Mindful Conversion

Tons of conversations happen within a day – business conversations, family conversations, friendly conversations, stranger conversations, elevator talk, pillow talk,  discriminatory talk, self-doubt talk, coworker conversation, social conversations.  You name it and there is a conversation going on about it at this very moment.   In fact, I’m having a conversation at this very moment, with you.

I have many conversations going on at once that I wonder if the quality of my conversations have suffered because of quantity?

Inspired conversations, a mutual exchange, haven’t been around here for some time.  Sure, I stand around the soap box and listen to the megaphone-wielding digital evangelist.  I walk away – like you – intrigued with the nugget of information, the point of view, or the language that tickled my funny bone.  Sometimes, I even get riled up enough by what they have said that I engage in their solicitation to bring me onto their platform so that they can try to sell me their encyclopedia.  I’ll tell you one thing, though, very rarely will an evangelist keep the conversation going on with me long enough for a conversion.  You see the main difference between an inspired conversation and a social conversation is altruism.  While the point-of-view in all good intentions and the voice unique, the main motive is conversion (purchase a book, a product, traffic increases, popularity contests).  An inspired conversation is a direct connection between two very present people that, without motive, have a life-changing conversation.

I’ll tell you, of all the conversations I’ve had in the past year, I’ve had very few inspired one.  Conversations that really get to the heart of who I am and make me invest in myself, which is where the social conversations leave (after the purchase).

Many moons ago in Truckee, California, in my early twenties I met a guy named Dustin Sabo – he was a rock climber (some claim notorious but that never came from him).  In a societal space, we were placed in a hotel in which we both worked.  His lifestyle, granola and minimalist, I admired.  My lifestyle, chaotic and grandiose, he didn’t admire.  While I spoke of lofty dreams (of which I accomplished, mind you) and my super-charged ego spouted off all the things I was going to do once I reached this place of achievement, he listened.  He had not one thing to gain from listening other than seeing a little deeper into the human condition.  When it was my turn to listen I couldn’t hear through the pressure-cooker of my own goals.  However, the low hanging fruit of his journey stuck with me and as I was going somewhere else he gave me a book – the very book he was reading.  It was Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Miracle of Mindfulness” and as I packed up my Honda Civic to head to the city that never sleeps to catapult a band into stardom – which I did – I opened it briefly to find he had scrawled “Have fun on life’s travels and remember not to sweat the small stuff because everything is the small stuff.”

One day, when I was sweating the small stuff I opened the book – one day in the privacy of my own time – and that book changed my life.  It was the mindfulness of Dustin’s listening to me, not selling anything, but engaging in the basic human condition in which got me to pick up the book.  I’m thankful I did because Thich Nhat Hanh has been a catalyst to my own mindfulness and I have Dustin to thank for that.  Inadvertently, I bought what Dustin was selling – mindfulness.

I had many conversations like that before everyone was peddling something.  I would follow you anywhere, buy into whatever you were selling, if you inspired me.  But, who has the time to cut into selling for a little meaningful human connection?

“Without mindfulness, however, you will quickly lose count.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Gentle Loneliness

Stumbling into a bar, midday, alone and without any sense of urgency, albeit aimless.  The male bartenders in anytown, USA, pretty much look the same, but it’s their distinguished dialect that differentiates between the regions.  I remember a handful of bars because of their bar speciality, like the Greek tavern by Port Authority in New York City where the owner makes his own stout red wine and generously keeps my glass full without a bill.  I remember other bars for different reasons like Bar of America in Truckee, California, due to embedded nuanceslike the assymetically placed clock beside a large hole in the wall that could easily be covered up by that damn clock.    It’s not really about the bar, itself, that captures the aesthetically pleasing side of my loneliness.  No, it’s the ambiance of life’s vibrations and the romanticized connection to all those sentences I’ve read about characters that have sat on the same type of stool, in the same type of bar, experiencing the same synapses of mood, that connect me to these places. 

It doesn’t end at bars.  There are a series of places that come to mind like some scene of a coming-of-age movie where the shadow of loneliness envelopes the main character causing them to reflect and move forth in life, back on track.  Right off the interstate in Dallas, Texas, there is a grassy knoll hidden by an overpass that is across the street from a well-known hospital.  It was there that I would sit for hours just looking into the vastly lit wide open Texas sky at night, waiting for an epiphany.  I’ve used the term ‘epiphany’ so much that it’s often spouted out from my mom’s mouth in reference to wise stories from a strong-lived life as what my mom calls, “what’s your term?  I had an EPIPHANY.” 

I counted it up once and I had moved 32 times give or take a couple houses during my parent’s divorce, 5 different states, 20 different zip codes, 7 of those were in a NYC burrough, and 3 different towns in New Jersey.  That’s a lot of unsettledment in one lifetime.  I wasn’t running from anything per se as much as I was running toward this idea of a life that I only knew from books and movies. 

Nowdays I can’t really concentrate in bars due some latent A.D.D. that has me more interested in people watching than sitting with my gentle loneliness that brought forth much of my writing.  Other than my pickiness of not sitting by a kitchen or facing the crowd in a restaurant, I don’t really notice symmetrically conflicting items like oddly placed decorative ornaments.  I also just bought a house so there’s no need to go anywhere but home to find myself anymore. 


The People of The United States of discrimiNATION

As a child, I had no experience with discrimination so therefore I did not have any prejudices (other than food).  Around the age of five or six while vacationing with my family in Truckee, California, I saw my first transgendered person.  I was playing on a pile of lumber (yes, my parents let me play in a lumber pile which is more dangerous than the hello I shared with the transgendered stranger) and a deep orange VW bus putted along the back road as the passenger took in the breathtaking scenery that the Truckee River offers.  I was immersed in my own world of play as the Doppler Shift of the hippie music pulled me out.  I turned around to see the passenger’s hand making hand waves out the window as the VW bus inched closer to my makeshift playland.  The Dr. Frank-N-Furter looking person watched me watching him with a curiosity that was frightening.  As his/her face softened into a loving smile, my scared feeling faded into a safe smile and I turned to run into the house.

Initially, I was afraid of the stranger because he/she was different and I didn’t know why he/she looked like that.  As the hippie music moved closer and I saw my first transgendered person, I can’t say I innately had any prejudices other than why is this person different looking?  With my own experience, THAT moment was a defining moment of whether or not I would be a product of my environment and carry on a legacy of discrimination because my experience was a smile and a ‘Hello little one’ out the window.  My experience wasn’t hate-filled, but it certainly was one I had never experienced before.

My mom told me that just because someone is different from me doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same things I feel.  I asked but why did the boy look like a girl.  She told me that sometimes people have to figure out who they are in life.  In a defining moment, my mother asked me if the transgendered person scared me.

“Yes, mom.”

“Why?” She asked.

“Because he wasn’t like us,” My sponge-like brain awaited answers.

“Did he do something to hurt you?” She hugged me.


“So then why are you scared?” She continued.

I thought of his different face and how his soul beamed through his eyes as he looked at my fear dead on and with a caring heart smiled a warm smile at the little girl in shock.

“He smiled at me.”  I answered.

“So even though he was different he was a nice person, a good person maybe?”

I thought for a moment and replayed it in my head, “yep, he was nice.”

There is a moment like that in every one of our lives; a moment that shapes our perception.  Truth be told, I later found in life I was the one different and having been on both ends of the potential discrimination table I can tell you that discrimination is inherited.

I feel very fortunate that my mother, A TRUE CHRISTIAN, had an infinitely open heart to teach mine to be just as open and is currently teaching my little brothers the same.   Many parents are not like her and hand down discrimination to their children  and so on and so forth.  I told you this story because deep down somewhere you too have a moment like the above and if we can educate children about the facts of discrimination and stop spreading it, the world will be one big open heart.

Please read these facts and then join our fight for equality.


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