as an opportunity to practice focusing on blessings instead. So, when I bump into the sore spot, rather than automatically shrinking into pain and fear, I breathe into the sensations, and send healing thoughts to the places that hurt. Not just to the tip of the index finger, but to the little boy who keeps kicking himself for not paying attention to a slamming car door; to the older guy who keeps worrying about his future abilities to play guitar and/or stay creative; to the holier-than-thou critic who berates me for howling in pain and screaming awful curses at myself, the dog and the car door in the immediate aftermath of the incident.
     Like I said, it's no big deal. In a couple of weeks, this will all be ancient history. In the meantime, it's just another opportunity to practice focusing on the many blessings that life keeps bringing, rather than the challenges. Or not. It's simply a matter of choice. As the late Wayne Dyer used to say, "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional."    

With gratitude and blessings,

Saturday, May 14, 2016


     In preparation for my 64th birthday later this week, I gave myself a couple of days of contemplative space to prepare consciously for the coming year. In addition to being quiet and creative by turns, I spent some time revising my personal list of Ten Allowances. This is a set of personal guidelines that I wrote shortly after our sixteen year-old son, Mateo, was born, as a way of summarizing and reinforcing the spiritual principles and practices that I choose to use as the basis for living from the Inside Out. I've found these to be very helpful in dealing with the incessant societal pressure to live from the "Outside In" and focus on doing rather than being, on products rather than process.
   A few years later I revised them as the summary chapter of my book, Hurry Slowly, and now I've rewritten them again. They've evolved as I've evolved, and no doubt they'll change again in years to come. In the meantime, I offer them here for your consideration.

1.    I allow myself time to listen.  Sitting still and focusing directly on Deep Silence works -- but so does focusing on a flower, rock or candle. I give myself regular opportunities to simmer in the silent spaces between my thoughts. It takes practice.

2.  I allow myself time to connect with my Purpose in life.  Having created a succinct and powerful Statement of Purpose, I focus on it frequently.
3.  I allow myself to follow my intuition. It is central to staying on course and living from the inside out. (Hint: It requires listening.  See #1 above.) 
4.  I allow myself good food and drink.  There's no need to get rigid about it -- but my body's engine functions better when it is being filled with the optimum fuel. I already know what those foods are, and I eat them as often as possible.
5.  I allow myself time to do what I love to do as frequently as possible. Better to spend a few minutes doing it today than to put it off until that Magical Someday when I'll have more time.
6.  I allow myself to notice what I really "dislike" to do - then do it anyway from time to time, with as much love as I can muster.  Amazing gifts arise from embracing the activities/people I dislike, instead of trying to push them away. 
7.  I allow myself to "fail" the tests and temptations that arise occasionally.  The tests are inevitable.  Some I'll pass with flying colors; some I may seem to "fail" miserably.  But the Good News is that these are "open book tests," i.e. the answers (or at least some helpful clues) are usually available when I stop, look and listen with my heart.  (see #1...)

8.  I allow myself to associate with other people who are doing what they love to do.  Birds of a feather succeed together! I do my best to give, buy or barter from people who are doing/selling what they truly love - and others tend to do the same for me.

9.  I allow myself to notice if what I'm doing feels too hard.  As soon as possible, I pause to spend a few moments relaxing until the feeling of struggle passes and is replaced with a sense of peace. Nobody said life would always feel fun - but, by and large, there's no reason why things can't feel peaceful.

10. I allow myself to enjoy the process of remembering my Path.  It's important not to beat myself up when I forget or lose my way. When I notice that I'm off track, I let myself feel good about the fact that I've remembered.  What I focus on expands -- so I might as well focus on peace, love and abundance.  

With love and blessings,

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Nellie Harst & Rudi Harst

    This Sunday is Mother's Day, and economists are predicting another record year of spending across the nation for this special day. Last year, Americans spent an average of $172 per family on buying Mom jewelry, flowers, gift cards and meals, totaling approximately $21 billion - and there's every reason to believe that this year's total will be significantly higher.
     Not that there's anything wrong with buying stuff. I'm pretty sure that my son, Mateo, and I will do something special for Zet this weekend, and it's a safe bet that some of her favorite foods and flowers will be involved, and that money will be spent.
     But, celebrating Mother's Day can involve much more than just buying presents, sending cards or heaping sweet words on one special person. Because this day is also a great opportunity to feel our deep spiritual connection to the Divine Mother, and digest the complex stew of thoughts, feelings and energies which she engenders.
     I believe that's why Mother's Day is usually one of our best-attended Sunday Circles of the year. As we build a communal altar with photos and mementos of our mothers, bring up fond memories, and send forth blessings to our loved ones, the room inevitably gets filled to the brim with deep feelings, songs, poems, and prayers focused on our collective experience of the Divine Mother - as well as our individual Mothers.
     But, I also know that every year there are a number of people who hesitate to attend our Mother's Day Circle. Perhaps they're still grieving their recently deceased Loved One. Or, perhaps because they had painful, dysfunctional relationships with their parent(s) - and are therefore reluctant to attend such a "happy space," where everyone else seems so much more positive.
     Should you happen to feel like that this Sunday, please consider attending anyway. Because as much as we enjoy focusing on peace, love and joy in the Circle, we also affirm the power that can come from facing and embracing the full spectrum of our thoughts and feelings in the context of the shared rituals, poetry, artistry, songs and silence we foster in the Circle. That's because our purpose is to honor and nurture the Sacred in ourselves, each other and ALL Creation - not just the fun stuff, the good feelings and smiley faces - but the dark places, the shadow spaces and the healing graces, too.
     To that end, we are very fortunate to have Dr. Malgorzata Oleszkiewicz-Peralba as our guest speaker this Sunday, sharing her deep, cross-cultural insight into the nature of the Divine Mother - not just as a historical figure, but as a vital force in contemporary spirituality as well. She is one of the world's leading authorities on the subject, having conducted extensive research and fieldwork throughout Europe, the Near East and Latin America for over 20 years.
     In any case, wherever you are and however you choose to celebrate Mother's Day, I hope you will take a few moments to join us in consciousness on Sunday morning, as together we embrace the Divine Mother alive in us all.
With love and blessings,