The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Hug It Forward

                                                Shining heart
Last Sunday, I attended an event called Raise The Vibration which was held at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. A month or so earlier, I had picked up a pastel colored postcard with an image of Kwan Yin who is known as The Goddess of Compassion, imprinted on it.  My friend Rod Schichtel who works in a store  on South Street, called Nangellini, gleefully handed me the card, knowing it would be my cup of tea and suggested that I get involved somehow. He told me that he planned on being there, creating art. He does that every day through the sweet simplicity of his being, but I knew he meant he would be using canvas and paint to splash beauty about.
I took the train from bucolic Bucks County to bustling Center City Philadelphia, intending to get off at a stop a mere few blocks from 6th and Market where I would be meeting up with friends Lydia and Catherine who planned to engage in one of my favorite activities…FREE HUGS! Unfortunately, having been a bit sleep deprived for the past week or so, I nodded off and missed my stop. As a result, I ended up walking 14 blocks to get to my destination. Well worth it, when it provided grist for the mill and words for this blog entry:)
As I was hustling to get there, I noticed that the energy seemed harsh and jagged. Car horns, people talking to themselves (I work in a psychiatric hospital, so that doesn’t normally phase me), shouting, many people smoking; one while pushing a baby stroller. Know that smoking is one of my pet peeves (I say that breathing is necessary/smoking is optional), I have an extremely strong opinion that smoking around children is tantamount to child abuse since it exposes them to toxins from which they can’t escape. All of these thoughts were rolling through my mind as I was heading to a peace/unity event. YIKES!  Not so peaceful state of mind at that point.
When I arrived and greeted Catherine and Lydia who were standing with their beautifully decorated FREE HUGS sign, I sighed with relief, since the energy felt softer; or maybe I was the one who had softened, since some of the folks there had lit cigarettes in their hands as well):  It was as if my vision had changed and all I could see was the radiance of each being there, as the heart chakra was illuminated.
The expanse of lawn was filled with people of all ages, socio-economic background; well dressed tourists and homeless folks mingling amidst the sounds of 60’s rock and reggae, drum beats, singing, dancing and twirling hippies and hippie wish-they-were’s on a cloudy but not quite rainy late Spring day. Convinced that it didn’t rain cuz I brought my red umbrella, tucked into my backpack. One of the first people I saw was my friend Rod who is a work of he(art) himself, and a graphic artist by inclination and talent. Sitting on the grass with home made easels propping up paint infused canvases, he moved from one to the other, creating images about love and unity.

I had come there to soak up the ‘good vibes’ and for the next few hours, walked around the area, holding up my own FREE HUGS sign. Feeling quite ‘go with the flow’, as a result of my training and experience as a Cuddle Party facilitator and having come freshly from one the day before, held at my friend Halina’s house , I felt totally fearless about it, regardless of who was a yes to a hug.  I lost count after awhile, but estimated that I had hugged at least 200 people from the time I got started at around 2 pm and finished about 4:30 and probably clocked more than 10 miles including  those extras from the train and then around and around and around the park and then back to a closer train station and then back to my car once I landed in Doylestown…didn’t need to go the gym that day.  Amazingly I only knew a handful of people there, contrary to what my friend Greg has often said… “You who know everyone….”  One of the men I hugged who was perched on a stone wall and smiled broadly when I approached with my sign, made a comment that it was like being back in the 60’s, except he had a cell phone in his pocket.


Wearing my anthropologist/sociologist hat, I made  some interesting observations about the hugging dynamics in terms of receptivity to what I was offering. There seemed to be no discernible difference between gender…men and women seemed equally willing to hug me. What I did notice was that if there were groups of  young women, most of them were eager to hug, while with groups of young men, a few in the group were, while others held back shyly. Older teens and early 20-somethings were more likely to come dancing/dashing over to engage in hugs, while those my age or slightly older would wait for me to come to them. People in their 70’s and beyond seemed less like to engage. Individual men of all ages, reached out.  A cultural divide took place as I noticed more often that folks of Indian and Asian origin seemed more reticent and some smiled but waved me off, while African American, Latino and Caucasian people seemed more comfortable and willing to ’embrace’ the experience. I respected the boundaries of those who were a ‘no’ to hugging by simply smiling and waving.


Some took pictures…how cool to be a tourist attraction in The City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection) .

As I was winding down, I put out a silent wish for someone to join me for dinner before hopping back on the train. I turned around and shrieked with delight when I saw my friends Alan and Jim who had arrived a bit earlier and were actually ready to leave, were heading to dinner and then onto the very train I would be taking home…perfectly timed.

Enjoyed chopstick eaten lomein and veggies at the food court at Market East and conversation about all things esoteric and mundane. With a few minutes to catch the train, we scooted down the stairs and made it just in time and wonder of wonders, actually found 3 seats together. Alan and I have this simpatico connection, and at dinner, I was about to ask them how long they had been together. At that moment, he pipes up…”Jim and I will be celebrating our 27th anniversary next month; I know you were just going to ask.” Can’t keep anything to myself with such people around:)


After goodbye hugs, they got off a few stops before mine and I sat back, watching the lush greenery rush past my window, sighing with deep appreciation about how blessed I am. My vibration had indeed been raised and I would daresay, likely that of anyone who happened to meander through that magical grassy knoll.

My talented videographer friends Flora Nikki Zanfrisco and Rene Harris shot this film to honor the day…dance and sing and play along with us. 


I Would Love


The marvels of modern technology meets the simplicity of guitar and voice of Lee Coulter, a young man whose origins are as eclectic as his musical tastes. According to his website, he was influenced by Ray Charles, The Beatles, Babyface, Nirvana, Paul Simon, Norah Jones, The Beach Boys, Michael Jackson and Hank Williams. He is compared favorably to Jason Mraz,  G. Love and Jack Johnson.  Born of an Indonesian mother and Australian father, Lee’s spoken voice maintains the sound of the outback as he graces stages and wedding venues from his home base in Encinitas, California. His journey to sonic stardom began in Queensland where as a youth, he became a singer songwriter as a way of helping to support his single parent family.  Now his ‘home team’ includes his talented Photographer/Anthropologist wife Sharisse and their little one. The songs are lively and upbeat, gathering in listeners world wide.


I was introduced to Lee and his soulful sound via his Live From The Laptop series in which he records and makes available, songs on his laptop computer. My friend Brian Hilliard posted on Facebook one of Lee’s delightful pieces called I Would Love in which he invokes the ideas that if given the opportunity, in every case, he would just love.   “If I were the earth, I would give you all that you need”… then if he were a book, a pen, money  …  If I were a gun, I would love to never kill anyone…melt me down to make something fun…I would love, I would love, I would love”  How cool is that?

Think about your relationships and ask yourself, if YOU had the chance to just love, would you?  It costs nothing but your fears and belief in separation.


How do you live your bliss?

I live my bliss by chasing the perfect song. I don’t think there is really such a thing and if there is that I am the one to write it but it sure warms my heart trying to find it. Among plenty of other emotions.

How were you led to music?
Everyone is led to music. I chose to play it, I believe, because I want to communicate deeply with humans all over and it is one of the most powerful mediums to do so. And most easily produced mediums. I couldn’t make and distribute top quality feature films from my bedroom.

What genre would it fit into?

I never know what genre to call my music but I’m not too cool to be in the pop box. I guess it’s mostly acoustic so acoustic pop works. I made up a genre name “funkacana” but not all of my songs fit under that.

Do you write your songs or do they write you?


Most of the time, I feel a disconnect from the songs I write. Like it wasn’t me that wrote them. And I guess my music being my life’s work would mean that it somewhat defines me.
How has your music changed since becoming a Daddy?
The music hasn’t changed since I became a dad apart from specifically writing a song about my son after he was born.
Can you introduce us to your alter ego; he of the video Rockstar 101?
Walter LeGeaux is the result of being amused by what a lot of people apparently find appealing. I’ve always like producing hip hop beats and danceable music so when I took on this side project of Square Pegs Baby, I thought not only will the music be a different style to what I’m used to performing but I’ll play the part as well. He embraces all the characteristics that I find obnoxious and transparent in some current pop icons. SPB music is mostly for real and for the fun of it but Walter LeGeaux will can hopefully shine a light on some of the ridiculousness along the way, via some video blogging. If not, if it makes people laugh, that is a goal achieved as well.
How did Live From The Laptop come to be?
Live from the Laptop came about because I saw it as a way for people to see what I can do with just a guitar and voice in one take as opposed to the full production that is on the album. It’s just another way to share what I do. I’ve recently started to do some covers on there including from fellow obscure, unsigned artists. There’s so many beautiful songs out there that people don’t know about and if I can help turn a few more people on to some of the undiscovered genius out there, I’ll find that very fulfilling.

This Live From The Laptop performance was shot in front of Lake Tahoe


What I Wish I Knew



Turn the clock back 3 decades ago  to January of 1981 and a young woman is sitting perched on a stool in 3/4 profile. Her waist length hair is flowing like a waterfall across her shoulders that are garbed in a tan corduroy shirt. Her friend Brian had just snapped a photo and captured her wistful gazing-off-into-the-distance expression. Although her body was in Westville, NJ at the time, her mind was on the frigid, snowy Appalachian trail,  as she was recalling 10 days spent on an Outward Bound course out of Dartmouth. It was her senior year at Glassboro State College and she had considered moving to Vermont after graduation. She figured that if she could survive outside in the winter in New England, she could manage it inside and so she embarked on a remarkable journey that had her stretching herself in ways that she had not considered.


Ten days without showering, (we all smelled the same anyway and bacteria didn’t have much of a chance against 40 below temps at night:), returning home with a broken pinkie, frostbite on both hands, a sprained ankle, bronchitis and bruised hips from carrying a 50 pound pack, I never moved to New England, but came home with a lesson well worth the price of admission and all of the boo-boos. 

I call it “Make A Positive Change” and it was offered by one of the instructors. He would tell us that rather than moaning and complaining about what wasn’t working for us, that we could make a shift in our actions and thus our attitude.  “If you are hot, take off a layer of clothes. If you are cold, add a layer. If your socks are wet, change them. If you are hungry, eat. If you are tired, rest.”  Simple as that.


When I found that photo and reclaimed that memory 10 or so years ago, I began an ongoing dialog with that woman who had not yet become the me who is reflected in the mirror today. Many more lines around these eyes, grey strands wisping through the pixie short shorn hair, and a treasure trove of wisdom that she now gifts back to that somewhat naive version of herself.

This I think of as “What I Wish I Knew When I Was You” a kind of ‘if I knew then, what I know now, I could have saved alot of grief.’

*Where you end and I begin/giving up savior behavior~

I had long been a co-dependent caregiver who spent 6 years going to CODA (Co-dependents Anonymous) meetings, because I somehow incorporated the idea that I was responsible for the wellbeing of people in my life. I had developed the persona of ‘everyone’s sweetheart’, not wanting to make waves and with the absurd belief that I could rescue, fix or save people. What I came to understand is that we are each responsible for our own healing and while I can be of support, I need not carry any one. When I live in my own skin and you live in yours, even while merging spiritually, we maintain our unique identity.  We are each strengthened by the challenges we face and we empower each other to stretch.


Recovering from spiritual amnesia~

I forget all of the above from time to time and that God/dess has got my back. I can do things FOR myself, but need not do them BY myself. Things always work out for the highest good, even if I might not think so at the time. Some of my biggest so- called losses were really blessings in disguise. Jobs that I didn’t get that I wanted, made me available for something even better. Relationships that shifted left space for new people to enter my life that I might not have met had I been with someone else.


Sometimes you have to fall apart to see how together you can be~

That was a tough one for me, since I (like most people) want to present the appearance of having it all together. I have since learned that being vulnerable is a strength and not a weakness. It also allows the people in my life to do for me, which is a shared blessing. And ‘falling apart’ gives me the chance to put myself back together as I would like to be.

Everyone you now know and love was once a stranger~


When I think about every treasured person in my life, I marvel that there was actually a time when they weren’t even on my radar screen, living out their lives somewhere else in the world. When the door opened and they walked through, there was sometimes an instantaneous recognition; the Celtic concept of ‘anam cara’ or ‘soul friend’.  I would count many thousands of people in my overlapping soul circles, from the various groups in which I am involved.

Love is never wasted~


In my nearly 53 years on the planet, I have been in many romantic/intimate relationships; some short term, some with greater longevity. With very few exceptions, I remain friends with each one. From those folks, I have accepted beauty and grace and love and now a piece of who they are remains with me. A friend of mine who is a relationship coach likes to encourage people to ‘leave the campground better than you found it.’ I would like to think I have done so.

Everyone is on loan to us~


When my husband Michael was in the end stages of his life, I would engage in what I would refer to as ‘God wrestling sessions’ during which I would say  “He’s mine and you can’t have him.”, to which The Divine would lovingly, but succintly reply “He’s mine and he’s on loan to you like everyone else in your life.” Knowing that helps me appreciate everyone who enters my sphere.

Follow the Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail~

I entertain myself at times by remembering how I met the various sweet souls who grace my life. For example, I was listening to my friend Steven Groff’s CD that I reviewed for Monday’s Bliss Blog and grinned when I considered that I had met Steven, if memory serves, via an organization called Rubye’s Kids that sponsors an annual holiday party for inner city Philly Kids. He and his wife Rhoni and I were among the volunteer staff. I got involved with the group when a friend named Kathleen who was a clown and assistant to Patch Adams, told me about it and I donned my faerie clown costume as Feather and helped entertain the kids there. I had met Kathleen when I was co-publisher of Visions Magazne and she came to us to help with design of her brochure. SO, what it came down to was that I was enjoying Steven’s music because all those years ago, I met Kathleen.


Channeling my inner Annie~

When I have experienced the inevitable dark night of the soul, I find myself singing “The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar, there’ll be sun…”

Worry is a waste of imagination~

Most of the things I have fretted over have never come to pass. I have so many better things to do than get myself in a tizzy over the unknown. I have also heard heard it said that worry is praying for what you don’t want.


The event will go as the event will go~

When I first started facilitating Cuddle Party workshops, I would call Reid Mihalko who created it and express feelings of anxiety and all manner of ‘what if…?” and he would say, “Darlin’, the event will go as the event will go.”  I need only to prepare as best I can and then let it go. As true of life as Cuddle Party.

Put your heart and soul into all you do~


I am convinced that most people don’t do the best they CAN or are capable of. They do the best they are WILLING to do. Life is like the hokey pokey…it’s more fun if you put your whole self in.

Delays are not denials~

Just because events haven’t always turned out immediately as I wanted them to, doesn’t mean that they won’t. It took 20 years to manna-fest the interview I did with His Holiness The Dalai Lama….two decades after planting the seed with my expressed desire. A friend had commented after the July 2008 interview with the question “How do you know HE wasn’t waiting 20 years for YOU to interview HIM?”


BYOB-Be Your Own Bliss~

Joseph Campbell was known for the saying “Follow your bliss.” What if instead, you could BE your bliss; carrying it with you wherever you went? As Master or Mistress of your own bliss, you are quite simply limit-less.

The original photo  of me was taken by my friend Bryan Effron 30 years ago and the photo of that photo now bearing wings, was taken by Cynthia Ericson of Ericson Strategic Marketing Solutions at Molly Leese Nece ‘s Sunshine Sister Idol event


Meet Me At Your Heart


Meet Me At Your Heart

Sitting in my car en route to the gym last night, I was carried, not just by a Jeep, to my destination, but on waves of sound offered from the heart, soul and voice of Steven Groff.  His newly released CD is called Meet Me At Your Heart and it is a simple and profound offering to the Divine in the form of sacred Sanskrit call and response chanting known as kirtan.  I have been enraptured for years, listening to Steven live and in person at Philly area events called Chant, Chai and Charity.  His vocal abilities have the same flavor as the real Indian chai that is served there…a bit of sweetness with a tad of spice that warms the listener from the inside out.


This release is a true family affair that includes the talents of  his wife Rhoni Groff, daughter Jade Groff, daughter Mira Newman and son in-law David Newman who themselves are internationally known kirtan artists.  Add to the mix Rama Bala, Sarah Carlisle, Phillippo Franchini, Alfred Goodrich, Renata Gregori, Sarah Halley, Anna Krain, Corey Sokoloff, Jenny Stout, Marianne and Randy Sutin and Hoagy Wing and you have a large, extended family of choice. I think of the backup singers as ‘anahata angels’ (anahata is the Sanskrit term for the heart chakra) whose sonic support might very well have wings.

The seven pieces on the CD honor various aspects of deity.  The first selection is Calling Ganesh, paying tribute to the Elephant head God who is known as the remover of obstacles. Jai Ma is a devotional to the Divine Feminine in her many permutations such as Lakshmi, Durga and Kali. The original title piece Meet Me At Your Heart  beckons the listener to join the community of kindred spirits. Hare Ram is an offering to ‘the shining one’…Lord Vishnu.  Shyam Radhe Shyam is a chant that opens the door to the heart as it speaks of the eternal connection between Radhe and Krishna.  Govinda Gopala refers to the incarnation of Krishna as a youth. The closing piece…a peaceful send off is the traditional chant: Lokah  which translates to:


May all beings, in all worlds be blessed with freedom, health and happiness
Om, we invoke the Divine Primordial Source Energy to infuse us with
Peace in all bodies, Peace in all minds, Peace in all souls.

Meet Me At Your Heart is a CD that should accompany you on your travels both on and off the yoga mat or meditation cushion.

You can listen to a sampling that will have you wanting more…entitled Jai Ma

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