This is the 4th time I have sat down to write this blog about my recent trip into the Kingston, Jamaica ghettos. I’ve hard a hard time finding a “voice” that matches the hugeness of what my heart feels and what happened for me and with me. Last night at a celebration with some amazingly inspiring community leaders and spiritual facilitators, I was asked to share my experience. As I felt the flood and flow of passion in that space, the movement of the River of Love that I felt in Jamaica, I knew I was ready to write.
I wish it could be short, snappy, and well organized like the way you are “supposed” to write blogs. It is not. And neither am I. My loving prayer is that this touches your heart as much as the experience has touched me.
I offer this prayer as a beginning, with respect to all traditions and non-traditions. Blessed be.
Dear God, please help me write this. May your Love shine on the Altar of my devotion, that Your Work may awaken Love in the Hearts of all people. Use my words, use my heart, and use my hands. I am a paltry fraction of what is possible when your Love takes hold. Take hold. May the branches of my writing bear the nourishing Fruit of Spirit. Amen. A-Ho.
My experience in Jamaica was a washing of my Soul and life. It was an awakening. It was a truth session, a wake-up call. It opened a door in my heart I had closed long ago.
I did not go because I am some altruistic and annoyingly perfect man. I did not go because of how great I am. It was in my brokenness that the Light could get through. It was on my proverbial knees that this all happened, not in some moment of shining glory (although in the end, it was shining glory). On a US Airways flight from Charlotte to Miami Florida with a final destination to Italy I was flooded in pure energy and a Call. A Call to come Home. Light shone through those broken pieces and all the sudden the picture got clear. I had to go Serve. I had to wash my hands in the blood of the world.
Here is some BRIEF context. I had hit a real pinnacle of success in my life and in my work – more than I had ever dreamed possible. Ironically, it did not yield what I thought that would yield. There is a BIG difference between the art of fulfillment and the science of achievement. My heart was longing and thirsting for Water, deep Water that flows from the Heart. I had been feeling arid, dry, tired, broken.
The truth is, we are never disconnected. There was a shimmering Intelligence at work in my life. I made a commitment to play full out for the Love of God years ago, and That Wisdom is always at work, ESPECIALLY when it seems most dark. I was being pruned – so that I could bear more fruit.
I was always being pulled apart. The limbs and branches that don’t bear fruit and actually create pain for myself and others were being ripped off. Don’t get me wrong, as much as I can talk a great and inspiring game, I am a comfort junkie as much as the next guy and would prefer to just have shiny white teeth, a happy and abundant veneer, lots of prosperity and everyone loving everything I say and do all the time. Not gonna happen. My teeth are not that white, either.
Besides experiencing that arid dryness in my heart, I saw how my unchecked shadow elements could hurt people. Its never fun to feel hurt or disappointed by people you love, it sucks even more to be the one who hurts someone you love. Details are not important, but my actions deeply hurt a very dear friend of mine. Fortunately, he is not a “yes-man” who takes the path of least resistance. I had to look at myself – DEEPLY. You see, the “problems” that come up in our lives are the results of PATTERNS. We then want to make those problems go away, but the only true healing and resolution comes from looking straight at the PATTERN, going right into the center of the hurricane and doing the healing work there. You can pick up pollution from the river day after day, or you can go upstream to the toxic factory illegally dumping chemicals and shut it down. It was one of those experiences where the pattern was right there in my face and it hurt so much to see it. It hurt to see how for years this had been operating. Through the assistance of this friend and some other trusted advisors I dug deep. And with the help of Grace and a very deep prayer practice I just kept bringing in all the Help I could muster.
Learning more about the Enneagram and its meaning for me and my life was incredibly helpful as it showed me where I can take the off-ramp into crazy town spewing grenades of insecurity that explode shrapnel of anger and create collateral damage. One of my first spiritual teachers, Father Thomas Keating, had always said that the true meaning of repentance was to change the direction we are looking for happiness. I did not have a choice. I had to “repent” in the deepest sense. I felt naked, undone, and out of answers. Yes, I had done great work up to this point, but the pruning process was in full effect. It doesn’t matter what fruits I bore in the past, its the NOW that matters. Pruning means the Gardener has got to cut some stuff. Generally speaking, cutting anything hurts. It’s a sweet pain from where I stand now. It was not at the time. Before the resurrection, there has to be death. Before the butterfly there is always a chrysalis. Night always proceeds the sunrise. I would have to merge with all of my illusions before I could move through them. And before I could actually create resolution of the pattern, I’d have to stand, scared and shaky, in the middle of my life saying, “I AM HERE. I AM READY. BRING IT ON.”
Dryness + the stark vision of my glaring imperfections was a prefect preparation for what happened. I was thirsty, wandering in the desert. I did not know I was walking right on top of some very deep wells. I have been my whole life. We are never alone. There is Help, of the Deepest Kind, always present. All ways. It was waiting for my courage and my “yes” to ignite the kindling. And it had to be an honest yes. It had to be courage that was real. It had to be something bigger than me and my little performer persona.
I was headed to Italy, a cushy hotel on Lake Como for a professional training with some of my favorite people on the planet.
I boarded the plane in Charlotte to head to Miami to catch a connector to Milan. What happened on that flight is very hard to describe. It was a watershed movement. I was washed in love. Through and through, I was washed in love. It was an incredible energetic experience. In that fire and water and light I simply laid down my armor, my shame, my sadness, my loneliness, my struggling, my heart. I simply sat there, just as I am, in all of my parts, all of my imperfection, all of my love, and was washed with Love.
As this strange process was happening, it felt like energy was pouring on me, in me, and through me, and I could not stop crying. It felt really good, and it was super awkward. As this happened I kept feeling my inner Heart saying, You cannot go to Italy. You cannot go. I was angry about this. I had spent a lot of money on this trip and I was scared to disappoint people, especially the folks that I love so much and teach me so much. Alas, the Voice was utterly persistent. You Cannot Go.
Surrender is not a passive event. It needs your choice and your action. I surrendered. I did not know what was next, but I just gave in. I think the finality of this moment was the universal prayer of surrender, “F^&* it. Show me what is next.” I then opened my journal to write about what was going on and a picture of Padre Pio fell on my lap. I tear up as I write this – of how the threads of Love have always got us wrapped in a tapestry of Grace. Sometimes, we get to see it. I saw it. I never carry a picture of Padre Pio in my journal. Ever. Padre Pio has always been someone I thought was amazing. Now he is one of my closest friends. Check him out. He’ll change your heart if you let him. As his picture fell in my lap, I think I said something like, “Oh, S%^&, not this.” Yes, my inner prayer life is very much like being at a bar in New England. I knew at that moment the game just got bigger. A lot bigger.
I closed my eyes. Tears streamed down my face. I felt the pulse of all these different “parts” of my being swirling and merging into one whirlwind of experience, and yet I was moving through it to an unknown destination. I. HAD. TO. GO. It was a choiceless choice. The swirling felt like the rhythm of my soul, the part of me, the Deepest Most Real Me that I had so often traded for another. Yes. Yes. Yes. I am Ready. Lets do this. For you NSA/SRI people – that was Stage 2, 5, 6, into 7 into 8. Sweet.
Suddenly, an image of Mother Theresa flashed into my inner eye and I knew I had to go serve the poor – the poorest of the poor. I wanted more than anything than to put my hands in the broken bones of humanity, to touch the real, to open the doors of my heart into the Christ ever-present in the forgotten ones. I then had the impression placed on my heart that I was to go work with the Missionaries of the Poor in Kingston Jamaica. I emailed my wife from the plane. She gave me the support and unconditional love I so needed in that moment. Its not easy being married to someone like me. There is so much fire, so much energy and she is the perfect grounding for me. I was hoping she was would say, “Man, you are CRAZY. Get to Italy.” Nope, when God has a plan, everything will line up. I even called a mentor, thinking I would get permission to bail on “Mission Jamaica.” As I described what was happening, he was in tears and basically said, “You gotta go.” S%^*. I stood there at the door into the terminal to head to Italy. I knew if I did not go right then, I’d miss my flight, and I knew that once I crossed that threshold I could not go back. F^%& it. I headed to the customer service desk. “Can I get a one-way flight to Kingston tonight, please?”
One last interesting point. Just because you say yes and decide to make a change, step up, do some healing, change a pattern doesn’t mean it’s easy. Just because you enter into the arena does not mean you’ll be instantly rewarded. Sometimes things take a while. Remember, I was being pruned. I can sound and look great, but you have to really get to the truth if you want to be real. Every great soul NEEDS an opponent to bring forth its Greatness. Every David needs a Goliath. Sometimes it’s sneaky.
I made two calls to the Missionaries of the Poor. I got a tentative “Yes you can come.” Then, I called back and got a “Yes, please come. We are excited to have you.” I bought my ticket WITHOUT knowing for sure what the heck I was going into or if it was official. I bought my ticket and called the Missionaries of the Poor with triumphant jubilation. “Sorry, you’ll have to come some other time.” “Uhhh, I just bought my ticket.” “Sorry, we can’t house you. Some other time, Matt.” I did what I know how to do best – see the goal with laser focus, to see the outcome that I felt had to happen and I called their boss. “Yes, come. We’ll make it happen.” OK. It still did not feel certain AT ALL.
I got on the plane. As the old Haddaway song chimes, “Life will never be the same again.”
Listen, I am almost done here and you have been so generous with your time. As far as I know, this life is YOUR ONE LIFE and it is MEANT TO BE LIVED FULLY. Playing small and staying in your comfort zone 100% blocks the emergence of your calling. One of the most common things I hear, and one of the greatest sources of pain for people is that they feel they can’t make progress and that they don’t know what their purpose is, they don’t know how to give their gifts. Paradoxically, many of these folks are the most comfortable folks I know – by every standard rich and comfortable. I am NOT suggesting you throw a bomb in your life and make your way to the nearest third world ghetto at midnight like I did, but seriously, give yourself some more credit and STEP UP. That comfort zone is killing us, and the problem is, by many measurements, the world is in serious trouble and whom BUT US can make the change?! Now is the time. We NEED YOU. PLEASE PARTICIPATE IN YOUR LIFE. When you come alive, as you are, in your own unique amazing way, you flood the world with love. Fuse that with real sacred action and look out, you become a tsunami of Truth and Love.
End preaching. On with story.
I got to Kingston late. 2 monks dressed in their full regalia picked me up. They were amazing. Immediately they began to pray for me in the car. I know now that they were busting out the hard-core prayers as they knew what I was about to walk into. Remember Goliath? Yep, mine was coming. See, you think when you do the right thing, when you start some healing program, when you ask for help its all supposed to be paved in gold after that. No. Its not. Its supposed to rock your world, silly! The cool thing is, I believe, that when you are truly surrendered to Spirit, willing to discover what is really going in in you, and READY to step up in action you can celebrate the whole way through knowing that no matter what, so long as you give 100% in love and authenticity, ALL IS WELL.
Here is what happened: I got to the mission and the brother responsible for housing volunteers threw me out. He would not let me in. He discounted my story and told me I was not welcome. He knew I had flown in. He knew I had been given permission to stay. And he tossed me out. To his credit, he had told me not to come. And to his credit, I had gone above him. This wierd drama was all playing out around midnight in one of the roughest neighborhoods of one of the roughest cities in the world. It was no joke. I am all about unconditional love, and I also know when its time to step up and confront craziness. I was very angry and genuinely concerned for my own well being as this monk dressed in white tossed me out. Remember, your Goliath may be very subtle and not at all obvious. As it was happening, I could feel that there were “forces” at work that were so trying to throw me off my game. Later, a couple of the priests told me the “dark side” was tempting me. I don’t know about that, I do know that I had to TRULY step up and take a STAND for justice and truth and to fulfill this mad vision. The forces pushing against me were the perfect fuel to find my deepest resources. The issue in life is always this: Where are my resources and what is the Energy Super Rich Solution here?
They could not get me a ride to the hotel and were about to bring me to a hotel with no vacancy. I found a room and the monk and another man drove me at my behest as I was not about to get into a car with a stranger in the ghetto . When we got to the hotel, I dropped some Matthew 35 – “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you received me.” I then told him, in a VERY firm way that I thought he was WAY off, was missing the entire point of the Gospel, and that this would not be the end. I then gave him my picture of Padre Pio and said, “Brother, you now need this more than I do.” I checked into my hotel. On the other side of the coin, he was playing the perfect role to help ME find the point of the Gospel: Truth, Redemption, Service, Forgiveness, and ‘Gettin’ Real.
I was angry, frustrated, fired up, and feeling like, “C’mon, God! I put it all on the line to serve and follow my heart, and now I am in this lonely hotel room in God-Knows-Where (In fact, God did know Where and this was all playing out perfectly). I could be on Lake Como chilling with George Clooney.” I called a couple friends and Lynn and told them of my plan to just head to a nice hotel at the beach and unwind. “Nope, you gotta see this through.” ARGH! Goliath! Remember, David had ALL the odds stacked against him. What he had was passion, purpose, congruence, and STRATEGY. I needed to get congruent and I need a strategy that was energy rich.
I heard the voice within: Call the monastery. It was late and I did not think any one would answer. One man did. This may take a while, but a crack of hope. I told him the story. He felt terrible and said, “This is not what the Gospel teaches! Come tomorrow morning and meet with the leaders.” OK, a glimmer of hope. He has since become a dearly beloved friend.
I slept horribly. I missed my daughter and was pretty sure the cheese had fallen off my cracker. However, I had come this far, and I was going to see this thing through. I was going to storm the gates for Love and see what happened.
The next morning I met with a man who would absolutely change my life. He is one of the heads of the entire operation. He met with me, and instantly I knew him as a Soul Friend. His love and power emanated from every pore in his body. He heard my story. He acknowledged that what had happened was wrong and he invited me to work with them and stay with them for the week. I also acknowledged that my quick unplanned arrival really threw the other brother a curveball. I can only imagine the crazies who think they have heard the voice of God that have shown up at their door. In fact, that has happened and they have to be very discerning of who they let in. Lets face it, I’m not exactly the most mellow guy. I can be super intense and intimidating at times. Nonetheless, the healing grace of forgiveness was flowing all around. I was in. Sweet.
That day I started serving in the ghetto and continued all week working in homes for the dying, orphans, and those tossed to the streets to die. I brought Network Spinal Analysis to as many people as I could. I shaved men confined to wheelchairs. I touched the lonely, cleaned maggot-infested wounds. I played with kids who live in iron cribs, abandoned in a place wrought with poverty and violence. Every encounter was a mirror of all of us. Every encounter was Love’s Shimmering Disguise. Everyone was Christ in his distressing disguise. I now GOT what Mother Theresa taught. I used to just say it because it seemed true and sounded good. I prayed. A lot. I said the Rosary. A lot. I sat in quiet whenever I could. I was being washed in love in the most unlikely place.
As for that other monk, he apologized. He was stressed and guess what, he made a bad decision (Hmmmmm….sounds familiar doesn’t it). He was in a crappy state; he had a poor story, and a bad strategy. He owned it. How many times has that been me? We became friends, an in my natural style, I ended up lovingly making fun of him for it on my last night and he laughed. That was a sweet healing. Goliath had become my little buddy. That is what happens when we merge with our fear and our pain and our stories. They become our friends. We become energy super rich. When we avoid, we get suffering. When we merge we get progress.
I was washed in an ocean of love in what appeared to be an ocean of suffering. I came back home. I came back home to my heart, into my two feet on this wild, crazy, sad, beautiful world. I felt filled with the Nourishing Food of Spirit, the Bread of Life. I felt Quenched with the water of Life. I felt bathed in the Rose Fragrance of Love. My bones were tired, but my heart was more alive than it had felt in YEARS. I felt like the velveteen rabbit – I felt real. And I felt loved because I had made the choice to love and to follow the authenticity of my heart.
There are two words that sum it all up for me: Redemption and Celebration. Redemption for me just means that I felt whole again. I felt connected to God, and I felt a beautiful sense of healthy pride at the branches I do have that can bear beautiful fruit. I also felt completely OK with myself, and even grateful for the painful experiences that helped get me to this point. I even loved those branches in me that could not bear fruit – the masks I thought I had to wear to be loved. The walls around my heart that guarded my deepest vulnerability. And, I was really happy to see them go. Funny thing about those masks, when we take them off our beauty truly shows through. Celebration is my other word here because it’s so radically important to dance and celebrate each step of the way. As long as we are giving our all we deserve to dance. In the midst of all the suffering what those Jamaicans knew how to do was celebrate. The simple miracle of loving, of being alive, and being renewed in the Living waters of Spirit is all the reason in the world to celebrate, unconditionally, this beautiful life. Celebrate to elevate! Celebrate everything. We are so very rich.
I want to thank all of my teachers. A deep bow to you all. I love my wife and daughter and bow to them as emissaries of light that they are. I thank my friends; especially those that don’t just say what they think will make me comfortable. And to our amazing practice members and NWCC community, I love you all so deeply and am grateful every day and every way. I pray daily for you all – all past, present, and future clients, that you will be ravished and flooded with love, healing, courage, and celebration.
Let the messy mosaic of your life be pieced together with the Glue of Courage, Love, and Authenticity – and you will, I promise, radiate more beauty than you ever thought possible. That mosaic is completely unique to you. Ask for help. You are not supposed to do this alone. At the risk of sounding preachy and theological here, Real Help is a prayer away. Get a a community of people who support you and share the highest virtues and values. Keep it simple. Step up. Show up. Do the work. Love. Magic Moments abound. This is your shot. This is your opportunity.
PS – Want to go deeper? Join me Feb 21st for a day-long immersion retreat. Set a new standard for your life. Soar. Its January – you likely set some goals and intentions for this coming year? Would you like to inject Rocket Fuel into your life and FLY? Join me for a day long immersion retreat, in Charlotte, Feb. 21. These programs sell out quickly, so if you feel the call, do not hesitate to leap into what you have been waiting for. Its an investment that pays incalculable dividends, on so many levels of life. Details: 9am-7pm. Investment is $350. $299 if registered before Jan 30th. Location: 725 Providence Rd, Charlotte, NC. Call our office to register.