Today my intention was to go back to my first two months of life, between November 8, 1965 and January 19, 1966 – the day my adopted parents brought me home.

I’ve been reading The Primal Wound. The author’s theory that resonates with me is when we are born, we need our mother. After having bonded for nine months inside her body, she is the one person who can intuitively provide for our needs immediately after we are born.

Babies who don’t receive that bonding from their mother can suffer, as they struggle to make sense of their new surroundings. They wonder, “Where is my mother?”

So, while cognitively I’ve been practicing working on my rejection and perfection issues, I would like to integrate my self-knowledge by trying to access my earliest memories.

I know the memories are there, in my brain and body. I know they are there, acting as triggers for feelings or behavior I don’t understand.

Let me share an example:

In January 2017, I’d been dating this woman for a few months. Things were good – I was attracted to her, we connected spiritually, we both are truth seekers. We had fun.

One morning, I woke up and felt distant. I felt like I didn’t even know her. It was as if a switch had been flipped and I felt like I wanted to pull away from her. I had no idea why I felt this way.

I recalled having this same unexplained distant feeling with other women. “She didn’t magically change overnight,” I thought.

So, what happened to trigger this feeling? I looked for logical explanations.

We had just spent two weeks together, so I thought, “Maybe I just need some alone time.”

Another reason I came up with was, “Maybe I’m not as attracted to her as I thought I was.”

What? Stuff like this doesn’t just happen overnight.

Even though I knew this was a feeling I had experienced before, it was too powerful for me to fake my way through it. I reacted and withdrew from her.

The woman knew it, too. She could feel me being distant and was wondering, “What the heck happened?!”

A couple months later, the relationship was over and I went to see a psychotherapist.

I told her the story above and asked her, “What is that distant feeling? Where did it come from? Is there a label for this? I’d like to know what it is so I can work on it. I have no explanation for it.”

She told me, “Maybe you had a dream you didn’t remember, but the dream’s content triggered your feeling. Or maybe some other unconscious memory was triggered.”

I think she was right: Something I was unaware of triggered that feeling of, “I need to pull away.”

That notion, combined with what I’ve been learning in The Primal Wound are what led me to my hypnotherapist today.

I asked her, “Can you help me try to remember something from the first two months of my life? Or even the first few days after being born?”

I feel the first few days are important for me to consciously remember because my birth mother did not see me during this time.


So, here I am today, relaxed in a chair at my hypnotherapists office.

She begins regressing me one decade at a time. I’m asked to remember May 2007 and I do. During that time I was mourning the loss of another girlfriend, plus my adopted Mom had died. I’d just moved and been laid off from my job. It was a difficult time.

Then we went back to 1997. I’m 31 years old. I remember working for the Baysox and dating a woman.

1987. Now, I’m 21, playing softball. I’ve got my first full-time job. I’m partying and drinking a lot. My daughter’s been born, but I’m ignoring her.

In 1977, I’m a kid – 11 years old. Christine (my hypnotherapist) suggests I feel my body, being smaller, at 11. I do. I’m playing wiffle ball. It’s sunny. I’m in Elementary school. The Orioles are good. I remember what I look like from class pictures taken during that time.

Then she says, “1967. You’re around 18 months old. This is a time where we’re stumbling around. We’re trying things out.”

She said, “You might not even have words for this time in your life, only feelings. But see how little you are. Maybe you weigh 24 pounds and you trip easily as you walk through the grass.”

Then back further and somewhere in here I started to lose her.

That’s because I began feeling something I’ve felt before and never knew what it was.

“You might not even have words for this … only feeling.”

It feels like my torso, arms and face are framed, like those parts of my body are wooden. It’s light at first, but I can feel it.

It feels like there is a slab of wood in my chest and there are posts inside my arms and shoulders. My face and head feel wooden.

I’ve felt this exact feeling many, many times in my life and I’ve never given it much thought other than, “That feels pretty weird and pretty cool.”

I usually like to stay with it because it’s so unique. It does feel ‘cool’ to me.

Christine is still talking, but now her voice is background music. I am staying with this feeling. I know this is an important experience.

“You might not even have words for this … only feeling.”

It’s growing. It’s becoming more intense. I’m wondering if this is the thing I wanted to “get off me” when I drank San Pedro in Peru.

I feel it pushing outward, but I don’t know how to allow it to go further. I begin to feel like I might have an anxiety attack.

I stay with it as long as I can. The feeling is palpable. It keeps getting stronger.

At other times in my life when I felt this, I’d just enjoy it and wonder what it was. Now, I am diving into it. I know it is something.

My mind is drawing connections to other times it’s happened, rapidly asking questions, getting insight: What provoked it other times? I’ve had this feeling at night a lot. Javier, my shaman, said I’ve been carrying armor, it no longer suits me. 

All the while, I’m breathing, trying to relax. The wooden frames inside me feel heavier and thicker than ever before. It’s getting to be too much. Something might burst; I don’t know how to be right now. I’m scared.

I open my eyes.

Deep breath.

“It’s too much,” I say.

I explain to Christine what happened. She moves closer and asks if she can touch my shoulder. I am comforted.

This morning, while I was in it, I didn’t know if I was going to puke. I didn’t feel emotional, like crying. This was my first time making the connection between this weird feeling and perhaps some wall of “armor” I built up early in life.

A friend told me recently, “Maybe the wound of your birth mother giving you up is even bigger and more profound than you’ve imagined.”

Maybe she’s right.

We’ll see.

I go back to see my hypnotherapist in two weeks – 10am, June 9th.

3 Ways I Stop Moodiness Or Depression

Here’s what moodiness and depression are like for me:

Hold up your left hand so it’s perpendicular to the ground.

Now take your right hand as a fist and slap it into the palm of your left hand. Keep it stuck there.

Your left hand is the wall of depression.

Your right hand is your brain, getting stuck to the wall.

So, I can stay stuck there, feeling bad and bringing that crappy mood to myself, my body, and everyone around me.

Or, I can get unstuck.

And here’s the weird thing – I’ve found if I can put my mind on something else for a minute or less, I forget all about the moodiness.

It literally goes away and I forget that I was even in a bad mood in the first place. Yes, I just forget.

If you believe this is possible, here are the three strategies I practice for getting unstuck from moodiness and depression.

The Strategies

  1. Gratitude. Gratitude is often a quick fix for when I’m not feeling to good about myself.

The moment I feel myself slumping into a depressed state of mind, I try to think of one thing I am grateful for. It could be my dog, a friend, or my skill at playing guitar. Sometimes I might be grateful for something silly like the Seinfeld TV series.

It doesn’t matter what I choose, as long as I keep focused on it for about 15-60 seconds. Whatever I’ve chosen to feel grateful about, I stay with it and try to feel it on a deep level.

I’ve found that if I can stay with the thing I’m grateful for for as little as a minute or less, my mind moves to a happier place.

I get unstuck from the wall of depression. I forget all about what I was depressed about in the first place.

2. Be Objective. Gratefulness doesn’t always work and when it doesn’t, I try to be objective to my emotions.

By this, I mean I detach myself from the depressing feeling as if it just a thing that is happening, like a car passing on the street. I see it going by.

I try not to react to the mood, I just notice it. I say to myself, “Oh, I feel like I’m in a bad mood right now. Hmmm.”

Another thing I do is de-personalize the emotion. I say to myself, “The mind is in a bad mood right now.”

With practice, I’ve found that being objective works pretty well for not turning the mood into a big dramatic thing. It’s just an emotion I’m feeling.

I’m aware of it, but I don’t have to react to it.

Experience tells me if I ruminate over a bad mood, it can be like going down a rabbit hole. The more energy I put into whatever’s got me down, the longer the depression lasts.

So, I just notice it, like I’m watching that car go by.

I’m just watching the emotion rise up, like an objective bystander. I accept it and try not to allow the moodiness to effect my actions.

3. Practice Compassion. This is my latest strategy and the idea comes from a good friend.

She told me:

“When I feel like I’m in a bad mood, I think ‘that’s a really selfish thing.’

“I think to myself, ‘I have everything I need. How can I be of service to others?’

“And when I can do that, I feel better.”

I like this and am trying to integrate it into my “Get Out Of Your Bad Mood Repetoire.”

When I go to this place of “I have everything I need,” I really do.

I have the essentials – food, shelter, health, and financial security.

But on top of the that, I have great friends, hobbies I enjoy, and I get to work from home, which means most days an alarm clock doesn’t wake me up. I got a pretty good gig.

When I start feeling that mindset of how lucky I am, it’s pretty easy for me to want to give to others. How can I be of service?

It might be holding the door for someone or a playful conversation. Maybe it’s helping someone with their business or maybe just a smile.

Whatever it is, it comes with no strings attached; no agenda. And that feels pretty good.

What was I depressed about again?!


Moodiness or feelings of depression have taken away from my enjoyment of life.

In the past, I didn’t know how to get shake these bad feelings. I recall thinking as a younger man, “Well, this feels shitty.”

When I got a little older and smarter, I thought, “Well, this feels shitty, but it’ll pass.”

And now that I’ve achieved great wisdom at age 51, I know that, “This feels shitty, but it’s not going to effect me or how I relate to the world.”

My Ayahuasca and San Pedro Experiences In Peru

In January 2009, I travelled to the tiny village of Pisac in Peru, to drink Ayahuasca and San Pedro.

If you’re considering travelling to Peru to try Ayahuasca and you want an easy itinerary, you can do what I did: Stay at Paz Y Luz and contact Javier to conduct your ceremonies. I was told Javier is a shaman, but he prefers to be called an ayahuascero.

Ayahuasca is called “The Purge,” and you can expect to throw up and have diarrhea – multiple times. Most people receive insightful visions that help them learn about themselves.

Javier regards ayahuasca as “medicine” and ceremony is personal, sacred work. He quipped once that, “People can do months of therapy to feel better… or they can come drink ayahuasca for the same insight.

Below, I share my visions and insights I received during the three Ayahusca ceremonies and one San Pedro ceremony I participated in. I welcome your comments/questions if you have them.

Why I Decided To Do Ayahuasca

I met my friend JenniJo for dinner one night in 2008 after she returned from Peru and multiple ayahuasca ceremonies.

Her face looked incredibly clear. Her spirit seemed peaceful.

I thought, “I want some of that,” so I asked her to put me in touch with her connections for lodging and Javier, the ayahuascero who conducted the ceremonies.

I emailed Javier about how I wanted to find my life’s work (I was out on a mid-life crisis at the time). I wanted purpose and I wanted to work through some negativity I felt I had. I think my email was several paragraphs.

His reply was short and to the point, “Well, if you want to face your negativity, come to Peru.”

For six months, I thought about whether or not I would take this trip to Peru. I make decisions like this verrrrrry slowly.

In addition to the unknown of working with ayahuasca, I was also afraid to travel abroad alone. I had never done it before.

When I finally made plans to go, I notified Javier I was coming. He advised me, “No sex or alcohol two weeks before and after your ceremonies.”

Well, I respected the alcohol request prior to leaving, but not the sex. I was dating a woman at the time and didn’t feel like abstaining for 2 weeks prior to leaving. I think I abstained for 2 days 🙂

Preparation For First Ceremony

When I got to Peru, I had a one on one meeting with Javier and he asked me why I was there.

I told him I wanted to find my next line of work. I wanted to know what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

I’d been laid off 2 years prior and had no inkling of what it was I would do to earn my next dollar. I’d blown through my savings, my mutual funds and was quickly headed toward having to start pulling from my 401k.

Needless to say, I was desperate to find my passion and get restarted earning money again.

Ceremony #1 – Ayahuasca

There were seven of us in my first Ayahuasca ceremony. We were asked not to eat on the day of the ceremony. The only thing we could have was tea.

(To this day, I can’t drink chamomile tea without remembering Peru).

The ceremony took place in Javier’s temple, an octogonal shaped space with padded benches around the perimeter. Each bench was about 7′ long, so each of us had our own space.

The pitched roof of the temple had lots of windows which made for a mystical setting, considering the ceremony began at dusk.

Javier sat at one of the benches with a table in front of him where he kept his rattling leaves (they sound like a maracas when shaken), smoke blunts, and ayahuasca.

Everyone had a bucket for vomiting and the toilet was adjacent to the main space. After all, ayahuasca is known as, “The Purge.”

Javier opened the ceremony with smoke and laid down the ground rules. As I recall, he asked us to hold our own space and respect the space of others. If we needed help, just call his name.

He reminded us to put our intention into the drink (the medicine), but also said, “She will take you where you need to go.” Ayahuasca, the medicine, it seems, is a female 🙂

One by one, Javier called each of us to drink. I focused hard on my intention: “I want to see what my passion is. I want to know what work it is I should be doing.”

With that, I drank the thick, bitter, vile liquid and returned to my seat.

When all seven of us had finished drinking, Javier himself drank with a celebratory “Mazel Tov!”

He began singing various chants and songs. He mixed in spiritual poems, blew smoke and rattled his leaves. The mood he created felt sacred to me. He has such reverance for his ceremonies.

As Javier felt guided to do so, he would visit us individually. He’d share words of wisdom or just be near us when he felt needed. He is very intuitive and selfless.

About 45 minutes into the ceremony, it was dark out and the room was quiet. Then someone threw up. “Oh boy, here we go,” I thought.

But I didn’t get sick in the first hour. I was called to drink again and that sucked. I mean, this stuff is just awful tasting. It’s hard to get down.

I laid down on my bench and closed my eyes and received my first vision. It was an Indian with a headress and he was smiling at me. No sooner did I see his smile, did his face begin to turn gray with decay. Then his teeth fell out and his entire face disintegrated.

“Whoa, that sucks,” I thought. “That wasn’t pleasant at all.”

Before I knew it, my next vision came. Again it was two smiling faces, side by side, like in a masquerade. The faces were smiling at me, but then they two went dark, turning ugly and black, before disintegrating.

This pattern repeated itself over and over. I kept seeing happy faces or things turn black, decay, die and fall away.

About two hours in, I was the only one in the room who hadn’t gotten sick yet, but I was in a lot of pain. My stomach wretched in pain – sort of like when I had food poisoning.

Needless to say, I was not enjoying my experience. My stomach ached and my visions were depressing.

Javier came and sat with me. He brought me more ayahuasca to drink. “Great,” I thought.

He said, “You haven’t gotten sick yet?”

I said, “No.”

He sat with me a bit. He said a couple things I recall – one of which was poignant:

“You’ve been wearing this body of armor to protect yourself. It used to serve you. It doesn’t serve you any more.”

I understood exactly what he meant. I’d built a wall around my emotions most of my life. I rarely cried. I had a tough exterior.

He put his arm around me and before I knew it, he was pressing his fingers into the side of my stomach, feeling for the spot.

He found it and I threw up hard for the first time. I heaved and got sick several times and quickly became exhausted.

But I wasn’t finished. I got sick twice more that night, each time violent and painful.

At one point, writhing in pain on my bench, I lie on my back, holding my head in my hands.

Javier came by and said, “Does your head hurt?”

“No,” I answered.

“Then why are you holding your head? Put your hands on your stomach where the pain is.”

I didn’t even realize what I was doing. But I remembered every time I’d ever gotten sick in my life, I always put my hands on my head as I prayed to God to please don’t make me be sick.

It felt so counterintuitive for me to move my hands from my head to my stomach to help ease the pain.

It didn’t help me that night, but Javier had planted a seed in me that moment. I later discovered the power of healing hands through Reiki and now every time I feel nautious, I gently put my hands on my stomach. Most of the time I heal myself.

I also use my hands on other parts of my body when I have pain and I am almost always relieved within seconds. We have a lot of power in our hands. But I digress.

Toward the end of the ceremony about 4 hours later I was still feeling horrible pain in my stomach. I remember thinking, “I came all the way down here for this?! It’s like having food poisoning.”

Nearly everyone else was done with their experience and felt fine. Javier went around the room asking each person if it was okay to close the ceremony.

When it came to me, of course I said, “Yes,” but I couldn’t move. I had no intention of leaving.

There was another woman who was pretty sick, too, and we both stayed.

Javier asked us if we needed anything else before he left and he invited us to stay in the temple as long as we needed.

I think sometime around midnight or 1am, I finally stumbled weakly back to my room and crashed for the night.

The Morning After

The next morning at 9am, the seven of us gathered in Javier’s living room to share our experiences. Javier gave us his feedback.

It was pretty interesting to hear everyone’s experience. Some were unpleasant like mine and others were euphoric.

It was really intense and super personal. You get to know a lot about people in those circumstances. I made friends there who are still friends to this day.

I don’t recall every vision I had in my first ceremony, but I do recall what I took them to mean: I always look at the negative side of things. No matter how bright something looks,  I would always find the negative side of it. That’s where my attention went.

I confided in a couple friends that I’d met at ceremony that I was thinking about leaving. My first experience was so bad, I didn’t want to go through it again.

The next day, there was a knock at my door. “Javier wants to see you.”

So, I went to see him.

He asked me, “How are you doing?”

“I’m thinking about flying home,” I said.

“I heard,” he said.

Hmmm. Matt and Ana told him. You can picture me clenching my fists like Jerry Seinfeld saying “Newman.”

“Matt and Ana!” I said to myself.

I explained to Javier that my experience was horrible. I felt so sick and I got no hint of a vision even close to showing me what my purpose was.

“Yes, I thought that was a crap intention,” he said.

“What?! Why didn’t you tell me?” I thought. I guess I had to experience it for myself.

Javier then told me, “It does not matter what you do.”

Interesting. Okay. At the time, I thought it did, but okay. He had my attention.

I told him I needed his help – I had no idea what to do.

He said, “I think you should finish what you came here to do.”

The way he spoke to me – there was no arguing. After all, I did come here to do work. To bail, would’ve been to quit on myself.

“Okay,” I said, “But I have no idea where to go from here. I need help with my next intention.”

He said, “Well, usually the best place to start is with your parents.”

“I’m adopted.”

“Even better!” he exclaimed.

Then he gave me one of the best self-help books I’ve ever read:  Heal Your Wounds And Find Your True Self by Lise Bourbeau.

That day and the next, I devoured that book. I got so much insight into my life that no therapist had ever mentioned before.

The next night my intention was clear: “To heal my relationship with all four of my parents.”

Ceremony #2 – Ayahuasca

My second ayahuasca ceremony was the exact opposite of my first.

In this ceremony, I only had to drink the vile liquid one time. And when I got sick, there was no drama, no fighting it. I felt a sudden urge and I puked effortlessly, easier than I ever had in my life.

My visions were incredible. They centered around both my birth mother and my adopted mother. I recall two visions vividly.

Vision #1 – My Birth Mother

My birth mother sitting in a rocking chair rubbing her stomach with joy. She was 5-6 months pregnant.

I saw it as, “She did love me before she gave me up.” (Although this vision runs counter to my interpretation of what my birth mother told the adoption agency).

Vision #2 – My Mom

I sa myself at about 19-20 years old downstairs in my bedroom playing guitar. My Mom stomped on the floor to get me to stop.

I got so angry, I took my guitar and stormed out of the house and into my car. (This really happened, multiple times when I was younger). I’d speed away and drive to a quiet area by a brook where I could sit outside on the trunk of my car in the dark and play until I got tired.

But in this instance, my older self appeared behind me in the back seat and put his hand on my shoulder saying, “She doesn’t understand.”

This meant to me that she didn’t understand music and it’s creative importance to me. To her it was just noise.

And then my older self said, “Don’t speed away. It scares her when you drive fast.” Even to this day, this vision brings tears to my eyes.

In the same instant, I saw my Mother upstairs, smoking a cigarette, tears in her eyes. My Dad came into the room and asked her what was wrong.

“He’s speeding again,” she said. (I never saw or knew of this scene in real life, but it makes a lot of sense and helps me see how my anger and actions effected my Mother.)

My Mom had died 3 years earlier, so we never got a chance to talk about this stuff.

In this second ceremony, I went back and forth from crying to laughter multiple times. The visions were so loving and powerful – Javier knew I was having a great experience.

So much so that at one point during the ceremony, he joked, “Another shot of ayahuasca, Mike?”

In my final vision of the ceremony, I was taken around the world and shown different cultures, each of them welcoming me in. I’d been afraid of travelling abroad and had been raised with the notion that the world was a scary place.

My final vision helped me see it another way.

Ceremony #3 – Ayahuasca

In my third and final ayahuasca ceremony, my intention was to be shown my insecurities.

Looking back, this was kind of a weak intention, but I couldn’t come up with anything better at the time.

My experience was simple and thematic.

I had three visions, in the first, I saw this short Peruvian woman walking up stairs. When I thought she’d gotten to the top, the stairs would go at a ninety degree angle in a different direction.

When I thought she’d reach the top, they’d continue in another direction – all the while going higher and higher. She just kept climbing and I kept watching her. I grew frustrated that she never reached a destination.

Next, I saw this man walking through the desert, over rolling hills and dunes. He kept walking and walking, over the hills and onward. I asked him, “Where are you going?”

He half-turned, shrugged and continued walking.

My third vision featured the giant Paul Bunyan statue that stands in Kenton, near where I live in North Portland.

The statue stands 31 feet tall and in my vision, it was walking through the neighborhood, aimlessly. I asked it, “You don’t know where you’re going, do you?”

Paul Bunyan shook his big head, “No.”

Hmmm. “Shocker,” I thought. I hate not knowing where I’m going. I hate not knowing what the goal is or how things might turn out.

This “not knowing” still trips me up to this day. Sometimes, I fail to take any action at all because I don’t have an idea how it’s going to go. In 2017, I’m getting better and very aware that this is something I need to be careful of.

I only got sick once during the ceremony. I probably could’ve had more ayahuasca and was a bit scared that Javier was going to call me to drink more.

Honestly, I was done. I was sick of getting sick and I was ready for a break from the “medicine.” Three ceremonies in 7 days is pretty intense.

Ceremony #4 – San Pedro

A couple days later, a few of us drank San Pedro in Javier’s living room.

San Pedro is a cactus. The drink is green and doesn’t taste nearly as bad as ayahuasca. Javier said San Pedro is “the heart opener.”

Unlike the ayahuasca ceremonies, we drank San Pedro during the day, around noon. We weren’t urged to have an intention, although you could if you wanted. I didn’t.

San Pedro is meant to open your heart, perhaps bringing you in touch with Mother Earth – Pachamama, as the shamen of the region call it.

My first few hours after drinking San Pedro were euphoric. I went outside and laid in a corn field for a long time, admiring the strength of the stalks. I felt at one with the corn as I literally laid in amongst the stalks, my head on the Earth.

Looking back now, it’s no suprise that I developed a primal urge to grow a lot food that summer. I didn’t know what it was – I just knew I was meant to have a big space to garden, which I found with the help of my neighbor, Joe Purkey.

After I was done with the corn, I decided I wanted to walk to the river, about a quarter mile away. Somebody told Javier and he hurried up to come with me. He cared for each of us and I think he was afraid I was going to jump in.

I arrived at the river before Javier and as I looked up at the sky, the drizzling rain stopped and clouds parted into beautiful sunshine. I thought, “Why do I always look at the negative side of things? Light is just on the other side.”

After that revelation, Javier arrived.

I was still pretty high from the San Pedro. There was this huge rock I stood on and I said with authority, “This is my rock!”

Javier smiled. He knew what was happening with me.

We talked for a bit and I learned I’m a month older than him. Both of us 43, he asked me, “Are you ready for the second half of your life?”

Of course I was. Especially if it felt like this!

We chatted for a little while and after he got me to assure him I wasn’t going to jump in the river, he left to return to the others.

I sat on the rock near the river for a long time. Then my experience started to go bad.

All I wanted to do was get “it” off me. I can’t tell you what “it” is – it was a feeling that there was something in me or on me that I wanted to get rid of.

I tried spitting, I urinated, I cried a few tears. I wanted it out. I tried to get sick and couldn’t. I wanted to have diarhhea. Whatever was in or on me, I wanted it out.

I walked back to Javier’s house and by this time, everyone else’s experience was ending. Mine was nowhere near over.

I was comforted by U2 on the stereo – I’d mentioned loving the band when Javier and I talked at the rock. For a while, I got a reprieve from the madness and felt good again.

Someone went out to get dinner for the group. I went to the temple and laid on the floor, following ants with my eyes, waiting for my trip to end.

The food arrived and everyone ate, but I remained in the temple. It was dark now and the feeling “I want to get ‘it’ off me,” returned.

I felt sick and body ached. I walked into the house and asked Javier if he’d come help me get sick.

He got up from dinner, so selflessly and joined me back in the temple.

I sat rocking in pain all through my lower back up into my shoulders. My entire back was sore, tense, and aching.

I told Javier, “I feel like there are these 2 sides of me trying to fight it out.”

He rared his head back, and said, “Oh my God, you are such a drama queen!”

That was funny. It was also harsh. And it was real. I was being a drama queen. There weren’t two sides of anything – there was only me.

Then he said words I’ve repeated to others who try to pull that bullshit on themselves: “YOU – are creating ALL of this.”

Man, was he right. I was manufacturing shit, right there in the temple. I was creating a whirlwind drama full of self-imposed bull shit.

Then I confessed, “I have a daughter.”

“Ahhh,” he said, like we’d just discovered the New World.

I hadn’t met my daughter, Gavrielle yet, and wouldn’t for a couple more years.

So, I talked about some of that stuff, maybe including being adopted, too. I never got sick. I never got rid of the “it” I wanted to get rid of. Whatever this, “it” is, I still feel burdened by it today and I’m eager to be free.

I don’t know what the feeling is, it’s likely tied up in being adopted, and as I write this in April 2017, I’m investing more time and money once again into finding my birth Father, in hopes that it might lead to my birth Mother.

Eventually, I went inside and nibbled at some food. The feeling fell away and I went to sleep.

That was the last of my four ceremonies in Peru. As a reward, I went to Machu Picchu and climbed to the top of Wayna Picchu. I love to hike and what a great payoff at the summit – even though it was cloudy the day I went.

My Advice

If you’re interested in getting a deeper knowledge of yourself or perhaps have an issue you want to work on, ayahuasca could help.

Do your research and if you decide to drink, I recommend treating it as sacred healing medicine, just like the shaman of the Andes.

How I Stopped Being A Road Rager

I used to be such an angry driver.

On highways, I was a tailgater, always trying to “push” people out of my way. I lived in the fast lane, speeding 15-20 miles over the speed limit, in a rush to get to wherever I was going.

If you were unlucky enough to get in my way and you didn’t move, I’d give you the finger. Or when I got pulled up next to you to pass, I’d be sure to scowl at you – I wanted to see just who it was that was blocking. And then I’d flip you the bird as I sped by.

If I ever got cut off, I took it personally – just another opportunity for me to road rage. I couldn’t wait to get around you so I could cuss you out.

I remember the tension in my stomach as I raced and wove through traffic. I remember the anger I felt whenever someone got in my way and I had to slow. Man, I hated when things didn’t go my way.

But my road raging wasn’t limited just to highway driving.

On residential and side streets, I rarely obeyed the usual 25 MPH signs and instead raced from one stop sign to the next – never actually coming to a complete stop.

This poor behavior continued from Maryland where I terrorized motorists and some of my own passengers for 20 years straight on to Portland, where I moved at the end of 2004.

I had a short commute to work from my condo in the Northwest Hills to the Rose Garden Arena where I worked. Each day I took off down NW Everett, a congested city street that often featured lots of pedestrians on the sidewalks.

There are traffic lights every few blocks, which helped make a short commute into a long and frustrating one for me.

“I only live 2 miles from work,” I thought, “Why does it sometimes take me 15 minutes to get there?”

Each day, I ran late. Each day, I looked for an edge around traffic, to beat the next light, so I wouldn’t be late for work.

I thought to myself, “I’m going to show these Portlanders how we drive on the East Coast.” Can you believe that? I actually thought I was going to continue my aggressive driving in Portland and change the way an entire city drove!

But Portland is different. Here, drivers yield to pedestrians at every opportunity. If you’re standing on a street corner like you want to cross the street, drivers will stop for you – crosswalk or not – and let you cross.

It was a moment just like this one that woke me up.

I was driving into work one morning, running late as usual, and traffic was stopped.

“What the fuck!” I screamed at no one. I peered ahead – there was no light. I didn’t see an accident. Both lanes were jammed and there was nowhere to go. Man I was pissed off.

Then I saw what the problem was. There were people slowly crossing the street at a crosswalk. The few cars in front of me had stopped to let them cross.

Then it dawned on me: “If you don’t slow down, you’re going to kill somebody.”

Curing Road Rage On Residential Streets

This was the moment where my change began.

First, I back tracked and thought, “Why am I always running late?”

You see, on an average day it would take me about 10-12 minutes to get to work. So, if it was a quarter til nine – I had to be to work at 9am – I knew that gave me a few more minutes to get something done….like unload the dishwasher, put clothes in the laundry, take out the trash, you name it.

I was so bent on “maximum efficiency” with my time that I put myself in a position to have to rush. I put myself in a position where any unplanned delays could make me late for work.

And I hated being late. Besides it being a mark against me, I just hated the embarrassment of walking into the office late with no good reason for it.

I soon realized that my desire to “get one more thing done” was what was causing me to risk being late each day. My need for efficiency was causing me undue stress behind the wheel and putting others at risk for a fender bender or worse.

I had to let it go. Gradually, I stopped trying to be “perfect” before leaving for work. If I a had a few extra minutes to spare, I simply let the dishes sit and instead drove to work.

What a relief it was to me physically and mentally to not have to worry if I caught every light. I had time to spare.

If someone was crossing the street, I understood. I stopped and let them cross.

Curing Road Rage On Highways

My road rage on highways was a different story and took a lot more work.

While I stopped rushing around so much and gave myself a buffer of time to get where I had to be, I still had an underlying anger that rose up whenever someone cut me off or got in my way.

At the time in 2005, I was seeing pyschiatrist Dr. Manfield and he gave me the clue I needed.

At the end of one of our sessions, I asked him, “Why do I get so mad when someone cuts me off in traffic?”

I’ll never forget his animated response. He stood up and shook his finger at me, saying with raised voice, “Because the message you get is that YOU DON’T COUNT!”

Oh, man. The child inside still gets a little emotional reliving that scene.

At the time, I’m sure we were discovering that a lot of my issues stemmed from being given up for adoption and from having an overbearing Mother who constantly shut down my voice and my creativity.

I knew that, but I went looking for a strategy that would help me deal with the anger I felt when someone cut me off.

I found a book about changing your mind talk to change your life.

The premise was simple: Once you are aware of the “story” you are telling yourself, you create other positive stories to replace the negative one.

In my case, instead of reacting with anger shouting, “You cut me off!”I began to come up with other things to tell myself like:

  • Maybe he didn’t see me
  • Maybe he his wife is about to give birth
  • Maybe he’s got an emergency

And my all-time favorite:

  • Maybe he’s just an asshole like I used to be and hasn’t realized it yet

These were all plausible reasons for why someone would cut me off and I’m guessing you can probably add several more.

Now that I had some new things to tell my mind, it was time to practice.

Slowly, I reached a point where getting cut off didn’t “hurt” me anymore. I stopped taking it personally and realized whatever was going on in the other driver’s car had nothing to do with me.

This practice continues to this day. I still have to do the work of telling myself, “Maybe he didn’t see me” each time I get cut off.

Wrap Up

One day I hope to get to the point where I am clear of any emotion whatsoever when someone cuts me off. I am well on my way and still marvel at how friends have no reaction when they get cut off in traffic.

They are a good reminder for me to do the same.

I’ve also rode with others who haven’t dealt with the issue yet, and I see how scary it feels to be a passenger.

An ex-girlfriend when I was in my 20s once told me how she was scared to ride with me because I tailgated and swore and got so upset when I got cut off by another driver.

Even though I dismissed her feelings at the time, I now know how she felt. I now know how I felt, being the one holding all this rage inside.

These days, I like to leave early. I don’t have to be so efficient. I’ve learned that’s just me trying to be perfect – which is another story altogether.

When someone’s an idiot on the road, I don’t glare or give them the finger as I pass by; I just shake my head and try to laugh.

I’m still dealing with the hurt beneath the anger that’s at the root of my road rage, so my cognitive practice continues.

I drive slower now. I’m more courteous. I feel better in my body and the roads are a tiny bit safer because there’s one less asshole driver out there.

I hope you find this story helpful.

Fear And What I’ve Learned From It

In 2006, a life coach gave me a couple of pearls about fear. I’ve applied these insights and shared them with others over and over throughout the years.

The first is: “Fear is your sharpest definition of yourself.”

So true for me. I’ve let fear define me for a lot of my life.

When I was in high school, fear kept me from talking to girls I liked. It’s why I delayed getting a driver’s license until I was 19.

In my 20’s, fear kept me out of fist fights. And when I was sober, fear was still in my way of approaching the women I liked most.

In short, fear held me back from trying and doing a lot of things I could’ve otherwise done – more on that later.

For the second pearl on fear, he explained it to me like this:

“Look, here’s the thing about fear – you have to do the thing you’re afraid of so you can find out exactly what it is.

“When you do what you’re afraid of, one of two things is going to happen.

“One, you’ll come face to face with exactly what it is that frightens you. You’ll know it for sure and you’ll own it. So, now that you know it, you can accept it, put it in your bag, throw it over your shoulder, and get on with your life.

“Or two, when you do what you’re afraid of, it’ll be like stepping over an invisible line on the ground – you’ll find there was nothing there to be afraid of in the first place.”

I’d like to share a couple of personal experiences where each of these two paths has played out.

Example 1 – Knowing What I’m Fearful Of

When I was a youngster, I never really learned how to ride a bike. I had a bike, but my Mom was pretty fearful herself, so the only place I got to ride was in the back yard.

I recall going around in circles, trying to stay balanced, but there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver, so I never got good at it.

Since riding on the sidewalk or street was out of the question, I never really “learned” how to ride a bike.

After a while, I lost interest, or at least that’s what I told myself.

Over the next 20+ years, if a situation called for bike riding, I didn’t go. I always had an excuse. Truth was, I was terrified of riding bike. I think I thought I might fall or whatever else was going on my head.

The real truth – which I didn’t know then – was that I had no idea what I was afraid of. I just thought I couldn’t ride a bike and I was afraid to try.

Moving into my early 40’s, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to dive into this fear and overcome it.

My friend Josh graciously went with me to help me get a good used bike within my budget. I asked him to test it out because I was too afraid to ride it out on the street.

I did sit on it to make sure the height was right and eventually, I rode a block down the side walk with my fingers hard on the brakes in case I had to stop.

I just wanted to get the bike home to where I could practice myself without being embarrassed.

Before my first trip out, I recall telling my neighbor Joe what I was doing. (At that point in my life, it was a pretty big step simply ADMITTING I was afraid of something.)

I said, “I didn’t get to ride a bike much when I was younger and I’m afraid to do it. But I’m going to give it a try.”

I remember him smiling and wishing me well.

So, I went.

I cruised down my street and carefully turned right which put me out on another street where the speed limit is 25, but cars commonly go 40. The bike lane is immediately adjacent to traffic.

As I was pedaling along and working hard to stay within the bike lane, I heard a car approaching behind me.

Instantly, I felt my body tense up.

And in that moment, I knew exactly what my fear was: I was scared of getting hit by a car!

It’s still emotional for me to write this now as I know it’s expressive of some greater love coming from a place deep inside my memory.

At last I understood. I felt so vulnerable on my bike with no protection and cars whizzing by at 35 or 40 miles an hour.

My fear was palpable, but now I knew exactly what it was I was afraid of.

I veered right a bit to give the driver (and me) more space and soon I was off the road and onto a bike path.

The bike path was safe and I followed the trail out along the backside of Portland International Raceway.

It was there that I stopped and got off to sit in the sun. I felt so free out here! I was elated with the freedom of being out, miles from home, on my bike.

It truly was a joy ride!

So, by doing what I was afraid of, I learned exactly what it is that scares me.

I’m not afraid of riding a bike – I’m afraid of getting hit and hurt by a car. I love riding my bike; I just don’t like doing it around traffic.

The funny thing now is when I talk to others about my known fear of riding next to traffic, many people share the same fear. Even my friends who commute regularly on city streets have expressed how scary it is.

So, I’m not alone with this any more. It’s out in the open. It doesn’t control me and it certainly doesn’t stop me from doing something I really enjoy.

Example 2 – Nothing To Be Afraid Of

My second example is skydiving.

For whatever reason, I built the idea of jumping out of an airplane up into this huge fear.

I distinctly remember a couple of times being in a social situation and the topic of skydiving would come up.

I felt myself shrinking away because I was scared and had never done it. I felt gripped by this thing for whatever reason.

Jump ahead again to my early 40’s (I did a lot of shit in my early-mid 40’s :).

I finally decide – I’ve going to jump out of an airplane.

I called Skydive Oregon to set it up.

And when you call, it’s not like you just say, “Hey, I’m coming,” you have to make an appointment.

My appointment was on a Wednesday. Six days away. Six fucking long days away – I get to think about it and worry about it and know it’s approaching.

Why couldn’t I just go today and get it over with. No, I had to wait.

When Wednesday finally came, I got in my car and started the 45 minute drive South to the place.

It was like I was outside of my body and someone else was driving the car. Or, my car was driving itself, and it wasn’t going to stop until it pulled into the parking lot of Skydive Oregon.

I got there. I got out of the car and nervously walked to the office. I completed all the paperwork and waited for my name to be called.

I went through the training where the one thing they emphasize is to get into a swan position – arms and legs up, belly down – right after you jump.

I practiced my swan. Easy. Nervous.

I got introduced to my tandem jumper who suited me up and asked if it was my first jump.

Soon, we were in the plane and my nerves were peaking.

As we approached the jumping altitude, I thought to myself, “I can still say ‘no.’ I don’t have to do this.”

Then someone loudly slid the hatch door open with a thrust and my fear amped to another level.

I turned to ask my jump buddy if we were attached. I felt him yank me back to check as he said, “Yeah!” over the noise of the plane and the wind that was now rushing in.

The first tandem got up and into position. They slid down to the jump area and then they were gone – out in the sky – disappeared from my view.

“Holy shit,” I thought. My jumping partner and I slid up. We watched the next tandem go.

Now it was our turn.

“Holy fucking shit!” I thought as we were in position, my legs dangling over the edge of the plane.

And in the moment my fear was reaching it’s thickest point, he pushed and we were out.

And in the immediate – and I mean immediate – instant when we went airborn, I was awash in the realization, “What the FUCK was all the fear about?!”

I’ll never forget that moment. I was free.

Again, I was write, I’m moved to tears. Tears of love for myself, for doing it. For doing the thing that scares me, so I could find out there was never anything there at all.

It was just some stupid belief that got in my head along the way and snowballed into fear over time.

As we fell through the sky, I struggled to breathe, then remembered how.

My jump buddy tapped me and told me to get into swan position – I’d completely forgotten.

Within 60 seconds, the thing I was most afraid of, was over. He let the parachute and we peacefully drifted back to Earth.

And it was so fucking beautiful.

We got down and I was high.

I rushed out to a nearby convenience store and bought a 6-pack. I came back and watched others come down from the sky, knowing what they must be feeling.

I offered a beer to anyone who’d take one and hang out with me. I wanted to celebrate. I felt I could do anything. I was ready to take on the world.

When I share these stories with people, I usually feel a strong connection. and that feels really good to me.

I hope I always have the strength to do what I’m afraid of, so that it doesn’t own me, and so that I can know myself better.

Even now, it still can take time to work up the courage to do some things. But in the end, it is so worth it.

Love is all that’s left.

Is “Romantic Love” Sustainable?

“Romantic love” as I’m using it here is defined as those first euphoric feelings we get when we are attracted to a new love interest.

I’ve had these feelings many times. They feel incredible and make me feel “high” with emotion.

As a younger man under this spell, I often felt I’d met “The One,” as the rush of emotions overpowered me.

Inevitably the feelings would fade and I was left scratching my head wondering what had happened. Who was this person I felt so strongly about just a month before?

As a result, relationships that began with feelings of romantic love often ended shortly after the initial attraction wore off.

As I grew older, I learned that this was a natural occurrence – many of us go through it. Still, I found myself chasing that high in every new relationship.

I don’t recall pursuing too many women for long term relationships unless that strong ping of attraction was there at the beginning. I thought that that was how everything started.

Then one night while I was in my 30’s I was having beers with Larry Pastorius. Larry and I worked together and he was probably 20 years my senior.

I was talking to him about my challenges with regard to sustaining relationships with women and he shared a story that stuck with me.

He said, “Mike, I know what you mean. Before I met my wife, every relationship I’d had began with those euphoric feelings. Every one of those relationships was prone to huge up and down swings. And you know what? Every one one of those relationships failed.

“When I met my wife, there was none of that. We just liked each other. And that’s what has lasted.”

Hmmm. Interesting, I thought. Could “like” be more important than what I’d thought was “love at first sight?”

It’s always made me wonder in the 20 years since that conversation with Larry.

And yet, I’ve been addicted to that feeling most of my life. I’ve looked for that strong physical attraction over and over, only to realize after a month, “I don’t even like this person!”

So, I recently started a relationship with a woman and we’ve shared with each other that neither of us feels those “romantic love” feelings.

From my perspective, I like her. I’m attracted to her and after we met I felt we could talk together, had a nice connection and maybe wanted some of the same things out of life.

But I didn’t feel this overwhelming physical desire for her that I’d felt at the start of other relationships. In fact, the lack of this addictive feeling has caused me to question what we’re doing and I know it’s caused her to ask the same questions.

When the two of us get out of our heads and focus on how we feel when we’re together, everything is fine. We’re sweet to one another. We cuddle. We talk. We share stories and are getting to know each other a little at a time.

But still, we question: Shouldn’t we be having all those strong feelings couples have at the start of a relationship?

Pondering this question is what has led me to the title of this blog post, “Is Romantic Love Sustainable?”

The reason I ask that question now is because I’ve seen and experienced so many relationships go off the rails after the shine wears off.

So, are these relationships that begin with stomach flutters long lasting? Or is this initial ping we perceive to be an intense connection merely a sexual attraction that really has no foundation?

Whenever I hear of a couple who has broken up and then gets back together, I know they are experiencing great sexual chemistry. The lure of that physical connection is so strong, it’s like a drug.

But I’m not sure it indicates anything other than what it is – a strong physical connection.

I have another friend, Randy Kirk, who is 20 years my senior and a year ago I asked him, “What is love? What does that even mean?”

He said something really interesting. He said, “When I was married, I liked my wife. Each day, I woke up and decided to love her.”

With love seeming like such an elusive, undefined thing, this is interesting. Maybe “liking” someone is a better foundation for a relationship than all those endorphins that fool us in the beginning.

Maybe that’s why this woman and I have been questioning our relationship. Maybe that’s why it will last – because our foundation is built on all the things that make friendship successful – not because our foundation is built on stomach flutters and skipping hearts.