Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Action v. Intent

We’ve had a lot of discussion in our house on the subject of action v. intent. Intent is what we mean to do, what we mean to be doing, what we meant to do. It’s usually a pretty rosy picture, but it can also be delusional. Action is what we actually did. Action is the truth of ourselves. There is no coloring, rosy or otherwise. There is no meaning other than truth. It is what we do, what we did. There is no lie in who we are with action, although it may not paint us the way we wish to be seen.

I view my intent often through the lens of my ideal self – the person I think I am. I intend to be someone, so I think I am that person. But I’m actually who I am by the way I act, not the way I perceive myself. My actions often diverge from what I meant (my intent). It’s much harder to admit who I am using this value system. An example of this is donating to charity. I intend to do it more often than I actually do. I can go into so many different examples of how I see myself diverge from what I’m actually doing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Floating to the Surface

When I initiated into Vodou this year, I tried to prepare myself by tackling my issues. I’ve wrote about many of them earlier this year: fear, anger, trust – I tried to face my demons. Little did I know that this was the beginning of the road.

Since initiation, I’ve had many more of my issues come to light. On one hand, I feel the spirits are trying to ready me to be a better Oungan. I am seeing more and more of my deep rooted problems float to the surface.

Facing Addiction

The most difficult are the things I’m addicted to. I’m having to look back onto my life to this point and see how things have brought me to where I’m standing. Currently this is dealing was childhood pains and fears – and my addiction to the drink.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Constant Friend and Companion

This is a slight diversion this week, back to music. The snow that has fallen has put me into a melodic mood.

Music continues to be a major part of my life. I have many friends that have outgrown this partner on their journey. For me, it’s as relevant today as it’s always been.

In my childhood, I remember my first pair of headphones, when the musical world transformed the normal world into an all-encompassing ether, a nether world or other world where nothing else existed but sound. (As I write this, I’m donning a pair of high-quality headphones and am flipping between music. I do this every time I blog.) Those first few years I wore out certain bands, albums and music. I still can’t listen to Foreigner today, after my cousin gave me a copy and I wore it out, completely. I was a dirty white boy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This is always a powerful time of year for me. I often feel like I’ve gone insane with deep revelations that seem to penetrate my head. I can walk around in a daze for days, sometimes weeks.

I also feel my power grow at this time of year. Maybe that’s just me being a December child with my birthday and zodiac coming round, but I think it’s more than that. Living in the country feels like it gives me a tighter bond to nature. There is so much happening at this time of year, trees change color, leaves fall, sunlight and temperatures decrease their abundance – our part of Earth fades into sleep.

I’d like to say I had a plan, but I really didn’t. Our annual trip to New Orleans for Anba Dlo, Halloween and Day of the Dead fell apart. I suddenly was without a destination, not that that’s a bad thing. Without much planning at all, I hopped into the Red Barron and headed north.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Walk Alone

I was originally going to write about hesitation, then I wasn’t because I figured I licked it. I feel I’ve returned to the same point. To put it bluntly, I’m having some issues. Worse, I feel terribly alone with them. I wish everything could be as nice and easy as my initiation was, but it’s not. I feel like I’m walking a path – and I’m the only one on it.

Some things just sync, they make sense and they’re going well. Others seem stuck in the mud, my mud. I can’t seem to get out of my rut. This is what I was calling hesitation. At times, I see it, I hear it – all is right with the world. At other times I can’t see it, I can’t hear it and I’m full of consternation. Worse is the realization that this is likely all my fault, my pause, my hesitation.

I’m not exactly sure what it is about me that causes inaction. I know with all surety what I need to do. I have a pretty good idea how to do it. Yet there is something about me, some flaw in my character that causes me to not do the things I really need to do. I need to push beyond my bad habits, my laziness needs to be overcome.

Monday, October 4, 2010


There has been a lot of discussion in our home lately about spiritual traditions. Some traditions in our home have been kept relatively unchanged for thousands of years between many generations. Others have changed the moment they entered our house, or our altar. We’ve come to the conclusion that this is a healthy activity to do.

Some things are meant to change. The traditions of our parents, grandparents, previous generations or other communities are not necessarily the ones that will work for us. Sometimes we need to update and reorganize things to keep their underlying meaning and increase their relevance.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Haunted by Ghosts

I’m not telling a ghost story, not that I don’t have them. It’s true that there were ghosts that frequented the rooms and halls of my college dormitory, but that will have to wait for another time.

There are times I feel haunted by ghosts. Not the kind that go clink in the night, the spirits of the departed, I have a working relationship with them. The ghosts I speak of are my own. They are not external entities, but internal to myself. This is about the ghosts that we carry around with us, the memories that haunt.

When I was growing up, times were different, our nation was different. I would hear jokes, often with racial epithets in them. As the world and I changed, I would grow more and more uncomfortable with what was being said, eventually telling people I didn’t want to hear the jokes. They were offensive. This is one of my ghosts.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Guru Purnima

Sadly, this is one of the longest running ideas in my blog drafts folders. It’s sat there through two Guru Purnima holidays. At one time there was even a few paragraphs written.

My intention was to write about the beautiful spiritual traditions of the Himalayas and pay homage to my guru. I spent a beautiful Guru Purnima with the family this year at the Meditation Center in Minneapolis, complete with puja and all. This year once again I found this post staring at me from my drafts folder. I just couldn’t seem to write it. This month of August found me with two other failed posts, half or mostly written that just weren’t going where I wanted them to. I have something that needs saying that has been pushing all other creative juices aside.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Death Ahead, Detour Next Right

I should be dead right now.

This isn’t a suicide note. I’m rather happy to be alive at this moment.

In 2001, I was scheduled to provide an upgrade to a customer of mine in the World Trade Center during the week of September 11th. Some piece of high tech security software that allows banks to wire funds internationally. The upgrade got cancelled the week before it was to take place. My wife was planning on going to New York with me. Since our plans had changed, we decided to take a mini-vacation. I was already planning on being out of town that week.

I’m not saying this puts me in a similar place of those who escaped, who descended and gotten out. I have no way of knowing how those people felt or feel today. I do however feel a kinship to those who for some odd reason or another had some circumstance that kept them away from work that day.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Change: This indecision’s bugging me

Tomorrow I interview for a new job. I’m really comfortable with whether I get it or not; I love my current job. It’s one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve had in my career. I’m kicking butt and having fun, so why am I applying for a new job? Reward, plain and simple. My current job just doesn’t reward me enough for my hard work. As much as I’m successful, the rewards just aren’t there. Also, I would be good at the new job.

I’m scared of failure. I know I’ll stretch myself in new ways into new areas. I’ll have to do more grunt work, and there will be more work overall. I’m also afraid of it intruding into my personal life. I hope I’ve learned how to successfully balance personal and work time. In the new job, I’ll be the person where the buck stops.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sita Sings The Blues

Site Sings The Blues We love to watch movies in our house. If it wasn’t for movies, we might not have a television. This year started with us watching a lot of bad films. Earlier this year, while on our Belize vacation, we saw 2012 and Apocalypto. We didn’t necessarily mean to, but they were there in the room – and it was raining. They were bad.

We finally broke out of the bad movie phase with the discovery of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, by Terry Gillium. It was Heath Ledger’s last film and it was excellent. It broke the run of bad films. Things were looking better.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sense and Sustainability

MN Mississippi River Festival 2010 042This last weekend marked my first public ceremony as a oungan. Organized by Headwaters/Delta Interfaith, there was a healing ceremony in Minneapolis’ Boom Island Park due to the gigantic oil spill in the gulf. I was grateful to be a part of such a wonderful event. There were many different groups and faiths represented. Many prayers from a number of diverse religions.

It’s important for me to acknowledge my part in causing the oil spill. We are dependant on oil. Whether that oil goes into our cars, into our plastics or its many other uses – we all continue to demand more and more oil.

We want our purchases as inexpensive as possible. We go to the store and buy the least expensive product on the shelf, often from people who cut corners in the manufacture. Whether that’s low-wage clothing and products, or the oil in our cars. We make the decision every time we purchase to buy the least expensive product, the one that cuts corners, the one that sometimes puts our fellow countrymen out of work. We’re global and we expect everything as cheaply as possible. We want it now.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trash or Recycling

I have two sets of bins in my kitchen, one for trash and one for recycling.

We live in a disposable society; we tend to throw things away. Things are made to break and into the bin they go. I keep a special place in my house for electronics, batteries and those twisty energy-saving mercury-filled light bulbs. They go to the hazardous waste drop off site. We toss a lot of stuff.

When we moved out to the country, I set a goal for myself to recycle half of my waste. The goal wasn’t huge. I easily attained it and recycle almost 75% of my waste today. It hurts me every time I go to NOLA and can’t recycle. I walk around holding a soda bottle or plastic cup, not knowing what to do with it. (Recycling is one of the many things that haven’t recovered post-Katrina.)

Americans love packaging, so we’re told. Whether it’s over-engineered cardboard that fits neatly into shapes keeping our precious new things safe, or oil-induced plastic wrap and bags, shrink wrapping everything from a toner cartridge to my organic zucchini. I try not to take bags from the store when I can (not often), sometimes I bring my own. I take and reuse the paper ones avoiding the plastic bags if I have a choice. (I do know some dog owners that prefer a free supply of plastic bags they reuse in their own way.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Turning Your iPhone Into A Music Machine

This is a slight departure from my normal blog entries. I’ve categorized my blog into three categories: Vodou, Spirituality and Life. This one fits nicely into the life category.

I love music. From an early age, I sang, played instruments and collected recorded music. I have a good collection, it’s grown and shrunken over the years. I know some people have more and I’m comfortable with that. I’ve had 8-tracks, records, cassettes, CDs and lately it’s all digital. It feels slightly retro that my early digital music was sampled at a lower bit rate to save hard drive space, it sounds slightly compressed and scratchy, like an aged cassette. Most of my current purchases and rips of CDs just purchased (all fitting within the DMCA) are of a much higher sampling, sounding new, crisp and clear. I wish my entire collection was digital. It keeps me from digging in the car looking for “that disc”, the one that my 6 disc changer ate (it died with a legendary 100 discs in that 6 disc changer – anything missing was assumed by my wife and I to be in it).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Oungan François

On May 9th, I became an Oungan Sur Pwenn, a priest of Vodou. I serve the spirits. I chose the name François of the Crow; François after my grandfather Francis. I live on the Crow River. The Crow feeds into the Mississippi, which in turn flows down to New Orleans (NOLA), a sacred city to me.

Sur Pwenn means on the point; I’m at the beginning. While I can’t speak much of the actual process of initiation, it would nevertheless be meaningless. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

Now I Get It

After returning home I had a laugh to myself. I had a thought, “Now I get it,” thinking back on my initiation, when I remembered hearing pretty much the same thing said by others before.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Four Elements


Water - Waves I watch your rolling waves come to me, crash upon the shore. I see patterns in the ripples of your crest. Your tide rises and falls like a gentle breath. You bring with you such power. Moving all in your wake, even the rocks yield to your strength. Everything shifts and is shaped by you. Nothing stands for too long. You utterly annihilate the perceived permanence of land, gently and slowing bending to your will.

(Photo: Waves on the shore of Eleuthera, Bahamas, in the tail and wake of Hurricane Katrina, 2005)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Facing Your Demons

As I get closer to my initiation, I’ve been using these entries to face my demons and fears, to face myself. I know I’m taking a first step on a long, many forked road; a good house cleaning is needed to allow me to continue. The road ahead is long, difficult, but rewarding. This is the path of growth and self-discovery.

I’ve never been an avid journal keeper but I’ve been a writer for a long time. My journalism teacher tried to instill a thick skin on me. I debated whether to share this, or keep it private, but the writer in me asked to put it out there – make it public, share my good and bad sides. I try and learn from it.

So here I am, facing my demons: anger, fear, trust, hurt, shame. It’s there good and bad alike. I have tools like meditation, silence, listening, learning and loving. I’m waking up from a long sleep of stagnation and moving into my next phase. There is fierceness in my life. I want to give back.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Tackling this one is hard for me: both in writing and my personal life. How do I repair trust in the wake of hurt? I’m still working on this.

When fighting, intimate knowledge comes out. I fight, I hurt. I try to hurt others in the same way I feel wounded. I inflict damage with my anger. Our trust in each other unravels as I breach what’s shared between us. Sometimes I’m faced with honesty I don’t want to acknowledge. I twist the truth.

Truth is a harsh master. It can feel good, or it can leave lash marks. Truth can be soothing and uplifting when it’s something I want to hear, hurtful when I don’t. I struggle with truth. I’m not very good at it. I struggle giving it to others, I struggle being truthful with myself.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Give It To Me Dirty

It may sound like I view myself as some quasi-enlightened person. I’m not. I have real faults, real issues, real-world problems. At times I take exception to those who try and pass themselves off that way, those leaders political or spiritual who try to come off perfect, faultless. It’s a trap. As for me, give it to me dirty.

I want to see people’s faults, their struggles. People are human; humans make mistakes. Mistakes shouldn’t take away one’s credibility, but add to it. How can you know and help someone with their marriage, with their kids or on their path unless you’ve been in the trenches yourself? Scars add respect in my book, having quite a few of them myself.

Placing our leaders up on pedestals sets them up for their eventual fall. We have the tendency to want to knock them off. We can relate to someone sharing our struggle – they’re one of us, not one of them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Listening to Yourself

Eight years ago, I signed myself up for a spiritual retreat on a like in Minnesota. The retreat was ten days of silence and intense meditation.

I’m a pretty social person – the kind of person that talks to and makes friends with complete strangers in line. That year I was a wheeling and dealing CEO of my own company. I love talking. Meditation was not new to me. It is with this backdrop that I entered into the silence retreat.

The world around you changes when you cease to speak. At first, you hear more of your environment, the background noise that is ever present. You start to quiet your mind. The constant meditation, the purascharana (mantra repetition) I was practicing quieted me further. During breaks I would walk a lawn labyrinth out in a field. I would sit outside at night and listen.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Understanding And Managing My Anger

I have an intimate relationship with my anger. I’ve been angry for a long time. There are times my anger gets away from me, gets the best of me. It usually starts, and ends, with shame.

Anger is one of our many emotions. It’s trying to tell us something. Unchecked and without the proper tools – it is a very destructive force. At its worst, it can lead to violence. At its best is can be empowering.

Anger is a protective emotion. It’s our primal fight or flight that has led the human race to survive and exist. When anger is coming on – that fight or flight part of the brain takes over – reasoning shuts down. We say stupid things, do stupid things, which we would normally not say or do. We are hurtful to avoid being hurt. That may be fine when facing a predator that wants to eat you, not so fine when it’s family or friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


What are you superstitious about? Do you have any idea why you are that way?

Sabbath I have a confession. I’m the one with the black cat; his name is Sabbath. He’s a good little guy. He isn’t one of those house cats, but a full-fledged working barn cat. He’s our mouser and he takes his job seriously. He also lives in one of the nicest bachelor pads a cat could dream of: our heated tack room. He circles and rubs against my legs vying for a pet, rub or scratch. A black cat crossing my path is not one of my superstitions – he crosses my path every day. He might have crossed yours.

That’s not to say I don’t ever have my own superstitions. I find myself occasionally knocking on wood to avoid messing up my fate after saying something. (If no wood is nearby, we strangely knock on our own foreheads and say “knock on wood.”) I don’t worry about hair loss, because I believe if I worry about it, it will come true.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Health Care Reform

I’m lucky, I have insurance. My employer actually offers me a choice of plans to choose from, and I’ve opted for the most comprehensive. We use it. It hasn’t always been this way.

I can count at least four of my friends off the top of my head that aren’t covered by health insurance. Even more that aren’t covered enough. Some of them have health problems that go untreated. They have no choice. They live in pain and suffering. They’re not as lucky. If I could lend them some of my coverage, I would. It’s a major source of financial hardship for them. They forgo things I take for granted. Things like vacation, dining out, food, clothing, medical prescriptions and treatment.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Why Reform Matters

Each year I watch my medical coverage eat away at my paycheck. Each year it takes a larger portion. Fewer employers are offering coverage. Others are scaling coverage back. Some are dropping coverage. This trend is going to continue.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who Has the Right to Judge Another’s Religion?

I’ve been spending a lot of time keeping up with things I’m interested in like Haiti earthquake relief, New Orleans Hurricane Katrina relief (yes, it’s still going on) and others. I have friends in both of these places, so it’s a bit personal for me.

The news media is often silent, misinformed or disrespectful. The stories on Vodou are rare indeed, even though many people practice it. When they are published, naming the religion without capitol letters is not just disrespectful, but shows how uneducated some journalists and editors are. To make things worse, they sometimes are inconsistent with whatever standards they’re following. I have a hard time believing the AP stylebooks says to capitalize the name of a religion 25% of the time in your article, but not the other 75%. I understand the spelling is a difficult point without universal consensus. Some people of the faith like it spelled Vodou, while others have variations on how they spell it (Voodou, Vodun, Vodoun), but almost everyone who follows this religion does not call it Voodoo. Voodoo has generally been relegated to Hollywood mythology.

I can’t tell you how sick it makes me feel that people are being denied food by faith-based charities because their religion isn’t yours. Doesn’t seem very charitable. Further, people stoning priests and priestesses surely isn’t an act of compassion. And they have the gall to say that Vodou is evil. Some people need to look in the mirror.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Listening to the Spirits

What does it sound like to listen to spirits? Are you hearing voices in your head? Well for me the answer is no.

If I try and concentrate on it, or more specifically intellectualize it, it blurs from me. It slips away. If I put my ego and desires aside and just listen, then it comes. It’s new to me of course and I’m new to it. I’m learning to let it happen.

If there is a grosse possession, a full possession by spirit, I feel this is a petit possession, a small and limited one. It’s one I’m learning to live with.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Three Guys Talk About Meditation

Tonight we had our weekly appointment for healing, necessary to maintain our health and sanity. The Breathing Room in Wayzata is a wonderful spot for alternative healing practices. These practices are the only thing after 8 years of searching that seem to be doing the trick of maintaining our health.

While waiting for my wife’s appointment to finish up, I sat in the waiting room with two other men. One, a practitioner specializing in pranic healing, the other a customer. While the three of us sat there we started talking about meditation.

While the discussion of peace, experiences, purash charanas and mantras in general went between the three of us, it wasn’t until I was in the car talking that I realized I don’t really have these conversations with other men. I realized men don’t talk about meditation. If men do, it’s certainly not the men I hang out with.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

24 Hours On Top Of The World


Just of few days over a decade ago I found myself on top of the world. I was in India, in the Himalayas sitting in an old and ancient Shiva temple with the whole world spinning around me. It was January, 2000 and one day past the mark of the new millennium.

To say this place is magical would be an understatement. I obviously felt it, but I was not alone. The animals would run into the area, when being chased for their very lives in the hunt, and the predators would respect it’s sanctity. It is a sacred place. I place teaming with spiritual, and sexual, energy.

As darkness fell, I came to the temple, lohi wrapped around me, carrying a mat. The Himalayas are cold at night, as cold as my Minnesota home, and this was winter. You needed to prepare, put on layers, socks, something to keep the earth from stealing all of your warmth, something to wrap up with. I left my shoes behind at the temple threshold, set my objects around me, wrapped up, turned off the flashlight and began to meditate.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Winter Solstice

The longest night of the darkest day, the land sleeps. While we may sleep at night, some of us synchronized to the turnings of the earth, the absence of the sun, we often don’t take the time to think about the land.

Winter has been a depressing time of year for me the last few years. As I’ve moved out of the city and into the country, as I’ve grown more accustom to my connection to the land, I feel the loss of life around me. The world is not dead, I can still hear the yips of coyotes, the chirping of birds who refuse to leave, the trees that resist the urge to dump their leaves, mostly long and needle-like, I do feel it sleep. The ground freezes. The flowers disappear, and all I’m left with is those nocturnal creatures of the season, not the night. Those that refuse to give up, but go on. I myself am resisting the urge to sleep.

As the solstice approaches, I feel depressed. I miss that light. This feeling starts in June, at the Summer Solstice and progresses, grows slowly until it’s height in December, the Winter Solstice. As it approaches, my mood grows dim, reflective, dark. But once the Winter climax hits, I light up with hope. I now know each day will be more, each day contains a bit more energy than what proceeded it. It is the new year!