Beginners Guide to AI

Watch this beginner’s guide to AI to understand where it came from and what it can and can’t do for and against us!

Asobase Kotoba Language of Play


Hi, we are at the Zen Garden at the John Hamann Museum in West Chester County New York, where we’re going to work with the Joseph Campbell quote from Myths to Live By, about Asobase Kotoba.

“There is a curious, extremely interesting term in Japanese that refers to a very special manner of polite aristocratic speech know as play language: Asobase Kotoba. Whereby instead of saying to a person for example, “I see that you’ve come to Tokyo,” one would express the observation by saying, “I see that you’re playing at been in Tokyo.”

The idea being that the person addressed is in such control of his life and his powers that for him everything is a play, a game.

He is able to enter into life as one would enter into a game: freely and with ease.

And this idea is carried even so far, that instead of saying to a person, “I hear that your father has died” you would say rather “I hear that your father has played at dying.”

And now I submit that this is truly a noble, really glorious way to approach life. What has to be done is attached with such a will that in the performance when it’s literally in play.”

Imagine if everything that you did in life was filled with a spirit of play.

Things that you try to accomplish, things that you wanted…you went after them with the sense of play as if it were a game.

As if you were just simply trying to move your little man on the board from one place to another. With the same spirit of fun in the process, in the doing that you have when you’re playing a game.

Just take a moment and imagine what life could be like if it were really fun if it were filled with play.

I encourage you to play the game of life.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Tragic Pursuit of His Birthright

Philip Seymour HoffmanWebster’s Dictionary describes a tragedy as a “drama describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force, and having a sorrowful conclusion”. The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman of a heroin overdose struck me as a great tragedy.

Like so many tragedies that we stand on the sidelines gawking at, I am struck by how much there is for us to learn from it. Not the glib don’t do drugs lesson, but something real and urgent for us.

One of a Kind
Philip Seymour Hoffman was handed a very special talent from the theater gods. I have spent many an evening or afternoon in a movie theater marveling at his ability to quietly, effortlessly bring danger, humor, sadness, vulnerability, razor sharp smarts, and sensuality to a role that most likely was not originally conceived with that much complexity.

I have thought so many times, “this movie would not work if there were no Philip Seymour Hoffman”, because no other actor could have created a person with this kind of depth. I was enjoying the Hunger Games sequel just fine recently, but when Philip Seymour Hoffman appeared on screen I knew that the story was going to change, and that his character would turn out to have a big surprise up his sleeve, and I was right.

There But For the Grace of God Go Us
There has been a lot of “ink” spilled about his untimely death on social media, and much of it is pretty unkind. I think a lot of people are angry that a “father of three small children could be so selfish”. Or that he was undeserving of sympathy because “boo hoo. Poor rich movie star wasn’t happy enough”. Nicknames like Philip Seemore Heroinman are being bandied about.

Though I understand the feelings of anger and disappointment, when our heroes show such feet of clay, I think it’s a mistake to assume that we are impervious to making our own tragic choices. You really don’t want to tempt the fates by saying you could never fall so low.

Levar Burton of Roots fame got in trouble with his Twitter followers recently when he cracked tasteless jokes, and bragged how HE would never end up that way.

Hey It’s Quiet Up Here!
I really don’t know anything about heroin from first hand experience, but I have had friends and roommates who did, and one thing came across rather clearly: Heroin can give you a complete break from the constant mind chatter that follows us.

Anthropologist Michael Agar called heroin “the perfect whatever drug”. For people who obsess, worry, over think, over plan, cling to the past or hope too much for better tomorrows, a taste of smack is the first time that they actually hear silence in their heads. And after having been to the Emerald City, it is a struggle to stay in Kansas forever more.

Though most of us choose a less societal outsider avenue, what I have witnessed of humanity is one long pursuit of a quiet mind. Whether chasing after a great love, more money or respect from the art critics, we are all looking for the “Ahhh, it’s not so serious” feeling. The “perfect whatever drug” that will make us feel at ease with whatever greets us in life.

Heroin is known for the initial sense of euphoria one feels when the drug reaches the brain. I am convinced that euphoria, an intense state of transcendent happiness, is a natural state that is wired into the fabric of our bodies. And yet we have found a way to override our daily dose of euphoria with various but incessant levels of worry, anticipation, and distraction. I find it hard to blame Philip Seymour Hoffman his desire for euphoria on a daily dose, or a daily dose of “Ahhh, it’s not so serious”.

I’m the father of an eight year old girl, and the look of grief and torment displayed on his seven year old daughter, Willas face at his funeral, is almost unbearable to look at. Could the ghost of funerals future have saved him? If he could have had a secret glimpse into the suffering his death would bring to the people he loved would he have changed his behavior? We will never know.

Euphoria Is Your Birthright
But, today I am filled with a powerful reminder. I can remember that euphoria is my birthright, and needn’t be a rare annual holiday. I can remember that euphoria has always been triggered for me by the simplest things: awareness of the sun streaming through a sheer curtain, listening to my daughter sing Wicked from the backseat of the car, the focused preparation of buttermilk pancakes, taking a curtain call after giving my all to an audience or making love with my sweetheart.

Yes it takes work to train ourselves to be here now and let the euphoria rise. There is almost nothing here in our world that preps us for a life of free euphoria. But why should we have to train our minds to see how miraculous this world truly is? The “why” question is just a trap to keep us focused away from being present. The better question is how can I now come back? How can I let the future go where it goes, and let the past fade into yesterday. How can I cease using substitutions for my natural euphoria, and go straight to the source, the well.

What are your tips for knowing an intense state of transcendental happiness without substances?

A Reason Happens for Everything


Have you ever had a huge crush on someone and become convinced that they were “the one” only to discover that they didn’t feel the same way about you and then years later you see them and think “What on earth was I thinking? I sure dodged a bullet there!”

Or have you ever been let go from a job you didn’t really even like only to get a much better one soon afterward?

There is a very popular expression that has found its way onto coffee mugs, greeting cards, bumper stickers and T-Shirts: “Everything happens for a reason”. Well I don’t entirely agree.

Who is Pulling The Strings?

The Problem with “Everything happens for a reason” is that it supposes a reasonER. It suggests that someone, somewhere (sitting on the clouds? on Mount Olympus?) has a plan for our lives. And that presents a problem.
WHO exactly is this great life coach who knows that there is a better sweetheart waiting for you but is letting you pine over the current hot mess for a while? Or has scheduled a great job interview for you in the future but is not telling you about it now while you are being abused by your current boss?

Reason Happens

Though all of your trials and tribulations may be part of “God’s plan” my take on it is a little different. Rather than holding that someone is planning my life out for me and patiently watching me go down the wrong path, I believe that the Universe is so vast in its possibilities that for every choice we make, an unlimited amount of opportunities are immediately presented to us. And in this limitlessness there are untold options that could bring us closer to our most authentic self. Nearer to the “us” without all of the baggage and artifice.

That is why my saying is “A reason happens for everything”.

Have You ever seen that cartoon where the character is stepping up into the air and stairs appear where there weren’t any before? The character starts running and steps just keep popping up before them.

Unlimited Choices

That is how I see the creative source of the Universe: fractals of possibility appearing where there was once nothing, every time we make a choice.

There are thousands of stories about people who take a potentially devastating circumstance and turn it into a curriculum for healing and then share that healing with us. Was it God’s plan that they lost their legs in that train wreck so they could go on Ellen and inspire us or did they simply choose from a myriad of possible responses laid out in front of them?

It Ain’t Easy Doing the Choosing

Now of course my concept is just as improvable and abstract as the “God as Event Planner” one but having held both ideas in my life, I prefer the one where the unlimited Universe keeps popping out fresh new possibilities that never existed before.
My approach is a little scarier because it is less passive and therefore more work on my part -the work required to be rigorously honest with myself before I take actions- but ultimately it makes me feel as though I am directly in touch with how things unfold and it comforts me.

A Chance to Practice

After I wrote down the above few paragraphs, I went to a breakfast meeting with Aaron a terrific film editor who lives in this region. He was set to edit together a dream project for me: a live DVD of me performing one of my solo plays. I was handing him the only copy of the footage: a little black external hard drive with all of the cameras and sound mix etc. I was REALLY excited. Jan had done a great job designing the DVD box etc. Then Aaron called me and said that the hard drive was damaged and there was no way to access it.

I was bummed and pissed off. I let myself be disappointed and unhappy for about 45 minutes and then I thought about this article and I figured I had better walk the walk if I was going to talk the talk and I just came up with a reason for it happening; I am meant to tape the performances in Ojai California next Feb.14th and 15th (shameless plug). I thought of about 20 reasons why that would be an even better DVD for me.

Now Aaron did wind up emailing me that he got in touch with Dennis who shot the footage who just happened to have a back up and as I type this Aaron is editing together my performance video but the best part of the day was in knowing that no matter what happens we humans can choose to let it simply take us in a different direction instead of stop us.

How About You?

Do you have YOUR examples of things that you felt like you “dodged a bullet for”? Ever have chosen a reason for something that happened unexpectedly?

Hungry Like the Wolf – How Movies Can Keep Us Feeling Empty

DiCaprio bringing us down but brilliantly

Last night my friend Tim and I went to see The Wolf of Wall Street. I was eager  to see it because I think there are few filmmakers around with the imagination of Martin Scorsese and his films are always better on the big screen. 

I was also curious and skeptical of the controversy surrounding it. I know there are people who are suggesting a boycott of the picture because they claim that it glorifies the misdeeds of criminals. As a storyteller that attitude sometimes irks me because it suggests that we only want to see happy, smiling people having fun and pretend that greed and suffering doesn’t exist.

Selling the Dream

Well in this case I was really wrong. Though the film was wildly entertaining with scenes that are sure to be considered classic and parodied forever, the movie is one long commercial for the “American Dream” but completely ignorant of the real damage caused by its dark side.

There is a beautifully performed scene by Matthew McConaughey. He plays a Wall Street stockbroker explaining how he doesn’t create or build anything that HIS “product” is made of fairy dust. He means that the stock market is just a cluster of mental agreements based on illusion. He relishes the fact that he has found a way to have a luxurious lifestyle without working any harder than getting on the phone and fooling people into buying stocks that he knows are worthless. 

Never in the entire film do we see any of the victims on the other end of these Wall Street phones. {SPOILER ALERT} and the punishment that our “hero” receives is a total joke of no real consequence to him. {SPOILER OVER}

The Dream Factory has manufactured another one for us and I think that we are naive if we discount the power that films like this have in our society.

They Know What Boys Like

After the film I turned to a man in another row and asked him what he thought of the movie. He said he was a college sociology teacher and that the movie would most likely give his male freshman an erection. I took that to mean not for the sexual content but for the glorification of money and what it can bring a guy. 

I can remember being 5 years old and having lust for wealth and fame (though probably not thinking much about snorting cocaine off of the breasts of hookers). 

Myths We Live By

Sometimes it seems to me that we are all members of “The Cult of More”: Money is your source of happiness and the more cash you have the happier you’ll be. I believe this myth is completely self generated by our society, by the stories we tell ourselves. The world we have in this Country is a direct result of our unique American mythology. We craft and build our society right out of our stories. And though it happens so subtly and smoothly, there are real, lasting, tangible effects of these myths. 

Trickle Down Carelessness

I remember before the housing crash in 2008, there were posters everywhere in our low income, up, up, upper Manhattan neighborhood advertising mortgages for no money down and no proof of income. It is hard to fault someone who is living in a tiny apartment, with their entire extended family being attracted to these pie in the sky mortgage products concocted by Wall Street. And now of course many of those people have lost those homes while Wall Street is having another hay day as I write this. 

Snortin’ the Now Away

The most disturbing thing to me about this movie the fact that it tries to paint these characters as masters of living for the moment. They seem to be having the time of their lives. Trollish nerds  bedding beautiful young women, guys landing their personal helicopters in their backyards after a night of laughter and debauchery, sailing through Capri on their 100 foot yachts. 

But as a devout Nowist, I know that these guys are not seizing the moment, they are hiding from it. When you are truly alert and alive to the Here and Now you don’t need cocaine and quaaludes to help you make it through the day. 

Don’t Buy the Lie

The movie is selling an idea that is a total lie and it is doing it quite well. I could feel my pupils dilate when Leonardo DiCaprio buys that beautiful yacht. 

So the next time you wonder why it is that you can’t seem to be satisfied with what you have, or the next time you hear a tiny voice in your head telling you that you are not quite successful enough, know that just about every message that surrounds you is designed to have you think you are incomplete. 

When they want to brainwash political prisoners they make them listen to propaganda on loudspeakers 24 hours a day. That is what our modern media is: propaganda for the cult of more.

But you can be be de-programmed if you have the courage!

Here are some tips for snapping out of trance:

  • Notice nature. Smell the air, identify the shades of green and the values of brown surrounding you
  • Look into peoples pupils when you talk to them
  • At mealtimes, share three things that you’re grateful for
  • Talk back to TV commercials and say “no thank you, I smell fine”.
  • Say out loud: “I am whole and complete just as I am right now”
  • Skip The Wolf of Wall Street

What are YOUR thoughts about it?

Tips for Dealing with Life’s Ups and Downs

Last week a dear friend was in tears because she had one more lash in what has been seeming to her like a whipping coming from the employment Gods. She has had a streak of bad money luck.

My first thought was something that my friend Jodi once said. It is a quote I loved and think of often “If all you have are money problems then you don’t really have problems”. The idea being that money problems are more based on our malleable and transient wants and desires. There can be many solutions to money problems but things like broken marriages, family estrangements, disease, and death of a loved one…These are problems that sometimes have no worldly solutions.

I thought about this but I didn’t tell it to my friend because when you are in the throes of Financha-phobia or feeling like a loser because you have been fired, those problems SEEM insurmountable and that would have been useless.

Instead, I drew her this diagram:

What Goes Up…
This is a simple drawing that illustrates the movement of life’s journey through our circumstances in the modern world. Sometimes up and sometimes down.

Whether you chalk it up to the planets shifting in our horoscopes, our Karma unfolding, our biorhythms, or lessons that God or Goddess is trying to teach us, the fact is that our circumstances are continuously rising and falling.

As much as we want it to look like this:


Coming to a theatre near you!
We are not here to keep going up, up up, experiencing only ever-increasing happiness. And I think the reason why is that we would be bored out of our skulls if we did. It would be as if all 500 channels on your TV set were Hallmark Hall of Fame movies with Michael Landon. I am not saying it is good or right I am just saying we seem to love plotlines where the heroine has obstacles. If Scarlett O’Hara looked at Ashley Wilkes and said “Oh Ashley I love you!” and he said “I love you too Scarlett, let’s get married!”, Gone with the Wind would have been a greeting card instead of a novel of 1,000 pages and an epic film.

We watch sports not because want to see our team score more and more points but rather because we want to see the opposing team try their best to stop our team and then have our guys score enough points to win just in time so we can sit in the stands with our hearts racing.

We love drama and obstacles and couldn’t live without them. We don’t love TOO much drama at once or for TOO long without a break but take away the ebb and flow and there is not much spark.

The day we as a species wake up and discover that there are no challenges to living is the day we will set our extinction in motion. Fortunately, we are a million years away from THAT problem!

Freedom is a state of mind
I am not suggesting that we just resign ourselves to being unhappy or be complacent or fatalistic. I am simply suggesting that we shift our focus away from the idea of trying to find a happy moment in time that we can freeze-frame and instead focus on building a place within ourselves where we are free. Free from the trap of having difficult circumstances AND the burden of fear and judgment of them.

I am convinced that the energy we spend resisting our circumstances because they don’t match the up, up, and away trajectory is the greater cause of misery and stress than the actual bummer circumstances.

We can get so caught up in our plot that we forget we are the audience and lose our access to the tools for finding solutions to life’s challenges.

I have had moments where I was very much an audience to my movie without attachment to outcomes and without deep anxiety that can be the accepted norm of daily living and I have known it smack dab in the middle of some real crummy circumstances and it is a very powerful feeling. It generates a feeling of strength, unlike anything I have known.

In recent years I have spent less time doing this and I can feel the difference in my body.

Cultivate our inner Audient
I am writing this to you today to remind myself of this formidable power hidden secretly inside of all of us. Won’t you join me in strengthening a voice within -or an aspect of your mind -that can “be with” and absorb all of the twists and turns of our story-line without losing touch with the feeling that we are the audience who bought the ticket to the show?

A couple of the techniques that I have used that have helped me are:

  • Journaling in the 3rd person – Try writing about the details, circumstances, thoughts, and feelings of the day as “he”, “him”, “she” “her” instead of “I”. Writing as if you were a character in a novel is a great way to create distance from your drama and identify more with your humanity. It will seem silly at first but it will become fun. Warning: I don’t recommend you start talking that way to your friends and family, they will think you have gone nuts or become a rap artist.
  • Sitting as the Witness – Although I would never recommend anything as boringly awful as meditation (yuck!) this technique really works and at the risk of overselling it, can change your whole life!

Try sitting in a chair with your eyes closed and simply notice the physical phenomenon of the rising, pause, and then falling of each breath. Do this for about 4 or 5 breaths. Then begin to watch your thoughts as they go by one after the other. You will be tempted to judge them, wish them away or wish them to stay -especially if they are thoughts of baked goods and you are hungry- but treat the thoughts as if they were clouds floating by on an early spring afternoon and YOU were laying in a meadow watching them drift by. After about 20 minutes of this, you can get to a place where you not only separate from the story-line of your circumstances, you find deep compassion and love for the character you are playing in this movie, and the clarity can last sometimes for weeks. But again do not mediate!

Can you imagine the possibilities if we all stopped expecting our lives to get better and better and instead intended that they get freer and freer of expectation and attachment? That our intention was not about avoiding bad circumstances but rather in using ALL of life’s circumstances to become deeper human beings? Whew, it sure takes a lot of pressure off!

What are YOUR thoughts?

“Doug” thanks you for reading this 🙂

Tips On Getting Lot’s of Things Done Without Going Nuts

Though there is a part of me that would love to be a professional couch potato, I do have a lot of interests and I have found that if I don’t express them I get miserable. The other day someone asked me how it is that I do so many things, that I am involved in so many projects etc. And of course it is relative because I know people with more irons in the fire than me but I thought I would share some of what I have discovered helps to get stuff done.

Don’t think about the finish line
One mistake that I used to make a lot but am getting much better with is the trap of being too focused on the end result.

For example, right now I am planning on having a show of my mixed media portraits of Blues Singers (they are watercolor and pen & ink pieces that I love doing so much).

I know that if I focus on all of the artwork being done and hanging up I will get overwhelmed and probably not complete it. So instead I simply put my attention on scheduling what time I am willing to devote to simply getting into my studio. I have included the magically powerful tool of accountability and now my friend Eric brings his easel over and once a week we support each other on getting to the canvas (thanks Eric!)

clock20 minute miracles
But when I am alone in my studio I bring an egg timer and say “OK you have 20 minutes to draw”. 20 minutes may not sound like a lot but if you manage to steal 3 of those blocks per week, in a month you have spent 4 hours painting. Of course while I am at the drawing table I am often able to give the timer an extra 20 minute crank or two.

I think the main reason why this works so well is that NOT doing what we want to do is draining. It is like swimming against the tide, it takes so much effort to NOT follow your heart and passion that simply reversing direction can push you along. You don’t even need to swim that hard at all to move along.

The main reason why I now try to focus on the process and not the goal itself is because to quote John Lennon: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. In between all of our milestones  and “official” achievements is our actual life!

No “there” there
Sometimes when I am leading my workshop I wear a derby hat with a 3 foot long stick glued flat on top sticking out in the front. At the end of the stick is a short string and at the end of the string is a carrot. Then I have one of the participants handcuff me and everyone watches me run around trying to bite the carrot. It is pretty funny like watching a dog chase its own tale. The point of the exercise is to illustrate the concept that our culture is one of “seek but do not find” and even our desires and goals get plugged into that non-workable system.

Some say that people with no goals tend toward depression and people with too many goals tend toward anxiety. I am convinced that there is a sweet spot in the middle which is coming up with end goals but then putting the attention on the actual process of getting there.

For me the secret to generating creative expression is to do it in tiny steps- especially at the beginning of a project. Tiny steps where the value is in simply doing it. When I say “I am doing a show of my paintings” am indeed DOING the show while I get out the brushes, while I am sitting by the window thinking about what colors I want to use etc. The show begins the minute we start it.

Last year I tried to write a “self help” book based on my workshop. I got absolutely no where with it because I was overwhelmed by the thought of completing it. This year my goal is to simply write as often as I comfortably can.

Is there something YOU would love to do but are overwhelmed by the thought of getting to the final product? Do you have an egg timer?

A Winter’s Tale or How To Weather Any Weather


I just read a weather report that we are expecting wind chill factors of 20 to 30 degrees below zero in our region tonight. Really? I mean that is like cray cray okay?  Like Arctic explorer. Like photo-of-you-and-your-sled-dogs-in-National-Geographic type stuff right there.  That is like “yeah we bought a house on Pluto and have to keep the pipes dripping so the plumbing doesn’t freeze” stuff.

In the mid 1980s my friend Marion got me connected with a theater in Santa Monica and I made my first trip to California. When I got out of baggage claim at LAX I thought “oh yeah I am moving here and never going back”. Fate had other plans but I spent 15 years living in Southern California gloating every winter as I called friends and family back east during snowstorms. I would make sure to take a walk on the beach every Christmas day saying “If I were back home I sure couldn’t go for a walk on the beach at Christmas!”.

I would think “Thank God I don’t live in New York during winter anymore, I couldn’t handle it again” and guess what? since returning to the east coast that prophecy has almost come true!

This year, I found myself as early as November 1st complaining about the temperatures, grumbling about the layers that I was having to put on on etc. and one day it hit me that it wasn’t even winter yet and I was winter whining! I decided that I really had better pace myself or I would be burnt out with my complaining before Christmas.

So after an awesome trip to South Florida I decided I would go on a 1 week winter whining fast. I would not complain about the weather, grumble, eye roll, heavy sigh or sneer at the atmosphere.

Well it actually worked so well but I am still on it! And it has taught me two important lessons.

Lesson # 1: If you wear long johns and a face mask it is really not THAT cold.

Lesson #2: Most of the stories that run our lives are just that: stories.

My friend Joshua has encouraged me to look at the stories I tell myself. In particular, he got me to look at the stories I used to tell myself about my childhood “career” as a target of the bullies in school.

I was picked on really badly for being “odd” and I created a whole unwritten book series of what all that meant. Titles like  “There is no one Protecting me in This Life” and “I Have to See My Circumstances Get Crummy, So I Can Swoop Down and Be my Own Hero to Fix It” are some of the best loved in my collection of stories I took with me to adulthood. I had spun a LOT of yarns that didn’t serve me at all.

It has occurred to me that most of our opinions or outlooks on life are just campfire stories where we are the audience AND the storyteller.

So much of what we know to be true is simply a very personal truth. So then we have to say is it REALLY true? I think for something to pass the test of being TRULY true it needs to be 100% continuously, absolutely true. If not then we are just messing around with the English language.

My daughter Maitreya doesn’t whine or complain about the cold. She thinks it is beautiful and fun. Snow is DELICIOUS.


Walking with Maitreya on the beach in New Jersey Christmas Day 2013

So truth or story? There is nothing wrong with telling ourselves complaining, whining stories but I think we owe it to ourselves to call that what it is. If we walk around calling our personal story “truth” we are crafting a unreality for ourselves that seems real as it quietly shapes our choices in work, relationships and health etc. Our stories create our circumstances and our very life itself in a real and tangible way.

What personal story do you carry around as truth?

Please leave a comment?

Thank you for reading!